Tag Archives: fandom

Hugos 2014

I’ve only got a minute here — I’m buried in edits — but I wanted to drop a quick note about this year’s Hugos before we’re too far out.

The full list of winner and nomination votes is here: http://loncon3.org/hugos/2014%20Hugo%20awards%20full%20details.pdf

First, congratulations to all the winners!

Second . . .

I’m on record as having problems with the Hugos.  But this year has made me feel a lot more invested and a lot more excited about both the Hugo process and SFF awards in general.  Not because everything I wanted won — in fact, I think my first choice lost in more categories than it won, giving me a few wallops of disappointment! — but because I observed so much passion in the discussions surrounding the Hugos this year, so much love for the genre, so much desire even by people who had problems with the awards to make their voices heard, to vote, to make it be better.

I can’t say I still don’t have problems with the awards.  But in one year I’ve gone from not caring at all about the Hugos to caring quite a lot, and I think that’s down to the people in the SFF community around me, the people who put so much passion into recognizing the voices in our genre that speak to them.  You’ve made me care, y’all.

Also, the Hugo packet?  Pretty rad reading.  I’ve gotten way more into short fiction the past few years, and I really dug having such a great collection of it to immerse myself in.  And I’ve gone on to recommend a bunch of the short pieces I read this year to others.  (I’ll probably be making rec posts for some of them here, too, as soon as I get some time.)

I’m very much looking forward to nominating and voting next year now.  And I hope even more people consider nominating and voting as time goes on.  I have to say, it felt rather excellent to cast my ballot for honoring some remarkable talent, and I’m excited to keep doing that.

Truly, congratulations to everyone who won.

(And hey, now maybe I’ll finally send in my application to be in the Emmy academy.  After all, Orphan Black NEEDS that nomination . . . ;) )

Marion Zimmer Bradley: Because This Sort of Thing Can’t Be Talked About Enough

Cancer-lapsed correspondence ALMOST caught up on.  Thank you so much for your continued patience, everyone.

Now, on to something I missed —

I’m linking well after everything broke, so a lot of you may have heard about all this already.  But just in case there’s anyone who hasn’t . . . I can’t not link.  Because heck, a portion of these atrocities was well-known decades ago, but they’ve been swept under the rug enough or just not talked about enough that I had no idea at all until it all came up again this month.

The short version: Marion Zimmer Bradley, very influential SFF writer, trailblazer for women, not only facilitated her husband’s sexual molestation of children but horrifically abused her own children herself.  And portions of the SFF community enabled and defended them.

Links:

The two things I’m personally determined to do in response to this: 1) stand with her/their victims by making an effort to continue awareness that these things happened (by linking, by informing, by helping make sure ugly truths aren’t buried because we want to put a shiny veneer on history), and 2) renew my commitment to speak up when I see something in the SFF community that I think is a problem.  I love fandom — I love our willingness, often, to accept and embrace people who have always been outsiders — but it is a real and dangerous problem when that push to accept without judgment snowballs into enforced blindness to abuse.

It is not counter to fandom’s acceptance of “quirkiness” to call out unacceptable behavior.  It is not a betrayal of our found SFF family to turn our backs on a member of that family who hurts others.  It is not making fandom a hostile place when we talk — or shout — loudly and freely and vigorously about the types of behaviors we think are not okay.

In fact, if there’s one thing I’m grateful for after learning all of this, it’s that there are so many people in SFF fandom right now who are unapologetically loud.  Who will speak up and won’t shut up.  Who will get angry.  Who will shout from the rooftops when things happen that they consider unacceptable in their community.

Keep it up, my friends.

A Disturbing Trend Post-Hugo Slate, and Why “Merits” Is Not a Valid Thing to Say

As I posted yesterday, I didn’t quite share the outrage about certain nominations on this year’s Hugo slate, mostly because I’m too jaded and cynical about the Hugos already, and intensely problematic nominations have, to be honest, felt somewhat inevitable to me.

But other people have been doing a good job making me think, and making me wonder if we can and should be better as a genre.  People like Natalie Luhrs, and Rose Lemberg, and Kameron Hurley, and Kate Nepveu.  I appreciate their criticism, and I appreciate seeing outrage from those expressing it — it’s intelligent and well-placed and it makes me reconsider my own indifference, to question why I think so little of a genre that I love so much that I expect this sort of thing out of its popular awards process.  (And combine that with the fact that there is much to love on this awards slate — I find I don’t want the Hugos to be tarnished, because people I think should be recognized are getting recognized this year.)

Anyway, as I’ve been reading and thinking, I’m becoming very, very disturbed, because the trend I’m seeing online — even from people who usually have nuanced things to say on these subjects — is to dismiss what critics of the nominations are saying, to abuse them, or to brush off the fact that there is any problem and say, “Just judge the work on its merits!”

This angers me far more than the slate itself.

Why?  Because as cynical as I am, I still want to believe that the truly horrific people are outliers and are not going to be considered, in any manner, acceptable by those I respect.  Because there are no words for how vile it is to read, say, Natalie Luhrs’ comment section and see the toxic abuse thrown her way for daring to criticize the way a person who was thrown out of SFWA on his ear got on the ballot.  Because it infuriates me that people will rally to the dialogue about problems in the genre, and thoughtfully listen even if they disagree, except the Hugos are somehow sacrosanct.  No!  If you believe the Hugos are important — especially if you believe the Hugos are important — then be a party of the conversation to fix them.

And even if you disagree with the critics in this case, how can you possibly be okay with the kinds of things that are being said to them?

Also, don’t get me started on the, “Just judge it on its merits!” exhortation that is making the rounds.  The idea that it’s somehow the ethically proper decision to give my audience to a writer I despise — to give my time, my eyes, my thoughts — just because he got his name on the Hugo ballot is ludicrous to me.

Allow me to metaphor.

Let’s say you’re hiring for a very prestigious job.  There’s a guy who’s indisputably well-known for going around punching people in the face, including you.  Every time he sees you he punches you!  You can’t even hear his name without remembering his fist flying at you and thinking, Not again.

Somehow, other people at your company passed him through the application process to the final tier of the job you’re hiring for, along with four other people.  These five are the people you’re supposed to call in to interview.

You say to your (white, straight, male) colleague, “I think we should just cut this guy without seeing him.  He punches people in the face.”

Your colleague: “Well, yeah, I know.  But what if it turns out he’d be really good for this job?”

You: “But he punches people in the face.”

Your colleague: “Maybe he won’t in this context.”

You: “It doesn’t matter!  I don’t want to hire someone who goes around punching people in any context — people including me!”

Your colleague: “But he got through the application process, right?  We really should give him a fair shake.”

And then you sit there stymied, because you know, know, that there’s almost no chance, if you call this guy in for an interview, that he isn’t going to punch you in the face.  Your colleague won’t get punched — he’s not one of the people this guy targets.  He’ll have to watch you get punched, and he’ll cringe and agree that this isn’t the right guy for the job, but hey, now you can feel good about the fact that you called him in to make sure, right?

And you’ll be sitting there with blood streaming out of your nose thinking, I was already fucking sure, you asshole.

How can you tell someone who experiences microaggressions every day, all the time, everywhere, to purposely read something they know will sicken and anger and trigger them — to give audience to an author who has publicly derided people like them as less than human — to get themselves punched in the face — because “merits?”

Personally, I am perfectly comfortable not reading the entire awards slate before voting this year.

The 2014 Hugo Nominations

First, let me say that there are many names on this year’s slate that make me terribly excited.  I like it when people I read and respect get public recognition for their amazing work, and there are a lot of people I read and respect on this year’s ballot.  Yay!  Congratulations to them!

Second:

There are people who are upset over another aspect of this year’s Hugo nominations, namely, that certain people who are known in fandom for . . . let us say, shit-stirring . . . campaigned for their fans to get them on the ballot, and succeeded.

I can’t speak as to whether their works were nominated by their fans because their fans love their writing — entirely possible, as fans do tend to enjoy things written by the people they fan on — or whether their works were nominated because their fans love them.  Either way, I’m not sure it matters.

Because you see, though I sympathize with the outrage, I can’t share it in this case, because I think that an author’s ability to do this is a feature (or, depending on your point of view, a bug) of the Hugos themselves.  People with large fandoms do, often, notify their fans of their eligibility, and do, often, end up on the ballot.  However perceived-appropriately they frame the advertisement of their own work, authors mobilize their fanbases to vote for them, and the authors with large fanbases leverage those fanbases — de facto or overtly — come Hugo season.  In this age of blogging, sometimes people in these fanbases will vote for people they like best rather than people whose writing they like best.

This is in the nature of the Hugos.  They’re a popular award.

Just because someone is known in fandom for shit-stirring — and let’s be clear, such shit-stirring makes me very tired, when I’m aware of it, which I try not to be — and just because that person has also campaigned for a Hugo does not make the nomination (in my eyes, at least) substantively different from the nomination of any other popular online personality or property.  I just don’t think we can draw those lines.  We can judge the way someone campaigned as distasteful or inappropriate, sure.  But personally, I’m no more angry at what happened here than I am at what’s happened in any prior years when I felt a nomination, for whatever reason, was unjust to what was actually quality in the genre, which I feel pretty much every year (ha!).[1]

But there’s nothing I can do about that, because that’s what the Hugos are, for two reasons: (1) they’re a popular award, and (2) despite being a popular award, a very small number of people votes in them, relative to SFF as a whole.

Seriously, a devastatingly small percentage of SFF-dom votes.  I checked the numbers for last year’s Hugo categories, and it took less than 40 nominations to get a novelette on the ballot.  If I wrote a crap novelette and wanted it on the ballot, I’m pretty sure I could do it — I have forty people in my life who like me $40-worth, and I’m betting if I took to my real-life social media — the one filled with meatspace friends and family — that’s something I could make happen.  I wouldn’t even have to have the appearance of crossing any lines, I am guessing — it could be a reasonably tasteful campaign, one that never (horrors) asked anyone to nominate me without reading the novelette first.  And, you know, they would probably all mean to, and they would know it was good because I wrote it, or because they liked my other fiction, etcetera, etcetera, and I could pretend I didn’t know they were nominating me just because they like me.

I wouldn’t do something like this — it’s not particularly in the spirit of a writing award, and more importantly it’s anathema to my personality.[2]  But I’m not sure I see a substantive difference (an etiquette difference, sure, but not a substantive difference that would matter to the integrity of the process) between that and what people did this year, nor between either of those things and what other bloggers have done in previous years, successful or not.  They all seem like the same cuppa to me.[3]

It’s the nature of the Hugo Award, a nature that is very easy to skew because of the low number of voters.  I think the only reason slates have tended to reflect quality in the genre is that the people who bother to vote usually intersect with the people who are well-read in the genre — but there’s nothing in the structure of the award that would guarantee that, at all.

To be honest, I don’t think most of SFF-dom even knows they can vote for the Hugos.  The process is not particularly well-publicized.  I know I thought it was a juried award until I started following writer blogs (which most of my friends don’t), and if people are finding out about the Hugos from their favorite writer’s blog, that’s some selection bias right there already that’s inherent in the lack of notoriety the voting process has (selection bias toward writers who blog).  And there’s no critical mass of popularity about the Hugos as an award, the type that makes people excited about it because their friends are.  I have a staggering number of friends who are rabid SFF fans, and I don’t think any of them vote.  Yet they’re all voracious consumers of SFF literature: they’re the people the Hugo is supposed to represent.

Less than 2,000 people voted in the Hugos last year.  That’s nothing.  That’s two orders of magnitude below the number of people who spring for the expense and time to go to Comic-Con.  And yeah, there are lots of non-book things happening at Comic-Con, but there are also non-book things on the Hugo ballot.

The fact that people can move the Hugos through a cult of personality rather than their writing is a problem, given the awards’ prestige in the genre.  But I think it’s a problem with the robustness of the award rather than any particular non-rule-breaking campaign.  Personally, I would like to see the Hugos become something casual SFF fans talk about: friends comparing their nomination slates, people making bets and predictions, everyone gathering in a Hugo Party to watch the ceremony.

To that end I wonder if rather than pushing for less campaigning, the answer is more.  What if every publisher put a leaf in the back of SFF books informing readers how to vote for the Hugos, if they should choose to do so?  What if the process was made easier and more visible to attendees at other cons?  What about greater exposure for the lesser-read categories?  (I don’t know how that would be done.)  Does anyone have the power to build up the popularity around the Hugos so that no particular faction unknown to the casual fan can impact the vote?

Maybe, maybe not.  But the prestige of the Hugo Awards has always struck me as vastly out of step with the way they work in practice, and this is just another reminder, to me, of how much that disturbs me.

We’ll always get people who try to game the system — which people may think has happened here to some degree, or may not.  The fact that the most prestigious popular award in all of SFF-dom is so gameable, however, is a very sad thing to me.

So perhaps I do share the outrage after all, but for me, it’s a frustration that one of the top two most prestigious awards in science fiction and fantasy is so poorly supported as to allow even the appearance that a personal following rather than the quality of the writing can so affect the vote.  There will always be assholes who approach a campaign for a popular award distastefully, and to me, the best revenge would be to make the awards so powerful that those campaigns would wither in irrelevance if the author’s fiction does not measure up.

On that note, I’m going to go now and email a bunch of people to tell them they can get the whole Wheel of Time series for $40 if they vote in this year’s Hugos, and that by the way, there’s a ton of other awesome fiction on that list too, and wouldn’t they like to be part of SFF’s Academy going forward?

ETA: Here’s the place to sign up for membership.  If you don’t want to go to the con, a supporting membership that allows you to vote (and gets you the digital voter packet) is about $43.

  1. Seriously, I love Doctor Who, but that many nominations?  And the novel I thought should have won last year didn’t even make the slate.
  2. Not to mention that most of my RL friends and family don’t even know I write, so I’d have to tell them about the book first.
  3. Assuming there was not actual vote-buying going on, which I don’t think there was.  I just don’t think there is the need for it to get on the ballot, if one has a large enough following.

Who Chooses SF Classics? Who Chooses Our Required Reading?

The Book Smugglers started a very interesting discussion on Twitter today, about what makes something a “classic” of science fiction.

I have many Thoughts on this stuff.  In particular, the “You haven’t read HEINLEIN?  You’re not a true fan!” attitude bothers me for many, many reasons, starting with my discomfort with defining “true fans,” and running through my own particular opinion that Heinlein, however influential, is certainly not the be-all end-all of the genre, my discomfort with making anything “required reading” in a genre this large and diverse, and my own personal feelings on Heinlein’s writing, which are somewhere between “eh” and “not all he’s cracked up to be.”

I feel similarly about any of the other “classic” writers who were repeatedly recommended to me in one breath in my youth, except with variations on my personal taste for them (I’m an Asimov and Bradbury nut but could never get into Dune or Snow Crash, but all that’s neither here nor there).  The point I’m getting around to is, if you’ve been a SF fan as long as I have, you feel like you’ve at least tried all the “classics” (or you’re aware of your “blasphemy” in not having read them yet).  That even before the days of the Internet, you’d be assured of eventually having a conversation along the lines of, “You’ve never read [Classic Author]???  Where have you BEEN?!  Read [Classic Title] right now!” so by the time you were a seasoned SF fan you at least felt like you knew all the Important Names.

All this is a backdrop to what I really want to talk about here, which is possibly a very small piece of all this, but also possibly representative, and the only part of my relevant thoughts that feels remotely coherent.  Namely: my reaction the first time I read Octavia Butler.

It was relatively recently.  After college.  Long after I had foolishly presumed I knew of every Big Name in the genre.  I started to diversify my reading because Reasons, and the first name on every single list of SF authors of color was Octavia Butler.  The first recommendation on everyone’s lips, if we conditioned first for diversity.

So I picked up Bloodchild.

And I remember being shocked.  Mind-numbingly shocked.  Because I didn’t get this — I didn’t get how I could have been a fan for so long, had had the luminaries of the genre recommended to me time and time again in a myriad of different contexts, and no one had ever told me to read Butler.  The only places I’d seen her were on lists regarding diversity and authors of color, the lists I’d only just sought out.

I’d never seen her name unfurled in the litanies of classics in the same breath as Asimov or Bradbury.  And I couldn’t understand why.  Octavia Butler is not a great SF writer of color, or a great female SF writer. She’s a great SF writer.

And in her case there is no question that this could be only my own subjective her-work-touched-me opinion.  If you look her up, she’s widely acknowledged in every biographical piece as a master of SFF.  Award winning.  Massively respected.  And if we’re measuring influence and groundbreaking in the field as metrics of what makes a classic, it’s hard for me to fathom the idea that Octavia Butler wouldn’t fit that definition.

If I name her as a classic SF author, I never expect anyone to argue with me.

And yet, nearly every time I see someone else recommend her, it’s segregated. Qualified.  A recommendation given if you want writers of color.

I don’t understand how we can have a genre where “You haven’t read HEINLEIN (/Asimov/Clarke/Bradbury/Dick/etc.)??” are common and accepted refrains, and “You haven’t read BUTLER??” is almost unheard.  Why aren’t we saying it?  Why isn’t Octavia Butler considered “required reading” of the classics in order to consider oneself a True SF Fan?  Why don’t people feel left out and incomplete if they haven’t read her?[1]

I don’t really know what defines a classic, or who should get to say what one is.  But I do know I find myself feeling deeply uncomfortable with any popular mentality that shames people for not reading influential white men while giving a pass to those who skip the influential black women.

Edited to add: Ana of The Book Smugglers turned her thoughts into a thought-provoking essay here.  I highly recommend both that and the Storify for a broader articulation of the issues surrounding this point.

  1. Sarcasm intended here; as noted I think there’s something problematic about these attitudes in general, though my thoughts on them are not quite articulate enough to form a post from.

Hard Scifi: I Do Not Think That Means What You Think It Means.

There are certain people out there who seem to be misusing the term “hard science fiction.”

In preparing to write this entry, I was actually shocked that the definitions I found for “hard science fiction” completely agreed with me on what it should mean: namely, that the fictional science included is made as realistic, as explicable, as possible.  Hard scifi seeks to extrapolate from real scientific knowledge, to present future tech that seems plausible given the current state of our real-world understanding . . . it strives both to work within known science, and to extend it.

The flip side of this is “soft scifi,” which operates on handwavium.  Spaceships exist because they do; lightspeed travel is possible because it is; the state of AI constantly contradicts itself and the technology can spawn new tentacles as the plot demands without any adherence to known natural law.

This is, of course, a continuum: many types of fiction fall between the two extremes, and people can debate endlessly whether something should be categorized as “hard” or “soft.”

These are the same definitions I have always taken for granted, until recently.  Still, I was surprised when my Google search agreed with me entirely . . . because it seems that every time someone insinuates that women can’t or don’t write hard scifi, this is not the definition those people are using.  Which leads me to: What the hell, people.

Come on.  If we accept that hard science fiction has only to do with realism and rigor, then a lot of what people say about it is just. plain. wrong!  Let’s look at this rationally for a moment, shall we?  Working from such a definition, we get:

What Hard Scifi Isn’t

  1. Hard science fiction does not preclude romance.
    Why on earth would it?  The level of romance in a story versus how well the technology is explained are two entirely orthogonal concepts.  Why would one in any way impact the other?  Why do some people set up romances as the opposite of hard scifi, when it is entirely possible to have a romance plot be central to a world of completely consistent technology and also entirely possible to have a handwaved, contradictory universe with no romance plot at all?  If two characters fall in love over a background of solving Navier-Stokes, with completely realistic fluid dynamics, you bet your ass that’s hard scifi.
  2. Nor does hard science fiction preclude a concentration on human relationships.
    In fact, I would argue that writing harder, more realistic science fiction should encourage more concentration on the relationships between characters.  What is something that anyone with even a cursory knowledge of scientific progress continually complains about with regard to science fiction?  That it completely ignores the massive collaboration present in real scientific advancement!  The “lone genius” is a common trope of fiction, but how often does this happen in reality?  The world of science is full of relationships—and not just cursory relationships, but loves, rivalries, scandals, heartbreak . . . hey, one of my favorite books as a child[1] was a book about the drama that has surrounded the history of mathematics.  The Axiom of Choice and the Well-Ordering Principle, Newton versus Leibniz, the cult of Pythagoras, the strong friendships and collaborations of Hardy and Littlewood or Lovelace and Babbage . . . mathematicians are passionate people, and the interpersonal stories of mathematics alone would fill a library.  Nor are the other sciences exempt.  A novel featuring scientists who lack any interpersonal interaction, any irrationality or yearning or vast emotion, feels . . . well, unrealistic.
  3. Hard science fiction is not limited to the hard sciences.
    There seems to be some assumption that hard science fiction must be the purview of those who are experts in physics.  Why?  Why don’t the other sciences get any love?  Hey, one of my favorite science fiction stories ever is Isaac Asimov’s tale of a goose who literally lays golden eggs—Asimov, being a biochemist, provided a very well-thought-out accounting of the phenomenon, and in my opinion, this is one of the hardest science fiction stories of all time.  Why do we not assume that hard scifi can encompass all sciences, including chemistry, biology, even sociology?  Heck, I’m dead serious when I say I think the argument could certainly be made that The Handmaid’s Tale is rock-hard science fiction (with apologies to Margaret Atwood[2]).
  4. Hard science fiction does not and should not equate with space travel, military scifi, plentiful technology, or even a plot driven by the science fictional elements. It’s the realism of the science that matters, not the flashiness.
    When most people think “hard scifi,” they probably picture something vaguely like Star Trek—except that Star Trek is one of the squishiest science fiction premises in the galaxy.  It’s practically a fluid.  Yet I’m suspicious that’s what people tend to picture, rather than, y’know, The Handmaid’s Tale.
  5. Hard science fiction is not inherently smarter, more sophisticated, more well-written, or in any way better than soft science fiction.
    Don’t believe me?  Look at some of the classics of science fiction.  H.G. Wells is about as soft as it gets, and I defy anybody to say that made his works less valuable to the genre.  Douglas Adams is another name no one would dare to defile, and the hardest thing about his science fiction is keeping all the contradictory time travel straight.  Why on earth would any writers (read: female writers) get discounted because their work doesn’t scratch diamond?  In other words, why can men be respected for writing soft science fiction, but when the author is female, the observation of what sub-genre her work falls into suddenly becomes a criticism, something to belittle her with?

I should add that of course women can write hard science fiction with no romance and a heavy emphasis on flashy space-faring physics if they want to.  Duh.  But I’m sick of the above insinuations about the sub-genre, because they do strike me as a quite blatant attempt to draw boundaries that will exclude or put down as many female writers as possible.[3]

  1. I was an odd child.
  2. For those who don’t know, Atwood has in the past resisted the characterization of the book as science fiction at all.
  3. I’m not actually sure modern SF by women includes more relationships/romance/etc. than modern SF by men—anecdotally, I’m suspicious that it’s more older SF that eschews character-driven tales, and not male-authored SF, since all the modern SF I’ve read by men seems to include relationships as well.  But because the playing field in prior decades was so much more vastly unequal than it is today, drawing the lines to exclude trends in modern SF would also result in disproportionately excluding female writers . . . as I expect the people doing it intend.

How to Make Jawa Eyes Tutorial

All photos of the electronics process are original and are licensed CC-BY-NC-SA-3.0.  Attribute with a link to this site.  All the screenshots and photos of full Jawas in costume are not my photography; please consider them under traditional copyright.

Last weekend, I performed in the Masquerade at Comic Con.  We were this skit AND WE KILLED (go to :20 to skip the emcees vamping):

(Masquerade friends who were involved in this, let me know if you want your names/websites linked here with credit for awesomeness.)

Considering that I cannot sew (AT ALL) but can solder (passably), my contribution was making the eyes.  I am here to share what we did with you, Internet, because there aren’t enough Jawa Eye Tutorials online yet.  The world needs another one.

Here's a screenshot from the above video.  Don't the eyes look awesome?

Here’s a screenshot from the above video. Don’t the eyes look awesome?

Credit for much of the design goes to my friend who was our (RIDICULOUSLY TALENTED) costumer.  We put our heads together over it and she suggested all the things like putting in more than one LED to make them brighter and putting something reflective behind them.  (I’ll link to her here if she lets me know that’s okay.)  And then I solder-monkeyed!

(Note: I am a rudimentary solderer.  I was a math major, not EE.  So, uh . . . for all you engineers out there, if I did something silly during some step in this process, feel free to let me know.)

Concept

We used 3 yellow LEDs for each eye, arranged in a triangle.  The wires went down to the collar with the batteries in pouches safety-pinned to the shirt beneath the costume, one battery on each side.  The LEDs were backed by gold reflective cardboard and diffused by a sanded-down souffle cup (the idea for sanding something down came from this tutorial, but we wanted something lighter in weight).  The eyes were then mounted on a felt and foam mask, with the glowing eyes lining up with where the costumed person’s cheeks would be, and we pulled a stretchy face sock over the whole ensemble.  We then cut holes in the face sock for the souffle cups to poke through.

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An Open Letter to the Guy on the Train from LA to San Diego With Me Last Thursday

I wrote most of this entry on the train at the time and am transcribing it now.

Dear Guy Sitting a Few Rows Down From Me On the Train to Comic Con,

You are an asshole.

First of all, you spent about an hour having a lengthy and loud phone conversation about SEO for your business.  Apparently nobody ever taught you that this is not a polite thing to do on a crowded train.  You didn’t get a clue even when someone shushed you, loudly.  Heck, you even emphasized in your phone conversation how it’s so great taking the train because you can sit and talk on the phone the whole time.  Asshole.

Then you started talking to your seatmate, who was a stranger to you, about how you were going down to Comic Con and it’s “so fascinating” to see all these “weird people” who “are 35 or 40 years old and have never left the house, they still live with their parents but they come OUT for this, and make COSTUMES—”  but, you emphasized, it’s such a great business opportunity, because “it’s like a zillion-dollar industry!”

WHAT THE EVER-LIVING FUCK.  Fuck you.  We are not a fucking zoo exhibit, you asshole.

My consolation here is that if you ever do try to tap us as a demographic, you will crash and burn, because you clearly fail to think of us as human beings.

(Side note: I’m reminded of all the brou-ha-ha about “fake geek girls” who come to cons just to “make fun of nerds.”  Well, this was the first time I’d had the sucktastic experience of encountering someone doing that for real, and guess what?  IT WAS A GUY. A WHITE GUY.  (Apparently, his WIFE is the one actually working at Comic Con, and that’s why he goes down at all.  Because he gets in for free.  When I think of all the people who didn’t get badges . . .))

By the way, asshole?  Because of your lengthy phone conversation—oh, conversations, plural, you’re on the phone again, to your wife this time—I now know what you do for a living, the name of your website, where your wife works, the names of several of your friends, and all about your hotel and dinner reservations.  Since you’re so concerned with your goddamn SEO, I’m sorely tempted to give you bad reviews all over the fucking Internet.  Or google bomb your sad excuse for a business venture with something obscene.  (Yes, I looked it up while sitting here on the train.  Eighteen Twitter followers?  No wonder you’re paying someone $3,000-4,000 just for social media SEO.)  You know, you may hold us nerds in contempt and make fun of our[1] costumes, but geek rage is not to be trifled with.

I hope you had a terrible time at the con, and that your business ventures all go down in the brilliant flames of karma.  I also hope someone fucking credential-checked you.  (Probably not.  The credential-checking fucktards likely saved their holy gatekeeping for my hot female nerd friends who have entire bookshelves full of comic books at home.)

I’m sorry you live in my city.  LA’s too small for both of us.

With great sincerity,

SL Huang

  1. I say “our,” but I wish I were cool enough to be a cosplayer.

The Mathematics of Comic Con: Conversations

My friend is ziptying frames of PVC pipe together to pack up the set pieces for our masquerade act.

Friend: I’m trying to make sure these don’t come apart. It’s a topology problem. There. Will those stay together?

::I pick up the frame pieces and shake them::

Me: Yup. (beat) Notice how I did that like an experimentalist rather than a theoretician. Instead of proving it was solid, I tested it.

That night, we are verifying we’ve pinned the backdrops correctly for our sewing-capable friend[1] to sew them. We are momentarily concerned because we’ve pinned the Velcro parallel to the direction of sewing rather than perpendicular to it.

Sewing-Capable Friend: Parallel is fine, as long as they’re all pointed away from the direction I’m sewing in so I can pull them out as I go.

::other friend and I look at each other::

Me: Did we do that?

Other Friend: Well, it’s a binary choice. Either we did or we didn’t . . . fifty-fifty chance . . .

Me: But the chance we did it right on all of them is more like one-half to the power of how many pins we put in—

Other Friend: True, except the probabilities for the rest of the pins were probably conditioned on the direction of the first, because I think we kept going in the same direction.

::we look at sewing-capable friend::

Me: Uh, we’ll check.

Later, when finding our car in the parking garage, which is structured with a concrete pillar every three cars:

Friend #1: Where did we park?

Friend #2: Well, I remember it wasn’t next to a pillar.

::everyone laughs::

Friend #1: Technically, that does diminish the possibilities by 2/3.

Me: Yes, but that 2/3 is a sieve across the whole parking lot, so it doesn’t actually limit our search area!

Just before masquerade, a regular con-goer approaches my friend, who is also a regular con-goer.

Regular Con-Goer: I hear your group this year is like . . . you guys, plus like five MIT people.

My Friend: That’s not entirely inaccurate.

  1. By “sewing-capable” I mean “massively ridiculously talented, and generously deigning to direct sewing-incapable peons like myself in ways we can help.” Just to be clear.

A Timeline of the 2013 SFWA Controversies

Notes:

  1. This is a living timeline.  I will probably be editing and adding links to it as time goes on.
  2. This is an outsider’s perspective.  I am not a member of SFWA.
  3. I have great respect for a large number of people in SFWA and for the organization itself.  I’m doing this not to drag SFWA through the mud, as it were, but to provide a reference for people who are trying to figure out what’s going on—I’ve been involved in the discussion from the beginning, and I’m having trouble keeping track of the sequence of events.
  4. If people have corrections or additions to this timeline, or if you feel a link is of particular importance for me to include, please feel free to contact me.

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