Mandolin Nominated for a Hugo Award

hugo_sm

This year’s Hugo Award Nominees have been announced, and I’m thrilled to report that Mandolin’s beautiful “If You Were A Dinosaur, My Love” is nominated for best short story.

(The same story is also up for a Nebula Award.)

The other three nominees in the short story category are:

• “The Ink Readers of Doi Saket” by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

• “Selkie Stories Are for Losers” by Sofia Samatar

• “The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere” by John Chu

Congratulations, Mandolin!

Posted in Mandolin's fiction & poems | 2 Comments  

The Effects of Bullying Are Lifelong

From PolicyMic:

For decades, a research team at King’s College London has been tracking a group of 7,771 people from England, Scotland and Wales who were all born in the same week in 1958. At age 7 and 11, their parents were asked to provide information on whether the children had been bullied. More than one in four had occasionally been bullied, while 15% were bullied frequently. Then later in life, the participants were asked to check in periodically and provide feedback on their health.

What the researchers found was shocking: At age 50, those who had been frequently bullied as a child were much more likely to have depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and poor physical health than those who were not. In addition, they were less likely to have higher education degrees, high-paying jobs, romantic partners or social support. Even when childhood intelligence levels were taken into account, these adults also scored lower on cognitive IQ tests. In general, they reported lower quality of life and satisfaction.

"The impact of bullying is persistent and pervasive, with health, social and economic consequences lasting well into adulthood," said Ryu Takizawa, the lead author of the paper.

Posted in In the news | 5 Comments  

Panel from Hereville 3: Fruma tells a story

fruma-telling-story

Posted in Hereville | 2 Comments  

Commmunity College professor suspended over ‘Game of Thrones’ T-shirt Photo Posted On Google Plus

Bergen Commmunity College professor suspended over 'Game of Thrones' T-shirt..

Francis Schmidt [...] posted a picture of his young daughter doing yoga in a T-shirt with the new “Game of Thrones” season tagline in January, upon release of the trailer. The T-shirt reads, “I will take what is mine in fire and blood,” and Schmidt’s cat lurks in the photo background.

But one contact — a dean — who was notified automatically via Google that the picture had been posted apparently took it as a threat. In an email, Jim Miller, the college’s executive director for human resources, told Schmidt to meet with him and two other administrators immediately in light of the “threatening email.”

The fail is too big! It burns! It burns! It has cold blue eyes and comes out of the North…

Popehat has more on this, including links to a bunch of similarly ludicrous and infuriating overreactions.

Posted in Free speech, censorship, copyright law, etc. | 2 Comments  

Because White People Represent All Humanity While Non-White People Are Weird And Distracting

Noah-2014-Movie-HD-Images

An interview with Ari Handel, the co-screenwriter of the movie “Noah,” asked him about the movie’s all-white casting. Handel’s answer really captured a lot that is wrong with how Hollywood thinks about race:

Q: While there’s a lot of diversity shown in the animal kingdom, there’s no racial diversity in the cast. Can you speak to that?

A: From the beginning, we were concerned about casting, the issue of race. What we realized is that this story is functioning at the level of myth, and as a mythical story, the race of the individuals doesn’t matter. They’re supposed to be stand-ins for all people. Either you end up with a Bennetton ad or the crew of the Starship Enterprise. You either try to put everything in there, which just calls attention to it, or you just say, “Let’s make that not a factor, because we’re trying to deal with everyman.” Looking at this story through that kind of lens is the same as saying, “Would the ark float and is it big enough to get all the species in there?” That’s irrelevant to the questions because the questions are operating on a different plane than that; they’re operating on the mythical plane.

As Alexis Rhiannon says, “white privilege in biblical proportions.”

If your reflex response is “wait, there’s only one family, so they all have to look related,” stop and think a second. Why do Noah and Mrs. Noah have to be the same race? Why do Noah’s son’s wives have to be the same race? If we do have choose just one race (although we don’t), why does it have to be White? Etc.

Oh, well. Nice to see that some religious leaders and intellectuals have been objecting to this aspect of “Noah.”

Posted in Popular (and unpopular) culture, Race, racism and related issues | 48 Comments  

Opposing Same-Sex Marriage Is A Lot Like Opposing Interracial Marriage

Cartoon by Kevin Siers, @KevinSiers

Cartoon by Kevin Siers, @KevinSiers

Conor Friedersdorf and I both oppose economically punishing people for opposition to same-sex marriage, or for having donated to the prop 8 campaign.

But Conor’s argument is, partly, that SSM opponents are morally superior to those who favored anti-miscegenation laws, and those who compare the two are being unfair to SSM opponents.

Opposition to interracial marriage was all but synonymous with a belief in the superiority of one race and the inferiority of another. (In fact, it was inextricably tied to a singularly insidious ideology of white supremacy and black subjugation that has done more damage to America and its people than anything else, and that ranks among the most obscene crimes in history.)

Opposition to gay marriage can be rooted in the insidious belief that gays are inferior, but it’s also commonly rooted in the much-less-problematic belief that marriage is a procreative institution, not one meant to join couples for love and companionship alone.

One thing I’ve noticed in this debate is how unfamiliar proponents of stigma are with thoughtful orthodox Christians—that is to say, they haven’t interacted with them personally, critiqued the best version of their arguments, or even been exposed to the most sophisticated version of their reasoning, which I find to be obviously earnest, if ultimately unpersuasive.1

A few points:

1) I have interacted with orthodox Christians, critiqued their best arguments, and closely read many arguments SSM opponents have identified as their best (such as Robert George’s “What Is Marriage”?). As a co-blogger at the Institute for American Values blog, I had the opportunity to discuss issues with some of the country’s leading opponents of marriage equality, including David Blankenhorn, Elizabeth Marquardt, and Maggie Gallagher (David and Elizabeth, to their credit, have since switched sides on the marriage equality issue).

But I have to wonder, has Conor been exposed to the most sophisticated arguments in favor of anti-miscegenation laws?

Virginia Assistant Attorney General R. D. McIlwaine III, defending anti-miscegenation laws to the Supreme Court in Loving vs Virginia, argued that interracial marriages, like incestuous or child marriages, should be prohibited for the good of the people in those marriages:

It is clear from the most recent available evidence on the psycho-sociological aspect of this question that intermarried families are subjected to much greater pressures and problems than those of the intramarried; And that the state’s prohibition of interracial marriage for this reason stands on the same footing as the prohibition of polygamous marriage, or incestuous marriage or the prescription of minimum ages at which people may marry and the prevention of the marriage of people who are mentally incompetent.

McIlwaine went on to argue – of course – that permitting interracial marriage would be bad for children.

Now if the state has an interest in marriage, if it has an interest in maximizing the number of stable marriages and in protecting the progeny of interracial marriages from these problems, then clearly. there is scientific evidence available that is so. It is not infrequent that the children of intermarried parents are referred to not merely as the children of intermarried parents but as the ‘victims’ of intermarried parents and as the ‘martyrs’ of intermarried parents.

Now, perhaps Conor would say that in context, McIlwaine’s arguments were “inextricably tied to a singularly insidious ideology of white supremacy and black subjugation,” and I’d agree. But McIlwaine himself would probably have denied that, and his arguments did not explicitly call on white supremacy, any more than the arguments of sophisticated opponents of marriage equality explicitly call on heterosexual supremacy. In fact, many opponents of interracial marriage, back when that was a respectable position, argued that their positions had nothing at all to do with prejudice, and that to tar them with such accusations was unfair. Sound familiar?

The distinction Conor makes between interracial marriage opponents and SSM opponents doesn’t actually exist. The more sophisticated arguments against interracial marriage avoided overt racial supremacy, instead relying on concepts like the good of society, the good of children, and (of course) natural and biblical law. Again, sound familiar?

2. Conor makes an incredibly weak argument when he writes that modern opponents of SSM are morally superior to opponents of interracial marriage because civil unions.

Opposition to interracial marriage never included a large contingency that was happy to endorse the legality of black men and white women having sex with one another, living together, raising children together, and sharing domestic-partner benefits as long as they didn’t call it a marriage.

Does that clarify the inaptness of the comparison?

In the context of the 1960s and before, the “they should have sex outside of marriage” position was simply not available to respectable public figures. So it’s true that the modern way for SSM opponents to be “moderates” was never used by interracial marriage opponents.

But interracial marriage opponents could and did position themselves as moderates, for instance by supporting the Utah approach (in which interracial marriage was a misdemeanor rather than a felony, and interracial marriages performed outside of Utah were legally recognized) rather than the more drastic North Carolina approach (which declared interracial marriage a “infamous crime” punishable with up to ten years in prison). Some interracial marriage opponents didn’t even want it made illegal at all, and argued that community stigma was the way to deter interracial marriages.

3. Like Conor, I oppose organized boycotts against individuals because they oppose same-sex marriage. But the distinction he draws between SSM opponents and interracial marriage opponents is simply wrong – a product of short historical memory. The opponents of interracial marriage were not inhuman monsters; they believed they were acting for the greater good, and did not consider themselves hateful bigots. Beyond a doubt, some of them were good people in many ways – charitable, kind to others (including to people of color). Some of them loved their children and were pillars of their communities. Some of them were at least as smart as any of us. And their better arguments did not overtly rely on white supremacy.

And it was nonetheless true that their anti-equality views were, as Conor says, “inextricably tied to a singularly insidious ideology of white supremacy and black subjugation.” Even when their arguments were not explicitly white supremacist, they still implicitly relied on white supremacy. Without an unspoken social consensus in favor of white supremacy – in favor of a belief that non-white people’s well-being has only trivial importance, and that sacrificing the well-being of non-white people is therefore justified even when the good being achieved is obviously nebulous at best – the seemingly “non-racial” arguments against interracial marriage had no foundation.

Exactly the same thing is true of anti-SSM arguments today, including the “sophisticated” arguments Conor refers to.2 The more sophisticated arguments against gay marriage carefully avoid overt homophobia. But they only make sense in the context of a homophobic society, which is why they increasingly lose purchase as our society becomes less homophobic.

Without an unspoken social consensus in favor of homosexual inferiority – in favor of a belief that lesbian and gay people’s well-being has only trivial importance, and that sacrificing the well-being of queer people is justified even when the good being achieved is nebulous at best – these seemingly “non-homphobic” arguments against gay marriage have no foundation. In this way, the “sophisticated” arguments against gay marriage are just as based in homophobia as the “sophisticated” arguments against interracial marriage were based in racism.

4. I don’t think that people who are opposed to marriage equality now – or, for that matter, people who were opposed to interracial marriage in the 1960s – are or were inherently bad people. Most of us are neither moral monsters or ahead-of-our-time moral prodigies. Instead, for the most part, we pick up our morality from what the people around us believe. Those of us who believe in marriage equality have, I am sure, a morally better position. But most of us don’t hold that position because we are inherently more moral people than those who disagree. Rather, most of us were just born into a place and a time in which we were raised to believe in the equal dignity and worth of queer people, and as a result we have either always been in favor of marriage equality, or easily adopted that position once it became socially acceptable.3

My point is not that those who oppose SSM aren’t responsible for their own views and choices. People make their own choices, and can choose to oppose beliefs they were raised with, as the huge numbers of people who have changed their minds and now favor marriage equality have proven.

My point, instead, is that a simple “moral monsters versus decent people” analysis – whether it’s Conor’s contrasting of interracial marriage opponents versus SSM opponents, or the folks on the left who want opponents of SSM driven from their neighborhoods – is an unrealistic model of a much more complicated human reality.

  1. Note: In Friedersdorf’s article, the “One thing I’ve noticed” paragraph is a footnote, but since I’m going to refer to it in this post I’ve “promoted” it. []
  2. Conor explicitly refers to “the much-less-problematic belief that marriage is a procreative institution, not one meant to join couples for love and companionship alone.” But that argument, which is based on natural law theory, is entangled with natural law arguments that homosexuality is intrinsically morally inferior to heterosexuality. []
  3. This is true not just for heterosexuals, but for everyone. Being a homosexual doesn’t make one immune to absorbing society’s homophobia, unfortunately, any more than Jews are immune to anti-semitism, etc etc.. []
Posted in Free speech, censorship, copyright law, etc., Same-Sex Marriage | 4 Comments  

Ten movies (or more) I’ve seen ten (or more) times

beatrice-emma-thompson

David Neiwert created this meme on Facebook, and it seemed like a good way to waste time to me. :-)

1. City Of Lost Children (1995)
2. Duck Soup (1933)
3. Passion Fish (1992, an obscure gem)
4. Mulan (1998)
5. Sweeney Todd (the Angela Landsbury version, not the it-never-happened Depp version). (1982)
6. Arthur (It was rerun on HBO at least twice a day when I was 15. The entire cast is great, but Gielgud steals the movie.) (1981)
7. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
8. Ran (1985)
9. Midnight Run (Blistering hot NYC summer, nearby theater had this movie and air conditioning. Sarah and I saw it over and over, and enjoyed it every time.) (1988)
10. Cyrano de Bergerac (1990 version with Depardieu.)
11. The Purple Rose of Cairo. (1985) Actually, there are several Woody Allen films I’ve seen over a dozen times – Bullets Over Broadway, Annie Hall, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Hannah and Her Sisters – but I think I’ve seen PROC the most. (It wouldn’t surprise me if Allison Deutsch Andersen could do an entire list of ten films she’s seen ten times or more just from Woody Allen’s catalog.)
12. Supercop. (1992) Jackie Chan climbs everything in sight, and Michelle Yeoh jumps a motorcycle onto a moving train. What more could I want?
13. Much Ado About Nothing, the Kenneth Branagh version. (1993)
14. Groundhog Day (1993)

Comments:

1) It makes me kind of sad to realize that I haven’t seen most of these films in at least ten years. I don’t watch films as intensely anymore, and certainly don’t rewatch films as much as I used to. To some degree this is because I’m more likely to watch TV nowadays (nearly done with “True Detective”), but it’s mainly because I have so much less spare time than I used to.

1.5) Half the 14 came out in the 1990s. Another five came out in the 1980s.

2) Of the 14, 3 (Passion Fish, Mulan, Purple Rose) have female protagonists. 6 have male protagonists, and 5 have female and male co-protagonists. Only 5 – City of Lost Children, Passion Fish, Mulan, Sweeney Todd, and Crouching Tiger – pass the Bechdel test.

Five of the movies have non-white protagonists or co-protagonists, but that includes some movies that were made in Asian countries.

So what movies have you seen over ten times?

Posted in Popular (and unpopular) culture | 33 Comments  

Brief Updates: Mind Meld, Dark Matter Zine, Little Faces

A couple of brief updates:

I. Mind Meld in the Tardis

Even though I was late turning it in (due to finding a four-day-old kitten in our backyard and trying to figure out how to take care of it!), Mind Meld has kindly published my entry on Where I Would Take the Tardis.

I want to go on a between-TV-episodes trip. I want to go on a boring trip.

II. Dark Matter Interview

I was also recently interviewed by Dark Matter zine about my participation as the reprint editor for the Women Destroy Science Fiction issue of Lightspeed magazzine. The interview was a lot of fun and included other people who’d been working on the issue, Galen Dara and Wendy N. Wagner.

I said I’d put together a list of reference materials for the interview, and I still will, although it’s of course massively late now. ;)

III. Little Reprinted Faces

Earlier this year, Strange Horizons asked me to choose a story for their quarterly reprint slot. I picked Vonda McIntyre’s completely awesome “Little Faces.”

I wrote an intro about it, which couldn’t do the story justice:

Vonda N. McIntyre is a sophisticated feminist science fiction writer and “Little Faces” is a sophisticated feminist science fiction story, operating on many levels, including attention-grabbing science, an interesting plot, and political and social critique that blends into the character’s emotional arc.

The story does more than treat readers to flashy visuals and awesome far-future stuff. For instance, it analyzes serious issues, like female-on-female violence and the meaning of consent. It plays with the audience’s expectations by defaulting female instead of male.

If I were a better person, I might write about that.

Instead, I’m going to write about alien sex.

And I’m very pleased that the story is now online (again, since it was originally published online) for people to enjoy:

The blood woke Yalnis. It ran between her thighs, warm and slick, cooling, sticky. She pushed back from the stain on the silk, bleary with sleep and love, rousing to shock and stabbing pain.

She flung off the covers and scrambled out of bed. She cried out as the web of nerves tore apart. Her companions shrieked a chaotic chorus.

It’s also in audio.

Posted in Uncategorized | 14 Comments  

A Comment Posted On The “Boycott Moreland Farmers Pantry” Page

moreland-farmers-pantry

So some Portlanders are organizing a boycott of Moreland Farmers Pantry, a not-yet-open grocery specializing in GMO-free foods, because it has been discovered that the owners of the story are anti-marriage-equality and have said so in Facebook postings. (A secondary issue is that one of the store’s co-owners linked to a libertarian article arguing that stores should have the legal right to refuse to serve gay customers). The boycott includes publishing a list of vendors who are working with MFP, so that readers can encourage those vendors to cut off relations with the not-yet-open store.

Here’s the comment I posted on their facebook page about a half-hour ago. (Regular “Alas” readers will notice that I adapted some text from a post I wrote about Mozilla last week.)

Speaking as a Portlander who has gathered signatures, made phone calls, and knocked on doors to support marriage equality, I very much disagree with this boycott.

Do you really think trying to drive people who disagree with us out of business is a good way to persuade people who disagree with us? Is a society in which people are economically punished for speaking out on a currently live controversy, the kind of society you want?

Three reasons I think this boycott is misguided:

1. It goes against what I think of as a “free speech culture” to try and drive small stores out of business because of the owners’ statements on current political controversies. Although there’s no government censorship going on here, we can and should want more from a society than just “no one was thrown in jail.” Truly open and free speech – substantive free speech – won’t exist if people are afraid of being economically destroyed if they speak out on current issues.

2) It doesn’t actually advance the cause of marriage equality in any significant way. If anything, it hurts the cause, by giving our opponents ammunition for their “gay bullies” argument.

3) It encourages people to think of politics as a matter of maintaining personal purity through choosing the correct store to shop at, rather than making meaningful change.

(I totally acknowledge that you have a free speech right to criticize, and to boycott, the Childs. But I likewise have a right to criticize your boycott.)

The owners of the boycott page deleted my comment. I wanted to ask them why, but they’ve blocked me from leaving any other comments, so I can’t.

Local restaurant owner Nick Zukin has publicly (and intemperately) disagreed with the boycott, on similar grounds to my objection, and some folks on Facebook have suggested that his restaurant should now be boycotted in turn.

Posted in Free speech, censorship, copyright law, etc. | 33 Comments  

Fruma costume design for Hereville book 3

fruma-outfit

I can just make up outfits on the fly, rather than stopping drawing pages to design an outfit, but the resulting clothing tends to be extremely repetitive and bland. Much better to try and think the outfit through, and wind up with something that doesn’t look exactly like all the other outfits I’ve drawn Fruma in. (Although it’s clear that Fruma likes horizontal stripes, since I think this is the third or fourth time I’ve used horizontal strips in one of her outfits.) I haven’t shown Fruma wearing boots before, but this story takes place in the autumn, so I think boots make sense.

I like this outfit; it seems to occupy a point partway between frumpy and pirate.

Posted in Hereville | 3 Comments