#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.

An Open Letter to Those With a Voice

I don’t care who you are. I don’t care on what side of the political spectrum you stand. I don’t care about what network you utilize. Anyone of you who has ever spouted hate or misconceptions is partly at fault for this tragedy in Arizona. Sure, I realize you didn’t pull the trigger. You weren’t even there. Or wait, maybe you were. Maybe you attended in the thoughts of an unstable individual who after listening to such poisonous rhetoric couldn’t discern reality from fiction.

See, normally in the wake of such horrible news we shed our fear and disagreements only to identify which each other on a human level. We take care of each other.  Yet there is  small contingent of the populace that does not want to lay down their anger and fear of the other side. They’d rather spout more hate and confusion.

I am also not saying you are directly responsible for those thoughts and feelings, but take in mind that like any hunger, fear needs fuel to grow. Anger needs sustenance. You need to realize that because of your position, you help guide the feelings of this nation. My plea to you is that you start utilizing this immense power to start feeding hope.

If you are a voice of this nation in the media, politics, or talk show host, you need to think. If you know that people will follow you to the ends of the Earth, then I beg you to plead calm and reasoning. Evoke change in our systems through healthy debate and discourse. Challenging your readers/viewers/listeners to fight intolerantly instead of using their brains to solve problems sets the lowest common denominator back down to Neanderthal. We are better than this as a people, as a nation, as individuals. You are better than this in guiding us with your words.

It’s time to start showing it.

—-

Update: I had an interesting conversation with a friend about personal responsibility. While I am a strong advocate for that principle, I think it applies to everyone. For instance, I agree that stating the shooter was responsible for his actions. But I also would agree that people who have a world stage unto which they spout hatred and inflammatory statements are responsible for those words and how they are consumed.

Fighting Back: Something I Just Can’t Get Over

“Thank you” is a word usually reserved in polite discourse after someone has been given something that has met their standards. So I found it odd, that roughly three weeks ago I was uttering the two words to a TSA agent who had just invaded my privacy in a very public fashion. I was flying home from the World Fantasy Convention in Columbus, OH when I was asked to put my hands over my head and enter the full body scanning machines. At this point, I was a little nervous because someone on the other side of a big metal box was going to be able to see me in my birthday suit.  I reluctantly submitted, after all, I had to be home in time to take my children out for Halloween. I had judiciously taken out my laptop, my kindle, my camera, taken off my shoes, my coat, scarf and watch, but I was still relegated to the new machine. Even after the first TSA agent had told me that I didn’t need to remove my camera, he smiled and replied, “Oh, that’s what we’re here for”, after I remarked that I didn’t know I could safely stow my camera.

As I was herded through the line with a bunch of restless travelers behind me, I stuffed my license into my left pocket realizing I missed the window to put it into my wallet which was now headed to the x-ray machine.

TSA: “Please stand to the side with your feet in the diagrams.”

TSA:“Please place your arms above your head in a triangle.”

TSA:“Please don’t move and stare ahead for 9 seconds.”

That wasn’t so bad. If this stuff actually works, maybe I’d be okay with submitting to this type of security theater.

TSA:“Please step forward and stand on this mat, your feet within the outlines.”

TSA:“Do you have anything in your left pocket?”

Me: “Oh! Yah! I put my license in there.” I took it out and showed her.

TSA: “I’m going to need to pat you down on that side, Ma’am. Please hold the license in your hand.”

Me: “….ok…”

TSA: “I’m going to run my hand on the outside of your leg and hip.”

Me: “…ok…” I nervously start looking around at the hustle and bustle of a very public place.

TSA: “I’m now going to run my hand up the inner left thigh.”

Me:“…ok….” I can feel my cheeks start to flood with crimson.

She moves her blue-gloved hand up from the inside of my left knee up toward my crotch. She stops only after hitting the resistance of my clothing protecting the side of my vagina.

TSA: “Thank you, have a nice day.”

Me: “Thank you.”

I gather my things that have been sitting in their bins as other passengers walk on by. The walk from the security checkpoint to the gate is rather fuzzy. I know I felt highly anxious, very embarrassed and extremely violated. All of my personal alarm bells were ringing in my head. Why did I allow someone to humiliate me in public? Why on earth did I let someone touch me there? I immediately regressed into childhood as I recalled the stranger talk teachers and parents gave me about my right to bodily privacy. I got angry at myself for saying those two simple words. I got angry at myself for going along and submitting.

“Thank you.”

I updated my disgust on Facebook and Twitter and then I tried to let it go.

I can’t.

I flew again three days later. As you can imagine, anyone who feels violated tends to relive those moments when placed in similar situations. I was a wreck going through the full body scanner. I made sure nothing was in my pockets. I waited anxiously while the TSA agent looked at me and asked me to wait for clearance. I don’t know what I would have done had I been pulled aside for yet another pat down. Would I have declined and raised a stink? Would I have just given up and asked to leave?

Why was I torturing myself like that?

Any intellectual who has looked up the meaning of terrorism will find this:

ter·ror·ism

1.the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, esp. for political purposes.
2.the state of fear and submission produced by terrorism or terrorization.
– dictionary.com

You can’t tell me that all the emotions I experienced during and post-traumatically doesn’t fall under some of those definitions. My one minute experience has terrified me. I will rethink the act of hopping a plane to see friends or go to conventions. I will protect my children from this unneccessary security theater and invasion of privacy as well. Guess what airlines, that Disney vacation that I’ve been saving for, the one where I would have paid for five airline tickets to journey to Florida? I think I’m going to take another two days vacation and drive. Or maybe I’ll spend my money on something closer to home.

It’s funny how I don’t feel any safer, but I sure feel humiliated.

It’s also rather interesting to note that I believe I would be one of the passengers who would have jumped on any threat should it arise while flying. I can hit pretty hard. But thanks to our new “safety guidelines”, that’s one more person who won’t be available when a determined terrorist shoves a weapon or bomb up his undetectable ass and makes it past the joke and theater that the TSA calls security.

I Could Never Be A Pageant Mom #fb

 

Two weekends ago, a few towns away, there was a pageant. I was mixed when Allyson asked to participate, but she was excited at the possibility of winning a plastic crown and fake sash.

If you’ve seen Toddlers and Tiaras on TLC, you know what goes into putting a pageant girl up on a stage. Thousands of dollars are spent per pageant on hair pieces, make up and dresses. One grandmother from this clip on youtube  laughs off the fact that she bought her granddaughter’s first gown for $20,000.00.

Um, what? I think I barfed a little in my mouth.

As they introduced each little girl for the local pageant, Allyson ran forward, shouted that her favorite color was red and fidgeted the entire time she was standing there.

When they passed out the white chocolate, “thank-you-for-participating” lollipops to each girl as the judges marked their cards, Allyson asked if she could eat hers. While other moms said no, I unwrapped the pop and happily handed it to my daughter uncaring if the dress she wore got dirty.

Allyson laughed while other girls kept on their plastic smiles and held their hands at their sides like Barbies on doll stands.

Allyson struck funny poses while some mothers dragged little ones in front of judges screaming and crying.

As you can see, my fiery little redhead wore a simple strawberry patterned sundress, with no makeup except for lip gloss and a white ribbon headband that I made myself.

She was the least decorated one there and I really wish at this point, I could tell you in my perfect Katetopia, where personality comes before beauty, that she won. But she didn’t and frankly, I’m glad.

I won’t be that mother that bends over their child and reminds them to smile and wave and act like a Stepford child. I won’t be that mother who anxiously lip syncs the rehearsed line her daughter sweetly feeds the judges. I won’t be that mom who won’t let my daughter play in the mud or let her get branches and grass tangled in her hair. I don’t need to live vicariously though my daughter, and lament missed opportunities in my past.

In fact, I hope Allyson can forgive me one day for subjecting her to such a false circus. I will work hard to instill selfconfidence in all three of my kids. Ultimately, with proper guidance, they should be proud of who they are and not how they look.

I will never be a pageant mom. Ever.

My kids are beautiful with chocolate smeared on their faces and clothes. My kids are wonderful when they smile without cues. My kids are brilliant, fun and most importantly, kids. Why so many of these pageant moms are so eager to make their kids into adults with rhinestones and lip liner is beyond me.

I will revel in their youth and embrace both their successes and their failures. I will love them for being them.

Allyson did ask why she didn’t get a crown, and as I bought her a fairy princess wreath from a nearby craft vendor, I told her that she didn’t need one to be special or loved, because she was; without the sash, a title or a plastic crown that symbolizes beauty above brains. To me, that’s the most unattractive line of thought one person could have or pass on to an impressionable child.

2009 Podcast Wrap-Up

So I was updating all of my pages on my site today. I just wanted to give you the impressive count of podcasts/specials I’ve done for 2009.

For Clarkesworld Magazine:

For 2010 – Neil Clarke and I’ve planned on doubling the podcast output. Released on the 1st and 15th of every month, it’ll add more content for you to enjoy. Some will be read by me, and others will be read by their authors.

For Escape Pod:

For StarShipSofa:

  • Stories and Poems Read: 8 since January 2009
  • Authors: Ted Kosmatka, Mark Rich, Tim Pratt, Mike Allen, Charles Saplack, CL Holland, Aliette de Bodard
  • Words Read: 15,000 words

For Fantasy Magazine

  • Stories Read: 1 for podcast promo CD
  • Author: Jessica J. Lee
  • Words Read: 2000 words

For Mythic Delirium:

  • Poems Read: 4 poems
  • Authors: Holly Dworken Cooley, Lindsey Nair, Constance Cooper, Ann K. Schwader
  • Words Read: 700 words approx

For Peter Hodges:

  • Stories Read: 3
  • Words: 10,000 words

For A Magazine Which Shall Remain Nameless Who Had Me Do Three Stories, promised to post them and then they disappeared:

  • Short Stories Read: 3
  • Words Read: 15000 words

Total For 2009

  • Stories and Poems Read: 29
  • Words Read: 98700 words

Holy crap! That isn’t even counting the other projects I had relating to voice over work, including company training videos and phone greetings.  You do realize that around 100K words is a standard science fiction/fantasy novel length. I read a whole book to you guys! Man, my lips are tired! 🙂

When you break it down, it’s a little over 2 narrations a month. Hourly commitment to a standard 5000 word story is about 3-5 hours after recording and editing, some were longer and some were most certainly shorter. So if I were to guestimate the amount of time it took over the year to podcast, it would be upwards in the 150-200 hours range. 100 hours would be if they all took 3 hours to complete. Again, some where really short, others were all nighters.

This is just mind boggling to me. The average cost and industry standard for a narrator to complete an audio book is around $150.00 – $300.00 per finished hour. Sometimes, depending on who you are, a famous actor or something) You’ll get paid a lump sum to read a popular book. So if I treated this as an actual business, and expected compensation from my clients, I would have made, (we’ll go with 20 hours of finished audio here) $3000.00 on the low end and $6,000.00 on the high end of that price range.

Haha – well here’s to volunteer work. May 2010 prove to be a little more fruitful in the terms of compensation. Mama wants a new MacBook Pro.

**Granted, I’m not going to say that I wasn’t compensated this year for some of the work I did. So thank you to those (you know who you are) who did. The whole narration compensation discussion is definitely a topic I will be bringing up later. There are some things I’ve learned which makes me kinda mad.

Why Sarcasm is Dangerous…

I am banning news from my computer. If something happens in the world, I’m hoping one of my good friends will clue me in. Only of course, after the facts have been checked through various credible sources, like, “The Daily Show”.  (Insert eye roll here) Why have I finally thrown in the towel? Keep reading, please.

This is a screen shot from my local news station’s website:

(You can click to embiggen)

unbelievable

Do you see on the lower half of the main content where is says, “Talk of the Town”. Yeah, now read that.  Just in case you can’t — here is the quoted text.

Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt; Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee; Britney Spears and Kevin Federline — they’re just some of the celebrity couples who have gone from wedding bliss to calling it quits. Now there’s talk of banning all divorces i…n the state of California. One man has set up a Web site dubbed California Marriage Protection Act 2010. What do you think?

The website they are pointing to  is this one: Rescue Marriage

Anyone with half a brain and who spends five seconds on the site, quickly comes to the realization that this is what intelligent people might just call sarcasm. Its purpose is to criticize the ban on gay marriage in California. If the front page didn’t give you a clue, the site is full of hysterical stuff.

This is a great example of creatively countering an ongoing argument. I think it’s brilliant.

The problem is that not everyone visiting the site (including news organizations) have the brains to comprehend satire. If they were able to discern, the question then becomes: Why is this “news” organization intentionally misleading it’s readers?

Is this really a platform for discussion? Would it have been better served to phrase the question differently? I don’t know, something like — “Opponents to the Californian ban on gay marriage have come up with creative ways to illustrate their points. What do you think? Is it effective?”

By leaving out both the link and misrepresenting the content, people immediately follow the logic that credible news site= credible web site on banning divorce. This “news” organization has crossed a rather interesting line that continues to grey. Day by day, the public (part of which contains a growing population that subscribes to the ideas of government conspiracy and messages of hate) is encouraged to open up debate on hot topics which center around real people. When a great majority of the populace is not above an eighth grade reading level,  it’s hard enough to have balanced conversation. Add what was once a reputable news agency blurring the lines of truth and sarcasm becomes dangerous.

It’s a numbers game and so far, the intelligent who can decipher the difference in cases like this are losing.

Update: I sit here wondering how many donations that the site has received (to ultimately help overturn Prop8) have been from people who truly believe in the cause of banning divorce. Tricking stupid people out of their money is both brilliant and sad at the same time.

The Era of Disrespect and the Business of News

I hate to follow up all of the fluff posts on this blog with something so dark, but I sit here absolutely compelled to write about this. I arrived home this evening and did my usual search of the news. As I scrolled through, a story caught my eye. I am not going to mention the title or the news site, only because it serves to prove a point.

Today, September 4th, against the wishes of a father who recently lost his son, the Associated Press published a photo of a brave Marine’s last moments. This wasn’t a flag draped coffin. This picture depicts a man who has lost both of his legs, is bleeding out, and being dragged away by members of his squad.

I don’t care what your political leanings are regarding this ongoing war in Afghanistan. There are some things that should remain sacred. This Marine’s father watched his son volunteer to protect this country. How awful that the last image he has to remember him by is gruesome and the stuff made of nightmares. Any parent would be devastated to know their son died bravely. To add salt to the wound by publicly offering up such a horrid last moment is depraved and ultimately unjust.

If I were a betting woman, this is what happened:

As the AP was neatly wrapping up these photos with the word, “EMBARGO”, stamped on the front, some greedy bastard was licking his/her lips at the amount of hits and controversy these pictures would cause. Oh so clever, he/she prepares a bullshit, CYOA excuse if general reaction gets out of hand.

As I briefly discussed this with a good friend, he mentioned being torn. Sympathy for the family who lost their son vs. dealing with wars too easy for the American public.

I am sorry, but for me, there is no question in my mind that sympathy and respect for the family wins that argument every single time.

This Marine was a volunteer.  This Marine was fighting for you and for me. This Marine died for his country.

 The AP essentially wiped their ass with any thought of handling this in a professional and respectful way and then passed out the shit stained document like it was caviar.

Don’t get me wrong, I agree that as a country, with the recent exception of 9/11, we are relatively sheltered. We don’t seem to care about fighting or deaths unless it’s happening on our own soil. When news of casualties both innocent and coalition are reduced to footnotes on news broadcasts, only to be followed by a news story that flip- flops are out to kill you, its no wonder people have tuned out.

This isn’t an easy war. If newspapers and networks weren’t balancing budgets by playing the fear game, news would be news again. Instead, this war and probably any future war takes the back seat until spectacular and gruesome images just happen to be caught on film. Then we remember. Scratch that, then we are forced to remember.

If anything, the AP is counting on both sides of the political spectrum to attach themselves to this controversy. The AP is also counting on the darker side of human nature as well, hoping that as the story gains momentum, it will bring visitors to sites carrying the picture if only to sate morbid curiosity.

However, and I’m hoping there are more out there like me, who will be appalled that any semblance  of conscience has finally left our news agencies so eager to make a buck and win pretentious awards.

There is always a heavy cost to any war being fought. The war in Afghanistan is no different. The AP had the decision to run a story without the photo and to most of us, the ones who do care, it would have mattered. Just like it would have mattered to a devastated father and mother.

And the only reason it matters now is because this picture is nothing but propaganda and dollar signs.

Rest in peace, Lance Cpl. Joshua M. Bernard. Truly, a most sincerest thank you for fighting and making the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

If You Build It, They Will Come… And Be Assholes

**contains language**

Let me make something perfectly clear right off the bat– This post is not a slight on Jeremy Tolbert or Steve Eley. I am humbled and privileged to have read for Escape Pod. It’s all the  fucktards out there who need to have their virtual tongues cut out and smashed under very large and heavy rocks.

As many of you know, I am a narrator and a podcaster. I am also fucking pissed.

This last week, a story by the lovely Genevieve Valentine, read by me, was put up on Escape Pod. While I’ve listened to Escape Pod audio in the past, I never dived into the forums or comments on each. I usually got the episodes from Itunes.

As any curious narrator would be, I wanted to know what people thought of the reading. I’m always interested in constructive feedback to enhance my future narrations. If you thought it was deadpan, fine. I can take it. I’ll make a note and try to be more enthusiastic next time I’m reading about death. No, really.

When I went to both the forums and the comments on the individual stories on the Escape Pod site, I found myself barely controlling my rage at some of the comments. In case the entire Internet hasn’t been taught — there are ways of offering criticism that don’t include the words, “Suck”, “terrible”, “Bad”, “Boring”…. the list goes on.

It’s fine. A story may not work for you.  You may be disappointed where the author (and reader) take you while on your journey. You may find yourself wondering why you stuck around for the ending. People are entitled to that opinion.

What people aren’t entitled to be are assholes about it.  See: how to offer constructive criticism.

I was once a proponent of open commenting and forum posting. No one should be moderated. As I started my blog, visited Youtube,  read news articles which allowed comments, visited friend’s sites, and saw the pretentious, asinine drivel flow like rabid spittle from the mouths of inconsiderate beasts who should never have been allowed an internet connection, my stance slowly changed.

See John Scalzi — “Moderation Matters”.

John is happy that most of the members of his community are civilized human beings who pride themselves on having compassion and understanding for other members of this race.  It’s fun when you have an adult conversation comprised of adults acting like adults. It’s great to have lively discussions that don’t veer off into hate-filled, often unassociated tangents.  It stops being fun when scum start adding their drivel to the mix.

See, here is the deal. I don’t care you said nasty shit about me. Really, I don’t. What I care about are the people who pour their hearts into bringing you content every week. What I care about are the writers who are telling a story. What I care about are the producers and editors who are mostly volunteers and don’t get paid for their effort and time. What I care about are the listeners who have constructive things to say.

So really, to all the people who can’t stop vomiting up shit and getting off on their self proclaimed righteous verbal masturbation; fuck you. Seriously, fuck you.  Oh, that’s twice. You know I’m angry, now.

Places like Escape Pod who offer free content for the love of the genre, should be commended for their dedication and perseverance. Especially on the internet, where the term “asshole” is not only a state of mind, but now comes in anonymous flavor packs.

For the record, if you read this Genevieve, and countless others who’ve been ripped apart by people who really should be wearing muzzles and straight jackets and locked in rubber rooms:

From the bottom of my heart, thank you for writing, producing, narrating and editing.

Another Apology That Isn’t.

Wow, the internet has shown us a lot of apologies that aren’t this weekend.  I have definitely put more stock in the saying that it’s easier to ask for forgiveness (not really/or  in convoluted ways) after the damage has been done.  What happened to using your brains before you attempted anything like this in a public forum?

Here is EA’s !apology for the ” we encourage you to molest a booth babe, but not really” err, I mean, “Sin to Win (it’s all in good fun)” stunt they pulled at Comic Con this weekend.

http://kotaku.com/5322781/ea-apologizes-for-sin-to-win-booth-babe-promo

“Costumed reps are a tradition at Comic-Con. In the spirit of both the Circle of Lust and Comic-Con, we are encouraging attendees to Tweet photos of themselves with any of the costumed reps at Comic-Con here, find us on Facebook or via e-mail. “Commit acts of lust” is simply a tongue-in-cheek way to say take pictures with costumed reps.”

So, the faux tattoo on some nice size DD boobs depicting outlines of incredibly sexy naked female asses wholly represented the “costumed reps” at Comic Con? Trying to asexualize the booth babes so your legal team doesn’t have to fight out sexual harassment complaints  really doesn’t cut it.

I did happen to go to the Facebook page mentioned in the promotion and it does look like the majority of the people did behave themselves while taking pictures. EA is lucky.

It still doesn’t excuse the stupid.

On Being a Science Fiction Fan

I’m beginning to slowly realize that the title of this post is not necessarily the same as being a fan of science fiction. If recent comments in the blog-o-sphere are any indication, the two are vastly different. Take the recent hullabaloo with Adam Roberts’ assessment of this year’s Hugo nominations. There seems to be both agreement with his ideas and a growing dissent.

A current Hugo nominee, John Scalzi, has offered his thoughts on the issue as well. Instead of reacting in defense of his novel, he sides with the group that Roberts attacks in the first sentence of his perceived elitist manifesto; the Science Fiction Fandom.

Ultimately, I’d have to say that I agree with Scalzi. It’s perfectly okay to dislike something. However,  I take issue with Roberts trying to convince the world that everyone else must be wrong and that as a group, fandom is grossly stunted in their ability to appreciate fine science fiction and fantasy literature.

Roberts’ argument is moot atleast to me, only because I am of the mind to judge a book by multiple facets. Did it move me? Did it make me laugh? Did it make me cry? Did I want more? For most of the novels up for consideration this year, I’d say yes to most of those questions.

No one ever wins this argument, and I would go as far to say that it is a rather meaningless quibble to be had. Instead, the science fiction community should be discussing ways to better incorporate all forms of appreciation into fandom.  This year’s Hugo nominees more than help with this agenda.

Sure, I guess you could look at the current list of best novels as mediocre if they don’t fit a narrow category . OR you can start recognizing that authors like Doctorow, Scalzi, Gaiman, and Stross are helping to build the fan base from the roots much like Heinlein, Clarke, Harrison, Norton, L’Engle and others did when SF/F became it’s own niche. Those authors, much like the ones on the current ballot offered memorable stories to the demographic every genre should be after; children.

The definition of ‘literary’ is changing to mean something much more encompassing. It’s up to you to either embrace the fuller meaning or rant when your personal ideals are not met.

I ask you, both fans of science fiction and science fiction fandom,  is it a reflection of the current state when a publishing panel at ReaderCon this year suggested that the difference between an event like DragonCon and Worldcon is that the latter has more men in wheelchairs?

Old habits die hard. People cling to the familiar. It’s never been just about what may or may not have literary merit when it comes to storytelling. I don’t think it’s a matter of survival at this point, but in order for the genre to grow, we must embrace all aspects of the writing. Literary, entertaining, amusing, excellent story telling. Some have all, some have most, some are specialized in the effort of grasping different readership. All are successful in one way or another.

Embrace this and the fandom it brings with it, or face the fact one day no one will care, and the youth of today will not be filling those wheel chairs at future cons.

Personally, I’d like to see the grandchildren starting to attend today. How do we do this? By celebrating authors like Gaiman, Stross, Doctorow and Scalzi and not complaining that their works don’t fit narrow ideals.