Memorial Day: A Quick Note

I've said similar things before, but because today is the day we honor our fallen friends who have served the United States of America, I am going to say a few things before the night ends.

I am eternally grateful for those men and women who served in the United States military and gave their lives for whatever cause (our freedom or someone else's). It matters not whether you participated in a war that we now disagree with or condemn, because, to me, you did nothing but what you were supposed to do when you took that oath to serve as a soldier or pilot or what have you, and when your country said, "We need you," you didn't say, "Sorry, I won't have any of that." You took up your pens and rifles and ships and planes and so on and did your duty, and many of you died or will die as a result. Not many people can say they have that kind of dedication to a cause or nation or people or anything.

So, to the men and women currently serving in the U.S. military: thank you; there are few people I can say are true heroes, and military people make up 99% of all heroes in my book.

To the men and women who have died, who have left behind families and may or may not be able to see this, depending on your belief in the afterlife: thank you; you, like the men and women who are still here on this planet, are heroes, and you deserve more respect than you have collectively been given by the nation you sacrificed yourself for.
That is all. Happy Memorial Day...

Video Found: Signing At the Waldenbooks

A very cute little video about author signings. The really funny part about it is that most of what he sings about is pretty true. Author signings for newbies or non-bestsellers generally aren't the most bustling of events. But, if they were all perfect things there wouldn't be anything funny to say about them, now would there? Exactly.

Here it is for your enjoyment (after the fold):

RIP: Dennis Hopper

Dennis Hopper passed away today from prostate cancer in his home. We all remember Hopper for his various crazy roles in film, genre or otherwise. He had roles in Apocalypse Now, Hoosiers, Speed and the less-than-spectacular Waterworld and Super Mario Bros. I have fond memories of Hopper, even if I didn't like some of the movies he made. Needless to say, some of the worst movies he was in were made bearable by his presence.
He will be missed!

Note: Update on Security Warnings (on this site)

I've done a lot more work to find out what's been going on and had a friend who has more knowledge about Internet things look over on the site. Both of us show nothing wrong with WISB. At best I suspect that what happened was a fluke (a site external to my own who I link to might have had an attack or some such or Google got it wrong and nothing is going on at all). We might never know what happened.

In any case, the warnings have ceased appearing for me. My understanding is that they have not for everyone else. I don't know what that means, but if you continue to get warnings from this site beyond Monday, please don't hesitate to email me at arconna [at] yahoo [dot] com or send an @ message to my Twitter account.

Thanks for your patience!

Note: Temporarily Out of Service

I wanted to give you all a heads up. My blog was recently hacked or something. I'm getting a lot of Malware notices for the pages for various posts, but not for the main page. I have no idea what's going on, but, rest assured, I'm working on fixing it.

My apologies for the inconvenience. Stick around. Once I get it fixed, everything will be back to normal and you won't have to worry about your Internet safety.

Thanks!

Genre Inclusivity: The Fundamental Paradox of the Love/Hate Relationship in SF/F

Last week, Weirdside and I discussed M.D. Lachlan's article on the inclusivity of the genre community in the second episode of The Skiffy and Fanty Show. While we both agreed that, generally speaking, the genre fiction community is far more open and welcoming than other segments of the writing world, we never properly addressed what I think is a potential destroyer of genre fiction. I'm not talking about disinterest in reading science fiction, or the lack of respect by academics, or the various other things that people cite as the downfall of SF/F or other genres. I'm talking about the internal conflict within SF/F, induced in part by the ability of the Internet to provide a space for any voice, opinion, thought, and so on, often without serious consequences for the speaker. The conflict usually appears with a "fail" at the end of it, such as GenderFail, RaceFail 09 (and 10), and so on.

The problem with these moments in SF/F isn't so much that nobody is addressing a legitimate issue. It would be foolish to claim that race and gender are not important problems in our culture. It's unfortunate that we still have to deal with things like the casting calls for The Last Airbender or the fact that not enough women are being given their due in today's SF/F book culture. Despite how inclusive genre seems to be, it still has a lot of problems that need to be worked out. This is part of the paradox of inclusivity, because the genre is not as inclusive as it should be, and moments when that inclusivity is questioned have created more uproar and divides than were present before (the result not just of the people on the "bad" side, but on the "good" side too; these arguments have no innocent parties, sadly).

The problem with RaceFail and GenderFail is the way certain individuals have used these moments not to help solve a problem or bring attention to it, but to divide us further by ejecting innocent people from the discussion, disregarding key facts, and generally using these moments as soap boxes for a view that may or may not be as true as they think. Racism exists, yes, but one racist instance at one time doesn't necessarily mean that other instances that are similar are inherently racist. Sometimes the dice just roll that way, and that's life. The same is true of gender. Again, I don't deny that racism and sexism exist; if the last year has taught us anything (and the last couple of months especially), it is that both are very much alive and well and on the rise, a fact that, for the vast majority of Americans, should be disturbing, but which has not been appropriately addressed by people in the various movements in which such racism or sexism are rearing their ugly heads. But, despite that, what I have said before, and will inevitably repeat somewhat here and in the third episode of the Skiffy and Fanty Show coming this weekend, is that the SF/F community is in need of a massive overhaul, not just in its publishing realms, but in its engagement among fans, producers of SF/F products (writers, editors, and so on), and academics. We've continued to become divisive in nature, and this is a problem that needs to be solved now before more and more people get shoved out of the SF/F mainstream or movements once regarded as legitimate are sunk in a sea of unproductive anger.

Case in point, and an issue I recently discussed with Weirdside in our third episode (albeit not in as much detail as I would have liked), is the recent controversy over Paizo Publishing's Before They Were Giants anthology. Bloggers and critics grew angry over the fact that the anthology contains only one woman and excludes a vast number of excellent big name female writers. The editor, however, came out of the woodworks and explained his editorial process, part of which involved a number of women SF/F writers turning him down for the anthology (many, we're led to assume, rejected the offer for very good reasons); some writers who were mentioned in the comments were actually excluded by the editor not because they were women, but because they had been published in a series of anthologies with the same concept years before, and the editor didn't want to create an anthology of repeats. These are only two of the points that the editor made, but bloggers and critics wouldn't have any of it. Some went so far as to ignore the most important points made by the editor, as if desperate to keep the onslaught going. In all of this, only a few people came out with honest faces, and a number, some particularly prominent members of the critical/academic SF/F community, came out looking like ruthless trolls so sunk into the bitter world they've created for themselves that they can't see what their actions are actually doing: creating more divide and solving nothing whatsoever.

The one thing I have always wondered about these "fail" movements is whether it is possible for the SF/F community to take a step back and perhaps use the community itself as a vehicle to make the changes to publishing and production that need to be made, without all of the vitriol flooding the Internet and poisoning the community. How important is it to people to bring more women into the SF world? Or people of color? Or international authors? To me, they seem monumentally important, so much so that I can take a step back and think about ways to create change without alienating or destroying people. I don't want more female or PoC writers and characters if the exchange is one of the following:
  1. Many good editors, perhaps who make a mistake or have legitimate reasons to have left out some female/PoC writers, lose their jobs and become ostracized by the community that inevitably wants them to change. It seems impossible to change something if you are no longer able to produce for the publishing world. If catching a few bad eggs means potentially throwing out a lot of good ones, then I don't think the trade off is reasonable.
  2. Publishers change, but the change isn't because they actually care or because they get it or because they really feel that people are right. They change because you've screamed loud enough and long enough that they just can't ignore you. My problem with this is that you might get what you want out of it, but the end result is nothing more than a hand-me-down pat on the head, as if to say, "there there, we'll give you want you want, little one." It's more condescending than anything else.
  3. Nothing happens at all on a significant scale. We might get some small publishers who publish more women, but inevitably the divide in the SF/F community created by the bitter and verbally abusive segments of the population will have no real mainstream change. To me, this is the scariest of them all, because the potential for anyone with an even-headed approach will be shoved into the radical group, despite fitting there as much as a rhinoceros fits in at the table with those poker-playing dogs. If you don't think that's possible, then look at the mainstream view of Muslims, who have been unfairly portrayed as extremists who hate their women and so on. Or perhaps the assumption that all feminists (ALL) are bra-burning raging lesbian lunatics. If you've met people from any of these groups, you'd know that the stereotypes are almost always a load of crap. Yet, the stereotypes still exist and continue to do damage to these communities, sometimes because the stereotypes turn out to be true, and sometimes because the public assumes that the stereotype is the end-all-be-all. True, some change gets made, but the change is too slow and at a cost that I don't think we should be paying, especially not in the SF/F community.
As I indicated before, I am curious about how the SF/F community can be used as a vehicle for change. What would happen if we spent more time in open, honest, but friendly discussion about the issues that plague our genres? What if we organized the community and mobilized it for peaceful engagement with the producers of the material we so enjoy? Why aren't we sending more email pointing out that we're concerned and that we would really like to see more women, PoC, and so on? Where are the petitions? It might seem weak to talk to the publishers directly and tell them what we want, and maybe it won't produce real change either, but it's a step in the right direction.

We need an SF/F community that largely doesn't resort to kneejerk reactions and instead engages with publishers and members to figure out what is going on and to bounce ideas off one another to figure out ways to move forward. Punishing the publisher doesn't do anything; in fact, it harms the authors and editors who rely on publishers for their income (a fact pointed out by Scalzi here). But talking to publishers and figuring out how they think would help the community get a grip on the market. Pointing out to publishers that there's something that needs fixing in a way that doesn't belittle or tear down the foundations might very well get them to open their eyes and see what's happening around them. It happens, and maybe if we can get the community to open the dialogue we'll see some real change.

Then again, maybe I'm naive.

Poll Results: How do you read this blog?

I didn't get quite as many votes as I would have liked, but I think the spread is probably fairly representative of how you folks read this blog. Here are the results:
  • 66% of you read this blog via and RSS Reader
  • 33% of you read this blog by coming to the main page
Nobody voted for any of the other options, though I know a good 20 or so of the readers for this blog do use email, which accounts for that missing 1%.

I'll have another poll in the near future. Stay tuned!

Video Found: Turbo (Short Film)

Remember that movie Gamer with Gerard Butler? Remember how the idea was really cool, but it was executed poorly? I do. But the good news is that someone else had the same idea and came up with a twenty-four minute short film called Turbo:
TURBO is a high adrenaline short film in the tradition of The Karate Kid and Tron. It tells the story of Hugo Park (Justin Chon, Twilight) a troubled youth whose only outlet for angst is a 4D fighting videogame called “Super Turbo Arena”. When Pharaoh King (Jocko Sims, Crash the Series), the Michael Jordan of cyber-sports, announces a tournament to determine who will join his pro-team, Hugo sets his eyes on the prize. But, Hugo isn't the only gamer who wants fame and glory. If Hugo wants to win he's going to have to beat Shamus (David Lehre, Epic Movie), the all time Turbo champ at the local Pandemonium arcade, and Ruse Kapri, a feisty prep girl that knows how to win. Realizing he can't win on his skill alone, Hugo turns to his brother Tobias a former kick-boxer whose last match left him wheel-chair ridden. Together the two will mend old wounds and see if a washed up street fighter can teach a troubled teen how to become a virtual gladiator!
And it's freaking awesome. It has flaws, sure, but I think it's definitely a great piece of science fiction.

If you've got the time, check it out below (after the fold):
TURBO from Jarrett Lee Conaway on Vimeo.