(1) MORE ABOUT WISCON’S KILLABLE BODIES PANEL. One of the program participants, Nicasio Reed, put up “a quick mid-WisCon post”. This excerpt is about half of it.
So this morning I was on a 10AM panel at WisCon 42, and it was called The Desire for Killable Bodies in SFF. I’d been very much looking forward to the discussion, even though we’d had little pre-panel discussion about it. It’s a topic that deeply interests me, and that I strive to think deeply about while consuming and creating narratives and characters. The panel was staffed by myself, one other panelist, and a moderator. I was familiar with Molly Aplet, our moderator, who very appropriately made the call to act also a third panelist, because there were just the three of us. Lisa Freitag, my fellow panelist, I knew from one email before the start of the convention, and from a brief conversation in the Dealer’s Room on the Saturday before the panel, when we chatted about texts to bring up. My biggest fear before the panel started was not getting to bring up all the things I wanted to talk about, or not having intelligent responses to the inevitably brilliant audience questions.
Turns out I should be more creative with my fears! As was reported live via Twitter, and then on the WisCon blog, Lisa repeatedly made statements that expressed a desire to sympathize with both individual Nazis (in this context we would be talking about, I believe, Third Reich-era Nazis), and later also individual Confederate soldiers. That this happened once was confusing, surprising, and alarming. That this happened multiple times as the panel went on was flabbergasting, frightening, and finally just damaging.
A lot of people have checked in on me since the panel, making sure I was doing okay, and I appreciate all of you so much. However, I was absolutely not the most affected by what she said, and what she brought into that room. Most saliently, I’m not Jewish. I want to apologize to everyone who was there who was justly rattled, afraid, saddened, or made to feel unsafe. While I gathered myself enough to push back ideologically while on the panel, I didn’t take the step of directly turning to Lisa and saying, in however many words, “That was a fucked up thing to say, and it’s not okay.” The person who did eventually do that was an audience member, who I won’t name here without their permission. (Panelist and moderator names are, of course, public knowledge.) The onus for directly confronting those statements should absolutely not have fallen on the audience, particularly on those most directly and historically affected by the views expressed. That was my failure, and I am extremely sorry for it. So, again, to everyone in the audience who helped to push back, I’m sorry, and thank you….
The blogger Coffeeandink attended the panel and wrote a post detailing some of the discussion.
I don’t feel comfortable naming the panelist, though I wouldn’t say it was wrong to do so, either, and I do link to a post that names them. For this post, though, I’m just going to call them X.
I’m willing to answer questions about what happened. I am not willing to discuss the punishment or the con’s reaction with people who are not targeted by Nazis. If you are not Jewish, Roma, queer, disabled, or nonwhite/a person of color, please have that discussion elsewhere.
- The discussion was focused on Nazis in Third Reich.
- X did not express support for Nazi or Confederate ideology. What they did, repeatedly, was express sympathy for Nazi individuals and stress the need to “humanize” Nazis. They mentioned Confederates in support of this, appearing to think that saying that every soldier on both sides was “some mother’s son” was a convincing argument for extending compassion to Nazis. They argued that some Nazis were “good people”.
- According to Wiscon’s post, X “appeared to posit that disabled or injured people sometimes ‘have to be sacrificed'”, but I was pretty distracted at the point when that came up and can’t confirm it.
- The panel description focused on SFF “killable bodies” that are stand-ins for marginalized people, so I was not expecting the subject of Nazis as killable bodies rather than as killers to come up. It’s not innately problematic for a panel discussion to have a larger scope than its description, but I think a lot of people had this expectation and that it made the approach X took especially unexpected.
- Multiple audience members, multiple times, objected to what X was saying. At the end of the panel, one audience member said bluntly, “There’s a difference between understanding Nazis and sympathizing with them.”
- I remember the audience as being the ones who pushed back most assertively, but the moderator and panelist Nicasio Reed also argued with X after the audience broke the ice. I do not blame anyone for being too startled to respond firmly while in the room. I myself did not speak up.
- It’s important to recognize and acknowledge the humanity of people who do terrible things. However, when doing so, it is a moral imperative to center the victims of those terrible things. X centered the emotions and conflicts of the perpetrators–directly in the face of survivors or people who would have been targeted, who repeatedly pointed out that this is what X was doing. I do not believe X did spoke out of malice, but this is a topic that requires great care. If X has considered the topic with that care, it was not apparent during the panel….
(2) THE LAST OF LE GUIN. David Naimon on working with a legend at Literary Hub: “Ursula K. Le Guin, Editing to the End”.
Ursula’s final words to me, her final edits on the manuscript of our collected conversations, were in pencil. We had talked in one of these conversations about technology, about how, in her mind, she was unfairly labeled a Luddite. That some of the most perfect tools—a pestle, a kitchen knife—were in fact perfected technologies. I had just received the manuscript from her days before, and the pencil on it reminded me of the aura of in-the-world magic this whole endeavor, bringing a book into the world together, had assumed.
The manuscript had traveled in the world as an object, one carried by foot and passed hand to hand. Our publisher, Tin House, located literally in a house of tin on the corner of a leafy boulevard in Northwest Portland, was just down the hill from Ursula’s home. And by a remarkable twist of fate, as if sharing the same street were not enough, Ursula’s own granddaughter worked as an intern there. It was often her or the book’s editor Tony who would walk up the hill to deliver the pages, or walk up the hill to walk them back down again. …
She could have published most if not all of her books at one of the big five publishers in New York. She could’ve economized and maximized her time by only granting interviews to the likes of Terry Gross, Bill Moyers, and Charlie Rose. And yet she continued to choose small presses, and often ones distant from the hierarchy of the publishing powers in NYC, whether an anarchist press from San Francisco or a feminist science fiction press from Seattle. Similarly, she never said no to her hometown community radio, KBOO, a station that is not Portland’s NPR affiliate, but whose mission statement is to give voice to the voiceless, with shows like Rose City Native Radio, Transpositive PDX, and Black Book Talk. By conventional metrics, KBOO is a small station, both in reach and listenership, and yet you wouldn’t get that impression when Ursula speaks of it…
(3) CALLING ALL HOLLYWOOD ACCOUNTANTS. We Got This Covered puts its flopologist to work: “Disney Responds To Solo: A Star Wars Story Flopping At The Box Office”.
Although the full four-day estimate won’t be released until later today, it’s probably safe to say that the Anthology pic won’t be gunning for the Memorial Day holiday weekend record anymore. As you’ve surely heard, the Ron Howard-directed space western hauled in $83.3 million in its opening weekend and will finish off Monday with about $110 million, nowhere even remotely near the current record holder, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End ($140M).
In a year that’s seen three releases enter the domestic top thirty for all-time opening weekends, Deadpool 2 ($125M), Black Panther ($202M) and Avengers: Infinity War ($257M), the box office failure of Solo: A Stars Wars Story is only amplified that much more.
(4) DANCING IN AND AROUND THE MAY POOL: At Featured Futures, Jason has compiled another month of choice reading to dip into with “Summation: May 2018”.
This month’s baker’s dozen of noted stories (four recommended) comes from the pool of ninety (of 440 Kwds) published between April 30 and May 28. The print zines were individually strongest with Analog and F&SF each contributing multiple tales but the web combined to contribute seven.
While not applicable to the monthly recommendations, I did review a collection this month which had eight reprints (three recommended) that I especially liked.
(5) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY REDWOMBAT
- Born May 28, 1977 – Ursula Vernon
(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY SPOOK
- Born May 28, 1908 – Ian Fleming. Happy Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!
(7) COMICS SECTION.
- Mike Kennedy says Over the Hedge explains Westworld.
(8) WORD TO THE WIS(E)CON. I wish I could transplant this axiom to the comment section here. Beware the free-floating harshers of squee.
God. I can’t believe it has to be said, but don’t pop into threads where someone is obviously happy to make them feel like garbage because you have a bone to pick with an organization. Read the damn room.
— Renay (@renay) May 28, 2018
(9) HARDLY A MARVEL. Nicholas Whyte chimes in with his preferences for “The 2018 Hugo finalists for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form”. Landing well below No Award is —
7) Thor: Ragnarok
This is the fourth Marvel Universe film I have seen, but only the third in chronological order – the others were the first Iron Man, which didn’t impress me much, and nor did Captain America: The First Avenger, which I also ranked below No Award. On the other hand there is also Black Panther, made after Thor: Ragnarok but which I saw earlier this year, and loved. I’m afraid Thor: Ragnarok is back to the usual form for me. Not being terribly invested in the characters of the Marvel Universe, let alone the Thor storyline, I could see that the whole thing was trying to be funny but it wasn’t really my fandom. At least Jeff Goldblum was treating it with the approriate level of seriousness. I am sure it will do better than seventh place in the overall vote.
(10) DINING (WAY) OUT. NPR reports “Great White Sharks Have A Secret ‘Cafe,’ And They Led Scientists Right To It”.
“We expected it to be the desert that the textbooks sort of advertised it would be,” said Bruce Robison, a senior scientist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute.
But this was no desert.
A layer of nutrient-rich plant life exists deeper under the ocean than satellites could detect. Tiny creatures feed on it, and larger creatures feed on them. And up and up. It represents “a complete food chain, a ladder of consumption, that made us believe that there was an adequate food supply out here for big animals like tunas and the sharks,” Robison said.
(11) LET’S ALL TWEET LIKE THE ROBOTS DO. Too sensitive: “Bulgarians tweeting in Cyrillic confused for Russian bots”. Twitter has several criteria, ANY of which can cause a tweet or account to be suppressed; using Cyrillic is one of them, despite it being used in 11 countries beside Russia.
Speaking at a United States Senate Committee inquiry into extremist content and Russian disinformation online, Twitter’s acting general counsel Sean Edgett shed some light on why this might be happening.
He said in October 2017 that Twitter’s tools “do not attempt to differentiate between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ automation,” when looking for Russian-linked accounts.
“They rely on objective, measurable signals, such as the timing of tweets and engagements to classify a given action as automated.”
What can qualify as a Russian-linked Twitter account?
- Created in Russia
- Registered with a Russian phone carrier or email address
- User’s display name contains Cyrillic characters
- Tweets are frequently in the Russian language
- Logged in to Twitter via a Russian IP address even once
“We considered an account to be Russian-linked if it had even one of the relevant criteria,” said Mr Edgett.
(12) DINO DANDER. Might be evidence of the first step towards birds: “Dinosaur dandruff reveals first evidence of skin shedding”
An analysis of fossilised dandruff fragments has given scientists their first evidence of how dinosaurs and early birds shed their skin.
Found among the plumage of these ancient creatures, the 125-million-year-old flakes are almost identical to those found in modern birds.
It shows that these dinosaurs shed their skins in small pieces, and not all at once like many modern reptiles.
It’s more evidence that early birds had limited flying skills, the authors say.
(13) FUN FOR ALL. Here’s video of the Anime North 2018 religious protesters. (There’s several posts about them in Reddit’s Anime North thread.)
These guys show up every year. The congoers also do this every year [play songs on a loudspeaker].
[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Brian Z., Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]