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

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I’ll keep this short and to the point.

The intended replacement for the Affordable Care Act is going to kill people.

It sounds melodramatic — but it’s true. It will leave an estimated 24 million Americans without insurance (compared to the ACA), which will make it extremely difficult for them to afford healthcare. It cripples Medicaid, because poor people don’t deserve to be healthy, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, because children only matter while they’re fetuses — oh wait, insurers wouldn’t be required to cover maternity care, either. Nor birth control. Nor gynecological exams. And we all know what the right wing wants to do to Roe v. Wade. So you’re having that baby whether you like it or not, but don’t expect any support from conception until after your kid has graduated. Guess you should have kept your legs closed, bitch.

Call your elected officials. Call them until you get through, because their lines are swamped, and it may take you a while. Especially if you’re represented by a Republican in either chamber, for the love of god, call them. A number of them are already wavering; they know this is bad. But this isn’t the kind of bad where it’s okay to let it happen and let them reap the consequences later, because for them, the consequences will be that maybe they get voted out of office two or four years down the road. For other people, the consequences will literally be death. They need to hear voices telling them not to do it, before we get that far.

For the sake of the millions of people who will be hurt by this, speak up. Make your voice heard. Make a difference.

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.

swan_tower: (*writing)

I needed to be doing some random stuff on the computer this morning, so on a whim, I put on the first episode of Rizzoli & Isles, which is Yet Another Police Procedural, though with two female leads.

First thing I see: a bound and terrified woman, in the clutches of an unknown villain.

Which led me to ask on Twitter, What percentage of police procedurals open their pilot ep with a woman chased, crying, screaming, or dead?

Because seriously — at this point, that is the single most boring way I can think of to open your show. Also problematic and disturbing, but even if you don’t care about those things, maybe you care about it being utterly predictable. There is nothing fresh or new about having the first minute of your police procedural episode show us somebody (usually a woman) being victimized. I said on Twitter, and I meant it, that I would rather see your protagonist file papers. I might decide in hindsight that the paper-filing was also boring . . . but in the moment, I’d be sitting up and wondering, why am I seeing this? Are the papers important? Or something about how the protag is approaching them? Because it isn’t a thing I’ve seen a million times before.

The only thing that brief clip of the victim gives us is (usually) a voyeuristic experience of their victimization. They don’t make the victim a person, an individual we get to know and care about. They rarely even give us meaningful information about the crime, except “this person died from a gunshot/strangulation/burning alive/whatever” — which is info we could easily get later in the episode, through the investigation.

There are exceptions, on a show or individual ep level. But the overwhelming pattern is: here’s some violence for violence’s sake, before we get to the actual characters and the actual story.

I decided last year that I was done with the genre of “blood, tits, and scowling.” I think I’m done with police procedurals, too. I won’t swear I’ll never watch another one, but they’ve just lost all their flavor for me, because I’ve seen so many. And because I am so very, very tired with those predictable openings.

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

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Mary Robinette Kowal recently had nasal surgery to correct a medical problem. Being who she is (a writer, and therefore professionally interested in just about everything under the sun), she’s been posting pictures of her recovery.

She also posted this.

Here’s the thing. Remember when I fell down the stairs? (It was just three days ago; surely you haven’t forgotten.) Afterward, several friends of ours made similar jokes, about my husband pushing me down the stairs.

Why is it that, any time we hear about or see a woman injured, our minds go immediately to domestic abuse?

And why is it funny?

As Mary says, part (maybe all) of the humor comes from the absurdity of the idea: my husband would never push me down the stairs; her husband would never hit her. Anybody who knows us knows this. But at the same time . . . is it really that absurd? How many instances are there of women being abused by their husbands, when all the friends and neighbors would never dream of him doing such a thing?

It isn’t funny, because it isn’t absurd. Not nearly as much as it should be. It’s reality for far too many women. And making jokes about it — that normalizes the idea. Used to be that you got cartoons about drunk driving, the bartender pouring his customer into his car when he’s had a few too many and waving him off homeward with a cheery grin. Because that was normal. You don’t see those cartoons anymore, do you? We don’t think it’s normal to drive when you’re sauced, and we don’t think it’s funny.

We need the same to be true of domestic abuse.

By all means, joke about me falling down the stairs. Remind me that I can’t fly. Say that however much I don’t want to carry boxes, I should stop at hurling them to the bottom, and not hurl myself with them. That’s fine by me; humor is a good way to deal with a really annoying and painful situation.

But don’t joke about my husband pushing me, or Mary’s husband hitting her.

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

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I don’t have the link, but my husband recently read me bits from an interview with or article by one of the screenwriters for the upcoming Doctor Strange movie, wherein the screenwriter referred to the character of the Ancient One as “Marvel’s Kobayashi Maru.” This is, of course, the character that recently got whitewashed by casting Tilda Swinton in the role; the screenwriter’s piece argued that it’s a situation in which there is no good solution. To wit:

1) The Ancient One is, right out of the gate, kind of a horrible racist stereotype. Mystical Asian master teaches white man the ways of magic! Yyyyyyeah, when that’s your starting point, you’re already in trouble.

2) Okay, say you don’t whitewash the role; you cast an Asian actor and just accept the fact that you’re going to perpetuate the Mystical Asian Master stereotype. The character is canonically Tibetan; you cast a Tibetan actor. Congratulations: you have just walked into a minefield, and its name is “Tibetan/Chinese politics.” China says “screw you, we’re not showing that film in this country,” and you lose out on one of the biggest markets in the entire world — a market which is pretty much necessary to make a film of this kind profitable.

3) Okay, okay, so no Tibetan actor. Cast a Chinese man instead! China’s happy! . . . at the cost of supporting China’s imperialist attitudes toward Tibet and erasing Tibetan identity.

Each one of us probably has an opinion as to which of those three options (whitewash the role and dilute the Asian stereotype; cast a Tibetan actor and eat the massive financial and political hit; cast a Chinese actor and erase Tibet) is the least of the available evils. But the fact remains that none of them are straight-up good options; up to that point, I agree with the screenwriter’s argument.

But I also look at that, and then think about the Kobayashi Maru scenario.

If you can’t win, then change the rules of the game.

For example: I’ve been told that in some versions of the Doctor Strange canon, the hero is Asian instead of white. I haven’t been able to track down a citation for that, but it doesn’t have to be previously true to be an option now; instead of whitewashing the Ancient One, racebend Doctor Strange himself. Then you may still have your Mystical Asian Master, but he’s not teaching a white man his secret ways, and you have a headlining superhero who’s a man of color. It doesn’t solve your Tibetan/Chinese political problem — plus you have to decide what ethnicity your Doctor Strange will be, which potentially carries its own complications — but it does help mitigate the problematic nature of the Ancient One himself, and his relationship with Doctor Strange.

Or my sister’s suggestion: cast a Tibetan actor as the Ancient One . . . and then re-film those scenes with a Chinese actor for the Chinese market. Sure, it’ll cost some money, but not nearly as much as losing out on the Chinese market. You’re still kind of complicit in China’s relations with Tibet, and you haven’t solved your “Asian master teaches a white man” problem (unless you combine this with the above), but it’s a potential compromise.

Or — and this is my preferred solution — get rid of the problem entirely, by getting rid of the Ancient One.

Jettison the inherently problematic baggage you inherited from previous versions of canon and come up with something better. Sure, the fanboys will wail and gnash their teeth — but whatever, they can suck it up. They already understand that there can be multiple different canons, sometimes with wildly divergent stories for how the hero got his powers; let this be another. Give Doctor Strange a different origin story, one that isn’t founded on a horrible racist stereotype. Change the rules of the game. Play something better.

I think the screenwriter did a good job of outlining the dimensions of the box they were stuck in. I just wish he and the director and the producer had realized that they didn’t have to be in the box — that they had the power to bust out of it entirely. It would have been better than the route they went.

(And Scarlett Johansson as Major Kusanagi? There is no goddamned excuse.)

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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My husband and I are finally caught up on both Arrow and The Flash, which means I can finally make the post I’ve been drafting in my head for a while. The following contains mild spoilers for both shows, as well as Daredevil. It also contains a fair bit of complaining about how much The Flash disappointed me, so if you really love it and don’t want to see someone dissect its flaws, you may not want to click through.

Read the rest of this entry  )

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

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I don’t know why, but recently I’ve been seeing posts around the internet about intent and its role in harassment/discrimination/etc which, to my eye, are throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

I am 100% on board with the “intent is not magic” message. If you hit me in the face, then my face hurts, regardless of whether you did maliciously or by accident because you turned around to throw something and didn’t realize I was right behind you. Your good intentions don’t erase the pain and give me a magically unbroken nose. And if your intentions were good, then the proper reaction to finding out that you hurt someone else should be to feel horrified and apologize for what happened. If you get defensive? If you bluster on about how you didn’t mean to like that changes what happened? Then you’re doing it wrong.

(This example is actually not theoretical for me. During the karate seminar in Okinawa, I accidentally rammed somebody in the cheekbone with the end of my bo while trying to slide it out of the way for people to sit down on a bench. I felt terrible, to the point where even now, nine months later, I want to apologize to her again. And I wish I spoke more than ten words of German, so a language barrier wouldn’t have gotten in the way of my attempt to make amends.)

But what I am not on board with is an actual sentence I read the other week, which is: intent doesn’t matter.

It does.

Intent doesn’t erase the damage, no. But it goddamned well ought to inform what happens next. If you hit me in the face by accident and were mortified the instant it happened, then I don’t need to lecture you on how hitting people in the face is bad: you already know that, and just need to be a little more careful. If you hit me in the face because you weren’t aware that face-hitting hurts, then somebody needs to explain that basic point to you, and you need to take a good hard look at your habits to figure out what things you’re doing are likely to result in face-hitting. If you hit me in the face because your society says, yeah, face-hitting hurts but it’s totally okay so long as it’s done to the right targets, then you need to rethink not just your habits but your morals, and the change needs to be not just to you, but to the cultural environment that taught you to behave that way. And if you hit me in the face because you hate my guts and want to see me hurt . . . then I need to get the hell away from you, because the odds that any positive change can be effected there are nil.

In all of these cases, my face still hurts, and you should still apologize. And maybe I’ve been hit in the face enough that for my own well-being, I need to get the hell away from you without pausing to find out whether that was just an accident. But to say that intent flat-out does not matter — to say that there’s no point in figuring out the causes behind actions — that, to me, is taking the point waaaaaaaaaaaaay too far. (And both “intent doesn’t matter” and “I don’t see why we should figure out motives” are actual arguments I’ve seen in the last week or two. I’ve debated whether I should include links, but I decided I’d rather keep the focus on the concepts, rather than the people promoting them — especially since one of those posts was not recent, and for all I know the writer has changed their views.)

The minute we give up on intent, we treat every injustice done to us as a nail, to be hit with the exact same hammer. And that’s not going to get you very far with screws or rubber bands.

We should not put intent above the effects of a hurtful action. We should not act like it’s a magic shield against responsibility for your actions, and the person who was hurt should stop whining already. But we shouldn’t throw it out entirely, either, and it disturbs me to see people saying we should.

EDITED TO ADD: From Mrissa in the comments, an excellent link that says this better than I did, including the concept that “intent is data.” And data is useful.

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

swan_tower: (*writing)

The other day on Twitter, I commented about the absence of women from a book I was reading. Because Twitter is no place for long explanations or nuanced discussions, and also because I was about to go to karate and didn’t want to start a slapfight with fans of the book that might pick up steam while I was busy, I declined to name it there — but I promised I would make a follow-up post, so here it is.

Before I actually name the book and start talking about it, though, two caveats:

1) If you are a fan of the novel in question, please don’t fly off the handle at the criticism here. This is not meant as an attack on the author (who is, by everything I know of him, a really good guy), nor an attack on you for liking it. In a certain sense, it isn’t even an attack on the novel. I’m dissecting this one in great detail not because it’s The Worst Book Ever (it isn’t), but because it’s a really clear example of a widespread problem, and one that would have been trivially easy to fix.

2) Please don’t answer my points here by saying “well, in the second book . . . .” This thing is 722 pages long in the edition I read. That is more than enough time to do something interesting with female characters. I would be glad to know if the representation of women improves later on — but even if it does, that doesn’t change my experience of this book. It stood alone for four years, until the sequel was published. It can be judged on its own merits, and what comes later does not negate what happened first.

Okay, with all of that out of the way (and maybe the caveats were unnecessary, but) . . . the book in question is The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss.

Read the rest of this entry � )

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

swan_tower: from the cover art for my novel The Tropic of Serpents (Tropic of Serpents)

Just a quick heads-up: I’ve gotten several Tweets in the last day telling me that Amazon UK has canceled pre-orders of Voyage of the Basilisk on the grounds that “the book will not be published.” This is, to put it bluntly, not true. I have no idea what’s going on, but if you got that message, a) don’t believe it and b) please do re-order from a retailer that has not gotten its wires so badly crossed.

Now if you’ll pardon me, I need to go investigate this issue.

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

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Earlier today on Twitter, Chuck Wendig posted:

Every week, every month, every year, another story, the same story told over again. White police killing unarmed black men. White men on the street killing unarmed black men. Because they thought the black men were armed. Because they felt threatened. Because they were afraid for their lives. Because the black man didn’t obey fast enough, was wearing a hoodie, was playing his music too loud. And time and time again, verdicts handed down that say, that makes sense. Of course you were afraid; of course you killed to protect yourself from the threat that wasn’t there.

I think about what I feel like, as a white woman of less than Amazonian build, walking down the street alone at night. Tensing up just that little bit when I see someone else approaching; tensing up that little bit more when I see that it’s a man. I imagine what it would be like to be a black man, and to tense up that little bit more when I see it’s a police officer. To see such a person as a hazard, rather than an ally if trouble occurs.

An op-ed in the New York Times today said,

Any police department that tolerates such conduct, and whose officers are unable or unwilling to defuse such confrontations without killing people, needs to be reformed.

This is fundamental. When we have riot police on the streets in military gear, SWAT teams burning infants with stun grenades, tanks rolling through suburbia because they’re army surplus and they might as well go somewhere — then something has gone so profoundly wrong I don’t have the words to describe it. When police turn their force against black men who have done nothing to deserve it, I can’t say “something has gone wrong,” because that implies it was ever right to begin with. But this is just a new verse in the same song. From its very founding, the relationship between the United States of America and its black citizens has been wrong. (The relationship between the United States of America and any of its minority citizens.) This country has used every tool at its disposal, from law to money to rhetoric to armed violence, to preserve the imbalance against them. Our steps in the other direction have been too few, too small, too often reversed with steps in the other direction. The problem hasn’t gone away. It’s right there today, tonight, all around us.

We need to reform a lot more than just the police. But the police are a place to start. If we cannot trust them, then we cannot trust anything that follows.

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

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A while ago I posted about needing new dress shoes. A lot of you gave helpful feedback, whether on LJ, on DW, or by email, and I was optimistic for the future.

Then I actually tried to get some shoes.

Really, I should have started this hunt way sooner — and with that in mind, I’m going to continue the hunt, because the shoes I bought for my immediate purpose meet basically none of my initial criteria. The heels are too high, they have no padding, they have no arch support. They’re just the best I was able to obtain on short notice. The shoes I found that might have worked weren’t available in my size, or couldn’t be obtained in time (one site has no shipping option faster than 10 business days — wtf). But this rant is about something bigger.

This rant is about the dress shoe industry basically telling me to go to hell.

ME: I would like a pair of heels that are not an ergonomic disaster.
INDUSTRY: I suppose I can help you. Here, have a small selection of shoes with padding and arch support and heels of less than two inches. They are very suitable to wear to work.
ME: No, I need something dressy. Evening wear shoes, not business shoes.
INDUSTRY: Oooh! We have those! You can enjoy a wide selection of beautifully designed platforms and wedges and stilettos, with heels ranging from three inches up.
ME: Did you forget my first criteria? I want dressy shoes without insanely high heels.
INDUSTRY: Three inches isn’t insane.
ME: Yes, it is. Look, I don’t want to argue; just give me the kind of shoe I’m looking for.
INDUSTRY: They don’t exist.
ME: What? Why not?
INDUSTRY: Because fuck you, that’s why. If you want to look fancy, then you have to pay the price. You have to be unstable, incapable of walking quickly, and in pain by the end of the evening. Those are the rules.

There are exceptions — a very, very, very small number of them, in the grand scheme of things. But on the whole, the dress shoe industry is flat-out uninterested in letting women look nice and take care of their feet. The shoes that are comfortable are also sensible, in the aesthetic meaning of that word. Even though there’s no reason you can’t design an attractively strappy shoe with a heel of, say, an inch and a half. Even though there’s no reason you can’t build a small amount of padding into the sole of something other than a sedate pump. We live in a world where anything less than two and a half inches is a “low heel,” and the three-inch mark is treated as the median. Never mind the detrimental health effects of wearing shoes like that on a regular basis: as a woman, you can wear good shoes, or you can look nice, but you can’t do both at once. (And god help you if you decide to flip the bird to the notion of “looking nice.”)

Ten minutes at DSW and I wanted to light the entire dress shoe section on fire. I ended up walking out with a pair of not-too-expensive heels that have no padding or arch support, but do unexpectedly offer ankle support — not by intent, I imagine, but simply because they have a decorative bit that laces up. These are not the shoes I want; they are not the dressy black heels I can wear with many outfits for the next ten years. I’m going to have to keep searching for those. But I can’t say I’m very enthusiastic about the hunt, because the industry has zero interest in providing me with what I want.

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

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My husband and I reached a point a while ago where we ought to start thinking about doing something more useful with our savings than letting them sit in a savings account. After much procrastination, we finally went to see an investment advisor to talk about our options.

During that meeting, one of the things he asked us was when we expected to retire. I forget what my husband said; my reply was basically that so long as I am healthy enough to write, and continuing to earn money by doing so, I see no reason to stop.

What I did not say to him: I don’t think I believe in retirement anymore.

I have a dreadful suspicion that fifty years from now, “retirement” is going to be seen as a quaint twentieth-century concept, an unusual social construct that existed for a little while and then went away again. There will be no retirement; there will only be dying or reaching a point where you are no longer able to work. If you’re lucky, you’ll have enough money to more or less support yourself when that latter point comes. If you aren’t . . . and a lot of people won’t be. I have far too many friends with no savings and too much debt — college- and even grad-school-educated friends who can’t find jobs worthy of their qualifications, who work at what they can get to make ends meet but god help them if one thing goes wrong. There’s no “retirement” when you can barely afford a nest, let alone put together a nest egg.

I’d like to be wrong. I’d like to see this country, and a lot of others around the world, reverse the current trend toward wealth stratification that leaves 1% with obscene amounts of money and 99% with a life plan straight out of the nineteenth century. I don’t really plan to retire, but I’d like it to be a thing people can still do when I get to that age.

In the meanwhile, I will save money, invest it wisely, and count my lucky stars that I’m in a position to try.

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

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I’ve been feeling for a while now that I ought to post something about GamerGate, but I really didn’t know where to start. I’ve seen all these posts referencing it, but none of them went back and gave me the whole story in a way I could understand. Okay, so it’s something about ethics in game journalism? Except it’s mostly turned into terrifying levels of harassment against women? What’s it actually supposed to be about, though? When we say “ethics in game journalism,” what is that supposed to mean? Why is this such a huge deal? (Sounded like a tempest in a teacup to me.) What’s the signal that got lost beneath the noise? But every time I tried to look it up, all I found was more crap about doxxing and sending death threats and a festering pit of toxic 4chan evil.

Thank you, Jim Hines.

That’s the post I was looking for — and yet not. The post I was looking for because it gives me the whole story in a comprehensible manner, with links; and yet not, because it turns out that foundation I was digging for just. isn’t. there. From the start, it was a harassment campaign against Zoe Quinn (which has snowballed to include a lot of other women), and everything else was a veneer deliberately crafted to recruit unwitting supporters and give the whole thing an aura of legitimacy. I assumed it was an actual thing that went off the rails, as internet stuff so often does. But no: this was always its nature. It was always a vicious, misogynist campaign designed to punish women for having opinions.

It doesn’t matter whether you actually care about ethics in game journalism. Or anywhere else in the game industry. If you want to talk about that, you have to ditch this name, ditch this entire moment, and start over fresh. Because right now? Any attempt to discuss this under the aegis of GamerGate means standing up to be a human shield for the assholes. It means letting them use you. It means giving your support to the actual movement — not the ethical thing, but the misogynist one. And if you do that, you have essentially announced that you don’t give a flying rat fuck about ethics, whereupon there is no reason that anybody other than fellow sewer-dwellers ought to listen to you.

It doesn’t matter what your intentions are. There is no redeeming GamerGate. You join them, or you step away: those are your two options.

That’s the actual story.

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

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I haven’t yet read the entirety of this dissent by Judge Richard Posner on the topic of voter ID laws in Wisconsin, but the words to describe the bits I have read are things like “searing” and “scathing.” This is a conservative judge who formerly supported laws requiring photo ID in order to vote, but his dissent is a 180% about-face that comprehensively calls out exactly what is wrong with such laws — ranging from the fact that they’re trying to solve a problem that basically doesn’t exist, to the fact that they don’t solve the problems that do exist, to the way they disenfranchise the “wrong kind” of voter.

Nor does he neglect the partisan component here: his dissent points out that all the states with strict photo ID laws and most of those with non-strict laws are politically conservative at the state level, while those which require no ID at all skew liberal. And the kinds of people who are disenfranchised by voting obstacles are also more likely to vote liberal. This is not a “both sides do it” kind of problem, where we can waggle our fingers and move on. Whether or not you agree that it is a concerted effort with the goal of stopping “those people” from voting Democratic, it is a concerted effort with that result.

Here’s a tidbit for you: the poll tax that was outlawed in 1964, adjusted for inflation, is substantially cheaper than the average cost for a low-income voter in satisfying a photo ID requirement. You may not be forking over the cash directly for the right to vote, but when you figure in documentation, travel, and time spent away from work jumping through the bureaucratic hoops, it ends up costing in the range of $75-$175. For people who are having trouble feeding their children, this is an inexcusable price.

I haven’t been following the judicial situation well enough to know what effect, if any, Posner’s dissent might have. The fact that it’s a dissent, i.e. a statement disagreeing with the ruling, suggests that it won’t be much. But I have some hope that seeing a conservative judge come out swinging on this topic might shift the winds a little. There are a number of really scummy things going on in American politics these days, but this is one of the worst: it strikes at the very heart of our ability to make things better.

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

swan_tower: (Fizzgig)

A few weeks ago I noticed that my Nexus 10 tablet wasn’t charging properly. I poked around online and found a number for Samsung’s customer support, so I called them up.

The lady I spoke to was very nice. We ran into confusion, though, because when I looked in the settings where my model number ought to be, all it said was “Nexus 10.” Apparently there was supposed to be something else. She gave me a ticket number and said I should call back in a few days, at which point her supervisor would have made the arrangements to put me manually into the system, which would allow them to send me a shipping label to get the tablet repaired.

Seemed good to me, so I thanked her, hung up, and waited.

When I called back, my first call got dropped. On a second try, the guy I talked to seemed to have no awareness of this having happened, despite the ticket number. He asked for my model number, and when I told him it only said “Nexus 10,” he said somebody would call me back in one to two days, after his supervisor made the arrangements to put me manually into the system, which would allow them to send me a shipping label to get the tablet repaired.

It took something more like three or four days, but I did get a call back from a woman saying there was some confusion about the lack of model number, but that she suspected the problem was that my tablet is wi-fi only, and they’re the department for tablets that are registered with a carrier for cellular service. She asked me to call her back and gave her a number.

Let me say for the record that up until this point, I feel like the service I’d received was less than ideal, but basically par for the course with this kind of thing.

That’s about to change.

Today (having been busy for several days, plus the holiday weekend seemed like a bad time to follow up), I call the number I’ve been given. It has a menu. Press 1 for mobile devices, tablets, etc. Okay. Press 3 for tablets. Okay. Press 1 for wi-fi only tablets. Progress, right? I seem to have had the wrong department before, but now I’ll get the right one. I press 1, 3, 1, and get a customer service rep to talk to.

“Can I have your phone number? First and last name? Verify your email address? Thank you. How can I help you today?”

I explain that I have a wi-fi only Nexus 10 tablet that isn’t charging properly, and I’m trying to send it in for repair.

“I’m sorry, but I’m not able to do anything about that here. I’ll have to transfer you to another department.”

. . . not sure why the people under the wi-fi tablet option can’t help me with my wi-fi tablet, but okay. But note: in the eight or so times I called this number and went through this process, I’m fairly certain that I did not get transferred to the same department each time. I’m not positive, since I didn’t take notes, but I’m pretty sure.

And here’s where things get terrible. No matter where I get transferred to, I’m in the wrong place — and it’s blatantly obvious that half the reps aren’t even listening to what I say, because when they ask what I’m calling for, I say it’s a wi-fi only Nexus 10 tablet . . . and then a little while later they are surprised to discover my tablet is wi-fi only, or a Nexus, and they’re going to have to transfer me to somebody who can help with that. One call, I get transferred four times, and I know for a fact that at least two of those transfers were to the wi-fi department. Meaning the wi-fi department sent me somewhere else (I think it was the Nexus department), and then somebody else sent me back. The rep doing the sending back apologizes and says something vague about them having trouble with their phone system. This must be true, because that call gets dropped while I’m waiting to talk to the wi-fi department again — and that is not the only time I get dropped, because I’m not calling Samsung eight times in one afternoon just for shits and giggles. I get dropped once while the initial rep is going through her opening spiel. I get dropped when I’m on hold. I get dropped when somebody picks me up from hold and asks what department I’m trying to reach. At no point can anybody give me the number of the department I’m supposed to be talking to, because apparently they don’t actually have the numbers; they only have a phone system they can use to transfer me.

I’m composing this post while I’m on hold — but not for the wi-fi department, or the Nexus department. I’m on hold waiting to tell Samsung that they have the shittiest customer service I have ever had the misfortune of dealing with. I’ve been waiting to tell them this for forty minutes now, and nobody has picked up.

Basically, Samsung doesn’t give a fuck. I can’t take my device to someplace local to get it repaired, because it’s a tablet; apparently the only way I can get it fixed is to mail it to the manufacturer and wait for them to send it back. But I can’t even do that, because they can’t be bothered to meet the bare minimum standards of actually helping their customers.

I broke off writing this post because after forty-five minutes on hold, I finally got a competent customer service rep who neither attempted to transfer me nor dropped my call. She gave me a new ticket number and her extension, so that if I have to call back, I can (theoretically) get hold of her again and not be sent around the merry-go-round for the millionth time. I’m still waiting — yet again — for someone to set up whatever’s necessary to deal with the lack of model number, but I supplied my proof of purchase, so maybe this time it’ll work? We’ll see.

Not gonna lie, though. I’m not holding my breath.

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

swan_tower: (Fizzgig)

Had you asked me a month ago, I would have described the Xanth series as somewhat puerile humorous fantasy that got kind of creepy about sexuality later on.

Now? I would describe it as somewhat puerile humorous fantasy that has had really awful attitudes about sexuality and gender baked into it from the start.

The change started with this post. If that isn’t enough, you can follow up with this tag, because she’s continued on into the later books (she’s partway through Castle Roogna now), giving me more than enough evidence to say this isn’t a fleeting problem. It’s pervasive. Xanth is horrible. In addition to the constant male gaze evaluating every female character (including human-animal hybrids) for their hotness or lack thereof, you have pretty women being stupid, ugly women being totally not worth anybody’s time, and the very few women who are both pretty and smart being untrustworthy schemers. You have women, countless women, who only exist to be used for men’s gratification. You have women’s protests against mistreatment being explicitly described as an act women practice to make themselves more attractive to men. You have marriage and raising a family being dreadful fates men are expected to run away from. You have men pretty much wanting to rape every woman they see, and being held up as wonderful paragons of morality when they refrain. You have a farce of a rape trial that is I guess supposed to be funny . . . somehow.

And that’s just Xanth. That isn’t even getting into his horror novel Firefly, which goes so far with the pedophilia that merely reading descriptions of the content (and the author’s justifications for same) has guaranteed I will never read anything written by Anthony ever again.

Sorry to rain on the parades of the people who remember the early Xanth books as being Not That Bad. They are. They really, really are. I mean, the original edition of A Spell for Chameleon contained the following passage (taken from that oh-so-funny mockery of a rape trial):

Bink felt sorry for his opposite. How could she avoid being seductive? She was a creature constructed for no other visible purpose than ra—than love.

Case closed.

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

swan_tower: (*writing)

The one bright spot is, people are starting to notice.

In 2008, Amazon got into a pissing contest with Hachette, the smallest of the large publishers (and owners of Orbit, who published my first four novels). In 2010, it was Macmillan (owners of Tor, my current publisher). In 2012, Penguin. And now, in 2014, we’ve wrapped back around to Hachette. Books published by subsidaries of Hachette are currently shipping “in 2 to 5 weeks” — including Warrior, Witch, Midnight Never Come, and In Ashes Lie. Is it because there’s a problem with Hachette? Are they not supplying stock to Amazon in a timely fashion?

Nope. It’s because Amazon is trying, once again, to use its market share to strong-arm publishers into accepting unfavorable terms. Unfavorable for the publishers, unfavorable for writers — and ultimately, unfavorable for readers.

This isn’t an isolated incident. It’s an ongoing pattern of behavior. It’s something people have been warning about for years, but the response has usually been that Amazon is your friend. They sell things cheaply and ship really fast (just don’t think about how they treat their employees), and hey, 70% royalties on ebooks! Except that Amazon is demonstrably willing to tank the customer experience if it will help them gain more power in the marketplace. And the more they control, the less friendly they become. They are the abusive boyfriend who systematically isolates you from everybody in your life and then, once you have nowhere else to turn, shows his true colors.

If we had better anti-trust legislation in this country, Amazon would have been stopped long before this. But we don’t, and they haven’t been.

Back when they pulled the buy buttons off Macmillan books as a “negotiating tool,” I removed the Amazon links from my website. (Mostly. Scanning the pages, I see I left the Book Depository there; I don’t know if they hadn’t yet been bought by Amazon at the time.) I’m going to go through and scrub the remainder, with two exceptions: Audible (also owned by Amazon, but they are the publisher of my audio editions) and Kindle Direct Publishing (for the BVC-published ebooks). Notice a pattern there? I’m leaving up the links where Amazon has enough power over me that I can’t just walk away from them. I don’t like it, but I don’t feel I can choose differently. More than half of my ebook sales come via Amazon, and there is no way to buy the audiobooks that doesn’t put money in their pocket.

But they don’t control everything, at least not yet. You can get my books from Barnes and Noble — ebook and print alike. They aren’t perfect, but they’re Amazon’s main competitor. Or you can buy from Powell’s. Or from IndieBound. Or Books-a-Million. Or Indigo, if you’re Canadian. You can also get my ebooks from Book View Cafe or Kobo (and by the way, if you’re the sort of person who’s motivated by Amazon’s “author-friendly” habit of paying a 70% royalty, note that Kobo pays the same, while BVC pays me a 95% royalty instead). Maybe it won’t be as convenient as Amazon; you won’t get free two-day shipping. But that convenience is the bait: they use it to shift more and more business into their hands, and then they use what they hold to change the market to benefit them.

It isn’t illegal. But it also isn’t something I care to support. There are alternatives, and I encourage you to use them.

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

swan_tower: (Default)

I am croggled to discover that Zelazny’s Nine Princes in Amber is apparently not available as an ebook (not commercially, anyway — my library seems to only have it in electronic format). Furthermore, if I wish to purchase the dead tree edition new, my only option seems to be buying an enormous honkin’ omnibus of all ten main novels.

I would welcome evidence that I am wrong about this, likely on account of searching when it is nearly 3 a.m. here and I need sleep. But if it is indeed as it appears: what the heck? Why has the rights-holder not made the book more widely available? This is not some obscure novel nobody’s ever heard of except academics and three Yuletide fans; it’s a reasonably well-known classic. I want to give the rights-holder money, whoever they are. But they are making it annoying to do so. I don’t want a giant omnibus; I want the instant gratification of an ebook, which I can take with me to Wiscon, and then if I like the first one I’ll probably buy it and the rest in paper. I do not want to carry a brick on the plane.

Grrr. Argh.

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


swan_tower: (Default)

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