Posts Tagged Rant

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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Can We Talk?

I’ve been churning the idea for this post around in my head for awhile. Largely I’ve held back because of the “who am I?” factor, something that I very rarely use as a reason to not post. But the answer to who am I is that I am a fan and writer of science fiction, someone who enjoys going to conference, and someone who is sick and tired of seeing blog post after blog post complaining about sexual harassment in SFWA and a cons.

There are many many cons that come and go without any sexual harassment complaints. Many of these likely didn’t have any instances that should have been complained about. But we don’t see those. We see the small minority of cons at which something major happens and it gets talked about all over the internet. Yesterday Scalzi had a post up about his insistence that cons have sexual harassment policies going forward. Mary Robinette Kowal is calling on the “Twelve Rabid Weasels” of SFWA to leave the organization. One of the major outcomes of WisCon were multiple posts about an instance of sexual harassment. These are just the examples from the last two weeks, because I don’t want to create a litany of links.

I don’t want to see these posts anymore.

Let me be very clear with this wording. I don’t want to see these posts anymore. However, I want people to keep writing them. Keep spreading the word. Keep the shame up. I want every post that needs to be posted about the problems of sexual harassment within the genre community to go up and go viral. I don’t want to see them anymore because I don’t want them to be necessary anymore.

Seriously, people.

I’ve seen the arguments about men who grew up in different ages. That it’s how business used to get done. An ugly past is no excuse for an ugly present, because it creates a precedent that an ugly present will be an excuse for an ugly future. The necessary and only course of action is going to be intolerance. Intolerance of harassment. Intolerance of exclusion. Intolerance of intolerance. There are times that intolerance is the only right and just way forward, but only when applied to the ugly parts of ourselves and the societies that we choose to belong to. Whether that society is the United States, the broad genre fandom community, or SFWA.

I don’t want these voices silenced, however. I want them to speak, loudly and clearly. As Mary Kowal says in her call for these individuals to remove themselves from the SFWA community:

Please quit noisily and complaining about how SFWA is censoring you for asking you to stop using hate speech. Please quit and complain about the “thoughtcrime” of asking people not to sexually harass someone.  Please quit and bellyache about the good old days when people could be bigoted jerks. I want you to express your opinions clearly so that everyone knows them and knows that you are quitting because the other members of SFWA want you to Shut the Fuck up.

Yes. Please. Make it very clear who you are, and what your motivations are. Let people know that you feel excluded from the community because the community has tired of your shit. Let them know that you are refusing to attend cons with harassment policies because you feel you can’t enjoy a con without participating in harassment. Let everyone and anyone know.

I stand with Scalzi. His insistence on cons having sexual harassment policies is sound, and honorable. I stand with that notion. But who am I? I’m one voice in a crowd, but it’s only by raising our voices that a crowd can be heard over the cries of individuals. I think that a vast majority of the genre community is sick of this shit, sick of the fact that harassment policies are necessary, sick of the posts that go up bringing to light another instance. If you’re as sick of it as I am, make Scalzi’s policy yours. I’m making it mine.  Let the cons you attend know you’re making that stand. Ensure that conventions are a safe place for all in attendance. They need to be. They deserve to be.

And, guys, this isn’t just about policies and stances. This is about not being dicks. It’s on every single person who is part of a society to remember that. Be good to each other. It’s really not that hard to do.

Alright, deep breath. This was one of my preachy posts, and I’m aware of that. Back to fluff and nonsense next time, I promise. If you’d prefer me complaining about a crappy movie, head over to Unleaded. Which I’m apparently the sole blogger on right now.

Edited after a few deep breaths: I’ve been thinking about this post for awhile, but I wrote it in a pique. Which isn’t to say that I don’t stand by every word of it, but perhaps a few words of where I’m coming from. I’m a father now. A father of a little girl. Having this little baby girl has forced me to see just what a world we’re building for our daughters. And our sons. And ourselves, god damn it. We’re not done with this world, we shouldn’t have to hope things won’t get better for us, too. The behaviors that some people think are okay in any company just infuriate me. I was never blind to it, but my eyes are open now even wider than before.

I hope my daughter gets into science fiction and fantasy. With her mother and I as influences, the only way she won’t is an act of open rebellion against the genre. Her bookshelves are already filling up with Cat Valente books as fast as she can write and publish them. So when I see posts about women being harassed at conventions, when I read about women being belittled by an extremely vocal minority within SFWA…I see my little girl. I know I can’t always protect her, and I don’t expect to be able to keep her in a bubble where nothing bad or nasty will ever happen to her. But I don’t think it’s unreasonable to hope that the world gets better for her. That she can be part of this community as she grows, and feel like she’s a full member of it. I don’t think this in an unachievable goal.

Alright, I’m going to start to babble. Or get sappy. Or maybe I’ve already done both. My thesis remains. Be better to each other. And don’t accept that the world can’t be better. And keep writing those posts when they have to be written. Because they do have to be written. Maybe one day they won’t. And I look forward to that day.

Edited almost immediately once again: I said voices combined make crowds. Scalzi now has a post where you can co-sign his convention harassment policy policy. Go make this a louder noise.

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Fuck Censorship

Words.  Words are an interesting things.  They’re combinations of letters and related sounds (or sounds and their related letters) that have been given, in many cases, largely arbitrary meaning behind them.  Anyone who has sat and repeated a word over and over until it’s lost meaning knows the odd sensation of suddenly realizing just how arbitrary the connection between words and meanings can be.  Is there any specific reason that the letters c-o-w and their related sounds should refer to a grass munching delicious quadruped?  Or that r-o-s-e should refer to fancy sweet smelling flowers.  Shakespeare understood this.

And there are some words that have more incendiary meanings.  String the letters f-u-c-k together and the result is one of the most versatile words in the english language, and also one considered the most vulgar.  And when you string the letters n-i-g-g-e-r together, well, things can get a little more hairy.  The word has been given an undeniably ugly meaning, and has a very profound history within American race relationships.

Some would argue, with a certain validity, that the word has superseded fuck, or even cunt, to become the most vulgar word in the English language.

But the word exists.  It has its history.  And there are times and places when it should exist.  And one of those times and places is in the novel Huckleberry Finn.  However, there’s a new push to censor the word nigger out of Huck Finn (as well as the word injun, which is getting less press).  I could not be more against the move.  It’s not because I like the word, but because I like English literature.  And because I like the idea that thoughts might not be censored.

Do not misunderstand, while there are people looking to defend this move with the idea that it puts the book into more students hands, it is a move of absolute cowardice.  It is a move that does nothing but emphasize the power of the word as a word to hate, as it puts it in a special place as the word that gets censored out of our literature.  When I went to high school, I read on assignment Huck Finn.  I also read several novels as assigned that included the word fuck.  If the existence of the word nigger is taking the book out of the hands of students, the solution is not through an act of censorship, it’s through an examination of what we let school children read and why.  At what point does the potential discomfort of a subject invalidates it as a subject that should be taught in schools?

Ignoring words doesn’t make them not exist.  Talking about language, talking about how the history of the word and race relations in the United States are shown through the use of the word, that makes it valid as a word within context and as a teaching tool.

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My name is DL Thurston, and I’ve done Nanowrimo

I’m doing more output than usual on my blog today largely because I want to give a reaction to a piece in Salon.com by Lauren Miller.  It’s the same sort of article that comes up at this time every year, saying that there are better things to do with ones time than writing 50,000 words during the month of November.  Such as reading.  Before I get off on where I don’t agree with Ms. Miller, I’m going to start with where I do agree.  And where I agree most is one of her last arguments in the piece

Yet while there’s no shortage of good novels out there, there is a shortage of readers for these books. Even authors who achieve what probably seems like Nirvana to the average NaNoWriMo participant — publication by a major house — will, for the most part, soon learn this dispiriting truth: Hardly anyone will read their books and next to no one will buy them.

I don’t have the numbers for how much people read in modern society, but there is that strong feeling that the number has gone further and further down as there are more intrusions into time.  There’s the Blackberry that makes sure we’re never not at work.  There’s the internet, which is increasingly present in more and more of our lives.  People do need to read more, and especially they need to read more if they are going to be novelists.

“People would come up to me at parties,” author Ann Bauer recently told me, “and say, ‘I’ve been thinking of writing a book. Tell me what you think of this …’ And I’d (eventually) divert the conversation by asking what they read … Now, the ‘What do you read?’ question is inevitably answered, ‘Oh, I don’t have time to read. I’m just concentrating on my writing.'”

Wrong, wrong, wrong.  You should never be so concentrated on your writing that you aren’t reading something.  Even if it has nothing to do with what you’re writing.  Right now I’m writing a piece of near-future horror science fiction.  What am I reading?  A history of the United States spanning the Revolutionary War to the War of 1812.  What did I last read?  Nicholas Clapp’s fantastic real-life archaeology adventures Road to Ubar and Sheba.  What’s next?  Mary Roach’s new book.  The reason we keep reading is to keep learning, to keep an open mind, and even when you’re vastly outside your writing field, there’s still applications.  Reading Road to Ubar has given me so many ideas on how to deepen the world that I’m creating for the ongoing series of projects lumped together as Arkham.  Please please please never think that you’re too busy writing to read something.

Where I’ll also agree with Ms. Miller:

[F]rom rumblings in the Twitterverse, it’s clear that NaNoWriMo winners frequently ignore official advice about the importance of revision; editors and agents are already flinching in anticipation of the slapdash manuscripts they’ll shortly receive. “Submitting novels in Nov or Dec?” tweeted one, “Leave NaNoWriMo out of the cover letter … or make it clear that it was LAST year’s NaNo.” Another wrote, “Worst queries I ever received as an agent always started with ‘I’ve just finished writing my NaNoWriMo novel and …'”

Writing a novel takes more than a month.  A hell of a lot more than a month.  Many novels take their authors years or even decades to perfect.  Now, while the latter is likely a worst case, you are not going to pound out 50,000+ words in the month of November and be able to start sending query letters off on December 1.  And if there are agents and editors that see a lot of “I just finished writing this for Nanowrimo…” I deeply sympathize for the time that they spend crumpling those letters up and disposing of the first three chapters of someone’s unedited stream of consciousness dreck.  Yes, there are people in this world called “editors” but that doesn’t mean they’ll do all the editing for you starting at the rough draft and going forward.  Editing is a detailed process that catches not just simple spelling mistakes but endemic problems in a novel, plot holes, lack of character motivation, lack of overarching themes and plot lines.  This process is not meant to be skipped (or to take just one month, thank you very much Nanoedmo).

However, I don’t know how much of a problem this is, just how many tweet’s Ms. Miller is finding to create her “rumblings” or just how serious those people are.

I suspect that the people who feel that their untouched rough drafts are ready to go to an editor are a vast minority of the people who do Nanowrimo.  I even suspect that the people who feel that they are writing a novel for more than their own sense of self satisfaction is a minority.  And to that end I saw: what harm is done in the process?  To Ms. Miller the harm seems to reside on rewarding the wrong sort of activity.  She bemoans the idea of “squandering our applause on writers” and suggests “why not direct more attention, more pep talks, more nonprofit booster groups, more benefit galas and more huzzahs to readers? Why not celebrate them more heartily?”  That’s a fine notion, and one that I can absolutely get behind.  But at the same time, I reject the false dichotomy that the choices are to either celebrate people for reading or celebrate people for writing.

Nanowrimo does a lot of good for a lot of people.  I should know.  I’m one of them.  The hardest thing I’ve ever done as a writer was completing my first novel.  That’s not to say that everything has been easy since then, anyone that’s watched me working on Capsule for the past two years knows that it hasn’t been an easy process for me.  But because I did Nanowrimo, because I wrote Rust, I was able to get over that hurdle.  I’ve seen several other writers who are fantastically talented but who haven’t been able to cross that line.  Nanowrimo, if nothing else, can get someone over that line and get that first complete novel under the belt.  Will it be crap?  Very likely.  And Ms. Miller doesn’t necessarily think that writing crap is helpful: “I am not the first person to point out that ‘writing a lot of crap’ doesn’t sound like a particularly fruitful way to spend an entire month, even if itis November.”

But it is helpful, as long as you write crap the correct way.  I’m not going to even for a moment pretend that everyone participating in Nanowrimo does.  But there are constructive ways to write crap.  If you’re writing crap with a plot that takes 50,000-80,000 words to resolve without being overly stretched or condensed, you’ve done yourself a positive.  If you’re writing crap that forces you to do character studies and to create three-dimensional people to occupy your world, you’ve done yourself a positive.  Now, if you’re writing crap where you string a bunch of plot dares together with a self-insertion character, that might just be crap, don’t get me wrong.  But I’ve intentionally engaged in crap several times, especially when I undertook the challenge of writing a screenplay in a weekend.  It wasn’t even Syfy quality, but much like the first time I won Nanowrimo, it showed me that if I buckled down I could get something complete.  And the first step of editing and revision is to have something to edit and revise.

So if you’re doing Nanowrimo, keep on at it.  Enjoy it.  But pay attention to what you’re doing.  And why you’re doing it.  It can be a lot of fun, but it can also do a certain amount of good.  Don’t listen when people tell you it’s a waste of time and energy because (1) it doesn’t have to be if you don’t want it to be and (2) even if you do want it to be…it’s your own time and energy, waste away!

Then?  Go read a book.  A real book.  It’ll make both me and Laura Miller happy.

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