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Doing a quick status post. I am more or less recovered from the fatigue of the con and travel and sleep loss and all that, but I am going to be spending at least one day as close to completely off my feet as possible.

Due to a footwear malfunction that left me wearing my dress shoes for more than 50% of the con and the entire trip home, I have not just blisters on both of my ankles but some stressed tendons and pain in my calves from standing/walking/limping weird to try to alleviate the initial pain. Adrenaline covers a multitude of sins, so it was only on my way home that I began to realize how badly messed up my feet were.

I thought yesterday that just walking around without shoes would be sufficient for recovery, but it seems like I could really do with putting my feet up for a bit.

 

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write.

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I just had a brief twitter exchange with Kurt Busiek that started because I saw him tweet something and I randomly remembered that he had been at WorldCon and on my “hope to meet” list. I’ve been a fan of Kurt Busiek’s work for as long as I’ve been aware of it, entirely thanks to my older brother Max and his interest in Astro City. I can’t say I’m a wild fanatical fan. I don’t own any Astro City comics. I can’t remember a lot of the character’s names. I mostly think of issues in terms of the characters and events that they’re an analog for, like the one that was people on folding chairs on the roof of the apartment building watching the fight with !Galactus in the distance. The one about the shark in the subway and the reporter is harder to high concept, but it’s one that’s stuck with me. I mean, I don’t actually remember much of the sequence of events in the story at the heart of the story. But the process of the reporter trying to report on it, and the conclusion… it’s just such a great tale.

Anyway, my exchange involved me replying to his tweet about the party saying that I wished I could have stayed later myself and maybe met him (we had an early flight the next day; I did not seriously rate my chances of getting into any exclusive parties on Saturday night very highly back when I booked the hotel and the flights, so did not think it would be worth the added expense of staying through Sunday).

And while I’m sincere about this—I had wanted to meet him, and would like a chance to in the future—I’m not exactly kicking myself over it, nor had I been craning my neck around the crowd to spot him.

There are always moments when I’m at a con and I’m wishing I were a smoother operator, socially. There are moments when I feel like I should be out there, meeting people, making connections. They rarely last long and they even more rarely go anywhere. But I do meet people at cons, people who do all manner of interesting things (whether they realize how interesting they are or not). Some of them are a kind of a big deal. Some of them will be. They’re all a big deal to me, though.

Some people think that if they can just make the right personal connection with the right person at the right time, it will change their life. They’ll be invited to some project, they’ll find a powerful patron, I don’t know. Things will happen.

The fact is that I have made connections at cons that have changed my life, but mostly they’ve changed my life by giving me this connection. I’ll sit down at a table with someone by chance because there’s an open seat and we’ll start talking and now we’re friends. I’ll see someone who looks like they need someone to talk to and they do and now we’re friends. I’ll be introduced to someone because we’re all going to lunch at the same time and now we’re friends.

And sometimes being friends with someone means that I do, indeed, have an opportunity that I might not otherwise, but more often it’s the opportunity to see something a bit before everyone else does or the opportunity to make a new friend than anything else.

At WorldCon, I was very pleased to very briefly meet Larry Niven (less pleased that it happened when I wasn’t wearing my glasses; I might have seen him a hundred times after that and never known it). I was very pleased to have met George R.R. Martin. My first meeting with John Scalzi (at this year’s WisCon) was pretty much the both of us hurriedly apologizing as we frantically raced down a hallway in opposite directions, me to meet a friend and him to find a facility of a particular sort.

But you know what? I’m really, really, extremely pleased that Jack and I had dinner with S. Qiouyi Lu after a quick Twitter confab when neither of us had plans one evening. We’d been on some panels together before, and while that was really the extent of our previous in-person interactions, S. is the kind of person you just immediately want to get to know better.

I’m really, really pleased that when all the con suite tables were occupied, we picked one that was mostly empty and wound up sitting next to M., a person who I later learned already followed me on the social mediums and with whom we became instant friends. Sitting there was easily the best decision we made all con. We kept bumping into each other throughout the weekend, in part I think because we all like finding quiet, out of the way places to sit. But M. is hilarious (“the ones who walk away from omelets”) and an endless font of interesting information, and best of all, is currently planning to come to WisCon next May.

I’m super pleased to have finally attended a con with Rose Lemberg and Bogi Takács, to have finally met these people I have long considered friends in person, to attend their events and cheer them on.

I was over the moon to get to see Mary Anne Mohanraj, my friend and sometimes fan, up on stage with George R.R. Martin, roleplaying the part of er freaking Wild Cards character. I mean, the whole stage was packed with authors, many of them giants and I’m including Mary Anne in that number, but she is my friend, and this didn’t make it exciting because I’m friends with someone who hangs out and writes in a shared universe with all these other genre literary celebrities, it’s exciting because my friend gets to do this amazing thing.

I’m glad to have met my new friend Hampus Eckerman, who gave me a tiny bottle of aquavit and another friendly face to look forward to if we make it to WorldCon 75 in Finland.

My very good friend Crystal Huff, being one of the co-chairs of that con… well, I’m not going to say she hasn’t ever helped open a door for me, or that I’ve never tried to do the same. And she’s certainly very good about making sure we know where to get the Finland freebies. But mainly what she does for us is she’s happy to see us, and we’re happy to see her. That’s friendship.

Sumana Harihareswara is someone I think of as my oldest con friend, though I don’t know what the precise definition I’m using for that. But I called her my “fairy conmother” to someone this weekend, in order to explain our relationship. She seems to make connections the way most people make carbon dioxide, and we don’t often spend as much time hanging out as I would like. We certainly didn’t this year (I had a pretty debilitating injury that kept me tethered in one place for much of the end of the con, though I appreciated her updates on where she was hanging out), though we certainly did spend more time together than we have in years.

This is how you do a con right: you make friends. You be with your friends. You keep yourself open to friendship. I know a lot of people reading this are probably feeling like I’ve just pronounced them doomed to never do a con right. I know. It’s not easy making friends, especially when it seems like everybody else around you already is friends.

But honestly: a lot of them feel the same way. And will be thrilled to have somebody to talk to about it if you’re the one who admits it. One of the best tips I can give you for making friends at a con is: be a friend. Offer friendship to people. And be willing to accept it in return.

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write.

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…was very brief, though so was the second. But the time that I was certain would be the point at which I came physically closest to the man was during one of his scheduled signings (the first of seven, in fact), when I placed a slightly worn copy of Card Sharks, upside down to me and opened to the title page in front of him.

He looked at it in what I interpreted as mild confusion turning to what I interpreted as mild surprise and delight. “Oh, Card Sharks!” he muttered, then signed his autograph over where his name appeared as the editor for the volume. I had thought about bringing one of the books in the series to which he contributed a story, but the New Cycle has personal significance to me as it was my introduction to the series and his work, and given the limit of one book per person per scheduled event, that’s what I went with.

I had looked around to see if I could spot any other Wild Cards fans in the room, but had only spotted epic fantasy tomes. I know there was a separate Wild Cards mass signing for the new book, but I was a little surprised that no one around me had brought any of them. I wouldn’t swear I was the only person in the room with one, but I was definitely one of a small number.

I suspect there may have been some mild grumbling about how the event was run, but I have to say, I was impressed and pleased. At all points during the program, wranglers were on hand to communicate clearly what was expected of us and what was allowed of us. As someone who frequently worries that I’m being too familiar or taking too many liberties, being told things like yes, we can take pictures with George in them, but don’t stop the line to try to pose one is great. Armed with explicit permission, Jack and I each got a very nice, spontaneous-looking, completely candid picture of the other interacting with the author. The event runner also quietly encouraged us in the line to, you know, say a few words to Mr. Martin like he’s a human being, which helped me find my voice to thank him.

I think it’s very much a case of “not their first rodeo” mixed with a need to get as many human beings through a line as efficiently as possible, but it all went very smoothly. The best part aside from the clear messaging was that we didn’t even really have to stand in line much. The “line” was the rows of chairs in the event hall; we lined up a bit before it began to make sure we got a good place, and we stood up with our row when the row ahead of us was through, but most of the time spent waiting was seated.

Oh, and let me take this moment to say that the chairs provided by the convention center were worlds better than the banquet hall style chairs we get at WisCon. If you say a word against the Madison Concourse Hotel and Governors Club in my hearing, I may ask you to step outside, but just between you and me, the seating at panels could be better. They’re a bit too narrow, a bit too straight. The ones at the convention center in Kansas City were still obviously the sort of chair you buy by the hundreds or thousands, but they were a nice quality modern example of such chairs.

The chairs were enough of a “casual accessibility” accommodation for us with our levels of physical disability, which I suspect means a lot of people who would otherwise have had to ask for accommodation could just show up. There were visibly accommodations being made for people with limited mobility or more support requirements; I can’t speak to their efficacy. This is a statement of neutral ignorance, not a judgment. I really don’t know. They seemed to work, though.

I heard a few questions about the set-up from people around me, a few mild complaints, but I have to say in terms of getting everybody who shows up an autograph, the arrangement could not be beat. Sure, it would be nice if we could all have a more organic interaction with the author, but how many people can you do that with in an hour? Everybody wants to sit down and talk with him for a good ten, fifteen minutes about their theory that Hot Pie is the prince that was promised, but no one would put up with the set-up that allowed it, least of all the man himself.

He donated seven hours of his time (and it is a donation) to the convention to give as many fans as possible a fleeting interaction and a keepsake that can last a lifetime and longer. The set-up lets the most people get the most out of it.

Every convention I go to, I wind up having incredibly deep, meaningful, and long-lasting conversations with authors at every level of their career. I lost track of how many Hugo winners I’ve shared a lunch or dinner with. I can think of several who won this year alone. You can do it. It can be done. But you can’t get that on demand. You can’t manufacture it. Attempts to force or finagle or finesse encounters are likely to blow up very badly.

Anyway, that was my first interaction with George (“We’re seriously just calling him George now?” Jack asks me, but honestly, there comes a point past which “Mr. Martin” sounds like sucking up, even as “George” feels too familiar), though obviously not the most significant one. Still, it had its own significance. He didn’t talk much at the signing, but by that token, everything he said was very conversational, even if most of it was quiet and too himself.

I have long been aware, or at least suspected, that most authors are human beings. I know too many of them to doubt this. Even J.K. Rowling and Stephen King and George R.R. Martin are human beings. But there’s something that changes when you’ve heard the cadence of a person’s speech in its own rhythm, when you’ve heard their own peculiar personal accent.

I heard Rose Lemberg and Bogi Takács read aloud from their respective works for the first time at this convention, and even though I’ve been reading it for a couple years now, it deepened my appreciation. I will always read their works in their rhythms now. Mary Anne Mohanraj, who I have met many times and heard read many times, read aloud from a story I had read many times, but from which I had never heard her read. It changed it, too.

I still have not heard George reading his own work in his own voice. We are skittish, somewhat introverted creatures, Jack and I, and so we limited the number of big events with which we chose to tangle, focusing mainly instead on more intimate events headed by friends. The Wild Cards Deathmatch was basically what we spent our emotional budget on when it came to performances by George. Some of what he said there may have been prepared, but it was improvisational theater so a lot of it was spontaneous.

I will admit that I have been critical (more in the proper sense of analytical, though with a certain amount of urine-absconding) about some of the writing in his Song of Ice and Fire series. I probably will be in the future, too. But hearing him speak, listening to him ramble a bit on stage or talk to himself, provides a simple and oddly satisfying answer to a lot of my “why” questions, regarding the writing and syntax and sentence structure in A Game of Thrones and its sequels: it’s a book written by a human being.

And I feel kind of silly that I needed to meet him to get to this point, especially as I’m usually the first one to fend off prescriptivism and to argue against the idea that authors need to be mechanically perfect and following some predefined standard of language. Without meaning to, though, I had been putting Martin on another level, looking at his work as though it were not written by a man but some distant, unknowable force.

Suffice it to say, I don’t think I’m going to be able to look at his work the same way again. That’s not to say I won’t look at it. I’m actually probably going to re-read it. The Wild Cards Deathmatch event was pretty close to a GMed LARP session, which means I’ve now come that close to seeing Mr. Martin (okay, maybe I can’t keep calling him George) acting as a GM. His two signature serieses both have strong ties to roleplaying games. I think it would be interesting to revisit them with that lens in place, if nothing else.

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write.

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I was avoiding saying directly which hotel I was in before and to a large extent during the con because there have been issues, but Jack and I had a very nice time in the Westin at Crown Center. We had been booked into the aging but beautiful Hotel Phillips, which is apparently undergoing extensive renovations and had to shunt a certain number of its guests to another location.

We were little dismayed to be notified of this change a bare two weeks before the convention, particularly as this put us quite a bit farther away and we weren’t sure about the logistics of getting back and forth. Even more dismaying: we were CCed (not BCCed) on an email with the information with several other congoers. I consider this to be a breach of my privacy and security, especially as there have been issues with people and boundaries in the past.

All that said, we found reasons to be excited about the new hotel. It’s connected by a covered elevated walkway to Kansas City’s Union Station, a historical architectural jewel that serves as museum space and a shopping center. I had some fond memories of a little cafe in there that I hoped to revisit (and we did!). I’d also spent a long weekend in the hotel at the other end of Crown Center around my freshman year of college (either the summer before or the summer after, I don’t recall). In the event that the convention wound up being a bust (and I had some pessimistic moments in the week or so leading up to it), there would be plenty to occupy us without leaving the area around our hotel, including a neat aquarium.

As it happened, the convention wasn’t a bust and the Kansas City Streetcar was even more convenient than advertised. Except during the times of highest crowd density, it vastly outperformed the listed frequency, and at the peak on the weekends, it still mostly hit the mark. There were three operators we saw regularly. All were personable in their own ways. One of them regularly announced that all Pokemon caught on the streetcar were to be returned at the end of the trip. A couple of them would chat about the convention. One of them saw Jack’s pins on his badge holder and gave him a KC Streetcar souvenir pin. This same one also had previously heard of me.

And the Westin… the Westin really took care of us. I am not happy at all about how Hotel Phillips treated us, but I have no complaints about the Westin. It’s a beautiful hotel. They have an indoor waterfall with elaborate landscaping around it. The lobby is spacious and full of comfortable chairs and screens that I think must have also served as acoustic baffles because it never got that echoey loudness. The people were super polite and very apologetic even about the inconveniences they had not created. We even found some lovely extras waiting in our hotel room when we arrived.

At six in the morning of the day of our departure, I went downstairs because I had this nightmare scenario in my head wherein Phillips’ ball-dropping had extended to not including the con rate in their contract with Westin and I just wanted to make sure that we wouldn’t run into a snag when it was time to go. It happens that while I was on my way down, an automated email with our invoice was sent to me anyway. But Lynette on the desk did not mind answering my questions, and when I told her how grateful we were for everything, she asked me if I was going to be around long enough for breakfast and then gave me a voucher for a free buffet for the two of us.

With the Streetcar in operation, the only downside to the distance of the hotel is that it made it harder to do things like catch a nap in the afternoon without missing significant portions of the festivities, but I have to say, if MidAmeriCon 2 were to become a regular event and we were to regularly attend it, I think we would strongly consider the option of staying in the Westin if it were proffered, and we would recommend it to everybody who was looking for a quiet place to retreat to at the end of the evening, a place where the convention and the parties can be left behind.

Yes, if MAC2 continues to throw conventions in the same venue, I think they could do a lot worse than pursuing an ongoing relationship with the Westin and promoting it to their members as the “quiet hotel”.

We might have other reasons to visit Kansas City in the future (family, renfair), and when our budget can handle a real hotel, we’ll certainly be keeping it in mind.

 

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write.

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Often when I say critical things about Gamergate—or more particularly, about Gamergate’s roots and the conduct of the man who whipped up the initial harassment squad that became Gamergate’s core—I will get a gator in my mentions sidling up to say something like, “Oh, and of course you think that Zoë Quinn is a perfect darling little angel who could do no wrong.”

I don’t know what Zoë Quinn’s faults are, but I’m quite sure that she has them.

I’ve certainly never asked her for her side of the story told by her abusive ex, never bothered to see if she’s told it anywhere. It doesn’t interest me.

I’ve read his side, though, and even if I take everything presented as fact (i.e., just the events, not the editorial asides designed to whip up or channel abuse), the picture he paints of the character of Zoë Quinn as she exists in his story is just a relatively young, somewhat naïve woman who overpromised in a relationship that she wasn’t prepared for, someone who had these ideas and ideals about how things were supposed to be and who ultimately couldn’t live up to them.

The result, in his story, is a bad relationship that ended badly, and sheesh, could I feel him on that, if that were the story he’d wanted to tell.

But nothing in his post justifies his post, or the way he promoted it and the people he promoted it to. Nothing in his side of the story makes him look good, or even like a victim, only someone interested in portraying himself as one.

I was aware that Zoë might be present for at least part of WorldCon. I didn’t think it was likely I’d see her, or that it would be appropriate for a stranger or virtual stranger from the internet to get too invested in finding her, given her recent history, so I didn’t really put her on my “Would Like To Meet” list.

I was never that interested in her as an internet personality until very recently, when I wound up following a twitter handle she uses without initially realizing it was her. I think that was the turning point because it was the first time I was able to see her for herself, and not a character in a drama written by someone else. The ~*controversial figure*~ of Zoë Quinn was based on a real person, but I never assumed it had much to do with her.

The character in the original post is unflattering to say the least; the version of that character in the ongoing spin-off series created by Gamergate is a cartoonish caricature worthy of a political cartoon. The handle I followed on Twitter belonged to a person who said things that were interesting, clever, and funny, to varying degrees. We had some overlapping interests and some similar riffs on topics. I didn’t assume we’d have much in common beyond that.

But when I unexpectedly found myself at a party in a single crowded medium-sized where I knew she was likely to be, I found myself looking for her all the same. Simple human curiosity. The weird thing was I realized I had no idea what she looked like. I mean, that’s not that weird for me. I am not a strong visual thinker and I have medium to severe prosopagnosia. I check the license plate on my parents’ car before getting in because for much of my life, I was more likely to recognize it than them.

I think of people’s appearances in words. I store the words and use them to recreate a rubric for recognizing them in person. But I had no idea what Zoë Quinn looked like, even in words. All the words I found when I tried to call anything about her to mind were from the caricatures, from the stories people told. As it happened, they were no help in spotting her when she was physically present in the room.

Then someone who had bumped into her told me: she’s dressed as a unicorn. Well, not really like a unicorn, but unicorn-like. A unicorn themed aesthetic. Like a unicorn in human form who was still recognizably a unicorn, and also carrying several unicorn-themed accessories.

It was the shoes I spotted. If you’ve seen them, or heard of them, you’ll understand.

I will confess that in all my own human failings, I have wondered how much of the caricature is based on reality. Five seconds after I spotted the shoes, I was pretty sure the answer was 0.

First: she looked amazing.

I want to be clear here that the verb “to look” in the sentence “She looked amazing.” Is not being used as a mere passive linking verb describing her passive appearance. She did a look, and the look was amazing. She—Zoë Quinn—executed a look in an amazing fashion. That’s what I say when I mean she looked amazing.

Sometimes men who have been chastised for objectifying women and/or who aren’t fond of women getting affirmation from sources they cannot control try to draw a parallel between women complimenting each other on our looks (in an all-encompassing sense of aesthetics and fashion choices) and them commenting on our looks in the sense of “On a scale of 1 to 10…” It’s not the same thing. It’s not even close to the same thing, which I think is why my boyfriend Jack says things like “Congratulations on your life and your choices!” so often after complimenting someone, just to make sure they know where he’s falling.

But while you don’t have to be a woman to compliment a woman’s choices, there’s something magical that happens when women and femmes of all stripes compliment each other. It’s a wonderful thing that I really only discovered after I started going to cons and started getting over my shyness at them.

We spoke with each other for maybe a minute, mostly about looks. Our looks for the evening were very different. Hers was ethereal unicorn princess. Mine was… I’m not sure. Dangerous clown? I don’t know what vibe my looks put out, but I’m very particular about assembling them, particularly at cons. I’m not going for “Girl version of Kefka from Final Fantasy VI at a literary convention”, but I think I land somewhere near there. If I could put them into words, I probably wouldn’t need to use looks to get the point across. All I can say is that it’s been refined over the years, and I’m getting pretty good at it.

The main thing we talked about was each other’s hair. She told me how she had come to start coloring it, in quick and general terms, and how it now feels real, feels her, to do so. Making her outside match her inside, making her body represent itself, making it represent not just herself but her_self.

And we were actually on our way to the door when I spotted her, so we didn’t really dig into this, but I think I got it. And it provided an interesting contrast to the caricature that both of our overlapping groups of detractors and harassers have of us in general, the caricature that is the gendered form of “SJW”, the “Tumblrina”: always brightly colored hair, often fat and hideously ugly, brittle, angry, and alone.

This stereotype has as much to do with our actual lives as their caricature of “Social Justice” or “Radical Feminism” (they keep on saying those words; I don’t think they mean what they think they mean) has to do with anything we say or do. It’s not a shorthand they use to understand us, but to save them the trouble of needing to.

“Of course she has [colored] hair,” they say.

“Of course she’s on Patreon,” they say.

And of course I do have rainbow-colored hair and of course I do have a Patreon (Hint, hint.), as I’ve been crowdfunding my career since long before that was a word. But they don’t mean these things as bare, unadorned recitations of neutral facts. They’re invocations of the stereotype. They are reminders that we are not to be approached as human beings leading individual lives with distinct circumstances and personalities, but as a series of checkmarks next to a list of identifying features for target confirmation purposes.

Men even outside these alt-right, ultra-reactionary cliques make similar (if less pointed in their formulation) observations about women who sport pastel or neon or multicolored hair, and what it boils down to is something like this: she’s just doing it for attention, but jokes on her because it totally kills every man’s boner, but still a girl that desperate for attention will probably do anything…

If we complain about the attention, or tell a guy that we’re not doing it for them, we get a response along the lines of “Well, who are you doing it for?”

And the answer, as Zoë said, is for ourselves. Our. Selves. To be true to ourselves. It’s like wearing an outfit that suits us particularly well (and is often part and parcel of doing so), but a little more intimate, a little closer to the skin, metaphorically and in some respects literally. Hair color is a transitory and mutable characteristic, but so are clothes, and I think most people would agree that it’s possible to dress up like yourself and dress up not like yourself.

And the mutability of hair color, I think, matches the mutability of one’s self to a greater degree than more permanent body modifications or more fleeting changes, such as a change of clothes. A hair color might last days or weeks or months. It might change over time; mature, deepen. It might be touched up or altered. It might be allowed to grow out and fade.

Zoë’s hair isn’t much like my hair. I am not much like her. But we both looked at each other and were able to recognize that her hair was her and mine was me, which is to say, we were able to look at each other and admire each other, in this respect.

It was a fascinating exchange at the time, and one I wish we’d both had the time to delve into (we were leaving, as I’d said, and I suspect she had many more people to talk to, if not places to be, too), but in the course of sitting down and writing this post, working through what happened and what it meant to me, I’m finding myself working through so much more.

When I talked about the caricature of the Social Justice girl above, even the generalized one… well, that affects her more than it does me, as she’s a higher priority target for the people who make use of it as a rhetorical tool. I have been harassed by many of the same people, but mostly as a corollary to attacking someone with a higher level of unasked-for notoriety or someone with a higher degree of marginalization. My appearance and actions and beliefs (or the caricatured versions thereof) are used as an attack vector for people more important and more vulnerable than me.

But when I do come to the attention of the hate-hives, the way I get talked about… well, I’m not just a Social Justice girl, I’m a trans woman. I don’t just have brightly colored hair, I have rainbow hair. The last time I was told I was mentioned on a Gamergate forum, the comment on my appearance was “She looks exactly like you’d think she would look.”

At one point, someone made an animated gif meme using my face cropped from a profile pic and text representing the sort of thing that the person making the macro would imagine the character of me would say. It wasn’t something I’ve ever actually said. It doesn’t accurately represent my beliefs or behavior in the sort of discourse they were commenting on. But it’s not about me. It’s so not about me that people only two and three degrees of separation removed from me were sharing the image as a joke about “those Social Justice types who go to far”, honestly and earnestly believing that the person in the image was literally a caricature, not a real person.

When I found out about that, it freaked me out badly. I felt violated in a way that’s how to describe. I knew the reductive stereotyping the picture represented. I had even had it applied to me. But never so widely or so viscerally.
It affected me deeply. I reacted very badly. And I never really got over it, the knowledge that the picture is out there and being circulated.

But after talking to Zoë Quinn at the party, I found myself feeling better in a way that was hard to describe. I felt my spirits had lifted. I felt like I was suddenly less worried, though about what, I couldn’t say. It’s not like I’d gone around thinking about the picture all the time, or all the other pictures like it that might exist now or in the future. I wasn’t actually actively caring about it at the time, so it’s not like I could have noticed the moment I stopped caring, except in retrospect.

I didn’t—and don’t—believe that Zoë Quinn or anyone else is a precious perfect darling angel who can do no wrong. Nor do I believe that anyone can be.

And I’m certainly not the sort of person who seeks approval from certain people because they’ve been elevated to authority figures in my mind or that of society. I can get half a dozen earnest compliments on my hair in a day when I’m not at a con, and at a con it’s often non-stop. It gives me a little boost. Of course it does. And when I can return the compliment, about the other person’s hair or anything else, there’s this little moment of connection that makes it better.

It lifted a weight I hadn’t even noticed I was carrying. As I write this post, and think about the caricatures, and the way I’ve been caricatured, I realize: I’ve put the weight down. It doesn’t bother me anymore. Not at all, or at least not noticeably, not right now… it probably will flare up and twinge a bit in the future at odd intervals, but right now I’m thinking about it, thinking about how it felt, thinking about it cropping up on Facebook where I could see it, and this used to destroy me, and it doesn’t bother me.

That brief exchange with Zoë… it healed my soul. Honestly. That sounds hyperbolic, but that’s what it felt like.

Not because Zoë Quinn has magical powers or Zoë Quinn is perfect or Zoë Quinn is some kind of an authority on my very different life, not even because I know Zoë Quinn has been there done that but because I stopped and talked to another human being who gets it, not about the harassment that is heightened but about why we did it in the first place rand why we do it anyway.

Zoë Quinn, I’m told, is into body modification. I don’t know what’s true about her and what’s story. As I’ve said: I don’t ask Zoë Quinn about her life. My thing is idiosyncratic accessories. I don’t pick them to be idiosyncratic. I pick them because they are me and I recognize that they are idiosyncratic. I like wearing distinctive sunglasses—novelty, fashion, or costume—over my actual glasses. I hang them off the o-ring on my collar when I’m not wearing them. I collect hats. Just lately I’m into wearing long cardigans that make me feel like I’m wearing a wizardly trenchcoat or cape without actually wearing one. Though for that matter, my winter coat is a long black woolen cloak.

When I was of middle school age, I tried a thing for a couple of weeks where I had a bandanna tied round my neck like a scarf. The other children asked me if I was trying to be a cowboy or a pirate or what. I wasn’t trying to be anything, except me, wearing a thing around my neck that for a time made me feel more like myself.

The hair is the same, except in all the ways that it’s not. Hair is more visible than discreet body mods and more constant than any given accessory. It’s there. Always. Or at least usually.

There is a whole genre of posts that go around Twitter and Tumblr where the punchline is basically, “I don’t dress for boys/other people, I dress for the moments when I see myself reflected in a store window.” And that’s basically me, in terms of how I stopped dressing as a shapeless mass of dark cloth and started dressing in ways that make me feel like me. I still dress for the reflections, but not just dim and accidental ones in windows. I dress for how I look reflected in a mirror. I dress for the way it gets reflected back to me from other people.

My hair is part of that. It is part of me.

And Zoë Quinn was part of me internalizing that.

I know she’s not a darling perfect angel. I know she’s not some platonic exemplar of victimhood who has suffered worse than anyone in the history of the world or the internet. I know she’s not the character in her ex’s nasty little play, nor the one presented in the MS Paint webcomic drama that is Gamergate. I can’t really claim to know her as a person after sixty to eighty seconds of interaction on my way out of a crowded party, though even without that I can safely say that she is one.

And that, brief though our meeting was, I’m glad I met her.

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write.

alexandraerin: (Default)

When an actor receives something like a Screen Actor’s Guild award, they often say something along the lines of “It means so much more to me, because it comes from my peers.”

The most direct equivalent of this in the U.S. genre literature world would not be the Hugos, but the Nebulas. The Nebula Award is a guild award, presented by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) and voted on by the membership of the same. The Hugos are awarded by WorldCon membership, which in practical terms is fandom in its most institutional sense; picture the busiest, most accident-prone intersection between genre creators and genre fandom (specifically, the subset of genre fandom most directly descended from fandom as it existed 74 years ago), and you’ll have the WorldCon general membership.

I say this with some amount of affection, being one of them now.

The Hugos are awarded by fandom, but it’s a subset of fandom whose most prominent voices are mostly people who not just grew up in fandom but grew up to be the sort of people who have fans. Being a literary convention, even many of the people who just show up hoping for a glimpse of one of their glittering idols do some writing. Or game design. Or drawing.

So while the Hugos are not a guild award, there’s not a sharp line separating them from “awards given by our peers”. In the modern genre literature fandom, there is an extent to which our peers are our fans and our fans are our peers, and it’s wonderful. I love it.

I did not win a Hugo. I was not on the shortlist. But I was on the longlist, the tabulated nomination data released immediately after the Hugo Awards. I knew I would be, because people told me they had nominated me. As those who follow me or people around me on Facebook and Twitter might have intuited, I was actually the top of the longlist for one category, Best Fan Writer; “top” here meaning “excluding the shortlist”. I was the next alternate selection, the first runner-up to the nominees.

This is a signal honor to me. When I decided I was going to WorldCon whether I made the ballot or not, it was because I regard the fact of being thought of in these terms itself as something of a prize. I talked about this on Twitter back when the nominees were being announced, I repeated it the morning of the Hugos: awards mean nothing without the warm regard of our fans and peers to back them up, and the warm regard of our fans and peers means everything with or without an award.

So, it’s easy for me to say that when I’m not winning awards, right?

Well, if you’ve been following WorldCon stuff, you might know that this isn’t exactly true. There is probably some debate happening somewhere about whether the Alfie Award is a real award or just something that somebody decided to hand out based on a mixture of objective criteria and personal decision. I am not about to wade into that debate, lest I pull back the fragile veil that separates the minds of mankind from the bleak and terrible true reality from which our senses shield us.

Instead, I shall simply say that it is a real award, insofar as it was really awarded. To me. On a stage. By George R.R. Martin. I was in such a daze that I walked off in the wrong direction, then left my trophy backstage.

And I have to say that it was a thrill, obviously. I wasn’t so awestruck because it wasn’t a thrill. But it was a thrill precisely for the reasons I outlined in my blog post. If only the dozen or so people who had told me beforehand had nominated me, I would have been deeply touched to know this. If it had only been them and the dozen or so more who told me this at WorldCon, I still would have been just as touched. But the ballot data has been released and I came in with 213 people who nominated me for Best Fan Writer.

Out of every single person who thought enough of the topic of who the best fan writer in all of 2016 was, just over one in eight of them thought enough of me to throw my name in. I had just 30 fewer nods than Mike Glyer, the man who won and who had my vote, a man to whom I would have been ecstatic to lose and to whom I am quite happy to have lost the bottom place on the shortlist.

And yes, I am quite certain that Mr. Glyer both deserved the spot on the ballot more than I did, and that he deserved the win completely. I was not much of a fan writer before 2015. I don’t expect to be much of one in the future. I wandered into a fray in progress, made a few observations and quips, and I wandered out. It got me a bit of attention, in no small part because Mike Glyer took it upon himself to be such an excellent chronicler of the whole mess. I know he’s not the only one who shared my work, but I can’t for one second imagine I would have finished as high as I did without his kind assistance.

Indeed, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that our nomination totals are so close. I have to imagine that the Venn diagram of people who thought he was worth a nod and people who thought I was worth one had some comfortable area of overlap.

(Which is to say: Thank you, File 770 commentariat. I’m so pleased I got to meet so many of you in person!)

Now, George R.R. Martin instituted (or perhaps I should say initiated, as the man himself is darn sure he doesn’t want it to become an institution of any kind) the Alfie Awards last year to be given out mainly to the person who came closest to getting on the ballot in categories affected by slates.

The Puppies, for all their talk about fun, neither seem to have much of it or understand it when other people do, so they seemed a bit confused about the point of the exercise. Several of them referred to the Alfies last year in terms of being “the real Hugo, given out to the pre-selected winner anointed by the clique”.

But of course, it’s nothing of the sort. It’s possible that in some cases, the person who received the Alfie would have won the Hugo Award, absent a Puppy slate, but it is not inevitable. If the person who receives the most nominations always received the most votes, we wouldn’t need a round of voting.

The truth is that the Alfies are a bit of a joke, which is exactly why they have been so important and so wonderful these past two years, because what we need is a bit of a joke. Something to take a bit of the sting out of being left off the ballot and wondering about what might have done. Something to remind us about our history. Something to celebrate.

There was a lot to celebrate on Hugo night anyway, with many well-deserved wins by well-deserving winners and a total, 100% refutation of the many shifting premises under which the Puppies perpetrated their campaigns this year. We can still mourn the ballots that might have been, the opportunities that were lost to another year of this nonsense, of course, but there’s plenty to celebrate.

N.K. Jemisin checking the internet to make sure it still said she had won a Best Novel Hugo even after she woke up is one of my favorite moments from WorldCon, and it didn’t even happen at WorldCon.

Anyway. With this year’s landscape being so different than last year’s, and the outcome different as a result, I wasn’t sure that George would do a repeat performance for the Alfies. Even knowing that I had been the unofficial “first alternate” in my category, I wasn’t at all sure there’d be one for me if he did. No one can say that Mike Glyer didn’t deserve his trophy, so it’s not like I was robbed of my chance.

But he did, and he gave out an award for all categories affected by a slate, however slightly, and that means that instead of losing to Mike Glyer, I won an Alfie. It’s an actual hood ornament, off of what I believe my father-out-law identified as probably an Oldsmobile, shaped like a rocket plane and artfully attached to its base.

So I received an award after all. Do I stand by my words? More than ever. Because now I have the proof of my supposition that awards mean nothing when there is nothing behind them. I was jumping around the room like Daffy Duck thrilled when I saw where I’d placed, and the notion of getting anything for that besides the knowledge couldn’t have been the furthest thing from my mind.

Then a man called me up on stage and handed me what is literally a piece of garbage—vintage garbage, even collectible garbage, and certainly very artful garbage, garbage artfully arranged, but garbage nonetheless—and it meant the world to me because of what it symbolized. It is a visible, tangible, and ever-present reminder that enough people thought enough of me to get me up on that stage.

Not every trophy is a part of a car bolted to re-tooled scrap metal, but they’re all made out of something and when you get right down to it all that something ultimately consists of is just stuff. The Hugo rocket is stuff. The Oscar statue is just stuff. Shiny stuff, well-made stuff, sometimes precious stuff, stuff formed into iconic shapes, but just stuff.

Having been handed one of the stuffy-est (if not exactly the stuffiest) awards around, I can say that I was right on the money. It is the good opinion and warm wishes of our peers and fans and (as juried awards exist) even sometimes our idols that imbues them with meaning. The Alfie I was given is a symbol of that which I have won for myself and that which I have been privileged to be given, and that is your respect and admiration.

I wish I had thought to say something like that on the stage. I wish I had been as insightful as I am in my best blog posts or as clever as I am in my best moments. I wish I would have thought to say, “They say an award means the most when it comes from your peers, and as I’ve just been handed one by one of the living giants of fantasy writing, I’m going to go with that.”

I wish I would have remembered to explicitly thank the people who had brought me there, in the figurative sense of giving me the impetus and the literal sense of crowdfunding my presence on the stage. I hope my parents raised me well enough that I said thank you at all on autopilot, though I have no memory of having done so.

All I really had the presence of mind to do was hug George, remind the audience that I had received twice as many nominating nods in the category as he had, and then run. I was bowled over. I was gobstruck. I was beside myself.

But the moment only meant something because it was real, and it was real because something real was behind it.

George has been very clear that he doesn’t want the Alfies to become an institution or tradition that is necessary beyond this year. I hope he gets his wish, but I also hope the tradition doesn’t die out completely. However much personal cachet there might be in being one of the very select crowd of recipients of what I’m thinking of as the Alfred Bester Award for Adjacency to Excellence, George speaks so endearingly of Alfred Bester’s place in the history of the Hugos, of WorldCon and the Losers Party, that I’d love to see him continue to be honored in some way.

Ah, well. If there’s one thing the gap between WorldCon 73 and WorldCon 74 has taught me, it’s that not even science fiction writers can predict the future.

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write.

alexandraerin: (Default)

So, the Hugo Awards are tonight. Last year, when the brouhaha stirred up around them started unfolding, I made a blog post that explained the basic situation and the stakes… including my own stakes, which were, as I said, virtually nothing.

Suffice it to say that this year, I’m a bit more invested. My name did not make it onto the final ballot, though I am continually gratified to hear that various people put it forward for my commentary and satire last year.

Last year’s results were an unprecedented response to an unprecedented situation. Thousands of people were motivated to came out to vote and deliver a stinging rebuke to the small cliques of would-be tastemakers and kingmakers who sought to politicize a sci-fi/fantasy award and dictate what works would and would not be seen as being “worthy” of being praised, read, and enjoyed.

Even while we find ourselves in a similar situation this year, I have no predictions to offer about this year’s results, even given last year’s example. It’s similar, but it’s just not the same.

Vox Day and his dreadful elks backed away pretty swiftly and firmly from their promise to repeat their performance verbatim, instead opting to seed their slate with a number of popular picks that would have in all likelihood made it on the ballot without them. The technique of running out in front of a stampede and proclaiming himself to be leading the charge is one that Mr. Day is well-versed in, being as it is how he maintains the delusion of control over his emotionally-driven followers.

As passionate as many people are about the Hugos or about the causes the Puppies have projected onto them, it takes a lot out of a person to stay pumped up about something like that over the course of a year. The people who provide the power to the Puppies’ voting blocs are driven by emotion and rhetoric; it’s the air they breathe. They don’t have to be whipped up into a froth over something. The froth is already there, waiting to be channeled as well as it can be. Most of the rest of us have lives to live, to say nothing of other motivating drives beyond manufactured outrage and aggrieved senses of entitlement.

Then there’s the fact that there’s an honest-to-goodness presidential election looming in November. I don’t know about anybody else, but it’s taken up more of my time and attention than any award plot orchestrated by a tax fugitive running a vanity press for his grim-and-gritty Bible fanfic ever could.

But on the other hand, I’m an outsider to the traditional publishing industry and the stakes aren’t the same for me. So who knows? It’s likely others have been more invested than I have been. Just as it did last year, it’s all going to come down to the numbers. I have no predictions to make. I suspect the results will be more of a mixed bag than they were last year, but that’s a suspicion, not a prediction.

The only ballot choice I’ve discussed with anyone is Alyssa Wong for the Campbell Award, and that only because I’ve been speaking with other Wiscongoers who are enthusiastic members of her fandom about it.

At this point I could quite honestly say “Everyone I know voted for Alyssa Wong,” at least in the sense that everybody whose top Campbell vote I know did so, and if I had the logic of a kicked Puppy, I would therefore conclude that she was robbed if it were to transpire tonight that someone else wins.

This is the same logic that leads those who attend Donald Trump’s rallies to believe that the polls must be rigged or otherwise in error (how could he not be winning when he draws thousands of people who all want him to win?), and it is the same logic that leads many on the left to conclude that this (and indeed every) election is a foregone conclusion (for how could anyone vote for this person, when no one I know would do so?)

But the fact that a group of people who share my taste and sensibilities share my taste and sensibilities is a tautology, not a definitive data point.

All of which is to say that whatever happens tonight, it’s sure to be exciting. I will be rooting for Alyssa Wong, along with N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season (I believe I’d heard her read from the beginning of that book two or three times by the time it came out, so you’d better believe I was invested) and a few others I have particularly strong feelings about. But whatever happens, they were nominated, they earned those nominations, and no one can ever take that away from them.

I’ve said at multiple points during both of the most recent iterations of this mess that the whole Puppy thing started because Larry Correia was not able to understand that it is in fact an honor to be nominated, that to be plucked out of the hundreds or thousands of authors starting a career each year and be named as one of a mere five final candidates for a John W. Campbell award is a signal, career-launching accolade. He didn’t get that. He didn’t care. He had a story in his mind that started with the con rolling out the red carpet for him and ended with his name being called at the award ceremony.

Neither of those things happened. Everybody finds their own way at a new-to-them con. It’s daunting. I know that. It’s tough to break the ice, tricky to form connections. I mean, basically everybody here knows who I am and thanks to the magic of crowdfunding, I am literally here because enough people wanted me here. But it’s still hard to navigate a new and unfamiliar scene, especially when it feels like everybody else knows everybody else.

A lot of that is an illusion. A lot of the people you see at a con are talking to the few people they know well enough to be really comfortable with while marveling at how easily the social thing must come to everybody else they see doing the same thing. That’s just the way it goes. You see your own travails and tribulations. You feel your own anxiety and isolation. You know what an effort you’re making. With everybody else, all you can see is the end result of the effort. You hear the laughter, see the people standing in tight groups, you wonder what they know that you don’t and you conclude it’s each other.

Like I said: it’s daunting. It doesn’t even matter what level of Kind of a Big Deal you’re at. Do you know how many times over the past few days I’ve had conversations that started with me awkwardly approaching someone I admire to tell them, basically, “I don’t know if you remember me, but…” only for them to tell me I’m too famous for that? People are excited to see me, but still don’t know me know me. That’s just how it goes.

Enough people thought well enough of Larry Correia that he was nominated for a Campbell Award the year of his first WorldCon. In all likelihood, plenty of the people there were excited enough to see him. The transitory social nature of a convention just makes it hard to convey that. No one (well, few people) want to be the one to bother someone. The bigger of a deal someone seems to be to you, the the less you’ll want to bother them. Again, just how it goes.

People who stick it out with con culture get over it, or at least get used to it. I figured this out pretty early on in my con-going career, but even knowing it was true, it took me a few years to actually internalize it and genuinely feel like I’m a real part of my “home con” of WisCon. There are still times where I don’t. I can’t stop it from happening. All I can do is not let it bother me enough to take away from my enjoyment overall. All I can do is get over it.

Some people don’t ever get over it. Most of them just stop going to cons. Some blessedly small number of them, though, decide to start movements to make sure that nobody else has any fun, either.

So whatever happens tonight, we are all winners in the Puppies’ sad culture war for showing up anyway. We defeat the Puppies by reading what we want to read, by praising whatever works we admire, and writing whatever stories we want to see in the world.

The purpose of the Hugo Awards is to celebrate and honor the best in speculative fiction, isn’t it? Whatever happens, let’s darn well celebrate and let’s darn well honor. If my picks don’t win, I will not tell the authors involved that they were robbed, that something was taken from them. If they feel that way, I certainly won’t presume to argue, but what they will hear from me is that I was (and am) rooting for them, that I thought enough of them to vote for them, that I thought (and think) enough of their work to consider it worthy of a Hugo.

That’s what an award is, isn’t it? It’s tangible, it’s concrete, it has some rubric behind it to give it a gloss of objectivity, but ultimately it is, as the saying goes, “a token of esteem”. It is a symbol of the regard that others have for your work. And while few would deny that the award is nice in and of itself, it means nothing without the regard behind it, while the regard of one’s audience and peers, without an award, still means rather a lot.

I’ve been telling people this all weekend, when they tell me that I should have been on the ballot for Sad Puppies Review Books or John Scalzi Is Not A Very Popular Author, or my general commentary, or whatever. I wouldn’t kick an actual trophy out of metaphorical award-bed for eating honor-crackers, but I don’t care about the award so much as I care that people appreciate what I do. A trophy is just a concentrated reminder of that.

The Puppies don’t understand any of this. By all indications, they will never understand it. Last year, some of the brightest minds in the Puppy-adjacent Gamergate spent a lot of time analyzing fifth and sixth-hand accounts of what happened before and after the Hugo ceremony, trying to figure out where the real awards were that the “SJW cabal” must have given out after publicly handing out no award in so many categories. Top contenders for “the real Hugos” included commemorative coasters handing out as a participant gift and George R.R. Martin’s personal in-joke “trophy”, the Alfies. Joking about this on Twitter a few minutes ago, I said that they’ve never considered that the real Hugo might be the friends we made along the way.

In all seriousness, though, the real award is the warm regard and respect of our peers and fans. I mean that in multiple senses and on multiple levels. Even the actual Hugos, an actual honest-to-goodness Hugo Award, must be that or it will mean nothing.

Lest we forget: Larry Correia started the Sad Puppies to get himself a trophy that would have been meaningless if he had succeeded. As much as they’ve mythologized their origins and lionized their motivations, the original Sad Puppies campaign was an attempt to logroll the ballot to give one author with an overly developed sense of entitlement the award he felt he’d been robbed of.

There has been a lot of talk about “destroying the Hugos”. The Sad Puppies threaten to destroy them, they say that the imagined cabal of “SJWs” they think is responsible for the sweeping and widespread opposition to their campaign are the ones destroying them, etc. But the Hugos were never in as much danger as they would have been the first Sad Puppy year, if Larry had somehow managed to succeed, if he had actually stuffed the ballot box and rigged the vote completely enough to guarantee his victory. That would have been a far bigger blow than a year or two of No Awards, or a few mixed bags.

Awards symbolize honor and respect. They symbolize an author’s accomplishments. They are not themselves a substitute for any of those things, though, and in the absence of an award, we may still have and still celebrate those things. Like the Whos down in Whoville, we can sing all the same.

So let’s sing. Let’s do something positive. At its core, the concept of a fandom convention is fellowship. Hands strung together across the void. Hands clasped in darkness. Hands clapping in celebration. The root prefix con- means together. We congregate. We convene. We come together.

So let’s come together.

Whatever happens tonight, if you’re here or even if you’re not, why not find an author or artist whose work you appreciate and admire, and tell them that? It might not mean as much as a shiny silver rocket, it might not mean as much as a vintage hood ornament from George R.R. Martin, but it’s sure to mean something to someone.

 

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write.

alexandraerin: (Default)

Well, everything certainly is up to date in Kansas City. Despite our early trepidation about being lodged so far from the convention, the KC Streetcar is fast and efficient and the estimated wait times and travel times seem to be based on the worst reasonable traffic assumptions. WorldCon 74 is better run than our worst fears based on administrivial SNAFUs in the run-up, although I have to say that even at its best, we still find ourselves missing WisCon, and our absent friends.

Jack and I have been working on our routine for plugging Ligature Works in a way that plays to both of our strengths (neither of us are the most naturally forward people) and have given many authors and poets the good news. I’ve also had the interesting experience of telling people who know me as a poet that I’m also a humorist, those who know me as a humorist that I’m also a serialist, and so on, while telling all of them that I’m also an editor/publisher.

This con thing is definitely a marathon and not a sprint. The first two days, many people are still in transit or just arriving. We’ve been retiring relatively early in the day so far (around 6 Wednesday, just before 10 last night) in order to pace ourselves for the main event. So I feel like we have missed out on some of the real social culture of the convention, but I’m looking forward to rectifying that.

I’ve already had the pleasure of participating in a massive File 770 bar meetup, which allowed me to put faces (or at least name tags) to the names of some of my biggest boosters over the course of last year’s Puppy-related posts. Several people have approached me to tell me how much they enjoyed Sad Puppies Review Books or John Scalzi Is Not A Very Popular Author and I Myself Am Quite Popular, my takedown of Vox Day’s commercialized grudgewank he poorly disguised as a definitive guide to fighting “SJWs”.

My weirdly intimidating aura seems to be in full effect, though. Yesterday, Jack could barely get out of the building for all the people who suddenly wanted to talk to him or have him pass things along when he ran back to the hotel to grab something I forgot. I really wish I had a better way to signal that it’s cool to just come up and say howdy directly. I’m not the most sociable person but cons are a good context for practicing the arts of diplomancy.

The rumors that I’m Chuck Tingle also still seem to be in full effect, as people keep going on fishing expeditions with Jack. I really don’t get it, beyond he writes funny things and I write funny things. There’s quite a difference in styles. I think it’s like how people assume every parody song is by Weird Al? I don’t know. People are far less willing to talk about it to me directly, so I can’t really ask what they’re thinking. I just read about it in comment sections and message boards, and hear about it from my partner and friends who have been questioned.

Anyway, whether it’s direct or indirect, I have enjoyed hearing from so many people that they enjoyed my satirical works. It is really nice to know people have been thinking of me and talking about my work. I also appreciate being told I was on people’s nomination lists, and while I appreciate the sentiment, I do wish people would stop telling me I was robbed. I think I was probably a longshot in my first year of getting any buzz to begin with, and the idea that the Hugo is anyone’s to be stolen away in the first place is the kind of mindset that gives us Puppies. The Hugo belongs to the winners. It is an honor conferred, not the systematic result of a process one author can initiate for themselves.

And whether or not you make the shortlist, it is still an honor to be nominated. If Larry Correia had understood what an honor it was to be picked out of thousands to be one of the finalists for the Campbell Award, we wouldn’t have had Sad Puppies to begin with. Though if we didn’t have Sad Puppies, I wouldn’t have had my breakout year as a satirist.

(All that being said, if someone taps me on the shoulder or drops me a line to usher me to the Losers’ Party, I will be absolutely over the moon. But if not this year, I’m sure I’ll get there someday. No one is owed a Hugo, but I am a born loser.)

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write.

alexandraerin: (Default)

Well! I’m at WorldCon finally, after both travels and travails. On the first day of the con, we realized a logistical snag: I had new business cards made up early in the summer, before our new literary sf/f venture Ligature Works was more than a vague idea for the future. So we don’t have any kind of hand-out to give people re: that. In lieu of that, I’ll leave this post at the top of my main blog (which is referenced on the business cards).

So: Ligature Works is seeking original, never-before-published works of science fiction, fantasy, and otherwise speculative poetry and prose. We pay a flat rate of $25 for anything we publish. It’s a nominal fee, we realize. We are just starting out, but it’s important that we don’t ask other artists to create for nothing. Since we do not offer pro rates, we don’t require pro terms: our period of exclusivity lasts only until the end of the month following publication. So with our first issue set for the last day in September, the rights revert back on November 1, following the end of October.

Our submissions window for the first issue runs through all of August. There will be one for the next issue either last quarter of 2016 or first quarter of 2017, depending on how our post-mortem on our first issue goes. We’ll also need to talk with each other about whether we want a long window or a short window with a long reading period, or just take rolling submissions. So I can’t tell you when they’ll re-open or for how long, just that they will. This is all an experiment so far.

Detailed submission guidelines along with as good an idea of what we’re looking for as we can convey without a previous canon to reference may be found at http://www.ligatureworks.com/submissions. I know they’re long; Jack has promised to help me bullet point them for the next issue, but they are detailed for a reason. We seek to take the guesswork or element of “…am I doing this right?” away from new and easily startled authors by providing reasonably precise instructions.

We have not used the more fiddly bits as a scalpel to trim away the slush, but things having to do with the element of anonymity within your submission are ironclad. Apart from helping ensure we can screen against our own implicit biases, the world of speculative poetry is not a large one, so it’s good to be able to consider a poem without knowledge of the poet. If something in your experience is relevant to the work, feel free to tell us about it, as described in the submission guide.

One final caveat: The window is more than half over now and we have received enough works that gave us the immediate editorial grabby hands. It is very likely that we’ll close the month with more pieces than we have the budget to buy, especially as our first issue is entirely self-funded. If anyone wants to help fund more pieces, you can throw some money at me via PayPal. Just put in a note that it’s for Ligature Works. We’ll work out something more formal for future issues.

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write.

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Being the conclusion to the gender-free writing challenge I issued back in June.

Part I: Lessons Learned

First, a bit about lessons learned.

Not everybody who sent a story in mentioned explicitly how they would like to be credited, and some of the published entries bear credits while others don’t. Accordingly, I’m going to let the bylines the authors created speak for themselves.

When I do something like this in the future, I’ll make more of a point about standardizing entry formats so we can capture that kind of information. I’ll also try to make the constraints more clear. The original post called for “a story of any length with at least two characters and no references to their gender.”

What I meant was (and this was clarified later) that no character who appeared or was referenced should be gendered in the text, but I saw some people boosting the post explaining that the requirement was “a story where at least two of the characters don’t have gender”. I didn’t get any stories that had a boy and a girl and two gender-nonspecific people in the background, thank goodness, but there was at least one submission where an arguably pretty clearly gendered character is referenced at multiple points. I’ve left that in the link round-up, because of the initial ambiguity.

I did remove entries I considered to be overtly hurtful to a group of people. I wrestled with myself over this (it’s one of the reasons the judging is coming as far into August as it is), because I didn’t mention any such criteria when I laid out the challenge. But one of the points of this challenge is to encourage greater gender (and to an extent, sexuality) diversity in writing, to help make non-binary and genderqueer writers and readers feel more welcome in the growing online literary world, and you can’t welcome one group by stepping on another, especially when the groups overlap.

The last lesson has to do with the deadline. About half a dozen people asked me if I would extend the deadline another month, and I did, but far fewer people took advantage of that extension than asked for it. The entries were pretty strongly front-loaded to the beginning of the period. Next time, there’s going to be a larger window (and quite a different set-up in general), but there’s definitely a thing to be learned here about deadlines and their usefulness.

Part II: The Round-Up

Thank you to everybody who participated!

Part III: A Winner And Such

It needs to be said that “On Finding Yourself In Bars” is one of my top picks of the bunch, but it’s also written by my partner, Jack Ralls, who helped organize all this, which is why we agreed it would not be up for consideration.

So who wins?

I’m going to give first place ($25) to “Pie Day“. Second place ($15) goes to “7 Questions for the Angels“. Third place goes to So, “How Was School Today“.

I enjoyed these stories quite a bit, but one of the things I enjoyed the most about them is how real to life they were (even the one with a couch-surfing God). They deal with the personal, the spiritual, and the everyday, and they do so in a way that shows how incidental gender can be and how arbitrary our assignments and assumptions of it often are.

We’ll be getting in touch with the authors of those pieces over the next day or so about the payout arrangements. If you’re one of them, feel free to email us back with your PayPal address, if that method is amenable to you.

Part IV: Looking To The Future

I want to do this again, but bigger and on a more formal scale, and possibly with more categories for different ways of playing with gender conventions. Basically, an annual awards deal, covering a year at a time, every year, in order to not shut out pro publications. This is going to take a lot of planning and coordinating (we’ll definitely need more help), but we have time to work it out. The first period of eligibility will be 2017, which means the award won’t be awarded until 2018. I will especially be looking for non-binary, genderqueer, and agender people to help judge. More details to come early in 2017!

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write.

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The Daily Report

August has proven to be a bad month for plans. Yesterday one item at the top of my list was to confirm my hotel reservation for WorldCon, after there were some shenanigans back in July with one of the convention hotels being still under construction and some other administrative screw-ups by the con itself. In the process, I found an email from Friday that got ignored as spam, saying that due to ongoing renovations at our hotel (not the one under construction!), we were being relocated to another one twice as far away. I think the reason it got filtered as spam was that there were several dozen other recipients CCed on it with whom I had never corresponded.

Yes. The hotel open CCed everybody affected, broadcasting our email addresses, situation, and the hotel we’re now staying at to a random assortment of strangers. It’s not too likely to result in anything bad, but that’s not really the point. It’s very distressing, and frustrating because it’s entirely the fault of the hotel/the person who sent the email, but there isn’t a remedy. The arrow cannot be called back to the bow.

Cue me dealing with the fallout of this, figuring out the logistics of two physically disabled people getting around downtown Kansas City, making fallback plans, talking to the staff at the hotels, and dealing with the shot of travel-related anxiety created by uncertainty and change.

After finding out as much as we can about the area (and realizing that I’d stayed in another hotel very close to it before, as a teenager), we did decide that the new hotel can work and we’re actually looking forward to staying in it. But it basically destroyed my work day.

I’m impressed with the staffer at the new hotel; less impressed with the one at the hotel that bounced us. It’s not so much the renovation thing. I do think it’s odd that they didn’t know they wouldn’t have enough rooms until less than two weeks before, but maybe something took longer than quoted and they were keeping their fingers crossed it would be done under the wire. I can roll with that kind of thing.

It’s the handling of it. It’s the mishandling of private, personal information. It’s the fact that the initial email on the subject contained multiple points misinformation that I’m not going to get into, but which the staffer at the new hotel had to immediately and very apologetically correct. She got left on the hook cleaning up a situation that was made messier than it needed to be.

Anyway. That was my day yesterday. Figuring out the logistics of downtown Kansas City and talking to hotel people about hotel things.

Considering the impact of WorldCon, I had already planned on putting Tales of MU on vacation for the two updates closest to it (the Friday I’m there and the Tuesday after I get back). The vagaries of the summer have already got it down to once a week for the end of July and August so far.

Given all this, I’m officially calling it a reduced schedule for August: once a week, irregular. I hate to do this so soon after establishing a regular update pattern (and it will mean less money, because of the Patreon model), but it’s better than burning out.

Financial Status

Not much to say here. September will be leaner than expected because of the reduction in Tales of MU output, though the continued growth of other revenue streams could help mitigate that.

State of the Me

Did not sleep well last night; combination of heat and anxiety.

Plans For Today

Going to be finalizing the judging of the stories for the first gender challenge, with an eye towards announcing the winners and posting the round-up today or tomorrow. Today is the plan, but lack of sleep may catch up with me towards the end of the day.

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write.

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The Daily Report

Last week was successful and productive by some measures, less so by others. I stumbled out of the gate a bit at the start of the month. I did write a lot. I posted some of the fruits of that writing yesterday, the first part of a novelette I’m calling King of America, about a completely fictitious and entirely original real estate tycoon who decides to run for President of the United States. It hasn’t attracted much attention yet, but I think the work as a whole could genuinely grow to be the most important thing I’ve ever written.

I’m a bit behind generally on some of my larger goals. I had so much energy for April through much of June, repeatedly hitting the “heat wall” in July and August is a bit dispiriting. My overall goal for my 37th year on the planet is to kick my career into gear and build my audience and income with a whole year of being awesome, but I’m finding myself needing to scale back my ambition for the first two months, and I’m planning on next year taking a semi-hiatus in July and August, after a victory lap in June.

Financial Status

Doing okay. Fruits of improved income and better budgeting is that there’s no frantic, frustrating conversation about how we’re getting groceries this week.

The State of the Me

Yesterday we had an outing to Baltimore that involved a lot more walking in the heat than I had assumed/planned for, so I am coming into this week a little drained.

But a funny thing happened late last week: I remembered that my office in fact has a ceiling fan positioned more or less directly over where I sit. Prior to this, I had been marveling at how I’d managed the previous summers in this room, as this is the first year it has its own A/C unit. I know I did spend some amount of the time working away from my desk, but not all of it. The A/C beats the fan, obviously, which is why I never really missed it enough to remember it existed… but having both of them going == bliss.

Plans For Today

I’m going to be doing some slush-reading and sorting for Ligature Works, and a lot of writing.

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write.

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I wrenched my dominant arm something fierce today. Forearm is all twingy, hand is sore, and my shoulder (my bad one, which has the poor judgment to be attached to my best arm) is a little worse for wear. It’s painful and difficult to type, which makes me feel like I shouldn’t be doing it. My ability to write one-handed on a touch-screen is pretty good, but only with my right hand. Go figure.

I’ve been alternating between trying to take it easy and soothe my hurts, and cautiously working. At this point I think I’m just exacerbating it. I have posted on Patreon an update to my members-only serial story Making Out Like Bandits, written earlier in the week but never posted. Non-patrons can read the beginning for free. If you pledge, you gain immediate access to the rest of the story.

Despite being a very up and down week physically and not exactly hitting all of my career goals, it’s been surprisingly successful in most respects. I have not posted much, but I did top at over 9000 words of usable fiction.

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write.

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The Daily Report

It turns out the new work/life balance is work/work balance, when you’re working multiple jobs. Right now the way I’m approaching it is I have three of them. I am the head editor of Ligature Works, I am new media author/personality Alexandra Erin, and I am the author of Tales of MU. Of the three, the middle one pays the most, followed by the last one, and then the third one is currently a net drain; it’s less a job I’m doing for money than a service I’m providing to the world. It’s an avocation, for now.

One of the things about time management is that just about any job can expand to fill the available hours, and as I’ve started working in earnest on Ligature Works’s editorialia (that’s a word; an editor said so) these past few days, I’ve discovered that’s a real risk. I think I’m going to start confining it to a day or two a week.

Financial Status

Doing okay? Some improvements to both cash flow and some improvements to how we approach budgeting made possible by the improvements to my cash flow are doing a lot to alleviate the tensions around money in our household.

The one thing I’m not sure about right now is our budget for WorldCon. I keep counting how many meals the two of us are going to need and looking at how much money is set aside from the fundraiser for that. Hopefully there will be some budget options in the area round the hotel and convention center. We met the bare minimum GoFundMe goal and a little bit past that, but if anyone wants to pitch in a little more to buy us dinner, it wouldn’t go amiss.

The State of the Me

I had one of those nights last night where I just couldn’t get to sleep. Combination of stomach upset and nerves (I think from the terrible dream I had the night before). I was still awake at a bit after three when I threw in the towel and decided to get up for a bit. I laid back down a bit after 4 and didn’t fall asleep until what I would guess is close to 5. I slept for 3-4 hours solidly after that, then another hour or so after briefly waking. I’m feeling fine now, but I have a feeling there’s going to be a major crash in the afternoon.

Plans For Today

Fiction, fiction, fiction. I spent most of last month stymied on my queer lady fantasy romance serial Making Out Like Bandits (a Patreon exclusive, though you can read the first bits for free), so I’m eager to progress that. I’m also trying out ideas for August’s short fiction entry.

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write.

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The Daily Report

It’s been a weird, disjointed start to the day today, and to the week (and by extension, the month of August), but productive nonetheless. I did have to run out yesterday afternoon for a grocery run, but our growing financial flexibility meant I was able to transfer the funds for next week’s shopping so I don’t have to actually tag along. Yay, progress!

Jack and I have been hitting a neat kind of stride with Ligature Works and submissions. I have a hard time collaborating with others, but I think we work well together in this respect. Our tastes are far from identical, but we share a lot of the same criteria in what we look for and what we don’t. We have sent out four acceptance letters so far. This actually means we only have two slots left in our initial publication budget, which means we’re going to start being really selective. We might not make any more firm decisions to accept for a while, unless something comes along that gives us the editorial grabby hands.

We might have to start dedicated crowdfunding for a bigger table of contents.

Financial Status

Doing okay. There were some big not-quite-annual car-related expenses at the end of last month. I think once we’re past WorldCon 74, we’ll be able to basically allocate most of the household grocery money we’ll need at the start of the month and then not worry about who has the funds on hand to pay for it vs. who has the time and ability to go shopping.

Our financial fortunes have really only improved modestly so far, but the less money you have to begin with, the bigger impact every dollar increase has.

The State of the Me

Honestly doing pretty good compared to July. I mean, we’re only two days into August, but I’m starting out with the idea that it’s okay to need to rest, and more attentive to things like keeping A/C and fans on as needed, paying attention to hydration, etc.

Plans For Today

I did not finish my draft of today’s chapter yesterday because of the aforementioned grocery trip. Wrapping that up and putting a bow on it this afternoon so I can keep to the schedule.

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write.

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The Daily Report

Well, it’s now August! Hugo voting ended yesterday. Jack and I were a bit late to the party with WorldCon memberships, so vetting the nominees and deciding how we would each vote took up time and energy right up to the deadline. That’s why we haven’t done much more than some initial slush-sorting for Ligature Works submissions, barring one “sorry, can’t take” and one “gotta have”. Now that we’re past that, though we’ll start responding to submissions in earnest.

This early in the window, there’s going to be more rejections going out than acceptances. That’s just the process. We have received in excess of 70 submissions so far. There are ones that are just wrong for us, then above that there are ones that are not the best of what we’ve received, and those one aren’t going to improve no matter how many more pieces we read, but even the ones that grab us might not prove to be the best by the end of the window.

Speaking of windows’ ends: the gender neutral writing challenge ended today. I kept meaning to put up more reminders so people who were working on stories over the longer term would know, but there was a lot of stuff going on and I didn’t have a lot of energy or focus. I received a request over the social mediums for a deadline extension, but that doesn’t really seem fair to the participants of the first gender-free challenge. Yes, I’m already planning the second one. It will be less off-the-cuff and cover a much longer period. Like 2017.

I figure if I make it a floating annual thing, that will make it easier for traditionally published stories to be considered, since they won’t have to try to hit a narrow target in terms of when they come out.

Financial Status

Well. It’s the first of the month. Payday! WorldCon 74 in Kansas City is likely to strain the budget a bit. I do have a nice little nest egg for it, but I suspect food and other miscellaneous expenses will run us up quite a bit.

The State of the Me

I’ve been so tired. Taking more rest has helped. I have a plan, a serious plan, for next July and August to be mostly a hiatus. It’s something I think of every summer when the hot months roll around and I remember how bad it is, but I’m not much on long-term planning so I don’t think of it until it’s too late, but I am currently mapping things out about a year in advance so it might work out well. Right now if I just declared summer break at the start of all my big plans, it’d all come crashing down. Next summer I should be well situated to take a couple of months of reflection after the end of my planned awesome year of awesome.

In the meantime, I guess I just have to step lightly from task to task and not take on too much at once.

Plans For Today

Well, where to start? I’m going to be meeting with my submissions editor (i.e., Jack) as we nail down howour routine for sorting, evaluating, and replying to Ligature Works submissions will work in practice. There’s also some writing to do.

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write.

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Yesterday, I said on Twitter that I felt like a real editor when I had to send out my first refusal notice for someone who had failed to follow submission guidelines in a way that is automatically disqualifying: they sent a standard manuscript, with their contact information and all. Since our editorial process is built around reading pieces anonymously, this is the one point on which we’ve accorded ourselves no wiggle room. It might be that we wind up using the other guidelines to trim the slush pile, or at least do some preliminary sorting and weighting, but that’s the one that’s just automatic.

Today, I had an experience that really hammers home the fact that I’m editing a magazine of fiction and poetry. I received the following email:


Dear Editor: I’m always glad to see new publishers on the scene, but you do have more requirements for publishing a writer’s work than I have ever seen.The worst requirement that is going to keep submissions out of your mail box, is your refusing to accept simultations. However, I do wish you goodluck.
[name redacted]

Well! I’ve heard about this, but I never believed it would happen to me. I was over the moon! This may not be the wisest move, but I replied thusly:

Dear Mr. [redacted]
First, let me heartily thank you for sending this email. As a writer and poet, I have many friends who have been editors and otherwise worked in publishing, and they have all told me stories about receiving messages like this when they were first hired or set up shop: the earnest and forthright man who wishes to tell them what it is that is wrong with their submission guidelines and what they may do to correct them.
Now that I have received one of my own, I feel like I am truly part of an illustrious circle.
I couldn’t agree with you more that not accepting simultaneous submissions will keep submissions out of our inbox. In particular, it will keep those submissions out of our inbox that are under consideration elsewhere, thus preventing awkward situations where a story or poem we would like to accept has already been accepted elsewhere. We are admittedly new to this side of the table, but my suspicion is that it will be markedly easier to assemble a magazine when the submitted pieces are sitting still as we try to arrange them. The advantage has always been clear to me, which is why I’ve never balked at submitting to a magazine that does accept simultaneous submissions.
Actually, come to think of it, I can’t recall the last time I read a set of submission guidelines that allowed for simultaneous submissions, without at least some healthy caveats. I know I’ve seen at least one, but it’s very much the exception and not the rule in my experience. I think considering simultaneous submissions is really a luxury that only the bigger, better established venues can afford, as they have the staff, organizational infrastructure, and pool of contributors to handle the complications that arise as a result.
Our fledgling two person operation, on the other hand, does not. In fact, if the only practical difference was that disallowing simultaneous submissions was that it cut our slush pile down by some arbitrary amount, it would still be worth doing on that ground alone. Don’t get me wrong, I’m quite happy that the response has been as strong as it has been. I’m just straining to imagine how we’d keep up if it were both markedly increased in volume and some of the pieces submitted for our consideration came with an invisible random time limit and the possibility of a silent bidding war.
As for our other requirements, they are hardly that numerous but rather are specific. We have a preferred format for reading, which is quite normal. We have a standardized subject line for submissions, which is far from unusual and which aids in our automation and sorting. We require that all personal identifying information be stripped from submitted manuscripts so that we may read them without bias. Markets are split on this, but I think you’ll find most of them either require the author’s contact information be present or require that it does not; there are few magazines that take a laissez-faire approach to where the author’s name appears. We have a generous cap on the number of pieces that may be submitted by a single author at a given time.
And that about does it for requirements. Nothing unique, nothing even that unusual, nothing overly onerous or complicated.
Perhaps it strikes you as more than it is because we spell it out in paragraph form rather than bullet-pointing? This is a personal preference from my own time submitting. I prefer when publishers are unambiguous about what it is they expect of me rather than waving a hand vaguely in the direction of their inbox and hoping I can divine their preferences. It might be that you’ve never had the experience of stopping and asking yourself, “Is this really what the other person wants from me? Am I doing this right?”, but I prefer to go the extra mile to reassure those who do worry about such things.
Or perhaps when you speak of the number of requirements, you’re talking about the section entitled “Dos, Don’ts, and Dislikes” at the bottom? These are not requirements, per se, but rather are there to alleviate one of the unfortunate side effects of soliciting submissions for a first issue. If we were an established venue,then you or any other author or poet who happened by could peruse our back issues to see what sort of things we’re wont to publish, get a general feel for the magazine, and see how your work might or might not fit into it. I know that when I submit my poetry, I take care to get to know the market in which I’m trying to sell it.
It might be that the idea of finding the right home for your work is an alien idea to you. It might be that you are more accustomed to shotgunning your pieces across the wide world and its web, which would explain your preference for markets that accept “simultations”, as you would term them. To which I say: it is certainly an approach to things, but it is not my approach as a writer, nor an approach that is likely to receive a warm reception at any venue I edit.
Spam marketing may move penis pills, Mr. [redacted], but it does not move me.
That said, I wish you good luck as well in your endeavors. If you do chance to have any pieces you would care to submit, please do make sure you follow our relatively few, simple guidelines for formatting, as they help ensure that we can read your work without respect to your identity as a person and thus without any bias based on prior relationship, reputation, or email interactions.
Kindest possible regards,
Alexandra Erin
Head Editor
Ligature Works

Now, I’ve alluded to the size of our slush pile, both in this blog post proper and in the email response. If you’ve been thinking of submitting, please don’t let that stop you! Our guidelines, few as they are, can be found in detail at http://www.ligatureworks.com/submissions. We will tell you exactly what we’re looking for (insofar as that can be conveyed with regards to artistic works), exactly how to format it to be read, and exactly how to send it in. Easy-peasy!

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write.

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If my summer had gone a little more smoothly, I would have talked about this more. I’d hoped to even do an interview with some of the people involved to sharpen my semi-journalistic skills, but I just didn’t have the time and spoons to make that happen.

Anyway! Last year, Jack, Sarah, and I had the pleasure of attending GOLDBLUM, a quirky water ballet by Baltimore-area aquatic performance group Fluid Movement. I livetweeted the experience (scroll to the bottom, then read up.) I intend to do the same this year with their current show, SCIENCE FAIR!.

We’ll be attending the 5 P.M. show on Sunday, August 7th, at Patterson Park Pool. If you would like to join us, you can get your tickets online at fluidmovement.org. Don’t wait to long. They sold like hotcakes last year. I should be easy to recognize: look for the giant floppy sun hat and rainbow hair. I will also likely be one of the few people covered pretty much head to toe regardless of the weather. My skin does not stand up well to the sun.

If you’re a fan or follower of mine and going, please give us a holler at blueauthor@alexandraerin.com and also let us know if you’d be interested in some kind of offsite meet-up with me beforehand. We might go out early and hang out at a coffee shop or something, if so. I don’t get out to Baltimore very often, so this might be a good chance for that sort of thing. Otherwise, we’ll just see you at the show.

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write.

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The Daily Report

Yesterday was a bit disjointed, but I did accomplish two goals: wrote a piece of flash fiction, which I posted for my patrons, and wrote a new Sad Puppies Review Books. Both are things that I’ve been stuck on for a while.

My Patreon terms are flexible by design. I promise a minimum of one item each of several forms/genres. One of the items is flash fiction or poetry. I did this because I know I can’t write a poem every month. I’d like to. I really wanted to, this month. And so I kept sitting down and trying to do that, and not getting much of anywhere, and not doing anything with that time instead.

I think if I had taken the hint and written a flash piece the first time that happened, I would have likely had multiple flash pieces in the same time. And maybe even a poem, because creativity is funny that way. I’m not looking to lose any sleep over that, just reminding myself that there’s a reason the “or” is there in my checklist, and to pay attention next month.

The SPRB was blocked for a few reasons. One of them was that things that weren’t terribly funny and were more important than the alt-right’s entertainment media culture war. But I came to a realization last night that there’s not really a clean separation between this tempest in a teapot version of the culture war and the bigger one they’re waging outside it. The tempest is not contained within the teapot; the tempest envelops and includes the teapot.

At this point, there are only two remaining items on my checklist for the month. One of them is a big one: finish the zine version of last month’s output. The other isn’t: finish at least one new chapter/installment of my patrons-only serialized novel, Making Out Like Bandits.. The first one is just taking a lot of time because it’s a new thing I haven’t done before. Next month’s will be easier, because I’ll mainly be plugging stuff into a template. The second one is another thing I’ve been blocked on.

I actually started the next chapter of MOLB fairly early on in June, shortly after I put up the most recent one. But I got stuck on it, and I’ve been stuck on it. A little hung up on it, even. I think I’ve figured out my hang-up, though.

Financial Status

Again, I’d love to see more Patreon sign-ups before the end of the month. Since we broke a hundred pledges early on in the month, anyone that’s pledged when the month ticks over to August will be included in a drawing for my signed contributor copy of The Martian Wave 2016, which includes my Rhysling-nominated long poem “Observations From the Black-Ball Line Between Deimos and Callisto”, which may be my favorite of my poems. I believe the rights revert sometime in the fall, at which point I will put it up somewhere that more people can read it.

The State of the Me

I have been sleeping really poorly this week due to a series of misadventures with my phone. First malfunctioning earbuds meant that my sleep playlist was randomly interrupted by Google voice search telling me it couldn’t understand what I was saying. I replaced my earbuds, and the next night I kept getting pinged awake by submissions for Ligature Works. So I put my phone on Do Not Disturb last night, and somehow I turned on “Repeat 1”, which was distracting enough to rouse me a bit every time the track it was stuck on looped (it’s just under an hour long) but not wake me up completely enough to fix it.

None of this is quite as genuinely awful as an insomniac episode, and I tend to sleep a lot more shallowly in the summer anyway due to the heat. But it’s contributing to a low-grade general exhaustion that the heat and the humidity during the day don’t help.

Plans For Today

In terms of things with immediate results, I’m going to be working on Making Out Like Bandits.

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write.

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caps for saleCAPS FOR SALE

Reviewed by John Z. Upjohn, USMC (Aspired)

When this book opens we are introduced to a peddler. I began to feel a sick sense of dread when the book told me that he was not an ordinary peddler. The need to be a special snowflake is ingrained in the sick psyche of the Social Justice Warrior. It is what drives them. It is what makes them all they are.

This peddler walks around with a stack of caps on his head, red caps and blue caps and brown caps and gray caps, and then his special snowflake checked hat that I guess isn’t for sale because how is anyone going to know he’s Mr. Special Cap Guy if he doesn’t have his special cap?

A head-based cap delivery service is so woefully inefficient that it is no surprise he does not sell a single cap all day. “Not even a red cap,” he laments, which suggests that he knows that red caps are best, even if he insists on wearing his ridiculous checked one. Yet they are the ones at the top of the stack, where no one can reach them. SJWs don’t believe in simple market forces like supply and demand. If he knows that red caps are the caps preferred by the majority, there’s no financial reason for him to stock anything else. It’s okay for people to like other caps, but they can’t just expect to be pandered to!

But of course the same radical feminists and I-dentitarians who demand that honest milliners and hardworking haberdashers cater to their every whim lest they be called “offensive” never actually seem to have any money to buy caps! So no one but our poor little cuck of a peddler is surprised when he doesn’t make any sales, boohoo.

He gets no sympathy from me. Should have thought that before you insulted your audience by offering them choices!

So he tramps out into the countryside and sits his lazy ass down beside a tree and falls asleep. Maybe he should just get a Patreon, if working a real job tires him out! It’s when he wakes up that this so far too-predictable tale takes a turn for the interesting: acting individually, a number of unrelated freethinking monkeys have all decided to take it upon themselves, as individual sovereign citizens of the tree, to take one of his hats.

Of course he massively overreacts.

The way the peddler goes off on them, you’d think they’d all taken all of his hats, but each monkey took no more than one. This is also the first time any living creature in the story showed any interest in his hats. He failed to sell them at 50 cents. He communicated no reason to the monkeys or anyone else why they should pay him such a price, or any price. The market has spoken. The hats are worthless! Taking one is no more unethical than pirating a movie that you don’t even want to see in the first place.

Rather than dealing with each of the monkeys as an individual, he generalizes them, which according to Social Justice Warrior logic, is the worst thing you can do. He calls them “YOU MONKEYS”. They freely sell this book to children, and yet I have been banned from many forums online and offline for using those exact words to refer to people. Why is it okay for him to say it but not me? Creeping moral relativism at work!

So the guy gets entirely bent out of shape and he tries to impose his will on the monkeys, the way leftist authoritarians always do, but he finds that they, like all freethinkers, are immune to his only weapon, the feelbads. They won’t be shamed into compliance. They mock him and his beta impotence, each and every individual monkey a shining example of an alpha male, and then in the beautiful, glorious finale, after trolling him so hard that he throws his ridiculous checked cap down at his feet, the monkeys all throw his stupid caps down right at him, too.

It’s a powerful display of defiance and individuality.

They don’t have to give him back his caps, no matter how many times he shakes his fist or stomps his feet, no matter that he pulls out every stop from the Sal Alinsky playbook. He has no power over them. They give him back his caps because they choose to. It’s like they’re saying: it is only through our benevolent forbearance that you have any caps at all, you pathetic mangina. 

They have shown they can take his caps anytime they want. And he knows it. They have nothing left to prove.

Does he learn, though? Of course not. If he could learn, he wouldn’t be a leftist. Just like if there was any demand for caps in the village, the market would already have provided a solution rather than waiting for some “wandering peddle” to happen by.

But he goes right back to it, still haranguing passersby to give him fifty cents for caps that the invisible hand of the free market has already rejected.

Two stars.

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write.

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alexandraerin

August 2016

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