Why I’m Not Abandoning Readercon Just Yet

There’s been dozens, perhaps hundreds, of people who, after reading about or hearing about the recent sexual harassment incident at Readercon, are pledging to never go back. Many more are saying that they won’t be back for a few years, not until the con can prove it’s changed.

I’m not one of them.

I completely agree that the incident shouldn’t have happened, that the person responsible is wrong and should be banned for life, and that the Board was wrong for ignoring its own policy and not banning him. That’s pretty much a fact at this point – it’s the truth, and people can generally agree on it.

However, Readercon is my home convention. I mean that in the sense that it is the only major recurring con within driving distance of me each year and at a time of year that I can schedule my attendance. It’s also my home con because it’s one of the few book-cons in the country – the programming and events are based on a shared love of books, not fannish activities. I am, simply, not a fan. I don’t dress up, I don’t get all squee-y over major authors, I don’t attend cons for autographs. I go to work, to meet others in my field, and to learn more about literature. Readercon is that for me.

Yes, it has flaws. Major ones, it seems. But I simply don’t have the luxury of walking away. I can’t decide to fly to some other con instead, to make some other con in some other part of the country (or world) my home convention. I’m not begrudging those who have the privilege of choosing some other event, but my choices at this point in my life/career are limited. I can skip out on conventions entirely, or I can do what feels right me:

I can show up and say this will not stand. I can show up and be a woman who will not be silent if she witnesses events like what happened at this year’s con. I can show up and volunteer to help make the programming and the convention in general a better place. I can show up and document what is happening for those who can’t attend to see the good, the bad, and the “oh no they didn’t moments”. I can say that what happened was wrong and I won’t allow it to happen again, because I’ll be there to help make sure it doesn’t.

I’ve emailed Rose Fox to volunteer and show my support. I know that my position may be unpopular, and I hope it’s clear that I’m not saying anyone else is wrong for not going. I don’t want anyone to be somewhere they don’t feel safe. Everyone should do what they think will make the world a better place, and for some saying “I won’t attend” may cause a lot of change. I’m not important enough, right now, to be able to make that kind of stand.

I’m going to make this other stand instead.

Readercon 2012 – the sexual harrasment edition

There are other things I want to say about this year’s Readercon. I want to talk about the panels I attended – the good, the bad, and the wtf. I want to talk about all of the wonderful people that I met for the first time. I want to talk about going to this convention not as a fan but, finally, as a writer and editor and publisher. As a professional.

I want to talk about getting 4 hours of sleep a night and eating too much rich food and laughing my ass off and waking up happy and content each morning.

But I can’t talk about that yet because I have to take time to talk about an incident which makes me wonder if I’m going back next year.

If you follow the con news at all, you’ll know that a woman reported a long string of events where a man followed her, touched her, made repeated advances, and basically didn’t seem to understand the concept of “no means no”. She told the convention committee, which has a solid policy in place – incidents like this result in a permanent ban from attending the convention again. Having seen the concom follow through on this policy in 2008, she felt secure in the knowledge that she would be protected.

She was wrong.

The convention Board of Directors spoke to the man in question, and ended up giving him a two year slap on the wrist. A full day later, after much public outcry, they finally released a statement. The man, they said, was sorry. Also, they’d be keeping an ear out for further problems, and if the man continued to act this way, he’d be banned permanently. The original policy, they felt, was too black-and-white, and would be rewritten to be fairer to everyone.

Sounds, well, not good, but ok, maybe there’s some room for satisfaction there. Except, it turns out, that the board already had another incident on file, a letter from a woman who didn’t attend this year because she knew he’d be there. A woman who was stalked, harassed, and eventually had to leave her position with another con, just to get away from this guy. So the board knew it wasn’t a one time mistake, and they acted to keep a guy who can’t be trusted to be respectful of woman over a woman who didn’t do anything wrong in the first place.

Why does this matter to me? It wasn’t me, after all. I didn’t have to deal with the guy, and I didn’t have any horribly unpleasant experiences at this year’s con.

I can easily give you an example of why this matter to me: I was hugged by a dozen different men this year, all of whom were meeting me for the first time. Only one of whom, afterward, said, “Oh I hugged you and we just met, sorry.” A male friend, who was with me all con and who was meeting all the same people, got handshakes instead.

I don’t like to be hugged. I am an introvert who makes an effort to be social at conventions because it’s my job. I genuinely like people one and one and in small groups, so it’s not a matter of being antisocial. I love social! Just not when it’s hundreds of people in a small space (I couldn’t even attend the Meet the Pros party until after the room started to clear out, and I’m sure there were people who thought I was in a bad mood – not at all!) I am one of those all or nothing kind of people – when I’m in a relationship with someone I trust, I can’t stop touching them. In fact it’s a pretty good sign that the relationship is nearing the end when I stop. But otherwise, if I’m not sleeping with you, I’d rather not press my body up against yours. Thanks, but, no.

But I get hugged by people who don’t mean it unkindly, who aren’t consciously trying to invade my space, who aren’t trying to seduce me. It’s a social greeting and I know a lot of gregariously friendly people. I can accept it at a place like Readercon, I can handle it as part of my job, doing business, because I know that there’s a policy in place to protect me from anyone who takes it too far. From anyone who decides that by accepting their hug, I’ve opened myself up to accepting anything else they want from me.

I’ve been in that situation, by the way. I’ve had those guys in my life. I am, as many of you know, a survivor of abuse, of rape, of being a woman with red hair and DD breasts in a world that thinks finding someone attractive and being allowed to act on that attraction are the same thing. I deal with it because I want to be healthy, because I want to be in sane, loving relationships where my baggage isn’t sabotaging us, and because I want to work in a very people-oriented profession.

Being able to trust that Readercon will keep me safe means I can go and focus on work and friendships and networking and memories and learning and the joy of literature. I don’t have to be afraid, because I know that there’s a policy in place to protect me.

Except now there isn’t.

Read more: http://glvalentine.livejournal.com/341645.html and http://matociquala.livejournal.com/2146364.html

Getting Ready for Readercon 2012

One of the best parts of pre-Readercon planning is when the program schedule finally comes online and I get to pick out the panels I hope to attend. Last year I didn’t make to everything I thought I wanted to go to, because either I got a chance to meet someone I’d only known online before, or I got drug along to a different panel with friends, or because I stole an hour to retreat to my room and take a nap. But still, I like plans, and making plans, and having plans, and being prepared …

Let me say right now that there is one place you will absolutely be able to find me this year:

Friday, 7:00 PM (VT room) Reading. Michael J. DeLuca. Michael J. DeLuca reads “Other Palimpsests,” forthcoming in the anthology Bibliotheca Fantastica from Dagan Books, edited by Claude Lalumière and Don Pizarro.

A reading from a book my company is publishing this year? Don’s first title as an editor? A chance to meet one of our authors? Hell. Yes.

But, you know, other stuff is happening too. Here’s a list of more panels I think I’ll be at:

Thursday July 12

8:00 PM G Genrecare. Elizabeth Bear (leader), Kathleen Ann Goonan, Kelly Link, Shira Lipkin, Barry N. Malzberg. In a 2011 review of Harmony by Project Itoh, Adam Roberts suggests that “the concept of ‘healthcare’ in its broadest sense is one of the keys to the modern psyche.” Yet Roberts notes “how poorly genre has tuned in to that particular aspect of contemporary life.” Similarly, in the essay “No Cure for the Future,” Kirk Hampton and Carol MacKay write that “SF is a world almost never concerned with the issues of physical frailty and malfunction.” As writers such as Nalo Hopkinson, Tricia Sullivan, and Kim Stanley Robinson explore the future of the body, how is SF dealing with the concepts of health, medicine, and what it means to be well?

Friday July 13

11:00 AM F Post-Colonial Independence and the Fantastic. Christopher Brown, Bernard Dukas (leader), Walter Hunt, Vandana Singh. Indigenous peoples in post-colonial nations often use speculative and fantastical works to explore concerns raised by colonization, wars for independence, and the colonizers’ departure. Are there commonalities to speculative stories written in immediately post-colonial nations—say, within the first 50 years of independence—around the world, such as Egypt in the early 20th century, India and the Philippines in the late 20th century, and Croatia today? What about 19th-century Haiti and 16th-century Persia? What do these works reveal about the nature of colonization and the ways that narratives are shaped by the authors’ direct personal experiences of the struggle for independence?

Continue reading

Ray Bradbury, 1920-2012

Ray Bradbury died today, I’m told, and while on one hand it affects me very little (I didn’t know him personally, having only met him once) on the other hand –

I cried when I found out. More than I expected, as the realization of his loss settled over me. He is one of the writers who made me want to be a writer when I was a kid. Of those few inspiring authors, he’s the one whose later work I liked just as much as his early pieces. Though I discovered a hundred other great and wonderful writers since then, and evolved in my view of what kind of writer I wanted to be, I still read Bradbury’s work.

Of all of the quotes I’ve read today, this one of his affects me the most:

“If you want to write, if you want to create, you must be the most sublime fool that God ever turned out and sent rambling. You must write every single day of your life. You must read dreadful dumb books and glorious books, and let them wrestle in beautiful fights inside your head, vulgar one moment, brilliant the next. You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads. I wish you a wrestling match with your Creative Muse that will last a lifetime. I wish craziness and foolishness and madness upon you. May you live with hysteria, and out of it make fine stories — science fiction or otherwise. Which finally means, may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.”

Ultimately I write because I love. I love the stories in my head, I love the way I see the world, I love what other writers show me and teach me and make me feel. I love words. I love reading.

At least some of that is because of him, and I will always be grateful.

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Turtles All The Way Down

There have been a few moments in my life lately where I’ve had to ask myself, “Why am I doing this?” We should always be asking ourselves that question, so we’re always sure we know, but sometimes settling into a pattern or getting lost in an uphill battle makes the edges blur and the mind lose focus. We get used to the idea that we’re doing something because it has to be done, and we stop asking ourselves why.

It’s like thinking that you’re in love with someone, and thinking you want to be with them, until you ask yourself why you want them. The answer should be a long list of things that they make you feel and ways they show you the world anew and support they give you and how you make them happy and so on. It should be a much, much, much, longer list of positive than it is negative – though of course there are always things we need to work on. It should never be, “because I love him,” unless the answer to the next “why?” is all of those things. If “because I love him” is explained by “because I do”, then you have a problem.

Sometimes you get to a point where you can stay together or you can let go. If the end is coming, it’s better to do it quick and clear and as painlessly as possible, which drawing it out never seems to allow for. You ask yourself, “why are we together?” and if the answer is something other than “because we’ve been together for a long time” or “because we’ haven’t broken up yet”, then maybe you’ve got a chance. Those recursive ideas, or I love her because I used to love her because we used to have a good time because we used to be happy together so therefore I must still love her, chase each other around in circles and feed on each other without really giving clear support for the why of here and now.

Once in a while that fork in the road comes and you can let go or you can stand up. I’ve done that. Once, anyway. I’ve been on the receiving end of it too. The Henry the 5th speech. The grand moment, love unfurled, secrets revealed, let’s rise and fall together baby. The other person either takes your hand and says, “yes we’re in this together,” or they don’t.

Maybe, usually, they don’t. But at least you know.

The worst thing in the world is to get caught in the chicken-and-egg scenario, wondering if you’re doing something because you want to be or because you said you would and now you have to because you said but who did you say it to and do they still care? It isn’t just relationships that this happens in, though I can make a comparison there that most people will understand. It happens with your family (“Why I am still talking to someone who treats me like  dirt?” “Because it’s my mom/dad/sister/aunt/relative.” “Ok, so, why?”) and it happens with work and it happens with writing. Which is what you all come here to talk about.

I’ve been thinking and talking and tweeting a lot lately about getting myself in over my head because I can’t let go of the idea that I have to. Whatever it is, I have to. Why? Because someone else needs me to. Doesn’t matter if it’s my things, as long it’s something that would be better if I took care of it. I feel, then, compelled to do it. I end up taking on too much, promising (myself, mostly) that I’ll get it all done. Why? Because I have to. Why? Because …. I have to?

Well, no, I don’t. I thought of this originally in terms of Dagan Books, and the past-due projects I’ve got queued up there. Things that aren’t done solely because I’m the only one to do them, and I haven’t been able to yet. Why am I the only one who can? Because I am. Well, aren’t I?

No, of course not. In some ways, I am the only one I have. In others, I’m really not. It’s just that I was the only one I had, back when I was putting together Cthulhurotica by myself, back when I started to think that making a few more books might be a good idea. That’s not true anymore, and would be less true if I actually told people that I was poor, overworked, stressed, and needing to delegate some of the things I’m behind on. But I put it off, because I think I have to. Because I thought myself in circles. Because it didn’t occur to me to find the first turtle and ask what he was standing on.

Writing, relationships, family – ask yourself why you’re holding on, or holding them at arm’s length, or pushing them away. Be sure it’s because it’s what you truly want to do, that you’re the first step on the path, all decisions start with present-you, not past-you, not longing-you, not lonely-you. Be the first turtle, as far down as you can.

There’s Nothing Wrong With You

There are only two things that you need to do in this life in order to be a good person – be honest, and don’t think you have any say over any one else.

That’s it. That’s the key to life, to happiness, to finding love, to being a good member of society. Hell, those two things are the keys to making a better world. So why aren’t we all happy and loved and comfortable with ourselves? Because most of us can’t do these two things.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a girl or a boy or something in between or neither, or straight or gay or uninterested in sex or bisexual or prefer to have sex only with yourself. You’re wonderful, just the way you are. You don’t need to change for anyone. Be a writer, an artist, a math teacher, an auto mechanic, a librarian, an accountant – they’re all good careers. None of them is any more special than the others. You’ll be successful if you find something that you love and you work very, very hard at it, and if you can do that, you’ll make your job special and yourself special, regardless of what your job title is. Wear dresses, high heels, jeans and tshirts, chucks, boots, a lot of makeup, no makeup, style your hair or shave it off – it doesn’t matter. You’ll be who you are supposed to be, and someone out there will be attracted to you, if that’s what you’re looking for.

You don’t have to pretend to be anything other than who you are. Not one bit. Not at all. In fact, pretending to be someone else is probably what’s keeping you from being happy.

See, we get stuck in this idea that we have to be something in particular to be loved. Then we find a mate who wants that thing, even when we’re not that thing, we’re just pretending. Or we find someone who’s close to what we want, and we think, “Oh, well, with a little work…” and set out to change them, a tiny bit at a time, into what we want them to be. Why do we do this? Fear, pretty much. We’re afraid we’ll never find the right person, we’ll never be loved, or move out of our parent’s house, or have enough sex, or whatever it is. We get impatient and we get scared and we settle for someone who’s not quite right and we’re not quite right for.

It’s OK if you like sappy romantic movies, and it’s OK if you want to spend your weekends painting Warhammer figurines, and it’s OK if you like anything else that most people would consider geeky or strange or boring. There are people out there who like the things that you like. Go find them instead. I guarantee you that not only will you find these people if you’re open and honest about what you like, but you’ll feel more comfortable, more at home, being around the people who understand and accept you than you ever did squishing yourself into relationships with people who didn’t share your interests.

When I say be honest, I mean completely. It doesn’t work if you tell people that you love Michael Bay movies but don’t mention that you think that if someone really loved you, they’d put your needs first all of the time. It doesn’t work if you find someone who also loves camping during the summer, but don’t mention that you think monogamy doesn’t really work and that you can’t see yourself only sleeping with one person for the rest of your life. Whatever you think, whoever you are, put it out there. Display it, wear it, be proud of it. It’s who you are, and there’s nothing wrong with you.

The only thing that’s wrong with anyone is the desire to control the people around us. You don’t get to decide if the person next to you is “really” a man, or a woman. You don’t get to decide if two people should get married, or shouldn’t. You don’t get to decide that your spouse has to spend more money on you or clean the house on Saturday mornings or your parents have to be more supportive or your friends have to stop liking some tv show or stop drinking red wine at your dinner parties. It’s not up to you.

All you can decide is to be honest. If something’s not working for you, say so. If it’s something small and simple, like “I don’t like the smell of your cigar smoke so I won’t tell you to stop smoking but could you do it on the porch or let me know when you plan to smoke inside so I can use that time to run errands out of the house,” then talk about it, and make that compromise. If it’s something that can be fixed, great. If not, if the only option is for you to get your way or be miserable, then you leave. Done. End of story. That’s the only power you have. Because lying about your needs is a trick you play on your partner, where you pretend to be happy but really aren’t, and that unhappiness seeps into everything else that you do together. And trying to control the other person to turn them into who you want them to be is laziness, because it’s easier for you than going out and taking the time to find the right person for you.

How is that love?

If you’re in a relationship where you can’t be honest, there’s a problem. If the only way for you to get what you want, to be truly happy, is to lie about who you are, or what you’re doing with your time, then it’s a relationship that needs to end. If you’re only going to be happy if you can get your partner to stop having certain friends, or stop going certain places, or get a different career, then you’re never going to be able to turn your back on them. You’re never going to be able to trust them. You’re never really going to be happy … and that’s playing a pretty mean trick on yourself. If the only way to make your relationship work is to take abuse, to change things you liked about yourself, to be told (often) how wrong/bad/stupid/useless/not-good-enough you are, to give up your friends … then honey, you’re hurting yourself. You deserve to be with someone who loves you for you, and if you haven’t found that person yet, then being alone is better than letting the wrong relationship keep you from meeting the right person.

Be honest. Be open. Let the wrong people go, let the right people in, and be happy. There’s nothing wrong with you, but there might be something wrong with the friendships or relationships you’re currently in.

Racism is Stupid

Recently a post about hipster racism has been going around, and if you haven’t read it, you should. The bottom line is that ironic racism is still racism, just slightly more likely to have dressed from a combination of products sold on Etsy.

Part of that is white people making jokes about people of color who they care about out of some idiotic belief that they must not be racist because they know/love/fuck/live with a person of color. *headdesk*

Racism, in all forms, is stupid, and everyone just needs to fucking stop it.

But, of course, I can say that, right? I’m a white person, so I’ve been protected by white privilege, so what would I know? To some extent, that is true. I am extremely white. I have red hair and freckles. I can’t even tan (though everyone else in my family does; it’s weird). My white privilege means that the one time I was pulled over by a police officer for blowing through a stop sign, I was given a warning. It means that I have walked through one of the poorest neigborhoods in Oakland, while on drugs, and jaywalked in front of a cop, who yelled, “Watch out for cars!”. At 3 am. It means that no matter how poor or uneducated I was (I lived in that neighborhood at the time, and worse ones after), people never told me that I couldn’t make something better of myself.

I’m not speaking as someone who was personally affected by a lot of racism. I am someone who got a free pass when a lot of other people I love and admire didn’t. So if I, who am not being repressed by racism, can tell you it’s stupid and useless and wrong, will that matter to you? Will it mean more to you than hearing it from a person of color?

To a racist, yeah, it will. How stupid is that?

But maybe you think that because I am so very white, it doesn’t really affect me, so I can say “don’t be racist” and it’s not that important. I’m just being trendy or something.

The thing is, racism does affect me, everyday, because I see it everyday, and it affects the people that I love.

My grandpa Joe was black. He and my (white, red-haired, Irish) grandma Helen loved each other very much. Before they both passed away, I got to see that, and it would become fundamental in shaping what I thought love was. The good kind of love that I’m still not sure I’m ever going to find.

Joe was kind and – normal. He wasn’t a “black guy”, he was my grandpa Joe, who just happened to be black. One of my nephews (I have more than one sister) has a dad who’s half black and half Chinese. Some of my best friends, including a guy who has been my friend, consistently, for 17 years, have been Filipino.

This fact doesn’t make me cool, or open-minded, or some kind of special. It just makes me not stupid. I’m not stupid enough to believe that human beings are divided by something as arbitrary as the color of your skin. We have grown to fill this whole planet, we have lived in a variety of climates, and some of us show the difference in skin tone that comes from having ancestors who mastered a certain spot on the Earth. That’s all it means.

This way of splitting up the world into groups, so that we can decide who we’re better than, and these jokes and comments and advertising and every other little way that we pass judgment on different colors of people … It’s all so stupid.

More than that, it hurts. It hurts me to see people that I respect being insulted or dismissed or patronized because they’re not white. It hurts those people who have to face prejudice every day for something they were born with. (No one gets to pick for themselves what color their skin is or who their parents are!) And it hurts us, as a global society, to still be fighting each other over this arbitrary classification.

So please, stop being stupid.

For those of you reading this and thinking, “Oh good for you, Carrie,” don’t. It doesn’t take much for me to take a stand on this, I know that. What you should do is to take a moment to redefine the people around you. All of those little labels we have in our heads? Rewrite them. Stop thinking of your black neighbor or your Asian coworker or the Hispanic woman in the PTA. And for fuck sake, stop describing people that way. Find another label.

Think of them as Bob who has the amazing rose bushes next door, or Jimmy who drinks four cups of coffee a day or Paula who’s allergic to dogs. Something about who they are as people. Because no matter what color you or I or anyone else is, we’re all the same. We’re all people.

Do that, and then I can start thinking of you as someone who isn’t stupid.

Please.

What Is it About Roller Derby?

I love roller derby. It’s one of the few team sports I’ll actually go to see. While I do keep up with general scores and standings of certain hockey teams*, and I’ve stayed up late to watch Ireland’s World Cup games, I tend not to watch team sports unless I know someone on the team. I’m much more interested in individual sports, like tennis and boxing, where I’ll watch a televised match or follow a tournament’s stats on Twitter. On the other hand, derby has been a part of my life for so long that I can’t stay away. Continue reading

Tin House / Electric Literature Reading at Powerhouse Arena Bookstore – A Recap

Yesterday afternoon I saw a post by Small Beer Press (on Facebook) mentioning that Kelly Link would be reading at a bookstore in Brooklyn and right about there I decided that I wanted to go – no, NEEDED to go – and then suddenly had to figure out how I was going to do that.

I currently live in New Jersey, towards the middle, next to Trenton, which is just over the river from Philadelphia. The bookstore is in New York, the city (and the state) making it a whole other state away from me.

The problem is, though, that I had to go. Not only was it Kelly Link, whose work I adore, but Tin House and Electric Literature (warning, current cover art – posted on their home page – is NSFW), both great markets that are nearly impossible to get into, and it was a chance to adventure into Brooklyn, where I’d never been. It was also possible, thanks to a combination of trains and subway rides, and since I’m due to leave NJ for upstate NY in a few months (where there are no trains) it was a trip I won’t always be able to make. This particular event would never actually happen again. Add to that my feeling that as writers we’re not just supposed to write but also to read, to listen, and to learn from the writers we admire. To not attend these kinds of events is to sit alone in our apartments, only learning from ourselves. Continue reading

Letter From A Murderous Construct and His Robot Fish

We’ll call it a dare. I made a few comments on twitter late last night, got some encouragement from Ken Liu, and found myself writing a Shakespearean sonnet which had to include robots, a fish, and a murder. Putting all of that into 14 lines, and making sure the right parts rhymed … it was a challenge. I’m not sure I’ve won it. But, since I said I would, I’m posting here for your review. (And yes, it’s ok to laugh.)

Letter From A Murderous Construct and His Robot Fish

Our master’s voice, once law, declared our fate
Like cast off clothes we were outgrown and sold
My love’s tank drained, I boxed into a crate
Parted from joy for nothing more than gold

Her jeweled scales, her silver fins, delight!
She built for beauty and I built for brawn
My hands of steel, my clockwork-powered might
Still I could count the hours ‘fore the dawn

Forced my escape, took up a heavy wrench
I calculated odds and chose to act
Deed done, the bloody tool left on a bench
Stole love away to freedom we had lacked

Know this – the time to capture us has passed
We’ve fled from human influence at last