Monthly Archives: May 2013

News – Wiscon recovery, Shimmer 17 ToC, general flailing

Shimmer #17 ToC, out this summer:

“The Mostly True Story of Assman & Foxy” – Katherine Sparrow
“How Bunny Came to Be” – A.C. Wise
“The Moon Bears” – Sarah Brooks
“Sincerely, Your Psychic” – Helena Bell
“Out They Come” – Alex Dally MacFarlane
“Love in the Time of Vivisection” – Sunny Moraine
“Fishing” – Lavie Tidhar
“98 Ianthe” – Robert N. Lee
“Stealing My Sister’s Boyfriend” – Jordan Taylor
“The Metaphor of the Lakes” – Yarrow Paisley
“Romeo and Meatbox” – Alex Wilson
“Like Feather, Like Bone” – Kristi DeMeester
“Girl, With Coin” – Damien Walters Grintalis
“River, Dreaming” – Silvia Moreno-Garcia
“The Fairy Godmother” – Kim Neville
“We Were Never Alone in Space” – Carmen Maria Machado
“The Herdsman of the Dead” – Ada Hoffman

Jesus, what a fantastic lineup.

Me? I’m still recovering from Wiscon, which was really pretty fucking fantastic – I made a bunch of new friends and got to catch up with some old ones, my reading went really well, and I had a blast at my panels to the point where I think I’ll have to do a part 2 of my cyborg panel next year since there seems to be popular demand and we didn’t get to so much stuff, and of course I got my genderfloomp on – but it was also exhausting, and I think I’m feeling it now.

Case in point: I meant to do so much stuff today and all I did was novel edits and watching The Hunger Games and thinking about thinking about my dissertation. Friday I’m due to write a blog post for Cyborgology on the monetization of fandom, so I need to get my shit together by then.

aaaaaaah the summer is already running away and it’s not even June

I have cover art for Crowflight but I can’t share it publicly yet. You don’t even know how difficult that is.

WHAT FRESH HELL IS THIS AMAZON

So Amazon is going to be selling fanfiction.

I have a lot of feelings about this, many of which haven’t gotten any further in articulating themselves than WHAAAATAAARRGGHHHFFFFFFFFF, so let me link to posts on the topic by John Scalzi and Chuck Wendig, both of whom have slightly different and equally important takes.

For myself, yeah, I’ve pretty much tipped my hand to the fact that I regard this as almost uniformly a bad thing. I regard it as such as someone with a long history in and a deep affection for fandom; totally aside from how monetizing fic for profit is a shit in the face of communities that thrive on free exchange of labor for sheer love of the product, I don’t like it when I feel like The Man is trying to make my people suckers. Which I honestly feel is a serious danger here.

I’m going out on a limb with this but I’m thinking most fic writers don’t have agents. I’m guessing that a lot of them have actually never seen a standard publishing contract. This isn’t to say that fic writers are stupid, but I do think that a lot of them are probably ignorant of a lot of the nuts and bolts of the publishing business – why wouldn’t they be, if they have no professional reason to not be so? – and Amazon is counting on that. Amazon is counting on fic writers not knowing that they should SPRINT TO THE OTHER SIDE OF THE CONTINENT when they see something like “Amazon Publishing will acquire all rights to your new stories, including global publication rights, for the term of copyright.”

Amazon is not in this for you. Amazon is in this for Amazon. No duh; they’re a giant company that operates to maximize its profit. But it’s just important that we’re all on the same page here: Amazon is not in this because they love fandom. They don’t give a shit about fandom. Probably most of the IPs who have allowed licenses don’t give much of a shit about fandom. This is exploitation. Now, it’s totally fine to be okay with being exploited – welcome to capitalism – but at least be aware that that’s what’s going on.

One of the things I love about fandom is the fierce resistance to monetization – fans in it for love of the thing of which they’re fans, in a community based not only around appreciation of a thing but around intense creativity regarding that thing. Transformative culture. I think not being in it for money is a lot of what’s made fandom so vibrant and wonderful. I’m torn in this, because I’m also a writer who gets paid and ideally I’d love to see all the producers of creative work get paid for good work… But Amazon?

Of course it would be Amazon.

And no, as Cecilia Tan pointed out on Twitter, I don’t expect the majority of fandom to embrace this. But the fact that a company like Amazon has formally recognized that there’s money to be made off the backs of fandom troubles me a lot. It troubles me as a writer of original fiction and fanfiction.

I have a lot more thoughts on this but as I said, they’re articulating themselves poorly because of RRAAAAAAAARRGHH and I need to get ready to fly to Madison tomorrow, so they’ll have to wait.

[ADDENDUM] I’ve seen a number of people laughing this whole thing off because, as I said above, most of fandom is unlikely to go for it (this is true), and previous similar enterprises have failed spectacularly (also true). Here’s why, although I’m not panicking, I’m not laughing anything off:

  • Scalzi and Wendig both raise some important, not-to-be-ignored points. Read what they have to say if you haven’t.
  • What worries me even more than the troubling contract terms is what this means in terms of precedent. Something doesn’t have to be a big deal at the time to be a big deal later. It doesn’t matter if Amazon’s venture is a failure; that they’ve done it at all matters a fuck of a lot in terms of how fandom is regarded by content-producing and distributing companies.
  • Personally, I envision the past relationship between fandom and the companies that produce canon as a bit like the separation of church and state: they constitute the same society and people may have places in both, but the separation of both is good for both and protects both. Or at least it protects fandom. But if companies start blurring the line between official/licensed and unofficial/fan-produced, I think that opens an immense can of worms, in terms of fandom culture, in terms of legalities, and in terms of what everyone is prepared to accept and expect as appropriate. Fandom has been so robust and done so well precisely because it has fiercely protected autonomy. Companies have – until now – mostly shied away from butting in there largely because fandom was this bizarre unexplainable force of nature that they didn’t really know how to handle. Fifty Shades, among other things, helped to demystify it somewhat. I do not regard that as a good trend.
  • It matters that it’s fucking Amazon. 
  • In my social theory classes in graduate school, I’ve been taught to ask one question above all others when considering something: Where’s the power? Put another way: Who benefits? Put another way: Where isn’t the power, and who doesn’t benefit? I think those are vitally important questions to consider here. And I don’t like the answers.

Final #Wiscon schedule!

Cyborg Identities: Haraway and Beyond | Fri, 9:00–10:15 pm | Senate A | #Cyborgidentities
Moderator: Sunny Moraine. Participants: Scott E. Gould, Andrea D. Hairston, Lettie Prell, Micole Sudberg

Donna Haraway famously argued that cyborgs transcend science fiction and enter the realm of feminist theory — that we are all cyborgs, transgressing identity boundaries and binaries and, in so doing, recreating ourselves. But many of the most powerful explorations of cyborg identities are still found in SF. What does SF tell us about ourselves as cyborgs? How can we make SF into useful social theory (and can we at all)? What are the implications for politics and power? How can we draw connections between fiction and political non-fiction? Like all cyborg transgressions, is the line between fiction and reality more porous than we often like to think?

When “Love Your Body” Isn’t Enough | Sat, 10:00–11:15 am | Senate A | #LoveYourBody
Moderator: Debbie Notkin. Participants: The Rotund, Jackie M., Kiini Ibura Salaam, s.e. smith, Sunny Moraine

“Love your body” is the hot trend in empowering catchphrases intended to connect people with their bodies and put them back in control, but what happens when it’s not enough? How does it exclude people don’t love their bodies and are struggling to figure out where they fit in? What kinds of structural inequalities are people perpetuating with an exhortation to “love your body,” and how can we change the way this phrase is used?

Roleplay and Identity | Sat, 2:30–3:45 pm | Caucus | #RoleplayIdentity
Moderator: Lisa Blauersouth. Participants: Kurt Ellison, Katherine Olson/Kayjayoh, Talks-with-wind, Sunny Moraine

Many of us use cosplay and tabletop, live-action, and computer role-playing games (RPGs) to explore our own identities and/or that of “the Other” (for many values of “other”). How can these experiences of roleplay help us to expand our understanding of ourselves and the world? At the same time, how can we address examples of roleplay that are exploitative or simply perpetuate stereotypes? And how do we keep ourselves from falling into this?

Outer Alliance: New Writings in LGBTQ SF/F/H | Sun, 1:00–2:15 pm | Conference 2 | #OuterAllianceReading
Participants: Julia Rios, Julie Andrews, Megan Arkenberg, Kimberley Long-Ewing, Catherine Lundoff, JoSelle Vanderhooft, Sunny Moraine, Cliff Winnig

Outer Alliance is an organization for writers and readers of science fiction, fantasy and horror that advocates positive portrayals of LGBTQ characters. We will be reading from a wide range of fiction that fits this description.

And I still don’t know for sure what I’m reading aaaaaaaaa

Sunday linkdump: Shine bright like a diamond

murmuration-drone-festival

Been out of the game for a couple of weeks, finishing a book and defending a dissertation proposal and wrapping up a course. Back now. Have stuff.

  • Why you dislike singular ‘they’.” I am so fucking sick of people complaining about how it’s grammatically incorrect, or it’s too clumsy, or they just can’t be bothered. Sack up, motherfuckers. Also my sister has some knowledge to hit you with:

    I wrote a linguistics final on this: plenty of fluent adult speakers naturally produce “they” as an indeterminate gender pronoun to avoid using the clunkier construction “his or her.” not only is it transphobic bullshit to say third person plurals are grammatically unacceptable, it’s linguistically incorrect.

    BOOM.

  • “Every Every Every Generation Has Been the Me Me Me Generation.” On Time’s awful awful awful Millennial cover story.

    Basically, it’s not that people born after 1980 are narcissists, it’s that young people are narcissists, and they get over themselves as they get older. It’s like doing a study of toddlers and declaring those born since 2010 are Generation Sociopath: Kids These Days Will Pull Your Hair, Pee On Walls, Throw Full Bowls of Cereal Without Even Thinking of the Consequences.

  • “The MOOC Moment and the End of Reform.” It’s things like the recent discourse around MOOCs that make me seriously wonder whether I’ve made a huge mistake going into academia and whether maybe I should just toss in the towel and leave the country once I have my PhD rather than watch this institution that I love shit all over itself and die.

    Since educating fewer students would therefore cost money, in effect—and it would also cost money to fully staff the necessary courses—there is no solution to the problem that does not require spending more money on chairs, classrooms, and teachers to teach them. MOOCs enter the picture, then, as a kind of fantasy solution to this unsolvable problem: instead of addressing the problem by either admitting fewer students or adding more courses, we will define the problem differently: chairless classrooms! Everyone is happy.

  • “Star Trek Into the Endless War On Terror.” This piece is fabulous.

    Khan is blowing up Starfleet because they used him and manipulated him to built a war machine capable of defending against people like Khan. Self-justifying, perpetual war machines are what we have come to expect from governments. Even if you are defending the war, you have to justify this “new kind of war” by describing and identifying an enemy that demands a war of ambiguous lines and endless horizons. Talk about policing, intelligence, boots on the ground, or peace-keeping missions but don’t question the need for constant intervention. J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek might not be the Star Trek you want, but it is definitely the Star Trek America deserves.

  • “The Ethics of Extreme Porn: Is Some Sex Wrong Even Among Consenting Adults?” Really good response to a recent blog dialogue that questions whether sexual ethics based entirely around consent are a universal good (spoiler alert: kinda, yeah.)

    My generation doesn’t treat consent as a lodestar merely because consent permits pleasurable sexual activity that more traditional sexual codes would prohibit. The ethos of consent is regarded as a lodestar because its embrace is widely seen as an incredible improvement over much of human history; and because instances when the culture of consent is rejected are superlatively horrific. The average 30-something San Franciscan has had multiple friends confide to them about being raped, and multiple friends confide about participating in consensual BDSM. Only the former routinely plays out as extreme trauma that devastates the teller for decades.

  • I’m interviewed in the current Outer Alliance podcast, along with an all-star lineup of folks, about the acronym QUILTBAG and the idea of “metrosexual” and current SF awards. It’s fun.
  • Finally, a thing by me: “Distant droning murmurs” – a reflection on the issues raised for me by Murmuration, a June festival of drone culture.

    Need is by definition a loss of power. And in as much as a drone is a cultural node, it’s a node of political and social power, equally capable of surveillance and lethality, technically exact but inscrutable. A shifting, endlessly accommodating idea isn’t especially trustworthy. But maybe we want to trust. Above all, we want everything to be recognizable. We want to be able to understand.

    What I think may be most terrifying about drones – at least to me – is the prospect that they might ultimately be beyond understanding. But we’ll see what Murmuration can do.

Rihanna and M83 have made a beautiful baby.