Friday, May 28, 2010

Friday afternoon

I had very little to do with getting Aqueduct Press set up in the Dealers Room this morning. Mostly I stood around and admired the clever new bookmarks Kath had made and snapped pictures of Tom, Kath, and Lynne cutting open boxes and arranging books on the tables, making order out of chaos. And then I had a pleasurable lunch (perch!) with Lesley Hall, after which we visited a store that calls its the Community Pharmacy to buy aspirin-- a pharmacy that prominently features homeopathic remedies in its window and is redolent of the scent the soaps it also sells.

On my return to the hotel and the Dealers Room, I began dispensing Aqueduct's yearly swag for authors attending. (Since I'm an Aqueduct author, I get one of these, too.) Kath made these, using beads that spell out AQUEDUCTISTA. Since Kath and Tom have the sales apparatus working just fine without me, I've been doing nothing but talk to our first visitors to the table. In one such conversation, Margaret McBride told me that she recently counted up all the books on the Tiptree lists-- winners, short list, Honor Books, and long list-- and that are almost 400-- and she's not only read all of them but own copies of most of them. That made me recall how I did that myself for the first few years, but somehow eventually fell behind...

Oh, and by the way: Karen Joy Fowler is organizing a book club for reading Tiptree winners and Honor Books. There's an ad in this year's souvenir book about it. It says that to join the Tiptree Bookclub, one needs to "send an email and tel us why you'd like to join the bookclub. You will be enrolled and given a password with which you can participate in the on-line discussion."

Now I've come upstairs to lie down a little, but I thought I might first post a few pictures. I particularly wanted to get some pictures up showing the full complement of stock on display.

Thursday at WisCon 34

Yesterday passed in a blur, I'll readily admit. We were out the door by five a.m., on our way to the airport; and I was operating on zero hours of sleep. I'm in the throes, see, of my semi-annual changing-of-the-light insomnia, which tends to fall in very late May-early June and early November. WisCon falls unusually late this year, and so I'm smack in the middle of prolonged sleep deprivation. Tired as I was, a never managed to doze on the trip yesterday (though I spent a lot of time with me eyes closed). So on arrival at the Room of One's Own reception yesterday evening, when people asked me how I was, I replied "I'm a zombie." (I was, moreover, a zombie wondering if Delta, having charged me $25 for the privilege, had lost my suitcase somewhere between Seattle and Madison. The good news was that they hadn't-- my suitcase was in my room at the Concourse when I returned there after dinner.)

I may have been a zombie, but I became a happy zombie once I arrived at Room. First thing that met my eye was a lot of Aqueduct books on display in their window. And then there were hugs and happy greetings from many and many people I hadn't seen for months, accompanied by a glass of wine and a handful of cherry tomatoes, and lots of Real Conversation with, among others, Zola, from Seattle (a first-timer at WisCon, but involved with Clarion West), and Eva F., and Ian H., and Margaret M. The wine, combined with the conversation, somehow eased my precarious hold on reality (which spending hours in airport gate areas or on planes had done nothing to support).

The reading itself was abbreviated, because only one of the GoHs, Mary Anne Mohanraj, was there to read. Nnedi Okorafor, sorry to say, got caught up in Chicago traffic delays and couldn't make it in time. Mary Anne read a story featuring cooking and sex. And as she described the character's step-by-step preparation of several dishes, Kath and I exchanged glances. We were hungry! And we would love to have eaten the meal Mary Anne's character prepared in that story. Turns out, we weren't the only ones. During the Q&A, someone asked for the recipes!

After the reading, Kath, Tom, Lynne (who designs most of Aqueduct's covers), and had dinner at one of our favorite restaurants on State Street, and then, back at the hotel, shared a bottle of Chambourcin wine Lynne had brought us from Missouri. I'd never had Chambourcin before. Very earthy, reminding me a bit of zinfandel crossed with pinot noir.

I'll stop now-- and report in later. Cynthia G. has just arrived here and given me a hug (I'm posting this from Michelangelo's), and I figure I ought to at least offer to help set up Aqueduct's table in the Dealers Room or run other errands Kath needs done this morning, especially since I have a lunch date for 12:30.

Lambda Awards

Last night, in New York City, the Lambda Foundation presented its annual awards. An Aqueduct book, Rebecca Ore's Centuries Ago and Very Fast, was on the ballot. Rebecca is in Nicaragua, and I couldn't attend, so Chip Delany kindly agreed to represent Rebecca at the awards ceremony. Rebecca's book didn't win, sorry to say. But another fine book did: Catherynne M. Valente's Palimpsest. Congratulations to Catherynne!

Here's the full list of winners:

Lesbian Fiction
A Field Guide to Deception, by Jill Malone (Bywater Books)

Gay Fiction
Lake Overturn, by Vestal McIntyre (HarperCollins)

Lesbian Debut Fiction
The Creamsickle, by Rhiannon Argo (Spinsters Ink)

Gay Debut Fiction
Blue Boy, by Rakesh Satyal (Kensington Books)

LGBT Children’s/Young Adult
Sprout, by Dale Peck (Bloomsbury USA)

Lesbian Mystery
Death of a Dying Man, by J.M. Redmann (Bold Strokes Books)

Gay Mystery
What We Remember, by Michael Thomas Ford (Kensington Books)

Lesbian Erotica
Lesbian Cowboys, edited by Sacchi Green & Rakelle Valencia (Cleis Press)

Gay Erotica
Impossible Princess, by Kevin Killian (City Lights)

Bisexual Fiction – A Tie!
Holy Communion, by Mykola Dementiuk (Synergy Press)
Love You Two, by Maria Pallotta-Chiarolli (Random House Australia)

Bisexual Nonfiction
Leaving India: My Family’s Journey From Five Villages to Five Continents, by Minal Hajratwala (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Lynnee Breedlove’s One Freak Show, by Lynn Breedlove (Manic D Press)

LGBT Anthology
Portland Queer: Tales of the Rose City, edited by Ariel Gore (Lit Star Press)

LGBT Drama
The Collected Plays Of Mart Crowley, by Mart Crowley (Alyson Books)

LGBT SF/Fantasy/Horror
Palimpsest, by Catherynne M. Valente (Bantam/Spectra Books)

Lesbian Romance
The Sublime and Spirited Voyage of Original Sin, by Colette Moody (Bold Strokes Books)

Gay Romance
Drama Queers!, by Frank Anthony Polito (Kensington Books)

Lesbian Poetry
Zero at the Bone, by Stacie Cassarino (New Issues Poetry & Prose)

Gay Poetry
Sweet Core Orchard, by Benjamin S. Grossberg (University of Tampa Press)

LGBT Studies
The Straight State: Sexuality and Citizenship in Twentieth Century America, by Margot Canaday (Princeton University Press)

LGBT Nonfiction
The Greeks and Greek Love, by James Davidson (Random House)

Lesbian Memoir/Biography
The Talented Miss Highsmith: The Secret Life and Serious Art of Patricia Highsmith, by Joan Schenkar (St. Martin’s Press)

Gay Memoir/Biography
Ardent Spirits: Leaving Home, Coming Back, by Reynolds Price (Scribner Books)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Irreclaimable vagabonds

Here I am in the midst of packing, when I get an email from Josh with a link Chip D. had sent him. And so what do I do, but drop everything to check it out. Why? It's a youtube vid that uses the voice of Virginia Woolf, reading from an essay in The Death of the Moth, an essay about words, which she characterizes as "irreclaimable vagabonds." Her voice is fuller, richer, and more textured than I'd imagined. It's only seven and a half minutes. Go watch it here.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Silent City

Over at Eve's Alexandria, Nic Clarke has posted about Elisabeth Vonarburg's The Silent City.
The overriding image I've retained from the book is of the titular City itself: a vast, gleaming sanctuary for knowledge and the knowledgeable, last bastion of civilisation in a post-apocalyptic landscape to offer "clear, clean life that knows neither rust nor rot". As is the way of such things, it is also a sterile, echoing place, whose few remaining inhabitants have, for several hundred years, barricaded themselves away from the Outside, withering into madness even as they force their bodies to stay forever young through a battery of rejuvenation treatments. With nothing left to live for except to have sex and get on each other's nerves, they still grasp - to no avail - after immortality, "the malevolent dream of the Cities".

Or else they conduct strange experiments upon the one genuinely young person left among them: curious, trusting Elisa, the last child born in the City....

Read the rest of her post here.

Is this what they mean by "progress"?

Preparing for one of my panels at WisCon, I came across this dismaying news:
Women in the USA have a higher risk of dying of pregnancy-related complications than those in 40 other countries, according to a new report, Deadly Delivery: The Maternal Health Care Crisis in the USA, by Amnesty International. And while countries around the world are fighting to reduce maternal mortality to meet Millennium Development Goal 5, maternal mortality ratios have more than doubled in the US from 1987 to 2006.

The report states: "The USA spends more than any other country on health care, and more on maternal health than any other type of hospital care. Despite this… the likelihood of a woman dying in childbirth in the USA is five times greater than in Greece, four times greater than in Germany, and three times greater than in Spain."

As Sarah Boseley writes in The Guardian, “The damning report comes in a year of unprecedented international effort to reduce the death rate among mothers in developing countries, which will include a major conference called Women Deliver in Washington in the summer. The cause has been taken up by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as well as Sarah Brown in the UK.”

When it comes to healthcare in the US, the lives of poor, uninsured, African American and Native American women are put at a much higher risk. There are severe obstacles that women in the US face when attempting to get necessary services, including: discrimination; financial, bureaucratic and language barriers to care; lack of information about maternal care and family planning options; lack of active participation in care decisions; inadequate staffing and quality protocols; and a lack of accountability and oversight.

While the report highlight the rise in maternal deaths, it also reveals that severe pregnancy-related complications that nearly cause death – known as near misses – are rising at an alarming rate as well, increasing by 25% since 1998. Currently nearly 34,000 women annually experience a "near miss" during delivery.

Read more here, including Amnesty's suggestions to the US Government for how to address this problem.

So many, many zeroes

As John Nichols at the Nation puts it, "Congressman Alan Grayson is at it again."
To make the cost of war real for working Americans, Grayson performs a simple calculus:

“Next year's budget allocates $159,000,000,000 to perpetuate the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. That's enough money to eliminate federal income taxes for the first $35,000 of every American's income. Beyond that, (it) leaves over $15 billion to cut the deficit.

“And that's what this bill does. It eliminates separate funding for the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, and eliminates federal income taxes for everyone's first $35,000 of income ($70,000 for couples). Plus it pays down the national debt.”

The congressman is betting—with good reason—that the key to opening up a real debate about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is to make real the cost of these occupations to American families.

“The costs of the war have been rendered invisible. There's no draft. Instead, we take the most vulnerable elements of our population, and give them a choice between unemployment and missile fodder. Government deficits conceal the need to pay in cash for the war,” explains Grayson, with a reference to the mounting trade deficit with China. “We put the cost of both guns and butter on our Chinese credit card. In fact, we don't even put these wars on budget; they are still passed using 'emergency supplemental'. A nine-year 'emergency.’”

If Americans recognize what they are personally paying to maintain occupations of distant lands, Grayson argues that Americans will tell Congress: “the cost of these wars is too much for us.”
There's an online public petition endorsing Grayson's measure here.

That's a lot of zeroes for destruction that benefits absolutely no one but defense contractors, defense lobbyists, and the politicians who accept campaign contributions (aka decriminalized bribes) from them.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Aqueduct Goes to WisCon-- a preview

Once again, Aqueduct will be at WisCon. Kath has packed up her station wagon with Aqueduct books and headed off on the long haul to Madison.. Tom and I will fly in on Thursday. Besides me, other Aqueduct authors attending: will be Eleanor Arnason, Suzy Charnas, Theodora Goss, Eileen Gunn, Lesley Hall, Andrea Hairston, Ellen Klages, Claire Light, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Nancy Jane Moore, Nnedi Okorafor, Nisi Shawl, and Rachel Swirsky. In addition, some of the members of our blog who aren't authors will be attending, as well. Aqueduct will be in the Dealers Room beginning early Friday afternoon. Come and see us and admire our fabulous list of-- can you believe it?-- 51 titles. Our new titles will include Tomb of the Fathers by Eleanor Arnason, The WisCon Chronicles Vol.4 ed. Sylvia Kelso, Without a Map (a numbered, limited-edition chapbook) by Guests of Honor Mary Anne Mohanraj and Nnedi Okorafor, and the first two volumes of our shiny new Heirloom Books series, It Walks in Beauty: Selected Prose of Chandler Davis ed. Josh Lukin and Dorothea Dreams by Suzy McKee Charnas with an introduction by Delia Sherman. Tomb of the Fathers is available now through our website; the rest will be available after WisCon.

As I did last year, I'm posting here a list of most of the programming Aqueduct's writers and blog members will be doing. Without even seeing the full schedule, you'll note a lot of potentially great programming is in conflict. (I was sorry to see that according to the full schedule, the panel I'm on discussing 17th-century fantastical fiction by women has been placed opposite a paper Nancy Johnston is giving on one of those very 17th-century works.)

Although no Aqueductista made it onto the panel, let me draw your attention to this one, on Sunday afternoon:

The Interrelationship Between Feminist SF and Feminist Science 1:00 PM - 2:15 PM Room 623
In Chapter 7 ("Another Science 'Fiction'? Feminist Stories of Science") of her book The Secret Feminist Cabal, Helen Merrick writes, "Feminists should listen for and take seriously the stories about science told in feminist sf texts, which envisage social, cultural, and discursive formations that allow new narratives of gender, feminisms, and the sciences." Merrick draws on the work of Donna Haraway and on feminist SF criticism to look at ways feminist SF can help disrupt current narratives of science. Can feminist SF have an effect on how science is done and interpreted in modern society?
M: Ann Crimmins. Jacquelyn Gill, Susan Marie Groppi, Katherine Mankiller, Phoebe Wray

Oh, & I also want to draw special attention to the Aqueduct Reading, because it straddles two time slots-- it starts at 9 am (ouch!) & runs to 11: 15. This is unusual for WisCon, so please take note!


6:00 Reception and reading at Room of One's Own-- Nnedi and Mary Anne will be giving short readings, & everyone present will be celebrating the beginning of another WisCon


Writers' Workshop—Andrea Hairston
Fri 9:00AM - 12:00PM Conf 4
Writers' Workshop—Ellen Klages
Fri 9:00AM - 12:00PM Room 629

Carl Brandon Society Party, Fri 8:45 PM - Sat 3:00 AM IN 607

Get-together for readers and writers of color and their friends—a chance to talk about and share news regarding race, ethnicity and speculative literature. Grooving to a people of color in SF playlist, crown-making, talking, C-52s, drawings for Parallax and Kindred Award–winning books every half–hour, and a grand prize at the end of the party! People can also sign up for or renew their memberships in the Carl Brandon Society.

Class Basics 9PM-10:15 PM Assembly

Of all the "isms" and oppressions in the United States, class is one of the least explored and least understood, and yet having an understanding of how class issues affect people here and around the world is vital. As with race, ability, and other issues, it is not the job of people who grew up dealing with class barriers to educate the rest of us, but sometimes we find folks who are generous enough to give their time to teaching. If you feel like you don't know enough about class, classism, and how class background and class privilege inform the world around you, come join us. Serious information, given with patience and humor.
M: Debbie Notkin. Nisi Shawl, Jennifer K. Stevenson, Chris Wrdnrd

Feminism, Craftswomen and Art 10:30 PM-11:45 PM Assembly

There is a long history of feminism, craft and art by women. Women have always had societal, internal and external forces to deal with in relation to their work, both creatively and economically. The panel will discuss this in the context of the panelists' work, alluding to the historical context. "I have all these anxieties about not being a 'real' artist, and how I shouldn't steal time from writing to 'waste' it on just crafts...And then, on the other hand, I have these weirdly angry rebellious thoughts in my head."—Mary Anne Mohanraj
M: Laurie Toby Edison. Elise Matthesen, Mary Anne Mohanraj


Race Basics 10AM-11:15 AM Assembly

You'll often hear in conversations about race that people should educate themselves, and it isn't the job of people of color to be educators. This is 100% true, but sometimes people of color are generous enough to do some education even if it isn't their job. Many people who participate in conversations about race at WisCon are well–read in the subject and have spent a lot of time thinking and talking about it. In this context, especially with a highly–charged topic, it's easy to feel like your best choice is to sit back and listen (which is often a great choice) or just to go to some other panel (and there are lots of great panels out there). If you would appreciate some grounding in how WisCon folks tend to approach the topic, and some guidance for people who haven't participated in these conversations much, this is the panel for you. Serious information, given with patience and humor.
M: Debbie Notkin. MJ Hardman, Nabil/nadyalec, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Neesha Meminger

The Craft of Writing YA 10AM-11:15 AM Wisconsin

What demands of craft are particular to the YA genre? What experiences are YA readers looking for and what pitfalls should writers new to YA avoid?
M: Ellen Klages. Sharyn November, Sarah B. Prineas, Derek Molata, Karen Elizabeth Healey The Craft of Writing YA

The Politics of Steampunk 10AM-11:15 AM Capitol A
Steampunk fetishes Victorian science. Gadgets are fun, and the spirit of amateur scientific inquiry invigorates the questioning mind. But Victorian science was often pressed into service enforcing the boundaries of sexism, racism, and classism. Can we as a community claim the dress and symbols of upper–class, white Victorian society but incorporate our progressive politics? Is there a way to subvert the steampunk paradigm? What about the chambermaid chemist in the coal cellar?
M: Liz L. Gorinsky. Nisi Shawl, Amal El-Mohtar, Theodora Goss, Piglet, Jaymee Goh
The Cultural Construction of Sexuality Sat, 4:00–5:15 pm Assembly

The Mad Seer, the Holy Fool, and the God–Touched 10AM-11:15 AM Room 623

Mental illness is not always framed as a medical problem: Visions, hearing voices, and altered perception can be interpreted as signs of spiritual power. From the Firefly/Serenity character River to Tiptree's story "Your Faces, O My Sisters! Your Faces Filled of Light!" to Watts' entire crew in Blindsight, SFnal characters often exhibit diagnosable behaviors. Do these characters help us understand living with mental illness? Are they role models or stereotypes? Do their impairments function as narrative shortcuts, permitting their authors "they're just craaaaaazy" non–resolutions?
M: The Rotund. Suzy Charnas, Robyn Fleming, JoSelle Vanderhooft

Left of Center Science Fiction & Fantasy 1PM-2:15 PM Wisconsin

What are the left of center SF/F books, authors, trends?
M: Eleanor A. Arnason. Liz L. Gorinsky, James Frenkel, Eileen Gunn, Jef a. Smith

Carl Brandon Society Luncheon, Sat 11:45 AM in Concourse Lobby
Nisi Shawl, Claire Light, Candra K. Gill, Victor J. Raymond

Members, supporters, and those interested in learning more about CBS awards, scholarships, and other programs meet for an informal lunch.


Back for a second go–round, by popular demand! Writers of color working in F/SF face unique challenges, it's true. But, at the end of the day, being a "person of color" is only one aspect of what makes up our identities as writers and, while it's very flattering to asked to be on panels, most of these panels never crack the ceiling of Race 101. With that in mind, wouldn't it be nice for multiple writers of color to sit on a panel that isn't about race at all? Here's our chance to do just that. So, what are we gonna talk about, instead? Practically anything! Presented in game show format, REVENGE OF NOT ANOTHER F*CKING RACE PANEL brings together writers of color to get their geek on about any number of pop culture topics—none of them race related.
M: Julia/Sparkymonster. Amal El-Mohtar, Andrea D. Hairston, Cecilia Tan, Shveta Thakrar, Yoon Ha Lee

Tortured Families 1PM-2:15 PM Conference 2

Mad scientist's daughters, dysfunctional pagans, angry ghosts, and abandoned androids.
Theodora Goss, Haddayr Copley-Woods, M Rickert, Benjamin Rosenbaum

Guest of Honor Reading: Mary Anne Mohanraj 2:30-3:45 PM Capitol B

Mary Anne Mohanraj

The Cultural Construction of Sexuality 4:00 PM - 5:15 PM Assembly

Much of what humans find sexy is culturally constructed, and of course there's a very broad range of things different humans find exciting (e.g., not all cultures eroticize breasts, nor, of course, do all individuals within a culture that does). So when you're writing about the sexuality of any being from a culture other than those of Earth of the present or past (e.g., aliens, robots, elves, humans from a fantasy realm, etc.), how do you consider the impact of society on sexuality, in addition to biological concerns? And what are examples of works that do this well?
Moderator: Trisha J. Wooldridge. Kate Bachus, Alan Bostick, Joyce Frohn, Anna Black, Lesley Hall

The Big Fear: Genre Fiction as a Reflection on Society 4:00 PM - 5:15 PM Wisconsin

What does the threat or conflict implicit in a work of fiction say about the society that made it? In the 1940s, books like George Orwell's 1984 and George Stewart's Earth Abides were examples of fears of a totalitarian dystopia and the end of civilization respectively. John Brunner's Stand on Zanzibar is an example of the fear of overpopulation present in many works of 1970s fiction. What are the cultural boogeymen of today? What will the big fear be 20, 50, 100 years from now?
M: Vito Excalibur. Chip Hitchcock, Georgie L. Schnobrich, Rich McAllister, Eileen Gunn

Different and Equal Together/Camouflage and Gender 4:00 PM - 5:15 PM Conference 3

1) Different and Equal Together: SF Satire in District 9 (Andrea Hairston) Lurking behind the biting SF satire District 9 is the troubling question of postcolonial age: how can we be different together? In this militantly ironic film, characters are, no matter race, gender, or ethnicity, equally guilty of horrific disdain for any "alien" life. Successful irony requires familiarity with the subject of the satire. If the satire in District 9 does not bounce off of an audience's knowledge of Nigerian culture and history, how do we read Nigerian savagery? Is District 9 caught in the colonial impulse it is trying to disrupt? 2) Camouflage and Gender: Disrupting Human Normality (Anne Flammang) Camouflage disrupts boundaries between what is and is not human, as Cylons do in Battlestar Galactica and as Andy Warhol did in his camouflage series. These examples raise the question of legibility, pertinent for military women, who are not read as women and cannot be read as men. Camouflage masks military women's ambiguous gender, permitting them to succeed. Yet camouflage also opens a fantasy realm, where women's alterity dislocates them but also offers the promise of recognition, thus challenging the military’s definitions of gender.
Andrea D. Hairston, Anne Flammang

6 Feet Long With Spikes: What Makes a Good Writer's Group? 4:00 PM - 5:15 PM Conference 4
Do deadlines help? What about rules? What do you do about the clueless or really bad writer in your group? How can an only POC or woman keep from being "the spokesperson"? What do you do when members don't realize or won't admit how sexist or racist they are?
M: Jennifer Pelland. Margaret Ronald, Ada Milenkovic Brown, Rachel Virginia Swirsky, Karin Lowachee, Derek Molata

Surveillance and Privacy: Big Brother vs. Little Brother 10:30 PM - 11:45 PM Assembly
More and more, our world is being captured by a surveillance camera, our internet usage is archived, monitored and mined. Orwell's 1984 is an important early SF work and Cory Doctorow's recent Little Brother YA novel deals with these issues from a modern teen's perspective. Just what is at stake here? How does this trend impact our lives, liberty, and work for social justice? Are there books, TV shows, and movies that use these elements as plot devices without exploring their possible problems (e.g., the TV show Torchwood is fond of using CCTV to accomplish their goals)?
M: Eileen Gunn. Deb Stone, Talks-with-wind, Bill "whump" Humphries

Lightspeed Magazine Launch Event 10:30 PM - 11:45 PM Conference 2

Join us to celebrate the launch of Lightspeed Magazine (, a new online science fiction magazine published by Prime Books (publisher of Fantasy Magazine). Lightspeed editors John Joseph Adams and Andrea Kail, along with publisher Sean Wallace, will be on hand to discuss this exciting new venture, and will present readings by the authors.
Alice Sola Kim, Genevieve Valentine, Vylar Kaftan, Cat T. Rambo, John Joseph Adams

Internet Publishing: The Graduate Seminar 10:30 PM - 11:45 PM Conference 3

Authors who have been selling fiction directly to the public via the Internet talk about their experience: start–up learning curve, teamwork, the role of volunteers, working the social network, staying sane and writing through it all.
M: Nancy Jane Moore. LaShawn M. Wanak, Jordan Castillo Price


A Path to Ending Women's Fear of Men 8:30 AM - 9:45 AM Senate A
There is nothing more transgressive against patriarchal society than women who are not afraid of men. Using the woman warrior of fiction and the experience of women martial artists and members of the military, this presentation will look at how to dismantle the fear that has kept women in check throughout history, offering positive solutions for both individuals and society as a whole. While issues related to violence and the physical ability to fight will be discussed, they will not be the primary focus of the presentation, which is intended to expand the concept of warriorship.
Nancy Jane Moore

Aqueduct Press Reading 9 AM-11:15 AM Conference 2

Reading by Aqueduct Press authors. And Nisi also does her Michael Jackson impersonation.
Suzy Charnas, Andrea D. Hairston, Eleanor A. Arnason, Nisi Shawl, Claire Light, Timmi Duchamp

Must Pleasures Be Guilty? (Sun, 10:00–11:15 am Capitol A

Moderator: Vito Excalibur. Lesley Hall, Sumana Harihareswara, John O'Neill, Sonya Taaffe

Why are we ashamed of the books we love? Critical acclaim recognizes some SF/F as serious literature, works one might recommend to a non–genre reader who thought it was all talking squid and ray–guns in space, to demonstrate what the genre can do. But are these the books you love and reread over and over again, especially when feeling low? And if not, why not? What is the difference between love and admiration? And why is pleasure so often constructed as "guilty" or embarrassing to admit?

Must Pleasures Be Guilty? 10:00–11:15AM Capitol A

Why are we ashamed of the books we love? Critical acclaim recognizes some SF/F as serious literature, works one might recommend to a non–genre reader who thought it was all talking squid and ray–guns in space, to demonstrate what the genre can do. But are these the books you love and reread over and over again, especially when feeling low? And if not, why not? What is the difference between love and admiration? And why is pleasure so often constructed as "guilty" or embarrassing to admit?
Moderator: Vito Excalibur. Lesley Hall, Sumana Harihareswara, John O'Neill, Sonya Taaffe

Once Upon a Time 1:00 PM - 2:15 PM Senate A

Pro writers use the card game "Once Upon a Time" to tell half–baked fairy tales for laughs. Find out what happens when four panelists play tug–of–war on a story, trying to bend it towards wildly different endings.
M: Vylar Kaftan. Sumana Harihareswara, Richard Chwedyk, Ellen Klages, Terry Bisson

Privilege and Discussion Dynamics: How We Talk, How We Listen, and How Who We Are Changes Things 1:00 PM - 2:15 PM Wisconsin

Just what is a "productive" discussion? Gender, race, sexuality, and culture all factor into interpretations and misinterpretations of what has really been said. How does privilege disrupt an open dialogue? How can we converse with each other in producing useful knowledge about topics that are controversial?
M: Michelle Kendall. Alan Bostick, Eileen Gunn, Andrea D. Hairston, N. K. Jemisin

Guest of Honor Reading: Nnedi Okorafor 1:00 PM - 2:15 PM Capitol B
Nnedi Okorafor

Book View Cafe 1:00 PM - 2:15 PM Vilas (Inn on the Park)
Latest work from the famous online collective's authors.
Jennifer K. Stevenson, Madeleine Robins, Lori Devoti, Anne Harris, Nancy Jane Moore

Writing the Other: Shout–Outs 2:30 PM - 3:45 PM Assembly
Fail is not the topic of this panel; instead, we want to hear about where you feel like your group was well represented in fiction by someone from outside it. This panel is the carrot, not the stick!
M: Nisi Shawl. Moondancer Drake, K. Tempest Bradford, Nabil/nadyalec, Michelle Kendall

Wild Women of the 17th century! 2:30 PM - 3:45 PM Capitol A

Have you heard about proto–SF writer Margaret Cavendish, whose Blazing World was borrowed in a recent comic book? Catalina de Erauso, Spanish nun turned New World Freebooter? The dangerous, treasonous, terribly helpful Duchesse de Chevreuse? The Roaring Girls? The Chinese women scholars who brazenly got published when they ought to have lived life unheard and unseen? And more. Own your history: it's titillating.
M: Georgie L. Schnobrich. Rush-That-Speaks, Timmi Duchamp, Ariel Franklin-Hudson, Jenny E. Nilsson

Dissecting the Language of Fail 2:30 PM - 3:45 PM Capitol B
Difficult conversations often go bad in similar, predictable ways. What do you say in response to "I'm sorry if you were offended"? This program item will use one or two public writings (such as blog posts) as texts for panelists and audience members alike to workshop together to identify fail language, dissect it to see how it works, and formulate follow–up responses.
M: Jess Adams. Maevele Straw, Chris Wrdnrd, MJ Hardman, Mary Anne Mohanraj

Back to the Future; or, Does Distance Lend Enchantment to the View? 2:30 PM - 3:45 PM Conference 5

Looking back, the 70s and 80s seem a halcyon age of feminist, or feminist–influenced, SF/F that was deliberately attentive to various issues of diversity, including relationship possibilities. Much of it seems to have fallen from view. Have things gone backwards since then? Or is this a selective view based on remembered books and stories that stood out from a morass of very different works? Would what seemed radical then now seem badly dated, less inclusive, and more tokenistic than they probably intended, or do these works still hold up? What works from 20–40 years ago deserve to be remembered or have been unjustly forgotten?
M: Karen Babich. Sandra McDonald, Chip Hitchcock, Lesley Hall, Amy Thomson

Moving to Small Press Publishing 2:30 PM - 3:45 PM Room 634

What are the arguments for writers moving to small presses? Are small presses becoming more important in SF/F? Why do people start small presses?
M: Cliff Winnig. Kimberley Long-Ewing, Catherine Lundoff, Eleanor A. Arnason

Take Back the Sci–Fi: Redux 4:00 PM - 5:15 PM Caucus

Sexual assault and rape frequently get used as symbolic plot devices, with no consideration of how sexual violence actually affects survivors and the people around them. Let's discuss books that accurately portray the repercussions of and recovery from sexual assault, as well as those that merely use it as a shortcut to character development and those that end up glorifying it in the process—and how we can write about sexual assault and rape in a way that is true to the character and respectful to survivors. Note: this is a discussion of rape and sexual assault in fiction, and is not the place to discuss our personal experience with sexual assault.
M: Shira Lipkin. Michelle Kendall, K. Tempest Bradford, Rachel Virginia Swirsky

Facebook and Its Discontents 4:00 PM - 5:15 PM Senate B

Have your friends abandoned their blogs and Live Journals for Facebook? How does writing on our friends' walls differ from commenting on their posts? How do you navigate privacy on a system that forbids anonymity? Is "liking" someones update the same as commenting "This!"
M: Cat T. Rambo. Kater Cheek, Penny Hill, Sumana Harihareswara, Alena McNamara

Desert Dames 4:00 PM - 5:15 PM Conference 2

Words! Sentences! Paragraphs! Time travel! Chocolate! Dessert in the desert! Dry wit, salty expression, and far fewer exclamation points than we have used in this description! Free dessert with every dame!
Terry Bisson, Karen Joy Fowler, Pat Murphy, Eileen Gunn, Carol F. Emshwiller

Research: UR Doin It Rong 4:00–5:15PM Conference 3

Why is the process of research depicted as more linear and leading directly to The Answer than any actual researcher knows it to be? Desire for narrative economy aside, it would still be nice to see the slog, the dead–end paths pursued, the startling revelation uncovered when looking for something entirely different. Why not a Book Of Knowledge that has to be painstakingly reconstructed (and disagreed about) from partial copies and out of context quotations, rather than found in its entirety? Which authors are the praiseworthy exceptions who get it right?
Moderator: Jim Leinweber. Alma Alexander, Lesley Hall, Madeleine Robins

Is Science Fiction Keeping Up with Science? 4:00 PM - 5:15 PM Conference 4
Are we as Science Fiction writers keeping up with science or are we only following older models of science fiction? Can we have space travel without instant FTL?
M: Liz L. Gorinsky. Eleanor A. Arnason, Joyce Frohn, Mary Robinette Kowal

PARTY!!! Eleanor Arnason Publication Party 9PM-Midnight Room 634
A publication party for Tomb of the Fathers, a novel authored by Eleanor Arnason and published by Aqueduct Press, and "Mammoths of the Great Plains," a chapbook authored by Eleanor Arnason and published by PM Press.
The party is being co-hosted by Aqueduct Press and PM Press. Y'all are invited!


Lady Poetesses From Hell/SFPA Poetry Slam!
The Lady Poetesses read their mostly unladylike (but usually tasteful) work aloud. This year they would like to honor the memory of Camilla (Mog) Decarnin, poet, editor, and fanfic/slash writer. Mog very recently passed away. The Lady Poetesses will be joined by members of the SFPA, who will discuss speculative poetry and read their new work, published and unpublished.
Terry A. Garey, Ellen Klages, Sandra J. Lindow, Elise Matthesen, F. J. Bergmann, Rebecca Marjesdatter, Rez

Working On The Plan For Reducing Global Levels Of Machismo 10:00 - 11:15AM Room 634

In her acceptance speech for the SFRA's Pilgrim Award, Gwyneth Jones characterized her particular form of feminism as "her plan for reducing global levels of machismo." Our whole culture, she said, "...could stand to be a little less masculine. Could stand a strong infusion of the values designated as 'weak and 'feminine'—negotiations above conflict, empathy above self–interest, and all the rest of that repertoire." But, as she noted elsewhere, we are living in a sort of perpetual wartime, dominated by masculinism and machismo, presumably the reason she calls this form of feminism "awkward." Clearly a change in administration in the US has done nothing to mitigate this culture. Is there any hope for this "awkward" kind of feminism in the near future? Or is machismo here to stay?

Religion and Science: Can't We All Just Get Along? 10:00 - 11:15AM in Senate A

Defining how the world works is power. Religion has held that power for millennia. In the last few centuries, science has become a powerful tool for this purpose. Now some use science to explain atheism, while others try to scientifically "prove" their faith is the one true way. Conflict between religion and science adds to and is at the root of some of the most bitterly divisive political issues of our time—but is it really either/or? Are there ways to approach spirituality and science such that they are not mutually exclusive? Can faith and science inform each other? SF/F literature offers cautionary tales and explorations of this conflict—does it offer any useful examples of peaceful, productive coexistence?
Nisi Shawl (M), Darrah Chavey, Gayle, Elena Tabachnick

Mon 11:30AM - 12:45PM Capitol/Wisconsin

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Libertarian Mob? Is That What They Are?

There's an article in the current New York Review of Books, The Tea Party Jacobins by Mark Lilla, that offers a very different explanation from my own for what drives the "Tea Party movement" (viz., that it's driven by covert but powerful racism):
Many Americans, a vocal and varied segment of the public at large, have now convinced themselves that educated elites—politicians, bureaucrats, reporters, but also doctors, scientists, even schoolteachers—are controlling our lives. And they want them to stop. They say they are tired of being told what counts as news or what they should think about global warming; tired of being told what their children should be taught, how much of their paychecks they get to keep, whether to insure themselves, which medicines they can have, where they can build their homes, which guns they can buy, when they have to wear seatbelts and helmets, whether they can talk on the phone while driving, which foods they can eat, how much soda they can drink…the list is long. But it is not a list of political grievances in the conventional sense.

Historically, populist movements use the rhetoric of class solidarity to seize political power so that “the people” can exercise it for their common benefit. American populist rhetoric does something altogether different today. It fires up emotions by appealing to individual opinion, individual autonomy, and individual choice, all in the service of neutralizing, not using, political power. It gives voice to those who feel they are being bullied, but this voice has only one, Garbo-like thing to say: I want to be left alone.

A new strain of populism is metastasizing before our eyes, nourished by the same libertarian impulses that have unsettled American society for half a century now. Anarchistic like the Sixties, selfish like the Eighties, contradicting neither, it is estranged, aimless, and as juvenile as our new century. It appeals to petulant individuals convinced that they can do everything themselves if they are only left alone, and that others are conspiring to keep them from doing just that. This is the one threat that will bring Americans into the streets.

Welcome to the politics of the libertarian mob.
He admits in a footnote that Tea Baggers are not typical middle-Americans but are "in fact...overwhelmingly white, older, educated, and with higher-than avergae incomes," which rather belies his assumption that the Tea Baggers speak for very many people other than themselves.

Further, Lilla sees distrust in government institutions as something quite different than I do (i.e., as the handmaiden of capitalism & its most exclusive elite) and not even necessarily peculiar to the US:
Survey after survey confirms that trust in government is dissolving in all advanced democratic societies, and for the same reason: as voters have become more autonomous, less attracted to parties and familiar ideologies, it has become harder for political institutions to represent them collectively. This is not a peculiarity of the United States and no one party or scandal is to blame. Representative democracy is a tricky system; it must first give citizens voice as individuals, and then echo their collective voice back to them in policies they approve of. That is getting harder today because the mediating ideas and institutions we have traditionally relied on to make this work are collapsing.
Given Sarah Palin's proclamation that "We are all Arizonans," I'm puzzled that Lilla claims that "The new American populism is not, by and large, directed against immigrants."

I do, however, think he's right on the nose about the media's role in fostering the "Tea Party movement":
The right-wing demagogues at Fox do what demagogues have always done: they scare the living daylights out of people by identifying a hidden enemy, then flatter them until they believe they have only one champion—the demagogue himself. But unlike demagogues past, who appealed over the heads of individuals to the collective interests of a class, Fox and its wildly popular allies on talk radio and conservative websites have at their disposal technology that is perfectly adapted to a nation of cocksure individualists who want to be addressed and heard directly, without mediation, and without having to leave the comforts of home.

The media counterestablishment of the right gives them that. It offers an ersatz system of direct representation in which an increasingly segmented audience absorbs what it wants from its trusted sources, embellishes it in their own voices on blogs and websites and chatrooms, then hears their views echoed back as “news.” While this system doesn’t threaten our system of representative democracy, it certainly makes it harder for it to function well and regain the public’s trust.

The conservative media did not create the Tea Party movement and do not direct it; nobody does. But the movement’s rapid growth and popularity are unthinkable without the demagogues’ new ability to tell isolated individuals worried about their futures what they want to hear and put them in direct contact with one another, bypassing the parties and other mediating institutions our democracy depends on. When the new Jacobins turn on their televisions they do not tune in to the PBS News Hour or C-Span to hear economists and congressmen debate the effectiveness of financial regulations or health care reform. They look for shows that laud their common sense, then recite to them the libertarian credo that Fox emblazons on its home page nearly every day: YOU DECIDE.
I also think he's fabulously spot-on with this:
Today’s conservatives prefer the company of anti-intellectuals who know how to exploit nonintellectuals, as Sarah Palin does so masterfully.16 The dumbing-down they have long lamented in our schools they are now bringing to our politics, and they will drag everyone and everything along with them. As David Frum, one of the remaining lucid conservatives, has written to his wayward comrades, “When you argue stupid, you campaign stupid. When you campaign stupid, you win stupid. And when you win stupid, you govern stupid.” (Unsurprisingly, Frum was recently eased out of his position at the American Enterprise Institute after expressing criticism of Republican tactics in the health care debate.)

ETA: The distrust of "educated elites" (politicians, bureaucrats, doctors, lawyers, even school-teachers) has for as long as I've known it been a standard feature of working class ethos in the US. The attitude was a fixture of my childhood. (NO ONE with a college education could be trusted-- which made things a bit tricky when I not only acquired one, but took a future professor as my life partner.) So are we to assume that this attitude has percolated up, into the mainstream, educated classes?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Aqueduct Gazette: the Spring 2010 issue

The online edition of the Spring 2010 Aqueduct Gazette is now available as a PDF download here. In this issue,

*Nisi Shawl, in "Written on the Water," considers how differently she now reads the books that were a big influence on her life. She notes
Rereading is always, to me, rewriting. As I reread the texts I love, those that are dear to me, their words spill away from me into new meanings, filling up the fresh impressions I have left on the world by making my way through it. The hollow places and questions and emptinesses I have come upon in my continuing explorations open to receive thoughts that were always waiting to occur.
*Issue editor Paige Clifton-Steele interviews Helen Merrick, asking her questions such as "In the beginning of your book [The Secret Feminist Cabal], you immediately identify yourself as a fan among fans. Do you think it's important that works like this should be written by people who claim that title?" and "Donna Haraway cautions against viewing the cyborg as a product of technophilia, specifically, 'for example, those who relegate the cyborg to an odd, attenuated kind of technophilic euphoria.' But I think a lot of people come to sf in childhood, and embrace it prior to any understanding, out of something that looks a lot like a technophilic ("gee-whiz!") impulse. Is there some contradiction buried here? Can that impulse be trusted to serve greater purposes sometimes?" She also asks Helen to talk about her experience as a Tiptree juror.

*Paige Clifton-Steele, in "Henrietta's Afterlife: Octavia Butler and the HeLa Cell Culture," reads Octavia Butler's Xenogenesis Cycle by way of the case of Henrietta Lacks, an African American woman from whose cervical cancer cells originated the first immortal cell tissue line, HeLa:
Long after her death, her extracted cancer cells continued to divide. They are still dividing in hundreds of labs all over the world. Henrietta Lacks became, in death, "the first immortal human cells ever grown in a laboratory."

Those cells, in turn, were reproduced on a massive scale during the search for a polio vaccine, and have since figured in the development of treatments for countless diseases and the answers to other scientific questions. However, white doctors took the cells from Lacks without her knowledge, and her children have had no say in how they were used....

....Lacks' son consented to an autopsy based on the suggestion that any results might medically benefit her descendants. Since then the world over has seen the benefit of HeLa; she has a wealth of spiritual descendants. It's her real descendants for whom the benefits have been scarce. Most of them live without health insurance. None of them have ever been included in the profits that are made off of HeLa cells....
*And of course the issue offers plenty of news about Aqueduct Press books, current and forthcoming.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Today at Strange Horizons

Strange Horizons has just posted an interview of Nnedi Okorafor, one of WisCon's GoHs this year, as well as my review of Holly Black's new collection, The Poison Eaters. Check them out!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Rachel Swirsky's Through the Drowsy Dark

Now that we're in the run-up to WisCon, the books Aqueduct will be launching at WisCon are starting to arrive here from the printer. The latest is Rachel Swirsky's Through the Drowsy Dark: Short Fiction & Poetry, the 27th volume of our Conversation Pieces series, now available through Aqueduct's website.

Through the Drowsy Dark collects ten stories and nine poems by Nebula-, Locus- and Hugo-Award nominee Rachel Swirsky, “a terrific writer who’s been making a name for herself with a string of intelligent, perceptive stories,” as critic Jonathan Strahan characterizes her. In Through the Drowsy Dark, Swirsky’s characters struggle with too much and too little emotional control, with heartbreak, with grief that has gone deep underground; they search for nothingness, for difference, for oneness. One commits a terrible crime because she believes it’s the moral thing to do, while another digs up a dead dog because the very thought of kissing it on the lips makes her clitoris throb. Swirsky’s explorations of the heart and mind are fearless—and dangerous fictions indeed.

You can buy a copy now, here.

Friday, May 14, 2010

A handful of links

--Two excellent and at several points fascinating posts at zunguzungu dissect Christopher Hitchens' manly, Western outrage that any woman would dare conceal her face from the male gaze. The Soul of Mark Zuckerberg: What DuBois can tell us about Facebook observes that privacy means something very different to people lacking power:
Just as Hitchens never has to worry about Muslim women telling him what not to wear, neither need the owner of facebook ever need to worry about being surveilled against his interest or will, or of it mattering much if he is. Knowledge is power not in a Friedman-esque globalization-will-democratize-the-world kind of way, where opening up barriers makes us all the same, but in a much more Foucaultian sense: when you have power, knowledge is the medium through which you exert it (including the ability to believe what you want and make it authoritative). Knowledge without power is forgotten, ignored, and impotent while power without knowledge just creates new “knowledge” (as in Hitchens’ ability to know whatever he needs to know about Muslim women). But since powerful white men can experience that power through their singular and unambiguous identity — and since white privilege is about enjoying the benefits of being the default category without having to do anything to claim it — the sight of people whose identities limit and subordinate them exerting control over those identities becomes a threat, a limit that has to be vaulted over. What Muslim women hid, Hitchens will demand his right to see. And what you make private, Facebook will monetize.
And Feminism and the power to be (un)recognized looks at the veiling issue via Lila Abu-Lughod's analysis, Michael Kimmel's comments on the aggressive, humiliating male (frat) gaze at Duke University and the arrogant male gaze his mother endured in 1970 at Yale, and Leila Ahmed's discussion of the history of the Western narrative of women in Islam.

--At the Angry Black Woman, unusualmusic links to The NYPD Tapes: Inside Bed-Stuy's 81st Precinct. Imagine, a police officer recorded hundreds of hours of his life as an on-duty police officer; the tapes reveal, among other things, bosses requiring patrol cops to write a daily quota of petty tickets for minor nuisance offenses and pressuring victims of crime to withdraw their complaints or mis-report the incident altogether, to report, for instance, a violent robbery as "lost property." Fascinating and infuriating. I tried listening to the tapes, but it's tough for someone not from New York. Native New Yorkers are a whole lot harder to understand than, say, Cajuns. (Guess they couldn't teach K-12 English in Arizona, either.)

--At Knowledge Problem, Michael Giberson reports on a paper by threeUniversity of Massachesetts researches detailing
the overwhelming influence of anecdotal information in decision making, even less-than-adequate anecdotes presented alongside directly relevant and authoritative statistical information. The research also looks at two strategies that mitigate some of the influence of anecdotal bias, priming a more “scientific” outlook and encouraging counterargument.
(Link thanks to Cheryl Morgan.) From which I conclude that for humans, emotion trumps reason-- even, it seems, when accounting and audits are concerned.

At the Nation, Sharon Lerner notes that in the US, (a) the gender wage gap is no longer shrinking; (b) "women, in aggregate, are running up against the limits of what they can achieve given the lack of institutional and public support for families. Whether we are experiencing a major collective hiccup in our march toward gender equality or are headed for an inglorious mass landing, the shift in our trajectory has to be seen as a reflection of a lack of policies that would make the combination of work and caretaking feasible"; and (c) "International data suggest that no population can sustain such double duty, i.e., high levels of both fertility and women’s employment, for long without infrastructure to support working women. That helps explain why the fertility rates have been dropping in so many countries as women enter the workforce en masse—and why so many of these countries have tried to combat the problem by increasing the availability of things like childcare and flextime work. So how do we do it? Partly the answer lies in the fact that working mothers in the U.S. sleep a mere six hours a night on average. Our depression rates are high, our free time almost nonexistent. That is to say, we’re doing it, but we’re miserable."

--At Torque Control, Niall Harrison rereads Joanna Russ's "The Second Inquisition"

--On his blog, Frederik Pohl reveals that when he was the editor of Galaxy, he asked Robert Heinlein to decide whether or not to run a review of Stranger in a Strange Land that Algis Budrys had written:
If there was one thing I knew about Heinlein it was that he was almost pathologically protective of his privacy — had threatened to sue people who invaded it — and, I was pretty sure, would take a dim view of some of AJ’s quite perceptive remarks. So there was a dilemma. I didn’t want to deprive AJ of an audience for a piece of good, hard work. I also didn’t want to get Robert mad at me. I stewed over the problem for a while, finally decided to leave the decision up to Robert himself and shipped off a copy of the review to him, pleased with myself for having solved the problem.
Heinlein got upset with the review, so it didn't run. Did editors used to do that often, I wonder-- let the authors of the books under review decide whether the reviews should run? Or are we to understand that Heinlein was so special he rated kid-glove treatment?

--And finally Google, having been challenged by Germany's data protection authority, has admitted that once again it's messed up in a big way, collecting private data through unsecured WiFi networks without the owners' permission or knowledge-- via a programming error from 2006.

Oh, and a reminder-- if you missed Kristin's comment-- Molly Gloss's paper, Desperado, is online at Serving House: A Journal of Literary Arts.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

January: the US's new month for tax hell

Are you ready for this, my fellow writers and artists?

Neil deMause reports for CNN
An all-but-overlooked provision of the health reform law is threatening to swamp U.S. businesses with a flood of new tax paperwork.

Section 9006 of the health care bill -- just a few lines buried in the 2,409-page document -- mandates that beginning in 2012 all companies will have to issue 1099 tax forms not just to contract workers but to any individual or corporation from which they buy more than $600 in goods or services in a tax year.

The stealth change radically alters the nature of 1099s and means businesses will have to issue millions of new tax documents each year.

Right now, the IRS Form 1099 is used to document income for individual workers other than wages and salaries. Freelancers receive them each year from their clients, and businesses issue them to the independent contractors they hire.

But under the new rules, if a freelance designer buys a new iMac from the Apple Store, they'll have to send Apple a 1099. A laundromat that buys soap each week from a local distributor will have to send the supplier a 1099 at the end of the year tallying up their purchases.

The bill makes two key changes to how 1099s are used. First, it expands their scope by using them to track payments not only for services but also for tangible goods. Plus, it requires that 1099s be issued not just to individuals, but also to corporations.

Taken together, the two seemingly small changes will require millions of additional forms to be sent out.

"It's a pretty heavy administrative burden," particularly for small businesses without large in-house accounting staffs, says Bill Rys, tax counsel for the National Federation of Independent Businesses.
The article explains that this is an ingenious new means for Congress to raise revenue without raising taxes. And of course that makes sense, since in case you don't realize it, purchasing 1099s from the government is not cheap. We've been sending them out to our authors and artists every January. But now it looks like we'll have to be sending them out to our printers, everyone we buy supplies from, virtually everyone we do business with. (Does that include the USPS, I wonder? I guess it must.) Pretty weird, hunh? And for all the writers reading this: if you're claiming your travel expenses to WisCon, you'll have to send the Madison Concourse and the airline you fly on a 1099. A flood of paperwork doesn't big to describe what this means. The January flow of mail will obviously be a lot heavier than the Christmas blitz!

If only it were only that bad. But the CNN article notes this:
The notion of mailing a tax form to Costco or Staples each year to document purchases may seem absurd to small business owners, but that's not the worst of it, tax experts say.

Marianne Couch, a principal with the Cokala Tax Group in Michigan and former chair of a citizen advisory group to the IRS on small business and self-employed tax issues, thinks the bigger headache will be data collection: gathering names and taxpayer identification numbers for every payee and vendor that you do business with.
So that means calling up every one of those stores and corporations and trying to get their vendor IDs off them. I guess smart people will do this in July rather than waiting until January, when thousands of people will be calling the same corporation numbers at the same time....

God, I can hardly wait. Between Aqueduct's paperwork and my own, I can just imagine what the mood will be like around here. And procrastinators will obviously suffer the most.

ETA: This goes in effect in 2012.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Lena Horne (1917-2010)

Jazz singer, actor, and civil rights activist Lena Horne died today at the age of 92. During the first part of her career, Horne was, like other African American musicians and entertainers, allowed to entertain white audiences she was barred from socializing with. According to wikipedia, both sides of Horne's family belonged to the "Talented Tenth," and her mother was an actress with a black theater troupe that traveled extensively. Her career began in 1933, in the chorus line of the Cotton Club. Horne mostly worked in nightclubs, though she also spent some time in Hollywood, which must have been an incredibly frustrating experience. Here's a part of wikipedia's description:
She made her debut with MGM in Panama Hattie (1942) and performed the title song of Stormy Weather (1943), which she made at 20th Century Fox, on loan from MGM. She appeared in a number of MGM musicals, most notably Cabin in the Sky (also 1943), but was never featured in a leading role because of her race and the fact that films featuring her had to be re-edited for showing in states where theaters could not show films with black performers. As a result, most of Horne's film appearances were stand-alone sequences that had no bearing on the rest of the film, so editing caused no disruption to the storyline; a notable exception was the all-black musical Cabin in the Sky, although one number was cut because it was considered too suggestive by the censors. "Ain't it the Truth" was the song (and scene) cut before the release of the film Cabin in the Sky. It featured Horne singing "Ain't it the Truth", while taking a bubble bath (considered too "risqué" by the film's executives). This scene and song are featured in the film That's Entertainment! III (1994) which also featured commentary from Horne on why the scene was deleted prior to the film's release.

In Ziegfeld Follies (1946) she performs "Love" by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane. Horne wanted to be considered for the role of Julie LaVerne in MGM's 1951 version of Show Boat (having already played the role when a segment of Show Boat was performed in Till the Clouds Roll By) but lost the part to Ava Gardner, a personal friend in real life, due to the Production Code's ban on interracial relationships in films.
Verena Dobnik writes in her obituary of Horne for the Huffington Post:
Horne was perpetually frustrated with racism.

"I was always battling the system to try to get to be with my people. Finally, I wouldn't work for places that kept us out. ... It was a damn fight everywhere I was, every place I worked, in New York, in Hollywood, all over the world," she said in Brian Lanker's book "I Dream a World: Portraits of Black Women Who Changed America."

While at MGM, Horne starred in the all-black "Cabin in the Sky," but in most movies, she appeared only in musical numbers that could be cut when shown in the South and she was denied major roles and speaking parts. Horne, who had appeared in the role of Julie in a "Show Boat" scene in a 1946 movie about Jerome Kern, seemed a logical choice for the 1951 movie, but the part went to a white actress, Ava Gardner, who did not sing.

"Metro's cowardice deprived the musical (genre) of one of the great singing actresses," film historian John Kobal wrote.

"She was a very angry woman," said film critic-author-documentarian Richard Schickel, who worked with Horne on her 1965 autobiography.

"It's something that shaped her life to a very high degree. She was a woman who had a very powerful desire to lead her own life, to not be cautious and to speak out. And she was a woman, also, who felt in her career that she had been held back by the issue of race. So she had a lot of anger and disappointment about that."

Early in her career, Horne cultivated an aloof style out of self-preservation. Later, she embraced activism, breaking loose as a voice for civil rights and as an artist. In the last decades of her life, she rode a new wave of popularity as a revered icon of American popular music.
About Horne's activism, Dobkin writes:
Horne was only 2 when her grandmother, a prominent member of the Urban League and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, enrolled her in the NAACP. But she avoided activism until 1945 when she was entertaining at an Army base and saw German prisoners of war sitting up front while black American soldiers were consigned to the rear.

That pivotal moment channeled her anger into something useful.

She got involved in various social and political organizations and, partly because of a friendship with singer-actor-activist Paul Robeson, was blacklisted during the red-hunting McCarthy era.

By the 1960s, Horne was one of the most visible celebrities in the civil rights movement, once throwing a lamp at a customer who made a racial slur in a Beverly Hills restaurant and, in 1963, joining 250,000 others in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom when Martin Luther King Jr. gave his "I Have a Dream" speech. Horne also spoke at a rally that year with another civil rights leader, Medgar Evers, just days before his assassination.

The next decade brought her first to a low point, then to a fresh burst of artistry. She appeared in her last movie in 1978, playing Glinda the Good in "The Wiz," directed by her son-in-law, Sidney Lumet.
Horne won four Grammys and was nominated for four more. Among her many other honors was a Special Citation from the New York Drama Critics Circle Awards, another Special Citation from the Tony Awards, and the ASCAP Pied Piper Award (for "significant contributions to words and music).

That mighty f-word, missing

I've just opened the May issue of Locus-- and discovered that in its half-page spread announcing the 2009 Hugo Awards Nominations, they excised Helen Merrick's The Secret Feminist Cabal from the list of Best Related Book nominees.

Now that's sad.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Action at Carp Pond

We've had several days of blue skies and pleasant temperatures here in Seattle, so I've been working a bit in the garden every day, getting dirt under my nails (even wearing gloves, I don't know why), amused at the robins' interest (due, I'm sure, to all those luscious worms being brought so close to the surface). But today, after a stint of gardening, we took time to visit the Union Bay wetlands that I so love, and this time walked also in the "buffer" region set up between the wetlands and the UW's sports complex. I can see why it's designated a "buffer" zone. A baseball game was going on nearby (complete with an announcer speaking over a PA system), and the backs of buildings and parking lots lined with dumpsters faced the water. So it didn't feel all that peaceful. Still, a gaggle of American coots and a couple of Canadian geese were swimming in the water, a red wing blackbird was perched at the top of a tree covered with snowy blossoms, and when a couple of blue herons that had been standing in some grass along the farther shore took flight over the water before settling down somewhere else, I wondered why I'd previously thought their flight graceless.

We found a couple of blue herons when we returned to the reclamation area, too, specifically at Carp Pond. They might have been the same pair, but perhaps not. We've often spent time at Carp Pond, as its called, but never before in such a noisy, turbulent state. One of the blue herons stood on a log in the middle of the pond, absolutely motionless. A pair of turtles were sunning on another log nearby. And a duck of some sort (I didn't recognize) was making a sound like resembling insane laughter. But in the shallowest part of the pond, the reeds were rocking and the water churning and splashing. Actually, it sounded as if someone was hitting the water with a baseball bat. I looked around, but saw no human in the pond or anywhere close to its shore. And then, as we took a closer look at the water, we realized that fish, thrashing wildly, were causing the ruckus. A passing couple (birdwatchers, of course, who often take the role of docents for those who don't know what they're looking at) explained that the fish were carp-- a nuisance, the woman said, making the water muddy and just generally posing a problem for the habitat--imported into the pond by some idiot a hundred years ago, the man said--and that the carp were busy producing more carp (the woman concluded). I tried snapping pictures of them when they surfaced, but to the casual eye they just look like partly submerged rocks or logs. Of course we also stopped to see the turtles in their usual inlet-- and today at least a dozen of them were perched on logs or swimming. A family came to look while we were there, and the kids about went crazy with excitement.

It really is an amazing place. Some people run there (one guy was running behind a high-tech stroller with a baby inside); birdwatchers with field glasses (at the least) or fancy cameras and tripods are usually to be found, mostly standing motionless, patiently intent (and today, two of those were seated in motorized wheelchairs); and of course parents (one or both) with young children, and solitary individuals, go there to enjoy the walk. Just what a city needs, right?

I've been following the devastation of the Louisiana wetlands, of course. But I'm also doing my best not to think about it too much. So disappointing, that that dome didn't work. But not all that surprising. I just hope it doesn't take them three months (to drill a new well) to stop the flow.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Farah Mendlesohn reviews Imagination/Space

Strange Horizons has posted an interesting review by Farah Mendlesohn of Gwyneth Jones's Imagination/Space: Essays and Talks on Fiction, Feminism, Technology, and Politics.
Gwyneth Jones won the Pilgrim Award for science fiction criticism in 2008, and this collection makes it abundantly clear why. It's an eclectic assemblage of essays, speeches, and reviews through which runs one distinct thread: a frustration with the consolatory "feminism" she sees in modern science fiction, and a demand for an angrier, more truthful feminism.

Of the best essays in the collection "Wild Hearts in Uniform—the Romance of Militarism in Popular SF" and "Haraway's Cyborgs [Mostly] at the movies" (a review of Patricia Melzer's Alien Constructions, 2006) form a duet. They argue with, first, the ways in which female and feminist writers have been sucked into revisioning, but not subverting, old tropes of the attraction of violence and the power of heirarchies, often succumbing to powerful stories of women's "true" desire for domesticity, or the "Exceptional Woman"; and second, the ways in which Hollywood has taken Haraways's idea of the cyborg and defanged it. The points made are later supplemented by a review of Fantasy Girls, edited by Elyce Rae Helford (2002). Central to Jones's arguments here—and elsewhere—is that this is not something that men do to women, but which women collaborate and conspire at achieving. Gender for Jones is less an issue of bodies and hormone as of attitudes and choices, as played out in her award winning Aleutian series (of which the impressive Spirit [2009], is the latest part). A later, essay, "String of Pearls," discusses the relationship between sex and horror, tries to cut any automatic links between the two, and offers a fascinating interrogation of Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Dart.

Be sure to go read the whole thing.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

FogCon: A New West Coast Literary Science Fiction Convention

I’m on the concom for a new literary science fiction convention that will be launching in San Francisco on March 11-13, 2011. Fogcon is hosting guests of honor Pat Murphy and Jeff VanderMeer.

The con isn't explicitly feminist the way that Wiscon is feminist, but a number of people on the concom are Wiscon staples and feminists ourselves--such as me, Vylar Kaftan, Eva Fulsom, and others.

You can visit us at, where there’s more information available, along with registrations starting at $55.

Here's a bit from the press release:

“Each year we’ll explore a new theme related to speculative literature. Our goal is to build a literary-themed convention modeled after some of our favorite conventions, which include WisCon, ReaderCon, and Potlatch,” said Vylar Kaftan, convention chair. The convention is being produced in partnership with the Speculative Literature Foundation.

FOGcon is hoping to attract a diverse range of attendees, from committed SF fans to readers interested in exploring the world of speculative fiction. The convention hotel, the Holiday Inn Golden Gateway, in San Francisco’s Nob Hill District, is offering the rate of $119/night to convention members…

Friends of the Genre (FOGcon) is a literary-themed San Francisco SF/F con in the tradition of Wiscon and Readercon. Each year we’ll focus on a new theme in speculative fiction and invite Honored Guests ranging from writers to scientists to artists. We will build community, exchange ideas, and share our love for the literature of imagination.

I hope to see some of you there!

WisCon Chronicles 4: The Cobbler's Toss

When I was a kid growing up in the bush, and they were branding calves, my father would often say, as the final sufferer was let up from the ropes or out of the branding cradle and hurtled away, "Well, there's what the cobbler threw at his wife." And it amused us kids mightily to ask, "What did he throw, Dad?" And be told in reply, "The last."

So with WisCon Chronicles 4, I'm now at the cobbler's toss. This is the final update post. The submissions are all in, all edited, all typeset. The Table of Contents is laid out. The permissions to print are received, the errors and addenda fixed, the comma wars over (don't ask Kath about that!) The cover is designed. The photos are cleared for use, those on the cover and those inside. Last week the printer received the entire ms.

Now it's time for me to repeat, Thanks so much, to all the people who answered my calls for submission, and patiently followed all my requests for revisions. Also thanks to Kath Wilham at Aqueduct for typesetting the lot, picking up syntactical and other errors, putting up with my punctuation and other crotchets, and coming up with the idea of pictures for the cover, along with the sub-title.

WisCon Chronicles 4 is sub-titled WisCon Voices. It will be available for sale at WisCon 34 at the end of May, at the Aqueduct table in the dealer's room. If you're a contributor, one more reminder that you have a gratis copy coming your way. For everyone else, I hope you'll buy a copy, at WisCon or elsewhere. Here's a preview of the cover:

I hope you'll enjoy what's inside.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Eleanor Arnason's Tomb of the Fathers

Eleanor Arnason's Tomb of the Fathers is back from the printer! It's such a cute book, I perk up every time I look at it, probably because its cover (by the fabulous Jeanne Gomoll) keeps reminding me how much fun it is to read. Here's a description of the book, the first review (by Publishers Weekly), and blurbs:

In this witty romp of a planetary romance, Arnason’s recurring character Lydia Duluth joins a motley crew of intergalactic travelers to explore the long-lost homeworld of the Atch, who have a mysterious history they'd like to keep buried on the planet they left behind. But the expedition goes awry when a rogue AI, determined to keep the planet and its system quarantined, destroys the star-gate, stranding the expedition on the planet. The travelers encounter the native Atch and discover the Tomb of the Fathers—and see firsthand what can happen when childcare becomes the dominant issue for a species.

Lydia Duluth--interstellar traveler, holovid location scout, and star of several of Arnason’s short stories--explores the purported lost home world of the matriarchal, lizardlike Atch in this stand-alone adventure. She’s joined by her occasional lover Olaf Reykjavik; Vagina “Gina” Dentata, a modified pseudo-ape; Precious Bin, a male Atch; and several artificial intelligences (one of which resides in her head). Lydia discovers warlike female Atch descendants who have killed off the males and now reproduce by cloning, but when she and her team try to leave, they’re trapped by a slightly barmy AI intent on keeping the violent Atch from traveling in space. Fans of Arnason’s dry wit, entertaining character interactions, and complex, imaginative futures will be delighted by this tale and the promise of a forthcoming Lydia Duluth collection. --Publishers Weekly, April 12, 2010

"Eleanor Arnason is a treasure," writes Andrea Hairston, the award-winning author of Mindscape. "Why? She knows her craft, respects her audience, and has a dazzling imagination. She entertains us with fearless writing. Tomb of the Fathers is an elegant thought experiment on gender, class, and ethics. An interstellar comedy of errors, Tomb of the Fathers is laugh out loud funny and also a thought-provoking thriller. Arnason's deft universe-building transported me to the great beyond where I delighted in the company of complex, juicy characters who--whether human, humanoid, machine, or genetic mash-up-- bared their souls. Tomb of the Fathers is the space adventure you've been dying to read. At the last page, I wanted more. Indeed, my only complaint is that I want a sequel now!"

And Carolyn Gilman, author of Halfway Human, says "Fair warning: don't open this book unless you're prepared to spend the next few hours in a world of Marxist aliens, sentient spacesuits, topsy-turvy gender relations, and eyes-glued-to-the-page adventure. Eleanor Arnason writes fast-paced space drama riddled with wry humor and social commentary. Heavens, it's tasty."

As we usually do for our books, we'll be offering Tomb of the Fathers at a reduced price through our site-- $12-- until its official publication date (June 1). You can purchase it here.

ETA: I've just seen a review from Booklist: Adventurers Lydia Duluth and Olaf Reykjavik, ape-woman Geena Dent, an AI called Mantis, and the Atch called Precious Bin, who is a Marxist as well as a member of an alien race (i.e., the Atch), are hired to visit the recently rediscovered Atch homeworld in what is, in part, an experiment in interbiological relations. Their employer, an AI, wishes to study how biological creatures interact and handle first contact. The trip to the planet isn’t as simple as it should be. When a rogue AI destroys the local stargate, the party is stranded on the planet, with only their wits and some very fancy sentient spacesuits to help them survive a series of encounters with hostile resident Atch. The true charm of this story lies in its reversal of gender stereotypes. The Atch homeworld, populated entirely by females, is far from a matriarchal paradise. Of course, this is because they can reproduce only by cloning, Atch females being unequipped for childbearing. A short novel, but thought-provoking and entertaining.--Regina Schroeder (May 15, 2010)