Wishing Never Changed A Damn Thing

I haven’t posted about the ongoing SFWA controversy in depth because I looked at the initial outcry, and the immediate response of some SFWA members, who stood up in the Forum* to say, “This has to change,” and I thought we were making progress. Over the course of a couple of days, the President made a statement, the previous editor stepped down, and a task force was formed to revise the Bulletin into a publication we could be proud of. I felt that if I publicly agitated for change the way that I was doing so privately, it would further distract from all of the great work that SFWA has done and is doing, and it would imply that the matter wasn’t being handled internally–and that wouldn’t have been true.

I’m proud of the changes we’ve made lately, which include not only moving to a higher standard of both content and writing in our official publication, but also creating guidelines for the official @SFWAauthors Twitter feed (which reposts member blogs), expanding the volunteer database, creating an archive project to collect historical materials, and more. I’m happy to see dozens of people step up and say, “I’ll help make this better,” by offering suggestions, volunteering their time, and being part of the discussion. I am most satisfied that when I stood up and took on tasks that needed doing–I answered questions about editing and magazine management even as the discussion turned to defending the old and attacking the new, I asked for volunteers for the next phase of the Bulletin, created and curated a list of those names and suggestions for the task force, and I wrote the first draft of a diversity statement for the Board to consider–there were people who didn’t just leave me to do it on my own, as I’ve seen in other organizations. Rachel Swirsky supported my efforts, Jim C. Hines ran his red pen over the diversity statement to help cut it down to a more manageable size, Cat Rambo and Mary Robinette Kowal stepped in to keep the conversation calm when it threatened to get negative, and a dozen people emailed me privately to encourage, ask questions, and offer their own opinions. I appreciate all of that.

But I was wrong when I thought I could do my part quietly, and things would get better from there.

For every good thing we’ve done to improve SFWA this month, there is another jackass trying to take it away. In our private space (which cannot be quoted from) I’ve had certain people not just disagree with me but were deeply offended that I would dare to tell them things must change, even when I’m saying that based on the obvious outpouring of sentiment from members and non-members alike. I’m allowed to express an opinion, sure, but I’m not well known enough, not “Big Name” enough, to decide anything. I’ve been told I must want something, that I’m only complaining about the previous iteration of the Bulletin because I wanted the old editor fired so I can take her job. I’ve been accused of being involved in a plot of force out the old guard of SFWA. I’ve been dismissed for being a woman, because that fact somehow explains away my opinions as emotional, and therefore ignorable.

I’ve gotten emails about how I don’t understand real sexism, because I wasn’t around in the 80s, 90s, and 2000s.** How if I were the editor, I would have made exactly the same choices, because otherwise I’d have lost my job. (Fact time: No, would have edited the material presented to me in a professional way, even if it meant losing my job. Because, standards, that’s why. Also, according to those in charge at SFWA, the idea that they’d have policed the Bulletin in a sexist and/or racist way is a totally unfounded rumor, and they’re working to prevent anything like that from happening.) I’ve been told I was making a fuss just to get attention, as if there’s nothing else about me anyone else would pay attention to. I’ve gotten emails telling me to shut the fuck up, telling me that I’m nothing and no one and need to go away while I still can, before I make too much noise, get too much attention, and then I’ll see what happens to women like me.

Because I commented in a private discussion about the need for stricter editorial standards. And did so while being a woman.

But at least I wasn’t making those comments in public, for the most part. And at least I wasn’t doing so while black. Because then this would happen:

Jemisin has it wrong; it is not that I, and others, do not view her as human, (although genetic science presently suggests that we are not equally homo sapiens sapiens), it is that we simply do not view her as being fully civilized for the obvious historical reason that she is not.

and

those self-defense laws have been put in place to let whites defend their lives and their property from people, like her, who are half-savages engaged in attacking them.

and

there is no evidence to be found anywhere on the planet that a society of NK Jemisins is capable of building an advanced civilization, or even successfully maintaining one without significant external support from those white males.  If one considers that it took my English and German ancestors more than one thousand years to become fully civilized after their first contact with advanced Greco-Roman civilization, it should be patently obvious that it is illogical to imagine, let alone insist, that Africans have somehow managed to do the same in less than half the time at a greater geographic distance.  These things take time.

and

Jemisin clearly does not understand that her dishonest call for “reconciliation” and even more diversity within SF/F is tantamount to a call for its decline into irrelevance.

All courtesy of Theodore Beale, writing as Vox Day. For those who don’t know, Beale is an active member of SFWA, and even ran for President this year. Though he repeatedly says things like women are ruining SF, except for those few who write like men, or women shouldn’t be allowed to vote, or women should be ignored entirely if they’re not attractive, not to mention his views on people of color (as evidenced above, and elsewhere in his public site), he still managed to get roughly 10% of the vote.

That’s the genre community for you, right there. But we ignore trolls like him, right? That’s what I’ve been seeing all day. Ignore him. Ignore his post. Don’t read the comments. Stay off the Internet for an hour until the unpleasantness passes.

You know what? Fuck that. Go read his post (it’s linked above). Read the comments. See the vile things that get said out in the open in 2013. See what happens when we speak up about it. Don’t hide your head in the sand and pretend it’s happening to someone else and you don’t need to worry about it. Hey, I’m white, what do I care, right? No, it doesn’t work that way. Nothing gets better when we pretend everything is at acceptable levels of okay.

Yeah, maybe it’s giving the trolls attention for a few minutes, and maybe people like Beale revel in the muck they create. But on the other hand, that’s a convenient excuse to ignore it, isn’t it? You can tell yourself you’re doing the right thing by taking away Beale’s power over five minutes of your time, but you’re also saying that you’re not willing to spend five minutes to find out how NK Jemisin is being attacked, how women and PoC are being characterized and treated in the genre community, and you’re not willing to get angry for five minutes.

But if we don’t get angry, what will motivate us to do anything about it? We can wish that things were different, but the truth remains:

Wishing never changed a damn thing.

Note: the wonderful Amal El-Mohtar posted a reasoned, polite, letter to SFWA, calling for Beale’s expulsion, and current President John Scalzi is matching funds for people donating to the Carl Brandon Society, or the Octavia E. Butler memorial scholarship.

ETA: Today and tomorrow, I’m donating 100% of the sales of Dagan Books ebooks to the Carl Brandon Society. See the list of books here.

* the private discussion board for SFWA members.

** For the record, I’ve been involved in the genre community since I moved to San Francisco at 18–that would be in 1991. I’ve been a fan of SF (never was much of a fantasy reader) and horror since I was a little girl. I read the Grand Masters of science fiction when I was a kid; I’ve got paperbacks of Heinlein’s work–all of his work–on my shelf now. So, I’m not someone who doesn’t appreciate or know the founding works of American SF. I went to cons and parties with some of those guys, 20 years ago, and if you want to know what sexism was like in genre in the 90s, I can tell you. I’m not coming to genre in 2013 with no knowledge of what happened before. I’m coming to it, well aware of its past, and willing to be here anyway.

Writer Wednesday: Wesley Chu

Wesley-Chu-200x300

1. Your first two novels are scheduled to be published by Angry Robot books this year. You originally submitted during AR’s “Open Door Month” in 2011. What was that process like?

The Great Angry Robot Open Submission was probably one of the most fantastic and angst filled experiences of my life, which is unusual for me because I usually live a pretty happy, zero-angst life. I’m like a cross between that singing meerkat in Lion King and a Labrador Retriever.

The robot overlords, Marc Gascoigne and Lee Harris, opened their doors to subs for one month in March of 2011. The subs went through four levels of review, from query and chapters, full manuscript, editorial and finally to acquisitions. At the end, out of a nearly a thousand submissions, twenty-five manuscripts made it to editorials and five received deals. The entire process from submission to signing the deal took fourteen months.

An added bonus about the open sub process was that fourteen of us in the editorial stage bonded on the Absolute Write forums and created our own social Group: Anxious Appliances. Since our inception, we’ve been the most active writing group on AW. Not gonna lie. Those guys kept me sane. I got pretty batshit crazy as the process drew to a close.

2. Once your book was in to the final stages of consideration, you got an agent. How did you find yours? Looking back on it, should you have started looking sooner, or waited longer?

I did query an earlier draft of The Lives of Tao a few years ago. I received some great feedback, and a request for a rewrite, but things fell through. It was still a great learning experience and helped me develop as a writer. It’s fair to say the book wouldn’t be what it is without the suggestions and changes I made from their critiques. I took a year off from the book and then rewrote it with a fresh pair of eyes.

After the manuscript was promoted to editorial during the open sub, I leveraged the potential deal and began querying again, and received offers from two agencies for representation. I was very fortunate to sign with Russell Galen of Scovil Galen Ghosh, who was one of my top targeted agencies. What better person to lead your career than the guy who represented the authors that wrote the books and movies you grew up with (Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report, Screamers)?

3. You have a wife, an executive-level job for a major corporation, family, friends, and a dog. How do you find time to write?

There’s a lot of time in the day. You just have to figure out how to prioritize what is important and what isn’t. I admit to being an OCD kind of guy. I am a single purpose driven machine, like a Phillips screw driver.

During my hardcore martial art days, I used to drive an hour to my friend Tony Marquez’s school (he was the original Kung Lao in Mortal Kombat), Extreme Kung Fu, and train at his facility. Then afterward, I drove thirty minutes to another school where I learned from a Bagua Zhang/Tai Chi master. It was four hours of training a day, six days a week. This went on for many several years.

One day, I thought to myself. “Man, I’ve always wanted to write a book. I don’t know how, but I’m going to figure it out.”

So I gave it a shot. Without knowing what I was doing, I began to write when I had the free time. Eventually, writing took over all my other hobbies. I stopped clubbing. I retired from martial arts. I quit raiding in Wow (that freed up a crap ton of time), and focused on what was really important to me. Continue reading

Barbie, Burquas, April Fool’s Jokes, Writer’s Advice: Small Failures Hurt Us In Big Ways

I like being an introvert. My world is small. I have my books, a few people I care very much about, and I occasionally get out of my shell to have coffee, or go to a convention. I like people, in small doses. I’m happy and loved and comfortable with my life. I pay attention to what’s going on in the world but it’s, honestly, easier for me to stay out of controversy.

Not because I don’t care, but because I’ve already had so much of it. I’m tired of being a target, a victim, an object of ridicule, of derision. I’m exhausted from watching people I love insulted, mocked, abused, disenfranchised. I’m reminded every day that a huge segment of the population thinks it’s okay to take from me and mine. People with so much privilege they don’t even realize they have it, because they never needed to. Continue reading

Writer Wednesday: Fran Wilde

Photo courtesy of A. E. Bogdan

Fran Wilde is a writer and technology consultant hard at work on her third novel. You can read her short stories online at Nature Magazine and Daily Science Fiction She can tie various sailing knots, set gemstones and program digital minions. She blogs at franwilde.wordpress.com.

1. You have two novels completed and two more in progress. Tell us about them.

Moonmaker is adult science fiction. It’s my first novel, and I’ve recently received some fantastic feedback on it. The story is pretty ambitious, given that I’d never written a novel before. I am lucky to have people who believe in it, since the process of finishing a novel and getting it out there is so complex. Moonmaker combines game building and programming with a bunch of things I didn’t know much about until I dove into the research. A friend was kind enough to loan me an astrophysicist at one point (he’s awesome), so I had some great insights when it came to moons and orbits. I did a very light query on the book last fall, but have decided to take it back into editing. A few spin-off short stories are in process too.

The second novel, Bone Arrow, is my baby right now. It’s young adult fantasy, with a lot of low-tech engineering. I was a house writer for university engineering programs for a long time, and my first job was proofreading engineering articles. The tech behind bridges and towers and a few other things got stuck in my head, I guess. But that’s just setting, and offstage background. The characters in Bone Arrow — they ran away with the book. I had all these plans for what was supposed to happen, and… yeah. They had other plans. I loved watching the story unfurl. I love hearing reactions from people who have read it.

One thing I should say is that my friends from Viable Paradise who have urged me on while writing this book, and who are a really incredibly generous source of support, even while deep in their own work, have been there from the start on this. I’m very grateful for them. In addition, I took Bone Arrow with me to Taos Toolbox last summer. After an all-night plot-breaking session with my roommate and several amazing upcoming writers and friends, I’d grown a whole new grasp on how to plot story. Bone Arrow and the stories that come after are much stronger for these experiences.

The third novel is set in the same world as Bone Arrow, and the fourth is a distant-future offshoot of Moonmaker.

2. What short fiction publication are you most proud of, and why?

All of them, for different reasons. If you press me, I’d say, so far, the 2012 Nature story, “Without.” It’s short, but there’s a lot in it. I’m proud of it mostly because the story wasn’t working, even after a critique. Then I quit taking one character’s side over the other and let both characters have completely valid points, as they saw it. Then it worked. That was an important lesson.

3. You’ve interviewed an impressive collection of genre authors for your “Cooking the Books” project. Where did you get the idea to talk about writing by talking about food?

I’m having a ridiculously fun time with Cooking the Books. I’ve gotten a lot of encouragement along the way, especially from author A.C. Wise and all the writers who have agreed to be interviewed so far.

Back in a previous life, I interviewed a lot of people for work. I missed doing it. When I started the column, it felt a bit more risky: this time I was interviewing people not for a client, or a journal, but because I really cared about the answers, for me. It’s exciting and terrifying all at the same time.

The whole thing started at Viable Paradise. Steven Gould (who not only has a new book out, Impulse, but is running for SFWA president – go check him out!) and I were talking about a recipe I had in the back pages of a foreign service cookbook. The recipe was for “Elephant Stew.” (the book also had “Stuffed Camel” and something for cobra.). The first direction is “Cut elephant into bite-sized pieces.” Steven Gould said “That sounds like a recipe for a novel.” I asked him if he’d say that in print, and we were off to the races. Shortly after, Elizabeth Bear and Gregory Frost agreed to interviews – and then people began suggesting others who might like to participate as well. I had a lot of fun interviewing more of the Viable Paradise faculty last fall: author James D. Macdonald, Macallister Stone (of Absolute Write), Bart, and author Steven Brust. The December interview with Aliette de Bodard was just amazing, and the upcoming interviews — well, they’re going to be awesome.

I’d love to have a dinner party with the recipes. Except for the marmot. And Joe Haldeman’s foxhole pizza. Also, we’d need more beverage recipes to pull off a good party. I’m also dreaming up ways to do a Cooking the Books game show at a convention.

4. Which fictional recipe would you most like to try?

Oh gosh. All of them? I love new tastes. I might skip the alien food from Neal Stephenson’s Anathem.

I’m a little limited by food allergies in real life, so that’s probably why I like fictional food so much.

The best source for someone who makes fictional recipes come to life is Chelsea over at Food Thru the Pages and the folks at Fictional Food. Not only are the recipes fantastic, the photography is gorgeous.

5. You attended Viable Paradise in 2011. Now that you’ve had a year to process that experience, what stands out in your memory as the best moment of the workshop? Continue reading

Writer Wednesday: E.C. Myers

Photo courtesy of S. Kuzma Photography

Photo courtesy of S. Kuzma Photography

E.C. Myers is the author of two YA speculative fiction novels – Fair Coin & Quantum Coin – out now from Pyr. When he isn’t writing, he reads, plays video games, watches films, sleeps as little as possible, and spends far too much time on the internet. Luckily, he let me steal him away to answer a few questions …

1. You’re a prolific reviewer of television, film and video games. One of your current projects is The Viewscreen, where you’re rewatching every episode of Star Trek TNG. How does that kind of writing fit in with the rest of your writing career?

Sometimes I worry that writing for The Viewscreen or even my own blog might be too much of a distraction from my fiction career. It may not make the most sense to devote so much of my limited writing time to work that doesn’t pay, but economics aside, I do think it’s valuable. Writing regularly—any kind of writing—helps me grow as a writer, and the regular deadlines are powerful motivation to sit down at the keyboard and work fast. I love stories in all their forms, especially in television and film, and these re-watches are opportunities to examine fiction critically and think about what makes it brilliant, a spectacular failure, or an interesting effort that just falls short of success. I also think it’s important to be able to write many different things, just as it’s important to read widely, and one day perhaps I will be able to support myself from a variety of freelancing projects like these. It’s also a lot of fun, and I enjoy discussing Star Trek with the smart, engaged community at The Viewscreen.

2. You have a wife, a day job, friends, pets, and hobbies – and you still wrote four novels and several short stories. How do you find the time?

I steal the time wherever I can get it: by falling hopelessly behind on my favorite TV shows while dodging spoilers on the internet, watching the stacks of unplayed video games and unread books grow, getting by on four or five hours of sleep a night so I can stay up late and wake up early, writing during my lunch breaks, and unfortunately giving up too many hours I could be spending with family and friends. I don’t feel like I’ve been as productive as I used to be, so I’m experimenting with new writing routines to counterbalance all the recent changes in my life. The changes are all good ones, but they’re also challenges when you’ve become accustomed to working a certain way. I think if something’s important enough to you, you make the time for it no matter what else you have going on.

3. You’re a member of the writing group Altered Fluid. How did you get involved with the group, and how has that influenced you as a writer?

One of the founding members of Altered Fluid, Kris Dikeman, was one of my classmates at Clarion West in 2005. When we both returned home to New York City after the workshop, she graciously introduced me to the group and sponsored me for membership. I went through their rigorous screening process and happily was accepted. Second to Clarion West, Altered Fluid has probably improved my writing the most. Everyone in the group is deeply committed to the craft of writing and has diverse strengths, areas of expertise, and perspectives. The constant demand for new short stories to critique made me more prolific, and it’s very helpful to not only receive critiques from such smart, experienced writers, but to think critically about each others’ stories and hear everyone else’s reactions and suggestions on every piece. I also appreciate what supportive, fun friends they’ve become—we keep each other informed about story markets, share publishing news and advice, help each other with various projects, and we even go on writing dates and retreats together.

4. What short fiction publication are you most proud of, and why?

Every one of them is a victory, but I’m especially proud of “All the Lonely People”, which appeared in Shimmer issue #13 in April 2011. I think it’s one of my best published pieces, but it took a long time for it to find the perfect home; Shimmer is one of my favorite fiction magazines, and I had been trying to break into the market for years, with several close calls. I also had the privilege of reading that story at the New York Review of Science Fiction Readings Series, which was definitely a highlight of my career so far.

5. You’ve published two YA novels, Fair Coin and Quantum Coin, and have two others you’re revising. What stage of the novel/publishing process do you enjoy the most?

Naturally I am particularly thrilled by the part that puts my books in the hands of readers! But as far as the writing process goes, it’s a toss-up between writing a first draft, when there’s still so much potential, and revision, when the book is creeping closer to what I want it to be. I like revision when I know what to fix and how to fix it. Continue reading