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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

People Really Need to Reassess What's Enraging Them

The last two weeks have brought us additional unrest in the Middle East, the tragic suicide of Robin Williams, and unarmed black youth being gunned down in the street.

And the worst offender of all...

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

Most of you should be familiar with this by now. I live in Massachusetts, a state where this ridiculous-looking trend really took off. So I was aware of it fairly early on. And I recall thinking, Why are people dumping ice water on heads? and likening it to a less-vile version of the "set yourself on fire" meme.

Several days later, I was passing by the TV, and NECN was covering the local angle. That's how I learned that dumping icy water on your head was more than just a trend--there was a cause behind it.

But curmudgeon that I am, I thought: Sure, people are dumping water on their heads. It's probably not raising any money. As if on cue, the talking heads on the magic TV box addressed that very question. The Ice Bucket Challenge was actually raising money. Donations were up by 200%.

And I was happy to hear that something appearing so idiotic was actually doing some good.

A few more days passed, and I began to see torrents of icy water splashing across my Facebook feed. Then... the unthinkable.

A high school friend nominated me.

Typically, I'm not a fan of trends. Because, you know, they're trendy. But knowing that this was actually raising money to help an incurable disease, I decided to go for it. Pour a large pan of ice-cold water on my head.

To the delight of my children.

During the week that followed, I noticed an interesting trend (at least on my Facebook feed.) The people participating in the Challenge were predominantly "sporty" people--and perhaps this is due, in part, to the fact that the Challenge has a sports-related origin. But I noticed a relative absence of the Challenge occurring among other loosely categorizeable groups. As someone who writes and loves scifi, for example (and has a general penchant for geekery), I noted that my nerdy compadres were staying dry.

And that's when I noticed the backlash.

Some of the "non-sporty" crowd were not only dissing the Challenge (and hey--that's right) but they were doing it vehemently. Angrily. And I found it completely bizarre.

These are some of the arguments against the challenge I came across:


  • "No one's going to tell me what to do!" (Sure.)
  • "It's stupid, and I'll bet donations aren't even affected." (Untrue.)
  • "No one's going to bully me." (Yes. I swear the word "bully" was used. Which really cheapens the word.)
  • "I can choose myself how and where I'm going to donate my money!" (Of course you can. And you know what? There is no ALS police monitoring Facebook to see who has and has not donated $100. Really. No one is going to rip you from your bed in the middle of the night.)
  • "There are more pressing issues and diseases than ALS." (I actually agree. But no one I know has ALS, either. Above, I mentioned several horrible things going on in the world right now. If you feel outraged that people are sending boatloads of cash for ALS research, send your own contribution to your cause of choice.)
  • "It's just another stupid viral campaign that ultimately will have no impact." (Again, I refer you to the facts. It has had a real impact. Granted, some viral marketing campaigns are pretty stupid, and don't have the impact this one has. [I'm looking at you, 'what color is your bra' Breast Cancer campaign. Which I was not a fan of, because of the way it adds to the public perception that breast cancer is a "female" disease.]
  • "I already gave money to this charity. Now I feel like I have to again!" (Um, if you feel that way, that's your choice. No one is "making" you feel anything.)
As I processed the backlash I saw come across my little corner of the Internet, the sporty/nonsporty divide again struck me. Maybe it's the sociology degree, but I couldn't help but view much of this criticism through a lens of high school. It's US versus THEM. If THEY are into something, then it's certainly not for US.

And I thought to myself, just wait until Neil Gaiman or Tom Hiddleston or Felicia Day or some other Geek God/Goddess gets in on this action. Then the tide will turn.

I present to you Exhibit A. And here's Exhibit B.--Nathan Fillion. BECAUSE NATHAN FILLION.

(I would like to point out, for the record, that, I mentioned Joss Whedon in my challenge. But I didn't actually tag him, because I was just being cute. But if he ends yup doing it, I'm still taking credit, y'all.)

So, I get it. We have our own subcultures, and the things we think are cool, partly because they are cool, and partly because other people think they're cool. And if you don't think something is a good idea for any reason, don't do it. But don't be so obnoxious about it. And try to have your facts straight.

And most of all, realize that these things are not zero-sum games. Just because the charity of your choice is not the one in the spotlight, it doesn't mean that the one in the spotlight is unworthy. I suggest turning your outrage into something useful, for something you agree with, instead of spouting anger across the Internet.

In the wise words of my ten-year old daughter, "Don't judge. Just love."




p.s. See how the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge started here


Sunday, August 17, 2014

Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading from Pi-Con 2014

A quick post--sharing the Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading from Pi-Con 2014, made into a Broad Universe podcast by the fabulous (and 2014 Pi-Con Guest of Awesome) Justine Graykin.

This is a really fabulous sampling from Broad Universe members--including humor, intrigue, fantasy, science fiction and horror. I read two of the poems from Interview with the Faerie Part One: And Other Poems of Darkness and Light at about 10 minutes in.

Enjoy!
http://broaduniverse.org/podcast/august-2014-broadpod/

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

My 2014 Pi-Con Panel Schedule

Without further ado...

FRIDAY 

How to be a Good Panelist  Agawam 6pm Susan Hanniford Crowley, Suzanne Reynolds-Alpert, Morven Westfield (M), Michelle Wexelblat
 We’ve all been to panels where things got wildly off-topic or where a panelist or audience member hogged the panel. Sometimes it’s been a lot of fun or extremely interesting. Other times, it’s been aggravating. In this panel, experienced panelists talk about preparing for a panel, participating on a panel, being a good moderator, handling someone who’s obviously aggravating, and how different cons have different styles.
The Same Old Story — Somers 8pm Lisa Evans, Kate Kaynak (M), Misty Pendragon, Suzanne Reynolds-Alpert
ROUNDTABLE: Vampire teenage romance, fairy tales in modern settings, Star Trek programs that mimic police procedurals and medical response programs (actually being discussed right now) and, coming up, TWO shows (at least) set in OZ. With all of the stories there are in the world and all of history to draw on why do storytellers (and TV producers) keep telling the same stories over and over again? With all of the rehashing of the Civil War we have never had a series about espionage in that period. Given all of the westerns there have been, we have never seen the story of Bass Reeves (a real U.S. Marshal) who captured 30,000 criminals in his lifetime. Given people’s love of pirates, why have we not seen the story of the various pirate queens? Come and discuss what stories need to be told, and maybe find a few that you want to tell yourself.
SATURDAY 
Feminism: What’s It All About  10am — Agawam Eric, Lisa Evans, Jennifer Pelland, Suzanne Reynolds-Alpert (M)
The term “Feminism” has suffered a great deal of abuse. What does it mean and why is it still relevant, and how do we deal with the dissing?
How Do We Make Cons Safe for Everyone?  12pm — Agawam  Lisa Evans, Justine Graykin, Suzanne Reynolds-Alpert, Michelle Wexelblat (M)
Harassment and safety at conventions is not a new topic, but it has been very much in the spotlight for the past couple of years. Many conventions are taking steps to prioritize safety. What are the best ways to make convention attendees safer? Should we be looking at convention polices and enforcement, reporting procedures, or social change on what fans tolerate as acceptable behavior? How do our current strategies work, how could they work better, and who is doing it well?
The Undead and The People Who Love Them  1pm — Suffield  Susan Hanniford Crowley (M), Ken Kingsgrave-Ernstein, Jennifer Pelland, Suzanne Reynolds-Alpert
ROUNDTABLE: Let’s get down to it and talk about Vampire, Ghouls, Zombies, Ghosts and assorted undead that we love and why do they have such a grip on our hearts. Audience participation is encouraged!
Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading — Suffield 7pm Terri Bruce, Ellen Larson, Jennifer Pelland, Jennifer Allis Provost, Roberta Rogow, Kristi Petersen Schoonover, Morven Westfield, Trisha Wooldridge, Suzanne Reynolds-Alpert
These talented writers have six minutes each to blow you away! Broad Universe is an international organization supporting women authors of SF, fantasy and horror. Visit them on Dealer’s Row!
SUNDAY
Fiction has no Place in Our Curriculum — Somers 12pm Justine Graykin, Ken Kingsgrave-Ernstein, Suzanne Reynolds-Alpert, Kristi Petersen Schoonover (M)
The new educational Common Core standards marginalize fiction in favor of non-fiction. What effect is that going to have on the imagination and inspiration of students? Hasn’t SF been traditionally marginalized? Now all of fiction is getting pushed aside.
The Last Two Years in SF/Fantasy Movies — Somers 1pm Lisa Evans, Misty Pendragon (M), Suzanne Reynolds-Alpert
Since 7Pi-Con in 2012, we’ve had Gravity, The Hobbit (parts 1 and 2),Ender’s Game, Her, I, Frankenstein, Vampire Academy, Byzantium, RoboCop, Winter’s Tale, Divergent, Captain America: Winter Soldier, Thor:The Dark World, Transcendence, Amazing Spider Man (1 and 2),Godzilla, Edge of Tomorrow, and Oz The Great and Powerful—just for a representative sampling. What do these films say about our current tastes in SF/F, and where are we going from here?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Some of my Work Has Been Translated and Published in Poland!

Hi All,

Just a quick note that you haven't heard from my blog much because the winter here in New England was awful... and I was sick for most of the winter and into Spring. It has a huge, awful impact on my energy levels and ability to get anything done effectively. But things are looking up, fingers crossed!
****

On to the good news! Many months ago I was contacted by a representative from the Polish science fiction/fantasy magazine Creatio Fantastica (CF). They'd found my poem The Lies Parents Tell and wanted to know if they could translate it and publish it in their magazine. After some questions to them and research on my part, I said yes!

They translated both The Lies Parents Tell and Interview with the Faerie (Part One.) They also interviewed me about my writing, being a working/writing Mom, and themes in my work--as well as that ubiquitous "voice in my head!" This interview is also featured in the current issue. (I'll post the original English version soon!)

A bit about CF... it currently operates under the auspices of the Laboratory of Literature and Popular Culture and New Media at the Department of Modern Languages, University of Wroclaw, Poland. And the editor and translator I worked with, Margaret Mika, was fabulous! Super professional.

My name is on the cover. Really!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Presidential Statement Regarding the SFWA Bulletin

So, if you're a member of the scifi community/a fan, there's been a kerfluffle about the official bulletin of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). It roughly started here (with the cover and some content within this issue.) Then, two Bulletin columnists defended the cover and added fuel to the fire by making statements such as:

The reason for Barbie’s unbelievable staying power, when every contemporary and wanna-be has fallen by the way-side is, she’s a nice girl. Let the Bratz girls dress like tramps and whores. Barbie never had any of that. Sure, there was a quick buck to be made going that route but it wasn’t for her. Barbie got her college degree, but she never acted as if it was something owed to her, or that Ken ever tried to deny her.

She has always been a role model for young girls, and has remained popular with millions of them throughout their entire lives, because she maintained her quiet dignity the way a woman should.

I am sorry to say that this and other offensive, sexist, outdated remarks were made in context of how women can be successful writers.


I know. I'll give you a moment for your head to explode.
***


The continuing brouha has devolved into this. This "petition" has no merit. It invokes the First Amendment, which doesn't even apply in this case. It is so clearly an attempt to capture and freeze the "golden days" of scifi--when the genre was white-male dominant, and women "knew their place." When writers of color and those who wrote non-hetero-normal themes were simply curiosities.


And here is the very restrained, classy response to this non-petition petition by the current SFWA President:

Over the past few days, there has been much public discussion about a non-member’s petition to SFWA regarding oversight of our member publication, the Bulletin.
While this petition has not been formally presented to SFWA, I have seen versions and they express concerns for something that does not and will not exist:
Specifically, the editor of the Bulletin will not have to go to any selection or editorial review board to approve material.
In compliance with the by-laws and the will of our members, there will be regular oversight of the Bulletin to ensure that it is inclusive of and reflects the diversity of all our members, and that it continues to address the changing needs of professional writers.
With all of our publications, SFWA will continue to stand strong for the rights of writers. This includes opposition to censorship.
Finally, I want to thank the Bulletin Task Force for all their hard work on updating the magazine and to all the members of SFWA for their patience while we make the changes that many of you have asked for. I think you’re going to be proud of what we’ve done.
In a perfect world, this would be end the matter. But it won't. Because some people just have to push forth their bullshit. Some people have to apparently take an oppositional position to everything they see.
And some of the authors who have signed their support of this petition are off my reading list.