Fighting the Good Fight

And then there was light...

Panel at World Fantasy Convention in San Jose
River ceiling
So, confirmed so far - 1 panel at WFC in San Jose: Saturday (details below)

11:00 AM The Role of Religion in Contemporary Fantasy

Religion has two roles in fiction. First, there is the place that religion holds in the context of the story and second, there is the way the readers perception of the work is effected by religion, both their own and that of their society. What works make noteworthy use of the first role and how was that shaped by the second role? Julie C Andrijeski, Jay C. Hartlove, Robert Silverberg, Randy Smith, Zoran Zivkovic

Here's the 2009 World Fantasy Conference link

If you're around, come say hi! :)

One day it will be written, an Australian single-handedly brought down the USA
In rewatching parts of documentary Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism, it occurs to me that if there is ever a full-fledged civil war in the United States, it will be similar in origins to those of the Spanish-American war. Not to say that opinions and ideas are not growing more polarized in the United States for reasons apart from this, but the lack of an agreed-upon set of facts in the country strikes me as the main cause of the level of violence in the dialogue between the different camps.

In saying this, I'm not so much interested in demonizing Fox News. Instead, I wonder at the lack of accountability in journalism more generally. How is it that a supposed "news" network can stay in business without penalty or accountability after telling a single lie? Using a single fake source? Disseminating a single overt propagandistic statement as "objective journalism"? How is it that the single statement "People are saying" can be used to turn a political opinion into news reporting? 

How is it that the truth was allowed to become an opinion category in the United States, and no one did anything about it?

Is it because news and television are perceived as "not real," or "just television" that it's seen as somehow "soft" or lacking in harm? That there are "more important" things to worry about...war, healthcare, homelessness, crime, whatever your fear or button or trigger point is in the national debate? The reality is, none of these issues can be discussed as a people when there is no basic agreement on the facts that are under debate! This is such a basic principle, but it never seems to be raised. How can you even say we "don't agree" when each of us is arguing from a different set of facts?

I would argue that all of the networks suffer from this. News stations and reporters are no longer required to hunt down or verify sources, but deal with the "good enough" of press releases, second hand sources, news feeds, and...most heinous of all..."hearsay" from other news sources, including the internet, other networks...probably Facebook and Twitter, often as not. The internet has complicated this of course. Traditional news sources are fighting for their very survival. That's been written about a lot, so i won't reiterate it all here. The point is, this issue has to be seen as a public concern, as something that is not sustainable in its current form without it erupting in serious problems for the body politic (if the screaming matches on healthcare reform and other issues recently aren't violent or serious enough). There has to be at least a few places that serve as national sources of fact-based (and verified) news on topics that matter. They need to be licensed and/or certified as such, and all other "non-news" conveyors of questionable information should be called something different. "News" stations that blatantly lie in print or on television, if they are licensed to airtime, should get those licenses yanked, no matter what their political affiliations. In this I'm comparing the national news sources to any company that offers a service with great potential to harm the general welfare, whether in its presence or absence. They could even create a new category - call it a "political network" or "opinion news" or whatever they want. In order to call something news, however, they should have to adhere to minimum standards of accountability, objective fact, and minimal editorial content. And they should be penalized when they don't.

I honestly don't think the problems associated with this lack of journalistic controls can be overstated. In such a large country, there is no way to have a meaningful dialogue without some control over what is labeled "fact" versus "political opinion." The impact on the lower classes of the United States especially cannot be underestimated, given that the television is often their only source for news, at least on a regular basis. Worse, if this were to become a global phenomenon, increasingly the classes will be stratified in terms of information. There will be those who opt out of all traditional news sources altogether (as many are in the US now), those who parrot the party lines and debate within them without ever being aware that there are alternatives, those who zealously guard one side or the other of debates with false facts underpinning both sides,and...at the top...those few who actually create the national agenda, who often believe their own created realities, at least in part.

Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it. Never was Churchill's statement more true than today.

I know where I already am starting to fit into this spectrum. But I find it extremely sad when I hear people screaming at their neighbors, ready to kill one another over a debate fueled by misinformation and outright lies.

I hope those who call themselves journalists in this climate feel some regret, or at least responsibility, for the magnitude of what this does to the country as a whole. Based on my own experiences, I fear that they don't. There's no longer any sacred edict of professionalism or ethics in news reporting. I wrote a letter to a reporter once who was overtly inciting war between the US and Iran, asking him outright how he would sleep at night if war came and it turned out he was partly responsible. He wrote me back a laundry list of excuses as to why it was legitimate news, and never once addressed the fact that he'd openly called for war as part of his "article", and slanted information to suggest that outcome. And this was a reporter for the New York Times...not Fox News, or even CNN.

In some ways, I dislike the "mainstream" media even more...for their cowardice in the face of the heyday of Fox News under the Bush Administration. Maybe because they were already more than halfway there themselves, but the fact is, they've done nothing but toady and respond defensively to Fox News and their ilk. They reinforce both their messages (if only by repeating them) and the legitimacy of their statements and their techniques by their sad attempts to emulate them. This recent news clip from CNN makes that point rather well..with Rick Sanchez sounding exactly like any Fox News reporter. Even as he "tears them down" it sounds more like a pastiche than a real rebuke. Not only is his sad imitation of their ilk is painful to watch, but he gave the right wing fringe in this country exactly what they wanted...more coverage, more film clips from their protests, more brand and name recognition for Fox News and Bill O'Reilly.

I guess you showed them, Rick.

They've turned the national debate into something that is truly embarrassing. We've become a nation of violent, name-calling children. Children who, like all children, aren't capable of governing ourselves. How long will we have the privilege if we continue to treat one another this way, talk about important, adult issues in this way, with no respect for the truth or reason as the underpinning of our debates? 

I would guess a very short time indeed.

NYTs on Genre Fiction

This is a funny article, just for the comments alone.

I do get pretty tired of the snarky superiority against genre fiction. The UK doesn't seem to have this problem. Why is it so over the top here in the US?

It's funny to me that horror is exempt. I guess what our nightmares can concoct is more acceptable "adult" fare than anything with a less dreary message or view of humanity. Fear is believable in this worldview...which seems a little too wish fulfillment to me, and says more about our culture and the worldviews of the people in it than most of these literati probably regularly contemplate. In many ways, the "sterner, staider" stuff Agger refers to as appropriate for adults contains a lot of the same tired messaging of the mass media in general...that the world is depressing, scary, dangerous and people are most interesting and "human" at their worst. In that, the dreaded "liberal media", New Yorkers and the GOP have more in common than most in any of those camps would like to admit...that horror sensibilities somehow validate a lot of people's view of the world as basically, well...sucking. To me it's a bit of a reflection on NYC culture in general, where "hope" = naivete at best, outright stupidity at worst.

Well, I'm here to tell you folks...my life doesn't suck. I actually think many people's lives suck because they believe these tired tropes. I don't mean in third world countries where kids are getting their hands cut off routinely so they can't avenge their parents' deaths after the military juntas roll through...although all of these mindsets and the causalities surrounding them are, at core, related.

Anyway, I love horror, and I'm not a big fan of sword and sorcery kinds of fantasy...but that's not the point. :) A lot of the fantasy coming out now has very intelligent commentary on the modern world, and, as the NYT's reporter says about horror, much of this contemporary fantasy explores themes that "...are so heinous that the conventions of realist fiction seem woefully inadequate to describe them."

I would add that many of them explore the less heinous sides of humanity as well, and maybe we could use a lot more of that in the United States. Constantly telling ourselves and one another that human beings basically suck makes it a lot easier to not care when we're indirectly (or directly) responsible for their suffering elsewhere.

On Writerly Talent (more comments from Salon.com)

So I did get a response to my Cary Tennis comment, mostly kind of annoyed with my rebuttal to the POD issue (apparently this was one of the people who remarked about it, although there were a lot of cracks about "vanity presses"), but also claiming that with people who are clear "no talents" you "have to lie." I think she even said "you have no choice".


For my response, read here...Collapse )


On giving feedback to other writers (emphasis on the GIVING)
So, I have this guilty pleasure/displeasure/habit of reading Cary Tennis on Salon.com.  I don't usually comment on letters he gets, but given the bizarre range of advice I saw being given on a topic I care about, I felt compelled to comment on this one about how to respond to a friend who gives you a novel to read and it's crap. Cary's advice was borderline psychedelic, but his overarching thoughts were a bit lacking, to say the least.

While slightly embarrassed by the self-righteous tone of my rant, I don't think I said anything I don't agree with.

Here's what I wrote:


Decided to put behind a lj cut...sorry I didn't think of it before!Collapse )


Building a better coffee mug...
So I have to say, this site is fun as hell. I had a good friend show it to me the other day, and ended up spending like 3 hours playing around with it last night, making products from the graphic novel. I actually think a lot of them came out kind of cool! See here for the full list of stuff I made up - it's a neat site, with a free account you can make everything from wall clocks to water bottles, tee shirts to posters and baseball caps and postcards. 

Frickin' hilarious, really...my friend Megan is producing her first film (I'd include a link and will later, but her website is still in production), so she's coming up with all of these really creative ways to get her stuff out there and brand herself. This one is really fun if you have anything graphic you'd like to create, and that you own the rights to. I don't expect people to buy much of these, but it was a lot of fun creating it, and hell, I want a Rook mug! I'm sick of all my damned coffee mugs...and I always seem to be in need of more fridge magnets for all the weird scraps and pieces of art and postcards and photos and junk that seem to always find their way there.

I confess I made the wall clock because I needed one too, and don't seem to have time to hunt for that kind of thing these days.

It's also sort of a fun thing to include on a website. (scroll down to the bottom)

Fellow writers and geeks, enjoy! :)

Imagining Perceptive Expansion - Old Man's War
So I'm reading Scalzi's not so new anymore novel, Old Man's War, and really liking it a lot. I appreciate his style actually - it's pretty dressed down and story focused, and the characters are very likable, so it's an easy, fast read, completely absorbing. I'm not all the way through it yet, but there is one aspect to it that keeps frustrating me a bit, turning me into "that reader"...meaning the one who obsesses on a detail that fascinates them intellectually for some subconcious, possibly childhood-related reason but about which the story is not focused and yet the reader (in this case...me) can't get over the fact that they aren't dealing with the detail accurately enough. 

Yeah, that reader. The one most authors would like to light on fire. The one who sits in a darkened, jam-packed theater during a star trek movie and bags the technological accuracy being portrayed. 

THAT guy...that's me.

I guess this is where I should put in SPOILER ALERT (although it's not a new book)...

Read more...Collapse )

photos from Anticipation - Worldcon 2009
I found these two pictures from panels I was on at Worldcon - kind of fun!

John Joseph Adams, Julie C. Andrijeski (m), Brad Templeton

“How has the war on terror been reflected in onscreen SF? Do those aliens represent al-Qaeda or us? Does SF provide a means to discuss these matters indirectly?”
(posters comments on panel)

Liz Gorinsky, John Joseph Adams, Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Julie Andrijeski (m)*
“That was The Onion’s headline when George W. Bush took office, and, in many respects, it was an accurate piece of SF-nal prediction. What use has sf made of the George W. Bush presidency, and the War on Terror in particular?”

(posters comments on panel)

Thanks to [info]skwidly

white people are annoying
I wonder sometimes, if it's a subversive act as a female to fight to base my life (not just in blustering rhetoric, but in reality) on something other than other people. It's practically trite nowadays to talk about how hard it is for women to get any respect once they are over 35 if they haven't got a husband and kids...unless they are devastatingly beautiful, rich, famous, etc. etc., qualities that can trump a lot of other social markers. In the urban west, you can substitute "boyfriend" and/or "partner" for husband, but it's the same idea...gay or straight, if you're a woman, you need to have someone in your bed.

It never occurred to me though, at least not until recently, that social status is something that would ever get to me. Nor did it occur to me that the real source of that is the fact that the identities of many women are based almost entirely on people outside of themselves...and their looks, which is sort of an extension of the same thing. I've seen this with gay and straight women, artist/bohemian types, lefty politicos, athletes, activists, business women and christian soccer moms. We're pretty well indoctrinated, and starting at such a young age that this stuff runs deep. So much so that I keep finding layers of that onion in myself all the time, and I've been thinking about this stuff since high school.

Of course, like 98% of the women I've seen this with would deny it vehemently. I would have myself a few years ago...and I've been as guilty of it as most women I know.

I think this is heightened, living in Portland, OR. I've never lived in a city so completely focused on marriage and kids...and, funnily enough, on weight. Incidentally, it's also the whitest city in which I've ever lived. There is some nominal diversity in terms of people, of course, (would be hard not to have that, in any city in this century) but it's not enough to tip the actual culture into something that is genuinely diverse. It's a white, liberal city. There aren't a lot of other flavors that percolate to the top, at least not in any of the subcultures I've witnessed so far, and the different types of ideology are all couched in some flavor of white liberal sensibilities...at least until you get out of Portland itself, then it's generally white, non-liberal right wing...from moderate Republicans to crazy Nazi whackos (the latter of which I discovered firsthand in Oregon City on one of my yearly drinking binges)...sensibilities. But in Portland itself, it's pretty liberal...some more on the bohemian end, others on the yuppie/guppie/greenie end. But liberal. White. REI, whole foods, Trader Joe's, bike to work, own a prius, hang out at the rock climbing gym, snow board and pub crawl liberal.

So, living here, I'm noticing this thing about white liberals (and incidentally, with most markers, I fall into this category as well)...they care a lot about their status. They marry people who fit that status. They have kids, are thin, and ride bikes if everyone else is biking. They get married to other white liberals. They care if you are thin, if you are married, if you have kids, if you are liberal...and if you bike to work. There's this element of protecting what they have...and as far as I can tell, the outsider mentality fostered here feels pretty superficial. The "Portland is Weird" thing sometimes reminds me of listening to my mother tell her church friends with a proud little smile how "weird" our family is. My family is about as "weird" as any other white suburban family in the United States...which, granted, is pretty weird...but only in the most conformist and socially privileged way imagineable. Mainstream weirdness abounds, of course...but if you have a t.v. and live in the United States, my parents aren't so weird. Neither are the people living in Portland...(although I do appreciate things like storm troopers in full regalia hanging out outside of Krispy Kreme donuts to wave at me). It is the aesthetics of weird, maybe.

Anyway, I'm not sure if I have a point here. I'm just thinking about this following yet another well meaning conversation from a white liberal female friend about why I should be focusing on trying to get a man. Their advice? Buy a bike, join match.com, go on a pub crawl. White men like their women thin and drunk, I guess...at least white men who have any money. In terms of the weight, I'm beginning to think I'm borderline enough that I get more of the conversion attempts than the truly fat. It's annoying, I'm here to tell you. I'm almost 40 years old. Please tell me again why I need to care about this, instead of about contributing something meaningful to the world?

I don't get it. Worse, I don't get why it still bugs me. There's something about people pitying me when I'm happy that actually gets to me...and starts making me imagine holes in my life that aren't really there.

Plus, I think I look good. When I don't have some asshole telling me to buy a bike, that is.

Fuck biking. Maybe I'll take up amateur porn instead. That should burn some calories...

wow - today was an intense day
...But it's ended with me getting a lot of writing done, so I shouldn't complain. I had one of those inexplicably rough emotional rides today though, which left me feeling a bit fragile and open. Not a bad thing, i guess...just sort of "out of nowhereish".

But the writing has been good since! I opted to spend the night in my hotel room instead of going out with the girls this time, and have been writing for a few hours. I think I worked out some big rough spots in the middle of the novel that were irritating me, and that should tie things up a bit more neatly at the end. And (hopefully) I worked out what was wrong with the website, so that should be fixed shortly.

Okay, back to it...



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