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My WisCon 42 schedule

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Now that it’s been finalized, here’s my schedule for WisCon 42. At this point I’m not doing a reading – I think I missed the time for that – but it’s possible I’ll be able to jump into someone else’s at the last minute. We’ll see. Even if not, I’m psyched for what I’ve got here.

Will the Truth Set Us Free?
Friday 4:00 – 5:15 PM, Conference 1
Moderator: Loren W Cooper. Loren W Cooper, Seth Frost, Rachel Kronick, Sunny Moraine

If there’s one thing the current American political landscape shows, it’s that lying and manipulating people can bring political success. In this panel, we will discuss whether it’s useful to set aside commitments to truth in the name of political pragmatism. We will also consider what “truth” versus “lying” means in different cultures, and how those differences operate across diverse political systems.

Stigma and Neuroatypicality
Friday 9:00 – 10:15 PM, University B
Moderator: JoSelle Vanderhooft. JoSelle Vanderhooft, Clara Cecilia Abnet Holden, Lisa M. Bradley, Sunny Moraine

Every mental illness has its own unique challenges, but what happens when society takes a look at your illness, then piles on challenges of its own? Telling someone you have anxiety comes with less pop culture baggage than telling someone you have borderline personality disorder. Dealing with apathy from depression is different when also you have to deal with racial stereotypes of laziness. In what ways does societal prejudice pile on and make it harder to express or be open about your mental illness and your day to day struggles with it? What ways does it make it harder to cope?

Art and Writing As Tools of Resistance
Sunday 4:00 – 5:15 PM, Conference 5
Moderator: Laurie Toby Edison. Laurie Toby Edison, W. L. Bolm, Carlie Forsythe/Chanter, Susan Simensky Bietila, Sunny Moraine

Laurie Toby Edison’s photography work in progress, Memory Landscapes, is a feminist memoir. She says, “The memoir is my personal story, and of course includes my history in art and activism. My attitude towards this work has been profoundly affected by the disturbing changes in our social and political world. I want us to examine the ways in which our work, memory and political convictions interact and entwine as we respond to those changes. Art and writing can be powerful tools of resistance. I would like to have a conversation with the panelists and the audience about what approaches and choices make our work powerful and effective during these uncertain and frightening times.”

Future of Fiction Formats
Monday 10:00 – 11:15 AM, Conference 3
Moderator: Robyn Bennis. Robyn Bennis, Jason Finn, Alexandra Erin, Sunny Moraine

Most current fiction falls into specific formats, but sometimes we see pieces like xkcd’s “Time”, Jon Bois’s “17776”, or other multimedia/mixed media/partially interactive formats that play on our expectations and make something really cool. How will we consume/experience media in the future, and who’s already pushing those boundaries now, including in fanwork?

The Signout
Monday 11:30 – 12:45 AM/PM, Capitol/Wisconsin

I’ll be there to sign books by me/with me in ’em, and I’ll also have some books for you to purchase if you so desire. Plus perhaps some other goodies.

Hope I see you there!

Listen to “Your Slaughterhouse, Your Killing Floor”! LISTEN TO IT

What it says on the tin: There’s audio of me reading my story “Your Slaughterhouse, Your Killing Floor” (originally published in Uncanny Magazine) up on my Patreon, available to everyone.

That said, if you enjoy it and you want more stuff like it in your life, kindly consider becoming one of my supporters, because it’s so extremely rad when people do that.

I really love this story, and I love reading it. I hope you enjoy it.

Obligatory 2017 Award Post (*SQUIRM*)

Since I guess I should do one of these.

Yes, look, I have the same exact struggle with this shit as most of the other people I know. Let’s all recognize the fact that Awards Season is a weird, anxious, uncomfortable time for a tremendous number of us, emotionally and in general, when we feel like we have to do things that go massively against our nature, which is call attention to our own stuff against the bone-deep conviction that no one will like us or our stuff if we do.

THAT SAID, for your award consideration, here’s the stuff I’ve done this past year.

  • “Shape Without Form, Shade Without Color” (Tor.com)
    This is a very dark, very strange (par for the course with me at this point tbh) story about mental illness and the way narratives bleed into magic and C9pP-JXXUAIzV8d.jpg largevengeful ghosts. I wrote it during a very rough time and it’s heavily autobiographical. The response to it was interestingly missed—some people seemed to dislike the fact that it’s not even really a story in the classic sense, a few other people expressed the belief that my depiction of mental illness was negative (fair) and therefore ableist (uhh), and a bunch of people said something to the effect of “yes, this is it, this is exactly how it feels to be this way”. Given that I often find myself trying to describe the indescribable in my writing, that last was extremely good to hear, though not one bit of the story itself or anything around it sat easy for me.

 

  • “eyes I dare not meet in dreams” (Tor.com)
    The status of this one in terms of award eligibility is a little odd; an earlier version oftumblr_orjlv8WEGb1ronbrao1_1280 it was actually posted a few years ago on a sociology blog I ran with some grad student friends, but given that it was never widely distributed or in a paying market—or indeed a fiction market of any kind—Tor and I decided to treat it as an original work rather than a reprint. You’ll have to decide for yourself whether or not you agree with that reasoning. Regardless, this is an angry piece of feminist cultural criticism which is personally one of my favorite things that I’ve ever written.

 

  • “In the Blind” (Clarkesworld)
    This one came from an idea that I actually had while considering some ideas cw_131_700for fanfiction, and I’m very pleased with how it came out. Originally a story about the dread and claustrophobia of being trapped in a confined space with someone you really dislike and with the potential end of the human race going on below, it ended up being a kind of meditation on several different levels of disconnection—from society, from interpersonal relationships, from the self, from the world—and how the emotional explosion stemming from that connection can lead to violence, and how in fact violence is its own form of connection (which I think is something of a Theme with me, given that my story in the current issue of Uncanny Magazine deals with some of the same issues).

 

  • And there’s also my serial audio drama podcast Gone. I’m honestly not sure tumblr_ot1m32pJFZ1ronbrao1_1280what award category this would go in—Hugo long form, maybe? One of these days I’ll write a longer rant about how we really need to figure out what to do with podcasts where the Nebulas and Hugos and World Fantasy Awards are concerned. Anyway, if you feel like nominating it for anything, there it is.

 

And that’s it. I’ve published more stuff in years past in terms of sheer numbers, but in terms of quality, I’m pretty happy with 2017 overall. Bring on 2018. May it be a better year in all respects for just about everyone.

Dark Mirror (my PhD dissertation) – preface

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The memorial at Bełźec extermination camp in Poland

I’m posting this on kind of a whim, but I just finished writing the preface to my doctoral dissertation, and I think it’s a decent piece of writing about the challenges of working on an unimaginably horrible part of history, so I wanted to slap it up here. Especially since I’m not 100% sure I’ll finish this thing (I think I probably will) so what the hell.

My dissertation in question deals with three Nazi death camps – Bełźec, Sobibór, and Treblinka – and how they can be used to explain the relationship between Foucault’s concept of heterotopia and the dangerous idea of utopia. Basically, I’m looking at the camps as separate spaces in which one reality is destroyed so another one can be created.

It’s not the easiest thing to write about. So my advisor said “okay, write about that.” I did and here it is.


 

This all began, believe it or not, with mice.

I was in junior high school. I don’t recall now what year it was; what I do recall is that I was a strange and inward-looking kid, ill-suited to an social life for which I had been ill-prepared. Many if not most people recall feelings of awkward isolation as children, but some of us experience it in greater degrees of intensity than others, and my experience was intense. This wasn’t the fault of any person in particular; it’s what you should probably expect when you cross the emotional upheaval of adolescence with burgeoning mental illness. Not long before, I had been diagnosed with both Attention Deficit Disorder and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (a delightful symptom of which was compulsively gouging wounds in my skin) What happened on this day—which I swear I’m going to return to, the day with the mice—wasn’t a direct result of those things, but to the extent that mental illness shapes the disposition of children as a whole, I have to think it played a part.

Okay. Let’s get back to the mice.

A lot of my classmates spent free time outside. I tended to spend mine in the computer lab—or, even better, in the library. I was attending a private Quaker school by then, and I guess the collection must not have been as closely curated as a public school’s might have been (I found some fairly scandalous stuff now and then in terms of sexual content) because frequently I stumbled on things that a lot of people would likely deem too adult for a kid at the tender age of ten or eleven, not in terms of sexual content so much as in terms of violence. In terms of depictions of just how cruel human beings can be to one another.

So that afternoon, I found Art Spiegelman’s masterwork Maus.

You see it, right? Kid finds comic book (I had no idea what a graphic novel was and if I had known I would have had no idea why the distinction matters), kid has this kid-idea of what comic books are, kid sees anthropomorphic mice on the cover (kid has always loved anthropomorphic animals), kid picks up the book and cracks it open.

Kid’s life is never the same.

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We Are Not Things: Blade Runner’s unwanted children

(note: absolutely massive spoilers for Blade Runner 2049 are within)

When I’m seeing Harrison Ford in anything, it’s hard to miss the fact that most of the time, he’s Harrison Ford playing Harrison Ford. Han Solo is Snarky Space Pirate Harrison Ford. Indiana Jones is Snarky Pulp Hero Harrison Ford. James Marshall is Beset President Get Off My Plane Harrison Ford. Et cetera. So for a long time I kind of assumed that Rick Deckard was merely Jaded And Monotone And Somewhat Depressed Harrison Ford.

After seeing Blade Runner 2049, I’m not so sure that’s true.

~

I don’t actually want to talk about Harrison Ford here, or indeed Rick Deckard so much, so let’s switch tracks and get into memories and emotions.

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swim inward, flow outward

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Sometimes in late summer I won’t touch anything, not
the flower, not the blackberries
brimming in the thickets; I won’t drink
from the pond; I won’t name the birds or the trees;
I won’t whisper my own name.

– Mary Oliver, “October”

Two years ago yesterday I posted the final chapter of what I genuinely believe is the finest thing I’ve ever written. (I actually finished it on August 31st, but I consider both of these days to be equally significant since they sort of form two halves of a whole.)

I’ve mentioned this story before: I’ll Be Yours For a Song – which, by the most ridiculous fluke of life and my own bizarre head, just so happens to be a nearly 400k word piece of The Walking Dead AU fanfiction.

Yeah, I know.

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You Have All The Weapons You Need

Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are Anger and Courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are. – St. Augustine of Hippo

Do not let this world cause your steps to falter. – Alex de Campi (x)

You don’t think you’re strong enough? You are. You’re afraid. Don’t be. You have all the weapons you need. Now fight. – Dr. Vera Gorski, Sucker Punch

Not too long ago, I wrote a piece for Tor.com about what it means to tell stories in 2017 – and in particular what it means to tell speculative stories, to be able to engage directly with all forms of the what if.

I’m not even vaguely the first person to talk about this, but it’s been something I’ve been wrestling with since November: this question of how I do what I do in a world I barely recognize a lot of the time and most of the time barely understand. First and foremost I’m a storyteller; it’s one of the first things of any kind that I remember doing, and I genuinely don’t think it’s a thing I could not do. But I’m not special in that. We’re all storytelling creatures. It’s one of the primary things that defines us as beings – perhaps the primary thing. We experience reality as a narrative; we remember a past, we experience a present, and we imagine a future (and the lines between those things are blurry and porous, because we don’t experience time as linear at all).

On a level as deep as genes we understand the concepts of beginning and end. Of us. Of all things.

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