Links of interestingness

Some local commentary on Ireland’s problem with Rape and the Criminal Justice System.

The Wetsuitman. Immigration policy is killing people. Although I have to say, mad props to the Norwegian journalists who did the legwork on this to identify one of the dead people.

Foz Meadows has some preliminary thoughts on Seth Dickinson’s The Traitor Baru Cormorant.

Max Gladstone talks about Bees and Diversity.

Kickstarter: Things-Could-Be-Worse Mugs. How much do I want these? Very much.

So That Was Fun Until You Punched Me In The Face: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY

I first wrote this at the beginning of August 2014. For various reasons, I’ve sat on it until now.

So let me just drop it into the Friday night news hole…

 


 

 

Imagine that you dearly love, absolutely crave, a particular kind of food. There are some places in town that do this particular cuisine just amazingly. Lots of people who are into this kind of food hold these restaurants in high regard. But let’s say, at every single one of these places, every now and then throughout the meal, at random moments, the waiter comes over and punches any women at the table right in the face. And people of color and/or LGBT folks as well!Ann Leckie, 21 October 2013

It is good to once again be among friends. You, Quill, are my friend. This dumb tree is also my friend. And this green whore is also —

– Drax the Destroyer, Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

So what I learned from Guardians of the Galaxy is that space is full of white people and blue people and green people and red people and red-blue people, but apart from cyborg Djimon Hounsou and one or two minor extras, space has no black people.*

*This is not okay. Seriously. Not okay.

I also learned that women will be called “whore” regardless of their behaviour. There’s nothing wrong with sex work, or with sleeping around. But when Drax, a character who (we’re told) doesn’t understand metaphor, refers to Gamora (a character who’s refused the only sexual advances she’s been offered, and whose characterisation is heavy on the badass killing-people skills and light on sex) as a whore, it performs a neat subliminal perceptual trick: it renders invisible any distinction between woman and whore as categories. This is, mind you, a perceptual trick that the sexist cultures we’re all swimming in have been trying to pull on you your whole life: women are, as a default position, assumed to be both sexually available to straight men and using sex for personal gain. In Guardians of the Galaxy, Drax (and thus Guardians’ director and writers) just makes it explicit. Gamora’s a woman (albeit a green one); therefore she’s a whore.*

This was the point in the film at which I stopped enjoying it. Don’t get me wrong: up to this point, I was perfectly prepared to trade a background nagging dissatisfaction with the film’s narrative (and costume, and casting) choices in exchange for a fun piece of nonsense spectacle filled with explosions, good CGI, and decent comedy.

And then whore punched me in the face.

It’s rather hard to get back into the swing of enjoying fun spectacle after that. The film’s just hit you over the head with the fact that you don’t matter, except as part of the sex class: that no matter what you do, you exist to be sexually available. Whore.

And all my nagging dissatisfactions marched up to the forefront, banners trailing and bayonets fixed, and I sat through Guardians’ conclusion in tooth-gritted silence, so as not to spoil the cinema experience for my mother.

Because I’ve seen two films in the cinema this summer, Edge of Tomorrow and Guardians of the Galaxy. Both of them expensive pieces of fun explosive entertainment, but both of them place a bland, boring, pallid Everyman in the central narrative role, and focus on him over female characters who are, quite frankly, more interesting – and whose stories would make for less blandly predictable movie-going experiences. (Although Edge of Tomorrow, at least, avoided the face-punch of whore, and had a stronger narrative edge than Guardians.) Because let’s be honest: Gamora, the racoon, and Groot, are the most interesting characters in Guardians, and Gamora is shamefully underemployed.

Quill is blandface Everyboy with a tragic childhood, decent fashion sense, and complete sexual incontinence, who stumbles accidentally into Matters Of Galaxy-Destroying Import, while Drax’s character basically boils down to WOMEN IN REFRIDGERATORS MUST BE AVENGED – but in Gamora and her sister Nebula and their relationship with each other, with Ronan, and with their father-creator Thanos, there’s the essence of a really juicy story, one that arises from character and situation and could maybe make something of a thematic argument about abusive families.

Instead we’re supposed to believe in some sort of romance between Quill and Gamora The Badass Assassin, and substitute a couple of brief fight-scene encounters between Gamora and Nebula for any development or resolution of that character arc. I wasn’t all too keen on this as a narrative decision before WHORE.

After… Well, I’m pissed. I’m really, inexpressibly pissed. Because okay, half a loaf is better than no bread, and I’ll take a film with an underutilised Only Girl over no female characters at all – but I am so goddamned tired of going to Films With Explosions in them knowing in advance they will always be about the same type of person, and having to go braced for the reminder that hey, the people who made this film don’t give a shit for anyone who’s not the White Male Audience.

That reminder – the moment of WHORE – is always the moment where it’s brought home that not only will this never be your story, that not only will you never get to see yourself in the hero/wish-fulfillment role, but also that the most important thing about you is how guys see your body: something available, something to be used. Something – though Guardians of the Galaxy only goes here in mentions of Drax’s family and by implication with Carina, the Collector’s barely-named servant – to be destroyed or to be rendered abject to serve the purposes of the men around them.

Fuck that, guys. It’s boring.

Snark? Crank? Maybe just a few thoughts on a minor phenomenon

You folks all know I write Sleeps With Monsters over at Tor.com right now. I don’t spend a lot of time in the comments, mostly because my life lately is OH GOD SO MUCH WORK, and when I do, I try to to restrain the occasional urge to snark and crank.

With only moderate success, it must be noted.

Anyway, at the end of June I wrote a post rounding up books by women forthcoming in the second half of 2014. It’s not a comprehensive list, because there’s only one of me and there isn’t one central database for forthcoming information, but I did my best.

Now, maybe it’s not obvious that Sleeps With Monsters is a column dedicated to talking about books that aren’t by men. Maybe it’s not obvious at all. But, you know, it stirs all my snarky impulses when three out of the sixteen comments that followed the post? They want to talk about books by men. (Rothfuss, Weeks, Khanna, and Erikson.)

This happens regularly. On book recommendation posts and forthcoming book posts, often, someone just has to bring up some book by a bloke.

Books by men are reviewed and discussed disproportionately often, as Strange Horizons’ yearly ongoing SF Count demonstrates. And apparently it’s not possible to discuss books by women without someone bringing up “What about the men?”

Snark. Crank. *points to phenomenon*

There’s no fix for the reviews issue except trying to push back on discrimination and be inclusive with as much intersectionality as one can manage to be mindful of. (And to shut up and listen when other people who experience discrimination along other axes are talking.)

I have to say, though, the “What about the men?” phenomenon is a thing that irks.

Links of interest, with some commentary

From Boing Boing, “Booth babes are bad for business”:

The results were clear for Chen: the “grandmas” generated far more sales-leads and conversions than the “babes.”

Let’s just take a minute to point out the …inappropriate… nature of referring to all women older than their early twenties and not dressed as sex muppets as grandmas, and placing them in opposition to babes. Not only is “grandma” a term referring to one’s familial/reproductive status, rather than one’s age as such, but this opposition implies that grandma can never be a socially-acceptable object of desire.

And Foz Meadows is on top form yet again, with “Seeming Female: Gender in Digital Spaces”:

Which opened up a rather breathtaking possibility: what if the respective myths of the Fake Geek Girl and Fake Gamer Girl are actively being perpetuated, not through the whore-user predations of evil ladies, but because a cynical, sexist subset of male geeks are using stereotypical, strawman portrayals of women to manipulate their peers?

I encourage you all to go and read the whole thing.

Complex systems

It’s an Irish summer and the sun is actually shining. I should be working on my thesis or one of the ten thousand things I’m behind on.

(Like reviews. Hi, difficulty focusing! How nice you should come visit…)

Instead, I’m taking a little time to mention something that I came across via Niall Harrison at Strange Horizons.

Tor UK has an open submissions policy. Editor Julie Crisp ran the numbers on genders submitting to their slushpile. In Sexism In Genre Publishing: A Publisher’s Perspective, she brings the numbers out into the light and finds that her slushpile ratio is 32:68 F:M overall, 22:78 F:M with science fiction specifically, and calls for more women to submit their work.

Leaving aside the discussions from short fiction markets which suggest that while men submit more work overall, women submit work of better quality – what good is a post that points out the disparity in subs? Renay (of LadyBusiness) calls it “a reductive, shallow look at the issues regarding gender parity and representation in genre.”

She says, “[The post seeks] to distance itself from the external criticism of the community which would hold it accountable for the decisions which have led to the low numbers of submissions from women. Instead of taking a forward-looking path to solving the problem of low submission, publicly posting the numbers to ask “How can we do better? What are the cultural and social issues that might be influencing women’s reluctance to submit? How can we reach out more and welcome women writers? How can we better support them once they’re here?”, Julie Crisp used the numbers to say, “Not it!” and complain about the blame being laid at her door.”

In the comments to the original post, Sophia McDougall writes

What is so hard about battling sexism in publishing is its so nebulous and fluid, you often cannot point to one deliberate, malicious decision and say “this is where it all went wrong.” This also means there is not one single decisive thing you can do to fix it. You’re right to say it’s not “clear-cut”. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, or that the problem is just that women aren’t interested. As the industry stands, women have good REASONS not to be interested! I know this is something that people at the publishing end can’t just wave a magic wand and fix. I know you can’t publish what you don’t receive. But publishers do have a part to play, and that has to include recognising the complexity and scale of what’s going on.

…maybe SFF isn’t worse, maybe it’s better, because at least it knows and cares that it has a problem and is trying to change. Even though it is sometimes painful.

But I feel this piece will be taken as granting SFF permission to care less.

Sexism is complex and visible disparities are the result of many intersecting factors. Showing the numbers is useful. But if one wants to change the disparity one cannot sit back and wait for better numbers to magically appear. Just because one asks nicely.

Addressing complex systems takes work.

I’ve never seen UK editions of Elizabeth Bear’s science fiction. Catherine Asaro. Kristine Smith’s Jani Killian novels. Chris Moriarty’s Spin novels. Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s Liaden books. Hell, Karen Traviss. The time is ripe for some UK publisher to make an investment in an SFF “21st Millennium Classics” line, acquiring UK rights to SF novels published in the first decade of the new century, and putting an equal proportion of male and female authors in the line-up. If women in the UK don’t see science fiction by women on the shelves, published by UK publishers, they’re hardly going to see the point in submitting to UK publishers themselves.

If there was an easy fix, we would have stopped talking about this years ago. Constant, mindful engagement across multiple avenues of approach: that’s the only solution.

And that takes a very long time.

Jo Fletcher Books, Rod Rees, Sexism and Systemic Failure. Part IV.

Part I.
Part II.
Part III.


I want to reiterate that while I find the actions of Jo Fletcher Books in this matter ill-advised, I in no way believe they were ill-intentioned. Any organisation can be blindsided by an associate whose opinions don’t represent said organisation. And naturally a publisher with a writer under contract needs to consider their working relationship to said writer in their responses to criticism.

That said, swinging the hammer of “On the right to freedom of speech” towards critics of Rees’ article and JFB’s decision to run it is far, far less than ideal a response.

In the last month, “freedom of speech” has been seized upon as a cri de coeur in the face of criticism in the SFF genre community. The response of Resnick and Malzburg to legitimate criticism was not to say, “Hey, you might have a point, we’ll think about it,” or even, “I think you’re wrong, but we’ll have to agree to disagree,” but to talk about “censorship” and “liberal fascism.” Likewise, calls to expel Theodore Beale from SFWA for, essentially, bringing the organisation into disrepute, were met with but you can’t punish him for exercising his freedom of speech!

(The right to freedom of speech is not the right to a platform, or to a megaphone. Nor is it freedom from the consequence of speech – which can be criticism, in the form of more speech.)

The SFF community and associated conversations are very familiar with the idea of freedom of speech. At the moment, they’re also very familiar with its use as a complaint in the face of criticism: But he has the right to say such things!

No one is saying otherwise. What people are saying is that some opinions are inappropriate for sharing in professional fora, and that it is inappropriate for professional organisations to give them platforms. Racist and sexist opinions are among those inappropriate opinions.

That “freedom of speech” is seen both as a defence against critical speech and as an unmitigated good thing is a systemic failure in our community to which, however unwittingly, JFB’s public response to criticism of Rod Rees’ post in part contributes.

Jo Fletcher is a busy person. She makes sure we’re aware of this in “On the right to freedom of speech“:

Today I should be editing the last 35 pages of David Hair’s magnificent epic Scarlet Tides, so it can make its Autumn publication date . . . but instead, I’m taking that valuable time to discuss something that’s even more important

and:

I expect some of you are wondering why I am breaking into valuable editing time to discuss freedom of speech – and on a Saturday morning at that!

This is a somewhat inflammatory way to begin a post responding to critical comment. Many of the people who responded to Rod Rees’ opinions as expressed are busy individuals themselves, who spent some of their own valuable time and energy in answering the problematic elements of his assertions.*

Jo Fletcher distances herself from Rod Rees’ opinions as expressed:

When I offer the blog to our wonderful writers, I don’t tell them what they can – or can’t – write about. They’re grown-ups, after all, and I must depend upon them to use good judgement.

…Would I have written Rod’s blog? Frankly, I don’t think I would have.

She defends – although as far as I can tell, no one is actually attacking – his right to offer such opinions:

Do I defend Rod’s right to his own opinion?

Damn straight I do.

Missing from the post is the thing I hoped for most: an acknowledgement that Rees’ opinions as expressed may not have been professionally appropriate, and whether humorously or provocatively meant or otherwise, how he phrased them insulted his writer colleagues who are women.**

Ultimately, Jo Fletcher Books is responsible for all the content posted to their blog. A statement of regret for the insult given to colleagues would not have been inappropriate. It would’ve gone a long way towards reducing the sense of affront.


If you don’t agree with Rod, I absolutely defend your right to disagree!

Of course, I expect it to be well-reasoned, well-written, with good grammar, spell-checked and properly punctuated . . .

I’m not the only person who finds a statement like that, in the face of criticism, to imply that disagreements to date have not been, “well-reasoned, well-written, with good grammar, spell-checked and properly punctuated.”***

It’s not a good point to close on, I guess is what I’m saying. It doesn’t demonstrate real engagement with the criticisms which have been made. It’s not the response of someone used to engaging with direct criticism on the internet. A good faith effort requires some acknowledgement of one’s critics’ points, even to say, “We can’t agree, and further conversation won’t prove fruitful,” or, “Company policy is such, although we may revisit it in future.” (“This was infelicitous or erroneous, but we will strive to do better,” is a good sentiment to have in the good faith toolbox, too.)

The internet means communication happens faster and reaches more people than ever before. Problematic shit receives more attention, and more critical attention, than ever.

And “free speech,” when that speech has offensive implications, and when deployed by the privileged against the less privileged – as it was in Rod Rees’ case – can contribute to a hostile or offensive environment.

Me, I’m invested in having a genre community, and a genre conversation, that welcomes a diverse range of voices, and a diverse range of good books. That doesn’t alienate women needlessly – or people of different colours or creeds, sizes or shapes, genders or abilities.

I expect more. I expect better.


All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.
Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho

We all try, and try again. We can all fail better. Going by increments towards a less hostile world, a more welcoming community.

To Jo Fletcher Books, I say:

Next time, I beseech you. Fail better.


*As for me, I’ve spent at least six hours on this that could’ve been thesis time, or reviewing time, or actual eating/sleeping/exercise time, but since I receive less than eighteen grand a year this year, most of it from the government, I’m not sure anyone but me considers my time valuable.

**As a reader, I felt insulted also – but the direct insult was given to female writers, with the challenge to the viscerality of their work.

***Here, the cranky person may point out that apart from the punctuation, Rees’ article meets few of those criteria. Reduction ad adsurdum, anyone? The reductio, or argumentum, ad absurdum could hardly be more absurd…

Jo Fletcher Books, Rod Rees, Sexism and Systemic Failure. Part III.

Part I. Part II.


We broke off yesterday with the conclusion that Rod Rees was either clueless or deliberately trolling. But what about his publisher, Jo Fletcher Books?


It is important, I think, that we absolve JFB of malice. When a publisher gives a writer access to a platform to promote said writer’s newest novel, whether or not that publisher agrees with their writer’s opinions, I believe the general assumption is that the writer will do their best avoid doing something that will bring the publisher’s platform into disrepute. Busy editors and PR persons should be forgiven for cursorily glancing at the first paragraph or not even reading it at all before cuing it up.

(I’m not saying this is best practice. But it’s an imperfect world, and I sincerely doubt any publishing imprint is over-provided with available staff-hours.)

In fact, Jo Fletcher Books is an imprint I’ve been watching with interest. They’ve published two debut SF novels by women just this year – Stephanie Saulter’s Gemsigns and Naomi Foyle’s Seoul Survivors – along with Karen Lord’s second novel, The Best of All Possible Worlds. Looking into Waterstones in Liverpool yesterday brought home to me just how much UK shelfspace in SFF – particularly in SF and in epic fantasy – is dominated by male names, and I confess to nursing a small, quiet hope that JFB’s decision to bring SF debuts by women on board this year might help to start evening things out.

That’s partly why I’m so disappointed by their response to criticism of the Rod Rees article, and their choice to run said article on their imprint’s official blog.

Let me take a minute here to articulate my own feelings about that article. Foz Meadows, I think, put it best: “my entire brain explode[d] in a symphony of What The Actual Fuck in D Minor.” It is remarkably – remarkably! – alienating and off-putting to read that how to write successful female characters is, instead, how to write a caricature of a male-gaze-constructed, gender-essentialist, Mirror Universe image of a woman. My anger was vast. My disgust was vaster. My weariness at Not More Of This Bullshit Haven’t We Had Enough? reached gargantuan proportions and turned after contemplation to even more rage.

What is published on an organisation’s website is assumed, rightly or wrongly, to have the imprimatur of that organisation. Someone approved this as appropriate, or failed to disapprove of it enough to discourage its publication there. I thought to myself that if Jo Fletcher Books was willing to accept this on their public face, they mustn’t want my money.

They must want me to go away weary and disgusted, to patronise publishers whose blogs show forth less extreme alienating gender-essentialist male-gaze nonsense.

Despite my warm fuzzy feelings towards them for debuting Saulter and Foyle. Despite my warm fuzzy feelings about Karen Lord’s work. Despite my hopes that maybe they’d bring Tricia Sullivan’s next SF book out, or the next brilliant debut SFF novel by a woman I’d never heard of.

So I reached out to the publisher to ask if they had any comment on the matter, because it would be unfair to not ask.

In email, Jo Fletcher disclaimed any right to censor her authors. She went on to say that she fully believed that women were just as suited writing fiction for adults as anyone else. “[A]ctually, I don’t for a moment think Rod Rees believes this either; as I said, he’s putting forward a theory for discussion.

“It’s also very true that in the UK at least there has been a lot of criticism of the lack of female SF writers – SF as opposed to fantasy – and obviously, I’m doing my own bit to help fill that void, with three new female SF writers already on the list: Stephanie Saulter, Naomi Foyle and Karen Lord. Personally, I’ve never let the sex of an author influence my publishing decisions – a good book is a good book – but it does depress me to see so few female writers of SF in my submission pile. I could suggest some reasons fewer are drawn to SF than to fantasy, but that would be purely my own opinion, not actual fact.”

The article, she reaffirms, is purely Rod Rees’ own opinion. But she does see one upside: “[A]t least it’s got people talking.”*


That was Jo Fletcher Books’ response to me by email. It was a much better response than I’d hoped to receive.

But “On the right to freedom of speech,” JFB’s response to the public, posted on their blog, is much worse. A bizarre tactical error in the ongoing conversation, it appears to try to make the issue into one of freedom of speech.

Freedom of speech is not freedom from criticism, and this is the “systemic failure” I’ve had in the title from the start. That’s what I’ll be talking about in the next post.


*I uphold Jo Fletcher’s right to view this as an upside. Me, I’m a little tired of needing to push back against opinions such as Rees’.

Jo Fletcher Books, Rod Rees, Sexism, and Systemic Failure. Part II.

Part I.


I thought I was pretty clued up on feminism.

…I belong to a writers’ group which recently perused the opening 10,000 words of a novella I’ve written called ‘Invent-10n’. It’s a near-future story that features a rather feisty twenty-year-old singer with a penchant for jive talk called Jenni-Fur. I thought I’d rendered her as a tough, take-no-prisoners sort of rebel but it seemed that some of her dialogue offended the two female members of the group.

Using the argot of 2030s Britain, Jenni-Fur described herself as ‘a lush thrush with a tight tush’, which was thought to be both unrealistic and borderline ‘pornographic’.

Rod Rees, June 25, 2013.


[H]ere we are again: sexual harassment, SFWA, marginalizing of women writers, the VIDA count…women in genre is the issue of the day. And what is happening at Jo Fletcher Books and with Rod Rees is, in my opinion, nothing more than an attempt to cash in on the outrage and frustration that so many women in this field are feeling.

Tricia Sullivan, June 28, 2013.


The month of June 2013 saw sexism (and bigotry in several forms) bubble to the surface of the SFF genre conversation. Not fictional sexism, but the real-life kind: the Resnick/Malzburg dialogues (liberal fascism! censorship!) were followed by repugnant white supremacist and ex-SFWA presidential candidate Vox Day’s vile rhetorical attack on award-winning author N.K. Jemisin. And then we were faced with the news that Elise Matthesen had made the first formal report against Tor editor James Frenkel, long rumoured to be a man with whom one should avoid getting into an elevator.


I am fed up by the level of sexism and racism in our community and am increasingly of the opinion that remaining silent on the matter provides aid and comfort to those who don’t deserve it.

Hugo-Award-winning author Charles Stross

Though the column argues that Rees is a good writer of female characters, nothing in it bolsters that claim.

– Sherwood Smith (Inda, Coronets and Steel) and writing partner Rachel Manija Brown (All the Fishes Come Home to Roost).


Rees’ article comes at a time when the attitudes of men (and of women) in the SFF community towards women, and particularly the attitudes of male writers and editors, have been highlighted, and not to their advantage.

Nor to ours. Regressive attitudes and willful ignorance make communities unwelcoming and unsafe. And it is not to anyone’s advantage to let harassment, belittlement, and lack of empathy proliferate unchallenged.

And Rees is one of the willfully ignorant, unable or unwilling to make the leap of empathy to seeing women as whole human beings, courageous and persevering in all kinds of adversity, capable of life and hope and change in even the most restricted of circumstances. Rees, you see, sees certain periods of history and certain places as antithetical to women: by which I can only conclude he means in direct and unequivocal opposition to the existence of female-bodied persons.

For example when you put female characters in settings (especially historical ones) which are antithetical to women it becomes difficult to shape a character which is sympathetic to that setting without violating… feminist norms.
Rod Rees, June 25, 2013.

Rees goes on to imply that women are unsuited to writing “visceral” fiction for adults.

It seems to be a fixture at the SF conventions I’ve attended to have a panel discussion debating why there are so few women writing in the adult SF and fantasy genres. Could it be that the success of female writers in YA fantasy fiction is in part attributable to their young female characters being better able to adhere to this [the “feminist”] template of the ideal female? Once female writers venture into the more visceral world of adult fiction they find this stereotype [of an active woman with agency] doesn’t work and hence struggle.


So. Women should stick to writing for children, because it’s less challenging, is that the implication? Less visceral? Rees has obviously never read Elizabeth Wein or Scott Westerfeld.

Karen Healey (The Shattering, When We Wake) finds YA fiction, “as visceral as it gets – racism, suicide, sexuality, love, death, grief and joy are not topics marked ADULTS ONLY,” and pointed out the works of Alaya Dawn Johnson and Sheri L. Smith as treating with particularly visceral events and themes.

According to Sarah Rees Brennan (The Demon’s Lexicon, Unspoken), people are far more likely to hold female characters to impossible standards – “and that’s a product of sexism. Generalising or denigrating YA, a genre which has a lot of female writers and a lot of female protagonists, tends to be a product of sexism as well.”

Sherwood Smith and Rachel Manija Brown say they find so many things wrong with Rees’ piece that they don’t have time to call out every single one – but the thing that leaps out at them most, they say, is his claim that women are too smart to be “foolishly” brave. “The actual implication is that an entire segment of human experience and motivation is solely male. In short, he is saying that only men are heroic.”

Charles Stross disagrees with everything Rod Rees says about writing across gender. “Rod Rees’ world view, as he expresses it, appears to be so heavily informed by black and white stereotypes that there is no room in it for shades of grey. All men are ‘this’, all women are ‘that’. All behavior is dictated by assigned gender roles, and gender roles are deterministically nailed to the physical sex of the protagonist. (He also seems unable to distinguish between biological sex and performative gender.)” He adds, “For a lot of men the social conditioning to treat women as different is so strong that they can’t recognize the essential points of similarity that exist: they’re effectively unable to look beyond the gender gap.”

Men with this problem, Stross says, don’t relate to women as people, but rather as either aliens or objects. “Theory of mind, the ability to project consciousness and intentionality on them and model them as ordinary people doesn’t seem to pertain… [and] men who don’t see women as people feel free to chastise women who behave in a manner incompatible with their preconceptions.”


The takeaway from all this is that Rees is, at best, clueless; at worst, deliberately trolling.

But what about Jo Fletcher Books?

The morning after, Mr Earbrass was conscious but very little more.

The conference is over. This conference, that is, and a very interesting conference it was, indeed.

I will blog about it, as promised. But for today, while my brains are in the process of growing back from the onslaught of shiny interesting new people and thoughts, I think I’ll just round up the links my tabs have accumulated from a weekend with very little chance to participate in the internet.

Via Jim C. Hines, Elise Matthesen gives the low-down on how to report sexual harassment.

STAY SAFE: You get to choose what to do, because you’re the only one who knows your situation and what risks you will and won’t take. If not reporting is what you need to do, that’s what you get to do, and if anybody gives you trouble about making that choice to stay safe, you can sic me on them.

Leah Bobet on Science Fiction. Sexual Harassment. Missing Stairs.

I tire of our collective cowardice. A community that does not have your back is no damn community at all.

Maria Dahvana Headley with But He Didn’t Know He Was Hijacking Your Ship:

And if you question how bad it would have to be to make me feel upset? Know that I used to be a pirate negotiator in the maritime industry.

The pirates in the maritime industry were generally a great deal more polite than the creeps in the SFF world. They stuck to terms.

In the SFF world, the nasty that happens is as follows: ‘He was confused,’ rather than “HE JUST TRIED TO HIJACK YOUR SHIP.’

But I’m here to tell you, people have regularly tried to hijack my ship, and then protested that my real problem was a bad ship and bad weather, rather than dudes trying to board me.

Tansy Rayner Roberts on Sexual Harassment at SF Conventions:

Are we actually making progress here? Or have I just filtered my internet too completely?

…I also think that Amal El-Mohtar (@tithenai) tweeted a very important message in relationship to the subject:

“If this summer seems relentless where talk of harrassment in SF is concerned? Recognize that’s because it IS relentless.”

Natalie at Radish Reviews with Harassment and the Back Channel:

I am so very tired of hearing stories about how things were back in the good old days. When convention organizers were procuring asses for Isaac Asimov to pinch and women were leaving conventions because their shapely bottoms were patted while out in public. When Randall Garrett felt that it was appropriate to greet women with “I’m Randall Garrett. Let’s fuck.” Hell, as recently as 2006, Harlan Ellison felt that grabbing Connie Willis’s breast onstage at the Hugo Awards was an okay thing to do (this goes to the video, may be upsetting to watch if you haven’t seen it before, edited to fix date per comment). But hey, why can’t we all just get along? (screencap of Google cache, comments missing) Why so negative?

Reports are shining a light on the inner workings of some of SFWA’s older racists, with Speculative Friction publishing screencaps.

“Black ghetto characters” are appropriate for Steven Barnes, says Jerry Pournelle.

Linky has been wandering around the Pitt Rivers Museum

Shrunken heads are amazeballs, people. The Pitt Rivers is like an incredible bazaar of LOTS AND LOTS of random COOL SHIT. And so is having an argument about C.S. Lewis’s theology in the Eagle and Child.

I’m namechecked in the same incoherent rant as John Scalzi:

I will say by the end of it you may come to realize, as I did, that the essay says far less about me than it does about the author. Bless his heart.

The incoherent rant in question is here. I think this is the same person as a person who was verbally offensive/abusive in comments to one of the Tor.com posts and moderated in consequence.

Dr. Jen Gunter, Expert in Savita inquiry confirms Irish women get lower standard of care with chorioamnionitis:

As the inquest into Savita Halappanavar’s death continues we have heard about delays and errors, all of which most likely contributed to her terrible outcome. However, along the way those who have tried to pass off her death as medical negligence and nothing to do with Irish law or Catholic ethos have rested on the assertion that she wasn’t sick enough to need a termination.

…Dr. Knowles’ testimony confirms for me that the law played a role, because her statements indicate the standard of care for treatment of chorioamnionitis is less aggressive in Ireland. This can only be because of the law as there is no medical evidence to support delaying delivery when chorioamnionitis is diagnosed. Standard of care is not to wait until a woman is sick enough to need a termination, the idea is to treat her, you know, before she gets sick enough. An elevated white count and ruptured membranes at 17 weeks is typically enough to make the diagnosis, so Dr. Knowles needs to testify as to what in Savita’s medical record made it safe to not recommend a delivery.

By the way, I also disagree with Dr. Knowles about her interpretation of Savita’s medical record, the chart doesn’t have “subtle indicators” of infection, it screams chorioamnionitis long before Wednesday morning.

In North America the standard of care with chorioamnionitis is to recommend delivery as soon as the diagnosis is made, not wait until women enter the antechamber of death in the hopes that we can somehow snatch them back from the brink.

If Irish law, or the interpretation thereof, had nothing to do with Savita’s death no expert would be mentioning sick enough at all.

secritcrush sums up Scalzi’s Redshirts:

Redshirts is star trek parody with a big pile of “characters confront the author” meta. After you’ve explored the thirty seconds of hilarity that is people dying for no reason, what’s left on the humor plate?

Linky can see the spires of Oxford from here. MY SPIRE IS BIGGER THAN YOURS.

Rushthatspeaks, The National Uncanny: Indian Ghosts and American Subjects, Renée L. Bergland:

At this point Bergland made an entire set of things come together in my brain by explaining the difference between the American and the European Gothic in fiction. In the European Gothic, the uncanny, whatever it is, is attempting to tear down a previously constructed edifice (building, society, family) from which it has come, while the non-uncanny elements of the story are trying to preserve the edifice. In the American Gothic, the non-uncanny elements of the story are trying to create such an edifice (building, society, family), and the uncanny, coming from outside, is trying to destroy it. Suddenly everything from Poe* to Shirley Jackson to Anne Rivers Siddons’ The House Next Door made infinitely more sense. The difference in Gothic traditions is of course at least partially because of the difference between types of ghost.

Why the change in the American ghost? Well, partly because of the rise of the modern scientific method, and the development of ways to test the empirical validity of the supernatural. And partly because colonists in the Americas could not take their ancestors with them, moving from a built-up landscape full of folklore and traditions they understood to a landscape they could not see as fully settled, full of folklore and traditions they did not know. And partly because of the rise of interiority and subjectivity as useful societal concepts, and the intersection of interiority and subjectivity with the newly-minted American Dream. Bergland is literally the first writer I have seen mention that the United States began as a colonized country and became a colonial power, and that the second required systematic repression of the knowledge of what it had been like to be the first. This repression was produced at least partially via the myth of American exceptionalism: we won the American Revolution because we are just so gosh-darn special. Therefore, if we keep winning things, we keep on being special. A widespread mythology on both a national and a personal level– and this is where that intersection of interiority with national myth comes in, that particular Puritan-Calvinist slant which says that if you won you must deserve to win, and if not, not. The awareness that no one can win everything all the time, and that those who do not win are not worthless, remains despite its repression. The American Dream as a system for judging self-worth is a false consciousness, and therefore, as are all false consciousnesses, it is haunted. You see, then, why the new ghost is so nebulous: it cannot be entirely banished until the false consciousness is banished, but the pervasive national mythology does not allow societal awareness of the falsity. Nameless crimes, nameless shames, nameless fears of not living up to a value system which is beyond human capabilities.

Read the whole thing. It is brilliant.

Self-published author Hugh C. Howey (who acquired a trad publishing deal and sold film rights to his novel) reveals himself to be a complete asshole who fantasises about sexually harassing people who annoy him.

The Daily Dot, Self-published wunderkind under fire for misogynist rant:

“I’m disturbed beyond reason by your use of the word ‘bitch’ and your fantasy about grabbing yourself to prove something to her,” young-adult fiction author Lauren DeStefano tweeted to Howey earlier today. “I know what it’s like to face condescending/rude people and challenges as an author, but that was a truly horrific response.”

“‘Crazy bitch who needs to be slapped’ are words that carry very different connotations than ‘rude, ignorant person who is wrong,'” noted romance author Courtney Milan.

Jenny Trout, Let me fix that for you, Mr. Howey:

And that’s how Howey’s post came off. “Look at me, I’m better than this ugly, possibly mentally ill, probably autistic (because autistic people act like that, amiright?!) bitch that my wife wanted to slap! I am validated!”

Seanan McGuire, I’d like to belong here. Do you think that I could?

“Teachers are often unaware of the gender distribution of talk in their classrooms. They usually consider that they give equal amounts of attention to girls and boys, and it is only when they make a tape recording that they realize that boys are dominating the interactions. Dale Spender, an Australian feminist who has been a strong advocate of female rights in this area, noted that teachers who tried to restore the balance by deliberately ‘favouring’ the girls were astounded to find that despite their efforts they continued to devote more time to the boys in their classrooms. Another study reported that a male science teacher who managed to create an atmosphere in which girls and boys contributed more equally to discussion felt that he was devoting 90 per cent of his attention to the girls. And so did his male pupils. They complained vociferously that the girls were getting too much talking time.”

And…

“The talkativeness of women has been gauged in comparison not with men but with silence. Women have not been judged on the grounds of whether they talk more than men, but of whether they talk more than silent women.”

I am not a silent woman. But I am not louder than the men who are in my peer group. We’re all talking at about the same volume, some a little louder, some a little softer. And it would be nice if my gender would stop being the one factor that determined the worth, and appropriateness, of everything I did.

She is entirely right on this, you know, people.

Ursula Vernon is breaking the silence about lawn crayfish:

I did what anybody does when they learn that an aquatic creature is living in their flowerbed–I went to Twitter screaming “HOW IS THIS MY LIFE!?!”

Several people informed me that yes. This is a thing that happens.

Everyone else on earth assumed I was drunk or insane or being an artist or engaging in some obscure form of collaborative fiction, possibly with Seanan McGuire. (Which would be awesome, don’t get me wrong, but no. The crayfish really exists.)

Some species, apparently, live in lawns. Anywhere with a high water table, say. And at night they come out and walk around the lawn.

There is a five-inch crayfish walking around my garden on ten legs right this minute while I’m typing.

Not gonna lie. That kinda squicks me out a little. I mean, I love animals well beyond the point of sanity and reason, but…dude, it is walking around out there. A freakin’ LOBSTER is WALKING in my garden.

Jenny’s Library on Robin Hood’s Ship of Magic: Team Sea Serpent:

Which is how I found myself attempting to read Robin Hobb’s Ship of Magic. Despite my better judgement and the advice of friends whose opinions I trust.

I didn’t even make it through the first 100 pages. This is possibly because none of the characters make any bit of sense and the most interesting one so far is the sea serpent who tried to convince some poor sailor to toss himself overboard.**