Pixel Scroll 11/15 Scrolled Acquaintance

(1) John Green of the Vlog Brothers waves Nalo Hopkinson’s Midnight Robber at the camera and heartily endorses it to 2.6 million subscribers at the 2:00 mark in his “Pizzamas Day 4” video posted November 12.

Today Hopkinson’s book – originally published in 2001 — ranks 2,902 in Amazon’s Kindle eBooks>Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Paranormal & Urban category. I wish I knew where it was ranked the day before for the sake of comparison.

(2) NPR interviewed Stan Lee about his new autobiography.

The man who dreamed up lots of backstories for Marvel characters has now put out his own origin story: A memoir, Amazing Fantastic Incredible, in comic book form. It begins with Lee as a boy, transported to other worlds through books by Arthur Conan Doyle, H.G. Wells and William Shakespeare. His real world was the Depression, a father mostly out of work and a dingy New York apartment with laundry hanging in the kitchen and a brick wall for a view. Lee says his mother doted on him; he remembers she’d just watch him read. “One of the best gifts I ever got — she bought me a little stand that I could keep on the table while I was eating, and I could put a book in the stand, and I could read while I was eating. I mean, I always had to be reading something,” he recalls.

Stan Lee memoir cover

(3) Discovery Times Square is hosting “Star Wars And The Power Of Costume: The Exhibition” which includes costumes from the forthcoming movie.

SW-SHOWCLIX-LOGO%20(1)Featuring 70 hand-crafted costumes from the first six blockbuster Star Wars films, this exhibition reveals the artists’ creative process—and uncovers the connection between character and costume. George Lucas imagined and created a fantastical world filled with dynamic characters who told the timeless story of the hero’s journey. The costumes shaped the identities of these now famous characters, from the menacing black mask of Darth Vader and the gilded suit of C-3PO, to the lavish royal gowns of Queen Amidala and a bikini worn by Princess Leia when enslaved by Jabba the Hutt. A special presentation for the showing at Discovery Times Square in New York will feature seven additional costumes from the highly anticipated film, Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

(4) James H. Burns denies that “love of the Three Stooges is a guy thing” at TV Party.


One night, in one of the popular Broadway joints, I’m having a couple of drinks with an actress I had recently met. A lovely, musicals-type gal….

And. somehow, I mention the Stooges. She tells me she LOVES the Stooges…

So, being a little devilish, as many of you know I can be, I say to her:

“Great…. What’s the only known defense for this…”

And I start doing a, slow-motion, split-finger, eyepoke. She INSTANTLY raises her hand, sideways, to her nose.

(5) Get the electronic Mythlore Plus Index for free – or at least that’s how it’s supposed to work. Order fulfillment goes through PayPal which won’t take a zero-price sale.

Available as a fully searchable digital file downloadable in PDF format, this newly, updated edition of the Mythlore Index covers issues 1-127 and has now been expanded to include all articles and reviews published in the Tolkien Journal, Mythcon Conference Proceedings, and Mythopoeic Press Essay Collections. Articles are indexed by author, title, and subject, and reviews by author and author of item reviewed. The index is illustrated with classic black and white artwork from early issues by Tim Kirk and Sarah Beach. This essential reference in mythopoeic studies will be updated after the publication of each Mythlore issue.

Add it to your cart and when you check out you’ll be sent a download link.

(6) Today In History

  • November 16, 2001:  First Harry Potter film opens

(7) Christopher M. Chupik, guided by his own reading experiences, says there is a tendency to shortchange the appeal of classic sf, in his guest post “Reflections of a Golden Age” on According To Hoyt.

My high-tech Kobo e-reader has a copy of Edmond Hamilton’s The Star Kings on it. Does it matter that I was reading this novel with a device more sophisticated than any of the computers contained within? Of course not.

One of the complaints made was that the younger generation can’t relate to “futures” where men still wear hats and they can make intelligent positronic robots but not personal computers. I say you’re not giving the younger generation enough credit. When I was reading Bradbury and Asimov, I was very aware that I was reading of future’s past. It doesn’t matter that Orwell’s 1984 is behind us (or is it?) any more than it matters that the Mars that Burroughs and Bradbury wrote about has no more foundation in reality than Middle-Earth.

It didn’t matter to me because I could see the things that hadn’t changed. Ultimately, the human experience remains consistent across the ages. Sure, superficial things like slang and fashions change with the decades…

Feel free to ignore the slur on this blog in the first paragraph; I did. (Almost.)

(8) Heritage Auctions is taking bids on a large selection of classic comics. At this writing, Superman #1 is going for $30,000.

(9) T. Campbell’s nominations for the“11 Weirdest Supergirl Stories” are posted on ScreenRant.

The Time She Was Superman’s Archenemy

No one seems to be quite sure where the Linda Danvers Supergirl is at this point (we last saw her in Hell, of all places), but not long after Supergirl‘s comic cancellation, a Supergirl from Krypton showed up (Superman/Batman #8, 2004) who was just straight-up the cousin of Superman. No angel powers, no shapeshifting, no unfortunate Luthor connections, no alternate-Earth shenanigans… just Kara Zor-El, the classic “Orginal Recipe” Supergirl from before things got messy. Except for the part where she might’ve been sent back to kill Superman.

(10) Lou Antonelli stopped doing the backstroke in the punchbowl long enough to post “You Heard It Here First” at This Way To Texas.

George R.R. Martin will be the next recipient of the Science Fiction Writers of America Grand Master Award (The Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award).

No, I do not have inside information, nor do I have a crystal ball. It’s simply a logical conclusion, especially if you know how the literary leaders of the science fiction community think.

Regardless of the merit of Martin’s literary output, he will get the award as a reward for helping trounce the dissident nominees for the Hugo awards this year (the so-called Sad Puppies). It’s not really any more complicated than that.

(11) In “A Forthcoming Speculative Fiction Anthology Asks Transgender Authors To Imagine New Worlds” at Bitch Media, Katherine Cross posed this question to Casey Plett and Cat Fitzpatrick.

On that note, what are your thoughts on the controversy around the Sad Puppies, the group who tried to rig the reader-voted Hugo Awards to favor “traditional” sci-fi works. It was clearly a powerful, angry, and organized reaction against the steady diversification of storytelling in sci-fi and spec-fic. What exactly is happening to this genre that’s so explosive and dangerous?

CP: White straight cis men are getting very upset because they feel they’re losing something when a more diverse set of stories is represented. On the one hand, they don’t have to worry—the share of representation of white straight cis male characters in sci-fi is maybe dropping from 98 percent to 95. But on the other hand, they’re right—they are losing some measure of dominance, and they should lose this. And I think acknowledging that challenges a fluffy teddy-bear idea of what an ally is—the idea that no one is going to lose anything. Being an ally requires giving shit up, which is what these people are not prepared to do.

CF: I think the throwing-the-toys-out-of-the-pram thing totally describes Brad Torgersen [sci-fi author and ringleader of the Sad Puppies]. I think Vox Day [another author, who organized an extreme offshoot of the Sad Puppies called the Rabid Puppies] is altogether a more sinister person, with really far-right politics and a desire to upset people to get attention. He’s a serious reactionary, traditionalist, religious, pseudofascist type—he even called leading spec-fic writer N.K. Jemisin an “uneducated half-savage” because she’s Black. And I think he saw Torgersen’s toy-throwing and said, “Here is a tool I can use to hurt people.”

I do fear that the way the story has been reported makes it seem as if spec-fic is going through growing pains that literary fiction outgrew long ago, as if lit-fic is more mature than spec-fic or sci-fi. Yet lit-fic has these same problems [with diversity and bigotry] and actually deals with them in a much less effective way. Part of it is that spec-fic is always concerned with community—you always have to invent the world from scratch, which entails obviously political choices. Traditional lit-fic straight white authors can say, “I’m just writing how the world is,” and even believe it, but if you’re a sci-fi writer who wants every book to be like Heinlein, you can’t escape the fact that you’re making this up, that your choice as a writer is meaningful and political.

CP: I think this stuff does get talked about in lit-fic—the VIDA Count revealed just how male the writing published by prestigious magazines was. That caused a big scandal. But it was still limited to writers. People in my mfa knew, but I think if you asked a person in a bookstore’s fiction section about the VIDA Count, they would have no idea what it was, whereas someone in the sci-fi section would probably know about Puppygate.

CF: Totally. On one hand, that relative openness laid them open to the whole Puppy thing, but on the other hand, it has meant much more engagement with the debate. And in the end the Puppies were voted down in the actual awards, even if that meant not awarding some categories. Which was kind of amazing. And it opened up a really important conversation and brought a lot of people together around it. I’m actually kind of happy about how the spec-fic or sci-fi community as a whole has handled this thing.

CP: I have a friend who said, “When stuff like this happens, it means you’re winning,” and I think they might be right in this case. It also opens up that question, “Who is focused on awards, and why?” I know awards can help sales, and it’s nice to be recognized, but I think it’s interesting these straight white cis guys are so focused on prestige. Whereas our feelings as editors about recognition are, “It’s nice, but it’s a byproduct.” We’re not interested in this writing being prestigious, we’re interested in it being interesting, first of all, to a trans audience—we want to be accountable to them.

(12) Steven Erikson’s guest post “Awards or Bust”, largely devoted to a critique of Stephen Jones’ defense of the WFA Lovecraft bust (on Facebook), concludes —

The time was long past due on getting rid of that bust.  And at the table at the banquet at the World Fantasy Awards, I made my applause loud and sustained.  And as for the Lovecraft pin I wear to conventions, indicating a past nomination, I’d love to see a new version.  In the meantime, however, I will continue to wear it, not in belligerent advocacy of H.P. Lovecraft, but to honour all past winners of the World Fantasy Award.

In my mind I can make that distinction.  That I have to lies at the heart of the problem with having Lovecraft as our symbol of merit.  To all future nominees and winners, you won’t have to face that awkward separation, and for that, you can thank that ‘vocal minority,’ who perhaps have not been vocal enough, and who are most certainly not a minority.  Not in this field, not in any other.

(13) Laura J. Mixon’s conclusion, after quoting one of Lovecraft’s racist statements in “Farewell to the Bigoted Bust”:

These are not simply a few hot-headed opinions popping out of the mouth (or the pen) of a young man, whose attitudes mellowed with age. They weren’t ill-considered Thingish thoughts that he reconsidered later. Nope. He remained hostile and entrenched in these views to the end of his life, despite the sustained efforts of his friends and family.

[Thanks to James H. Burns, Diana Pavlac Glyer, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]

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469 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 11/15 Scrolled Acquaintance

  1. P J Evans on November 18, 2015 at 12:53 pm said:
    on Watchmaker:
    I just looked in the catalog for the L.A. library system, and all the dead-tree copies (30 of them) are checked out, on hold, or in transit.

    Well, you could see if they have Europe in Autumn while you wait. It hasn’t had nearly enough love from File 770.

  2. @ Lydy Nickerson
    “Hmm, that was a long way of sayin’ I got nothin’. Sorry.”

    I disagree. What you said expressed what I’d been thinking and feeling while reading everyone’s points. Thank you.

  3. @Lidy: You can take as long as you want to say you got nothing if you’re going to be all reasonable and meaningful about it like that.

  4. Rev. Bob: I think it really isn’t as simple as you want it to be. I think we ALL want it to be that simple, actually. But it also seems some of us are saying, “it’s not there yet, and you’re saying “it is”.

    But remember, we have decades of people working through, not just gossip, but a massive cultural change. Sexual harassment became something it was even worth trying to report and not something people (mainly women) had to simply guard against and whisper about within my lifetime – and mostly within my adulthood. Before I was on the scene, kicking out a convicted sex offender was a controversial choice – a fact we now look upon with horror or shame. And in the days of the Clarence Thomas hearings, it was a continent wide debate, with plenty of people thinking it was perfectly valid to mock Anita Hill for her courage in speaking out. And that was the start of sexual harassment reporting being considered a valid thing to do.

    (and indeed, it’s still unknown what, if anything, happened, and Thomas was confirmed. Yet at the time it was considered a ‘witch hunt’ against him.)

    And now, 25 years later, we have harassment policies and people know where and what to report… and that’s the world of “do something” you seem to believe we’ve achieved.

    And we have ample evidence otherwise. When it comes to uttered threats AND to harassment. We have ample evidence that if the person committing the undesirable behaviour is an otherwise beloved member of a community, ranks will close around to protect them, more often than the one reporting the behaviour. Including the people who take the report and should do the policing.

    You seem to discount this as something anyone needs to take into consideration before reporting. You seem to discount this as a reason people choose not to report, but instead to discuss amongst themselves first, and test the waters, before getting as far as a formal complaint, or out of doubt they have enough substance to report and produce the desired result.

    And remember, if he were alive today, Asimov would as likely as not be one of those people we’d be having to consider whether to ban from Cons for inappropriate behaviour and people not wanting to be around him. If you think community feels are easy, imagine that scenario. It could happen with someone who has a similar cachet but is still alive, someday. And if you say that would be uncontroversial, I will not believe you for a second. And it isn’t just Geek Social Fallacies. It’s genuinely HARD stuff to cope with.

    IN short, I see a lot of reasons why people still prefer to talk about it As Well As report it, and often as precursor to reporting or other action.

  5. @Lydy: “I also think that there has been a bit too much, um, pearl-clutching about Potentially Armed Puppies. And I suspect that this is what Rev. Bob was reacting to. I saw a certain amount of rhetoric which seemed, to me, to magnify their possible threat in ways that seemed almost romantic.”

    Very much so, yes. The pearl-clutching reaction is exactly what they want to provoke, just as a troll wants to elicit outrage, and it is unwise to give such people what they want. It rewards and encourages their bad behavior, leading to more of the same reactions, which means more provocation… and eventually, we have to say “Enough. I’m not giving you what you want.” That’s the only way it stops.

    @Lenora: “And remember, if he were alive today, Asimov would as likely as not be one of those people we’d be having to consider whether to ban from Cons for inappropriate behaviour and people not wanting to be around him.”

    Let’s cut straight to the quick, shall we? Harlan Ellison. Still alive, high profile, known harasser. I can respect the man’s work while saying that I will not tolerate his behavior, and there is nothing wrong with saying that I will not support or attend a convention that does tolerate it.

    There’s no question about whether he’s guilty; most of us here know of one blatant incident where the evidence is indisputable. Any hand-wringing over whether to allow him into a con, much less invite him as a guest, is a failure on the concom’s part. The only way that gets fixed is by telling the concom, in no uncertain terms and with absolute clarity, that this will not stand. As an average fan, I can do that with an email that explains why I am not purchasing a membership. I can’t veto his presence, but I sure as hell can veto mine and encourage others to do likewise. I am all about that kind of talk, because it actually does something to fix the problem. Buying a badge and saying “ooh, I hope I don’t run into him” is exactly the enabling behavior that allows the problem to persist, and that’s the kind of talk I dismiss as mere gossipy chatter. It amounts to saying that unless the next target is a friend of yours, it’s okay to let them get victimized. No, it’s not okay.

    Fixing problems is hard work. Talking about how hard the work is doesn’t get the job done. It just discourages people from making the effort. It is a seductive poison that must be resisted if we ever want to see things change for the better. Yes, it’s hard – and that’s exactly why the failure to do it must not be tolerated. The harder the task, the more motivation is needed to achieve it.

    One does not evict a harasser from a community by using the grapevine to let people know to be careful around him. One evicts a harasser by kicking him the hell out. There’s no second choice. If a concom is unwilling to fairly investigate and (if merited) punish a claim of harassment against anyone – average fan, dealer, GOH, or fellow concom member – then they shouldn’t be running cons. No harassment policy will work if those charged with enforcing it refuse to do so.

    Talking about the problem is not enough. Difficulty is no excuse. Action is the only solution that will work.

  6. Talking about the problem is not enough. Difficulty is no excuse. Action is the only solution that will work.

    How do you get to the point where casual fans and people less in the loop than you realize there’s a problem on which to take action? Because generally that process looks like “several months of talking about it”.

    So let’s talk Harlan. Most people were not witnesses. If they found out at all (and I bet most fans still do not know), they found out later from gossip on blogs like this. Groping someone onstage is just trolling for reaction, and in an age when salacious Asimovian hijinks were found more amusing, that gossip would have fed the troll as it was intended to, and it probably embarrassed Connie Willis a lot. But you don’t get to actions like Scalzi’s pledge to avoid cons without a harassment policy without years of people around him discussing how outrageous these incidents are and the need for real harassment policies. And without casual chatter bringing it up periodically in response to other incidents, if Ellison were announced as GoH somewhere tomorrow, I doubt that most people who heard about the Willis incident would even remember it. (I’d imagine that’s probably true of some of the actual witnesses, as well.) Institutional memory can be long, but human memory is short. You’re vastly overestimating the efficiency of that institutional memory, particularly among people who aren’t strongly affiliated, or perhaps just vastly underestimating the time it takes for information to propagate and stick. Extended social discussion is how community memory and community shift happen, and for a number of fans, this is the place they have access to that. To be blunt, what you’re advocating reads like it boils down to creating a memory hole for the plebs.

    You’re pretty well-connected in fannish and con circles, with a lot of in-person contact with con staff, volunteers, and regulars (not to mention a big head-start on deciding how you want to react to the Puppy subculture, and in what to expect when dealing with concoms), and most fans are not. To be clear, I’m not talking fan-status here, but working knowledge, and conduits to it, that most people don’t have. Sure, no one wants to feed the trolls. No one actually disagrees with you there. What no one, including you, has come up with is an alternative way for the sorts of fans who aren’t as well-connected to discover, parse, and take a stance on upcoming issues. You already know what’s going on, what you think, and what you want to do about it, that’s great, but I’ll guarantee you’re in the minority.

    (I happen to agree with you that the talk of guns and fightin’ at cons is basically hot air. It’s Puppy small-talk about brighter days ahead in the, er, colloquial idiom of their subculture. There are still going to be a lot of people who need to square that speech with the statistical link between violent speech and increased likelihood that an outlier will cross a line, or with legal limits, or community standards. What you’re seeing here is the slow process of members of the community trying to square those ideas and decide what responses they can take and think are appropriate. It’s a prerequisite to meaningful action. You’ve done those things, fine, but you have a head start. “Don’t talk about it” is a way of shutting out people who are less in the loop than you are, which includes most of the posters and lurkers here. If you don’t want the trolls fed, come up with a better way of getting the process done. It’s slow and inefficient, but I don’t know another way. And, personally, I think the trolls are growing their own food and holding their own potlucks anyway. It would be nice not to send them extra casseroles to be placed on the central table, but either way they’re going to chow down and boast about how good the SJW banquet was, so I don’t know how the win condition of that plan looks any different.)

  7. junego: I’m almost afraid to know who you work for with that level of security!

    I left out the part about the fingerprinting, the police checks in 2 countries, the FBI check, and having to “prove” that I no longer have any contact with my former spouse, nor know where they are. 😉

    Iphinome: What makes you think he has the clearance to know that?

    They could tell me, but then they’d probably have to kill me. I’m pretty sure that I’m better off not knowing. 😀

  8. @Amoxtli: “Institutional memory can be long, but human memory is short. You’re vastly overestimating the efficiency of that institutional memory, particularly among people who aren’t strongly affiliated, or perhaps just vastly underestimating the time it takes for information to propagate and stick.”

    This is why I prefer to put the primary responsibility on conrunners to gatekeep rather than on fandom-at-large to Just Know to avoid – precisely because it leverages the strength of institutional memory and doesn’t require that the grapevine reach every single fan.

    I’ve been at a few con meetings that focused on picking guests of honor. Huge amounts of institutional memory there. One person floats a name, someone else chimes in with some info about the person – especially if it’s a significant barrier – and if it passes that test, the name goes onto the longlist. Collect a dozen or so names, start voting, and before long there’s a sorted list of the top three to five candidates. If those sessions learn the habit of adding harassment behavior to the no-go criteria, the possibility of having a problematic GOH positively plummets.

    Plus, con staff overlaps. I used to work staff at half a dozen local conventions per year, and that’s mainly because that was all I could get to. I’d see the same person chairing one con, being a department head at another, working staff at a third, and acting as guest liaison at a fourth… and that spread’s not unusual around here. There’s where the critical grapevine is, and that’s why I keep harping on the responsibility of the people running the show and the necessity of reporting bad behavior. Even if the board of that con doesn’t act, the staff finds out, and that improves the odds that the word will spread to the people running the other local cons.

    If the cons do their job, it becomes a lot less necessary for the general fandom grapevine to spread the word about who to avoid. Not that that function is bad – I’m still confused about how my “don’t give Puppies oxygen in this specific case” opinion got twisted into “never talk about anyone ever” – but it should be the last line of defense, not the first and only.

    With general fans who behave badly, the grapevine works differently and should be improved. It’s dead simple for a convention to keep track of who they’ve disciplined, once they decide to do so. The next step is actively sharing that data with other cons, using that back-channel grapevine to say, “hey, we had to toss Bart Jones for getting grabby – keep an eye out if he comes to your event.” (Invented name, fictional incident – just an example.)

    It’s far easier for a handful of people on concoms to share that data than it is for the word to get around to tens of thousands of fans. More to the point, it’s a lot easier to say “that’s three reports about Bart; let’s not accept his registration” than to sort out the results of a massive game of Telephone.

    No, reporting doesn’t always have the needed effect. Sometimes cons don’t act, or they show favoritism, or something else goes wrong. My point is, without a report, they can’t act. Not only do the cons deserve the chance to get it right, but we need to be vigilant and hold them responsible for doing so.

    Once again, my argument is not “keep quiet about problems.” It’s “don’t just talk; report problems so they can be fixed.” And, in the special case of Puppies With Guns, my assessment is that they’re all hat and no cattle. Yes, certainly MAC II needs to know. Sure, absolutely remind regular people about it shortly before the con. But here and now, my argument is that talking about that specific thing is counterproductive. The con’s a long way off; talking about their chest-beating now is useless pearl-clutching. Worse, it runs the risk of desensitizing people to the information so they skip over more timely reminders. That’s a terrible idea.

  9. Rev. Bob:

    I agree fully with your last comment. It matches my own experiences to 100%. I agree extremely much that reporting is necessary. In my experience, a big problem with only trusting grapevine (which is still necessary) is that people assume that organizers have the same information as they have. But the thing for an organizer is that they have to have names. They have to have good sources (not third or fourth hand). If people don’t report, they have a hard time to go only on rumours. Because they know that they will be in a shitstorm if the rumours were wrong. I remember getting information on person X who had done Y once and three days later information about person Z who had done Y. Same time, same place, some action, only two different persons named.

    I do think grapevine is necessary, because of organizers that don’t do as they should and because of the gray areas. But reporting is extremely important. As is exchange of information between organizers.

  10. @Hampus:

    I thought we were probably closer to agreement than it looked. That’s why I was so shocked by the situation I thought you were describing.

    (Side note: If you’ve seen that I’m doing edit/tech work for an erotica writer, it may interest you to learn that there’s a scene in their upcoming novel that hints at the problem a close-knit BDSM community faces in dealing with a “top” who gets exposed as an abuser. I even understand that their next book spins out of that backstory to deal with that situation’s resolution in more detail, where it’s largely glossed over in this one. The existing scene is set up as a cautionary tale, a “be careful, because I wasn’t and here’s what happened” story. Given our conversation here, I intend to pay extra-close attention when I make my final markup pass of that chapter. The last thing anyone needs is another story where abuse and BDSM are easily confused. I know the difference, but I want to make sure it’s clear in the text, too.)

  11. Rev. Bob:

    Now, the situation in the BDSM Community both good and bad. We have all the usual problems and some additionals. Community used to be persecuted, thus wanting to protect their own and limit criticism from outsiders, a small group which makes it much worse when splits occurs, problems with differentiating between consensual and non-consensual abuse, people high on endorphines that can’t use safewords or say no, a usually very small group of organizers and events you want to keep on the good side of, people with weird ideas of what they are allowed to do because they define themselves as dominants, people from the outside who see this as an easy way to get victims, people who don’t want to go to police because of risk of outing themselves, and so on.

    On the other side, we have established frameworks of etiquette and how to behave that are more or less universal. Harassment policies are doubly more important because a person might be blindfolded and tied up with no way of defending themselves. Organizers are usually proactive in that they observe potential problems and often takes people aside before something happens. People are more careful because they know that if they burn their bridges in one place, their reputation is doomed in the whole country. And much, much, much less alcohol involved.

    But we do have problems. And I think the problems are worse than in the nerd communities.

  12. @Hampus:

    Yep, that’s pretty close to what J.B. depicts. Their fictional “Chamber” has the added complication of being an invitation-only group that includes powerful and/or public figures in the local area, meaning that bad actors can use that knowledge as leverage to make the option of ejection… difficult. The fictional situation in question is a classic case where the D/s relationship conceals private abuse, and it only comes to light when the sub outmaneuvers him and gets the chance to rat him out.

    So, yeah, this discussion has had a few odd resonances for me. I also know some SFF con people from a local kink convention, adding yet another layer of fun. (One such person is now deceased, but I knew her from both that event and a much larger, much higher-profile SFF con. Running into her at meetings for the latter was interesting.)

    I’m looking forward to seeing what the truth behind the novel’s “he moved away” Official Story turns out to be. I have a theory, though; J.B.’s already asked me some things about cult dynamics and brainwashing techniques. (Believe it or not, I learned about both when I was in high school, some mumblety-many years back. In the same course, even. It was a real eye-opener, especially with the light it shed on parts of my own childhood.)

  13. Last year, a swedish book was published about a swedish cult with lots of BDSM-aspects. Only in swedish though. Was kind of horrible to read, because I recognized so much of the thinking in it. Some aspects of what draw people into cults can be found also in what draws people into D/s-relationships.

  14. @Hampus:

    From what J.B.’s said, I think they’re looking at a setup where an abuser uses brainwashing tactics to establish a dysfunctional D/s relationship with their target. The really scary thing about that notion, something I know from experience, is how fast it can happen. If you completely control someone’s environment and know what you’re doing, some changes can take less than a week.

  15. If J.B. wants details on psychological dominance (I have no idea about their experience) to add details from a BDSM context, take a look at The Control Book by Peter Masters. I’m not very fond of it myself.

    But yes, it is extremely fast. I have a few detailed texts on how you can do it in around a week and I know people who have experienced in exactly that way. Sadly in swedish. And I remember my first BDSM relationship, how I had to remind myself not to be sucked in too quickly, too fast. And that was in a working relationship. Not dysfunctional. Subfrenzy is bleeding dangerous sometimes.

  16. @Hampus:

    One of the subtler tips is for the architect to take the subject’s conversion for granted, as if it is inevitable or has already happened. Done properly, it’s a powerful form of gaslighting.

    The four details I remember most are food control (tasty but not particularly nutritious), lack of sleep, strenuous fun with a lack of idle/unsupervised time, and control over the target’s environment. The first two break down the body’s ability to resist, the third also affects the desire to resist, and the last is how you, to swipe a phrase, “reject their reality and replace it with your own.” A useful fifth plank is faux rebellion – a “naughty” activity that builds trust between the authority figure orchestrating it and the subjects by being a shared secret.

    To put those into my personal context, I attended a week-long Christian summer camp every year as a kid. They started off with an early morning radio broadcast (no lie, the sponsoring church featured the kids going to camp on the show), starting the sleep deprivation before you even arrived on site. There were at least three devotional sessions a day, and I’m probably forgetting one or two small ones. Every activity was done as a group (maybe a dozen kids each, plus a counselor only a couple of years older), and time between activity slots was spent memorizing a Bible passage and the sequence of the books of the Bible. These were recited as part of the evening devotional meeting. Meals were basically a step up from fast food, and snacks were available during the day. The sermons were big on personal sin and divine grace, how salvation is yours if you only ask, with plenty of opportunities to do so – publicly, where everyone would know and support you. At the end of the week, you go back for another early radio broadcast before being released to return home.

    It’s practically a textbook case, isn’t it?

  17. Rev. Bob: That camp sounds awful.

    The food control part of brainwashing seems especially odd; does the lack of nutritional content because of how poor nutrition affects the brain, or because that sort of tasty food naturally tends towards certain kinds of quick reward effects in itself?


    ON Harlan and sim: We’re in full agreement what should happen. Where we differ seems to be that you see Harlan get kicked out and think that’s the end of it — and I can only think of the hundreds of voices that spoke up defending him and would if it came up again. And I can only think of people I know who’ve been tarred for being too honest about a respected member’s bad behaviour.

    Also, I would never tell someone not to report, indeed I would advise it. But some people still don’t want to report, for a variety of reasons, and I have to respect their choice, too. And that’s where and why I think there’s a bone of contention here where you seem to think it’s obvious what to do.

  18. @Lenora: “The food control part of brainwashing seems especially odd; does the lack of nutritional content because of how poor nutrition affects the brain, or because that sort of tasty food naturally tends towards certain kinds of quick reward effects in itself?”

    I think it’s both, to some extent. Between the long hours and physical exertion, the body needs decent food to recover. Deny it that by substituting inadequate food that tastes good, and the mind processes it as a reward despite the body having to draw even further on its own reserves. From the brainwasher’s POV, it’s a win-win. I mean, thin gruel would starve the body, but it would shore up the mind’s defenses. Fast food depletes both.

    As far as the camp being “awful” – from a kid’s perspective, not so much. Yeah, the religious part’s a drag, but there’s horseback riding, swimming, baseball (or was it softball?), and something else I’m forgetting to compensate.

  19. @Hampus:

    While I definitely see how those function in standard circumstances, most of them don’t apply to the situation that kicks off J.B.’s next book. However, there are “one and two halves” 24/7 relationships described in the current book, by which I mean that we see one such mature relationship, hear broad strokes about an abusive one, and see a third that isn’t quite 24/7 and is still under construction. I don’t want to spoil anything – after all, the first short story is out now and the first half of the novel drops Tuesday, and you may want to read them for yourself – but I will say that some of the items you list look quite familiar.

    There are some other scenes I think you’d find interesting, too, from a relationship negotiation perspective. For instance, there’s a bit where a sub and her top are talking, and the sub makes it very clear that while she likes to submit in the bedroom, that in no way makes her an unequal partner in the relationship. Then there’s the scene where a sub tells the couple she serves that she needs them to be harder on her, more dominant and demanding. I liked seeing that negotiation of boundaries, reflecting that people need to talk to their lovers about what they want. The idea of explicit negotiation of limits, of talking instead of guessing, has always struck me as something the rest of the world could stand to learn from the BDSM community.

    No matter how perceptive your partner is, they’re not telepathic. If something isn’t working, you have to let them know. I think there’s a distinct lack of that expectation in both fiction and reality, and I really liked seeing that conversation in J.B.’s book. It was refreshing to see people who care for each other do stupid things because they made bad assumptions and worse decisions, and one of the reasons I agreed to work with J.B. is that the story actually has that kind of fallible character development. (I’m really tired of the All-Knowing Alpha Billionaire trope, where he always knows exactly how far he can push an absolute novice.)

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