Recommendation Roundup 10/12/15

Hello, internet world.

On my social media, I’m posting links to things I’ve written, things other people have written, and artists to support. I wanted to gather those links in one place, so each Monday I will put up a post with the previous week’s links and recommendations.

I might start working through my backlog weeks later, but for now, moving ahead…

A Story of Mine

Eros, Philia, Agape,” published on, my first short listed piece for the Locus Award, World Fantasy Award, Hugo Award and Sturgeon Award.

It was partially inspired by something Octavia Butler said to our class when I was at Clarion West: That the echoes of slavery continue to affect the ways Americans express love.

A Poem of Mine

Dear Melody,” which originally appeared in Sybil’s Garage and is now online at The Examining Room, is what happened when I first learned about chimerism. Science is so weird and cool. (Scroll down to see it.)

An Awesome Story

“In the House of the Seven Librarians” by Ellen Klages, originally in FIREBIRDS edited by Sharyn November, reprinted online in Uncanny Magazine (text) and in PodCastle (audio).

I don’t usually love stories about books and librarians. They can feel too easily like pandering to an audience that loves to read. However, the whimsy and beauty of this piece, and Ellen’s consummate ability as a writer, made me melt.

I was privileged to buy this story as a reprint for PodCastle, and to narrate it. (Audio link above.)

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Open Thread And Link Farm: Escher Pushed Me Down The Stairs Edition


  1. Skin Feeling, by Sofia Samatar, is an exquisite essay about how being a “diverse” faculty member at a mostly white institution makes one both very visible and no longer visible as an individual; and Charlie Parker; and various acts of public nudity. Sit down in a comfy chair with a cup of coffee and read it.
  2. Sofia Samatar is also a fantasy and sf writer.
  3. 50 Years After the Moynihan Report, Examining the Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration – The Atlantic This long article by Ta-Nehisi Coates is REALLY worth reading.
  4. The Police Told Her To Report Her Rape, Then Arrested Her For Lying – BuzzFeed News
  5. “Oh so I can’t say ANYTHING anymore”
  6. This Is So Gay: When Death Threats Are Outlawed, Only Outlaws Will Make Death Threats Duncan comments on a thread here at “Alas.”
  7. Hillary Clinton and the Dangers of Political Ruthlessness – The Atlantic Conor F. makes the case against voting for Clinton in the primaries.
  8. How to Stop Mass Shootings – Why Mass Shootings Keep Happening Contains some very interesting first-person musings from someone who almost committed a mass shooting.
  9. Toxic masculinity is tearing us apart: Christopher Harper-Mercer, 4chan and the fragility of America’s alpha male –
  10. The case against equality of opportunity – Vox
  11. Enough is Enough: Dark Horse’s Scott Allie’s Assaulting Behavior | Graphic Policy
  12. Revisiting The Effect Of Teachers’ Unions On Student Test Scores | Shanker Institute
  13. Ant Man and the Problem of Marvel’s Necessary Women | Feminist Fiction
  14. Want More Teachers? Pay More | Al Jazeera America
  15. The Comic Pusher: The Unexpected Delights of Wine and Comics in Etienne Davodeau’s The Initiates. I recently read The Initiates, a graphic novel about a winemaker teaching a cartoonist about his craft, and vice-versa, and I really enjoyed it.
  16. Study: White people react to evidence of white privilege by claiming greater personal hardships
  17. Beauty and the feast: Examining the effect of beauty on earnings using restaurant tipping data. More attractive waitresses get tipped more by women, but not men; and to a lesser degree, more attractive waiters get tipped more by men, but not women. I have no idea what that means.
  18. Speeding in Finland Can Cost a Fortune, if You Already Have One. This seems like a very sensible idea – speeding tickets, rather than being a flat rate, are proportionate to income. The article talks about one millionaire whose speeding ticket was enough money to buy a Mercedes.
  19. Wonder Woman Lunch Box Banned From School for being “too violent”
  20. The official poverty measure is garbage. The census has found a better way. – Vox
  21. My Temple, My Mountain | Popular Science A well-done short comic about science and colonialism and building a telescope on the tallest mountain on Earth.1 Thanks to Harlequin for the link.
  22. Wired magazine’s Absurb Creature Of The Week archive is a great way to make a lot of time when you should be working, pleasurably disappear.
  23. Why police could seize a college student’s life savings without charging him for a crime – Vox The answer, of course, is civil forfeiture laws (and, unsurprisingly, the student is Black). The extent to which this completely indefensible program seems invulnerable makes me despair; many (most?) Americans seem content to live in a police state, as long as they aren’t among the likely targets. (See also, no-knock raids.)
  24. Republicans Who Voted Against Sandy Aid Now Demand Help for South Carolina Flooding Victims. I still hope that they get their emergency relief, but man, what assholes.
  25. Today in the Systemic Persecution of Sex Offenders – Lawyers, Guns & Money : Lawyers, Guns & Money
  26. How to play Strip Iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma – Exploring the Interesting
  27. The remarkable thing that happens to poor kids when you give their parents a little money – The Washington Post
  28. Locked Out Of The Sixth Amendment By Proprietary Forensic Software | Techdirt
  29. Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters: Fox News caught pushing another false story about the transgender community, bathrooms
  30. The Republican Party stands alone in climate denial
  31. What people in 1900 thought the year 2000 would look like – The Washington Post
  32. Planned Parenthood’s “Government Funding”: The Same Kind Your Doctor Receives
  33. Those folks who were kids in the early 1970s – do you remember a kid’s TV show called Candle Cove?


  1. As measured from the sea floor. []
Posted in Link farms | 12 Comments  

When Is It Fair To Blame GOP Voters For Carson and Trump?


A question for everyone here, but I’m especially interested in what conservatives (or even conservatives relative to the “Alas” norm) think:

At what point, assuming they continue to be the leading candidates,1 is it fair to take Donald Trump’s and Ben Carson’s expressed views, as a general snapshot of what Republican base voters favor?

I haven’t bothered writing about what either Trump or Carson say, because I’ve been assuming that they’re flash-in-the-pan candidates, oddball artifacts of the nomination process rather than an actual expression of what the GOP in general favors. Or maybe just GOP base voters having a bit of fun before settling for someone bland and plausibly electable.

But that’s how I felt months ago. Trump started rising in June. It’s been a while.

But probably he’ll still fizzle out to nothing in the end. Right?

But if Trump fails to fizzle out, at what point does it become fair to take Trump and Carson as representing what a large portion of GOP voters want?

(And for the reverse question: I think it’s now fair to take Clinton’s policies in general as a reasonable snapshot of what centrist Democratic base voters want, and Sander’s policies in general as a reasonable snapshot of what progressive Democrats want.)

  1. Recent polls show that only Trump and Carson are standing out in poll after poll, although certainly Rubio, Fiorina, and Bush are contenders. Unless there’s a major shake-up in the race – and maybe there will be, it’s still early! – everyone else seems like an also-ran at best []
Posted in Elections and politics | 26 Comments  

Cat Rambo and I teaching a class on Nov 8

Interested in writing retellings? Cat Rambo and I are teaching a class together: retellings and re-taleings.

Authors constantly draw on the stories that have preceded them, particularly folklore, mythology, and fables. What are the best methods for approaching such material and what are the possible pitfall? How does one achieve originality when working with such familiar stories? Lecture, in-class exercise, and discussion will build your proficiency when working with such stories.

Cat Rambo has been a friend of mine since 2005 when she and I, along with many other fabulous people, went to Clarion West together. She’s a Nebula nominated author  with an established short story career whose first novel just came out. She’s also the current president of SFWA.

The class is at 9:30 am pacific time on November 8, taught online. It’s $99, 10% off for former students.

(Check out Cat’s other classes, too!)

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After Suing To Gut The Voting Rights Act, Alabama Makes It Harder For Black Counties To Vote. Who Could Have Predicted That?


After passing a law requiring ID to vote,1 Alabama has closed a bunch of driver’s license offices – and the offices it shut down will especially impact black voters.’s John Archibald sums it up:

Take a look at the 10 Alabama counties with the highest percentage of non-white registered voters. That’s Macon, Greene, Sumter, Lowndes, Bullock, Perry, Wilcox, Dallas, Hale, and Montgomery, according to the Alabama Secretary of State’s office. Alabama, thanks to its budgetary insanity and inanity, just opted to close driver license bureaus in eight of them. All but Dallas and Montgomery will be closed.

Closed. In a state in which driver licenses or special photo IDs are a requirement for voting. […]

Every single county in which blacks make up more than 75 percent of registered voters will see their driver license office closed. Every one. […]

Look at the 10 [counties] that voted most solidly for Obama? Of those, eight – again all but Dallas and the state capital of Montgomery – had their offices closed.

This was entirely predictable – and almost certainly would not have been allowed before the Supreme Court’s Shelby decision. As I wrote in an earlier post:

After the Supreme Court eviscerated the Voting Rights Act in June’s Shelby v. Holder decision, Republican-controlled legislatures rushed to enact whatever voter ID laws they already had written.

In time, new and more extreme laws will inevitably be written to take advantage of the freedom Shelby has given states to reduce voting rights. And the conservatives on the Supreme Court may further reduce voting rights in future decisions. The worse damages of current voter ID laws are not the worst we’ll see.

Naturally, conservatives are saying that just because Alabama’s actions look, smell, flap and quack like a duck doesn’t mean it’s a duck. Jack at Ethics Alarms mocks the idea that Republicans in Alabama would deliberately make it harder for Black folks to vote:

“Make IDs essential to vote, then make it harder for blacks to get drivers licenses! What an ingenious plan! BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Nobody’s going to see through that!

In the real world, sometimes outlandish plots do happen, especially when people are highly motivated. And evidence shows that voter ID laws are most likely to be proposed following an increase in minority turnout.

Is it conscious plotting, or just unconscious bias?2 I don’t know, or care, because the hidden motivations of white legislators aren’t the important thing. That kind of thinking – that it’s excusable when laws put up barriers making it harder for minorities to vote, as long as we can’t prove that white legislators had conscious evil intentions – is white-centric. Where reason asks “does this make voting racist and unfair in practice,” white-centric thinking asks “were the hearts of the white people pure?”

Jack goes on:

Guess what? Alabama had thought about the ID problem, and was prepared to deal with it, or think they are. Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill announced, a day after the shift hit the fan,

“All 67 counties in Alabama have a Board of Registrars that issue photo voter I.D. cards. If, for some reason, those citizens are not able to make it to the Board of Registrars, we’ll bring our mobile I.D. van and crew to that county. By Oct. 31, our office will have brought the mobile I.D. van to every county in Alabama at least once.”

This reminded me of a passage from Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, in which Arthur Dent, surprised to find out that his house is scheduled to be demolished by the local government, talks to a bureaucrat:

Mr Prosser: But, Mr Dent, the plans have been available in the local planning office for the last nine months.

Arthur: Oh yes, well as soon as I heard I went straight round to see them, yesterday afternoon. You hadn’t exactly gone out of your way to call attention to them had you? I mean like actually telling anybody or anything.

Mr Prosser: But the plans were on display…

Arthur: On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them.

Mr Prosser: That’s the display department.

Arthur: With a torch.

Mr Prosser: The lights had probably gone out.

Arthur: So had the stairs.

Mr Prosser: But look, you found the notice, didn’t you?

Arthur: Yes yes I did. It was on display at the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying beware of the leopard.

Nothing prevented Arthur Dent from reading the plans, right? He could have gone to the local office to read them. Heck, maybe they even had a van.

In Jack’s comments, SamePenn points out that Alabama’s Republicans conveniently left themselves no time to educate voters on where they can now register to vote:

The official announcement closing the DMVs was made on September 30th. Is that 34 days to register for November 3rd elections? Well, no. It’s only 22 days until … I really don’t want to shout anymore; it hurts my fingers, so just pretend everything is either in uppercase, bold, underscored or has an exclamation mark … voter registration is closed. It happens that the deadline for voter registration in Alabama is 11 (eleven) days before the election: Saturday, Oct. 24. And the rules say that registration has to be complete before the deadline.

Alabama Republicans don’t need to absolutely prevent Black voters from voting. They just need to make registering to vote harder – board of registrars, disused lavatory, same thing – and then release the information in a way that makes it unlikely voters will hear about it.

So while voters in most mostly-white counties go to their local DMV to get their drivers licenses renewed, voters in many mostly-black counties need to know that they can get a voter ID card from the Board of Registrars3 – and then they need be able to get there during the limited hours they’re open.4

Or happen to hear about, and be available, for the four hours of one day that the mobile ID van will happen to be parked somewhere in their county.

So how good is that mobile ID van? “As of last Monday, only 29 IDs were issued from the mobile units this year and four from the state capitol, according to the secretary of state’s office.”

Yeah, that’s a reasonable substitute.

  1. “…the NAACP Legal Defense Fund determined in September that at least 282 ballots in the state’s June 3 primary election were not counted because of this new law. Additionally, about 40 percent of those discarded ballots came from counties with majority African American populations, while election officials in two Alabama counties with overwhelmingly white populations illegally waived the photo ID requirement for absentee voters.” From “Voter Suppression Efforts in Five States and Their Effect on the 2014 Midterm Elections” – PDF link. []
  2. I don’t think it’s a coincidence. Even if the legislators came up with their plan by throwing darts at a board, if the darts had “just happened” to make things harder for white conservative voters, then they would have found another way. White supremacy isn’t just a matter of laws deliberately enacted; it’s also a matter of which slights the government moves to correct, or never allows to occur in the first place, versus which ones they let be. []
  3. Imani Gandy points out that just knowing about and getting to the Board of Registrars are not the only barriers. []
  4. And, of course, they still have to travel sometimes ridiculous distances if they want an actual driver’s license. []
Posted in Elections and politics, Race, racism and related issues | 15 Comments  

There Is No Such Thing As “The” Correct Definition of Racism


For years, I’ve been seeing the argument over the definition of racism – as in, “there is no such thing as reverse racism, by definition only White people can be racist, because racism is prejudice plus power, here look what this sociologist says” versus “the dictionary says ‘poor treatment of or violence against people because of their race,’ it doesn’t say anything about only White people being racist” over and over and over and over.

Whichever definition you prefer, the other definition is not “wrong.” Words mean what people use them to mean, and can have multiple meanings. If fluent English speakers have for years been using the word “racism” to mean X, then that is one correct meaning of racism. If another group of fluent speakers has for years used it to mean “Y,” then that is another correct meaning. If a specialized group – like sociologists – use “racism” as a term of art meaning “Z,” then that is yet another correct meaning. That’s just how English works.

I prefer one definition over another, but I recognize that both definitions exist in modern English and are used by English speakers.

Posted in Race, racism and related issues | 84 Comments  

Interviewing C. Dale Britain about the Royal Kingdom of Yurt

Starflight RavenWhen I was nine or ten, my mother and I used to go to the local chain bookstore — Barnes & Noble? Borders? Walden’s? I don’t remember now — on about a weekly basis. I’d go stare at the science fiction and fantasy section and trawl for paperbacks. I discovered a lot of writers that way — Patricia Wrede, Tanith Lee; I had a David Eddings phase; I could go on. (My other major source of new author discovery was my parents’ science fiction bookshelves.)

One of my discoveries there was C. Dale Brittain‘s The Royal Wizard of Yurt series which begins with A Bad Spell in Yurt (link to Amazon), It’s a really light-hearted, charming epic fantasy series, in which the characters are by and large kind to each other and the author is kind to them. It would be many years before I learned about the concept of generosity to one’s characters, and more years before I intuitively understood why it felt precious to me, but these books are an example of it.

One thing I also liked about the series and its medieval world was its strong, political religious presence. As a child, I’m not sure I knew exactly what to make of it. Having been raised by atheist parents (though I did attend Bible study at about the age I was reading these books), I had a vague understanding of Catholicism. I think I felt intrigued because it was a different way of handling medieval settings, and also a little uncomfortable because coming from a Jewish-atheist family with a side of a-couple-generations-back Mormonism, I was well aware of the problems of mixing religion and government. I remember being a little worried about that in the setting of the world, despite the light tone.

Once I’d been to Europe though in my early twenties, I started to understand how much the history of medieval Europe was deeply influenced by Christianity, particularly Catholicism. It seems almost inconceivable to me now that one could write a medieval-inflected world that’s supposed to have a realistic edge — whether or not it’s light-hearted and funny — without incorporating that. Many books do, but Brittain takes a gentle approach; while the church is not perfect, by and large the priests who show up are well-meaning and acting in (literal) good faith. This is back to the generosity toward characters thing.

So anyway, I was flipping through my SFWA directory and I happened to see C. Dale Brittain’s name. At which point I squeaked. The author kindly agreed to answer some interview questions for me.

I hadn’t realized how far the Yurt series had come in my absence. There are 3 or 4 new books now that I haven’t yet read, including this new one, THE STARFLIGHT RAVEN (Amazon link), which tells the story of the generation who lives in Yurt’s castle after the characters in the original series.

1) One of the things that makes your books distinct is the role religion plays in them. I appreciated how the church has an impact on the world-building, as of course it did in the real world. I also appreciated that while the church isn’t perfect, the main character associated with it is truly devout and caring. Can you speak to the way you built the church into your world and your experience in writing it?
When I started writing “A Bad Spell in Yurt,” I don’t believe I made a deliberate decision, “This story will include religion.”  Rather, as a medievalist writing a fantasy set in a vaguely-medieval world, it just made sense that the castle of Yurt have a chaplain.  Romances and epics written in the twelfth century–the real origin of what we now consider the fantasy genre–all included Christianity.  One of the major themes that keeps coming up in my stories, I think because I believe it myself, is that people who don’t agree on many issues still need to find a way to get along, and a rivalry between organized wizardry and the Church seemed like an excellent way to show this.  I’ve also never liked stories in which all the priests are either scheming hypocrites or else prejudiced ignoramuses–ie, some weird combination of caricatures of the Spanish inquisition and of modern evangelicals.  Sure, pompous ignoramuses certainly existed in the real Middle Ages (and in my “The Wood Nymph and the Cranky Saint,” a lot of the priests don’t come off real well), but so did extremely devout, sincere people, so I wanted to include that aspect.  The religion in the Yurt series isn’t exactly real medieval Christianity, but it should remind one of it.

2) Have you always been a humorist? What do you like about writing humor?
Actually I originally wanted to write books where reviewers would say things like, “Searing,” and “Uncovers the failings of our society as a whole.”  Instead I get, “Charming light fantasy,” and “Gave me a few chuckles.”  Daimbert points out that this is what I should expect of a series where the title of the first book is a pun.  In fact, I think I’ve always made people laugh–I used to entertain my family on long car trips–but it’s because I always see the humor in situations.  I rarely tell jokes per se, but I like looking at things from a slightly different angle.  There’s always a lot of laughter in my big Western Civ lecture classes–how could someone *not* laugh at Zeus chasing anything in a skirt, or anything not in a skirt?  PG Wodehouse and Garrison Keillor are probably formative influences (I get the line about “Gave me a few chuckles” from Garrison, who has the same problem).

3) As a teenager, I didn’t know whether you were a man or a woman. I think I assumed you were a man (possibly because the main characters in your books are male) and didn’t really think about it again until I picked up your books as an adult. There are a lot of reasons why women writers decide to take on gender ambiguous bylines–including, of course, just preferring the sound. If you’re willing to talk about it, what were some of the reasons you decided to go by C. Dale Brittain?
C. Dale Brittain is indeed a part of my real name, but parts that I don’t use in my day-job as a professor.  I always liked Dale (derived from Hinsdale, an ancestral name), and in my cowgirl phase around age 8 I was very excited to learn about Dale Evans.  (Hey, I can’t rope a steer, but I bet she never published a fantasy novel.)  Since “Bad Spell” is told by a first-person male wizard (Daimbert), it made sense to use a potentially-male name.  I have a male narrator for the audio versions of my books, and when I first listened to him my initial thought was, “Hey, Daimbert doesn’t sound like that in *my* head,” because of course Daimbert sounded like me.  I should add that I really like my narrator once I got over the initial shock!  The other reason for writing my fantasies as C. Dale Brittain is to keep them separate from my scholarly books.  I didn’t want a fantasy fan seeing the title, “Sword, Miter, and Cloister,” rushing out to buy it even though it was $60 in hardcover, and then being bitterly disappointed.  I also didn’t want a professional colleague saying, “Oh, look, Connie’s published a new book called “The Witch and the Cathedral,” probably about gender issues in 12th-century religion, I think I’ll assign it in seminar.”

4) When I was reading your books, I was also reading a lot of other contemporary sword and sorcery. It felt like your books fit in with the zeitgeist of that moment–at least the zeitgeist I was reading as a teen. Did you feel like you were working in unison with other writers? Who were your influences, contemporary or past?
Oddly, I hadn’t read much fantasy recently when I wrote and published “Bad Spell.”  Tolkien and CS Lewis had been early favorites, and I read a lot of SF and fantasy in the ’70s, when Ballantine first started their fantasy line (that became Del Rey).  At the time I think there was more good YA fantasy than “adult” fantasy (for some reason that term still makes me think of things like peep-shows, we definitely need a better term), authors like Ursula LeGuin and Susan Cooper (of “The Dark is Rising”).  In the ’80s however I probably read more mysteries than speculative fiction–in some ways “Bad Spell” is an English country-house murder mystery.  Once I got published and joined SFWA and all those good things I started reading in the field again.  I think my main knock on a lot of sword and sorcery is that–somehow, against all odds, can he do it?–the hero ends up whacking the Bad Guy into submission.  My heroes win (happy endings and all that), but they do very little against-all-odds whacking of Bad Guys.  I really like Tolkien’s point that he very deliberately did *not* have Frodo use the Ring to overpower the Dark Lord, and yet a lot of modern imitation-Tolkien has exactly that outcome.

5) The Starlight Raven came out in April 2015. Forgive me for not knowing, but is this the first book that takes place with the new Yurt generation? What made you feel like it was time to move on to them? Can you tell us a bit about the book?
Yes, “The Starlight Raven” is the first of the “Yurt, the Next Generation” series.  (That is *not* the official name of the series.)  I’d originally started writing it over 10 years ago, after the Yurt series wrapped up with “Is This Apocalypse Necessary?”  I was figuring this would be a good way to relaunch my career, and fans were asking, “What happens to Antonia?”  The problem, as it turned out, is that having teenage protagonists at a wizards’ school made all the publishers and agents pronounce, “This is too much like Harry Potter.”  It was of course useless to point out that it was nothing like HP, or that “Bad Spell,” with its wizards’ school, appeared long before the first HP book.  Then I got really busy with that pesky day job.  But a few years ago, when the original Yurt series went out of print and I got the rights back from Baen, I decided them to re-publish them as ebooks, as an indie.  And then this spring I figured, since no one (other than my fans!) seemed to want a story about a wizard’s daughter, that I’d publish “Starlight Raven” myself, both as an ebook and in paperback.  Antonia, our heroine, is the daughter of a wizard (Daimbert) and a witch, and she wants to be the first female wizard, but the wizards’ school is not so sure a girl belongs there.  Meanwhile the witches on her mother’s side of the family want to bring her into the Sisterhood of workers of *their* kind of magic, which the wizards have always looked down on.  The story tells how Antonia tries to find her own way between competing claims of the right way to learn and practice magic, and has to deal along the way with some fairly scary creatures out of wild magic who have no use for either wizards or witches.


Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments  

Cartoon: Abortion and Selfishness


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When I make this argument to pro-lifers, they often point out that there are individual pro-lifers who support a strong welfare state. That’s true. But what individual pro-lifers say is not the point.

The point is, what do the pro-life groups put their political might behind? What do the politicians they endorse actually vote for, and just as importantly, vote against?

The pro-life movement is an incredibly powerful grass-roots group. If they made strong welfare for single parents a priority, the GOP – which depends on pro-lifers to get elected – would have no choice but to support it – or at least, to stop opposing it. And the reason that doesn’t happen is, policies to help single parents aren’t a pro-life priority in any meaningful fashion.

This cartoon originally had a caption – “Compassionate Conservatism at Its Finest,” a reference to George W. Bush’s 2000 campaign slogan. (This cartoon was apparently drawn during the Bush administration). I got rid of the caption partly because it was dated, but also because the cartoon is stronger without the caption. (I have a bad habit of putting in captions when I shouldn’t.)

Artwise, this cartoon is… okay. I like the angry face in the second-to-last panel, and the way his hair looks like a bunch of bananas. I like the drawing of the woman in the final panel. And the storytelling and “acting” is mostly fine, and that’s what matters most to readers.

But I still wince when I see this strip! Like, in panel 2, his head is way smaller than it should be, and in the final panel there’s obviously no underlying structure in his head shape, so it’s sort of just a blob. (I’ve always had trouble drawing characters in profile.) I hate the shading in this strip – very tentative and all over the place, and with a cheesy Photoshop blurring effect.

Posted in Abortion & reproductive rights, Cartooning & comics | 5 Comments  

Bill Watterson on Peanuts

65 years ago today… Well, er, 65 years ago yesterday. But close enough. 65 years ago the first Peanuts strip was published.


Bill Watterson, creator of Calvin and Hobbes, once said:

Peanuts was my introduction to the world of the comic strip, and Peanuts captured my imagination like nothing else. Because it was the first strip I read, its many innovations were lost on me, and I suspect most readers of Peanuts today have forgotten how it single-handedly reconfigured the comic strip landscape in a few short years. The flat, simple drawings, the intellectual children, the animal with thoughts and imagination – all these things are commonplace now, and it’s hard to imagine what a revolutionary strip it was in the ’50s and ’60s. All I knew was that it had a magic that other strips didn’t.

A lot of the magic for me is in those deceptively simple, stylized drawings. For me, the few lines that make up each character, their faces, and gestures are remarkably expressive. Two dots with parentheses around them have become the cartoon shorthand for eyes looking uneasy or insecure. When Charlie Brown’s eyes do that, you know his stomach hurts,

Peanuts has held my interest for many years because the strip is very funny on one level and very sad on another. Charlie Brown suffers – and suffers in a small, private, honest way. Schultz draws those quiet moments of self-doubt: Charlie Brown sitting on the bench, eating peanut butter, trying to work up the nerve to talk to the little red-haired girl – and failing. As a kid, I read Peanuts for the funny drawings and the jokes, and later I realized that the childhood struggles of the strip are metaphors for adult struggles as well.

Peanuts is about the search for acceptance, security, and love, and how hard those self-affirming things are to find. The strip is also about alienation, about ambition, about heroes, about religion, and about the search for meaning and “happiness” in life. For a comic strip, it digs pretty deep.

Of course, the strip has a flair for weird humor, too. Snoopy in goggles, his doghouse somehow riddled with bullet holes, yelling, “Curse you, Red Baron!” is, I submit, as bizarre an image as anything ever seen on the comics page. Peanuts defined the contemporary comic strip.

A couple more links:

The Hooded Utilitarian on why Peanuts is so great.

An old post of mine: Why Peanuts kicks Garfield’s Sad Furry Ass.

So what are some of your favorite Peanuts strips? Here’s one of my faves:


Posted in Cartooning & comics | 7 Comments  

Sarkeesian’s “You Suck” Statement At The UN Was Not What Anti-SJWs Claim


So Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian, among others, were witnesses at the launch of the UN’s “Working Group on Broadband and Gender.”1

Ever since, right-wingers on social media have been claiming that Sarkeesian said that “you suck” is a form of cyberviolence, or that Sarkeesian said that people should be put in jail for saying “you suck,” etcetra. (Related: The 13 Most Ridiculous Things #GamerGaters Have Said About Anita and Zoe’s UN Visit (Reddit Edition) | we hunted the mammoth).

My friend Cathy Young’s statement is a typical example of the genre, milder than many, but notable because it comes from a respected anti-SJW writer.


FWIW I think some are too dismissive of threats to Sarkeesian. But when she tells UN being told “You suck” on the Internet is a form of “cyberviolence” that should be a cause of public concern, “professional victim” is not too harsh a label IMO.

I had to go searching for Sarkeesian’s actual statement, since – rather conveniently – not a single one of the many, many right-wingers who criticized the statement (that I read) either quoted it in full or linked to it. Here it is:

I have been the target for 3 years nonstop of egregious online harassment in all levels. I think it’s important to recognize that harassment is, as someone had mentioned, it’s not just what is legal and illegal, right? Harassment is threats of violence, but it’s also the day to day grind of “you’re a liar,” “you suck,” making all these hate videos to attack us on a regular basis, and the mobs that come from those hate videos, etcetra.

Sarkeesian’s actual statement said that there are “levels” of harassment, explicitly distinguished between “violence” and “you suck” statements, and said that relatively mild abusive remarks, when they become a “day to day grind,” can be a form of harassment. This is all the polar opposite of what Cathy attributed to her – and, incidentally, so reasonable that it’s almost banal.

Anyhow, I’m posting this here so I have something to point to this week, since I suspect I’m going to see this lie continue to come up a lot.

P.S. By the way, I haven’t read it, but Jesse Singal convincingly argues that The U.N.’s Cyberharassment Report Is Really Bad. “Bad” as in poorly conceived, argued, and written. If that’s so, then that’s sad – what a wasted opportunity.

P.P.S. Cathy responds to me on Twitter, in the replies to this tweet. I don’t think her defense is convincing.

  1. You can watch Sarkeesian’s statement here; her bit begins 90 minutes into the video. Quinn is the speaker before Sarkeesian. []
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