On the “Right” Kind of Reviews

One of the things that often bothers me about the reviewing process is the idea that some reviews are inherently more valuable than others. By this, I don't mean in the sense of the quality of the writing itself; after all, some reviews really are nothing more than a quick "I liked it" or are borderline unreadable. Rather, I mean "more valuable" in the sense that different styles of reviewing are worth more than others. While I think most of us would agree that this is poppycock, there are some in the sf/f community who would honestly claim that the critical/analytical review is simply better than the others (namely, the self-reflective review). Read More

The Downsides to Owning Way Too Many Books

Yeah, I know. There's no such thing as "too many books," except when there is. As I mentioned recently, I've been slogging through Stephen King's IT on a mission to get a fuller picture of the story we've been told 1.5 times in film. When I say "slogging," I mean it. For all that I enjoy about the book, there are so many things that I don't, most notably its massive page count and glacial pace. It comes back to that "big books" problem, which I've talked about before (probably on Twitter somewhere) -- albeit in a somewhat different context. In brief, I've avoided books over 300-350 pages for years simply because I work so much and read too slow. With all that swirling around in my head, I decided to put IT down for a bit to put my brain into something else. All of this leads me to my topic for today: Read More

The Neo-Nazis Are in Town, and They’re Playing Us

As I write this, Richard Spencer and his cronies have arrived in Gainesville, FL for an event at the University of Florida. He was not invited by anyone but himself. The student body overwhelmingly doesn't want him here. The city overwhelmingly doesn't want him here. But he's here nonetheless to share his message of hate, to manipulate young people to serve his needs, and to play all of us like a fiddle. This event isn't just about presenting his ideas. He'll use this as an opportunity to stage altercations, lie, and manipulate in order to legitimate his movement. This new breed of neo-Nazi/white nationalist[note]...or whatever stupid name you want to give these racist pisspots[/note] has a wide range of technological tools at their disposal that make disseminating lies and hatred easier than ever. Every reaction we give them is more fuel for his fire. They don't need us to discriminate against Spencer or his kind; they'll make it up if they have to. None of this means we shouldn't respond. What it means is we're sort of trapped between a rock and a hard place in all of this. If we react, it will be used against us. If we don't, it'll seem like silent consent. Either way, it seems like we are powerless against this stuff. The problem, however, isn't us. Read More

On Ethics and Linking Policies (or, Yeah, DNL Doesn’t Work That Way)

The Internet is a wonderful place. The Internet is a terrible place. The Internet is where dreams go to live and die in a messy conglomeration of joy, hate, madness, rage, love, sadness, and bewilderment. We want this Internet place to be safe for everyone.[note]OK, so that's not exactly true. We don't want the Internet to be safe for the truly awful among us. The murderers and rapists and scummy butt blisters who are the subject-adjacent of this post. Though, in fairness, the meaning of "safe" in this instance means "safe from physical harm" rather than the more universal safe implied in this post. At least, I think I have the right of it here...[/note] Yet, so often it is not. Given the right prompting, Internet detectives can hunt down your information, reveal your identity, and really ruin your day. Hell, in some cases, these folks have ruined entire lives, making people feel unsafe in their actual homes.[note]How these jackasses make people feel unsafe is rather varied: rude tweets, doxxing, mailing knives and letters full of threats, or even showing up at someone's house.[/note] It's an obvious problem, and one that thus far we don't really have a solution for -- at least, not one that doesn't involve putting your entire online identity behind a firewall of private accounts. Even then, it doesn't necessarily work, since your private accounts can be infiltrated by especially motivated people. Read More

On Colin Kaepernick, Free Speech, and Bad Arguments

So, Colin Kaepernick. What's the deal? Over the past week, a lot of folks have had some pretty strong opinions about Colin Kaepernick's choice to refuse to stand for the national anthem -- and his reasons for doing so. If you don't know what's going on, I'll let you read a more detailed account here. My job, today, is to offer a few scattered thoughts about responses to Kaepernick's protest. Since I don't feel like writing a proper introduction, I'll just get right into it: 2. He has freedom of speech, duh! Read More

Negative Bookstore Experiences: Why Bookstores Should Be Like Libraries

A few weeks ago, I flew out to California to visit family and friends, pursue some possible job opportunities, and get some much needed decompression from the stress of PhD life.  During that time, I stopped at a Barnes & Noble to pick up a book recommended to me by a friend.[note]a longer story that involves me actually writing fiction for once...[/note]  Unlike previous stops at one of the big chain stores -- whereat the cashier tries to sell me on their membership card, to which I always respond "no, thanks" -- I had a far less pleasant experience.  It went something like this:
Cashier:  Are you a Barnes & Noble member? Me:  No, but... Cashier:  *judgmentally* ...you know what the membership card gives you, right? Me:  I do, but... Cashier:  *dismissively* ...Alright then.  $15.
What I had meant to say was this:
I understand what the card provides, but Barnes & Noble closed down the only store within a 30-40 minute drive of my house, so I don't get the opportunity to browse there anymore.  And I don't like browsing for books online, which means I don't buy books all that often from any online bookstore.  Sorry.
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Why I Try Not to Talk About Things I Know Nothing About

Update:  SF Signal has officially removed the post and issued an apology on their website.  To be honest, I think they handled it well.  They responded quickly to criticism, removed the post, and apologized basically in the same evening, which is not something you could say about other places in our community.  John DeNardo has accepted full responsibility, and Sarah Chorn, who runs the column, has said her apologies and apparently gone dark for a bit.  I know both a little bit (not as much as I would like, but we do live in different dimensions, so...), so I feel confident in saying their responses are sincere and that they both feel pretty awful about it all.  I hope that is the end of it and that we can use this moment to move things in a more constructive direction.

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In 2014, I was on a panel about postcolonialism and science fiction at LonCon3.  It was a tough panel for me because as much as I should know what I'm talking about when it comes to the field I've spent the last 8 years studying, I've always had a bit of that impostor syndrome.  And that feeling is always enhanced by the fact that I know I come from the very group which made a field like postcolonialism necessary.  My ancestors probably enslaved people, stole land from others, destroyed entire cultures, colonized entire regions of the world and stole as many resources as they could.  What right do I have studying and writing about these things in the academic context? A lot of that was in the back of my mind when I walked over to the panel location with my fellow panelists, and it stayed there even as I gave my thoughts on questions from the moderator and the audience.  What am I doing here? Read More