swan_tower: (*writing)

After the brouhaha over WFC’s panels the other week, I took to Twitter to brainstorm ideas for panels that would make World Fantasy more up-to-date with the current genre. Wound up with quite a few I’d like to see at some con, a selection of which are below.

Additionally, I propose a guideline for all panel programming: if you’re discussing a topic or subgenre and your panel is not explicitly about either a historical period in the genre or its most recent works, then it may be good to have your panel description reference one foundational work, one classic, and one recent title. So, for example, if you were going to talk about vampires in fiction, you could name-drop Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, and Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight. If you cannot think of an example from within the last twenty years, then get Twitter or Facebook to help you out. Otherwise you wind up calling Interview “recent” and looking pretty ignorant . . . .

Anyway, panel ideas! Feel free to suggest more in comments.

* Serialized Publication — Both self-publishing and projects like Serial Box have revived this approach to storytelling. How does it differ from its Victorian or pulp-era counterparts (and from modern serialization on TV), and what are the benefits it offers to the writer and the reader?

* Living Memory as History — Fantasy is stereotyped as being mired in a medieval past, but historical fantasy has started to mine the twentieth century for settings. What’s the appeal of setting a novel not in the present, but within living memory, and what perils does that hold?

* Works in Translation — English-language authors often derive a portion of their income stream from translations of their works into other languages, but the flow in the other direction is much smaller. Let’s highlight recent successes of translation into English, and discuss what the barriers are that keep the numbers from rising higher.

* DVD Extras — Author websites and social media provide many opportunities for writers to “add on” to their works, providing additional details or explanation or behind-the-scenes glimpses of how a book came to be. Do these add to the experience, or does knowing too much take away from the magic?

* Trigger Warnings — Fiction, by its nature, often includes content that might be distressing to a given reader. There’s a trend on the internet to note when a post might contain references to triggering content such as sexual assault or child harm, and fanfiction has a long-standing practice of tagging stories to give a preview of what’s inside. How might professional writers do the same — and what, if anything, is the aesthetic cost of doing so?

* Everybody Writes It, Nobody Reads It — Certain genres appear to be more popular with writers than with readers. Or is that just received wisdom? Agents and editors say nobody wants a portal fantasy, and yet many authors want to write them; the same might be true of pulp. Why the disjunct?

* Resurrecting Books — It used to be that your backlist, once out of print, might never be seen again. Self-publishing offers the chance to give these books new life — but what should an author do when these works aren’t up to their current standards of craft, content, or more? Is it better to revise them before republishing, or should they stand as the historical artifacts they are?

* Examining Empire — Good-bye, faceless minions of the Dark Lord; hello, realistic examinations of empire and colonialism. Recent works such as Kameron Hurley’s The Mirror Empire, Ken Liu’s The Grace of Kings, and Seth Dickinson’s The Traitor Baru Cormorant have delved into the ways that empires acquire and maintain power. Let’s discuss the angles they take, and what this tells us about the world today.

* Alternatives to Violence — The default assumption in the genre is that the stakes are high only if a lot of lives are at risk, and the most exciting victory a character can achieve is to win a climactic fight. But there are books that present alternatives, either by solving problems through non-violent means, or by basing the conflict on some other axis entirely. How do writers create excitement and tension without resorting to violence?

* It’s Not About You — Popular authors may find a fandom springing up around their works. How do they strike a balance when it comes to interacting with those fans? Authors have been cautioned for years that it’s dangerous to acknowledge fanfiction and other fanworks, but is that really true? And what’s an author to do when the fans say they aren’t welcome in their own fandom?

* Grimdark Women — When we hear the word “grimdark,” most or all of the authors who come to mind are men, and the stories they tell are often criticized for sexism and misogyny. Who are the women writing in this corner of epic fantasy, and do they receive that label on their works? Are the female characters in their stories handled differently from those in the works of men?

* Poverty in Fantasy — Many fantasy protagonists grow up poor, but in most cases it seems to be cosmetic poverty: the rural farmboy and the girl from the streets never seem to be malnourished or wondering where they’ll sleep tonight. What books feature protagonists who are realistically poor? What are the difficulties in writing about someone who lacks the free time and disposable income to engage in the usual activities of a protagonist?

* Bring Your Own Dragon — Our modern world is mobile like never before, but a lot of urban fantasy still features protagonists who are ethnically and culturally homogenous with their homes. Who’s writing about immigrant protagonists? How can an author navigate the mesh of different folkloric traditions, the dynamics of multiple cosmologies being real?

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: (*writing)

Unless something changes in the next month or so, I will not be attending World Fantasy this year. Here’s some other people giving the background on why:

Sarah Pinsker on the issues with the program
Fox Meadows
Jim Hines
File 770 roundup

And then Darrell Schweitzer doubled down.

World Fantasy has had a number of issues over the years, but this turned out to be the straw that broke my back. As I said in my email to the concom, Schweitzer trumpets the fact that there are “smart and friendly people” at WFC; well, as a smart person, I decline to engage with a program that shows such profound ignorance of the last forty years, and as a friendly person, I decline to support the behavior of someone who doesn’t care how many people he’s alienating. He appears to believe that “PC ignorami” and “outrage junkies” are driving people away from the convention — so the only course of action I can in good conscience follow is to provide a data point in the other direction.

WFC is one of my favorite conventions, but that has more to do with the number of friends I can see there than with the convention itself. If they could update themselves to show any awareness of the genre’s development during my lifetime? That would be excellent. But so long as they’re presenting a program whose genre awareness ends at 1980, and so long as the man in charge of it thinks that women, PoCs, and anybody under the age of fifty is beneath his notice? I decline to join them.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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When I lived in Indiana, I would habitually go up to GenCon on a day pass just to go shopping in the dealers’ room. This year was my first time actually attending in any meaningful sense — mostly as a part of the Writers’ Symposium, but it counts, right?

Naturally, I took my camera with me. Wound up not taking nearly as many costume photos as I thought I might, but I quite liked this Lady Thor, posing in a sunbeam:

Lady Thor at GenCon 2016

(I deliberately experimented with cranking certain settings to make the picture look less than entirely realistic.)

GenCon was a lot of fun. I went on a True Dungeon run at Patrick Rothfuss’ invitation, because of my participation in last year’s Worldbuilders fundraiser; most of us were complete newbies, but one of the players had such an enormous stack of equipment tokens for every class that we geared up and went through on Nightmare mode. We, uh, survived? I did a variety of panels, a one-hour workshop on Writing Fight Scenes (which hopefully taught participants many things, and taught me I should ask for a two-hour timeslot next time), and hung out with several friends from my Indiana days. All in all, I call that a good con.

Good enough, in fact, that I’m tempted to go back in a future year — and possibly to run a LARP when I do . . .

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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Following on last week’s release of Midnight Never Come, this week we have In Ashes Lie out from Book View Cafe and various other retailers. So if you’re looking to complete your Onyx Court ebook collection, now you can!

. . . and that’s from me for a while. I’m leaving on a jet plane, for Imaginales and Forbidden Planet.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: (*writing)

I just realized I hadn’t posted this yet.

The Ethics of Magic — Saturday, 10:30-11:45 a.m.
Fantasy characters often have special powers: fireballs and lightning bolts, telepathy and mind control, shapeshifting and many more. In many stories, though, the appeal of seeing these powers in action overwhelms the question of HOW they should be used. What ethical considerations come into play when extraordinary things become possible? Which stories have examined these questions, and which ones sweep them under the rug, to horrifying effect? (with metaphortunate, Garrett Calcaterra, and Madeleine E. Robins)

The First Annual Meeting of the FOGcon Draconic Appreciation Society — Sunday, 1:30-2:45 p.m.
Some of them dwell under mountains, on hoards of gold. Some of them *are* mountains, looming above the towns they hold in thrall. Some of them are members of a society as mannered as any Regency. Some of them are now human in form, if not in all their senses. Dragons are a wonderful, and varied bunch; let’s get together and talk about some of our favorites, and why we love them so! (with Steven Schwartz and Jo Walton — and then either there was a coding glitch, somebody got REALLY excited about Jo, or there are going to be 637 more of her on the panel with us)

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

Leverage

Feb. 22nd, 2016 12:05 pm
swan_tower: (Default)

A while ago somebody started a movement in fandom called The Backup Project. You can put a Backup Project ribbon on your badge, and what it signals is that if somebody finds themselves targeted by harassment or otherwise feeling unsafe at the convention, you will back them up: be their conversational partner to get them away from the dude who won’t shut up, escort them to where they’re going so they don’t have to walk alone, etc.

I never remember to get and wear one of those ribbons, but as this post by Laura Anne Gilman has reminded me to say publicly, I am totally willing to be your backup — or “leverage,” as Seanan McGuire suggested, after the TV show. If you are in that kind of situation, you can walk up to me and ask for leverage. Doesn’t matter if I’m headed somewhere or in the middle of a conversation; once I realize what’s going on, I won’t hold the interruption against you.

I will listen to you.
I will be your safe space.
I will walk you to the nearest security person you feel comfortable with, and stay with you until you’re okay.
I will follow up on what I know.

This kind of thing probably wouldn’t have helped Mark Oshiro, given the nature of the appalling litany of things he and his partner were subjected to at ConQuest 36. But his account of the ways that he was belittled and harassed all weekend long is a very pointed reminder of the crap that goes on far too often at our conventions, and for somebody else? This might be exactly what they need.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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Today the registration fee for the 2016 World Fantasy Convention went up by seventy-five dollars, from $150 to $225.

I registered during the previous WFC, as has been my habit for years. Unfortunately, now I realize that I need to rethink this policy. Because despite being prodded on these matters, WFC 2016 still has not posted either a harassment or an accessibility policy. The con-runner, going by her comments posted there, seems to think that “be nice to one another” and “the hotel is ADA compliant” are sufficient measures in that regard — and maybe there will be policies posted by the time the con begins, but apparently it’s totally unreasonable to ask for those things before the price of attendance gets jacked up.

This is not okay. It amounts to a safety surcharge, because if you want to attend WFC, you have two choices:

1) Buy your registration early, in the blind faith that the con will do its duty and put together an acceptable set of policies before you arrive.

2) Wait for the policies, and pay more money in exchange: seventy-five dollars more now, another fifty if they aren’t posted by mid-April, literally twice the membership price if you pick your membership up in the fall (y’know, around the time the harassment policy got posted last year). To say nothing of the difficulty in getting a hotel room if the block has sold out, which it often does — a situation that might put you in a different hotel entirely, and yeah, like that won’t cause you problems if your mobility is limited.

Oh, and let’s not forget: this is a con with a membership cap. Waiting to register might mean you can’t attend at all, because they’re sold out. So really it’s heads they win, tails you lose, because if these things matter to you, then you wind up paying more money to the con, or not showing up at all.

I’ve said that I will not attend a con without either a harassment policy or an accessibility policy. As it turns out, that pledge needs to have a rider attached to it: these things must be posted sufficiently far in advance of the con. I already have my WFC membership, but if they have not addressed this problem in a substantive way by the end of the month, I will ask to have my membership refunded. That gives them four weeks: more than enough time to look at the many fine policies posted by other cons and select their menu options. If they can’t do it in that amount of time, I really don’t have faith that they care enough to do it properly at all.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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A while back John Scalzi made a public pledge not to attend conventions without a harassment policy, and many authors signed on.

I’ve decided to add a new pledge(1) for myself: I won’t attend a convention that doesn’t have an accessibility policy.

The proximate cause of this decision is the abysmal experience Mari Ness had at yet another World Fantasy Convention. She’s the one who has spoken up the most about this, but far from the only one it affects: as she says there, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, the Guest of Honor, was using crutches. Many of our most respected writers are elderly and use assistive devices; Gene Wolfe was using a cane. Injury can strike anyone; Scalzi was in Australia when he tore a calf muscle, requiring a combination of crutches, cane, and wheelchair to get about and get home. (How many ankle surgeries have I had, again?) And those are just the authors, then ones a convention might invite and then either lose or massively inconvenience because of bad accessibility. It doesn’t even touch on the fans who might want to attend, but stay home because they just can’t face the hurdles imposed by trying to get around or enjoy themselves while present. But if you make it more accessible for them? You may be surprised how many show up.

I think it’s easy for this one to slide under the radar because many of us are lucky enough not to be affected. In the wake of Mari’s recent experiences, though, I found myself thinking: saying “well, I don’t need accessibility assistance; therefore I don’t care about the policy” is kind of like saying “well, I’ve never been harassed at a con; therefore I don’t care about the policy.” Both of those statements are crap. Do I care about my fellow writers and fans being able to attend and enjoy themselves? Yes. In that case, I need to make sure they’re welcome.

So: if a con does not have an accessibility policy, I will not attend.

Of course, it isn’t enough for me to just say that. What do I mean by “an accessibility policy”? What kinds of measures does a con need to take for me to say I’m willing to attend? Fortunately, other people have put a lot of thought and effort into these matters. Tanya Washburn was kind enough to help me out with this, pointing me at several resources: Geek Feminism Wiki has a page linking to several sub-topics, Conrunner.net has a page, and the WisCon policy is generally agreed to be the best example out there. Just reading through those things can teach you a lot.

The first purpose served by an accessibility policy is to inform people. Maybe the policy says “we regret to say that we cannot arrange wheelchair access to X part of the venue.” That may be disappointing to a wheelchair-bound attendee — but it’s a lot less disappointing than showing up to the con and only then finding out that they can’t go everywhere they want to. If you say you will not be providing gluten-free food in the con suite, then gluten-sensitive attendees know to bring their own victuals. Etc. And providing this information is, quite frankly, not very difficult. It costs no money (you’re already paying for your con website); it requires only a small amount of time and effort. But writing it up is a really good exercise, because it will prod you to think about these issues and consider whether you can’t make some adjustments — which is the second purpose of such a thing; it makes those of us who don’t deal with a given issue more aware of it, which in turn can help us do better.

And that brings us to the third purpose of the policy, which is to actually, y’know, make things accessible. I think that my pledge should include some minimum standards of access, without which I will strongly question whether I should attend. I don’t expect everything: for example, the policy for my friendly local FOGcon acknowledges that they cannot afford to pay for interpreters (e.g. ASL sign), and they haven’t been able to find any volunteers. That, for me, is not a make-or-break issue. Ditto their comment on fluorescent lighting, which is ubiquitous in the kinds of hotels and convention centers that cons take place in; expecting a con to somehow deal with that problem is not realistic.

But some things require very little effort and money, and I think it’s fair to expect them at any con that gives half a damn about access. At the moment, for me, these include:

1) A con staff member who is the designated accessibility contact. This person is in charge of making whatever arrangements the con will be implementing, answering questions from guests or attendees in advance of the con, and handling problems if they arise during the con. If the hotel has locked the door at the top of the wheelchair ramp to the restaurant, this is the person who gets that unlocked. Etc.

2) If panels or other program items take place on a stage, this stage must have a ramp. This was a major issue at WFC this past year — and the most galling thing is, if the con had spoken to the hotel about it ahead of time, ramps could have been arranged with very little difficulty or cost. If for some reason your venue charges through the nose for such things even with advance notice, reconsider whether your panels really need to be on a stage.

3) In larger rooms, provide microphones for panelists. There are some panelists who project well enough to be heard by everyone in the room. The number of such people is rather smaller than the number of panelists who think they can project well enough. Providing mikes reduces the interruptions where somebody has to say “could you repeat that, please?” and the disappointing panels where the audience only heard half of what was said. And again, venues will usually supply and set up these things, as long as you say you’ll need them.

4) Make sure aisles are wide enough for people using mobility devices, and mark out space for them in the seating area. This can be difficult in tiny panel rooms, but in larger ones it shouldn’t be a problem. Blue paper tape is cheap and easy to use for marking pathways and “parking” zones. You can also use it to stripe chairs at the front for the use of those with visual or hearing difficulties.

5) Signage on food in the con suite, green room, and/or banquet. Even if you can’t provide vegan or gluten-free options or whatever, you can at least tell people what’s in front of them, so they don’t have to go out of their way to find out.

Those, I think, are the bare minimum elements I want to see at cons. Other things are great! Other things should be encouraged at every turn! (If there are other things you think should also be on the make-or-break list, let me know!) But if the accessibility policy for a given con doesn’t mention these five things, I’m going to ask. And if the answer is “no, we’re not doing that” . . . I will probably say that in that case, I decline to attend.

And finally, the fourth purpose of a policy like this is to provide accountability. If you say there are wheelchair ramps to the stage, and I get there and no such thing is in evidence? Then we have a problem. And when I bring the problem to the attention of the staff, I’m not making an unreasonable last-second demand. I’m just holding them to the promises they made.

So that’s my pledge. You can sign onto it yourself if you like, or make one of your own. But just as we’ve been pushing to get cons to deal with the harassment issue, we need to push on this one, too.

***

(1) I’ll note that I started drafting this post before Mary Robinette Kowal posted her own accessibility pledge; various personal issues (including, ironically, a month spent in a cast) derailed me from finishing it in a timely manner. I considered just signing her pledge and scrapping this post, but I decided I wanted to talk about this in more detail, so the post stands. But I’m well aware that I am not the first person on this particular bandwagon.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: (*writing)

Official wording isn’t out yet (they’re still working on it), but this year’s WFC con com has announced that they’ll be expanding their harassment policy, using that of the 2014 World Fantasy as their guide. This is a relief to me, and means I will (barring new disasters) be participating in the program as scheduled.

Even more encouragingly, Ellen Datlow told me via Twitter that the WFC Board — the body which farms out the right to run World Fantasy to individual committees each year — will be meeting next week to discuss implementing a standard policy for the con series as a whole. That chicken has of course not yet hatched, but I find this very reassuring. At present, the Board only “encourages” the cons to have a policy, and lays out no guidelines for what shape that policy should take, if it exists at all. I think it’s become abundantly clear that this approach is insufficient; I’m keeping my fingers crossed that what the Board puts in place will improve the situation going forward.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: (*writing)

Depending on which corners of the internet you’ve been paying attention to today, you may or may not have seen the useless and offensive piece of garbage that is the harassment policy for World Fantasy this year. It translates to “unless you are subjected to a criminally prosecutable instance of harassment, we’re not going to do anything about it. Play nice, guys!”

This is unacceptable.

And I’ve told the con runners as much. It’s barely a week and a half to the con; their ability to fix it is, at this point, limited. But they can at least do something. Me, I can’t get a refund on my plane ticket or my convention membership, so that cost is sunk. But if nothing improves by the time I get there, then I will not participate in programming — and I have told the con runners as much.

Because here’s the thing. It turns out I’m actually on two panels, not one; when I posted my schedule yesterday, the second one had vanished from the program, but it’s back now. That panel? Is on violence. And I simply cannot stomach the irony of sitting behind a microphone talking about violence, while knowing the event I’m attending has abdicated its responsibility to protect the safety of its attendees.

This isn’t rocket science. Many other cons have instituted policies against harassment and procedures to enforce same. I’m serving on the board of an organization that is, right now, dealing with a very complex allegation of harassment. I know what a good policy looks like, and this is so far from that, you’d need a telescope to see it from here. Their excuses for why they can’t do better are laughable. Their failure to even communicate this so-called “policy” to all of their staff is indicative of massive dysfunction. And if they didn’t see this storm coming, they’ve been willfully blind.

I will not support this kind of crap by lending my voice and my thoughts to their program. If they fix it, I’ll go on as scheduled. If they don’t, I’ll be in the bar. And we can have a nice chat about how “violence” doesn’t always involve blood.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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FRIDAY, NOV 6: But it is historically accurate…

Fantasy authors often borrow from history to create their secondary worlds, but is historical accuracy ever a defense to criticisms of problematic content in Epic Fantasy? The thorny issues of authorial intent, historical context, cultural appropriation and the freedoms of creation often rear their ugly heads. The panel will discuss the various approaches taken to incorporate historical context, cultures and world views into secondary world Fantasy, and the pitfalls that might appear.

Jen Gunnels (mod.), Marie Brennan, David Drake, Lisa L. Hannett, Gene Wolfe

Should be interesting!

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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I’ll be at Convolution this weekend, on the following items:

  • Magic Vs. Religion (Friday 2-3:15)
  • To Be or Not To Be: Listening to Critique (Friday 3:30-4:45)
  • RPG Gamemastery (Saturday 10-11:15)
  • Reading 1 (Saturday 11:30-12:45)
  • Magic – Diverse Views (Sunday 10=11:15)
  • Autograph Session (Sunday 12-1)

No idea yet what I’ll read. It’s a group reading, and I’ll only have about fifteen minutes to work with, so whatever I choose, it’ll have to be short.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: (*writing)

I’ve been meaning to make this post for ages; please forgive me for the delay.

I wanted to take a moment to promote the Helsinki 2017 bid for the World Science Fiction Convention. Why? Lots of reasons, really — starting with the fact that for something which bills itself as the World Science Fiction Convention, it spends an awful lot of its time in the U.S. and occasionally Canada, every so often venturing overseas to Britain, and almost never anywhere else. There are other countries with SF/F fandom, many of which are really enthusiastic and friendly and eager to be a part of the broader genre world. Second, I have a good friend (Crystal Huff) involved with the Helsinki bid, and everything she’s told me about Finnish fandom is absolutely wonderful. I have not the slightest doubt that if they host Worldcon two years from now, they’ll do a splendid job. And third, Wendy Shaffer spent the entire month of June posting Finnish heavy metal videos to encourage you to vote for Helsinki. And who can argue with that?

If you’ve already voted, of course, this post comes far too late. If you haven’t, though, there’s still time! Email ballots will be accepted until 23:59 Pacific Daylight Time on Monday, August 10th (i.e. about twenty-four and a half hours from when I’m typing this post), and if you know somebody willing to carry your ballot to Sasquan for you, those will be accepted at the con itself. Instructions for how to vote are here. There are four bids for 2017: Helsinki, Japan, Montreal, and Washington D.C. With all due love and respect for the D.C folks, it would be lovely to see the con go farther afield than that.

Admittedly, there is a price tag on voting. You need to have a supporting membership for Sasquan this year, and you need to buy an advance supporting membership for 2017 (which will be valid no matter which bid wins). Even if you don’t think you can go to Helsinki or Shizuoka or Montreal, though (or for that matter, D.C.), that still gives you Hugo voting rights, so you get more for your buck than just a voice in site selection. If you can spare the $40 and want to participate in the process, you still have time. Give it a look!

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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I’ll be at Westercon this weekend, and around a fair bit for programming. I may not have a huge amount of time to socialize outside of scheduled items, though, because I also have a copy-edited manuscript that’s due back on a very tight timeline, and the only way to get it done is to bring it with me to the con.

***

The Urban Supernatural: Open vs Hidden (Thu 7/2 4:00 PM)
Most urban fantasy assumes a hidden underworld of paranormal beings, but in some works the general populous [sic] knows about the supernaturals. How do these two assumptions play out differently in the storylines?

Bring Me That Horizon: Exploration as Fantasy and Science Fiction (Fri 7/3 12 Noon)
Sometimes the goal is not to bring down an enemy or win a war. Sometimes it is to voyage into the unknown to see what you find, to explore uncharted territories for wealth or country or even for knowledge.

Etiquette for Gamers (Sat 7/4 12 Noon)
A lot of the problems of RPG groups may actually be problems in etiquette. Panelists will talk about situations they’ve encountered and ways of solving them. Are there rules for good gaming manners?

Adapting Victorian Science (Sat 7/4 3:00 PM)
What are some of the more interesting Victorian scientific concepts and potential technologies that can be adapted for Steampunk?

Readers as Detectives-Invented Worlds as Mysteries (Sat 7/4 5:00 PM)
Since the canned lecture went out of style in science fiction, readers have had to figure out its imaginary settings from clues and hints. How much information is too little or too much? How do you make sure your readers will figure things out, without hitting them over the head?

Narrative and Dramatic Structure of Role Playing Games (Sun 7/5 11:00 AM)
(no description)

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: (*writing)

Now that I’m back from tour, I’m downloading the Hugo Voters Packet and embarking upon a read of its contents.

. . . some of them, anyway. I’ve laid down a set of rules to guide me in deciding where to spend my time and energy. In the interests of full disclosure, I’m listing them here — but please do not take this as anything other than my rules for the process. Nobody is obligated to copy my example. In fact, the only universal rule for Hugo-Packet Reading I would support is one that says, read it any damn way you want. I spent a while this weekend reassuring somebody who had been told repeatedly that she absolutely had to read everything in the packet, no matter what, which simply is. not. true. As you will see from my own rules:

  1. I will at least look at everything that was not on a slate. (Time permitting.)
  2. I will not look at anything published by Castalia House. I am not obligated to give Theodore Beale and his cronies any real estate in my brain.
  3. Ditto the piece from Patriarchy Press. The name, coupled with everything I’ve heard about the work in question, tells me enough to make that decision right now.
  4. Other slate-based nominees may get a look from me, depending on how much time I have to spare.
  5. If any nominated work, from a slate or not, doesn’t hook me, then I’m not obligated to finish it. If I have to use the leverage of “but it was nominated for a Hugo!” to motivate myself to read the whole thing, then clearly I don’t like it enough to rank it very highly anyway.

Since I’ve said it in a few places, I should add: my own way of handling the problem of slate-based nominees who might have gotten there under their own steam is to keep an eye on them for next year. My supporting membership gives me the right to nominate for 2016; if I like a slate candidate’s work here, I’ll give them high consideration for a nomination next time around. It’s the best balance I can personally find between not rewarding slate tactics, and not punishing those who didn’t sign on for this train wreck.

And where countering slate tactics is concerned: there is quite a good proposal here for altering the Hugo nomination process in a way that will counteract that problem, without too much in the way of negative consequences. Scroll down for the plain-language version and the FAQ — that’s the post where they’re trying to work out the official language — but the short form is, it’s a way to make nominations work kind of like voting does right now. Nominate as many works as you like; as the lowest-ranking candidates are eliminated, their support gets reallocated to other works on the nominator’s ballot. It minimizes the power of bloc voting, without punishing works or individuals who also have strong support outside of the bloc, and it does all of this without disenfranchising anybody — which is the major flaw of many proposals, e.g. the ones that say you should have to buy a full attending membership to nominate or vote. I haven’t followed the entire technical discussion of voting systems that led to them choosing this one, because that discussion is enormous and full of math I can’t follow . . . but it looks good to me. I hope it can get enough support to pass.

Now if you’ll pardon me, I have some stuff to read.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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I’ll be at BayCon this upcoming weekend; here’s where to find me!

1. Themed Reading: Women’s Work on Friday at 3:00 PM in Stevens Creek
(with Laurel Anne Hill , Amy Sterling Casil, Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff)

In honor of the Bicentennial of Ada Lovelace, the world’s first computer programmer, hear authors read from stories about women that have jobs in a STEM (science, technical, engineering, and math) field.

[I will probably be reading the Lady Trent short story I wrote last weekend for this one.]

2. Themed Reading: Mythical Creatures on Saturday at 11:30 AM in Alameda
(with Cassie Alexander, Deborah J. Ross, Sinead Toolis)

Dragons. Unicorns. Centaurs. All different, yet all are creatures from the genus Mythical. Hear authors give their spin on tales about mythical creatures (also known as “cryptids”).

[Not sure precisely what I’m reading yet. Could be a bit from one of the Memoirs, but I may pick a short story instead.]

3. The Biology of Mythical Creatures on Saturday at 2:30 PM in San Tomas
(with Emily Jiang, Kevin Andrew Murphy (M), Cassie Alexander, Kathleen Barthlomew , Tex Thompson, Seanan McGuire)

The storytellers who originally invented the mythical creatures of legend didn’t have an understanding of biology, genetics, or evolution. When writing a mythical creature into a new story for a modern audience, how far does a writer have to go in re-imagining the creature’s biological backstory? Does providing biological details add to the story, or does it throw off readers because those details clash with their expectations? What are some successful examples of mixing realistic biology with mythic animals?

4. Themed Reading: Historical Fantasy on Saturday at 4:00 PM in Saratoga
(with Tex Thompson, Diana L. Paxson)

It’s our world, in the past, and yet it’s not. Hear authors read from stories set in Earth’s history, but spiced with an extra element of the fantastic.

[I’ll be reading an Onyx Court short story about Ada Lovelace, one I haven’t yet shopped around.]

5. The Joy of “Vic Spec Fic” — Victorian Era Speculative Fiction on Sunday at 11:30 AM in Bayshore
(with Norm Sperling, Lillian Csernica, Jim Partridge, Margaret McGaffey Fisk, Brad Lyau)

Even without any steampunk trappings, the Victorian Era (or a fantasy world’s equivalent), is a rich landscape for imaginative fiction. We know about life in this era through the writings of authors as widely different as Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle. In this period someone could still be both a student of art and a student of science, before specialization took those fields in separate directions, but at the same time enough advances in technology had been made that it could become the era of steam and of Charles Babbage. In this era women had many constraints, yet it still had the example set by Ada Lovelace, Babbage’s programmer. And it’s also an era of exploitation, colonization, and grinding Dickensian poverty, and the moral quandries that they raise. Hear authors and fans of historical settings discuss why the Victorian Era is such a great setting for science fiction and fantasy. With or without steampunk clockwork.

6. Celebrating A Woman of Wonder: Ada Lovelace’s Bicentennial on Sunday at 5:30 PM in Bayshore
(with Karen Brenchley (M), Edward Kukla)

Girls, do you think it would be hard to become a mathematician? Imagine how tough it would have been in the Victorian Era! This December will mark the 200th birthday of mathematician Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, whose work with Charles Babbage on his Analytical Engine has led to her being called the world’s first computer programmer. Usually referred to as Ada Lovelace, her Victorian Era career has inspired modern efforts like the creation of Ada Lovelace Day and the formation of the non-profit Ada Initiative. Learn more about why she is such an amazing role model and why people have been inspired by her example to work towards getting more girls into science, technical, engineering, and math careers.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: cover detail from Voyage of the Basilisk (Voyage of the Basilisk)

Mary Robinette Kowal and I will be going on tour again in May, for Of Noble Family (her) and Voyage of the Basilisk (me — out two weeks from today!). We’re hitting a few of the same locations as last time, but also some new ones; check below to see if we’ll be anywhere near you!

Tuesday, May 5, Chicago, IL

Wednesday, May 6, San Diego, CA

Thursday, May 7, Petaluma, CA

Friday, May 8-Sunday, May 10, Coos Bay, OR

Tuesday, May 12, Beaverton, OR

Thursday, May 14, Salt Lake City, UT

Saturday, May 16, Scottsdale, AZ

Sunday, May 17, Houston, TX

Monday, May 18, Raleigh, NC

Tuesday, May 19, Chapel Hill, NC

Wednesday, May 20, Asheville, NC

I will also be at BayCon the following weekend, and may have a Borderlands event in there somewhere, too. I’ll post the details here when I know about that for sure.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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FOGcon is this weekend, and it’ll be a moderately busy one for me:

Friday, March 6th, 3-4:15 p.m.
Tenses for Time Travelers and Other Abominations of Language
Travel to a strange place — learn new words for animals, foods, and activities at your destination and along the way. Travel in a strange conveyance — learn new words for fuels, travelers’ pastimes, and social structures. How do invented words affect the reader’s experience of an invented world? What strange manglings of language feel natural and atmospheric, and what just doesn’t work?
M: Juliette Wade. Marie Brennan, Sarah Huffman, Heather Rose Jones, Zed Lopez

Saturday, March 7th, 10:30-11:45 a.m.
On The Road
The “road novel” is both a mainstream and a genre staple. The interplay between the physical journey and the emotional journey of the characters literalizes metaphor in a sf’nal manner, whether the trope map is mainstream or genre. This panel will be an opportunity to talk about The Road as a narrative structure, as metaphor, as setting, and to share some of our favorite road novels.
M: Aaron I. Spielman. Marie Brennan, Charlie Byrd, Elsa

Saturday, March 7th, 1:30-2:45
The Setting Is Another Character
Some stories have such a strong sense of place that the setting comes to life, sometimes becoming as important as any other character. What makes a setting more than scenery? How do settings play a role in our favorite stories?
M: Marie Brennan. Anna Leah Blumstein, Karen Brenchley, Megan E. O’Keefe, Terry Weyna

When I’m not busy with those things, I’ll be around — at other panels, hanging out in the bar, wherever. Feel free to say hi!

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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No, I didn’t win Best Novel. That went to Sofia Samatar, who is richly deserving.

There’s a part of me that had mixed feelings about the prospect of winning the award — not because of anything against the World Fantasy Award in and of itself, but because of the thing that signifies the award: a Gahan Wilson sculpture of the head of H.P. Lovecraft. For starters, he isn’t who I think of when you say “fantasy;” I associate him much more with horror. For another — with all due respect to Mr. Wilson — I find the visual aesthetic of the thing seriously unappealing. But most of all, it’s really kind of offensive.

H.P. Lovecraft was an influential writer: no doubt about that. But he was also a deeply unpleasant person in exactly the ways that we as a genre are trying to get past.

I know there are people who want to keep the award’s design as it is. All the arguments I’ve heard from that side have amounted to “tradition” or “fondness” or something else in that vein. I’ve yet to hear anyone say that people will be hurt by changing the design. But right now, people are being hurt by not changing it. To the point where Sofia Samatar felt obliged to mention this problem in her acceptance speech.

I have a hard time seeing why tradition or fondness should outweigh that.

Had I gotten the award, I would have crossed my fingers that I could say I had received the very last head of H.P. Lovecraft ever handed out as a World Fantasy Award. Honestly, that might be too ambitious of a time-scale; I don’t know whether the WFS could get through the design and production process quickly enough to have it be different for next year. But one of my friends pointed out that they could unveil the new design at next year’s con, and that would make me very happy.

What should it be instead? People have floated lots of suggestions, ranging from the heads of other writers to various symbolic objects. Me, I say throw the doors open: let the community submit designs. We have a wealth of excellent artists among us; let them exercise their collective creativity, let the membership vote to select a shortlist, and then the board can choose the final design. Or make a board shortlist, and the membership votes on the final design. Or whatever. Something that makes the an exciting opportunity for the community, a positive to counteract the negative of the current controversy.

There was a poll at this year’s con, completely informal, to see whether it should be changed. I’m glad to see the WFS taking notice of the issue; I hope we see them take action soon.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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I have a surprisingly busy weekend ahead of me. My official obligations are as follows:

  • Thursday, 8-8:30 p.m., Regency E&F, Opening Ceremonies. In which I go play the role of World Fantasy Award nominee!
  • Thursday, 8:30 p.m. onward, Ice Cream Social. Okay, this isn’t official as such, but it’s basically the Opening Ceremonies afterparty.
  • Friday, 11-12 p.m., Independence B, Geography and Fantasy. A panel on the ways in which fantasy gets tied in with the landscape (especially cities). I’m on this with Robert Redick, Joshua Palmatier, Max Gladstone, and Siobhan Carroll; that last is a) a friend of mine and b) armed with Actual Scholarly Knowledge on this subject, so it promises to be a pretty awesome panel.
  • Saturday, 8-9 p.m., Washington, The Myriad Faces of Dragons. Naomi Novik is on this panel. How could I pass up the chance to be on it with her?
  • Saturday, 9-10 p.m., Arlington, Book View Cafe group reading. There’s a bunch of us, so it’s going to be a rapid fusillade of storybits!
  • Sunday, 1 p.m. onward, Regency E&F, Awards Banquet. In which I go play the role of extremely nervous World Fantasy Award nominee!

And that’s not counting the various lunches, dinners, meet-up-for-coffees, launch parties, and friends’ readings I have penciled in. The good news is that my mornings are more or less free; the bad news is that, uh, pretty much nothing else is. O_O

But I can’t complain. Every bit of this is something I’m looking forward to!

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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