(1) FOR THE RECORD. Odyssey Con co-chair Alex Merrill published an official response to the departure of GoH Monica Valentinelli yesterday – filling the void left by Richard S. Russell’s retracted statement with something more socially acceptable.
We, the Convention Committee of Odyssey Con, deeply regret losing Monica as a Guest of Honor, especially in the way the last twenty-four hours have unfolded. Odyssey Con strives to be a warm and welcoming place for all people to express themselves and engage in fandoms. We took a long and hard look at the issue of having Jim Frenkel continue to be a member of our convention committee when he was banned from WisCon in 2012. Our position at that time was to look at our policy on harassment and ensure that any situation that may take place at our convention would be dealt with professionally. We now have an ombudsman, anonymous reporting procedures, and a very detailed policy. There have been no complaints filed against Mr. Frenkel from attendees of Odyssey Con. However, in light of Monica’s email, the following changes have been made: Mr. Frenkel is no longer a member of our ConCom in any capacity, he has no position of authority in the convention proper, and he is not a panelist or lecturer. He has the right to purchase a badge and attend the convention, but as of this writing, I do not know if he is planning to do that.
I personally wish to apologize for the mishandling of our response to Monica’s concerns. It has never been our intent to minimize any guest’s complaints. Odyssey Con is an all volunteer organization staffed by people who have many strengths, but not all of us are great communicators.
I have already reached out to Monica to personally apologize for the email response she received from one of our ConCom members and for the subsequent posting of email chains publicly. This exchange was not an example of Odyssey Con as a whole, which is run by fans, for fans. I hope to have a continued dialogue with you all.
However, the first comment left on the post identified a number of questions that remained unanswered by the statement.
And after K. Tempest Bradford looked over the new response, she shared her reaction in the comments of her blog.
…No matter how much the Internet is mad at your organization, that does not excuse any implication that the person reporting feeling unsafe because a harasser is involved in running the con is at fault here. That’s immature. That’s not professional. That’s yet another indication that guests would not have been treated professionally by OddCon as an organization.
Also an indication that attendees will not be treated in a professional manner.
And being a volunteer run con is not an excuse for that. Yeah, you’re all volunteers, but you’re running an event. People attending said event as fans or guests have the right to expect a certain level of safety and respectful treatment from those running the event. That was not what happened. Now they’re sorry. Yet I still do not see that behavior addressed in a meaningful way in this Sorry….
(2) MARVEL FIRES SYAF. Marvel pencil artist Ardian Syaf, who inserted anti-Semitic and anti-Christian political references into his work on X-Men Gold has now been officially terminated.
Over the weekend, Marvel released a statement that it had been unaware of the references, and they would remove the artwork from all upcoming versions of the issue.
The company’s follow-up statement, quoted in Paste Magazine, says:
Marvel has terminated Ardian Syaf’s contract effective immediately. X-Men: Gold #2 and #3 featuring his work have already been sent to the printer and will continue to ship bi-weekly.
Issues #4, #5, and #6 will be drawn by R. B. Silva and issues #7, #8, and #9 will be drawn by Ken Lashley. A permanent replacement artist will be assigned to X-Men: Gold in the coming weeks.
Syaf wrote on his Facebook page:
My career is over now.
It’s the consequence what I did, and I take it.
Please no more mockery, debat, no more hate. I hope all in peace.
In this last chance, I want to tell you the true meaning of the numbers, 212 and QS 5:51. It is number of JUSTICE. It is number of LOVE. My love to Holy Qur’an…my love to the last prophet, the Messenger…my love to ALLAH, The One God.
My apologize for all the noise. Good bye, May God bless you all. I love all of you.
However, Coconuts warns that statement should not be confused with Syaf actually regretting his actions.
…In an interview about the controversy with local newspaper Jawa Pos published today, Ardian explained why he thought that Marvel could not accept his explanation for including the references.
’But Marvel is owned by Disney. When Jews are offended, there is no mercy,” he was quoted as saying.
After making the anti-Semitic remark, Ardian reiterated to the interviewer that he was not anti-Semitic or anti-Christian because, if he was, he wouldn’t have worked for a foreign publisher.
(3) WHITE AWARD DELAYED. The British Science Fiction Association has postponed the date for revealing the winner of the James White Award:
With apologies to those who have entered this year’s competition, we are sorry to announce that the announcement of this year’s James White Award winner has been delayed.
The longlist will announced shortly after Easter and the shortlist shortly after that. We are working to complete the judging as quickly as possible.
We intend to announce the winner by Friday, 19 May at the latest.
(4) SFWA STORYBUNDLE. Cat Rambo has unveiled The SFWA Science Fiction Storybundle.
The SFWA Science Fiction Bundle is a very special collection full of great sci-fi books that benefit a great cause! If you’re unfamiliar with the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, it’s over 50 years old, and has a membership of professional writers and publishing professionals from around the globe. It administers the Nebula Awards each year. This bundle is filled with talented SFWA members and their wonderful works, such as Tech Heaven by Locus-award-winning Linda Nagata and Factoring Humanity by Hugo, Nebula and John W. Campbell Memorial Award winning Robert J. Sawyer, plus 10 more tremendous reads. You can easily choose to donate part of your purchase to the Science Fiction Fantasy Writers of America to support these fantastic authors. Don’t forget to click here to read much more about the bundle, and make sure to click on each cover for reviews, a preview and a personal note from our curator!
It has another 22 days to run.
(5) DISTRACTIONS. With so much happening in 1962, Galactic Journey’s Victoria Silverwolf finds it hard to concentrate on her reading — “[April 12, 1962] Don’t Bug Me (May 1962 Fantastic)”.
Maybe it’s because it’s almost time to mail in those tax forms to Uncle Sam, or maybe it’s because of the tension between President Kennedy and the steel companies, or maybe it’s because Jack Parr left his television series (which will now be known by the boring, generic title The Tonight Show), or maybe it’s because the constant radio play of the smash hit Johnny Angel by actress Shelley Fabares of The Donna Reed Show is driving me out of my mind, or maybe it’s because of George Schelling’s B movie cover art for the May 1962 issue of Fantastic; but for whatever reason your faithful correspondent approached the contents of the magazine with a leery eye….
(6) TIPTREE. There will be a Tiptree Auction at WisCon 41 on Saturday, May 27.
Can’t get enough Tiptree fun on Facebook? Are you curious about Tiptree auctions? Fan of Sumana Harihareswara? Want to support science fiction that explores and expands gender? Want to roar with laughter? There are dozens of possible reasons to go to the Tiptree Auction at WisCon 41.
(7) APEX REPRINTS EDITOR. Apex Magazine is bringing aboard Maurice Broaddus as reprints editor. The magazine publishes one reprint in each issue, and he will be responsible for finding those reprints beginning with issue 98, July 2017.
Maurice Broaddus and Apex Publications have a long history together going back 10 years. He has been published in several of our anthologies, including most recently in Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling edited by Monica Vallentinelli and Jaym Gates. He has also had several books published through Apex, including Orgy of Souls (co-written by Wrath James White), I Can Transform You, and the anthologies Dark Faith and Dark Faith: Invocations which he co-edited with Jerry Gordon. Most recently, Maurice Broaddus guest edited an issue of Apex Magazine—issue 95 (http://www.apex-magazine.com/issue-95-april-2017/) , which included original fiction by Walter Mosley, Chesya Burke, Sheree Renee Thomas, and Kendra Fortmeyer, poetry by Linda D. Addison and LH Moore, and nonfiction by Tanya C. DePass.
(8) NEW COLUMNIST. Galaxy’s Edge magazine has a new columnist, Robert J. Sawyer. He’ll replace Barry N. Malzberg starting with issue 27.
Robert J. Sawyer, author of the bestselling novel Quantum Night, has agreed to write a regular column for Galaxy’s Edge magazine. Robert is currently one of the foremost science fiction authors in the field and one of Canada’s top writers. He was admitted into The Order of Canada (one of the country’s highest civilian honors) in 2016. His novels have won more awards than any other person in the history of the genre (as per the Locus index for science fiction awards) from countries around the world.
(9) SINISALO. At Europa SF, Cristin Tamas conducts a lengthy interview with 2017 Worldcon GoH Johanna Sinisalo.
Cristian Tamas : “Johanna Sinisalo seems to have emerged, along with Leena Krohn and Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen, as a central figure in the ‘‘Finnish Weird’’, which like many such movements may be a coincidence, a plot, or even, as Sinisalo herself said in her introduction to last year’s Finnish Weird anthology, simply a ‘‘brand.’’ In any case, it seems to carry with it a celebratory feeling of having just rediscovered the possibilities of nonrealistic fiction, even as some of its major works come with pretty grim premises.” – Gary K.Wolfe ; Please comment !
Johanna Sinisalo : Finnish Weird is basically a term invented for commercial uses, based on the fact that most of the Finnish Weird writers do not want to be pigeonholed as fantasy or sf or horror writers. Words like “nonrealistic” or “speculative fiction” are relatively strange to the wider audiences, so we came up with this kind of definition that could perhaps be compared to the commercial term “Nordic Noir”. Analogically, the Scandinavian crime writers have not “rediscovered the possibilities of crime fiction”, but the term Nordic Noir tells the reader that those books are a part of a certain literary tradition (and in many cases it is also considered as a sign of high quality).
Cristian Tamas : Isn’it weird that the oldest (beginning of the 13th century) known document in any Finnic language, the Birch Bark Letter no.292 is written in Cyrillic alphabet in the Karelian dialect of the archaic Finnish (or Finnic language) and it was found in 1957 by a Soviet expedition led by Artemiy Artsikhovsky in the Nerevsky excavation on the left coast side of Novgorod, Russia ? Is this an avant-la-lettre sample of Finnish Weird ?
Johanna Sinisalo: It is an interesting document. As far as I know the only words in that letter that the scholars totally agree upon are “God” and “arrow”, and the most popular theory is that the the text is a spell or prayer protecting from lightnings, saying “Jumaliennuoli on nimezhi”, roughly ”You are / will be called as the Arrow of Gods”. Perhaps it forecasts that we Finnish Weird writers are lightnings of the literary gods?
(10) TODAY’S DAY
Bookmobile Day is an opportunity to celebrate one of the many services offered through public libraries. Originating in the nineteenth century, the earliest bookmobiles were horse-drawn wagons filled with boxes of books. In the 1920s, Sarah Byrd Askew, a New Jersey librarian, thought reading and literacy so important that she delivered books to rural readers in her own Ford Model T. And today, Kenya still uses camels to deliver materials to fans of reading in rural areas.
(11) TODAY IN HISTORY
- April 12, 1981 — Space shuttle Columbia first launched.
(12) COMIC SECTION. A horrible pun and a funny gag – John King Tarpinian recommends today’s Brevity.
(13) HATERS. John Scalzi, the midst of his annual Reader Request Week, takes up the subject of “Haters and How I Deal With Them”. This section of his post is from a list of “things I know about haters, and how they relate to me.”
Fourth, I’ve come to realize that some people are using hating me primarily as a transactional enterprise; they see some personal business advantage to holding me up as someone to be hated, and doing so allows them to, say, peddle to the gullible and strident wares that they might not otherwise be able to profitably market. To this respect the hating isn’t actually about me — if I didn’t exist, they’d just pick someone else who suited their needs. That being the case, why get worked up about it? Especially if it’s not having any noticeable effect on my own personal or professional fortunes.
(14) MEANWHILE BACK AT THE RANCH. Quite coincidentally, Vox Day put up a post titled “This is what ‘Zero Fucks’ looks like” that’s all about….would you like to guess?
(15) LIBRARIANS LIKE IT. Library Journal gives its take on the 2017 Hugo ballot in “Quality and Diversity”
After a contentious two years owing to the Sad/Rapid Puppies dispute, last week’s announcement of the 2017 Hugo Award nominees was received with acclaim. Library Journal sf columnist Megan McArdle, noting that the puppies appeared to have lost their fangs, was thrilled by the lists. “The fact that so many women are represented (and trans women! and women of color!), just shows that diversity is actually valued by the majority of SFF fans, which is great to see after so much drama in past years.” She was also excited to see a couple of her favorites—Charlie Jane Anders’s All the Birds in the Sky and Becky Chambers’s A Closed and Common Orbit—make the list.
Co-columnist Kristi Chadwick was equally excited by the nominations, which are voted on by attendees of the World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon) and paying members of the World Science Fiction Society. “I am a big squeeing girlfan of Seanan McGuire, and I think Every Heart a Doorway has given fantastical tropes a way to bend sideways. Then I see N.K. Jesmin, Charlie Jane Anders, and [Lois McMaster] Bujold? Amazing stories that never cross our desks? The editors, movies and everything else that makes this genre amazing? I am so thrilled with the wealth of knowledge and imagination available to readers today.”
(16) A VISIT TO DYSTOPIA. Nerds of a Feather continues its series on Dystopian Visions. Here are excerpts from two of the major critical essays. And the link will also lead you to innumerable posts about individual books and films with dystopian themes.
What marked Utopia out from these fantasies of plenty was that it could be reached, and reached in two ways. Reached physically: there was a long, arduous but supposedly practicable journey that could get you from here to there. It was a journey beyond the abilities and wishes of most people, but the idea was established that perfection did not exist only in dreams or upon death, but here in the everyday world we all inhabited. And it could be reached structurally: this perfection was not the province of god or of fairies or some supernatural inversion of the natural world, this perfection was achieved by rational men. If a safe, secure, happy existence could be achieved by sensible human organisation in Utopia, then sensible, rational men could achieve the same here.
No, I don’t think science fiction’s exploration of dystopian presents and futures has been instrumental in bringing on twenty-first century dystopia, but the genre as a whole does bear some small responsibility for our comfort with what we should be deeply uncomfortable with…
Three science fiction novels spring to mind as examples, published in 2011, 2013 and 2014. One was by a highly-regarded genre writer, who has spent the last twenty years writing fiction not actually published as science fiction. Another was written by a successful British author of space operas. The earliest of the three is also a space opera, the first in a series of, to date, six novels, which was adapted for television in 2014.
…The three books are: The Peripheral by William Gibson, published in 2014, Leviathan Wakes by James SA Corey, published in 2011, and Marauder by Gary Gibson, published in 2013.
Since its beginnings, science fiction has exhibited a blithe disregard for the characters who people its stories, outside those of the central cast of heroes, anti-heroes, villains, love interests, etc. Frank Herbert’s Dune from 1965, for instance, describes how Paul Muad’Dib launches a jihad across the galaxy which kills billions. EE ‘Doc’ Smith’s Second Stage Lensman, originally serialised in 1941, opens with a space battle between a fleet of over one million giant warships and an equal number of “mobile planets”… Manipulating scale to evoke sense of wonder is one thing, but the lack of affect with which science fiction stories and novels massacre vast numbers of people, for whatever narrative reason, is more astonishing.
(17) DO YOU? I had to answer “No.”
I can't be the only person with a continuous contingency plan for what to do if the brakes on my car fail, can I? (Sigrid watches tv…)
— Sigrid Ellis (@sigridellis) April 12, 2017
(18) EXOTIC GAME. Review of Simon Stålenhags RPG Tales from The Loop at Geek & Sundry — “Tales from the Loop Invites You to Roleplay in the ‘80s That Never Was”.
Tales from the Loop takes place in a retro-futuristic version of the 80’s where Cold War Era science brought us hover-vehicles, robots, and other advancements that pepper this light sci-fi landscape. It’s an idyllic time. Kids are free to roam after dark. The same children who have grown up around robots and Magnetrine Vehicles geek out over Dungeons & Dragons and Atari systems. There are problems, but the future is hopeful.
If this whole setting sounds like a sci-fi version of Stranger Things you wouldn’t be far off. If that’s what it takes to get you to crack into this portal into a future past then by all means: it’s a sci-fi version of Stranger Things. But in reality it captures more of the feeling of E.T. or The Goonies. Mike, Dustin, and Lucas were able to get help from Joyce and Sheriff Hopper. In Tales from the Loop the focus is squarely on the trials, challenges, and successes of the kids. One of the 6 Principles of the game right in the book is that “Adults Are Out of Reach and Out of Touch”, and if your character ever turns 16 years old, they age out of the campaign
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Hampus Eckerman, Cat Eldridge, JJ, and Marc Criley for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W, who will be awarded a Nobel Prize for his discovery of the basic Scroll title DNA.]
It’s also freaking weird verging on nonsensical to say you don’t like books that do anything new or in novel and interesting/different ways, yet claim to be an SF fan. What is science fiction other than “stuff that does things other genres can’t”?
@Robin Whiskers: but I remember you. Okay, I remember the beautiful tortie face, but close enough!
I was away for a while, realized I could never catch up, and settled for going back about 2 days.
If you point was that youre unable or unwilling to differerantiate between “Box ticking” and “prefering diversity” than, yes, youve hammered down that point quite well.
Can I just say I’m delighted to be told I’m part of the “File770 hardcore”. We should make badges or something!
Why you stuck up… box checkin’… TOR slatin’… PIXEL SCROLLER!
@Mark: Would they have to be NSFW badges?
Also gonna Nth on the “that’s not box-checking, you dolt” topic. If nothing else, finding a book where a not-me is the hero is interesting because it’s not the Same Old Crap, so I have some totally selfish reasons for promoting diversity: I get more neat stuff to read!
Further, in certain genres, I wouldn’t have near the rich selection that I currently enjoy if I limited myself to books by/about straight white men in Western settings. I mean, right now I’ve got three superhero webcomics open in different iPad tabs – all starring female characters, and none of which are traditional takes on those tropes. If I turned up my nose at the adventures of any super who wasn’t one of Marvel’s Identical Blond White Men*, I’d be missing out on some great stuff!
Then there’s urban fantasy, a field generally dominated by women – both as protagonists and authors. I like Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files just fine, but he hasn’t released a new novel in that series in quite some time. OTOH, Seanan McGuire delivers a new InCryptid novel every April, in addition to her other series, and then there’s Jennifer Estep’s Elemental Assassin series, Kim Harrison’s Hollows, C.E. Murphy’s (now-complete) Walker Papers… need I go on? Sure, there are other men writing manly urban fantasy about white dudes saving the day, and I read some of that, but there’s no way in hell I’m going to shun awesome UF just because it’s by/about a woman – even, heaven forbid, a POC woman! (Maybe from somewhere that’s neither Europe nor America! Oooh…)
As another Filer noted, if you enjoy the “alien” part of spec-fic, reading stuff created by non-SWM authors gives you extra layers of otherworldliness for free. I’ve read tons of SF by white guys with typically Western (even more typically American) motifs – why shouldn’t I mix things up with some Afrofuturism, Asian SF, or even some Russian stuff like Roadside Picnic? I know what a hundred New New Yorks look like, but what would ubiquitous cybertech do to Egypt or Nigeria? I don’t know – and that’s what makes those interesting in a way that Yet Another William Gibson Clone is not.
Different is good. It shows me new stories, new angles, and sparks new ideas. That’s why I read SF in the first place! It’s also an antidote to what turned me off of epic fantasy; I couldn’t take one more thinly-disguised Medieval European setting where a nobody, a warrior, a wizard, a rogue, and a cleric embark on a Mighty Quest for the Doodad of Planetary Salvation. It all looked the same, so I actively searched for stuff that was conspicuously different.
Call that box-checking if you wish, airboy. I call it getting fed up with reading a dozen iterations of the same old crap with the names changed. Sure, there’s a sameness to some urban fantasy, but (a) it’s a new sameness, so I’m not sick of it yet, and (b) I don’t have to stop there. I can keep looking for the other ways that different authors bring their differences into the field.
That is, unless enough people like you get your way. Squash the POC voices, muffle the women, go on a crusade against the heathens, render the queer rainbow in black and white, and you won’t suffer a bit. You’ll still have everything you like. There’ll still be loads of fiction about heroic white dudes getting the top-heavy woman after they save the day with their meticulously-detailed weapons. Everywhere you look, you’ll see your idealized reflection smiling back at you.
And the black girl whose heart beats a little faster when the dorky Korean girl in class smiles at her, the Caribbean kid who wants to know where the people like him are in the constellation of space colonies, the Syrian woman who wants to escape into a world where she’s not a refugee – well, fuck ’em, right? Shove ’em into the closet and let ’em eat white bread. Its their own fault for being different.
Balderdash. Fuck that. They deserve the same chance we got to find That Book, the one that clicked with us and unlocked our imaginations, showing us the way to a wealth of wonder and amazement. When I went to the library as a kid, I found more books about white guys doing neat stuff than I could read in a dozen lifetimes. What’s so horrible about sharing some of that shelf space with people who not only aren’t white, but aren’t guys and/or maybe want to see Kirk flirt with Spock instead of Yeoman Rand?
Y’know, I’m headed to the store tomorrow. Grocery day. I’m going to get some frozen burritos while I’m there, and I know exactly which ones. They’re reasonably cheap, filling, and moderately spicy. As far as I’m concerned, the store could refuse to carry all the other brands and varieties… but they don’t. Because other people have different tastes, and they buy different burritos, so the store makes more money by carrying a diverse selection. Why, they even carry frozen things that aren’t burritos at all, because some weirdos like pot pies or pizzas or some bizarre thing called “fish.” Can you imagine? I mean, the nerve of those box-checking fish-eaters, coming into my store’s frozen food section!
Do you begin to understand, airboy? Is there yet a hint of a glimmer of an inkling of a notion that the world is not and should not be populated by people just like you – and that those people’s money is just as good as yours is, making their preferences at least as valuable as yours?
* I don’t remember where I saw it, but someone put together no-mask headshots of half a dozen Marvel superheroes. If not for the names underneath, you couldn’t tell them apart. Steve Rogers was one of ’em, I think Hank Pym was, but I forget the rest. That was kind of the point.
Chip Hitchcock on April 13, 2017 at 9:21 am said:
@JeffWarner: ISTM that the parking brake in my car does not engage when the car is moving (based on bitter experience with a rollaway). I suspect this is uncommon.
I would highly recommend that you have your professional mechanic check that out soonest, for all the reasons cited above and to avoid a repeat of your bitter experience.
[‘car geek’ box checked]
maybe we could do an experiment .. something like the ‘young people reading old science fiction’ idea …
maybe we could get a couple of volunteer readers from both sides of the argument to read some new fiction from which all the author/publisher/coverart information has been removed. Some fiction from diverse authors .. non-white, white, male, female, etc.
the works would obviously have to be unconnected to easily identifiable characters or existing series/universes. Not sure how easy that would be to find … but anyway let the volunteers read and then talk about box-checking or message sending or whatever. If done in good faith, I think it would be an interesting experiment.
“The File Ilk”
Probably quite easy to do with magazine short fiction, just strip the author name and copy it into a generic format. The only problem is that it’s not clear what airboy means by box checking (other than “that stuff we read that he thinks we shouldn’t”) and what he thinks the effect is (other than non-specifically bad). Without a clear hypothesis to test then it would be pointless.
IIRC the Best American SF anthology from John Joseph Adams has the guest editor read the longlist blind, so when the ToC chosen by Joe Hill is announced we’ll be able to see how well all that box checking stuff does.
I’m so File hardcore that eggs break when they see me.
I think characters matter more than authors. Stories where the protagonist is from a recognizable minority and that offer an insight into the experience of being such a minority. These have to be stories set in the present or the near-future, though. If someone on a space colony 1,000 years from now is still experiencing racism, sexism, and homophobia, that’s a pretty depressing view of the future.
Someone earlier opined that anyone who says they don’t pay attention to gender is someone who only reads white men. I’m someone who claims to read without paying attention to race, gender, etc., so let’s look on my Kindle at the last 20 novels I finished: F F M M M F F F F F M M M M F F F M F M. Out of 20 novels, 11 had female authors and 9 had male authors.
I think box checking is only a problem if someone is using it to promote stories that he/she doesn’t really believe are all that good. When I review stories, I check lots of boxes. “Does it have a plot?” “Is the plot resolved?” “Is the dialog natural” “Is the narration unobtrusive?” “Can I tell the characters apart?” etc. These are all things that I firmly believe have a direct bearing on whether a story is good or not, and I doubt anyone seriously objects to them.
If I say “I loved this story because the protagonist was a gay man dealing with real issues I’ve dealt with too,” then I’m biased, but at least I’ve stated my bias honestly, and I really did love the story. I think that’s really okay too.
What’s not okay is to say “this book deserves an award because the author is conservative/liberal/lesbian/Christian/Pastafarian.” One should praise stories for their content and for the effect they had on you the reader. Praising them for the qualities of their authors is always suspect.
I rarely comment here, but just from reading this one thread, I already know that when I see Airboy’s comments I can just scroll past. Bored now.
Arifel: Re “what makes it beloved in certain circles” (and not getting into the Celtic fantasy debate, which I need to think more about):
1. Issues of class and privilege dealt with honestly by flawed characters on both sides of the divide (all of whom commit major FAILs on occasion), at a good YA level (which means not getting too far into the weeds);
2. a household of real, imperfect, magical women;
3. a character trying to avoid fulfilling another’s death-geas, despite continual temptation to do so;
4. a character who’s a supernatural being, and totally honest about who and what he is from the very beginning—but no one notices; and
5. a bisexual character who is depicted as loving both the people he’s in relationships with quite well (that is, no erasure, no stereotyping, etc.).
Anyway that’s what grabbed ME about it.
I guess I just assume that if something is Celtic Fantasy, Celtic magic/gods/ley lines/etc. work throughout the world. Never really occurred to me as a cultural erasure, which of course it is.
Mark: My comment on learning about the nominee pins was that the message is “OK, look, from now on we’ll only tell you we hate you in SMALL PRINT. Isn’t that a great compromise?”
I forgot one:
6. An abused kid successfully leaving the abusive home, and not letting the co-abusive parent completely off the hook. Some identity “box-checking” for ME, hey.
One of the most useful types of reviews for me go: I loved this book because I really identified with character X for reason Y. (Or: I loved this book because I really like story element Z)
Essentially, if you tell me what about you made you love something, I have a better chance of guessing whether that will work for me or not, and that’s the point of a review.
Also, this is why a critique of a book which gets into the weeds of the politics it represents or the state of the genre isn’t very useful to me as a review. It can still be an interesting and worthwhile discussion, but it’s primarily addressing the author rather than the potential reader, and that’s not a helpful review for me.
re: box-checking … I think there is a good discussion to be had about this and I’m glad to see several of us attempting to have one. I think the piling on Airboy has been a little extreme, but hey he/she knows what they’re getting by posting contrary or unpopular opinions here. I was curious so I went and checked MY reading for the year … out of 25 novels read the breakdown is 14 female authors and 11 male authors. I have no idea about anything else about them i.e. sexuality color etc although I suspect that most if not all are white and straight. That wasn’t intentional … just happened to be what came across my reading plate that I ate.
re: characters more important than author … well yeah that’s as it should be (although as I’ve noted before the author is not always easy to ignore i.e. Correia, Wright, Scalzi). For me, a good character isn’t someone I can necessarily identify with so far as gender/race/religion/sexuality but rather one that acts and thinks in a way that I could see myself acting and thinking. Thus Johnnie Rico’s ethnicity made no impression at all on me as a teenager but rather the portrayal of his socially awkward, somewhat lazy approach to life, etc etc was what I identified with. But when I attempted to read the Dragon Award winning Somewhither by our favorite critic … I bounced right out of the story as soon as the protagonist starting getting religion lectures from his father (which was pretty damn early, and so far as I could tell it never stopped .. the lectures weren’t always from his father, but they were always there). Nope I said to myself … been there done that and am not any more interested now than I was then. I suspect that had I no knowledge of the author at all that my reaction would have been the same …
well anyway .. kind of a rambling add on to the discussion …
Thanks explaining what you like about the October Daye books! It’s actually very helpful.
I’m looking at them in the context of the Best Series Hugo Award, and for me that means the #1 metric is world-building. For an urban fantasy, that means it’s about the city: its history, diversity, setting, strengths, weaknesses. Rivers of London is pretty much exactly what I’d want urban fantasy world-building to be: it’s about London and magic, how the magic weaves into and through the city we know.
Especially for works, like October Daye or Rivers of London, that reference the noir-detective genre. It’s not “down any old streets, could be anywhere”, it’s “down *these* mean streets in particular”. More people than you can know, more stories than you can know, in a palpably distinct city that is itself one of the characters.
The San Francisco of October Daye, so far, is just a setting, and not a particularly detailed one. I’ve just started reading “Breath of Earth” by Beth Cato, which isn’t noir-detective but where alternate-history San Francisco really is almost a character more than a setting. Cato’s writing isn’t as smooth as Seanan’s, and I’m not really sure about the characterization yet, but the world-building is just what w-b ought to be. And I’m only about 1/3 of the way through!
So, I can see that what you (and I’ll bet many others) like about the series is the characters, above all. Some days I want books that are character-first, too, and I’ll keep the OD series in mind for that. But my personal Hugo-Series rubric says “world-building first”, where it definitely comes behind both Rivers of London and the Craft Sequence. I can see how RoL doesn’t give nearly the same level of character-satisfaction as OD, but that’s not how my rubric is constructed.
Your mileage is pretty much certain to vary.
@Doctor Science: that approach seems a little … old-fashioned. “Characters can be cardboard as long as the tech is pretty” was a common principle of SF into the 1960’s, but I don’t miss it; stories today — especially stories with the word-count elbow-room needed to be eligible for Best Series — should have several axes. More specifically (and less YMMVly), OD is not simply UF; Daye is a knight of Faerie, and most of her work is in the parts of Faerie that lie beside the greater Bay Area (not just San Francisco proper), and she does build this world out over the series. Given the Celtic derivation, we shouldn’t be surprised that the court to which she owes allegiance is in Muir Woods, or that other powers live in more natural settings than the “mean streets”. (On which mileage also varies — to me, a lot of noir is not particularly city-specific; you could change the names of a few features to set it in a different city without much affecting the story.)
I’m fairly certain Xopher Halftongue’s post was about the Raven Cycle rather than October Daye, as that’s what I was referring to in that part of my post.
Xopher, thanks for the commentary and sorry if my comment unintentionally came across as judgemental towards the series’ many fans – it wasn’t intended as an “ugh WHY would people read THIS”, just an expression of confusion over personally bouncing off it when I expected to enjoy it more. I don’t think this series is for me, but I totally back all the points above as great reasons for others to enjoy the books and I’m glad they make so many people happy 🙂
Clif: the “unpopular or contrary opinion” in question here boils down to “wow, you Filers sure are lying fools for engaging in this very specific and totally inexplicable behaviour that I have decided you do”. How very strange and surprising that this might have provoked a general negative reaction from the community…!
Two years since the last one came out in paperback isn’t that long. He’s done 15 in 15 years, though.
@rcade: “Two years since the last [Dresden Files novel] came out in paperback”
That means it’s three years since it hit shelves as a hardback and ebook, which makes my point even clearer. If reading UF written by women or starring women is “box-checking,” and there’s a relative dearth of it coming from Approved Male Authors, what am I supposed to do? Does airboy expect me to prefer going without over picking up a cracking good series written by (gasp) a girl? Or maybe that’s okay, as long as I keep quiet and don’t tell anyone I liked it?
Granted, I am a couple of installments behind in my Simon R. Green and Charles Stross UF reading (monetary delays), but those still don’t scratch the same itch that McGuire does. I mean, they don’t have Aeslin mice, for starters…
Airboy made the fair point that if we criticize the puppies for saying “read this–the author is a conservative!” then we shouldn’t be saying “read this–the author is a woman/gay man/black person/whatever.” If the one is wrong, then the other is also wrong.
I think we do a lot better when we make thoughtful posts that point out that the puppies said “nominate this–don’t bother to read it” whereas people supporting diversity tend to make posts of the form “this is a great story, and I especially liked that I could support/identify with a woman/gay/black author” and that those are very different things. When we make vicious personal attacks on people, it just convinces them that their original argument must have been correct, given that we couldn’t think of a way to respond to it.
I suspect there probably are a few people who really do believe that we ought to vote for stories on the basis of the authors’ identities and regardless of the content of the stories. I would agree that those people aren’t materially different from the puppies, except that (again) only the puppies tried to rig the Hugo awards. And those people (whoever they are) definitely don’t represent fandom as a whole.
How can it be a fair point when no one has said that?
As someone right now writing a story set in San Francidco, let me waltz into the minefield.
What I heard about October Day’s “Celtic Uber Alles” setting for San Francisco saddened me, not only because of the erasure, but also because if the lost possibilities. Speaking totally from worldbuilding perspective, I can see successive waves of supernatural beings washing up in the Bay Area, following their humans: Native Americans, Spanish, Northern European, African, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, and so on. All interacting in a really compact urban area. Hell, you can easily walk from Japan Town to the heart of the financial district. There’s so much history and cultural interaction in a small area that can be tapped for stories.
The minefield of course is that it takes a lot of research, and sensitivity, and more research in order to do things well. And vetting from people of the described PoC cultures. AND a willingness to say “I fucked up, I need to start over.”
Is a lot easier to just open your book of European faerie legends and go from that. I confess that having progress from near-total ignorance of the occult to interacting with a San Francisco back ed supernatural world is a daunting task to me. And I even live in the area.
except that’s not what he wrote. That’s you ascribing motives to what he actually said. Doing that and then yelling about puppies doing the same thing fits the definition of hypocrisy … but piling on sure does feel good.
There have been any number of comments and opinions that I have NOT shared here … mainly cause I just don’t have the patience to fight about it nor the willingness to poison a place that I like.
Make of that what you will.
I am an unrepentant box checker. What can I do? I can’t help it. I want to be notified of follow-up comments by email!
@ Kip W
Thanks for adding another “follow post” variant to my arsenal! I’ve been stuck back on [godstalk] for a while….
Correct. I hadn’t heard of October Daye before Doctor Science’s post replying to mine.
I totally understand bouncing off something other people like. I read one China Miéville book and decided he wasn’t for me; likewise one episode of Game of Thrones was more than enough for me. But those are self-care issues for me; I bounced off Piers Anthony because he’s blatantly racist and off the Thomas Covenant series because a) the main character is a rapist and b) the writing is utter garbage.
I’m afraid I took you too literally when you said you couldn’t see what made the Raven Boys popular. I can see why people like Game of Thrones, even though I don’t. And also there’s that whole Liking Problematic Things thing.
And I agree wholeheartedly about the distinction between a person defending an unpopular position and a noxious troll. Well put.
It’s fine, as long as nobody wrote the books on purpose, and nobody celebrates them once they exist.
They were all the same drawing, as I recall. By John Byrne. Hawkeye was a third, and I forget the fourth. Johnny Storm?
Who’s been saying that?
I’ve seen people saying “I’m glad to see more women/gay men/black people/whatever in the nomination lists,” but they’re not adding, “regardless of content” or “we must all read these for this reason alone.”
People glad to see that the playing field is growing wider and somewhat more level are not saying that quality is irrelevant — that’s a lie inherent in the Puppy pretense that women and minorities are inherently unqualified for the awards, so any victories are the result of conspiracy. Let’s not buy into the lie.
It’s a paraphrase, but it’s not inaccurate. Every clause of that is rooted in him saying much the same thing in different words. And none of the paraphrase ascribes him motives.
[Starts Marlene Deitrich impression]
Checking a box again
Always wanted to,
What am I to do?
Can’t help it.
I’ve seen people saying “I’m glad to see more women/gay men/black people/whatever in the nomination lists,” but they’re not adding, “regardless of content” or “we must all read these for this reason alone.”
K. Tempest Bradford’s challenge to not read works written by straight white guys is awfully close, if only by omission.
“I Was a Teenage Box Checker.” A horror story coming soon to a theatre near you! 😉 Starring Boris Karloff (ObSWM) and Rita Moreno (ObFPoC).
The only box I want checked is SFF (well, except for Another Genre I read on occasion, which sometimes is also SFF). I imagine most folks here, at least sometimes, would like that box checked. What’s that, it’s not box checking? It’s just a preference or appreciation for a certain type of fiction? Ah, then none of it’s freaking box checking, is it.
No, it’s not. Remember, it says:
“My challenge to you is to explore amazing books by amazing authors you might not know about.”
Not “any books, no matter whether they’re good or bad.” She’s challenging people to leave their comfort zone temporarily and look for good stuff they’ll otherwise never see, not to disregard any other consideration but skin color and gender.
She goes on to point out ways to find these “amazing books” which include paying attention to reviews, reading jacket copy and sample chapters, getting recommendations from friends…
…strangely, all strategies that involve learning something about the content, not just demographic information about the author.
You are right, the challenge has two parts:
1. Read good books
2. by people who aren’t straight white guys
But the first part is inconsequential to the challenge — it is no challenge at all to read only good fiction (finding it may be difficult, but the reading isn’t). The actual challenging part is “don’t read books by straight white guys”. She is wanting people to read books by women, minorities, gays, because of the identity of the authors.
More specifically, she is wanting people to read books by women, minorities, gays, because they might otherwise overlook those books.
@Kurt Busiek: “King Bob”
Egads, I’ve been promoted! Does this oblige me to have a public falling-out with the Church and create a schism? 😀
No, it’s not.
It’s actually easier to find only books written by women than it is to find only good fiction, and the reading of good fiction can be challenging.
The charge being levied involves only ticking the box of gender (or ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc.). Her challenge does not encourage people to do that. It encourages people to look beyond the default and find “amazing” books by those beyond the default.
Reading shitty books doesn’t accomplish the goal of the challenge, not literally and not in spirit.
If you’d formulated your version as “find” rather than “read”, would you have been happier?
I’ll also add that if the closest example that can be found to people here saying that we should read [adjective] writers because of their adjective and regardless of quality…
…is something from 5 years ago that wasn’t said here (but was discussed here), and only fits the “regardless of quality” part if we specifically choose to ignore that part as somehow irrelevant…
…that kinda supports my argument that it’s not something being said here.
I will never understand why some people got (and continue to get) so insanely offended over Bradford suggesting it may be interesting to try reading marginalized authors we don’t normally consider. I do actually understand why, sort of, but I’m still baffled by the phenomenon.
I also have a hard time understanding readers who are only interested in reading rehashes of rehashes, and find sinister motives in those who search out new reading experiences. I enjoy reading formulaic books, as well. For instance, I still love discovering Culture-style novels/series, which at this point are no longer new or particularly interesting, but are definitely fun for me. But what’s so terrible about reading a variety of material?
I think I’ve largely said that I’m cool with them doing that as a thing in itself. My issues are with:
1. the confused persecution narrative that goes along with it (i.e. that somehow being a conservative, or being a man, or being white or being a Christian in the US is to be a member of an oppressed group).
2. the confused position they have around message fiction and keeping ‘politics’ out of fiction.
3. the confused position they have regarding what could be called affirmative action.
And somewhat separately:
4. I’ll obviously reserve the right to express my objections to political ideas I disagree with in whatever medium they are expressed.
Also, is this a fair description of their argument? Wasn’t it more “vote for/give awards to this author for being conservative or your being prejudiced, unlike when we say don’t give awards to icky women and minorities because if you do you’re giving them to people who don’t deserve them”?
Their argument seems to claim that the writers they champion are already popular, and therefore are being read. It’s just that they’re not getting recognized via awards.
If something Jerry Pournelle wrote made the Hugo shortlist, not via gaming the system, but because a whole bunch of Hugo nominators loved it, and, say, Larry Correia wrote “It’s nice to see a conservative white guy writing MilSF on the shortlist,” would Airboy object to Correia’s box-checking?
FWIW, I am not unhappy about (Mark) or insanely offended by (kathodus) Bradford’s challenge. If it works for her (or anyone else), good for them.
Does anyone here know if the Library Journal sf columnist Megan McArdle mentioned in (15) is the same person as the Bloomberg economics/political columnist Megan McArdle?
Lurkertype, thanks for remembering me, or more specifically, my cat! You commented on her before, too, for getting fifth. (You might also know me from Whatever; I don’t comment there that often, but I’ve been reading there for about eight years. Which is longer than I’ve had the tortie, come to think of it. She’s about seven.)
Bookworm, yeah, sometimes there’s an odd bit of disconnect when I’m reading discussion of things that hadn’t happened yet but have happened since then. It’s odder when I have to skip a few months and find that some person’s status has changed in some way, usually via showing a winceworthy part of their personality.
Peripheral (very peripheral) to the box-checking thing I have to confess that for many years I had the idea that Stephen King was black, and it’s only been in recent years that I’ve figured out that he’s not. I’ve never read anything by him, though. I wonder if I mixed him up with someone else.
I shall endeavor to be a just and fair leader, at least until I bomb Mar-a-lago.
‘Airboy made the fair point that if we criticize the puppies for saying “read this–the author is a conservative!” then we shouldn’t be saying “read this–the author is a woman/gay man/black person/whatever.”’
File770 has always been entirely open to recommendations of books based on pretty much any criteria at all and they have definitely explored recommendations for books by conservative authors on more than one occasion.
Getting in an early bid to be your treacherous prime minister. Sure, I’ll plot against the throne, but only in the best of faux English accents. Hollywood has taught us all the BEST villains talk Brit and the plebs do need their meta-textual cues. I’m thinking something in the way of a Van Dyke-ian cockney. Chips, chips, Cheerios, eh wot, mi Lord?
Hmm. I don’t know; how are you at deceptive toadying?
Oh, your majesty! The sheer BRILLIANCE of that question illumines the thread like a nuclear flash, at the bottom of a deep well, on a clouded midnight… But, let us tarry here a bit and admire your magnificent mind while the after images of this glorious inquisition fades slowly from our eyes…
(AUDIENCE ASIDE: Aye, and if ‘His Majesty’ were half again as sharp we’d have an implement to butter our bread withal, wouldn’t we. They didn’t call me three toady up sloth for nothing in villain school…)