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RPGs and Story Telling: Dump Stats

In this space last week, I talked about using random character sheets to explore different approached to character creation. Let’s pull some of those character sheets back out and look at an important aspect. This doesn’t come up in every role playing game, but any system with more than four stats is going to make the player pick which skills they’re good in…

…and then pick their dump stat.

dumpstatThis is probably my favorite part of putting a new character together. In most systems, every character is great at something (though in Call of Cthulhu, you get to be merely competent in one or two skills). This will usually dictate what skills a character can pick up, and how they’ll find their way out of a situation. For a character good at swinging the epic Mordenkrad Hammer (Brutal 1), for example, every problem is going to look like a nail to smash.

But when actually role-playing a character, player decisions are often informed not only by what a character is good at, but by what they’re bad at.

RPGs force this issue. Writers are on their honor to remember it. When building characters for stories, I’ve had this problem. It’s easy to think about a character’s competencies, it’s less obvious to think about a character’s incompetencies. While a character being good at things might get them out of a problem, being bad at things will get them into problems. And that’s the heart of drama.


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Two Hugo Nomination Suggestions

As I’m writing this post, I’m anxiously waiting for my Hugo nomination PIN. So I haven’t filled out a nominating ballot in any official sense, but I have started thinking of some notions of what I’d like to support. I don’t suspect I’ll make much of a difference in the process, but at least I can do what I can to provide some categories with new nominees.

Dramatic Presentation: Short Form. Yes, yes, I know this is my bugaboo category. And, yes, I know it’s going to come down to Day of the Doctor vs The Rains of Castamere, which isn’t actually a bad pairing as Day of the Doctor was head and shoulder above any of the nominated Doctor Who episodes last year. However, I’m still firmly behind giving Welcome to Night Vale some support. Specifically, the two part episode The Sandstorm.

Dramatic Presentation: Long Form. There’s are two categories within Dramatic Presentation that I don’t believe have ever been nominated. One is video games, the other is theatrical presentations. Theater and the Hugos are an awkward combination, as most theatrical shows don’t reach a broad enough audience to make a blip in the Hugo process, but this year I’m going to include one on my ballot. Specifically Mike Daisey’s All The Faces of the Moon. Yes, it’s that Mike Daisey, infamous for forcing This American Life into issuing a rare retraction. The show was a massive monologue delivered over 28 consecutive days and released on podcast. It’s hard to tell where the extemporaneous portions end and the scripted (or, at least, planned) elements begin. The whole of the story takes a gradual veer into urban fantasy, and is a lot of fun.

I don’t expect either of these to end up on the final ballot. Perhaps that’s why I’m pointing them out now, just to demonstrate some support for things other than episodes from the big two television series and Hollywood releases in the dramatic presentation categories.


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RPGs and Story Telling: Character Sheets

I’ll admit, I have a bit of a problem when it comes to the Bundle of Holding. For those who don’t follow it, you should. The site takes the notion of the Humble Bundle, pay-what-you-want pricing for a collection of games with proceeds going to charity, but instead of computer games the site goes for pen-and-paper RPGs. The most recent bundle is my eighth, and even though I don’t know when (or even if) I’ll get around to giving them all a try, I enjoy having them.

Fact is, I’ve always enjoyed owning RPGs, even if I don’t sit down and play the actual games nearly as often as my collection suggests. As a kid I would buy Toon books from Steve Jackson. I was a high school student playing Mage in the heyday of White Wolf. For awhile I collected some of the GURPS books. As an adult, I’m finally getting into Dungeons and Dragons (4E) and Call of Cthulhu.

BoH FilesPDF has given a new life to pen-and-paper RPGs, allowing for cheaper pricing and easier distribution. It’s fantastic, and it has resulted in the file directory at right. I was going to keep expanding folders, but they wouldn’t all fit on the screen at the same time. Maybe I do have a problem.

Anyway, I enjoy RPGs as much for the playing as for the opportunities they present the story teller. So this is part one of a new, short series about RPGs and story telling. It’s not about how better to play or run RPGs, because I can’t give that sort of advice. It’s also not about how to turn your RPG session into a short story. The answer to that is: don’t.

It’s about how I approach RPGs as a story teller.

The first place I turn in any new RPG (or scroll, as I tend to do PDFs) is to the end. First because I’m always curious how good of an index they have. Second because I want to see what the character sheets look like. These can range from complicated multi-page layouts like Dungeons and Dragons to simpler notions of asking what is your name, what is your quest, and what is your favorite color.

Each is a different way to approach how to create a character, tailored to the kind of story-telling that the game shoots for. You can get a very quick feel for the style of an RPG by looking at those blank sheets at the end.

Every now and then I like to approach characters in my stories and novels this way. Pull out a character sheet and look at the methods of creation. Whether it’s considering each of their skills at a micro level in Call of Cthulhu or considering the connections between characters required by Fate Core. These are things that I always try to think about with characters, but by pulling up an unfamiliar system, I’m forced to consider them from a different angle.

Which I find a powerful tool. Finding a different way to approach a characters sometimes ends up being an interesting thought experiment. Sometimes it results in me finding a plot line hidden in the characters that I wouldn’t otherwise see. Oh, I don’t do it every time. Only when I feel like I need to goose my creativity.

The best part about this method? You don’t need to become a Bundle of Holding junkie like me (though you should). RPG makers want you to play their games, which means most of them allow for wide distribution of the character sheets even if the rest of the book is protected under copyright. RPG Sheets is a massive online database of these sheets, including old editions of oft-updated systems, games you’ve never heard of, and games that perhaps should never have been made. They don’t necessarily include character creation instructions, but they’re a good starting point to get the brain going.


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State of the Writer: December 2013

I was logged in to kill some spam comments, and I realized I hadn’t written a State of the Writer post yet for this month. Not only that, but I haven’t written a post at all since last month’s State of the Writer. So here goes.

I’ve brought up Don’t Break the Chain a few times on the blog, and more frequently on Twitter. It’s still turning out to be a hell of a tool, as I’m now sitting on an unbroken streak of eighty-five days. That’s eighty-five days of writing 500 words, editing for half an hour, or outlining for half an hour. I’ll hit an even one hundred before the end of the year, and if I do so, I’m thinking about upping the difficulty level to 750 words, or 45 minutes.

This has led to a manuscript of 47,000 words, likely on the way to an 80,000 word rough draft. Which is right on target. More importantly, over the last few nights I’ve really hit the voice of the book. This is a point I sometimes hit earlier, sometimes later. With Nickajack it was nearly immediate, but it’s been a slow process here. Which isn’t really a problem. As long as it comes at all. The trick is to then double back when I hit the end and fix up the beginning with the corrected voice.

It’s a novel I’m still excited about. It’s also the first novel that I’ve been completely in the dark about. Most of my writing I’ve bounced off a writers group while it’s in progress, but those of you who are members of the group know: I haven’t been showing up as much lately. It’s the price of having a baby, I suppose. It’s been a little uncomfortable, but not enough so to stop. It does mean that I’m going to need to go through several rounds of beta reading.

Not yet. I’ll say when.

State of the author’s beer: We’ve popped two bottles this weekend. The first is the year old Pi Stout. The boysenberry flavor, unfortunately, doesn’t shine through. Though the stout has a beautiful color, and I’m very happy with the quality. It’s a recipe that I plan to tweak. The other bottle was our apple beer. It’s still very hoppy, though has mellowed since our last try. We’re thinking it’ll be perfect this summer, perhaps cut with apple juice or cider as a shandy, or with a hard cider as part of a snake bite.

State of the author’s bees: Hopefully hibernating happily. It’s damned cold out there.

There’s a potential bad habit I could get into. Starting each post with an apology, ending each with a promise to post more. I’m going to fight that. Keep me honest.

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Crashing the Hugos

Last two years I’ve paid more and more attention to the Hugo Awards. I’ve sat down and watched the ceremonies, I’ve started reading the past novel winners, I’ve made sure to be educated on several categories before the awards so that I can be disappointed in the results. I’ve now taken the next logical step.

I’ve bought myself a ballot.

That sounds like a bad way of putting things. I purchased a supporting membership for Worldcon 2015, which results in Hugo nominating and voting privileges for 2014-2016, including the upcoming 1939 Retro Hugos. While I’m thrilled for the opportunity to financially support Worldcon…I really did it for the ballots. For the chance to vote.

And the chance to nominate.

That’s where crashing the Hugos come into play. Anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis knows the exact category that I’ve had issues with. Dramatic Presentation, specifically Short Form. I know I’m not the first person to suggest an organized nomination push for this category. Those often get labelled, even by those behind them, as protest votes. That’s not my intention. Instead, I’d like to pick out a piece of media that falls within the rules of Short Form and I think is legitimately strong enough to nominate.

In short, I don’t want to think of it as a protest vote. I want to think of it more as an awareness campaign. And what I’ve chosen is the podcast Welcome to Night Vale. If you’re not listening to this podcast…well, statistically you’re listening to this podcast. For a few weeks it unseeded This American Life as the #1 podcast on iTunes, and is still sitting solidly at #2. I didn’t want to go after a piece of media that I didn’t think people would be consuming. As an audio presentation, it is eligible as a Dramatic Presentation, and each of its episodes falls well under the Short Form threshold.

However, if this is going to move forward towards a successful nomination (which it probably won’t, I lack the necessary megaphone) it will need to a concentrated effort. Which means pushing a single episode for nomination. Identifying their best work, and putting any concentrated push we can behind that one episode. The natural choice would be A Story  Of You. Unfortunately that was the last episode on 2012 and thus not eligible. I would currently lean towards either The Sandstorm or One Year Later, but I’m also not entirely caught up.

So…if you’re reading this and interested in helping, a few things you can do.

1) Become a Worldcon member 2014 or 2015 member. Even just a supporting member. Seriously, there’s something awesome about knowing that I get a voice in the Hugo Awards, even if this is what I’m currently choosing to do with it. If you’re looking to maximize your Hugo participation, go with 2015. Right now that’s just $40.

2) If you’re not already listening to Night Vale…seriously, what the hell is wrong with you? Listen to Night Vale. Especially keep an ear out starting with Episode 14 which is the first episode eligible for next year’s Hugos.

3) Give me some thoughts on the best episode to put some votes behind. I’m a big proponent of the one-nominee-per-show rule, so it would be hypocritical of me to push multiple episodes.

Join me, won’t you?

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Are We Doing TV Wrong?

I don’t watch Breaking Bad. I saw the pilot episode, I loved the pilot episode, but for the first two seasons of the show I didn’t have AMC on my cable package, and by the time I did it made more sense to wait for it to all wrap up so I wouldn’t have to deal with the most infamous feature of the show.

The waits.

The long long looooong waits.

Breaking Bad debuted on January 20, 2008. It’s 62nd and final episode will air on September 29, 2013. That’s 2,079 days between debut and finale, or an average wait of 34 days per episode. It aired in fits and starts, running in seven, thirteen, or eight episode chunks, with fans waiting as long as 399 days between seasons three and four.

Compare that to The X-Files. 202 episodes over 3,173 days, an average wait for 15.8 days per episode. One off season was even bridged by a movie. If Chris Carter and company had given us those 202 episodes at the same rate as Breaking Bad, the series finale would have aired sometime in November of 2012. Deep Space Nine would have run until 2009. Lost would still be running until 2015, Fringe until 2017.

It’s perhaps not fair to compare cable and network television here. Cable runs by different rules. Shorter seasons, longer off seasons, it’s the expectation. However, Breaking Bad is still an outlier. Thus far fans of The Walking Dead have waited 26 days per episode, and Mad Men fans have waited 28 days per new episode. Dexter, also ending soon, 27 days.

All of these cable dates tend to float right around a magic number. On average the fan of these major cable series have waited one month per episode. Which leads me to wonder: what if a series aired one episode a month? Reliably. Every month. No off-season. From episode one until the series finale. It means that fans would have to wait for every episode, but would never put up with waits of over one year, which both Breaking Bad and Mad Men have put their fans through.

It probably wouldn’t work with production schedules, but I’m curious about this from a theoretical point of view. Would you watch a show that gave you one hour of content, reliably, the same time every month?  Perhaps as a two hour block paired with the previous month’s episode. Perhaps a cable network that provided a genre per night of the week. Four dramas rotating on Mondays, four SFF shows rotating on Wednesdays. Is monthly television inherently more arbitrary than weekly television, especially when many cable shows are doing it on average already? Is that run of 13 straight weeks worth the long wait between seasons? Would plotlines be harder to follow? Would it be harder to get into a new series this way?

I don’t necessarily have answers for these, though I’m curious about opinions.

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Sharknado: Prologue and Chapter One

This is something I’ve been thinking about for a few weeks, since Andy Shaffer bemoaned a lack of a Sharknado novelization on Twitter. Since it’s still on my Tivo, and I’ve got some extra time…why the hell not?

Sharknado, the unauthorized novelization.
By Thor Davidson
Based on a screenplay by Thunder Levin.

Prologue – Sharknado

The storm turned sky and ocean into a single slate gray as rain pelted the swelling waves. The water was cut and churned by dark gray dorsal fins. First pairs, then dozens and hundred as sharks rushed ahead of the storm. Behind them, pushing them, compelling them, a waterspout connected cloud to water. The suction from the great cyclone pulled at the ocean, and from it plucked the sharks, one by one, forcing them skyward.

The fury of nature and the fury of the predators merged into a single entity.

They were now a sharknado.

Chapter One – Fins To The Left

Twenty miles off the coast of Mexico, in the still grayness of the overcast Atlantic, a fishing boat bobbed on gentle waves. The crew pulled the nets in, and with them dozens of small sharks, which they laid out over the deck of the ship. In turn each was butchered, their bellies slit open from jaw to tail, GPS trackers carved off when found, and their fins stacked in two piles. Large fins to the left, smaller fins to the right.

“Toss ’em and bag ’em!” shouted the crew chief, his face covered in a week’s stubble and topped with a gray hat.

Palmer was clearly out of place in these surroundings, dressed in a smart gray suit with a gray shirt.  He’d been wearing the outfit since they’d left the coast three days ago, and was now starting to smell rather like the sharks being brought to the knife on the deck above. However, it matched his general gray personality.

Palmer was on this boat for one reason. He wanted those fins. The captain of the boat, Santiago, entered the small galley in which Palmer was waiting. It was utilitarian but stunningly clean for its duties. Palmer was seated on a bench behind a long table, light gray with dark wood trim. He was, in fact, surrounded by light gray with dark wood trim.

Santiago produced a small bowl of soup and dropped it in front of Palmer with a sneer. “Enjoy.”

Palmer picked up the bowl, and toasted the captain, before taking a long sip from the soup.

“It’s good,” he lied, returning the bowl of swill to the table and meeting the eyes of the captain as he sat across from him at the table. “Seeing as you are a business man, Mr. Santiago–”

“Captain!” Santiago interrupted with a sneer, not wanting to be shown up by a mere passenger on his ship.

Palmer laughed at the correction, but obliged Santiago. “Captain. My associates and I are willing to negotiate a reasonable price. Let’s say one hundred thousand.”

Santiago laughed a slack-jawed laugh at the offer. His face then turned dead serious as he slammed his fist on the table. Silverware, which had not previously been set, went flying. “One million for the entire take,” Santiago sneered in an indistinct accent, “not a penny less.”

“Steep price for a small catch,” Palmer returned.

“A pod of twenty thousand sharks is migrating in this direction. When we’re done, one million will look like a buck.”

Palmer considered these words from the captain, especially as many of them hadn’t made much sense. He adjusted his glasses. “Five hundred.” His company trusted him in these negotiations as his face conveyed no emotion during tense talks. Or at any other point.

Santiago pushed away from the table with a sharp breath. He pulled a gun, cocked it, and rested it on the table. “If you’re looking to negotiate, Mr. Palmer, look for an insurance salesman.”

Palmer’s eyes moved from the gun and back to Santiago. “I do believe we have a deal.”

Santiago grinned.

On deck the crew scrambled and shouted. At the horizon, above the gray waves, gray clouds were forming and an ill wind pushed their course. “Get the captain from the galley!”

“Captain!” One of the crew called down the gray stairs leading to the galley. Santiago turned at his title. “There’s a north wind hitting us fast. You need to get up here.”

Palmer pushed a brown metal box across the table. “I think this is for you, captain. A deposit.”

Santiago opened the tackle box. Within were bundled stacks of crisp $100 bills. Not the new ones that are so colorful, but the older ones. Not the really old ones, but the ones in the middle when Franklin’s head got bigger but the bills were still green. Yeah, those. Perhaps if Palmer was willing to come on board with so much money, he wasn’t as stupid as he looked, Santiago considered. Perhaps he was, in fact, much stupider.

Santiago looked from the money to Palmer with a sneer. “You know the most important thing I learn out here?” he asked. “We shouldn’t be afraid of the sharks. They are the ones that should be afraid of us.” He lifted a tin gray coffee mug. “Salud.”

Palmer returned the toast.

Outside the weather was getting rougher. The sea was now a dark gray, reflecting the sky, and sheets of gray rain poured down. The boat lurched, spoiling the toast as Santiago and Palmer lunged across the galley.

“What the hell was that?” Palmer asked, mood unswayed by the situation.

“That is called ‘waves.’ They happen from time to time.” Santiago sneered again as Palmer watched him leave the galley with a blank expression.

The ship crested a fresh wave as Santiago arrived at the wheel. “Storm’s too strong! We’re going to have to go around it!” his helmsman warned.

Santiago yelled at the helmsman, an angry yell of words so accented and buffeted by the wind and rain as to make them incomprehensible. Something about the course. He then returned to the galley with a sample of their catch, but Palmer was gone. As was the tackle box of bills. Santiago drew his gun and pulled back the hammer with a sneer.

As the waves buffeted the boats, fresh sharks were pushed out of the ocean and landed on the deck. One of the hands shouted down the gray stairs, “Captain!” but couldn’t finish the thought before a shark flew across the deck and tackled him. Santiago rushed back up the stairs, reaching the deck in time to see his crewman disappearing into a shark’s jaws. It was the damnedest thing he’d seen in his time on the sea. Sharks typically only flopped around when on deck, slowly drowning in the air. This one, however, was still alive and hungry. The crewman screamed one last time before dying.

Palmer surfaced on deck with his gun and tackle box, looking for a place to hide on the small ship. Or, perhaps, a place to escape. His face betrayed no motives. He ducked behind the bridge and fired off a covering shot as Santiago turned to follow him. Palmer stepped around the gore of sharks and men on the deck, hurrying for the aft of the ship.

Santiago rushed along the deck, then ducked back as Palmer squeezed off two more shots from the cover of the nets. Santiago closed the remaining distance. The two men circled the massive wince at the aft of the ship. Palmer stopped, leveled his gun, and waited for the captain to reemerge. Santiago did so, gun first, so the two men now faced each other in a Mexican standoff standing off the Mexican coast.

“Change of plans, captain,” Palmer said, flatly, “I’m going to take the money, the cargo, and this fucked up ship.”

Santiago sneered at Palmer’s threat, and calmly put a bullet through the man’s gray suit pants and into his leg. “I don’t think so.” The tackle box dropped to the deck and the stacks of money blew apart in the wind.

Palmer grappled at the wound. A shark then leaped from the ocean, grabbed the business man in the suit around the chest, and pulled him back into the gray water.

Santiago sneered down at the water, watching man and shark vanish into the gray. He considered his next move as the sharknado pressed against his boat. Santiago sneered and cried out as first one, then two, then a third and fourth shark bit at him from the improbable storm, each grayer than the last. Finally he was dragged off in a cloud of red that broke up the grayness of everything.

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Hypothetical Hugo Ballot, Pt1

First off, I am not eligible to vote on the Hugos. I am not a member of this year’s Worldcon, or of last or next years’ Worldcons. So what follows is completely hypothetical. It’s also extremely incomplete, as there are currently only two categories where I’ve seen all the nominees. The choice of verb “seen” should make the categories obvious. What follows, then, is my completely hypothetical ballot for the Hugo Awards for Dramatic Presentation.

Short Form:

  1. Fringe, “Letters of Transit”
  2. Game of Thrones, “Blackwater”
  3. No Award

Damn, that’s a grumpy ballot, isn’t it. First, I want to say that I fully expect Blackwater to win the Hugo. I would even go so far as to say it should win the Hugo. However, it’s a shame that Fringe, one of the best science fiction shows on network television since The X-Files, went its entire run earning only one Hugo nomination. Which means it’s currently tied with the sitcom Community. So I can’t pass up my one and only opportunity to vote for it, even if hypothetically.

As for the No Award, that’s equal parts honesty and grumpiness. I do not believe that the three Doctor Who episodes are Hugo-worthy. It was a weak season for the show overall, and that just adds to my general dissatisfaction that the show continues its domination of the Hugo nominations. I’ve expressed my thoughts in depth on this subject before, so I’ll leave things with only a link to that post. But…well, yeah, I’m disappointed to see three weak Who episodes nominated when so much fantastic science fiction is televised and ignored on the Hugo shortlists. And so many sub-90 minute movies are seemingly ignored by the confusing way the dramatic form category is split by length rather than media. Which itself has been ignored and–oh, just go read that other post before I copy and paste it all in here.

Long Form:

  1. Cabin in the Woods
  2. Looper
  3. Avengers
  4. The Hunger Games
  5. The Hobbit

I’ll be honest, I considered No Award at #5 here. The problems with The Hobbit are legion, most boiling down to the decision to make three movies instead of just two. It’s a mess, and I don’t think it’s one of the five best genre movies released in 2012. However, I’m less grumpy than I am about short form, so it still lands on the ballot. As for the top half of the ballot? First, I expect the true race here is between Looper and Avengers, with Cabin a dark horse at best. And, in spite my ballot, I’ll say Looper should win and Avengers will win. However, of the five nominees, Cabin was my favorite, not just for the entertainment value of the movie, but for delving deeper into the horror genre and ripping it apart. I think that kind of deconstruction of genre earns some bonus points. In this case, breaking the near tie between it and Looper in my mind.

Now, I’ll say my wife disagrees and would flip the top two on this list, but agrees that Avengers was great, Hunger Games merely good, and The Hobbit we were both damn glad we skipped in theaters.

There’s just over 24 hours left to cast ballots, so for those more fortunate than myself, those who can cast actual ballots rather than hypothetical ones…go do it! And if you don’t agree with my dramatic presentation rankings, go ahead and leave something in the comments.

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A Short Eulogy for @SFWAFascists

Edit: Editing at the beginning, rather than the end today. The below reports of @SFWAFascists’s death were, apparently, greatly exaggerated. The account is live again this afternoon, with the list still at 16 members. The post below was originally made around 11am, eastern time, when the account was temporarily shut down.

Second Edit: …and it’s gone again. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is how things just go for the next few days.

Eventually I’ll talk about something else, I’m sure. But I’m enjoying this subject. From Friday:

Worried that the list will eventually go away when the hosting account either folds, gets shut down, or realizes the list is being coopted, I’ve created a mirror here. It’s called “Doing Something Right” for a good reason.

Sure enough, come this morning there is no longer a @SFWAFascists account on Twitter. So there is no longer a PC Monsters of SFWA list, either under that name or the rather charming second name the list had. My mirror is still live, and contains the sixteen writers who were on that original list before the whole thing shut down. I’m glad I took the few moments to do so, but I wonder…what now.

We’ve hit the intended purpose of the list, to archive together those accounts that the creator or creators of SFWA Fascists felt acted against their interests in maintaining the old boys’ club over at the premier gathering of American science fiction and fantasy authors. That they’ve now tucked tail and run leaves me with a list and no way of knowing who else should possibly be on it. Should I maintain it as-is, serving as a testament to the brief and horrible little account someone decided to make? Should I stay true to the original purposes of the list and grow it as is fitting? There are individuals who I am certain are in SFWA and fighting the good fight, because they do it very publicly. There are other individuals who I don’t know if they’re in SFWA. There are other individuals who I don’t know are fighting the good fight because it’s staying internal to the SFWA members-only sites.

So I guess I’m looking for opinions. What’s the best thing to do with this list?

I realize that’s an odd question, it is, after all, just a list put together on a Twitter account with under 400 followers, but I mirrored the list as a service. Should it be set in stone? Should I add to it? Who should I add? Should I limit it to SFWA members, as was the intent of the original list? Should I care less about the intent of people like those who originally made the list? Should I even go back to the “PC Monsters of SFWA” name?


Anyway, leave me a note in the comments if you have any notions about the future of this list. I’m officially thinking too much about it, so I’m looking for farm out that over thinking to others, because I have bigger fish to fry right now. If you think it should grow, let me know a nominee or two.

As for the original account, I’m of two minds about it closing. On one hand, it was created by narrow-minded people for narrow-minded purposes, and as it came to an end felt the need to become increasingly vulgar in its language. On the other hand, having an account like that made it a lot easier to show the kind of opposition people are facing just for voicing the idea that, hey, maybe SFWA narrowly, and genre fandom more broadly, should be a little more inclusive of everyone. That was the odd sort of service it provided in addition to The List. Especially for someone like me, someone living John Scalzi’s easiest life setting of straight white male, it’s easy to be blinded by privilege, to not see that there is a problem out there. The SFWAFascists account was a fantastic running reminder of that problem. Of the backlash that comes from trying to suggest even modest and reasonable changes.

Perhaps this is even part of why it shut down. I obviously don’t know what might be happening behind the scenes, out of the public eye. But from out here, from the outside looking in, the account just vanished over the weekend for unknown and unstated reasons. I’d assign some awareness, that someone realized the purposes of the account could be co-opted, were being co-opted. Or they just decided they said what they wanted to say, vulgarities and all.

Either way, the account is dead. Try not to forget that it lived. Try not to forget that people felt it was necessary. I’ll do the same. It’s part of why the list still exists, and part of why I give a damn about what I’m going to do with it.


Quick Follow-Up

Since it’s been my best read post in…basically since I’ve been blogging, I wanted to do some quick follow-up on Can We Talk from last week. First, I’d like to point people towards Linda Adams’s post on Unleaded that graciously links back to my post. Though, I’ll say, the trackback text read “Some people don’t believe it’s a problem. Yet, we need to keep speaking up and making ourselves heard — both men and women,” and I’ll admit a certain worry that my post was linked through the words “don’t believe it’s a problem” not “making ourselves heard.” It’s always my paranoia that I’m going to come across tone-deaf in a post like that, which is part of why I didn’t write it for so long.

The longer bit of follow-up.

Over on Twitter there’s a new account that I first saw linked by author and all-around person I wouldn’t want to fuck with Myke Cole. The account is called “SFWA Fascists,” a parody account meant to mock the “Screeching Feminist Witches Association – destroying one institution at a time with political correctness.” That is to say, basically speaking out against the growing voice of reason within SFWA that has said enough is enough on the kind of old boys club shit that has been permitted for far too long within the genre. Now, I don’t know that this account was started by one or more of Mary Robinette Kowal’s “Twelve Rabid Weasels,” but if it wasn’t, it was certainly started by someone who is on the side of weaselhood.

Normally I wouldn’t be interested in giving an account like this much attention, except that it has provided one shockingly positive feature to the world at large. It maintains a list. This list is called “PC Monsters of the SFWA.” Those writers who they view as being The Problem within SFWA. One of the reasons that I don’t think it’s one of the Twelve Rabid Weasels is the lack of Kowal herself on the list, but that’s circumstantial evidence at best. The list also does not include John Scalzi (edit: now it does), who would seem to be a key candidate for the list. Who it does include? Right now fourteen individuals who I strongly recommend following if you’re for a more vocal anti-weasel SFWA. I was following three when I discovered the list. Now, I’m following them all. If you’d like to do the same, they can be found here (Edit: The list has been renamed at least once since the original post, the new name includes the c-word). I’m thinking about creating an archive of the list, just in case those behind the Twitter account realize people might subvert the list for some good.

This list, in my mind, is a badge of honor. If you’ve pissed off the individuals who want to keep SFWA in the 1950s, in a public enough way that they’ve noticed, then I say good on you. SFWA is an organization that I still have a lot of faith in, that I hope to one day be a member of. That there are people trying to make the organization better should be applauded. That there are people who stand out as being anti-anti-weasel in a real and substantive way is fantastic, and it will make SFWA better as it goes forward.

Sadly, I find myself ineligible for the list, being not yet a member of SFWA. Perhaps they might one day start a list of Honorary PC Monsters. A guy can dream, can’t they?

I stand by the PC Monsters of the SFWA. Because they’re the ones fighting the good fight. Keep fighting.

End Note: I suppose there is a possibility that I’ve been had, that the account is actually meant to parody the Weasels in some satirical double-back. The fact that its only list is made up of the good guys might support this. If so, my applause for fully and completely getting me. Though even in that case, that list is filled with Tweeters I’m glad to now follow.

Edit: Apparently, just like the previous post, this one is going to see some editing. I’m glad I’m not alone in thinking the folks on the list are worth following. PC Monster Jess Haines noticed a bump in her followership shortly after the list went live:

Good on everyone.

Edit: Worried that the list will eventually go away when the hosting account either folds, gets shut down, or realizes the list is being coopted, I’ve created a mirror here. It’s called “Doing Something Right” for a good reason.


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