Ideas About Convention Community

Rose Fox at Genreville has advanced the harassment prevention discussion in her post “What Conventions Are and Aren’t.”

She develops several lines of thought that ought to be useful to anyone trying to comprehend fandom and conrunning. Our own implicit assumptions sometimes make it hard to listen to someone else’s point of view til they’re triggered, we become conscious of them, and decide how to address them. This piece isn’t so much about solutions as it is about illuminating things that get in the way of finding solutions:

Conventions are not communities in the traditional sense of the word. They are not townships. The conchair is not the mayor; the head of safety or security is not the chief of police; the concom and the board are not tribunals or juries. The organizing bodies are not directly or representationally elected and are almost never demographically representative of the convention-attending population. I think that treating conventions as in some way parallel to real-world communities governed by law is a really bad idea, especially when we get into these crime-and-punishment discussions. Conventions are not in the business of dispensing justice. They aren’t designed for it or equipped for it, and no one–especially not anyone involved in running a convention–should behave as though they are, even for a moment.

What conventions are designed for and equipped for is helping people to have fun. That’s the business model! And I think that is what conventions should stay focused on when someone pops up and starts making their spaces less fun for their customers.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]

Further Pixel Clippings
About The Hugo Awards

Rose Fox at Genreville emphasizes gender head-counting in her list of highlights:

Firsts: Michelle “Vixy” Dockrey points out that Seanan McGuire is the first woman to ever appear on the Hugo ballot four times in one year (twice under her own name, twice as Mira Grant). I’m pretty sure this is the first time a Hugo acceptance speech has been nominated for a Hugo award. It may also be the first time an April Fool’s joke has been nominated. Kevin Sonney says Ursula Vernon is the first woman to get a solo nomination for Best Graphic Story. And if this isn’t the first time the novella ballot has had five women on it I will be very surprised. For that matter, is this the first time any Hugo category finalist slate has contained no white men?

James Nicoll begins his comment about the Best Fan Writer nominees in ”Again with the Hugos”

I would just like to say even I was shocked at how quickly my sense of entitlement set in and I am me so am pretty familiar with how I think.

You and me both! I’m embarrassed to admit I feel like Captain Hook’s crocodile, expecting the next bite to be right around the corner.

Cheryl Morgan confesses in “Nominee Time” how hard it supposedly was to keep from following the example of Christopher Priest:

As I noted on Twitter, not one of my nominees made it to the Best Novel short list. NOT ONE! I am totally outraged and will now go off and get very drunk, after which I will write a lengthy rant about how the Hugo Jury has failed in its duty and should be taken out and shot. But, being mildly sensible, even when drunk, I won’t post it.

Cheryl can also show you on a map where the center of the world is so far as the Hugo Awards are concerned –

My friends at BASFA have done very well. Chris Garcia is all over the ballot, but congratulations are also due to Spring Schoenhuth and Maurine Starkey who get their first and second ever nominations respectively in Fan Artist.

Finally, Cheryl’s ”Further Hugo Thoughts” reveals this news story –

There was apparently an error in the embargoed press release sent out by Chicon 7 that led to Brad Foster being left off the Fan Artist nominees in many announcements. This was another of those “tie for 5th place” issues, and somehow one of the six nominees got dropped.

One more reason to be happy I don’t get a copy of the embargoed press release.  Kevin Standlee supplied the first reason, telling readers of his LiveJournal how he received a copy to use in his work on The Hugo Awards official website and Kevin become so nervous about honoring the deadline that he made all his preparations on a computer that was disconnected from the web.

And I gave myself a panic attack anyway. When the press release popped into my in-box on Saturday I posted it as quick as I could. Then I drove off to do an errand. In the car I suddenly wondered – that wasn’t an embargoed copy, was it? I pulled over and used my Kindle to check. Whew! It was marked “For Immediate Release.”

Why Princesses Need Chiropractors

Jim Hines used humor effectively to make a point about book cover art in a post where he photographed himself imitating the poses of female characters on fantasy book covers, with notes on how difficult or painful he found each one.

Hines argues that paintings showing women in physically unrealistic stances are less effective at marketing stories:

My sense is that most of these covers are supposed to convey strong, sexy heroines, but these are not poses that suggest strength. You can’t fight from these stances. I could barely even walk.

Rose Fox of Genreville found his ideas persuasive enough to recommend extending Hines’ argument to a rule:

It’s easy to think that because men look absurd in “women’s poses”, women would look absurd in “men’s poses”. Instead, these comparisons make it clear that there are absurd poses and reasonable poses, and we need to ditch the absurd ones altogether and use the reasonable ones for everyone.

The examples Hines analyzes are pretty mild – none of that 1930s brass brassiere stuff, just some women wielding swords and some others in confident poses. And nobody’s objecting to putting images of women on book covers per se, although I sense a tension between Hines’ avowed focus on marketing, and Fox’s call for a new orthodoxy requiring all cover poses to be “reasonable,” which seems to have a different political center of gravity.  

Hines’ choices to advance his case inventively, and to write in a lightly mocking tone, are more helpful in luring an audience. While he delivers more than one layer of meaning, if his goal is to change an artist’s future work it may suffice to plant the simple idea that unrealistic poses make bad art.

Of course, Hines will be up against art history, which teaches that it’s not true that unrealistic poses make for bad art. Sometimes they make for highly-regarded art. Consider two examples, one by the French sculptor Rodin, the other by an unknown Olmec artist:

Bacchus in the Vat by Rodin

Acrobat by an Olmec sculptor

Is Hines’ primary concern whether artwork helps sell books? Then military realism does not trump everything else. Anything that makes commercial art successful cannot be indicted out of hand. Physically demanding, acrobatic poses may be eyecatching for their implicit difficulty, or for their resonance with famous images in the reader’s experience. If the cover engages a prospective buyer’s attention, hasn’t it done its work?

Postscript 1: One of Hines’ targets is the artwork on the cover of John Ringo’s Queen of Wands. Upon seeing this, my first question wasn’t whether the pose was physically awkward, but why a book named after a Tarot card features art more appropriate to the Two of Swords? Why doesn’t that undermine the cover’s effectiveness as a marketing tool? Because as little as I know about Tarot, most people know even less? Thus I am forced to raise the question of whether complaints from people with specialized knowledge – like whether a particular stance is good for swordfighting — come from such a trivial slice of the audience that they have no effect on sales at all?

Postscript 2: If military realism really does trump everything else – wasn’t the most realistic use of the sword in combat illustrated in the first Indiana Jones movie? That is, don’t bring a knife to a gun fight? Ergo, there should never be a blade on a book cover.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]

Fox Thwarts Mugging

Rose Fox, of PW’s Genreville, and her family were accosted by three muggers on December 10 who attempted to rob them while brandishing an L-shaped piece of plastic they hoped would be mistaken for a gun. Fox described the incident on her blog:

[Three] of those people–young men, age 19 to 22 or so–were walking very closely behind us. VERY closely. And they had black scarves over their faces. I think Josh noticed them first and then we all did and started walking faster.

One guy made beckoning motions and said something like “C’mere, c’mere”. We continued walking faster. Then he reached into his jacket and pulled out an object that was supposed to look like a gun. For a moment, I thought it was one, and I slowed a bit and said “Uh, guys?” to suggest that Josh and Xtina should look at him and be aware that he was threatening us with a weapon and that sort of changed the situation.

Then I looked at it again. It did not look like a gun. It looked like an L-shaped piece of plastic. And he didn’t handle it like a gun. I have seen handguns up close all of twice, in very different conditions; I am not anything like an expert. I knew this even as I was making the assessment, and I knew that a wrong assessment would be very dangerous. But… it just wasn’t right.

So she shouted loudly at them while Xtina dialed 911 and the would-be robbers fled. The police soon came and took them to identify some suspects the cops already had stopped, but they could not make a certain identification.

[Thanks to David Klaus for the story.]

Hugo Nomination Campaign for Twitter Account?

Bill Shunn was probably making a throwaway remark, a joke, when he mentioned nominating the @MayorEmanuel Twitter feed for a Hugo:

…[It] was probably better that Dan Sinker control the revelation than that someone else out him, which no doubt would have happened sooner or later. And at least now we know whom to nominate for that Hugo next year in the Best Related Work category.

But now that Rose Fox has blogged about Shunn’s idea on Genreville at Publishers Weekly it sounds practically inevitable:

Bill Shunn is spearheading a campaign to get @MayorEmanuel–yes, a Twitter account–nominated for next year’s Hugo in the “Best Related Work” category. This would of course be particularly well-suited to the 2012 Worldcon location of Chicago.

If you’re not familiar with the @MayorEmanuel account, a succinct summary is that it was the Twitter feed from an alternate-universe Rahm Emanuel. The feed was a non-stop stream of obscenity, Chicago in-jokes, politics, and pure far-out wackiness. His companions included a pet duck (named Quaxelrod after Emanuel staffer David Axelrod) and his adventures involved sleeping in igloos, crowd-surfing up to the stage to give his mayoral acceptance speech, and being taken to the secret celery farm on top of City Hall…

It seems every year the online fan community looks around for some way to carve its initials on the Hugo ballot. Will this be the next one? Rose may think it makes a better story associating the idea with next year’s Chicago Worldcon, still, how long will it take for someone to notice @MayorEmanuel started appearing in 2010 and ask, why wait?

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster and Andrew Porter for the story.]

Locus Adds PDF Edition

Starting in January Locus will be available in PDF as well as print reports Rose Fox’s Genreville blog on Publishers Weekly. Digital subscriptions will be available, as will single issues.

Please faneds, no snarky comments about Locus finally catching up with other zines that have been in PDF format for years unless your zine also keeps a monthly schedule, has thousands of subscribers, and boasts a shelf full of Hugos.

Locus’ January issue will be #600, and feature commentary by Neil Gaiman, Cory Doctorow, Charles Stross, Elizabeth Bear, Mur Lafferty and Cheryl Morgan.

[Thanks for the story to Andrew Porter, who is eligible to comment however he likes because he has run a monthly zine with thousands of subscribers that won multiple Hugos…]

NYRSF Readings for October 5

Seanan McGuire and Catherynne M. Valente headline The New York Review of Science Fiction Readings on October 5. Genreville’s Rose Fox is Guest Curator.

This year’s Campbell Award winning Best New Writer, Seanan McGuire has written Rosemary and Rue, A Local Habitation, and An Artificial Night.

Catherynne M. Valente was a finalist for the World Fantasy Award in 2007 and 2009, and the Lambda and Hugo Awards in 2010. Her next novel, The Habitation of the Blessed, will come out November 1. 

The full press release follows the jump.

Continue reading

Charles Vess at Genreville

Rose Fox and Josh Jasper have named Charles Vess Genreville’s featured artist for December. Artists always reciprocate this honor by making images of the duo to post on the site, but Vess was doubtful:

When Rose and Josh asked me to draw a portrait of them for their blog two thoughts immediately ran through my brain: the first was I’m so hopeless at portraiture and the second: How can I make that deficiency interesting?

It suffices to say: he came up with something quite entertaining.

Last month, Omar Rayyan contributed a spectacular tribute to the two bloggers.

 [Thanks to Andrew Porter for the link.]

Joe Haldeman Update 11/5/2009

“Joe was in the best shape he’s been since September 19, the day this whole thing started,” Gay Haldeman told SFF.net readers on November 4. “He walked across the room without help, got himself in and out of bed several times, sat up for a long time, ate well, talked about the future for the first time.” Doctors have decided not to do anything invasive yet and a new antibiotic is making him feel much better. 

Rose Fox celebrated Joe’s continuing improvement by answering his pancreatic poem with a double dactyl of her own:

Abdomen habdomen
Haldeman’s pancreas
Gave him a fever and
Twisted his guts.
Glad there’s no need for a
Pancreatectomy.
Get better soon, Joe–no
Ifs, ands, or buts!

(Reprinted by permission. Follow Rose’s commentary about the sf field on Publishers Weekly’s Genreville.)

PW Help Wanted: Reviewers

Rose Fox says on Publishers Weekly’s “Genreville” blog that she’s looking for more book reviewers:

I’m surprised to find that I’m a little short on reviewers, especially for mass market romance (of all kinds, from historical to paranormal) and thrillers. I also seem to have misplaced a bunch of emails from people who wrote to me the last time I put an ad out, so if you applied before and haven’t heard from me, please feel free to apply again.

At this point I am only looking for people who have already done a lot of nonfiction writing, preferably book or movie reviewing, and are familiar and comfortable with the editorial process, small wordcounts (I ask for 180-200 words and edit them down to about 145), and tight deadlines. The pay is $25 per review and I generally send each reviewer about one book every two weeks, though if I bring on many more reviewers that may stretch to one book every three or four weeks.

The instructions for applying are at the end of her post.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]