Last night I was made aware of two things: that the Sad Puppy 4 Recommendation List has been released and that I am on it, for my novella Speak Easy.
Yes, these are the same Sad Puppies that dominated fandom conversation through most of last year, and whose slates resulted in so much ink spilt, and so many No Awards given out. Yes, I am still the evil SJW Queen Bee Persian Cat Who the Hell Does She Think She Is that I was last year in the eyes of this group. I am absolutely not going to re-hash the arguments on Sad or Rabid Puppies right now. You guys know how to Google. I suggest File770 for excellent coverage.
My first reaction–and perhaps not my best reaction–was anger and confusion. I genuinely do apologize for posting my first reaction to the internet–I should know better by now. This is me, a good sleep later, trying to sort it all out logically.
I was upset because I wasn’t asked whether I was okay with being put on this list. I had thought I remembered SP saying they would ask authors for permission in the future, but it’s since been pointed out to me that my memory, as with all human cognition, is faulty, and the truth is the opposite–they, in fact, pledged not to ask permission or remove names on request.
I was immediately attacked on Twitter for this anger and confusion–aren’t I an ungrateful, horrible person for not being happy and honored that people liked my work? Aren’t I insulting my readers? Aren’t I trying to exclude certain opinions because I don’t agree with them politically? Aren’t the Puppies showing good faith by including such obviously SJW authors as myself, John Scalzi, Alyssa Wong, Nnedi Okorafor, and Ann Leckie? Shouldn’t I just sit down and shut up? Aren’t I actually the worst?
And it occurs to me that I would feel far less anger and confusion if one single person had calmly and without rancor said to me: “Hey, last year was a clusterfuck all around. This year we’re trying to put all that behind us and do a straight recommendation list. That’s all that’s going on.” But instead, it was the same instant name-calling and attacks that went down last time.
So I spent the night trying to get my thoughts in order on this. Because, yes, if you strip away all the context of the Sad Puppies campaigns, it’s just a recommendation list, and I was happy enough to be on the Locus List (which doesn’t ask permission), so I should simply be joyful that people liked Speak Easy enough to recommend others take a look at it. A recommendation list, as we have been saying all along, is not a slate.
But you can’t strip away the context. Context is content. Context is everything.
I promised last year not to allow my name on any slate, for any reason, in perpetuity. Which means that if SP4 is, somehow, a slate, it would be hypocritical of me to shrug and say I’m cool with it just because my name happens to be on it. This is where I get stuck, because I feel there is a moral morass here. Call me old-fashioned: when I give my word, it still means something to me. This puts me in an incredibly difficult position, from which there is no easy extrication.
The problem is, I spent a year listening to how the Puppies are Master Strategists. You can’t blame me for doing a Perception Roll and looking for traps. And that is my fear. That, with apologies to Admiral Akbar, it’s a trap.
I don’t want to be anyone’s shield. I want any nomination to be about my work and my work alone. I don’t want to be used to add legitimacy to a slate, I don’t want to be used to whitewash the history of a movement that, at the very minimum, has behaved poorly and rudely toward a large number of people, including me, my loved ones, and my colleagues. I don’t want to be fodder for a “we all know the first five are the real slate” strategy. I don’t want to be used as a gotcha!, forced to withdraw in order to keep my moral house in order and make room for more works along the lines of “Safe Space as Rape Room” and “Sad Puppies Bite Back” or remain on the list and force a conversation about No Awarding so that the Puppies can watch the people they targeted last year get No Awarded or call us all hypocrites at large for not doing it–victory declared at any result.
I don’t want to be used. Hashtag Not Your Shield. I want my work to be my work, and that’s it. If I get nominated, I want to know it happened fairly. That it was only about people liking my work.
And maybe, just maybe, that’s what’s happening. They seem to have done everything people said they should do to make it a recommendation list and not a slate. It’s democratic, it’s open, there are either more or less than five recs for every slot. The Rabid Puppy list has almost nothing in common with the Sad Puppy list.
But it’s absurd to get angry at someone for thinking there might be something more to it. After all the talk about manipulation and strategy, all the insults flung and accusations levied, this is the result. It is hard to trust. And it is impossible to just pull the tablecloth out from under the Sad Puppies and leave the flowers and the silver still standing. The Puppies are a political group. They specifically did what they did last year to make “SJW heads explode.” Members have engaged in racists, homophobic, and sexist rhetoric. They have stated that the last several years of Hugos, during which I won and was nominated, were a lie and a farce, only existing due to affirmative action.
But many members did not engage in that rhetoric. The relationship between Sad and Rabid was always fluid, strange, and half-obscured. Many people simply wanted more populist work on the ballot, and they had every right to want that. Every right to have their voice heard–just not to the exclusion of all other voices. No group is monolithic.
But the Sad Puppy name is inextricably entwined with that history. Remember why the Puppy was Sad in the first place. You can’t just separate that past and say it’s all fine now. You certainly can’t, as some have in messages to me, say there was never anything wrong with it and everyone else was evil. At least in terms of what I’ve seen on social media in the last 24 hours, Puppies still want to fight, still want to accuse, still don’t want to say anything in the ball park of “Hey, it’s not like that” and explain things in a non-inflammatory way. This worries me. This makes me think about Admiral Akbar.
So what do I do? Honestly, I still don’t know. My stomach hurts. At the moment, it really does look like people just liked my book. Anyone could recommend something, after all. Locus doesn’t need my permission and neither does anyone else, so requiring it from the Puppies alone, as long as it is not a slate, would be strange. I’ve been on some WEIRD rec lists in my time, I tell you what. And I will absolutely not dismiss readers because of the URL where their desires are expressed.
It all comes down to whether this recommendation list is a list or a slate.
Right now, it doesn’t look like a slate. Right now, it looks like a list complied by people with extremely wide-ranging tastes and interests. Right now, I’m inclined to try to mend fences across fandom in whatever little way I can by giving them the benefit of the doubt that this is all in good faith–because I want to be given the benefit of the doubt that I act in good faith. So for right now, that’s what I’m going to do. I am going to believe in the better angels of our–and Puppy–nature. I’m going to choose to believe that they looked at the thousand suggestions of ways to recommend books that would not run afoul of the spirit of the Hugos and adjusted their methods accordingly. I’m going to choose to believe that the political rhetoric of the Puppy movement is a thing of the past, and from here on out, it will be about what each and every one of us said it should be about–good books. Nothing else.
If this changes, if all that ugliness comes roaring back and it becomes about something other than the content of books, I will change my mind and very quickly. But for right now, I have to try to believe that things can get better. This is my Pollyanna moment. I sincerely hope I don’t regret it.
If you take anything away from all of this it should be merely that Hugo nominations close on March 31st. Nominate what you love, don’t think about anything else. Love is all that matters, in the end.
The last book in the Fairyland series, The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home, comes out today.
And I’ll be talking about my book a lot over the next week while I tour the eastern half of the country. Doing the authorial dance, trying to talk people into buying this funny orange thing with a wyvern on the cover. You know the drill by now–if you like the book, tell people about it. Any way you can. That’s really all there is to it.
But I wanted to take a minute out of the publicity waltz to say something with all my heart.
Thank you to everyone who made this book real. Everyone who read Palimpsest and asked where they could find that Fairyland book I mentioned. Everyone who read and linked and donated when Fairyland was just a baby story, posted on this website every Monday. Everyone who fell in love with September and Ell and Saturday and wanted the best for them. Everyone who has ever bought a copy, come to a reading, sent me a note telling me how much the stories meant to them. Everyone who ever brought me coffee or a cross-stitch or a necklace or a hug. My family and my friends and my readers, who are both.
You are my Green Wind and my Leopard of Little Breezes. You took me to Fairyland. Gratitude doesn’t begin to cover it.
Fairyland is the real and true piece of magic in my life. It has made everything else possible. I am beyond lucky to have spent these years with September and with you. Nothing is the same as it was before the Green Wind came to that little girl’s window. I owe my whole life to those who have believed in me and my stories, to you.
I say it’s the last book in the series. But I would be shocked if I never return to this world I love so much. This is September’s story finishing–but never really finishing. Nothing ever does, you know. The curtain closes but the play never even slows down. Fairyland doesn’t stop. She just catnaps.
I hope to continue writing for a long time yet, and hopefully I’ll manage to make something else half as wonderful as a Wyverary. I hope to meet every single one of you, somehow. I’ve got a good fifty or sixty years left. It’s doable.
But in the meantime–thank you. Thank you for reading, for caring, for loving, for dreaming along with me. For being the magic in Fairyland.
It’s that time, friends. We’ve come to September’s last adventure in Fairyland – as of March 1, 2016, you can purchase The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home wherever books are sold!
All the lost Queens and Kings of Fairyland are back, and there’s to be a race to decide who gets the crown (and all attendant duties). All of our friends are back as well – our best wyverary A-Through-L, the dear Marid Saturday, the changelings Hawthorne and Tamburlaine, and, of course, the wombat Blunderbuss and the gramophone Scratch. September’s parents are even invited to this last mad dash through the wonders of Fairyland!
All they’re waiting for is you.
Before reading this last Fairyland novel, be sure to check out the prequel story “The Girl Who Ruled Fairyland — For a Little While,” courtesy of Tor.com.
We also have a press kit that you can download – it even includes a bookmark-making activity! Bookstore having an event? Parent with a need for an afternoon diversion? Download the PDF here: Press kit for The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home.
(To download: right-click the download link above and choose “Save link as…” to save the file to your computer.)
Be sure to share all your thoughts and excitement over The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home on social media using the official hashtag: #LastFairyland. We can’t wait to see what you think!
And be sure to follow CMV on tour – her first stop’s in Lexington, KY at Joseph-Beth Booksellers on Tuesday, March 1. There will be a Velocipede Migration (bring your bike!), a costume contest, scavenger hunt, and more! You can find the rest of her tour dates on her Appearances page.
Hello, friends of Fairyland! The last volume of September’s adventures in Fairyland will be coming to a bookstore (or device!) near you on March 1st. I know that may seem like too soon to say goodbye to September, Saturday, A-Through-L, Hawthorne, Tamerlaine, or any of the other friends we’ve made over the years… But I also recognize the eager and wicked gleam in your eye, wanting to take just one peek behind the cover before the official release.
Well, you’re in luck! Entertainment Weekly has scored an exclusive excerpt from The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home. Click on the link below to read the first chapter:
You know, I’ve gotten away from long form blogging in the last few years. Gotten used to saying what I need to say in 140 characters or less. But sometimes, the Internet gives you a thing so beautiful, so perfect, so precious, that you just have to stretch out on your online yoga mat and get ready to hold your goddamned warrior pose.
Today, I am going to translate this essay from Think Piece to English for you. As far as I can tell, it is written by a woman, from the point of view of a hypothetical man, in first person, to a different hypothetical lonely heart woman. It’s some kind of online dating profile Inception. It’s the distilled essence of a hundred thousand Marilyn Monroe quotations on Tinder mated with a million dudes who can’t handle you at your worst but also cannot handle Taco Bell’s dollar menu.
Are you ready for some
football weird quasi-medieval unrealistic dating advice?
To my sweet wild woman, I know why it hasn’t worked out with anyone else—you don’t need a man, but a goddamn warrior.
Your previous relationships have not been successful because you have refrained from dating members of the active military and/or domestic abusers. Bad female! No biscuit.
You are the strength of Turkish coffee at sunrise, darlin’, and don’t try to pretend that you’re not. You are one of the wild ones, and no matter how you tried to hide that fact, you can’t be anything other than what you are—and that’s okay.
You taste like the bin at a cigar club and have severe insomnia. Also no one can stand to be around you due to diagnosed Severe Manic Pixie Dream Girlism and probably all those one-martini lunches to prove to yourself that you’re “one of the wild ones” while working in a mid-level PR firm. AM I DOING NEGGING RIGHT?
You are just as you are supposed to be, magnificently wild in all of your chaotic beauty.
Your make-up skills could use some work.
I know you’ve had your heart broken and I know that you don’t understand why it always seems to never work out, but I’ve finally figured it out:
You don’t need a man, you need a goddamn warrior.
I KNOW WHY YOUR RELATIONSHIPS DON’T WORK OUT IT IS BECAUSE THEY WERE NOT RELATIONSHIPS WITH ME.
P.S. I am not a warrior by any definition of the word.
It doesn’t matter if this warrior drives a Jeep or a shiny sports car, and it won’t matter if he wears silk or cotton—it will not even matter if he works in a high-rise, or on the night shift.
This is an excellent deal for “the warrior.” The Warrior doesn’t need a job, a car, or even a shirt. Unlike all those non-warrior suckers you’ve been dating. You’re one of the wild ones! Wild ones like dates to the Hostess aisle at the convenience store, right? ETHAN HAWKE REALITY BITES IS MY FAVORITE FICTIONAL CHARACTER.
What is going to matter is that when it comes to taking bets on your heart, he is going to be high stakes—all the way.
I am definitely going to stalk you. Like, before, during, and after any interaction we have. I will uncomfortably over-commit on every level. Coffee or tea? COFFEE IS THE ONLY BEVERAGE TEA IS FOR COMMUNISTS. BOOM. I AM A WARRIOR.
Also, when it comes to taking bets on your heart, I would put all your money on “This guy played Vampire: The Masquerade way too much in the 90s and seriously thinks his spirit animal is a “lone wolf.” Someday I will find him on all fours in my kitchen snarling at my pug over a piece of bacon that fell off the counter.”
This warrior of yours will crave your strength, and your intensity. He’s going to look at you and not see something to tame, but something to just fuckin’ admire.
Whoa, whoa, whoa, who brought up taming? It’s like we all went to a nice dinner party together and this guy brought a live antelope. What’s the matter, you SQUARES? Don’t you like my fuckin’ antelope? Only losers refuse to acknowledge where their food comes from! Look at your goddamned jello salad! What’s that, Jeanine? SOUP? Jesus Christ, just get a knife out of the drawer and do what I do! This will bond us all together as an IT Department, I swear.
Also, the warrior drops his g’s because g’s are the wussiest letter. Fuck G’s, man!
This warrior of yours won’t be someone that you can manipulate or play with as you have in the past, so honey, don’t even try—and trust me, you’re going to love him even more because of it.
He is a Men’s Rights Activist and active Redditor.
Because you aren’t just a woman, you’re a goddamn goddess.
Let’s just take a minute to admire “goddamned” as an adjective modifying “goddess.”
Pretty much the only way I can make sense of this is: “You are a super terrible goddess who really pissed off your Olympian co-workers and will definitely not be invited to Secret Santa this year. GOD, Jeanine!”
Your fierceness is going to bring him to his knees every single time he looks into your gorgeous eyes
This is going to make going to the movies super awkward. Every time he accidentally looks you in the eye he will fall to his knees uncontrollably, and probably uncontrollably weeping, while the kid shoveling popcorn stares, open-mouthed, silently praying for death.
But the difference is, unlike the others, he isn’t going to be scared off.
By looking you in the eye. SUPER WARRIOR TIME.
No, this time, you will have finally met your match—because a simple man for you just won’t do. You need someone to match the fire in your eyes with his own. Not only that, my little wild thing, but this warrior of yours is going to want to encourage the flames instead of trying to douse them with his own insecurities.
But he will definitely be the kind of condescending XBox Live poweruser who calls you “my little wild thing.” Nope, no insecurities there! His wildness is WARRIOR STRONG ROAR YES. Yours is adorable. He will encourage you to commit arson without trying to douse your flames with nagging bullshit like: “That’s not your house” or “Help I am on fire.”
Because for you, a warrior is the only man who will ever live in the wild with you.
The Warrior is homeless.
He may not have to slay any dragons to earn your love, but he would still walk through fire if it meant seeing that amazing smile that you hold in reserve for only him.
NO SMILING AT ANYONE ELSE. SMILES ARE ONLY FOR THE WARRIOR. HE EARNED THOSE SMILES! BY NOT SLAYING DRAGONS AND NOT CALLING YOU BACK!
This is the thing, free spirit, this warrior you seek….he’s seeking you too.
The Warrior swipes right on everyone, just in case.
For he’s had failed relationships that have left him wondering if maybe he was meant to be alone for the rest of his journey
The Warrior is an MGTOW.
…and you’re going to change all of that for him. You both have been travelling along on your separate journeys and have been doing an okay job at it, but that about to change too.
THAT’S RIGHT, LADIES! YOU CAN CHANGE HIM! Good thing we’re still running datingin1955.exe You’re gonna FIX him! It always works out!
Because baby, when you and this warrior of yours meet and collide—it’s going to be a love set on fire.
This is not your house. Help, I am on fire.
Don’t try to run this time—I know your heart has been broken before, and that you’re not used to things working out, but this time it’s different. Give yourself time to see that.
*Jabba tongue* You will learn to appreciate me. Don’t try to run. No, seriously. The yard is full of mines.
This warrior of yours needs to see that it’s possible for someone to see all of his wild, and still be there when he craves his freedom and ventures off into this world for a bit.
He normally lives in a timeshare in an alternate dimension where the Loch Ness Monster rules Britain with gentle benevolence. He just saunters by every once in awhile to do laundry and post to his blog.
You won’t always need to follow him, just as he won’t always follow you.
You will lose each other in shopping malls for weeks at a time.
Let yourself stay wild, even when all you want to do is curl up in that spot along his side and forget the rest of the world exists.
He is a Tauntaun. Curl up in that spot along his side and keep warm.
Let yourself still wander naked under the full moon
Don’t do that.
Drink moonshine with the stars.
Stars will burn you to death and also they have been sober for one million days so fucking have a little respect, lady.
Let yourself feel the pull of the wind on your heart
The Warrior has sacrificed you on a pyramid of skulls because that is the only way you can feel
the blue-corn moon pull of the wind on your still-beating heart.
…and the sun toward a new journey. Because this warrior is going to love you because of your wild—and he’ll want you to keep it.
Swipe left on grammar.
Also the Warrior gets to decide which of your personality traits you get to keep! The others he will BATTLE TO THE DEATH.
You’ll be in this together now, this amazing, crazy, chaotic, wonderfully heartbreaking life
Wait, what? I did not order the heartbreaking life. I want the other one.
Because it takes a warrior to love a goddess. And it takes a goddess to show a warrior what real love is.
Look, the Warrior. You’re like 35. If you don’t know what real love is yet, this whole Red Sonja schtick isn’t gonna help. At best you are a Thumb Warrior, so settle down.
So pack up your insecurities and your ideas about picket fences
We will not be able to afford a home with you supporting me ha ha.
Because that was never you anyway. You were born knowing that you were destined for more, and now is the time for you to see what all those dreams look like.
More = the Warrior. Your dreams look like the Warrior. Your destiny is a dude with facial tattoos and an extensive vinyl collection. That’s it. Not painting or writing or politics or coding. Just this guy right here. Aw, yeah.
There is no stopping a love like this, so promise me you’ll hold out just a little bit longer.
There is no stopping the Warrior. Consent is funny! Love means never getting to say no! WARRIOR.
Have a little bit of hope, and always give love just one more try, because I promise you my sweet wild woman—the love that you seek is seeking you as well.
The call is coming from inside the house.
For the last couple of years, we’ve been doing a little audio surprise around Christmas time, which we call our Christmas Cracker. In lieu of thousands of holiday cards, it’s a gift from our house to all of you.
Our last Cracker was a recording of my story 25 Facts About Santa Claus, which you can still listen to here.
Happy holidays to everyone!
I usually wait until January 1st to post this, but it all seems to be happening a little early this year, so I will bump up my Annual Obligatory Awards Eligibility Post.
As a note, no matter the nonsense tossed about like the world’s worst and slimiest beach ball by the Puppies last year, I believe in the value of authors posting what they have that’s eligible and will keep doing it. I am so often reminded of a story or book that I had forgotten about by such posts. There’s simply too much out there to keep up with on one’s own. So without further throat-clearing, here’s what I did in 2015.
The Boy Who Lost Fairyland (eligible for the Andre Norton Award as well as Best Novel in Nebula World)
You may have heard a distant rumor that I have a book coming out today–well, it is rumor no longer, but gorgeous, tentacled, decopunk TRUTH.
Radiance is wild and woolly and brand new and in the world today!
I’m so excited and biting my nails and can’t believe it’s really out–a book seven years in the making, that began with a Clarkesworld short story and somehow turned into a big fat novel full of everything that lives in my heart. I’ve been saying for years that Radiance is a decopunk alt-history Hollywood space opera mystery thriller with space whales–well, now you can find out what the hell all that means.
If you are the kind of blessed, beautiful soul who is inclined to help out authors with novels in swaddling clothes, there’s lots you can do. Obviously, you know, buy the book so that I can continue to heat my house which is full of cantankerous carnivorous animals. Online or in bookstores, ebook or in print. Leave reviews on Amazon or Goodreads or what have you–people often think these don’t matter but they do, enormously. Come to my readings over the next couple of weeks for I am touring the nation (each stop is themed after a different planet!) and may come somewhat near you! (Big splashy flapper launch party at WORD Bookstore in Brooklyn tonight, Seattle at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park on Thursday, Powell’s at Cedar Hills Crossing in Portland, OR Friday, The Last Bookstore in LA on Saturday!) And spread the word.
In fact, if you do spread the word, I have something pretty cool waiting in the wings.
Any time over the next week (ending Wednesday October 28th), if you post, tweet, Instagram, or leave a review (positive or negative! You can hate the thing, it’s okay!) about Radiance, you’ll be entered in a drawing to win Mr. Bergamot and his stack of books. Who is Mr. Bergamot? Well, he’s this fine fellow:
In the world of Radiance, Mr. Bergamot, the gentleman octopus, was the star of Percival Unck’s first series of children’s films, beginning with The Majestic Mystery of Mr. Bergamot in 1924. Unck is the most powerful filmmaker on the Moon, and he made the Bergamot movies for his mostly unimpressed daughter, Severin, who would one day grow up and disappear on Venus. Mr. Bergamot is in black and white, naturally, as he never made the transition to color. He is also quite a beefy fellow, coming in at 24 inches tall, including tentacles and top hat. He enjoys long slithers on the beach, horrors from beyond the depths of space, comforting lost children, and signed limited editions–along with Mr. Bergamot you’ll get signed and personalized copies of Radiance, Speak Easy, The Boy Who Lost Fairyland, and the rare hardcover of The Bread We Eat in Dreams.
How do you let me know you’ve entered the drawing? Use @catvalente or #Radiancenovel on Twitter, tag me on Facebook or Instagram, or leave a link in the comments to this entry.
Also, you can listen to the INCREDIBLE audiobook, read by Heath Miller, who has turned the book into a veritable radio play of voices, songs, and assorted pyrotechnics. (It’ll be out on Audible in a day or two.)
And that’s all! Here are excerpts, an interview or two, and here are places where you can get a copy of my funny intimate little tale about silent films, space whales, and the end of the universe for yourself.
Here are the places where I will be doing things at Sasquan over the weekend. Come to some of them! Also I will have a copy of Radiance and a copy of Speak Easy to give away to lucky attenders of my first reading on Thursday. (Yes, I have two readings! One is for kids and one is for grown-ups but you can come/bring either to either.)
Thursday 15:00 – 15:45, 207 (CC)
Improv with the best
Thursday 16:30 – 17:00, 301 (CC)
Thursday 20:00 – 20:45, Bays 111B (CC)
Fiction has evolved from presenting all characters born with a specific gender and sexual orientation to presenting a broad spectrum of genders and sexual orientations. What are some of the early works to explore these areas? Who are some of the best authors exploring them now? Does the gender/orientation of the author matter?
Friday 09:00 – 09:45, Breezeway/Statue (CC)
Friday 14:00-14:45 Exhibit Hall B
Saturday 13:00 – 13:45, 401C (CC)
Video games continue to evolve in many ways: sophistication, emersion of the player, story telling, graphics, and platforms, to name just a few. What’s next in the evolution of video games.
Saturday 14:00 – 14:45, 206BCD (CC)
A special reading for children and children in big bodies–bring cookies and stuffed animals and curl up for an afternoon story!
Saturday 17:00 – 17:45, 202A-KK1 (CC)
Sunday 14:00 – 14:45, Bays 111C (CC)
From fandom’s earliest days, fen have written to one other. We write about our favorite sf, chronicle the cons we go to, gossip about clubs and the fans we know and detail what’s happening in our lives. Fanwriting began with letters to prozines and then evolved into styles suitable for fanzines and apas. Now, we have blogs and social media. Is there any real difference in the fanwriting? Does one medium require more discipline or skill? Is one more revealing or more relevant? Which generates the most egoboo (positive feedback)?
Hello, everyone! It is summer in Maine, which means sticky air, sticky food, and sticky brains. I’m getting ready to go to Worldcon in Spokane next week and working on a million and four projects, as well as hiding from the heat, watching The Wire in an improbably short amount of time, and chasing my German Shepherd with a furminator brush because apparently she thinks gently plucking a single loose hair from her constantly shedding body is tantamount to murder.
I’m also Guest of Honor at Bubonicon in New Mexico the week after Worldcon, so I hope to see lots of you in the very near future!
Lastly, should you be into the whole pre-ordering thing, you should know that at this very moment you can pre-order my new novella, Speak Easy, which is a very loose retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses involving Zelda Fitzgerald, prohibition, the Ansonia Building, a giant pelican, and Al Capone as the King of the Fairies. AND you can pre-order my newest adult novel, Radiance, which has been pushed back to October 20th. That would be my decopunk alt-history Hollywood pulp SF space opera mystery with space whales and silent movies. It also has a totally amazing cover.
ALSO, Saga Press is reprinting Six-Gun Snow White in a beautiful illustrated edition in November! Good lord, this year is gonna break my bookshelf.
I’ll be touring for Radiance in the fall, and again in the spring for the final book in the Fairyland series, The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home (which, coincidentally, is also available for pre-order). It is a busy time for this sleepy creature.
SO MANY PRE-ORDERS. And I will get to see so many people so soon! GO GO LAST THIRD OF 2015 OH GOD HOW DID THE YEAR GET TO BE THIS FAR ALONG THIS FAST.
The Hugo nominees were announced on Saturday. It is now Wednesday. In internet days, that’s about a decade. Enough for me to read through several 1000-comment threads about What Happened, to laugh, to cry, to be disgusted, to be angry, for my face to get stuck in permanent dropped-jaw mode. And to move from information gathering to a little analysis. Everything that can be said about how incredibly unpleasant this whole situation is has been said, so I won’t add my two WTFs to it. If you don’t know what I’m referring to, there are lots of places to read about it. I’ll sum up quickly. The following facts are not, as far as I know, in doubt:
1. A group of writers led by, but not limited to, Brad Torgerson, Larry Correia, and Vox Day, pulled a swell little 1919 and told their followers to vote a straight ticket–a slate devised and approved by these writers. There were two slates with many works in common, the “Sad Puppies” led by Torgerson and the “Rabid Puppies” led by Vox Day. This is the third year this group(s) have done this, but the first that it has been so overwhelmingly successful. Due to many factors in the Hugo nomination process, this resulted in a nearly-swept ballot of approved authors and works.
2. These writers are politically conservative, mostly deeply religious, and profoundly homophobic, sexist, racist, the whole nine. This is indeed the Vox Day who got kicked out of SFWA for using the official channel to harass N.K. Jemisin and call her subhuman. Though there are some exceptions, many of the works on the slate are also by writers of this political persuasion.
3. The group is of the opinion that their work was being overlooked because of their politics, and that the Hugo ballots and winners of the last several years were only awarded due to leftist politics and the racial/sexual/gender identities of their authors, not quality. The tenor of the call to arms was explicitly and often resoundingly political–“this is your chance to hurt SJWs.” If you don’t know what an SJW is, I hope you’re enjoying your new computer. It stands for Social Justice Warrior, which to a normal person sounds like someone who fights for justice and cares about all human beings, and to conservatives like the devil himself. The implication that they then must support injustice seems to be lost.
4. None of this is strictly speaking against the rules. It’s unethical. It’s almost laughably petty and mean-spirited. It’s most certainly against the spirit of the awards, which is why no one else has done it.And to an author of integrity, it’s a pointless act of bullying, because if you don’t compete against the best, an award is meaningless. But there is no bylaw that says not to cheat in this particular way.
Two more which are being hotly debated:
5. Whether or not it was successful, there is no doubt that SP and RP attempted to reach out to GamerGate to drum up support for their plan, and that “hurting SJWs” was the rallying cry, not “support great science fiction.” When questioned on this, they have refused to respond. The extent to which they found comrades among that crowd isn’t clear. A slate is so inherently unfair that it doesn’t take many people to fix the outcome, so despite the crowd of GGers on my Twitter feed telling me I’m an idiot for thinking they were involved, only a handful had to jump on board to make a difference, and they absolutely went looking in the halls of GamerGate for that handful. Which is maybe isn’t that surprising, given GG’s history of harassment and horrific examples of human behavior.
6. I will probably get some heat for this. But the emperor is butt damn naked. This is not, and has never been, about getting quality science fiction with a conservative slant on the Hugo ballot. The ballot looks ridiculous. John C. Wright has three nominations in the novella category and six overall, a record. The vast majority of the works are published by Castalia House, a Finnish micropublisher barely a year old and owned, I’m sure coincidentally, by Vox Day. Wisdom From My Internet, nominated in the Best Related Work category, is neither science fiction, nor, strictly speaking, a
book, (Edit: many things not books have been nominated in the category, let’s say it’s not an original work) but a collection of right-wing chain emails and one liners–which, among other works, edged the biography of Daddy Heinlein off the ballot. This is not what an organic ballot looks like. Big publishers can only dream of dominating awards in this way. No one can argue Wisdom From My Internet is the best SFF has to offer. It’s absurd on the face of it to say there was nothing better than this small clique of authors in 2014. That John C. Wright is, essentially, the greatest science fiction writer of all time. These are works by the friends, employees, and, perceived or actual, allies of Brad Torgerson, Larry Correia, and Vox Day. That is their chief, and in some cases only, virtue. (There are some works of some merit. But their merit seems to have been secondary to their ideological purity, especially with regards to someone like Jim Butcher, whose books feature sexist attitudes meant to indicate a flawed character, not a mission statement.)
7. Some of the benefitting authors knew and approved of the slate, some did not, Torgerson claims to have sought consent from everyone, some say this is untrue. Some nominated authors have said nothing either way. Not all the information is in.
I think that’s about it.
I’ve been accused, as have many at this point, of only caring because of personal reasons. After all, I’m not on the ballot, so I must be crying tears of selfishness. Well, I barely had anything eligible this year and did not for a moment expect to be on the ballot, so that’s not even a little personal.
But on the other hand, when these men talk about how horrible recent ballots have been, how they have no literary merit, how they are simply leftists voting for leftists regardless of quality, how the nominated works have been terrible, how they have ruined both science fiction and the Hugos for the Real Fans…well, I’m included in that. Since my first nomination in 2010 I’ve been nominated seven times, only missing one year. They are talking about stories I’ve loved and voted for as well as stories I’ve written. I’m part of the shit they want to clean up. I guess I should have been collecting chain emails all this time if I wanted to make real art. So it does take me aback on that level, because here I thought I was spending years working hard at my craft, when I was actually part of a leftist conspiracy to get nominations. (Which, if leftists could work together long enough to conspiracy? We’ d probably aim higher.)
What’s shocked me, through all of this, and disturbed me even more than the fixing of the Hugos itself, is that the Sad and Rabid and Otherwise Emotionally Overwrought Puppies seem to have wholly lost their grip on the English language. It’s deeply unsettling to watch writers denying that words have meanings. YOU GUYS, WORDS MEAN THINGS. IT IS YOUR JOB TO KNOW WHAT THEY MEAN.
For example, one of the new acronyms for “people we don’t like” is, apparently, CHORF, which stands for Cliquish, Holier-Than-Thou, Obnoxious, Reactionary Fanatics. It truly floors me that people who are busy gathering their friends into a group that believes it is on the right side of God, calling names and yelling about how we need to go back to the old way of doing science fiction and colluding to fix an award can use that acronym for anyone other than themselves. The DICTIONARY DEFINITION of reactionary is: of, pertaining to, marked by, or favoring reaction, especially extreme conservatism or rightism in politics; opposing political or social change. How can this possibly describe the Evil Leftists such Brave Puppies must fight against? You keep telling us you’re the best writers in the genre, and yet basic words and their meanings seem to elude you! And while I’ve been told over and over that the Wicked Lefty Clique I am apparently a part of does “the same thing,” all that ever seems to mean is a link to John Scalzi or Charlie Stross’s blogs, as though John telling people what he has eligible and then opening his comments for others to do the same, or Charlie saying his editor is eligible, is some kind of evidence. The word “slate” means something. You know it does. It’s monstrously disingenuous to pretend any kind of “Hi, I have a book eligible” is identical to blatant vote-fixing and ballot-stuffing. There is no “both sides do it” or rules would have been changed a long time ago, as they may be changed now. No one would be shocked if this had been going on all along. The last people who tried this were Scientologists. The very fact that the Puppies are accusing others of having conspired–admitting by implication that this is wrong–while absolutely having conspired themselves–but insisting this was right–gives me a migraine.
I’ve repeatedly seen Brad Torgerson and Ken Burnside (a nominee but not an organizer) refer to the ballot as a “more inclusive” and “more diverse” ballot than recent years have offered. That…is not what inclusive means. It’s definitely not what diverse means. This ballot features one man in three out of five novella slots and six in total, one publisher in nine slots, and an overwhelming majority of white straight men. Even if you think all this is appropriate and excellent, you cannot call it inclusive or diverse without assaulting the English language. Let’s go to the dictionary! Inclusive: including a great deal, or including everything concerned; comprehensive! Diverse: of varying kinds, multiform, including representatives from more than one social, cultural, or economic group, especially members of ethnic or religious minority groups!
I suppose you could say “this list is more inclusive of myself and my friends, and more diverse in that myself and my friends are on it when we were not before” but that’s not what any of it actually means. It’s grotesque to defend oneself by claiming inclusivity and diversity when that is exactly what the unaltered ballots of recent years, the ones they hate so much, have given us.
It’s a near intolerable amount of cognitive dissonance, and it betrays a deep confusion. The Puppies hate SJWs–those awful people who keep prattling on about inclusivity and diversity. So why in the world would they claim to support those things? Why not use some other word to describe the ballot they’ve made–strong, perhaps, or exciting?
I suspect it’s because they know inclusivity and diversity are considered positive attributes by most people. Exclusivity and uniformity don’t sell. Despite their conviction that they are the persecuted majority, they know that no one wants to hear: we made a club so that we could be sure only people we approved politically and personally would be nominated. No one wants to hear: isn’t it nice how we’ve scrubbed the ballot of all those undesirables? Now it’s just us! What they did is unpalatable, and they know it. But now that they’ve gotten what they want, they need people to be happy about it in order for the award to have any meaning, and so they’ve grabbed the language of the enemy to praise themselves. Only it doesn’t work, because words have meanings. It’s a pretty classic conservative technique (see the fact that Social Justice Warrior now means a bad person), but it’s depressing–or perhaps hilarious–to see it used by individuals because they can’t face the consequences of what they’ve done. You guys spent ages telling us diversity was bullshit and inclusivity was a creeping evil. Why are you now telling us, with a sneer and a smirk, that you are their champions? What is wrong with you? It’s all so unfathomably dishonest and intellectually bankrupt I have a hard time believing any of these people put together a coherent novel at any point.
Puppies: if you truly believe that what you did was right and good and honest, if you believe you have struck a blow for virtue and excellence–be straight with us. Tell us that. Don’t try to paint over the mess you made by insisting you’ve done it all for the sake of inclusive, diverse happy kittens and rainbows. Conservative politics are supposed to be all about straight-shooting real talk. So just say you used your clique (and probably some others) to do something you believed in, no matter what the cost. You do not get to have your ballot and eat it, too. You did this. You have to face the consequences. You cannot tell the world that they should vote for you to strike back at women, liberal, people of color, and queer writers (and even worse–literary science fiction authors, the horror!) and then call yourselves diverse and inclusive.
I don’t know what’s going to happen to the Hugos. I haven’t yet seen a suggestion for rule changes that would fix much of anything. I suspect that even the Puppies are embarrassed that their tampering is so obvious, but they won’t break ranks now. I suspect this will be the most awkward award ceremony in history. It seems strangely small potatoes, to pick a science fiction award as your battlefield to die on when it can have so little effect on the political world at large. Surely there are larger stakes when you see the world as one huge Us vs. Them. I suppose you have to start somewhere. Even Darth Vader did data entry for awhile. I don’t even know what I’m going to do–whether I’ll go to Worldcon, whether I’ll vote No Award.
But I would like to ask, for the sake of a language I love: however you vote this summer, when you see people using words to mean their opposite, when you see these attempts at kidnapping and rehabilitating language, if nothing else, call them out on that. If they want the ballot, that’s one thing, but they can’t just take English. The rest of us are still using it.
FOGcon’s come and gone, but Cat’s still in the California area and will be doing a reading in Danville tonight!
Drop by Rakestraw Books at 7 PM to meet Cat and hear her read from The Boy Who Lost Fairyland.
To find Rakestraw Books, or contact them about the event, check out the contact information below:
3 Railroad Avenue
Danville, CA 94526
If you get any pictures at the event, share them on social media with the #Fairyland tag!
Going to FOGcon this weekend? CMV will be there as one of their Honored Guests! Read on to find out where you can find Cat at the con.
Local to Walnut Creek, CA? If you missed the pre-registration window for FOGcon, or missed that Cat’s going to be there, you can still show up and grab day or weekend passes! Check out FOGcon’s Registration page for the details.
And this is where you’ll find CMV:
Friday, 4:30-5:45 PM: Stories within Stories within Stories within Stories…
Location: Salon A/B
Panelists: Elwin Cotman, Phyllis Holliday, Andrés Santiago Pérez-Bergquist, Catherynne Valente. Moderated by Sunil Patel.
What’s it about? “Valente’s ‘Orphan’s Tales’, Gaiman’s ‘Sandman’, Rothfuss’ ‘Name of the Wind': some of the most fun stories are stories about stories. How does that work? What tricks can you use when you have a story within the story?”
Saturday, 8:00-9:15 PM: Cat Valente writes on your skin.
Location: Salon A/B
What’s going on? “The con will provide supplies (body paint, temporary tattoo ink, or similar) and Cat – as well as the other panel attendees, write or draw on other, agreeable attendees. No guarantees as to what!”
The fourth book in the Fairyland series, The Boy Who Lost Fairyland, is out today!
Yes, that is a boy and Chicago and a knitted wombat on the cover. Do not fear! This is still a series about September and her adventures in Fairyland, and you will absolutely find out what happened after the admittedly cliffhangery end of the third book. Fairyland has become such an awfully big world that I thought it time to show a glimpse of the bigger picture. This is the Changeling book–a book about the other children who go back and forth from Fairyland–the ones who are required to wear identifying footwear and play the grummellphone for the Marquess. It is a story about how their stories intersect with September’s, and how they come to be friends in the new Fairyland where the Fairies have come home to roost.
This time September’s story catches a troll and a fetch and a baseball and a wombat and an army of changelings in its whirlwind. You know those trolls. Always leaping up and demanding things in big, deep, rumbly voices.
Yes, indeed, I wrote a book with boys and baseball in it. Miracles do happen.
Hawthorn is a troll living happily in Fairyland until the Red Wind spirits him away to the strange, magical, frightening world of humans, where he must battle the legendary creatures known as parents, schoolteachers, bullies, gym class, and loneliness before he can find his way back to Fairyland. With his No. 2 pencil and his winter hat with kangaroos knitted on it as well as his friends Tamburlaine (a Changeling like him) and Blunderbuss (a stuffed wombat his mother knitted for him, brought mysteriously to life), Hawthorn finds Fairyland in turmoil, the Fairies returned from their exile and ruling with sparkling fists–and living in fear of a powerful strega called the Spinster.
I honestly can’t believe that I’m writing about the fourth Fairyland book–it all started so innocently, a little story on this very website, and now it’s this sprawling series bristling with characters I love so well. I want to thank everyone who has read and supported this series for so long, every kid who brought a balloon animal A-Through-L to a signing or hugged me and told me her favorite part, every school who has let me natter to their students about fairy tales, everyone who has told a friend about this weird book with a wyvern on the cover or read a chapter to their children. You have made magic in my life over and over. There’s one more book in the series. The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home will be out next year, and I already start tearing up when I think about writing the last lines. It’s been, without hyperbole, a miraculous journey, and it’s not over. I hope you enjoy the troll-and-wombat loop-de-loop on this madcap ride.
The standard (hopefully not too annoying) schtick applies: if you want to help out, buy the book, tell your people via Twitter and Facebook and WhatHaveYou, ask your local bookseller or library to carry it if they don’t. But really, just read and you’ve done the best thing you can do for a book.
Also! The audiobook will be out in a few days, read by Heath Miller, and HOLY CATS are you going to love it. Who knew one guy could make a whole country come to life with a voice and a microphone?
Wow! Look at this place! All spruced up and clean and gorgeous, thanks to Hafsah at Icey Designs.
Hopefully everything will be much easier to navigate around here, so that I can tell you about things, and then you can tell me about things, and it’ll be one big Telling Party with everyone invited.
Yes, that means I’ll be blogging more. I’m going to focus on this site as the core conversation-having place, as the heat-death of Livejournal (which breaks my heart just about all the time) has diaspora-ed everyone from that once-hallowed hall full of kids smoking and telling dirty jokes and talking about art while wearing bedazzled jean jackets. I’ll still cross-post to LJ and Dreamwidth, (in fact, for those of you reading this on one of those sites, I should clarify that the spruced up gorgeousness is over at my website) but hopefully we can migrate slowly this-a-way.
More exciting things soon!
This month, you can find the first part of a new CMV novelette in Clarkesworld Magazine‘s 100th issue: click here to read “The Long Goodnight of Violet Wild,” or here to listen to the story as read by Kate Baker.
And if you don’t already read Clarkesworld Magazine, what are you waiting for? The 100th issue is a fine place to start, with an amazing cover by Julie Dillon, previously unpublished fiction from the late, great Jay Lake, and so many more pieces of fiction and nonfiction, powerful and fascinating. There’s work from Kij Johnson, the article “#PurpleSF” by Cat Rambo, even translated sci-fi from Tang Fei and Zhang Ran. Click on over.
For those of you eagerly awaiting the fourth installment in the Fairyland series, Cat has a message for you:
You can revisit “The Girl Who Ruled Fairyland – For a Little While” over here at Tor.com.
Can’t wait another second for a sneak peek of The Boy Who Lost Fairyland? Luckily, io9’s got you covered with a free chapter! Follow the HTML road to read Chapter 3 from The Boy Who Lost Fairyland: “Troll to Boy, Boy to Troll.”
It’s that time, everyone! Nebula Awards nominations are open until February 15, for those of you in the SFWA. The 2015 World Fantasy Awards judges are in their reading period until June 1. If you are attending this year’s World Fantasy Convention or attended one in the last two years – you can nominate!
Then there are the Hugo Awards: the nominations period opened just over a week ago. Step up, step up, one and all of you who are Worldcon members – do your genre duty and have your say in the best stories, films, and related works of 2014!
Remember, anyone who attended Worldcon last year or is registered for this year’s Worldcon (or next year’s!) by the end of this month can nominate.
CMV’s eligible for the Best Related Works category this year, with her collection of essays, Indistinguishable from Magic.
Nominate early, vote often, and read always.
This is a horror story. I’m serious. It will thick your blood with cold; it will turn your hair the color of terror. We begin in London, amid the fog and freezing rain…
As some of you know, I spent the better part of August in the UK. I went to Worldcon, I went to Yorkshire on a research trip for a new book, I met David Tennant and Peter Davison (!), saw some old and new friends, learned to take the London Tube system as my legal spouse, to love, honor, and cherish it under construction and in good service, made puns as part of a Worldcon version of the iconic British radio show I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue, and ate approximately All the Pies. Important to note: my partner in crime during all of this running about was one Heath Miller, actor, director, secretly a Muppet in a human suit.
The other thing we did in London? Comedy. Now, I may not have made it totally clear how much I love stand-up comedy. I love it all the way. If I could I would probably go see comics two or three times a week. Even when it’s terrible, I still love it. I can’t even really explain why. Some loves are just pure. They have no provenance. They just are. Sketch comedy and improv also, but stand-up is tops for me. I spent so many hours watching old-school Comedy Central at 3 am, and only recently have actually gotten to go see live comedy, and OMG it smells awful and the food sucks and the drinks are weak and the walls smell like cigarettes and sometimes the comics are just the most old-timey misogynist jerks and you never know whether it will be any good at all or not and it is THE BEST. I know, it’s weird. But Dave Atell showed up to do a surprise set at the Comedy Cellar and it was my birthday and it was all I could do not to scream like he was The Beatles because EEEEE REMEMBER INSOMNIAC I LOVED THAT SHOW THAT SHOW IS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW. He did ten minutes about dogs and cats. It was awesome.
The point is, my comedy appetite approaches the insatiable. When Heath and I first started seeing shows together, I don’t really think he believed me when I said I am a Fan of stand-up as much as I am of SFF. He thought I’d bail the first time someone got up and complained about their wife. But I know that people being awful is just a standard hazard of watching comedians, like SFF has alien words with apostrophes in the middle of them or thinly veiled versions of orcs.
So we went to Edinburgh, where I went to University for awhile, and where my dear and nearly-oldest friend Kaite Welsh lives, and it was Fringetime, so holy crap we saw a lot of comedy. Most of it was great. One was memorably terrible–but half the fun of seeing live theater of any kind is talking about it afterward. It is our general philosophy that you either get your money’s worth from the show being wonderful or from the entertainment of tearing bad art apart afterward and figuring out how you would fix it if you were In Charge of That Thing. So I get value even from execrable theater. I am comfortable with the roulette-wheel of This-Thing-Costs-Way-More-Than-A-Movie-O
THE STAGE, SHE IS SET. Buckle up, kids.
Picture Heath and I, at the end of August, exhausted from traveling, both of us having brought a nasty cold home as a Yorkshire souvenir, climbing into the back of a lovely black car we’d arranged to take us to Heathrow. Looking forward to a long, quiet ride. Because one thing I’ve always loved about British drivers of cabs and car services has always been that they don’t try to talk to you the whole time. Sure, they may appear to hate you like the plague, but they won’t tell you about it. Here in Maine, it’s basically a constant barrage of questions and weirdness (my last cab in Portland? The guy drove with the driver’s seat reclined all the way into my lap, complaining the whole time that he was neither high nor drunk right now and really ought to be).
Oh, we were so innocent then.
He seemed like a perfectly nice man. He started talking right away, but he was charming and pleasant. He was from Pakistan. He switched accents flawlessly about four times in two minutes while telling us where he was from and the assumptions people make about him. We were delighted. For a moment, a precious, shining moment suspended in the air like a brief, crystal raindrop, we were delighted.
Then, he put a portable DVD player in my hands. While driving. One already open, on, and cued to his performance at the Comedy Store Gong Night.
It was like looking into the abyss.
He told a couple of jokes. Not stand-up really, just question and answer jokes. The answers were 100% the most racist, sexist, ableist things I’ve ever heard out of a performer’s mouth in real life. When he ran out of those, he just tossed the mic from one hand to the other over and over, and when that ceased to amuse even the most hardcore microphone-tossing fetishist, he just dropped and started DOING PUSH-UPS on the stage. My mind has refused to retain the jokes themselves, having some sense of the traumatic ripple effect of holding those punchlines next to the more important, functioning parts of my brain. If I remembered them, I’d never write anything again. I’d just stare at the screen repeating: “If I had a dog named Syndrome, whenever someone came over to my house and rang the doorbell I could yell Down, Syndrome!” Oh, God. The emptiness. The dark.
We handed the player back, pale and shaking from our brush with utter nihilism. We thought it was over. I remember us then, so young. So gentle-hearted.
He worked us over with a few “What do you call a deer with no eyes?” numbers, which we just answered wearily (No idear) and prayed for death. I can’t even watch a television show in which the characters embarrass themselves. I hide my face like it’s a slasher movie, not a sitcom. So my heart was already trying to hide behind my liver like a kid watching the Daleks from behind a damn couch.
But then it happened. He asked us how broad-minded we were. Now, normally, when asked that question, I expect something good and wholesome to follow. Something that speaks to the world becoming more open and honest. Coming out. A confession of being aroused by Victorian rocking horses. A nice threeway. Hell, even “Would you mind carrying this package of drugs back to America with you?” would be better, warmer, fuzzier, than what was actually about to fall out of this guy’s mouth. So I made a non-committal sound. A “yes, I am broad-minded but mostly I am please-stop-you’re-hurting-me-minded so unless this is going to turn into something else please stop” kind of whimper. But Heath is wiser than I. He knew it was code. Code for: how offensive can I be right now? How shit can I make the shit I’m about to say?
Heath said: We are not. Broad-minded. At all.
It didn’t matter. The ritual to raise the Old Gods was already in progress. There was nothing we could do to stop it.
The driver started talking about how you can’t make good jokes anymore. Everyone’s so sensitive. Like, he can’t even tell that Down, Syndrome! joke anymore. (Heath broke through our rictus of politeness at that point and said: that’s because it’s a terrible joke. I couldn’t manage more than a sustained, high-pitched whine like my dogs make when there’s thunder outside. Good for him. I was trained too well to be polite to strangers. I could feel my manners trying to claw their way out of my eyes and flee screaming, but I clung to them. They were all I had.) But really, it should be ok for him to make jokes like that because he can take the mickey out of himself as well. At which point streamed forth a river of blisteringly racist anti-Pakistani “jokes” (The mildest one, and thus the only one my benevolent brain has allowed me to retain is: When I tell people I’m from Lahore, they think my mother’s a French prostitute!) that made him giggle like a schoolkid while I slid down in my seat, trying to vanish into the leather, whispering to the lock: Please, God, make me a bird, so I can fly far, far, far away.
At this point, it was clear he was just practicing his “act” on us. And it wouldn’t end because we had no Gong to bang. We literally couldn’t leave. We were a captive audience–actually captives, in a four-door prison hurtling down the highway, driven by a warden barely paying attention to the road because he had to keep looking in the rearview to see our reaction to his star turn. He kept saying: you gotta have a hobby. It’s not easy, is it, being on stage. Writing material. It’s not easy!
Thing is, this driver was in a car with a writer and an actor. Both of whom have directed theater, both of whom have written comedy, both of whom are semi-professional dissectors of performance. Both of whom find being on stage and writing material pretty damn enjoyable most of the time. It is not our hobby. It is our job. So we rallied. We made the decision individually and began almost in unison. We thought: we can make him better. We can teach him. We have the technology. Mostly, we can make him stop talking if we talk louder.
We started giving him notes. Hey, you know, you’re pretty good at accents, that bit in the beginning was great, when you were telling us about expectations. You know, you could really make something of that, play with an audience so they don’t know what your real accent is, so they’re forced to examine their own preconceptions. And that really works better with story-based comedy rather than one-liner jokes, which is not really what stand-up is all about anymore. Try telling a story, something personal, something real, and shifting your voice so that your voice becomes part of the story. It could really work for you.
You see? We tried. Tried to engage, to help, to share what we knew. To steer him without pissing off the guy who held our lives in his hands, careening between cars and not wearing a seatbelt. When we die fifty years from now, grandchildren gathered around us, clocks stopped in the hall, the light softly fading on the mantle, both of us will whisper with our last, rattling breath: we tried.
And it seemed to unlock something deep in his soul. Something too big to keep inside.
“Oh!” exclaimed he. “You mean like…” And out it came. An “Asian” “accent” right out of the Breakfast At Tiffany’s school of subtle humor and sensitivity. And he did tell a story. In that voice. Nay, not a story. A folktale from the ancient mists. We’ll call it How Chinese People Got Their Slanty Eyes. (My brain was shrieking at this point: SAFEWORD NOPE NOPE SAFEWORD FUCK I NEED AN ADULT WHY IS THIS HAPPENING TO ME I’M A GOOD PERSON). Do you want to know how? You don’t, you really don’t. No one does. Seriously, even circuit comics in the Catskills in the 40s would have thought this was a little much. It’s because they eat too much “flied lice” and it made them constipated, at which point, as a people, the Chinese nation strained so hard to take one massive, colossal shit that their eyes went slanty forever there is no God or goodness love is dead and the sun is as sackcloth. It was like being stuck in a car with a Dementor. Then he switched to a “funny” “black” voice and I felt as thought I’d never be cheerful again.
I feel like London was with us in that car. Sitting between us with a beer and a microphone yelling: YOU LIKE COMEDY, DO YOU? I HEARD YOU LIKE A BIT OF COMEDY. BIT OF NICE COMEDY ALL UP IN YOUR EARS? YEAH, COME ON, YOU LOVE IT. COULDN’T LET YOU GO WITHOUT A BIT MORE, COULD I? WHY, YOU WERE JUST SAYING YOU WISHED YOU COULD STAY A LITTLE LONGER AND SEE A FEW MORE SHOWS IN MY WEST END, WEREN’T YOU? YEAH, YOU WERE. WANTED YOUR GIGGLES, DID YOU? WELL, HERE YOU GO. DON’T SAY I NEVER DID ANYTHING FOR YOU. A WHOLE HALF HOUR SHOW, JUST FOR YOU. YEAH, I KNOW WHAT YOU LIKE. GET IT ALL OVER YOU, ALL OVER YOUR FACE. STOP COMPLAINING. COMEDY’S THE BEST. YOU SAID SO. YOU SAID YOU COULD SEE IT EVERY NIGHT. I HEARD YOU. I LOVE YOU AND I WANT YOU TO BE HAPPY. STOP PLUGGING YOUR EARS. WHY ARE YOU CLAWING AT THE WINDOW? COMEDY, YEAH, LAUGH IT UP, YOU COLONIAL FUCKING PEASANT PILLOCKS, LAUGH!
And I was. Clawing the window. Tapping the glass. Crumpled against the arm rest, my back turned toward the driver to protect my precious internal organs from shrapnel. I envied the birds outside, trying to land on pigeon-proof spikes. What is freedom? What is life? What is silence?
We kept trying. We were valiant. We would not give up on him. No, no, that’s still racist, we insisted. Like really, really racist. Tell a story. About you. About your life. Something personal. And for a moment, just a moment, a little butterfly of a moment flitting through the summer grass, he seemed to stop and think. And said: “You mean like…my father came to this country in 1963 with only five quid in his pocket.” Yes! “That’s the great thing about Britain, you can come with nothing and you can really make something of yourself.” Yes! “And now my Dad still has five quid in his pocket–it’s the same five quid!” No! Well, I mean, it’s the least racist thing you’ve said, only implies that Pakistanis are cheap, so I guess that’s progress? It’s not good but it’s better…
And with manic glee, he looked back at me and said: “Listening to my wife is like agreeing to the Terms of Service on a website. I have no idea what it means but I always click ok!”
ARE YOU A ROBOT? A ROBOT PROGRAMMED WITH NOTHING BUT JOKES WRITTEN BY HATEFUL TIM, THE HAPPY BIGOT, WHO LIVES UNDER A ROCK IN BRIXTON AND DEMANDS TRIBUTE FROM ALL WHO PASS HIM BY? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? WHY ARE YOU LOOKING AT ME? I AM A WOMAN, WHY DO YOU THINK THAT ONE WOULD REALLY ZING ME? AM I ON SOME KIND OF PRANK SHOW? IS IT THE CASH CAB? IT’S THE CASH CAB ISN’T IT? THERE’S A SECRET CAMERA IN THE DASHBOARD AND NOW I’LL WIN A HUNDRED POUNDS BECAUSE I DIDN’T CRY. PLEASE SAY THEY HAVE CASH CAB OVER HERE. OR CANDID CAMERA. THE WORLD WILL MAKE SENSE AGAIN. NO, BAD ROBOT! STOP TALKING. STOP. STOP WORDS. WORDS OVER.
Heath opened his mouth to cry uncle. To surrender and beg for terms. Just stop. Whatever it takes. Just stop the violence. But we were pulling into Heathrow and it didn’t seem worth it. Nothing seemed worth it. All hope had fled the universe. We stumbled out of the car and held up our arms in the rain like it was pure Shawshank up in that car park and we’d crawled through a river of shit to come out clean. He tried to overcharge us– 20 for the ride, 10 for the show, I guess–but we had strength enough left to refuse. We watched him drive away, our ears still ringing. Did that just happen? Is that a real thing that happened in the real world? How can we ever be whole again?
So we did what we could to heal. We went to the airport bar. And alcohol said: I am a merciful god. There, there. Tell me what the bad man did. And then tell the Internet, and Lo, you shall be cleansed.
And it is done.
Sometimes when I am on a deadline, my brain wanders off into traffic with a propeller hat on and its shirt pulled up over its head because SCREW YOU IMMA THINK ABOUT EVERYTHING ELSE IN THE WORLD EXCEPT THAT BOOK YOU LIKE SO MUCH WHEEE IS THAT A FIRETRUCK? And by sometimes I mean always.
At the moment, my brain is jumping up and down on a stop sign hollering I’M GONNA THINK ABOUT X-MEN ALL THE TIME HA HA YOU CAN’T STOP ME. My brain is a stone cold doofus a lot of the time. After my chapters are done for the day, I go straight to reading about the goddamn X-Men. I’ve watched or re-watched five of the seven movies in the last week and fallen asleep three separate, majestic times with my phone in my hand, glowing with the useless, mocking light of a wikipedia entry on Genosha.
It’s not really my fault. Days of Future Past came out, and my descent into mutant madness began with watching X-Men: First Class, which I had only seen half of on a trans-Pacific flight with the sound broken so that the only dialogue was the intermittent apologies of a harried flight attendant. Which was much more genuine and interesting, it turns out, than what January Jones was actually saying. ZING. Anyway, the X-Men have always attracted me in concept, if not always in execution–it appeals to my love of categorization, of pantheons, of chosen family and marginalized groups. And matching outfits.
And so, at first, I was a happy little squirrel searching out delicious walnuts of storylines both familiar and un-, because holy cats is this shit convoluted. But then I got mad. It usually happens eventually, when it comes to blockbuster mainstream intellectual properties–and yes, the X-Men are mainstream now. Indie niche uncool flicks don’t have $100 million opening weekends. I didn’t even see X-Men: Last Stand until last week because I didn’t want to see Dark Phoenix turned into a nuclear vagina on the fritz who ruins everything with the power of kissing. Spoiler: it was as terrible as I thought it would be! Yay!
But everyone said Days of Future Past erased all that! It is so awesome, you guys! 91% on Rotten Tomatoes! Quicksilver! Time travel! Beloved arc from the comics! Mystique gets to do things other than be naked and barefoot in Xavier’s kitchen! Well, great, let’s make this happen! To the sensible compact car!
Perhaps you can see, even now, the dark stormclouds of my fury gathering in the distance. Perhaps the severity of my side-eye can be seen from space.
Because here’s the funny thing about that beloved arc from the comics. The filmmakers looked at it and clearly thought to themselves: yeah, yeah, this is all great. Everyone loves this story about a woman who takes the fate of the world into her own hands and goes back in time, with the help of another woman, to fix history and avert the horrible deaths of everyone she knows and pretty much everyone she doesn’t know either. Fans have loved it for thirty years, men, women, kids, adults. It’s universal! Literally no one has ever had a problem with the protagonist being female, which is pretty damn impressive, if you think about it. We’ll make a billion dollars. One problem, though! Women are the fucking WORST. Nobody wants to watch a chick do things unless they are sex things or secretary things or sex secretary things or sometimes bad things that the men can come clean up because, as previously mentioned, they are the worst. So here’s what we’ll do! Even though we could literally act out a comic book with stick figures, play-doh, and a fifth-grader who just woke up from a nap and still fall asleep on piles of money come opening weekend, we can’t have a girl in our clubhouse! We’ll just replace that big dumb girl with Wolverine! That way we don’t have to get any cooties on our movie of Masculine Glowering. We’ll put her in there somewhere, just so the fans know we know what we did, but don’t give her too many lines. After all, if women get more than 20% of the lines in a summer movie, the moon turns to sackcloth.
YOU SIR, ARE A GENIUS, HAVE A YACHT.
So they did it. They pulled a Morpheus and turned a strong female protagonist with agency and a storyline of her own into a Duracell battery. Instead of being the one to go back in time and make decisions and affect the course of events, Kitty Pryde sits very still, grits her teeth, and provides transportation for the male hero she’s been replaced with. She barely speaks. She gets wounded, but only because nobody thought strapping down the guy with knives for hands might be a good idea. No one gives her medical attention, though they do pet her hair and tell her she’s doing great, like she’s a dog at the vet. She moans a lot. They took her story, gave it to a man, and made her a prop.
(And look, yes, before you say it, I know she wasn’t born in 1973. If it’s cool to change the protagonist of the story, it would not be sacrilege to make her just physically go back in time instead of the younger-body-consciousness thing. Or if it really is impossible to have a woman onscreen without a chaperone, send her and Wolverine back together. Or do another damn story arc. Wolverine has shit-tons of his own. Writing is choices. Narrative is choices. The writers made a choice. And their choice sucks.)
But the thing that really gets me is The Hobbit. Non sequitur, you say? NAY, say I. See, when word got out that Peter Jackson et al were adding in a new character to their Hobbit films, a non-canon character, a female character, fandom collectively lost its fool mind. You can’t just change Tolkien! Oh no! (Except for cutting out the end of The Lord of the Rings which is totes fine even though it changes the entire meaning of the story.) Cram in a whole mess of The Silmarillion and The Unfinished Tales and the Appendices and whatever the lead animator dreamed about last night until the poor Hobbit burst at the seams into three unnecessary movies, but not a GIRL! Heavens to Betsy! (Not that that excuses Tauriel, who is awful, and exists for a romantic subplot and little else. But it’s not being a girl that makes her awful. It’s just bad writing, which knows no demographic.)
We cannot have a female Doctor! We cannot take men’s stories and give them to women! It would never work! The sexes are so different! It would be silly to have a woman acting like a man! But a woman’s story? Well, who cares? Give it to someone more interesting. Someone more worthy.
But replace wholesale the female protagonist of a darling comic arc with a man? Crickets. Everyone is fine with it. Oh, a couple of feminists are all buttmad, but they don’t count. Most reviews I’ve seen don’t acknowledge it, or if they do, they praise the filmmakers for making a “better” choice. Who cares? That Quicksilver scene was so awesome! Yes it was. I’m so glad yet another woman was erased from her own narrative so we could have another cigar joke. It really is a better choice. This way, no one will make the mistake of thinking there were ever women in comics, and those icky girls will stop trying to read them and everything can go back to the way it was when the real comics fans were eleven and girls were just scary aliens they could keep out of their rooms. Except in 1981, we were allowed to have a marquee comic book story that revolved around a woman. Marvel thought people would like that–lo and behold, they did. And in 2014, it doesn’t make sense to anyone anymore. That just breaks my heart. Really.
It also feeds into something else I’d been thinking about since seeing About Time, in which time travel is explicitly only possible for men, for literally no narrative reason whatsoever, just because. See, women don’t get to time travel much in the movies. Beyond Peggy Sue Got Married, which is explicitly about time traveling for romantic/reproductive purposes, the protagonists in time travel movies, and much of TV, are men. You can say it’s because history is hard for women, but it doesn’t really wash. If men can get away with clothes and words and abilities that are all wrong for the eras they travel to, women can get away with being women. Give her a strapping male intern to keep off the barbarians if you like–it’s more than Kitty Pryde gets to do. An escorted woman can go more or less anywhere, and honestly, a woman can find out more information in a drawing room in Edwardian England than a man can on a battlefield in Crimea. And there’s always, you know, the future. But no, a time traveling woman would get all her periods at once or something, so she has to stay home. There’s even a sneaky little through-meme of men not even telling their wives, girlfriends, or female friends that they are time traveling. Don’t worry your pretty head about it. Sleep on the porch.
Comic book movies are, increasingly, the only cinematic game in town, at least to bring in billions and go up on every screen in the world. In part because they take advantage of the big screen in a way most of our home theaters, awesome though they are, can’t quite duplicate yet. In part because no part of my generation’s childhood is safe from being packaged and marketed back to us. In part because they present a comforting black and white moral universe in which arms dealers are really charming heroes, honor equals military service, and there will always be some big strong man to save us whose personal integrity can be unerringly and unquestioningly relied upon. And if that sounds a little fascistic to you, well, it is. The fact that these movies, these vast cultural events, have settled into a self-satisfied world of representation that would be outdone by any 90s SF/F television series, in which one woman and/or one person of color is sufficient, especially if they are wholly defined by the most stereotypical traits of their gender or race (Black Widow and Bumblebee, I’m looking at you), to stand in for, you know, the majority of the human race that is not white, not male, or both, is alarming. When stories are taken away from a woman and given to a man, when a woman is reduced to a power source (oh, irony) for a big, strong, straightest of the straight man, what should we make of it but that she is simply not worth our attention? It teaches everyone, kids and adults, what stories are worth telling. Whose voices count. Who is allowed to act. Who is allowed to decide. And if you don’t think people carry that into their everyday lives, I’ve got a Brooklyn Bridge to destroy for you.
Nebula nominations are in, and CMV is very pleased to announce that Six-Gun Snow White has been nominated for Best Novella! The 49th annual Nebula Awards will be awarded in San Jose, CA, on the weekend of May 16th, 2014. While only members are eligible to attend the Nebula Awards themselves, there will be an autograph session open to the public – see the full list of nominees at the SFWA’s website, and find more information about the Nebula Awards Weekend.
The Hugo Awards nominations are also in! They were announced via live feed from Glasgow on April 19, and CMV is quite excited to share that Six-Gun Snow White is up for a Hugo in the Best Novella category. Read up on all the nominees here, and then purchase a membership to Loncon 3 if you’d like to vote. (Remember, you can vote for the Hugos even if you can’t attend the con itself via a supporting membership.) Find everything you need on the Hugo Awards ceremony, including livestream news and how to vote, at the Loncon 3 Hugo Awards website!
It is April 16th and there’s like 2 inches of new snow out there and I am NOT OVER IT OK.
However, I am still alive, contrary to the outrageous claims made by the date on my last blog post. I’m even nominated for a Nebula for Six-Gun Snow White and going to be Guest of Honor at Minicon in Minneapolis this weekend. Which means no Easter Egg dying for me this year, but panels for everyone!
Also I saw Captain America 2 last night and am mildly obsessed with reading the VERY FEW negative reviews because if it’s Marvel critics are now required to like it or face a personal visit from a hungover Iron Man, so that I can dissect how entirely I felt it went wrong when I loved the first one–really the only superhero movie of the current coolkids vibe that I liked on its own merits. I’m endlessly fascinated by stories that seem to almost work but blow the dismount in some way.
All the set pieces were there, albeit run through the guts of the same desaturation engine that video games seem to be churning merrily through at the moment. (Seriously, 4 color panels are starting to look downright lurid in comparison) But they were just set pieces, and not even superhero set pieces so much as Jason Bourne set pieces glitter-glued onto a We Stand With Snowden plot, which actually doesn’t play that well with a superhero universe where all solutions must be phraseable as personal mottos and tie into a movie that won’t be out til next year and also magic. Plus, don’t ever ever mention where all the money to build these evil systems comes from or any kind of class issues while trying to say something about contemporary politics, because the whole genre sort of winces at 1% issues and goes “Oooh! Look over there! Tony Stark is so cool!”, or show anyone but the 20 people allowed to live in a single-hero film/province of MarvelWorld so that there can be a PG 13 rating and we can ignore the massive civilian casualties which are actually inevitable during the pitched machine gun broad daylight super secret “spy” battles. Instead, Twitter stands in for the rest of planet Earth. Which leaves one with a feeling that you can always spot evil because it’s blowing things up, when the truth is the worst things happen without a sound, behind closed doors, with a handshake and a smile. And the Greatest Generation that Captain America provides such a nice clean altar for us to worship, far from being a bastion of wholesome morals, shook a lot of those hands before most of us were born.
The first film actually wanted to dissect some (SOME) of this stuff. The strange obsession with superheroes and simultaneous terror of dictators when it really just takes one bad day to flip one to the other, propaganda, the military using up bright and beautiful young men until they turn into monsters. But somehow Winter Soldier just really wants to be a mainstream spy thriller, and seems wholly uncomfortable with its speculative trimmings, and has in fact trimmed them down to little more than your average James Bond jaunt. Captain America is in the actual military doing straightforward pirate boarding missions. There was a sinister story to be told there about how militaristic and frightening superheroes actually are, but they didn’t want to tell it, along with about five other more interesting stories hiding between the lines. What they did want, as many interviews have attested, was to make “an old school 70s spy thriller.” Oooook.
I feel like there’s something going on there, that filmmakers want the geek money that comes with any superhero franchise at the moment, the longing to see these characters onscreen, but is still deeply ambivalent about the subject matter. Either because there is a desire among those for whom these films are passion projects to make what was once mocked as being childish Extra Serious and Adult, or because those for whom they are not want the money without having to dip their fingers into anything so unsavory and suspect as, like, color, or fun, or magic/tech/mutation that doesn’t stand in for the civil rights movement. Either way, every “geeky” intellectual property seems to be getting the artistic equivalent of Captain America’s transformation: something weaker and smaller and weirder with a good heart being pumped up with industrial chemicals until it looks like some higher-up’s idea of a real man.
And, you know, be sure to never let Black Widow have a story of her own outside of bending over center screen, booting up a Mac, and worrying about the real hero’s relationship status because, well, girl, am I right?
In other news, April 16. Snow. What.