Cornell Apologizes for Smof Routine

Paul Cornell, LoneStarCon 3’s Toastmaster, has posted an apology for his Hugo Awards routine about “Smofs” and “Smurfs”.

“Smurfs” I need hardly explain. “Smofs” is an acronym for “Secret Masters of Fandom” that was coined as a pejorative but in the 1970s evolved into a humorous self-reference freely used by many sf conrunners.

However, as we have been going through an especially unhappy season with lots of blogging about the evil, nasty conrunners, some of which has been reported here, there’s been a trend back toward the word having a pejorative meaning in some circles. Cornell took inspiration from that for a string of jokes during the Hugo Ceremonies.

My immediate reaction as I listened to him tell the jokes was thud-thud-thud. I didn’t think it was a gracious way to treat the people putting on LoneStarCon 3 whose hospitality Cornell symbolized as Toastmaster. Yet what I’ve been reading online is so much worse I just stuffed it — I sent a mild joke to CoverItLive saying the material suited the blue background we were seeing on the broadcast.

On the other hand, some fans were apoplectic. One told Cornell to his face what he thought. Others explained their reaction in e-mails.

And now Cornell has done something you never see happen in the blogosphere. He apologized. He said, in part –

I think I broke two rules which I hold other people to, and it’s taken me days of searching my conscience to realise that.

Firstly, I always say that when someone tells you they’re offended, they’re not lying. One has to deal with the offence one has caused as real, and not regard such complaints as ill-conceived or somehow ‘wrong’. Many ‘smofs’ have written to me in support, saying they felt gently teased, that it was all in good fun, but the ones for whom it felt like a personal insult don’t deserve to have their feelings ignored.  One reaction is as ‘true’ as the other.

Secondly, while I’m sure there are those among the ranks of ‘Smofs’ who deserve a little satire, I’m also sure there are those who absolutely do not.  My error was to tar them all with the same brush, to not be precise, but instead to hurt a range of people through the term they identify with.  ‘Things are complicated’ as our heroes said in Knight and Squire.  I don’t like it when other groups are made into folk devils, but there I was doing it.  It’s terrifyingly easy and tempting to follow the crowd and go for that sort of laugh.  It’s also a very bad thing to do.

I’ve only quoted a little to give you an indication of what he felt. It’s worth your time to go over and read it in full.

The Comics Hugo

Yes, that’s what the cognoscenti call the Best Graphic Story Hugo – “The Comics Hugo.”

I didn’t know this before I paged through The Drink Tank #336 where the cognoscenti have to lot to say about the Hugo-worthy work of 2012.

Chris Garcia notes Paul Cornell’s strong recommendation for Fables but says it will not be a choice for him: “Now, looking at this coming year, well, Fables is nowhere near my ballot. Dial H (one of my all-time favorite comics concepts written by China Miéville) Saucer Country (by Paul Cornell), Silk Spectre, Dr. Manhattan, and perhaps most importantly of all, Justice League.”

Chris also reports that Paul Cornell is so disappointed with the track record of the Best Graphic Story Hugo category that he’s now referring to it as a “fan Hugo.” I guess that’s supposed to be an insult, otherwise you’d think it would help his purpose since everyone knows no one can win a fan Hugo but a pro. In fact, Paul took one home in Best Fancast just last year.

James Bacon speaks about Grandville Bete Noir by Bryan Talbot and suggests that “Straight away I would have to say that SAGA (by Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples) is a definite. Any SF fan who has not read this, is missing out, not only for the ideas, but the terrific dialogue and humour. It is a wonderful mix of Fantasy in a space setting and is terrifically personal, in a very skilled way.”

He also recommends, Manhattan Projects by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra, Peter Panzerfaust by Kurtis J Wiebe, art by Tyler Jenkins, “an alternate history, messing with the famous children’s literary characters, with Hauptmann Hook on the Horizon” and Marvel’s Hawkeye which “may be a marvel mainstream comic, but the aesthetic look and the excellent dialogue makes it a winner, the humour and sense of absurdity, pitched in a realistic way, make it delightful.” He also mentions Storm Dogs, which has only had two issues published in 2012, by Doug Braithwaite and David Hine.

Meanwhile Joe Gordon on the Forbidden Planet International Blog also recommends Grandville Bete Noir, Saga, Manhattan Projects as well as The New Deadwardians by Dan Abnett and Ian Culbard, Judge Dredd: Day of Chaos/Trifecta by Wagner et al (2000 AD), Prophet by Brandon Graham, Simon Roy et al and Batwoman by JH Williams III, Haden Blackman, adding a few other choices, but definitely confirming interest in some titles.

John Picacio’s Experiment

John Picacio accepting the World Fantasy Award for Best Artist in 2005. Photo by Keith Stokes.

John Picacio is an eight-time Best Professional Artist Hugo nominee, winner of a World Fantasy Award, four Chesley Awards and many other honors. Fans saw a lot of him at last year’s Worldcon, Renovation. He spoke on 8 panels, exhibited in the Art Show, appeared in the Artist’s Alley, and even joined Stroll With The Stars.

Picacio was asked to write an article for Journey Planet #13, an invitation that provoked a thought process and decision that will result in fans seeing a lot less of him at Chicon 7.  

He’ll still be there – faced with the prospect of two Labor Day weekend conventions, Dragon*Con and Chicon 7, Picacio chose both:

I’ll be attending Atlanta’s Dragon*Con all day/night Friday, August 31, and the initial part of Saturday morning, and then I’ll jump on a plane, gain one hour in the process, and attend Chicago’s Worldcon for the last half of its run, until it closes.

Hellacious? Yes. Suicidal? Let’s hope not.

But Picacio also told readers of his blog  that he won’t be on the Chicon 7 program or exhibit in the Art Show:

I’ve announced that I’m foregoing all programming participation and art show presence at this year’s Worldcon. By doing so, I hope it opens up my chair, and my art show space, to new female artists who will hopefully present new viewpoints and perspectives. The call for “Gender Parity” has been a controversial one… Admittedly, I’m still unsure to what degree my gender and participation on sf/f panels and art shows has prevented females from participating in the same. Did I have opportunity that they did not because I’m male? Did my gender, and not my fifteen years of hard work, make the programming directors and the art show directors select me over an equally-deserving female? It seems more than a bit far-fetched, to be honest. But that being said, I’ve heard the discussion, and I’m willing to think beyond myself, and offer a self-imposed experiment. Let’s trust the process and see what happens.

His Journey Planet contribution takes the form of a letter to his young daughter and explains the gender parity issue and John’s decision. It’s a good read, so good that one almost forgets that Paul Cornell started the current controversy with a unilateral decision, not because women were “tapping him on the shoulder to step out of the way.”

However, Picacio is emphatic that his decision is sincere, not satirical, and that words weren’t enough, action was required. After reading in Journey Planet his explanation why he is stepping away from Worldcon programming this year I contacted him and asked:

Did you feel Chicon was closely identified with the 50/50 initiative or did you have another reason for choosing it to set this example?

Picacio replied:

I love Worldcon. I have so many friends there — professional, SMOF, and all across the gamut. This was a hard decision for me, especially in a year when I’m nominated for a Hugo, and wanted to participate to the best of my ability.

Frankly, since many of the personalities that were generating this discussion (for and against) are people who dwell at, or near, the epicenter of Worldcons and SMOF-centric sf/f cons, Chicon 7 seemed like the natural site to try this experiment. It’s not easy for me because I have a lot of friends on the Chicon committee. I wasn’t planning to do this until I got invited to write the essay for Journey Planet. That was the spark that prompted me to do something more than say “agree” or “disagree”. If it would’ve happened next year in San Antonio, I would’ve tried there. It just happened that this year was Chicago. Love the town. Love the people. No example being set against this con. Simple as that.

I don’t plan to make this an ongoing policy. It’s a one-time experiment — and I emphasize the word “experiment.” I’m hoping that some great female talent steps up and makes themselves known to Bobbie [DuFault, Chicon 7’s program organizer] so they can do some great programming, and I’m hoping that others take my place in the art show. I’m giving those who feel ignored and under-represented a pretty giant opportunity, as far as I’m concerned. Let’s see what they do with it. It’s up to them to make their case to the programming committee and the art show director. I’ll be curious to see what happens.

Again, not an easy decision for me. Let’s hope some good comes of it.

From time to time conrunners need something to challenge us to work better. The sf field has grown quite large, making it hard to become personally familiar with everyone’s performance as a panelist. And there are so many willing participants who are known quantities, I don’t know how easy it is for new people to get noticed as quickly as they may deserve, especially here in North America with its large number of active writers, artists and editors. Does anybody want Paul Cornell or John Picacio to step aside? Unlikely. But the fact that they’ve done it may goad us into scouting the field more thoroughly and doing a more effective job of reaching out to the people we discover — actually doing it, not just agreeing it’s the real solution.

Journey Planet Tempts Fate

If there were any triskaidekaphobes on the editorial staff of Journey Planet would they have dared fill issue #13 [PDF file] with arguments about sexual politics?

Guest editors Emma King and Helen Montgomery rounded up nearly three dozen fans to discuss gender parity on convention panels, a topical controversy ever since Paul Cornell announced his personal plan to do something about it, and the 2013 Eastercon made it a policy.   

A few writers uphold the 50/50 side of the argument against all comers, and a good thing they’re able to do it because most of the contributors oppose a fixed male-female ratio of panelists.

As Carol Connolly frames the question:

After all, this is the 21st Century! It’s not as if anyone is deliberately keeping women away. Surely as long as the con has a generally welcoming environment towards women, they’ll just turn up on panels. Like mushrooms in a field (translation for city folk: “like Starbucks franchises”).

Except that hasn’t happened, has it? Although women make up over 50% of the population, that fact is not mirrored in panel demographics.

That fundamental disparity is always on my mind as a program organizer, even if I am not a 50/50 advocate.

Opponents of 50/50 make forensic arguments about whether panels should mirror the population when the community of pro writers does not, and logistical arguments about the difficulty of aiming for 50/50 amid all the variables of assembling a convention program. Several women even argue that 50/50 would not advance feminist principles. For example, Emma Jane Davies feels 50/50 might be an impediment to dealing with the genuine issue:

Panel parity effectively makes a genuine problem invisible to fandom and the rest of the world. Are we so ashamed by the paucity of female SFF writers that we must deny the disparity, even to ourselves? Would the truth not act as a better motivation to those who wish to correct the real problem?

Certainly the zine will be must reading for conrunners because so many of their colleagues are in it and it’s a great way to see some of the other players’ cards.

(Full disclosure: I wrote for #13, too. Was that good luck for the editors, or bad?)

Monahan: Olympus 2012 Eastercon Report

By Jacq Monahan – TAFF Delegate 2012: From April 6-9, Olympus 2012 attendees convened at the Radisson Edwardian Heathrow for the 63rd Annual Eastercon (National British Science Fiction Convention). The venue lived up to its labyrinthine reputation by confusing everyone who checked in after they’d received their key card. I myself thought that I’d been given a gag room number that didn’t really exist. Then again, I’m a Yank, and that’s both a noun AND a verb.

All of the action (panels, bar, Art Room, Ops, Gopher Hole) happened on the third and fourth floors, accessible by marble staircases, elevators, and accident. It seems that one could find their way around by not looking for anything in particular and simply stumbling across the place they were looking for.

The four Guests of Honor (George R.R. Martin, Cory Doctorow, Paul Cornell, and Tricia Sullivan) were introduced at an Opening Ceremony where they shared the stage with Eastercon organizers and two Fan Guests of Honor (Margaret Austin and Martin Easterbrook).

Membership got attendees a badge with the descriptive name of their choice. Somehow I got the moniker TAFF Jacq, perhaps to differentiate me with fellow con-men FLAP and CAR. Other creative badges held names like Crazy Dave, Lost Car Park, and THE Anders.

A heavy bag accompanied the lanyard, and it contained two large paperback books, an Olympus mug and pen, programme books (two) and various flyers touting future conventions and publications. Locals were thrilled. Travelers wondered how they would stuff the extra 10 lbs. into already crammed suitcases for the return flight.

An entire third floor wall was dedicated to various other-con information. Most of the third floor, however, was taken up with the popular bar area, a place I christened Wasted Space. The name suited the activity that went on there – pints poured, shaved, and consumed at 4 pounds each – but the name was also quite literal. Most of the square footage was consumed by a large pond full of ceramic animals and fish, good for no other purpose than to gaze upon while being forced into closer proximity than one would like with fellow con-panions.

False indoor bridges gave the inebriated an extra sense of danger in maneuvering their way around the crowded-though-spacious, area.

The Dealers’ Room was full of books, jewelry, Beeblebears (at 29 pounds each, all 20 of them sold out) weapons, dragons, and even more books.

The Art Room featured a Fiji Mermaid, paranoid signs forbidding photographs, requisite female-only nudity in more than one painting, and fantasy sculptures left uncaptured for this report because of paranoid signs forbidding photographs.

The Green Room was where you’d go before your assigned panel to order a drink. The Gopher Hole was where you’d go if you suddenly lost your mind and was looking for frenzied organizational tasks to complete.  Lost was a place you found yourself several times during the first two days and it was always in a different location each time.

Ops was where you’d find people who eyed you warily as you entered. Were you heaving yet another complaint their way? Urgent problem? Logistical nightmare? These were the people with the Big Printout, who could unravel any mystery. One could virtually wither under their laser-like gaze and their heard-it-all-before pronouncements.

Panels – there were scores of them, covering fantasy, television, film, REAL science, GOH interviews and readings, a fan programme, and one constructed just for kids.

Of course the hotel’s largest meeting room, the Commonwealth, was reserved for the well-attended Opening and Closing Ceremonies, the George R.R. Martin and Cory Doctorow interviews and readings, and the notorious, traditional spoof that is Ian Sorenson’s play.

This year’s offering was Oliver, with a Twist, and starred Ian himself (in a dress) along with Yvonne Rowse, Julia Daly and Doug Spencer. There were parts for the TAFF and GUFF delegates, too, although it was rumored that Charles Dickens himself lobbied to have his name taken off the credits. Those brave enough to attend got enough laughs and groans to approximate a drunken revel, and soothe entire affair was deemed a rousing success by all.

GRRM, as he’s known, dominated the con with his reading of an excerpt from his unfinished The Winds of Winter, the sixth book in his popular Ice and Fire series, telling the crowd that it all came to him “in a vision.”

Canadian Cory Doctorow was interviewed by his longtime publisher Patrick Nielsen Hayden (TAFF ’85) and opined on world affairs and the stoicism of Brits. Seems sometimes even the urbane Doctorow likes a good rant – he just wishes he’d get a little sympathy from his English counterparts.

Panel names ranged from the whimsical (Imaginary Gripe Session) to the uber-serious, real science-oriented (MER Rover Mission to Mars, Geo-engineering to Save the Planet, The Science of Rocket Science).

Gender Parity was a hot topic. Were females being equally, even adequately represented on panels? For example, Sex and Fantasy on TV featured five male panelists and only one female to fend off comments like, “I’ll never object to nude women on television” and “why do they have to show male full frontal?” These last two utterances were made by men. Surprise!

A Fan Programme introduced Fan Fund delegates to interested attendees and also offered an auction and Tombola Table for eager chance takers who seemed to toss their pound coins into the till for a chance to win the set of Dr. Who figures – 11 in all.

A Kids’ Programme featured Balloon Modeling, a Beads and Origami Workshop, How to Knit a Dalek, Parts 1 and 2, a Beeblebears’ Picnic, and Clay Creature Composition, in addition to an Easter Egg Hunt.

Panels on Film and TV were augmented by an eclectic group with titles like Training Horses for Film Work, Tips for Playing Scrabble, Podcast Workshop, and Sufficiently Advanced Magic.

A movie room screened Minority Report, The Day the Earth Caught Fire, Galaxy Quest, and assorted shorts (not the wearable kind, mind you).

There was a Disco, a Masquerade (the Wirrm from a Dr. Who episode won the Award), a Red Planet LARP, hours of Filking, and even dance lessons for the incredibly brave or alcohol-fueled.

BSFA Awards were announced (Chris Priest controversy aside) and Hugo Nominations netted congratulations for attendees Claire Brialey, Mark Plummer, and James Bacon.

The con sold out before it opened – a rare occurrence – with nearly 1,400 souls meandering about the confusing corridors of the Radisson at any given moment. You could say that the experience added to the exploratory and discovery experience of the event if you were so inclined.

You could say that Eastercon Olympus 2012 was a smashing success and you’d be correct, if only you could find the right hallway to take you to tell someone about it.

James Bacon: 2013 Eastercon Adopts
Gender Parity Policy

By James Bacon: 8squared, the 2013 Eastercon Bid, announced they would be going for panel [gender] parity. Simon Bradshaw in charge of programme also advocated avoiding having all/majority moderators being male while achieving this. 

Meanwhile Satellite, the 2014 Eastercon bid, said they would prefer to follow what they normally do, so if four  women are the best speakers they’d be on the panel. After reviewing previous Satellites (local cons) they did well previously. When pressed they said they would not follow panel [gender] parity and one committee member subsequently said they want the best participants regardless of gender. This seemed a popular approach, but passions ran high at this stage from those who see that attitude as failing to enable gender parity. 

Both conventions were voted in. 

The question of  Panel Parity appears alive. One national con, here in the U.K., has embraced it.

Cornell and CONvergence

Michael Lee of CONvergence, where Paul Cornell will appear in July, sends his answers to my survey questions about the gender balance initiative.

> Do you think Cornell’s initiative will change or has already changed your approach?

> Do you have any comments on Paul Cornell’s and Si Spurrier’s actions?

Michael Lee: It’s possible that since our convention’s theme is Women Characters and Creators this year, and we’ve had Paul as a guest, I might have something to add.

I’m the head of activities at CONvergence, and that means the programming department reports up to me, and I also sit on the board of directors for our non-profit. I was also a programming head for five years before that. This is primarily my own thoughts here, and isn’t an official CONvergence statement.

CONvergence had Paul Cornell as a guest of honor two years ago, and he’s returning on his own this year. He’s a popular and fantastic panelist and participant, and I respect what he’s trying to do here. Our convention theme this year is “Women Characters and Creators in Science Fiction in Fantasy” — and the organization chose to make all of our guests this year women, in part because we haven’t historically been as representative as we could have been with guests of honor, and we’re trying to do better. Our membership is very evenly matched with men and women, as well as having a mix of men and women on our staff all the way up to our board of directors.

One thing I did was I started to track the overall distribution a little closer than before in response to Paul’s request in our programming database for CONvergence — not because I expected that each panels will balance 50/50, and we don’t have genders identified for all of our panel participants. We’re still in the process, so I don’t know where we’re going to end up, and I’m sure we’ll have things that work well and things that don’t.

I believe that the threat of civil disobedience to make spontaneous programming replacements is something that most conventions can avoid with some co-operation with participants. I know that he’s made his request about being on gender-balanced programming items to CONvergence’s programming team, and that’s not really much different of a request than people who don’t want panels before noon, or don’t want to be on a panel with someone they don’t get along with, or that they want to be on a panel with their friends, or any number of other requests that people make to program teams. I know that we try to plan our programming schedule out far enough that we’re trying to work with Paul on specific items, just as we try to balance a lot of peoples’ desires to see what they want in programming.

I think Paul’s efforts have helped emphasize the issue of women on convention panels, and I think that is a good discussion to have. I think we’ve seen that across the wide variety of responses you’ve already had on this subject, by a lot of people that I have a lot of respect for.

I think it’s part of a larger movement that we’ve been seeing, not just in SF fandom, but also very strongly in comics fandom and Doctor Who fandom (which Paul is actively a part in as well), and other parts of the culture (like technology) where women making their presence known and acknowledging the institutional barriers to women (as well as other groups) in the culture. And really, I think it’s important for those of us that are conrunners toot just making programming participants more varied, but also making a stronger more diverse mix as guests of honor. And it’s also to seek out and be happy when you see a more varied mix of creators in books, comics, and television shows. We’re after all in a world where perhaps the most successful fantasy book series and the most successful science fiction book series are written by women. That needs to be reflected in our conventions as well.

Thanks,

Michael Lee

By Northern Lights

Johan’s post on Tystnad (Män, kvinnor och science fiction kongresser) speculates how Paul Cornell’s gender balance initiative might factor into his planning for this year’s Swedish natcon program:

As you who read Silence [Tystnad] either know or will become painfully aware of the next six months is Maria, Daniel, and I [are] is arranging this year’s major Swedish science fiction and fantasykongress, Contrast (swecon 2012). Since I am auditor in charge of the programme, as well as a part of the Committee for Åcon, a lot of my time is devoted to reflect[ing] on suitable [topics] to talk about – and who would be able to talk about them.

Reading the post with the help of Babylon.com, I learned he holds some views in common with the conrunners quoted here the other day. Johan acknowledges that it’s not easy to gender balance a convention’s slate of participants, much less individual panels. However, he is also concerned with avoiding the bias reflected in society at large:

There are several studies which have once again and again have landed in the same results. In a situation in which as many skilled men as competent women are available we are more inclined to choose more men than women in order to keep the public discussions. It is bad.

He also points out the challenge of balancing panels at local cons in Sweden where they may have no more than 20 program participants altogether.

[Again, don't blame Johan for any infelicities in phrasing, since this has all been translated from the original language by a computer.]

More Feedback on Cornell

Steven H Silver organized the 2000 Worldcon as well as other convention programs. Here is his commentary on Paul Cornell’s initiative.

Steven H Silver: I’m aware of Paul’s idea and certainly have some opinions about it.  Not sure I can crunch complete numbers to give you anything specific, although I quickly ran the first few hours of Chicon 2000 Programming (because I have them on-line and the Windycon programs I’ve done aren’t as accessible) and came up with the following:

Of the first 35 Panels…

Men outnumbered women on panels by more than 2 on 8 panels
Women outnumbered men on panels by more than 2 on 6 panels
Perfect parity on 3 panels
Men outnumbered women by 1 on 6 panels
Women outnumbered men by 1 on 5 panels
The remaining items only had one person on them

My approach is to look at the people I have available as panelists, understand their strengths and weaknesses and assign them to panels where I think they have something to add to the topic and will be interesting.  I try to avoid using people to simply fill quotas since people’s skills and knowledge sets are not interchangeable.

I have real issues with people tampering with my programs because they (probably) don’t understand the personalities involved, the concepts behind the panels, and the reasoning given for including the people who are included.

Some panels, by their nature, are going to be heavily slanted towards male or female panelists. Others will be slanted because the panelist pool for the convention is limiting.  I’d love, for instance, to have a panel on women writers in the comic industry, but first I need a convention which provides me with enough women who write comics who will be in attendance.

Paul’s approach would certainly make me less likely to use someone who feels that they have the right to create a scene and mess with programming.  The proper approach would be to contact programming with concerns when the program is set up and open up a dialogue to, perhaps, understand why certain decisions were made, rather than issuing ultimatums.

I spend a lot of hours each time I create a programming schedule to try to get a good balance of people, by gender or interest or experience, depending on what any given panel topic is.  For a panelist to unilaterally change a panel indicates that the panelist doesn’t understand what goes on behind the scenes and seems to think that all panelists are created equally, which, if it were the case, would mean that we could simply toss names into a hat and pull them out at random to determine who should be on a panel.

If Paul were to attend a convention where I was running programming, I would most likely treat his request the same way I would treat a panelist’s request not be be put on a panel with Person A or schedule them for a panel before Noon.  It would be something to strive for, but I wouldn’t do it to the detriment of a panel.  If I had a great panel idea and Paul was a potential panelist and the other four panelists who fit the theme were also men, my choice would be to put together a panel of four without Paul or of all five and worry about Paul becoming a panelist vigilante.  In that case, I’d choose the four-person panel.  Paul wouldn’t have achieved parity for that particular panel and the attendees may find themselves with a slightly weaker panel in the process.

Conrunners React to Cornell Initiative

Paul Cornell and Si Spurrier have called for a 50/50 male/female balance on all convention programs.

I am terribly prone to complacency, therefore, regardless of my initial skeptical reaction to the implied criticism, I think anybody who puts himself out there trying to raise the bar for con runners is doing me a service just by making me think about why I do things the way I do.

Although I don’t believe in being ruled by a canned number, I do believe in getting more women on programming. I was willing to ask — how well am I really doing? (See “Program Participation as Civil Disobedience”.)

Next, I wanted to know how other convention program organizers feel about Cornell’s initiative. Will it make any difference? Should it? How practical is it? I reached out to a dozen experienced conrunners (plus fandom’s best-known program reporter) with these questions:

  • What is your approach is to gender parity on panel programs?
  • Do you think Cornell’s initiative will change or has already changed your approach?
  • Do you have any comments on Paul Cornell’s and Si Spurrier’s actions?

Responses came back from Emily Coombs, Janice Gelb, Evelyn Leeper, Jim Mann, Craig Miller, Priscilla Olson, Arlene Satin and two fans preferring to remain unnamed. Most of their comments were so deeply thoughtful I decided to run them in full. That makes for a long post, of course, so I have placed their views after the jump.

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