Category Archives: Linkdump

Sunday Linkdump: That murning made and mirth among

From photos the husband did of our Christmas decorations. Little-known Biblical fact: there were Megalodons at the birth of Jesus.

Last one before Christmas, yay. Trying a bit of a more streamlined format.

A Maiden moder mek and myld,
In cradle kep,
A knave child,
That softly slept, she sat and sange.

Sunday Linkdump: A smile I’ve learned to fear

He's watching.

He’s watching.

So it’s been a while, hasn’t it? Stuffing some news in with the links.

To my immense chuffedness, Line and Orbit took silver in the Best Gay SF and bronze in the Best Gay Debut categories in the 2013 Rainbow Awards. Many, many congrats to all the winners and finalists.

Linky links.

  • “Michigan passes ‘rape insurance’ bill”. The Republican governor actually opposed it. Michigan, I cannot even with you.
  • “The Return of the Welfare Queen”. Which does not actually exist, naturally.

    The facts defy the stereotypes. The largest group of food-stamp recipients is white; 45 percent of all beneficiaries are children; and most people eligible for Medicaid are families with children in which at least one person in the household has a job.

  • “David Cronenberg Wants to Be Inside You.” On the Cronenberg exhibition currently making the rounds and Cronenberg’s overall oeuvre.
  • “Friday the 13th: A Ghost Story”. This past Friday was the 13th. So someone had a surprising and unwelcome visitor.
  • “Five Stages of Reading the Novelization of Star Trek: The Motion Picture”.

    The book starts with a special preface by Admiral Kirk. He introduces himself by talking about his name. Kirk, because he’s a traditionalist, Tiberius because of his grandfather’s fascination with the classics, and James after his uncle and his mother’s first love instructor.

    Yeah. That’s what it said. That’s page one.

  • Over at Cyborgology, David Banks has the first part of a post series we’re doing, of our own personal history with devices and digital technology. As I said on Twitter, it’s funny, insightful, and rather sweet.
  • And I have the first part of a two-part essay on sex and drones and how they go together.

    Drones have become a symbol of contemporary surveillance, a thing that’s always there and always watching and always potentially capable of doing harm. Sometimes this harm is through direct violence, and sometimes it’s merely the delivery of data to people who can use it against you. But either way, there are two aspects to the erotic power of drones, and they’re interrelated: Being known, and being controlled.

This has become my theme/end titles music for Labyrinthian, the SF novel I just finished writing, so enjoy.

Sunday Linkdump: A smile I’ve learned to fear

Taken this morning by the husband at Point Lookout State Park in Maryland. Full set.

Taken this morning by the husband at Point Lookout State Park in Maryland. Full set.

Back in the saddle.

  • “Confessions of a Drone Warrior”. This is wrenching, horrifying, and a side of drone operation that most people can’t imagine.

    Airman First Class Brandon Bryant stared at the scene, unblinking in the white-hot clarity of infrared. He recalls it even now, years later, burned into his memory like a photo negative: “The smoke clears, and there’s pieces of the two guys around the crater. And there’s this guy over here, and he’s missing his right leg above his knee. He’s holding it, and he’s rolling around, and the blood is squirting out of his leg, and it’s hitting the ground, and it’s hot. His blood is hot. But when it hits the ground, it starts to cool off; the pool cools fast. It took him a long time to die. I just watched him. I watched him become the same color as the ground he was lying on.”

  • “Afrofuturism and Drones”. This is pretty fabulous.

    Drone mythos might help us conceptualize and critique the role of anti-blackness in contemporary imperialism. When we Americans think of drones, we usually think of them as something that happens in Pakistan, Yemen, or other Middle Eastern locations. However, droning practices certainly exist over here–you could think of Stop & Frisk and Stand Your Ground as a method of striking a constant pitch of fear among targeted populations. How might this idea that droning only happens “over there” obscure racist droning “over here”? In other words, how does droning re-enforce anti-black racism? On the other hand, how does anti-black racism facilitate droning, especially insofar as droning seems to target non-black people of color?

  • Impressionist paintings of scenes from zombie movies. Nothing more need be said.
  • “Finally, an Art Form That Gets the Internet: Opera”. This is quite simply one of the most remarkably conceived stage productions I have ever heard of. I desperately want to talk to this guy. Though he does still fall into the trap of conceiving “online” and “offline” as somehow different “spaces”.

    All at once, projections flicker upon the surface of the towers. We see the same massive chatlike interfaces, and a single phrase scrolling down them, like someone is typing it, again and again and again: “U there? U there? U there? U there?” The chorus sings those words, too, so we’re hearing and seeing them, and more words follow, until all the words tumble away into a projection of a vast, open space, across which helixes and plasma and networks flash and spin. Under all this, the strings pulse with exhilaration, and the low winds sound low, sustained tones, a phase slower than the anxious beat. As the chorus sing short phrases like this—“u there? u there? hey hey hey”—dancers now enter, gesticulating, moving fast-slow-fast with the artificiality of a simulation.

  • “Everyone is Tired of White People on TV”. And yet guess how much of a difference it makes to who’s on TV.

    And it gets better! Not in the sense of it gets more diverse and such. Just that the data justifies the points we are constantly trying to make (which is that the more diverse things are at every level, the more enjoyable televisions shows are) BECAUSE shows with diverse writing staffs also fare better in cable ratings. Researchers found that writing staffs with 10% minority or less (AKA a vast majority of shows in the analysis) slumped in ratings when compared to shows that had 11-20% and 41-50% minority staffs.

  • I wrote a thing on creepypasta and horror fiction.

    What comes to mind first when I consider creepypasta are campfire stories. I think it’s a pretty obvious jump; there may be no physical co-presence, but to me the feel is very similar: people sitting in the dark together, looking at something bright and glowing, passing around things to make each other shiver and wonder what might really be out there in the shadows.

Let’s all just bask in one of the greatest video game themes of all time.

Sunday Linkdump: Life is easier when one of us is dead

The Orbital Antares/Cygnus launching at Wallops Island on Sept.18. Photo by husband. Click image for full set.

It’s baaaaaaaaaaack.

  • “The New York Times, if Every Word Was Removed Except ‘Cyber'”. It used to be about sex. Now it’s about war.
  • “Why Today’s Inventors Need to Read More Science Fiction”. Actually, how about why everyone needs to read more science fiction?

    On the deepest levels, your consciousness doesn’t make a distinction between experiences you’ve had and the experiences of characters in stories you’ve heard. This is why fiction is so powerful and why human beings seem to need to tell, collect, and understand stories. Fiction allows you to live more lives in the space-time of one lifetime than you would normally be able to. It allows you to benefit from the outcome of simulations without being exposed to the dangers or time constraints that you would be forced to undergo if you had to live every experience that informs your reality by yourself. In a post-industrial society of tool using primates, like ours, technology is one of the defining factors, and so science fiction, with its tendency to emphasize technology, is a way of running exponentially iterative design processes to conceive and create new technologies.

  • So there was that time when an accident with a B-52 almost threw us into a nuclear conflict by accident and it turns out that “almost” is really goddamn almost.
  • “The Liquid Self”. Ephemeral social media has the potential to liberate us from the more static selves imposed by traditional social media profiles.

    Dominate social media has thus far taken a stand, a radical one in my opinion, for a version of identity that is highly categorized and omnipresent, one that forces an ideal of a singular, stable identity that we will continuously have to confront. It is a philosophy that doesn’t capture the real messiness and fluidity of the self, fails to celebrate growth, and is particularly bad for those most socially-vulnerable. I wonder how we can build social media that doesn’t always intensify our own relationship to ourselves by way of identity boxes. I think temporary social media will provide new ways of understanding the social media profile, one that isn’t comprised of life hacked into frozen, quantifiable pieces but instead something more fluid, changing, and alive.

  • Don’t do these things with professors. Just don’t. Don’t ever.
  • Writing cultures outside your own in SFF. Which can be tricky. So tread carefully.

    [N]ot discouraging you from writing what you want to write (I’d be the last one in a position to do so!); but it’s good to ask yourself why you’re writing what you’re writing; to be aware of the consequences; and to promote writings by people from the actual culture in addition to your own—because they have voices of their own, but more trouble getting heard.

  • “Fuck You. I’m Gen Y, and I Don’t Feel Special or Entitled, Just Poor”.

    You have no idea about student debt, underemployment, life-long renting. “Stop feeling special” is some shitty advice. I don’t feel special or entitled, just poor. The only thing that makes me special is I have more ballooning debt than you.

  • Digital libraries and the sensory experience of particular kinds of space.

    Those nostalgic for books with paper and bindings frequently reference the familiar musty smell of a book, the weight of the text in somatictheir hands, the sound of flipping pages. A traditional library, similarly, has a quite distinct sensory profile. Scents of Freshly vacuumed carpets mix with slowly disintegrating paper and the hushed sounds buzzing fluorescent bulbs. The lightly dusted, thickly bound books align row after row, adorned with laminated white stickers with small black letters and numbers, guiding readers to textual treasures organized by genre, topic, author, and title. These sensory stimuli may evoke calm, excitement, comfort, all of these things together. Indeed, being in a library has a feel. To fear the loss of this somatic experience, this “feel” is a legitimate concern. With a new kind of library, and a new medium for text, a particular sensory experience will, in time, be lost forever.

  • The boundaries between fandom and creators have always been weird and are getting weirder in lots of weird ways that people don’t quite understand and everything is just kind of really weird. And surprise, surprise, some people are being serious goddamn jerks about the weirdness.

    A reader disliking a book or having a problem with aspects of it and saying so in public is not bullying. A columnist talking about the potential pitfalls of authors coming into reader conversations and citing an example is not bullying. Concern for the degree of coziness that some blogs have with the industry is also not bullying. And it’s also not bullying to object to authors participating in discussions of their work when they haven’t been specifically invited to do so.

    It’s also not silencing or attacking and it absolutely is not justification for namecalling on social media. Some of that namecalling has included gendered insults and sexual assault threats. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised by this development and yet I am.

I killed my baby with a bullet, one last shot right into her head
And I’m falling falling falling down

Sunday Linkdump: Find the lady of the light

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Only a few things, but some big stuff.

  • This is all over the place already but it’s such a wtf moment that it’s worth reposting: The NSA, in the name of “national security”, has engaged in a massive conspiracy to hack into private information and weaken digital security across the globe. These people are master criminals in all but name. If there was any pretense that they were subject to the rule of law in any form, that should be all over and done with now.
  • Along those lines: The very idea that the US – or any state wishing to appear to be powerful – is subject to the rule of law is a farce. Not only that, but by definition the system is constructed in such a way as to make it practically impossible. We’re seeing that in the president’s decisions re: Syria, but it’s always been true.

    If American foreign policy is anything, it is not even-handed and impartial, and international law is the least of its concerns. It is selfish, interested, aggressive, petty, and vindictive. It is a state arrogating to itself the right to make arbitrary choices, to make the rules while other countries only follow them. And to prove that distinction—to demonstrate that while the US and its allies can behave according to one standard, other nations can be stripped of that privilege, at will—the US must not only establish “red lines,” and enforce them, but it is the very arbitrary nature of those red lines which allows them to function as signs on the international stage. Lawlessness is how a state proves itself sovereign; submission to law is the sign of the weak.

  • Philadelphia’s public schools are doomed, and the end is ugly. The end is also the work of callous, cruel, wicked men. I’m an educator, and Philadelphia is my home. This enrages me to the point of tears, to the point where I have to just not think about it anymore.

    This crisis, and the ultimate downfall of Philadelphia public schools, could have been avoided through proper financial management. At the end of the last budget year, the state of Pennsylvania had a modest surplus but Governor Corbett chose to allocate money towards building new prisons. Helen Gym, a public school parent and the founder of Parents United for Public Education, told the Washington Post, “Pennsylvania is one of three states in the nation without a funding formula for schools (based on enrollment, population, or other metric). The funding of districts is basically determined in back room deals among party leadership, with little consideration of need or even actual enrollment.”

  • I threw my oar into the #DiversityinSFF discussion with a post linking digital dualism to the boundary policing of science fiction.

    One of the things that’s going on here is sexist cultural conventions being produced and reproduced regarding women being bad at science, the devaluing of “feminine” things like emotion and relationships, which are being bolstered and which are bolstering our assumptions about technology as somehow disconnected from the reality of those things. Relationships begun and maintained via social media aren’t “real”. Emotion elicited and transferred via digital technology isn’t “real”. There are feelings and relationships and humanity and interiority, and then there’s technology.

  • And one final plug: I’m giving away a copy of We See a Different Frontier right over here. You have until the 18th to enter. Winner will be drawn at random.

Nightmares shifted in their sleep, in the darkness of the lake.

Sunday Linkdump: Beyond the confines of the sick sick game

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Technically not Sunday anymore, but what, am I being graded on this shit? Let’s get to it.

  • So I was wondering earlier on Twitter about whether or not various goings-on in the US are threatening to cause a brain drain and heeeeeeeeeey. But it’s not like we need, y’know, science or anything.

    The drying up of resources has had a damaging effect on the research being conducted, forcing scientists to curtail their projects or trim their staffs. According to the survey, 68 percent of respondents said they do not have the funds to expand their research operations; 55 percent said they have a colleague who has lost a job or expects to soon; and 18 percent of respondents said they were considering continuing their careers in another country.

  • “Reading Habits and the Status Quo.”

    To claim that we’re not getting books with that diversity because most readers would rather not be challenged is insulting. When I talk to my fellow romance readers, I get the sense that this is absolutely not the case. Obviously, sometimes one wants to read something comforting and familiar, but for me, that’s usually when I reread books or read the latest novel by a favorite author. When I am not reading for comfort, I am looking to be challenged.

    And I don’t mean that I consider the presence of characters whose backgrounds and life experiences are different from to be a challenge–not at all. Humanity is diverse by nature and to not have that fully represented in our art is a failure of imagination.

  • Transgender educator and activist Andrea James on Chelsea Manning’s “gender hell”.

    Manning’s pre-military pictures experimenting with gender expression show these feelings were present long before enlistment. From our earliest memories, most trans people recall moments when they realized their identities were considered wrong or diseased by others. It’s easy to internalize that and become very secretive. Trans people often create lives for ourselves that attempt to suppress those feelings and that part of us. Joining the military is not uncommon, nor is committing to personal relationships where transition would mean the end.

  • “When Your (Brown) Body is a (White) Wonderland.” This is one of the best things I’ve read on the Miley Cyrus VMA debacle. I do want to note that it does do one thing that I think is problematic – and that commentators have been doing almost uniformly – which is to speak and write as if Miley Cyrus’s performance was entirely the doing of Miley Cyrus. The “Miley Cyrus” that we see is not a person. It’s a brand, the result of the careful construction of a corporate entity. It’s just sad that actual persons – including Miley – are the ones who have to deal with the fallout. Regardless, it’s not like the same exact processes aren’t at work.

    Fat non-normative black female bodies are kith and kin with historical caricatures of black women as work sites, production units, subjects of victimless sexual crimes, and embodied deviance. As I said in my analysis of hip-hop and country music cross-overs, playing the desirability of black female bodies as a “wink-wink” joke is a way of lifting up our deviant sexuality without lifting up black women as equally desirable to white women. Cyrus did not just have black women gyrating behind her. She had particularly rotund black women. She gleefully slaps the ass of one dancer like she intends to eat it on a cracker. She is playing a type of black female body as a joke to challenge her audience’s perceptions of herself while leaving their perceptions of black women’s bodies firmly intact. It’s a dance between performing sexual freedom and maintaining a hierarchy of female bodies from which white women benefit materially.

    The performance works as spectacle precisely because the background dancers embody a specific kind of black female body. That spectacle unfolds against a long history of how capitalism is a gendered enterprise and subsequently how gendered beauty norms are resisted and embraced to protect the dominant beauty ideal of a certain type of white female beauty.

  • That Thing we all suddenly seem to have for “introversion”? Yeah, it’s kind of a problem.

    With the Disconnection Meme still making the rounds, is our cultural enthusiasm for the Introversion Meme even the least bit surprising? In fact, I’m almost surprised I’ve not seen an iteration of the Introversion Meme that lists a preference for walks on Cape Cod as a diagnostic criterion for introversion (or maybe that’s the 24th sign). The “introvert” has joined the paper book, the vinyl record, the face-to-face conversation, and the wilderness vacation as a fetish object imbued with the mythic power of Authentic Life™.

  • Finally, this is one of the funniest and – somewhat surprisingly – sweetest and saddest things I’ve read in a while. Honest to God, I got choked up by the end. Every note it attempts to hit, it hits perfectly.

    Over the last decade-plus, the market has been saturated by Grand Theft Auto clones, and it’s no surprise that the Video Game 3,000 has one of its own. The reduntantly-named Unlawful Car Stealer features simple artwork on each page, making it the system’s only title to provide graphics of any sort.

    “[Your mom] designed that one,” says your dad. “It’s about 5,000 pages, too. She’d stay up all night, every night, with that pencil and protractor, making the graphics. One morning last week, I found her sitting at the dinner table, sound asleep on top of that stack of papers, wearing her Denny’s apron. I didn’t want to wake her up, but if I didn’t, she would’ve been late for her shift at the Denny’s.”

Make me a bird.

Sunday Linkdump: Everything I say has come before

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Bunch of gems this week. Seriously, gems.

  • Meet the next, biggest financial crisis: student loan debt. It’s way worse, it’s way grosser, and it’s arguably due to the federal government completely shitting the bed.

    We’re doing the worst thing people can do: lying to our young. Nobody, not even this president, who was swept to victory in large part by the raw enthusiasm of college kids, has the stones to tell the truth: that a lot of them will end up being pawns in a predatory con game designed to extract the equivalent of home-mortgage commitment from 17-year-olds dreaming of impossible careers as nautical archaeologists or orchestra conductors.

  • Related: On President Obama’s new education policy and why it’s mired in counter-productive technocratic waffle batter.

    The idea with higher education is, “I can get rid of for-profits and I can get rid of shitty fifth-tier colleges and universities and I don’t have to take the political heat for doing either. And I don’t have to actually say what I think mass higher education should be if not an expensive imitation of what elite selective education should be, because ‘wisdom of crowds’ and all that, if we set the incentives right, that will emerge.” Technocrats live in the wonderland of the question marks in the Underpants Gnomes business model, endlessly fussing over the exact terms of Point #1 and certain that the Profit! of #3 will follow.

  • Ever feel like your job might be unnecessary and useless? It’s not just you. And you might be right. Because this is how we do now.

    If someone had designed a work regime perfectly suited to maintaining the power of finance capital, it’s hard to see how they could have done a better job. Real, productive workers are relentlessly squeezed and exploited. The remainder are divided between a terrorised stratum of the, universally reviled, unemployed and a larger stratum who are basically paid to do nothing, in positions designed to make them identify with the perspectives and sensibilities of the ruling class (managers, administrators, etc) – and particularly its financial avatars – but, at the same time, foster a simmering resentment against anyone whose work has clear and undeniable social value. Clearly, the system was never consciously designed. It emerged from almost a century of trial and error. But it is the only explanation for why, despite our technological capacities, we are not all working 3-4 hour days.

  • Anna Gunn on Skyler White and why people just hate her so goddamn much.

    As an actress, I realize that viewers are entitled to have whatever feelings they want about the characters they watch. But as a human being, I’m concerned that so many people react to Skyler with such venom. Could it be that they can’t stand a woman who won’t suffer silently or “stand by her man”? That they despise her because she won’t back down or give up? Or because she is, in fact, Walter’s equal?

  • “Thin Women: I’ve Got Your Back. Could You Get Mine?” Just fucking read it. It almost made me cry it’s so great.

    Thin-shaming is wrong. It is bad and it is harmful and I long for its eradication and I will dance upon its corpse with my fat feet. But it’s important to note that thin-shaming is a symptom of the fact that all women’s bodies are policed all the time—not evidence of some culture-wide, systemic campaign to stigmatize thinness. Thinness is valued. Thin bodies are privileged over fat bodies. Despite the efforts of body positive activists (whose express goal, by the way, is to promote the acceptance of all bodies, including fat ones, not to further women’s oppression by gratuitously shaming the thin), “I’m proud to be fat” is still a radical statement. “I’m proud to be thin” is the status quo.

  • “The 7 Most Common Misconceptions About Science Fiction Publishing.” I find it hard to believe that anyone actually believes at least a couple of these, but here you go.
  • This one is actually three years old, but I just found it this week and in addition to being – I feel – still totally relevant, it’s an almost perfect articulation of my own feelings. I don’t hate steampunk; I love the aesthetic and I love what it could be. But it isn’t that most of the time, though there are exceptions. Most of the time it doesn’t deserve the “punk” moniker. It’s just bleh. And sort of troubling.

    When I look at steampunk books and how they’re marketed to us, all I see is surface. Look! The megasites say. Airships! Goggles! Pirates! Zombies! All these cool things! And if it has enough of the Exclamation Point Items, then by god, it must be good. And geek culture grabs on and worries it until there’s nothing left, and even after that, still pronouncing it awesome, that fateful, overwrought, overused, now meaningless word, like some kind of huge literary all your base joke. The whole mass of it is just a bunch of things that either sparkle or blow up strung together on the hope that some kind of magic will happen and a zeitgeist will be capitalized upon. It’s not even about books. Most steampunkers I know aren’t dressing up as characters from books. They’re role playing the same airship pirate crew every other person with goggles and a spray-painted nerf gun is…Steampunk runs on potential right now–the obvious cash potential of a group of people with disposable income invested in a subgenre already, the potential of the genre itself to produce something real and beautiful, the potential to access that geekly longing for a world clotted with gorgeous mechanical toys, a world devoted to them and ruled by them, a world in which their particularly strengths would be of prime use.

    Of course, that world sure as hell ain’t the 19th century. But never you mind. We can remake the 19th century. We can make it better, faster, stronger. We have the technology. Just don’t look behind the curtain. It’s a fucking mess back there.

  • Finally, me on how I use Twitter and why, which is to say messy and confused and unprofessional and I’ll probably never get a goddamn job now.

    I don’t even like the idea that there are “poor” or “illegitimate” decisions when it comes to self-presentation in social media, at least not in the way those concepts are often used. But I can’t escape the feeling that this has all been an elaborate exercise in professional suicide. I have been told for years that this is something I shouldn’t do. Yet I also can’t escape the feeling that when the majority of people are telling you not to do something, that might be an indication that it’s something worth doing.

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