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#Me Too.

*TW-Contains detailed re-tellings of sexual harassment I’ve personally experienced.*

There seems to be a growing sentiment of victim blaming, shaming, or “damn, she shouldn’t have worn that dress” going around in light of the Harvey Weinstein news. But this kind of rhetoric always pops up when victims of sexual harassment take action.

However, I want to make something perfectly clear–sexual harassment happens to women, men, and those of all or no genders alike, all the time, no matter their sexual orientation, status, weight, dress, upbringing, race, situation or any other factor that anyone uses to blame the victim.

Listen to us.  

It happens in high school, while over a friend’s house. A comforting hug turns into unwanted kissing and touching. Touching suddenly evolves into groping. Cornering turns into being forced upon a bed and the only thing that works because the words “stop” and “no” continue to be ignored, is the power of a forceful push of your legs and arms.   You worry when he screams out in pain for just a moment, wondering if you hurt him. You quickly get over that as your rage continues to build. You don’t use the words “attempted rape” though, because at seventeen, you know you won’t be believed. You know this will fracture your group of friends and high school is hard enough. You stay silent.

It happens as you are heading home from a long day of work. Your tank is on empty and you absolutely have to stop to get gas. You’re wary though, as you’ve been approached three times before while pumping fuel by three different men, at three different gas stations. They don’t stop asking for your number, encroaching on your personal space, or taking the excuse that you are already in a relationship, they continue the barrage until your tank is full and you give them a fake number. You watch your rear-view mirror, while mentally mapping the way to the nearest police station if needed.

It happens as you are walking in a small town while exercising. You’ve already been approached by someone who has stopped their car, run to catch you, touch you to get your attention, only to ask if you are “available.” This time on your jog,  you’ve left your headphones out of one ear to hear someone coming and to keep an ear out for further dangerous situations. The man approaching from the front looks harmless enough, but utters “Nice tits” as you move on by. You rip the other bud from your ear, turn around yelling, “What did you just say to me?” He breaks into a panicked run, and knowing you’ll never catch him, you stop, thankful that he fled instead of holding his ground.

It happens when you are with a group of friends leaving a dance at a convention. Drunk men start yelling inappropriate things. Things they wouldn’t say when they are sober. Or maybe they would. Whether it’s the adrenaline pumping through your system from the night out, or just that you are tired of this happening, or that it is not just happening to you, but now to your friends, you act.  Instead of sucking it down to the depths of your belly like you have before, you turn on your heel, rear-up, and start walking fast towards them yelling back, “DO WE HAVE A PROBLEM HERE?” You know that if you make yourself appear bigger and unafraid, they will either fight or flee. You are prepared for both. They back down, leave, and you catch up with your friends, seething not on your behalf, but theirs. You wonder later why it’s easier to stand up for your friends, but discount your feelings when it happens to you when alone.

It happens while walking from your hotel to a conference in D.C. The wind catches your skirt and blows it fetchingly against your legs. You had just taken a selfie because this was a good day. You liked how you looked. You felt beautiful. You posted the picture to Twitter to share with the world on your terms. As you hit send, a van slows down behind you and starts to keeps pace.  Suddenly, the moment of bliss is over and your eyes begin searching for an escape route. The window slides down and the unwanted catcalling begins.  You stop, cross the street behind the van which has no choice but to continue forward. Ducking into a building, you lean against a wall and let out all the anxiety that replaced that good day.

It happens at a conference that you’ve helped to organize. You’ve worked hard and lost weight, showing off your curves in a sexy and classy blue dress. Playing the good facilitator, you schmooze around the room, making sure everyone is having a good time when you are approached by a legend in the field. His cheeks are red with too much alcohol. He begins with elevator eyes as you address him. You ask him if he’s having a good conference. He shrugs and only replies, “Blue is an excellent color on you.” You know who he is, but he does not know you and yet this is how he introduces himself.

You ask in your capacity if there is anything else you can do to make his conference better and his eyes light up, responding with “You can give me a kiss.” It’s right there,in that moment that you know this interaction will continue to be uncomfortable. Questions begin to build about what you do for the organization, assumptions are made about how you’ve made it to your position, and how your husband that he’s sure you have (you don’t) feels about the relationships you “made” along the way. You are thankfully rescued by caring friends, as the cycle in your head begins anew. “Do I ruin this man, right here and right now, by slapping him in the face? Do I just walk away? Does this get back to the people who could fire me? If I lose my job, how will I keep a roof over my head and food on the table?” You realize that as a victim in this situation, you are already blaming yourself, because that is what you’ve been conditioned to do.

It happens after exiting the Broadway show with your family and you are walking down the street in NYC. Separated by the crowd, your older daughter and boyfriend walk a few steps ahead. You are holding your younger daughter’s hand through the thickening crowd.  A man selling “Make America Great Again” hats whistles as you walk by,  and you know in that moment, it’s not just going to end there, but you hope it will. You ignore it and continue walking as he actually leaves his post and wraps his hand around your waist, pulling you close, while pushing your younger daughter aside. You freeze because causing a scene on a busy street might be far more dangerous than you could anticipate.  Instead, you use your skills to talk him down, and get him to let go before resorting to other methods. Only once you’ve explained you’re unavailable, and that your daughter most certainly will not be coming too to his apartment for some fun, do you call ahead to the rest of your family. That scares him enough, he finally lets go and disappears back into the crowd. You have to explain what just happened, while keeping a brave face, telling your daughters never to let anyone touch them that haven’t been invited to do so.

 

It happens at another convention where an acquaintance holds a hug too long, or pulls you in by the waist and attempts a kiss. You brush it off in the moment, perhaps too stunned to stay something or already jogging through the mental math of how speaking up will mess things up. You want to like this person. You start making excuses for his behavior. For yours. He doesn’t do this to other people. He shouldn’t be doing to it to you. You convince yourself that if there is a next time, you will take him aside and let him know how you feel. You hope it will make a difference.

It happens standing at a bar on a cruise. You have ordered yourself a drink and are immediately hit on by someone who wants to share a magic trick. You remind yourself that this is the reason you don’t go to bars. You see the plethora of locks he wears around his name tag. He explains his hobby and offers a lesson in lock picking.  You mention you are a writer and how it would be a handy skill to know.

It starts innocently enough, with him showing his skill on a two-pin lock. You get it immediately. There is suddenly a glint in his eye when he then says, “Time to move on to a more challenging piece.” He produces another larger lock, with a complicated pin set and a pair of handcuffs, to see if you’ll bite.  He’s practiced this speech, worming his way in with calming words, “You don’t have to do this” and “Only if you are comfortable” and “I’ll show you how easy they are on me, first.” You wonder how many women have fallen for it, how many he’s gotten into bed this way.

He can unlock the cuffs in seconds, and then places them on you, only to switch out to the wrong tools on purpose. He starts to slide in jokes about visiting his cabin where he keeps the better locks as he brushes a hand over yours to show you that you’re obviously doing it wrong.  Your wrist is now raw from sliding the metal against the skin, determined as hell not to let him touch you again, to show him that you aren’t stupid and are capable at the same time. A friend passes by and stops to check on you, immediately aware of what is happening and offers assistance. But no, you’ve got it. Shaken by the interruption, he finally gives you the right pick and you are out in seconds. You walk away and tell a friend that you were uncomfortable but you handled it. She replies, “What about the women who can’t?”

This still haunts you.

Please believe us.

This isn’t just a movie industry problem. It’s not just a science fiction and fantasy community problem. It’s not just a gamer problem. This isn’t just a pretty, young girl problem.  It’s an everywhere problem.

It’s a balance of power problem.

The minute you feel you can do/say/touch/manipulate someone without their consent or buy-in, you are in the wrong.  The minute you use your status (or perceived status) and offer to advance a career through a “special relationship”, you are in the wrong. The minute you shut your ears to the words “no” and “stop”, you are in the wrong.

Alternatively, if someone wants to share a story, believe them. If they can’t name their harasser, don’t continue to ask why or who. If they need help and subsequently ask for it, give it to them. Do not assume that a “white knight” is needed, but open your eyes and call out behavior if there is no further risk or damage to the victim.

Lastly, do not use someone else’s pain for personal gain. The worst thing a victim can experience is to be re-victimized by their friends or peers when they speak up.  You may hear news stories where harassment was made up or someone lied to get revenge, but I can assure you, there are so many who for whatever good reason at the time say nothing. The weight of the decision not to speak only adds to the trauma, but until society stops using incredulous rhetoric, it will take instances like the one we’re currently seeing in the movie industry to give some of us the courage to speak.

Short Story: “Old Teacups and Kitchen Witches”

While I’ve been published before, I stopped writing right around 2011 when things got busy. Since I’ve started writing again, I’ve got a stable of stories and novels that I’m going back to and working  on. It’s been an interesting experience to see how my narration work and the wisdom of years and new experiences translate into better writing. On that note, I’ve sold “Old Teacups and Kitchen Witches” to Cast of Wonders.

The story actually went up in May, but it was Nebula Conference time in my full time job as Executive Director for SFWA.  I hope you can go check it out if you have the time.

Story | Podcast

 

New Music: Rising

For the last few weeks, I’ve been feeling myself sink into depression. It’s been particularly bad this week as I’ve hovered between sadness and anger. I have been fiercely productive then paralyzed.

I needed to get ahead of this and driving home last night, I turned up the music. It was a hard-hitting drumline and moving melody and the higher I raised the volume, the better I felt.

I woke up this morning, needing to create. I’ll use this for intros to Clarkesworld podcasts, but I feel good about this one. Chillstep with a hint of defiance.

Like me. Enjoy.

Rogue One : I Have All the Thoughts

*Spoilers Ahoy*

Two awesome things happened in 1977. Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope was released and I made my way into this world screaming and naked.

We’ve had this amazing relationship throughout these soon to be forty years. Together, we’ve ridden that proverbial roller coaster, have both had our triumphs and our failures, and managed to still have people love us. Star Wars has been a part of my life since I took my first breath and I would consider myself a pretty  big fan.

I’ve gone to most opening nights when new movies have come out, save for the first two where I was still in diapers and toddling around the house getting into trouble.  Yet, science fiction was like food for the soul in my house and my father made sure we saw them when we could understand what was going on. I fell in love. I wanted to be Princess Leia.

In 1999, I researched Phantom Menace despite the secrecy and dressed up as Queen Amidala for the premiere. Now, I know you’ll scream about pictures and it doesn’t really count if there aren’t any, but there aren’t. Sorry.

I remember the intensity of that night. News crews were there interviewing die hard fans. The mood was electric. We grabbed our popcorn and cheered at the iconic scroll.  We all know how that evening ended.  Check that–we all know how that whole series ended. <insert sad face>

Opening Night at The Force Awakens
Opening Night at The Force Awakens

The Force Awakens premiere had a very similar atmosphere. This was my chance to introduce a new era  of this space opera to my own kids. I prayed to the cinema gods that we would see something amazing.  We left that theater pumped up. I loved it. My girls loved it. We had all sorts of theories on Rey’s lineage. We were in shock over Han’s death. We can’t wait for Episode 8. For an excellent distillation of this movie, see this video of Movies with Mikey.

Star Wars has had a profound effect in my life. It’s the kind of saga that makes you question a lot of things in both the crafting of said universe, and how those things may apply to your own.

So naturally, when the previews came out for Rogue One, it was a definite “must see.” I had booked our vacation before the release date, but we happened to be sailing to the Bahamas CbSolKMWcAAGEdAon the Disney cruise line on opening day. We sat on the slightly rocky Dream, at 11PM  in a full Walt Disney Theater, and waited for the credits to roll. The audience went wild.

And from the first few scenes, we knew we weren’t watching a typical Star Wars story. It was gritty, relentless, and depressing.

Yes, some may argue that Empire Strikes Back was depressing, or hell, episodes 1,2,3 were soul crushing in their own way, but this was a different kind of depressing. One that shakes you to your core, because you know this movie isn’t speaking about the characters on the screen, but right at you. It holds a different kind of weight.

I wanted to hate it. I wanted to hate it for all the technical and storytelling reasons. I checked my watch to see just how much time was left. I silently cursed at the rapid jumps from planet to planet and wondered just what had been cut. There were scenes that were obviously  missing from the previews. Saw Gerrera’s story was superfluous in this version and I wanted to love Jyn Erso, but couldn’t. I also didn’t care for the CGI’d Tarkin or Leia as it pulled me right out of the movie, but in the end, those things didn’t really matter. I could pick at the details forever. I want to talk about the overall theme here:

Rogue One couldn’t have come at a better time. Coupled with all the fear and angst invading many a psyche, the message is simple and very powerful. Hope is essential. Hope can be rekindled from even the smallest, dying ember. Hope should be fought for and is worth the ultimate sacrifice.

One by one, we watch as each of the characters pay the price to keep hope alive in an untenable situation. They do it because at some point, keeping that ember burning for others transcends the self. It becomes essential for the greater good.

“I am one with the Force, the Force is with me” is not only a mantra for self discipline, but speaks to the bigger picture of what the Force actually represents. It is everything–life, death, happiness, sadness, love, and hate, despair, and that much repeated word, hope. It is all of the things that make us who we are. With hints in episode seven that perhaps this light side/dark side thing isn’t so black and white, I think Rogue One gives us a real look on what it takes to maintain the balance.

Despite Rogue One’s problems, I think the movie ultimately succeeds in showingCwHBcGmXgAA3eUQ that there are many ways to fight for something. From standing up to a bully threatening to destroy her family, Lyra Erso holds firm with a blaster and still shoots, even though she is woefully outgunned. Galen Erso literally fights from inside the belly of the beast and forges the hope in the form of an Achilles heel. Cassian Andor kills his contact when to the best of his knowledge, the message keeping hope alive is in peril. Chirrut Imwe crosses a field in one of the truly beautiful moments of this movie, to throw a switch, knowing he will pay the ultimate price, but does it anyway. Scores put their lives on the line and die, passing on plans to stop this horrific Goliath as it carves its destructive path through the universe.

The payoff? Watching the camera pan in on Darth Vader and knowing that even through that mask, he was rattled. Watching the Empire destroy a planet which held unique copies of pretty much everything because they knew they could be beaten. Watching how the smallest group of people willing to stand up, put their foot down and shout no, had mighty results.

WorldCon Write-Up

It goes without saying that I’m just sort of sitting here trying to process everything that happened in the last few days. This is going to be a long post, so apologies in advance.

One of the more interesting things about Worldcon is that I wear a bunch of hats while I’m there.

Hat Number One: As Director of Operations for SFWA, I’m working with our events team and suite volunteers to make sure all services are up and running. I would be lost this year without the incredible help from Terra LeMay, Steven H Silver, Cat Greenberg and the many awesome volunteers who took time out of their convention schedules to lend a hand. I also participate in discussions during the SFWA Board and Business meetings and I am so thankful to be working with an amazing group of people filling those roles. SFWA is in very good hands right now and I’m so glad I get to be a part of that. For any members who are reading this and did not get to attend, when we post the minutes of those meetings, I would encourage you to seek them out. We’re doing great things.

Hat Number Two:  I’m the Podcast Director, Narrator, and Non-fiction Editor for Clarkesworld Magazine. This weekend, I got to partake in panels that not only spoke to the audio side of what I do, but the awesomeness that is this magazine under the stewardship of Neil Clarke, Sean Wallace and the many people who’ve been a part of it. Clarkesworld Magazine has not only been around for ten years, but I’ve gotten to see it evolve into the badass Pokemon it is for a good majority of it.

Hat Number Three: As you can see on the masthead of the website, it does list writer in there. My writing sort of fell off when SFWA and Clarkesworld took over, but thanks to the gentle prodding and encouragement by a few people, mainly Terra LeMay, I am happy to say that I’m writing again. A goal of mine was to finish a story so I’d have something to offer at my reading at WorldCon, and I’m happy to say that I did. More on that later.

Hat Number Four: Fan. When I was about five, my father under the great disapproval from my mother (who to this day, still mentions it), showed me Alien. From then, every B movie to the classic Heinlein and Asimov stories and novels to the amazing things this community is producing now, WorldCon is still squee central. My work with both SFWA and CW allows me to still have some composure when I come upon people and things I truly love and admire, but you better believe that under the skin, I’m jumping up and down and screaming with joy. So to all those creators and individuals who make those amazing things happen, thank you.

In conversation, I often inquire about convention highlights and it seemed that in general, people had really wonderful things to say. While there were many, the few that have simultaneously energized and to a degree validated what I’m doing in the community were:

  1. Kaffeeklatch – I was intensely worried that I would be sitting at a table by myself. That was very much not the case. I was so happy to be joined by people, that I started the session asking each person around the table who they were and what they did to make the event even more intimate. If you’re taking the time to get to know me, I wanted to know about you. We had lovely discussions and all the while, I was sitting there practically jumping out of my seat because I could not believe it was happening. I work from home in all things, so while I do get feedback in the form of social media and email, actually experiencing interaction in a live environment is pretty surreal. When someone comes up and says they love my narration or the work I do, it takes me a minute to process that they are actually talking to me. Maybe it goes back to the impostor syndrome some of us experience, but regardless, I will always be thankful to each person who took time out of their schedules to come see me.
  2. Reading – As I mentioned above, Terra LeMay has been instrumental with her encouragement and guidance in getting my writing career back on track. While I wasn’t expecting a reading at WorldCon, the programming staff offered me one anyway. As soon as I found out, I wanted to share that space with Terra because I wouldn’t even have anything to read if she hadn’t suggested the accountability in the first place. Overwhelmed again that people showed up, I started reading from the new short story.  Unfortunately, emotion got the best of me and I started crying. I tried to catch it before I lost it, but I just couldn’t. I got a hug from Terra and Marguerite Kenner, and Steven H Silver got up and grabbed me some water and tissues. I took a deep breath and soldiered on. But the fact that people sat there and listened to me read, from my own work, was pretty friggen awesome.
  3. People – So many people I love. So brief a time to spend. A hug, a wave, a small conversation, old friends, new ones, drinks around a table — whatever it was, just know that I am so incredibly lucky to have met you and gotten to know you.

While in the Clarkesworld at Ten panel at this WorldCon I said, “It is an awesome time to be a writer and a reader.” I mean that. There will be people for whatever reason that will try to tell you otherwise, that your voice doesn’t matter or that the art you create isn’t worth anything. Please do not listen to them. Write. Create. Make Art. Edit. Publish.

It is important to be inclusive. It is important to validate the things you like and love. It is important not only to call out injustice, but to find and implement the solutions that fix it. It’s is important to continue to do those things despite the threatening and scary calls that come from limited worldviews where change is threatening and scary.

With all the talk of “special snowflakes,” the only other thing I will add is this — a snowflake forms when conditions are just right. Water droplets freeze onto particles of dust and form a myriad of unique shapes. That dust comes from you and I and all the things that make up this tiny blue dot. It comes from stars that once held planets of their own, long before we were ever here.

If being a special snowflake means I get to share this short time with both old friends and new, and my limited worldview expands with it, let us be a blizzard.


So to Marguerite Kenner and Alasdair Stuart, thank you for the conversation and the Flakes. I am often flabbergasted when we part, because you are both amazing. I hope to see you soon either in travel to the UK or if I can make it to WorldCon in Finland.

To Jeremy Tolbert, Beth Dawkins, Al Bogdan, Nick Mamatas, Gord Sellar, Desirina Boskovich, Christopher Kastensmidt, and newly met Molly Tanzer, thank you for a night of just “being.” I rarely get to do that at conventions lately, and I’m so grateful.

To David Steffen, thank you for coming to the Kaffeeklatsch, the reading, dinner, and for being a generally all around awesome person.

To Richard Man, who in requesting a second photograph session for his project gave the reason that the first didn’t quite capture all that I was, your work is brilliant and I can’t wait to see the finished pieces.

To Patrick Hester who has always been wonderful and kind and gives the best bear hugs, thank you for being a friend and still insisting on calling me, “the voice.”

To Cat Rambo, who not only is a kickass SFWA President, thank you for the conversation and advice. I’m very honored to call you friend.

To Naomi Kritzer for being one of my favorite writers, congratulations on the Hugo win and thank you for liking the narration. You didn’t have to mention it on the podium and you did, and I will never forget it. You are amazing and don’t ever forget that. (Also, send us more stories.)

To Kelly Robson and Alyx Dellamonica who both give the warmest hugs and the bestest of advices, I’m so incredibly grateful I got to spend some time chatting with you both before you headed home.

To Scott Andrews and Tina Connolly with whom I got to sit at the Hugo ceremony, I so enjoy your company and the evening was made all the better for getting to experience it with you.

To Todd McCaffrey for engaging conversation and drinks, thank you!

To the many fans of the Clarkeworld podcast who said hello and came up and asked for hugs, we would be nothing without your support.

To Fran Wilde, Steven Gould, Laura Mixon, John and Krissy Scalzi, Mary Robinette Kowal, Lynne and Michael Thomas, Ellen Datlow, Francesca Myman, Rich Horton, Jonathan Strahan, Lily Yu, Terrence Miltner, Robert Reed, Marko Kloos, Jason Sanford, David Klecha, Mur Lafferty, Jim Kelly, Irene Gallo, Sheila Williams, Rachel Swirsky, Charlie Jane Anders, John Chu, Bud Sparhawk, Sarah Beth Durst, David Gallaher, Jason Heller, John O’Neill, Brenda Cooper, Ken Liu, Hao Jingfang, Rosemary Claire Smith, Laurie and Jim Mann, Eugene Fischer, and others that in post-con brain I’m so sorry for forgetting, although our time was but brief, you are all rock stars and I’m all the better for having met you.

To Neil Clarke — You are my best friend and I would not be the person I am today without your continued and unfailing belief in me.  Thank you for everything this weekend.  From one impostor to another, you my friend, are fucking amazing. (Oh, and I guess I can maybe include Sean in there somewhere too. *rolls eyes*)

Now,  I hope all of you recover soon and get back to creating wonderful things.

The Post Nebula Conference Write-Up

*dusts off the blog* *sneezes a bit*

Is this thing on?

Well, I guess instead of living the experience that was the SFWA Nebula Conference in my head or shouting it into the void, I wanted to write a quick post about all the awesomeness that went on.

Full disclosure before we start, I am the current Director of Operations for SFWA so you could assume that I have a slightly different take on the event. I get to see this thing, nay, entity through from the inception, meeting with the talented team consisting of Steven H Silver and Terra LeMay and all the kickass volunteers who come together and make something amazing for everyone to enjoy. I would be lost without these two and I’m so incredibly lucky to work with two brilliant and dedicated friends.

Special shoutouts go to:

Mary Robinette Kowal — she took the lead on programming this year, and it was dynamite. The conference contained topics relevant, helpful, and useful to all industry professionals. Vendors joined us this year as well, letting attendees get up close and personal with representatives from companies like Amazon, ACX, Kobo, Patreon, Kickstarter, D2D, and more. We’re only looking to expand those offerings next year, so come to Pittsburgh prepared with your queries and ideas!

Amanda Bridges and Cary Williams did a fantastic job with food and beverage counts and orders, liaising with the Palmer House Hilton to make sure rooms were set up correctly and things on the production side ran smoothly.

Michael Damien Thomas deserves sincerest thanks for being in charge of both making sure the conference was accessible for all of our guests and handled the arrangements for the well-attended mass autographing session.

Dave Ifversen ran our tech and made sure the AV vendors were able to put on a great show for the awards night. I can’t express how chuffed I am that nothing went amiss this year!

Beth Dawkins arranged for Boba Fett* and our Klingon guests, along with making sure each presenter was informed and knew when to approach the stage. Special thanks to the 501st Legion’s own Chris, and to Jen Usellis.

Sondra de Jong scoured the mess of all those banquet seats and placed people where they desired. She ordered the meals with special attention to allergies, and made sure each guest was accommodated.

Did you enjoy having a place to grab a quick bite or mingle in the evening? That was all Kelley Higgins and her team of volunteers in the SFWA suite.

Terrence Miltner once again gave us beautiful programs for both the conference and the awards. We’re going to miss him dearly next year!

Randy and Sandy Kaempen took care of on-site registration, making sure you were given your appropriate documents/tickets/ribbons/pins.

I can’t forget these fantastic volunteers either — Lexi Baisden, C.T. Booth, T. Daniel Frost, Tazmania Hayward, Sara Lynn King, Riss Martin, Kali Rose, Dawn Bonanno, Jim Hosek, David Hirsch, Valya Dudycz Lupescu, Pat Sayre McCoy, Melanie, Elaine, and Robin Silver, Caetlin Williams, Shannon Williams, John Moore, Tina Jens, and Colin Coyle. If I missed anyone, it was certainly not intentional and I apologize.

SFWA Volunteers are awesome and really, the lifeblood of this organization. So thank you from the bottom of my heart.

The ceremony itself was well attended and smoothly run, with John Hodgman being endearing, funny, and pretty brilliant. I’m terribly happy he joined us and would love to have him back again and again.

Henry Lien gave us “Radio SFWA”, which is an ear worm that finds you in the most unexpected places. Tis an anthem most appropriate.

Kelly Robson and Martin Shoemaker both made me cry with their alternate universe acceptance speeches, while Eugene Fischer passionately fought for our future in his.

I was also able to take part in Richard Man’s Worldbuilder’s photography session, which in itself was pretty awesome. If you get an opportunity to either participate in or view his work, it’s stunning.

As always, I owe drinks to a lot of people. This conference keeps me insanely busy, so to Chuck Gannon, Sheila Williams, and Petra Mayer, please don’t kill me. I’m sure our paths will again cross in short order.

To friends who stole me away throughout the conference to make sure I did normal human things like eat and rest, (Steven H Silver, Terra LeMay, Alethea Kontis, and Neil Clarke) you are all so wonderful and I’m so lucky to have you all in my life.

As I mentioned, the weekend went extraordinarily well. So well in fact, that I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. Universe, if you are listening, this is not an invitation.

Lastly, a huge thank you to the SFWA Board. Cat, Maggie, Bud, Susan, Matthew, Sarah, Lee, Tansy, and Jennifer — your dedication to this organization is awe-inspiring and I’m so happy to be a part of this well-oiled machine.

Oh and this happened:

Yep. I think I’m done now. Oh wait, I owe you an asterisk note.

*As Boba Fett* came up the stairs, I very happily said, “Boba!” He said. “Not Boba.” Thinking I got my costume colors wrong, I worriedly said, “Jango?” He said, “Not Jango.” Confused, I waited for the reveal. He mentioned that he was in fact cosplaying as a comic book character who cosplayed as Boba Fett. That’s some inception stuff right there, folks. 🙂

The Fourth Mile: Fat Girl Running Diary – Entry #2

This is gonna be challenging, but great!

1st mile mark

This ain’t so bad! I’ve got this! 

2nd mile mark

What do you mean I have to do this for 11.1 more miles in November? *gasp* 

3rd mile mark

You can’t even get through a 5K without walking some of it. You are an idiot for signing up for the half marathon. What were you thinking? *gasp*

3.25 mile mark

*DING* “You are at your half way point on your 6.5 mile run today. Great job!”

Just call Disney and defer to next year. It’s better not to humiliate yourself when the golf cart comes and picks your slow ass up in front of your friends and family. *gasp, gasp, gasp*

Furthermore, why are you even trying? This is stupid. Just walk, Kate. Just walk this portion. Your run/walk times are getting slower anyway. Just give up. 

4th mile mark

Just give up, Kate. You have no business being out here.  That’s it. Who cares if the timer says it’s time to run again, just walk it out…wait, what are you doing?

5th mile mark

You’re still doing this? WTF? 

*DING*”You’ve just finished your fastest mile, congratulations!”

6th mile mark

“I can do this. I can do this. I can do this. I can do this. I can do this. I can do this.”

6.5 mile mark

Damn straight. *small celebratory weeping followed by gratuitous sweat picture*

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You see what happens in the dialogue from mile two to mile three? The word “I” turns into “You.”  I seriously want to punch the inner drill instructor who just yells at me and tells me to quit.  I’ve been thinking about this the last few days. Why do I do this to myself? (The yelling, not the running.) It’s almost like I need to break myself to rise above another challenge.

I ran into this same voice when completing my first Warrior Dash in July. In one of the moments I’m most ashamed and most proud of, I came to this obstacle:

When the obstacle first opened in the morning, the mud and water only came up to your ankles. By the time I finished the OMGWTFBBQ last mile mountain climb around 1:00 PM, the mud was freezing and up to your waist. The ways out were brown, 75 degree incline Slip’N Slides that laughed at you when you fell back into the pit ass first.  Despite watching people jumping into the mud pit of despair and coming out with one shoe, or half a soul, I was like, LETS DO THIS, and jumped right in. The way down was hella fun. Then…

Cue sad, slow-motion apocalyptic music montage. There were tears and twenty goddamn minutes of me softly braying that I was never, ever going to emerge on the other side (or any side) of this pit of death.

WHY THE HELL HASN’T ANYONE THROWN IN A ROPE? OH DEAR GOD NO, PLEASE NOT ANOTHER WAVE OF PEOPLE JUMPING IN AT THE SAME TI…OW, YOU ARE STANDING ON MY LEG. THAT’S MY LEG. YES, MY LEG. NO, I’M JUST STANDING HERE CRYING MUD TEARS BECAUSE I WANT TO THAT’S WHY! THEY WILL FIND MY BODY IN A FEW DAYS. TELL MY KIDS I LOVE THEM.

Why, Kate? Why couldn’t you emerge from the shoe and soul sucking place of dead dreams and leaky confidence?

Because in there, the drill instructor won.

I wasn’t good enough. I was too fat. No one wants to help me. No one has the strength to pull up 285lbs.

But, Kate, you just climbed over THIS obstacle:

(And you went OVER it, not through it and ripped the skin off of both of your knees to do it when the drop became more of a slide, but NEVERMIND THAT.)

So yeah, in the pit, none of that mattered. No accomplishments. None of the work that I did to get there. I was defeated. Some part of me really worried they would end the race, everyone would go home and I’d have to spend the night in the cold water as the mud souls of fallen warriors and nasty mismatched shoes infected my skinned knees.

I was devastated.

Then, something happened.

There was one side of the pit that no one dared to climb. It was taller than the rest, and very unstable. I spied a Kate-sized foot hold and looked up. (Size 11W shoes, bitches.)

“Come on, we’ve got you.”

You can’t. You are too heavy. You’ll just pull them in. You can’t lift yourself out. Don’t keep staring at that foothold. Accept your fate.

“You sure? I’m kinda heavy.”

“We got you.”

I stuck my foot in the sloshy side of the pit, reached up my hands, jammed my knee against another small outcropping, pushed as they pulled, lifted the foot, smooshed my body against the wall and continued to push. What seemed like an eternity, but was probably only ten seconds, felt incredible as I pushed and was lifted by these Warriors uknown up and out of the unforgiving tomb.

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So yeah.

Fuck you, inner Drill Instructor. Yell all you want.  I know there will be hard days. I know I will sometimes fail, but I’ll be damned if I ever give up again.

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New Instrumental – Airset Alphabet

Started this while watching Allie in Karate. Think I’ll use it for Clarkesworld intros/outros in the future, or perhaps shorten it and put some lyrics to it.

Let me know what you think?

Fat Girl Running

As most of you know, I’ve been on a long weight loss journey. There are some days I am fantastic and the diet and exercise fall into place without any difficulty. Other days aren’t so good, and it’s a struggle not to shove every edible thing in my mouth. I can’t seem to nail down the triggers but I know the end result. I keep losing and gaining and losing the same ten pounds over and over. The internal war continues every single day and there are just times that I’m worn out and tired of fighting.

Logically, I know what I’m supposed to be doing. I do. You can’t imagine how incredibly frustrating it is when I don’t do what I’m supposed to be doing. It’s maddening. I should in theory, just be able to point my skis down the hill and GO. Just DO IT. Just GODDAMN DO IT. But some days, I just can’t.

I hate myself when I eat. I hate myself after I eat. I hate everything about myself on those days. I hate my weakness. I hate that I was at the gym earlier in the day and I’ve just erased a great workout with an over-abundance of snacks. Something breaks inside of me. I understand this and the self-doubt is slowly being replaced by forgiveness.

I’ve seen those stares I get at the gym in the kickboxing class. I’ve gotten to the point of shrugging it off. If you’re staring at my mass jiggling and wiggling behind the glass door while I’m throwing a punch and kicking my invisible opponents with these tree trunks I call legs, I feel sorry that you’re not in the room either enjoying the fruits of your own labors, or standing within range of my Amazonian combat unit.

With running (or more accurately described as “wogging”), I am slower to brush off the sideways glances and grimaces when I’m out running a trail or I finish a 5K. Those looks suggest that I have no business wogging my way from start to finish. Sadly, I’ve come to find out that there is an element of the running community that makes you feel like a lesser person for even trying.

So what do I do? I try to work even harder. Cull the weakness.

I want to get past that plateau. Couple some hilarious and elated experiences with running with my visits to the gym to work on strength, to kickboxing class, I tried to step up my game even further by joining a running club. It’ll be fun! No better way to exercise than to do it with others! It’ll be great.

I am the slowest woman out there.

Granted, I’m heavy. I’m just coming back from a muscular strain in my back, but after what happened tonight, I’m seriously just thinking of staying committed with myself by myself. I don’t want to go into too much detail, but I don’t think I’ve ever felt quite as defeated as when I left my “club” tonight and drove home.

I can deal with being the slowest, heaviest woman there. That doesn’t bother me. No one wants to run with the fat girl. So I pop in my headphones and I put one slow foot in front of the other. It doesn’t matter when I get there, as long as I get there. As long as I’m trying.

I lost the group tonight. I just couldn’t keep up and I knew going in that it would probably be the case and I was OK with being slow. I made adjustments to get myself back to the rendezvous point, I apologized, but I was still yelled at by the coach of the “pokey pokes” (Don’t worry, she assures the slowest of the slow, that’s where SHE started off too.) for going too slow. She was even more upset that coming back from her own injury, she had to go look for me when I lost the group. She then in a very crowded environment and in front of patrons berated me even further. I was also told that if I was going to go off and do my own thing, that I needed to tell her.

Thing was — I really wasn’t doing my own thing. I joined the group for a reason. Because I thought the team environment would be good for both stamina and morale. Well, my stamina might be getting better, but my morale is in the shitter. I saw the slow “what the hell do you think you’re doing here” elevator glance of the fit employee trying to hide the sneer as I walked by earlier on that night. I let it go but then to be berated both publicly and within earshot of the staff and patrons was just plain defeating. I left the place in tears.

I won’t be going back.

BUT I won’t be giving up either, but I will do this on my own terms. Following a program that is more suited to my pace. Repeating a workout because I’m not quite ready to increase mileage or uninterrupted minutes.

I will say though, any running program really needs to be cognizant of the heavier men and women who join. Simple fact of the matter is that they won’t be able to run as fast as their more slender peers all other things being equal. It takes strength and conditioning to move that much mass. It takes even more courage to get out there in the first place.

There was another larger woman who brought up the rear a few weeks ago. She was ignored. She hasn’t returned. Instead of hoping for the die-off so classes become more manageable when the “serious” runners cull the weak, perhaps running clubs would do better to quietly assess their patron’s needs and tailor a program to better fit their level of fitness, instead of sending home another discouraged person. I don’t know how ingrained this particular brand of running elitism goes, but my other caution is that if you see someone struggling, it very rarely takes more than “you’re almost there, keep going” to give that extra motivational push towards the larger goal.

As for me, like I said above, I won’t quit. I signed up for the Disney World Wine and Dine half marathon in November. My goal is not only to finish it, but to finish it well below the cut-off of 16 minutes a mile.

That’s gonna take strength, determination and courage. It’s gonna take staring down the naysayers, including myself and whispering in the mirror that no matter what anyone thinks, that I can do this.

After tonight, I may have to do it by myself, but by God, I will do it.

New Instrumental – “What it Should Have Been”

As we approach the new year, I like to refresh some of the music I use at the beginning and end of the Clarkesworld podcasts. Was playing around with some editing tools recently and finished this one.


Download

My friend James said it reminded him of old-school video game mixed with house music. I think I agree with that assessment.