A Few Hours in a Far-Off Age

I’m enjoying Henrietta Dugdale‘s utopian SF, A Few Hours in a Far-Off Age. Millions of years in the future, we and the disembodied narrator follow along as highly evolved humans discourse on education and the history of the Christian Blood Age. Australia sank into the sea and a new continent, Alethia, rose, though Melbourne is rising again and has this giant museum/school exhibit hall built on it with what sound like fancy study carrels next to elaborate dioramas of “torture instruments” ie corsets, low necked dresses, and high heels; or just like, men being sexist while drinking the Demon Alcohol and denying women a right to education whilst cheering on their various wars and not doing any of the housework.

The evolved teenagers (2 per family) gratifyingly listen to the smiling lectures of their evolved moms, then we weirdly follow one of them, Veritée, to her private study where she divests herself of our rational dress outer garments (loose trousers with a tunic and a short jacket, none of which are constraining in any way) to reveal her silk undergarments (similar to the top ones), does calisthenics, studies next to her giant pet tiger-dog, has some vegetarian food (delivered by the one family servant who is educated, evolved, and only works till noon after which she goes off for recreation and philosophizing, and who emerges bearing the trays of fruit and bread from a weird mirrored pillar with a spiral staircase). Veritée then has a bath (slightly creepily we see her beauteous form in the bath – better than any Blood Era statue of beauty since unconstrained by Torture Instruments and well calisthenicked.)

Some of the teenagers then fly off in an aircar (run by some sort of power plus kept safe by the Repelling Engine) to the beaches of the West Coast at 80 miles per hour. They frolic, have a picnic, and probably discuss Evolution some more. In one interlude we are treated to a description of the inventresses of the Repelling Engine (inspired by the corpses which used to rain down from aircar crashes!) They go on a test flight and then are welcomed by parades, honors, costly gifts, job offers (which they refuse unless they both get the job together) as the cheering crowds celebrate the new age of safer air travel.

Space travel is mentioned as a possible future but not really given much thought.

Henrietta does not seem to like church or the organized religion of her time, or the “myth-men” who run it, much.

I have returned to our earth. Oh, what cruel disorder here reigns! Truth crashed and persecuted! “Hypocrisy, the only evil that walks invisible, except to God alone,” flaunting in every myth temple! howling in every community! checking progress at every avenue.

Fools and rogues! You who profess so much love and reverence for your skeletons. I tell you it is all useless that you noisily rattle their offensive bones before my vision. That bright light of truth from the far-off age shines to me through your blackest screens! Go, hug your loathsome relics of a loathsome era in privacy—if you can—and say not again to my ears what you dare not utter to the Infinite in your solitude.

Ha! I see I “obey” and do the “work” that was commanded, for the light shines more brightly!

A dream? What is dreaming? Some explain most learnedly how it is caused by certain conditions of the body. May not some dreams cause those certain conditions?

Dream, or what else it has been, I see always the beautiful light bright with truth and hope. No one can extinguish it!

Not really a review but I loved Captain Marvel!

Definitely see it if you love watching women be all super badass and determined and blow stuff up and also if you love cats. It was adorable! It was fun! Stuff blew up! There were more than 2 women who talked to each other about, well, about blowing stuff up I guess but also how amazingly they love each other and how they’re like family. Starry eyed children – a perfect set up for that future Captain Marvel.

I did find it very satisfying when the one dude was negging her (near the end) and she’s just like…. Nuh-uh. (Ka-POW!)

I liked the Supreme Intelligence scenes – the montages of Carol falling over and grimly getting up again as a child and young woman – and all the 90s nostalgia stuff was very well done & more fun than I realized it would be.

Of course, I especially enjoyed the scene on public transit.

The computer scene! OMG! “It’s loading.” Entire theater busted out laughing.

It just felt so good to get this kind of superhero movie and this level of superhero, well done & with fairly minimal bullshit. I cried during some of the final battle scenes when she was blowing even more shit up even more competently. Did I mention that I really like explosions…. Well…. I just do.

If you’d like a little background before watching the movie I recommend reading up on Captain Marvel’s history and various incarnations and plotlines in Wikipedia. Here’s an actual review, too.

Early astronomer commitment schemes

Today I learned that early astronomers were hella clever. I was looking up good colony sites or just interesting topographic features for each planet or other solar body that I think would make a good future BART stop in Transitory and came across this:

Early astronomers used anagrams as a form of commitment scheme to lay claim to new discoveries before their results were ready for publication. Galileo used smaismrmilmepoetaleumibunenugttauiras for Altissimum planetam tergeminum observavi (“I have observed the most distant planet to have a triple form”) for discovering the rings of Saturn.

Working on this game is an endless delight!

Huygens did it too.

Huygens observed Saturn and in 1656, like Galileo, had published an anagram saying “aaaaaaacccccdeeeeeghiiiiiiillllmmnnnnnnnnnooooppqrrstttttuuuuu”. Upon confirming his observations, three years later he revealed it to mean “Annuto cingitur, tenui, plano, nusquam coherente, ad eclipticam inclinato”; that is, “It [Saturn] is surrounded by a thin, flat, ring, nowhere touching, inclined to the ecliptic”

The Terraforming Wiki is very useful for my descriptions of the Solar Line stations.

Meanwhile, have a look at this cool delta-v subway map of the solar system!

I also direct your attention to the fabulous Interplanetary Transport Network wikipedia page.

Heading over to CripTech

Heading over to the CripTech symposium now. Its full title is: CripTech: Disability and Technology in Japan and the United States – an International Symposium. I spent the morning yesterday with some of the conference speakers as we toured SF Lighthouse.

Technology has the potential to greatly improve access and the full social participation of disabled individuals in Japan and the United States. Both countries have invested considerable sums in these directions, but often this research is being conducted separately from the key stakeholders. This symposium brings together technologists, anthropologists, educators, and other researchers who are working on the nexus of technology, access, and design in Japan together with scholars, engineers, researchers, and activists in the United States for a four-day symposium and workshop in Berkeley, California, the home of the independent living movement. The majority of the participants identify as disabled people.

I’ll be speaking Saturday morning after the showing of Fixed: The Science/Fiction of Human Enhancement, on a panel with Ian Smith and Gregor Wolbring, moderated by Franchesca Spektor.

CripTech-Poster-small

Excerpt from A House by the Sea

Reading Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction and loving it. Some great stories and essays – I have more to say in detail but for now a quick note and an excerpt from P.H. Lee’s “A House by the Sea”, which describes the life of the former residents of a certain basement in Omelas.

Do you believe it now? Can this really be how they live out their lives, so close to the City that they can hear the bells clamoring and the processions proceeding? Can they really live together, in a house by the sea? No? Let me tell you this, then. There used to be a doctor—a nice man with a real white doctor’s coat, who still lives in the City—who came out to their house every Wednesday to check up on them, but that didn’t work out, because he kept feeling uncomfortable and trying to euthanize them. So now, whenever one of them gets sick, a woman comes in on the train from Vallcoris. She doesn’t have a doctor’s coat. She just has a sweater. She doesn’t know about the basement, she doesn’t know about anything, not really. She just takes their pulse and asks them to cough, and leaves them with prescriptions, and no one tries to euthanize anyone.

Putting this in a sort of mood-file in my imagination, along with the title story of The Open Cage by Anzia Yezierska.

By Degrees and Dilatory Time by S.L. Huang, and Nisi Shawl’s The Things I Miss the Most also struck me as amazing – exploring the complexities of feelings about our bodyminds over time.

Warcross is awesome!!!

Warcross continues to deliver the goods! I love this book. The gamer/hacker heroine in her ripped up jeans and flannel shirt has now gone through the first draft for the Great Games or whatever they are called, and was picked first to be on the Phoenix Riders team even though she is a lowly level 28. The captain of her team, Asher Wing, is a wheelchair user, which made me instantly happy. I was trying to figure out from the description what kind of chair he had and I am thinking powerchair since his headrest was mentioned. Another named character on an opposing team was a former Paralympian.

Scenes of clever hacking… loving descriptions of leaping around and fighting in the Game . . . And she has moved from her first swanky hotel room to some sort of team training mansion where she has a suite with a rooftop patio with her own private infinity pool.

They have also been to a great party at a disco which was seamlessly wheelchair accessible with great augmented reality. There are so many adorable details like that there is a (female) character named Hamilton.

I also dig that we see more of Emika’s motivation and backstory for the high school hack that got her arrested.

This is like the perfect antidote for the boring sexist barfbag that was Ready Player One. It’s assuaging my soul!

Sub-ether message

Quote of the day, because it’s silly and perfect! Give it a dramatic reading if you dare.

The photophonic visiscreen before Ranger brightened with the image of a stocky reptilian creature that looked vaguely humanoid. Its facial scales flushed violet with pleasure as it said: “Captain Farstar! Greetings from Newtonia. How pleased I am to see you again.” The being spoke good Unilingo that was only faintly slurred by a vague hissing.
“Greetings, Dr. Clay. My blood temperature is increased by your warmth,” Ranger said, using the semi-formal greeting ritual of Cretacia, the director’s native planet. “Did you receive my sub-ether message?”

This is from the opening chapter of The Treasure of Wonderwhat. I note that their ship is named “The Gayheart”.

Book roundup: Bitterblue, Simoqin, Three Felonies a Day

Quick notes on some books I’ve read recently. I have laryngitis (still!!!) and it seems to be worsening rather than getting better. So I will write rather than talk.

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore, which I picked up from a tip in SF writer Claire Light’s blog. Third in an excellent fantasy trilogy (Graceling, Fire), this is the heaviest and most awesome of the lot. Bitterblue dove into murky waters as its young queen realizes all the ways she (and the kingdom as a whole) are being gaslighted as they try to heal from the former and very abusive, tyrannical king. She becomes obsessed with history, stories, and truth.

I am thinking of this book in conjunction with others that address how we as a society (and individually) face history. How much of the past do we want or need to know? What is worth teaching? What culture are we constructing? I think of epics like Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun and Dune in opposition to Bitterblue and many other feminist sf/f works. In Wolfe and Herbert, individual enlightenment is attainable by Knowing Everything, by becoming/eating/consuming the past. Once you have it, you become ruler and god. There can be only one. I saw Lois McMaster Bujold take a fairly complicated stance on this in Hallowed Hunt and there are tons of other examples of the rejection of “know everything, truth absolute, be god” model of culture. The Marq’ssan Trilogy addresses this beautifully of course. Bitterblue fits right into that feminist sf political picture for me. I also found it resonated well with my ethical and political framework of acknowledging atrocities and calling out abuses of power in personal life.

Cashore really packed a punch and I admired how her earlier works in the trilogy hinted at this, reaching for it while coming off as much more light or escapist fantasy reading. She matured as a writer and thinker maybe but also lured readers in. A big old “Trigger Warning” on this book if you are an abuse survivor. I would also say that a pre-teen or younger teenager might be okay with the first book, maybe less so with the 2nd, and boy howdy the 3rd may not be for the younger ones. Depending of course.

I will be reading all of Cashore’s books forever more!

The Gameworld Trilogy – The Simoqin Prophecies, The Manticore’s Secret, The Unwaba Revelations by Samit Basu. These are just great. I am not sure I can do them justice but they’re a fantasy trilogy set in a world that is India-centric in its mythological background, its geographical perspective, and in its rambly structure that explores hero-tales and philosophy, life and death, free will and religion.

As a huge fan of the Mahabharata and Ramayana I especially loved this series and all its hilarious jokes and references. But I don’t think you need background knowledge culturally or from reading to love these books. In any case you will likely at least get the Tolkien and Harry Potter jokes. I love the city of Kol and its vroomsticks, its spellcaster university, the fabulous bar, the Chief Civilian, Spikes, the unwaba, and the underground tunnels… The Dark Lord, the very silly magic movie industry, and the angsty, loose-woven romantic drama of the huge cast of primary characters. While I do not really like Terry Pratchett (I *know*… just move along … there is no convincing me… I am allergic… I am not judging you) I think that people who do like Pratchett would probably adore The Gameworld books.

I am going to mark down all of Basu’s books for future reading – there is a new one out called Turbulence that I have my eye on. WTF that I have never read these before! And that the U.S. Amazon.com entries don’t have any reviews yet. When U.S. fantasy readers get wise to Basu he will be a huge hit.

Basu reminds me a bit of Minister Faust, the depth of exploring tropes with charming wit & detail – basically this is for fantasy what From the Notebooks of Doctor Brain is for superhero comics. Okay, not exactly, but the playful humor was similar.

samit-basu-simoqin

I read Harvesting Color: How to Find Plants and Make Natural Dyes by Rebecca Burgess, on the recommendation of my friend Rose White who is a textile and yarn and spinning expert. We were talking about Burgess’s Fibershed project and I expressed the desire to learn to spin. Burgess’s book reminds me of one of my favorite nature-lover books, Margit Roos-Collins The Flavors of Home. I want to run out and harvest wild plants and make giant pots of steaming dye and feel like an earth mama eco- mad scientist. I would bond with the land! Yay! This will not happen, because I don’t really have the time or energy, and my hands hurt too much to screw around with giant pots and wet things. But it was nice to think about and maybe I will recognize some new weeds or pick a pocketful of toyon berries and half-assed-ly try to dye something someday.

I also plowed through Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent by Harvey silverglate. This was an impulse buy based on some random internet person’s recommendation (Like much of my reading) in a discussion of Aaron’s federal prosecution. The title sounded promising. But I don’t recommend this book at all unless you feel that hedge fund managers and the heads of Enron are inherently very innocent people who suffer unfair persecution. Things started out kind of okay and then I realized I was reading a book by a crazed-ass libertarian. Then I had the equivalent of political anaphylactic shock somewhere in the middle of the Enron chapter. There were interesting bits and I especially liked the stories of Governor White’s case and how federal prosecutors try to “ladder up”.

There was a particular sentence that crystallized the whole book’s loathsomeness for me. While I like to think that even filthy rich criminals deserve a fair trial Silverglate went a million miles over the line in the bit where he was bemoaning how some dude’s bazillion dollars of assets got seized because someone made a federal case of whatever it was he allegedly did. And so…. and so…. that was super bad because… “he couldn’t get a fair trial”. Sums up right wing libertarians doesn’t it? A fair trial is one that you can use all of your gajillionty dollars to buy. without all those millions a fair trial is just impossssssible. (But we don’t bother to mention all the people who dno’t have the millions in the first place; it’s just normal I guess that we expect them not to get a fair trial? Or maybe “fair” means something different to Silverglate.)

I would like to read a book that lives up to the “Three Felonies a Day” title, or the premise that we are all committing crimes that we could be federally prosecuted for, daily. This is not that book. It was very annoying.

Reality Sandwiches by Allen Ginsberg. Every so often I take out the books that are on the tiny shelf in the bathroom and put in a new batch of very small books that fit there and seem suitable for reading on the can or while in the bath. I remembered that I don’t love the poems in this book except for most of The Green Automobile.

Old Man’s War by John Scalzi. Never read it before. I have not read much Scalzi other than his blog when he says something that jibes with my politics that I get linked to a bunch by my friends. I was initially annoyed that he could write about things that the rest of us regularly write about and be hailed as a motherfucking genius for summing up oppression like racism or sexism or whatever in the context of science fiction books or gaming in a way that is palatable to the vaguely liberal nerdy white dude masses. Then he did it again. Then so many times that I began to appreciate and like him as an excellent ally. Then I read some book of his that starred a teenage girl in a space colony and I gave him kudos for writing a teenage girl character that didn’t make me want to slap him. I know, my bar is set low. Anyway, Old Man’s War. It was okay space opera and I got what it was doing and referencing but it didn’t light me up in flames. I wanted to know what happened. I will probably read more of his books especially if someone recs me a good one. Thumbs up Scalzi!

The First Shift and The Second Shift by Hugh Howey. Holy shit! Now these books floated my boat much more. Awesome density and moving things along. Sabroso! I loved Wool very much and have been telling everyone to read it! In fact I also went heads down and read every other thing by Howey I could find. I recommend them all. This short blog post has gotten long so maybe I will talk about Howey, Wool, the Silo books, zombies and 9/11, Hurricane and coming of age books, and so on, later…

Read Wool! And the Silo books too!

Must also go into Jan Morris’ Hav books, Mieville, Alfred Kubin’s The Other Side (amazing! read it if you like Au Rebors and things Gothick) Sherwood Smith “A Posse of Princesses” and various other poetry books.

Imagining radical democracy, practicing feminist anarchy

At WisCon a couple of weeks ago I was on a panel called Imagining Radical Democracy with Alexis Lothian, L. Timmel Duchamp, and Andrea Hairston. We talked about political change, culture, and science fiction, leaping into mid conversation. Everyone was quite erudite so I will try to link some of the important background concepts, books, and thinkers mentioned. The title and description of the panel don’t quite describe “what we talked about”, but everyone knew what “it” was. This was the topic:

The General Assembly has become a familiar practice since the growth of Occupy Wall Street. Anarchistic and radically democratic organizing processes have a much longer history, though, including the Zapatistas, the Spanish student movement, and movements in the history of feminism. For WisCon members, a familiar feeling might have bubbled up in watching, reading about, or participating in Occupy: wasn’t this a bit like what they did on Le Guin’s Anarres, or in DuChamp’s Free Zones? This panel will discuss the possible growth of a kind of democracy other than our current party-based political systems, using the ways it has been prefigured and imagined in feminist science fiction to help make sense of radical histories and futures.

Here is a rough transcript of the Radical Democracy panel by laceblade. It meant a lot to me personally that laceblade transcribed this panel and put it up for public reading so quickly; it’s something I started doing at WisCon panels to document the conversations for the Feminist SF Wiki, but I was too exhausted to do it this year. It was beautiful not just to see many others documenting live, but to be documented myself by someone so passionate and engaged. I was touched to the core.

I felt that we jumped immediately into the conversation with the assumption that we all knew what we were talking about without having to give much background or try to explain things. We didn’t talk about Occupy or specific movements so much as we talked about “that thing we know when we see it, or are doing it.” We didn’t even really introduce ourselves, partly out of eagerness to jump into the topics, partly from assumption people knew who we were in the context of WisCon 36, and partly because of automatically killing the rock star on the stage (opposite of killing the angel in the house!) — so I’ll write a bit of an intro now!

L. Timmel Duchamp, Timmi, is a publisher who runs Aqueduct Press; a brilliant thinker and SF author of an epic science fiction work in 5 volumes, the Marq’ssan Cycle, which is about an intervention in Earth politics by alien feminist anarchists. They convene a giant consensus meeting including two women from every Earth nation, destroy much of the technological infrastructure of the military industrial complex(es), and establish anarchist Free Zones in many locations around the planet. The book centers on the relationships and complicated conversations of various women including Kay (who is from the Professional class), Elizabeth (an Executive), and Martha (one of the proletariat… a service tech or sub-exec) and female-presenting though ambiguously gendered telepathic aliens such as Sorben and Magyyt. Revolution, imprisonment, torture, being co-opted, complicated sexual relationships across class boundaries, and the exploration of false consciousness and double consciousness all make this series politically exciting and emotionally intense. Her work in establishing a feminist science fiction press has fostered many writers and amazing, award-winning books. During the panel Timmi did what she does so well which is telling a specific story but with the feeling of it being a roundabout way to arrive at a point or an impression or knowledge conveyed which leaves layers of impressions behind — and the feeling I get from her of a mind somewhat frightening in scope and power channeled through the body of a specific fragile human being, exercising her will to focus all the dehumanization she has experienced and witnessed into a scary laser beam. I’m just saying, I feel a disturbance in The Force when she talks.

Alexis a nd Timmi

Andrea Hairston is a playwright, professor, and novelist, author of Redwood and Wildfire and Mindscape. She has done a lot of analysis in understanding the history of minstrelry in the U.S. She teaches theater and African American studies at Smith. She’s an amazing speaker and storyteller, brilliant, enthusiastic, and complicated. I love when she talks and gets excited and waves her arms around with the wildest enthusiasm and keenest intellect. And reading Mindscape, I thought (dorkiest example ever) of Menolly describing what it was like to play a piece of complicated music that other people find too difficult and technical (I believe it was The Ballad of Moreta’s Ride) to Master Shonagar; like riding a dragon!

andrea hairston

Alexis Lothian is a writer and academic, a professor at Indiana University, and theorist of science fiction fandom. She is an active vidder and deep into media fandom, gender studies, digital cultural politics, and is a founder and editor for the journal Transformative Works and Cultures. She moderated our discussion. I remember on first meeting her I came to a discussion between people of color at WisCon in someone’s hotel room, an intense and amazing conversation which she recorded with permission (I was there as assistant techie person, I think) and transcribed for the inaugural issue of Transformative Works and Cultures, recording with quiet attentiveness, contributing to the opening of that space for conversation.

I felt Laura Quilter’s absence on this panel (and at WisCon) keenly, painfully. She is a huge part of this conversation.

Timmi opened the panel by talking about how her writing and her activism (feminist and anti-globalization work) feed into each other. She talked about why science fiction is important for activism:

Bad experiences create low expectations especially with social rollbacks over the last 30 years. Creates political apathy. Political apathy is a response, not just a state of ignoring the world, it’s a state of actual response. It’s not passive even though it looks like passivity. I think what’s important about science fiction is it gives us alternatives that we can’t imagine in the US even though our history is full of tens of thousands of experiments in collective communities. All around the world, all sorts of things going on, all sorts of collective groups.

“The revolution” takes place in our imagination and is a process, not a means to an end.

Then I talked about hackerspaces and Noisebridge, the hacker/maker anarchist collective I’m part of in San Francisco. Hackerspaces are an important part of what’s happening in the current political moment. People banding together to try to form alternative social structures, pool resources, make physical spaces that reflect some of the social, cultural spaces and philosophies we have made in F/LOSS culture and on the Internet and web. As part of Riot Grrrl we tried to “Kill Rock Stars”; make and be part of a story that is not about a Great Man, not about The Hero, that works from many points of view; there is no puppet master moving us around a chessboard, and there are no saints (or sainted texts) we should canonize. Difficult SF stories, difficult narratives, are important politically to teach us all how to read reality, how to construct complicated truths. I described trying to explain “Anonymous” or “Occupy” to journalists, and how because of their failure of imagination, and their assumption that no mainstream readers could understand a story without a hero, they can’t get it. They have to participate and be changed in order to know how to tell a story that draws in the reader to participate and change.

I’m not sure how long it took me to say all that, but in my remembrance of the panel I managed it in a leaping, telegraphic, holographic staccato. I felt transported by not just my words but by knowing that we were all on the same page, many of us, and that what we were about to say would blend together like a river and take us somewhere.

Andrea said her upbringing was of a very solid African American household of being a race man, or race woman. Something which happily did not need to be explained in a feminist anti-racist science fiction con, but which I will link for you here. Andrea talked about the Iqbo Women’s War, not just the “riots” and murder by the British in a particular incident but women’s war as part of Igbo culture and politics.

. . . {the] one who tells the story rules the world. Therefore, we all need to. WE all need to be agents of action, all need to be storytellers. All need to be agents of action in the story.

For Andrea the story of Women’s War is one of working feminist anarchy, of a political process that worked, of anarchy rooted in a specific place and time and culture, that came from African women and men and worked for them; an important story. Part of that story is the British shot everyone and made the Iqbo have chiefs. Back to the idea of “no rock stars”, no leaders in the sense of elected officials who represent everyone in a hierarchical structure that feeds into the hoppers of power and that support oppressive (and in this case imperial, patriarchal) infrastructures. The book Andrea is currently writing is about a woman coming to America from that time and place.

Andrea then remembered to introduce and identify herself. So I introduced myself too and said everyone should buy my book, Unruly Islands. Andrea’s two novels are published by Aqueduct Press. My book as well, and Alexis and I both edited volumes of The WisCon Chronicles, which is a series Aqueduct publishes to document the conversations at WisCon every year. Aqueduct Press for me has solidified, made real, some of the exciting public discourse that happens at WisCon, the connections that spark our thought, the utopian ideals we share, the passion that fuels our daily practice of life and activism and writing. It made our conversations more public, and I hope adds another small brick to the things we are building, the ways we are trying desperately not to lose our histories as women, as marginalized people who are aware of the processes that shape how the stories are told and what is allowed to be seen as “real”. When I first realized what Timmi was trying to do by starting Aqueduct I was happy beyond explanation. Something that was my dream was happening in the world — for real. Cultural artifacts created and fostered, nurtured, grown. Timmi is my hero for doing this, for committing her life work to this act, for making our communities visible to each other and to others, for exposing us further as public intellectuals. I am so honored to be part of it and that they publish my work. Long ago I realized that what I wanted in life was not fame, money, success, the Good Life, in the way people sometimes describe what goals should be, but instead the respect of other people I respect. It was like a little mantra for me. Whenever it became reality in a small way, I felt bolstered and comforted: a sign I was on the right track. I rather imagined (as a teenager, in my childlike hero worship) that as an embarrassingly specific little scenario: that I’d be at a cocktail party with Marge Piercy, and she’d know my work, and we’d talk about our ideals, books, feminism, and poetics as equals in the creative process even if not equals in worldly position or age. WisCon and Aqueduct have made that dream come true for me even if I have not yet achieved the particular Nirvana of wine and cheese with Marge. I admire so many people there — very deeply. Beyond the Secret Feminist Cabal, which was a joke made real in organic “slow anarchy” fashion, and which continues to spread, which describes something that (like Riot Grrrl, like Anonymous) does not exist, and which you joined by hearing the idea and declaring you were in it, too — it came true for me. I wish that dream will come true for everyone. The respect of other people you respect.

Back to the panel. Alexis asked us all three to give specific examples of “what we were talking about” — of collectivity, of collective action and what happens and how.

In response, I talked about Noisebridge some more. (Which… ironically… is light years away from feminist utopia for me as a woman.) I talked about hackerspaces.org, the history of hackerspaces, the idea of F/LOSS culture not just “products” but culture, and cultural production, and community; the ideas of patterns and anti-patterns, in software, in architecture and culture, from the book A Pattern Language which by the way is a fascinating read and which I used to explain Joanna Russ’s How to Suppress Women’s Writing to F/LOSS geeks. (A later WisCon panel on Feminism and F/LOSS brought this in as well.)

Alexis interrupted me to remind me that I wrote about this very topic in the latest WisCon Chronicles, Volume 6, Futures of Feminism and Fandom, which she edited. “Oh yeah! Right! Read that essay, and you will understand what I mean!” I moved on to answer Alexis’ question, explaining what Noisebridge is and how it works — and some of its glories and problems.

Alexis mentioned Louisa May Alcott and Fruitlands. I then brought in, as another strand to the pattern, Alice Marwick’s and danah boyd’s excellent paper on gender and Internet drama The Drama! Teen Conflict, Gossip, and Bullying in Networked Publics as well as my own essay with Debbie Notkin on Internet Drama from The WisCon Chronicles, Volume 3, Carnival of Feminist SF. To understand the dynamics of women and public discourse, read that paper about teenagers’ attitudes toward “drama”.

Andrea says “drama” is melodrama. Alexis adds that it is “wank”. Yes! I then said,

By making a space in which we’re trying to address one problem, we’re more revolutionary than we realized. Once you’re part of a revolution, you have to Fix All the Things. It’s very hard, very valuable it takes place in public, documenting what happens. Also really difficult and uncomfortable

Alexis added,

What wank and drama and melodrama do and why they might just not be….part of how we negotiate. We have to emerge from it. It does things that other kinds of more carefully planned politics don’t do. Even the most trivial fights can have ripples of effects that are really important to what a community does.

And Timmi pulled it together by saying,

Little drops of water evaporate in dry atmosphere, need a human environment. Not just all of internal difficulties here but thes efforts are operating in a context in which we have vast problems. We have terrible collective problems and no collective solutions or collective process. These space (occupy, hacker, etc.) are besieged by that context. They can’t address them by themselves. That’s basically the problem. We sort of, what’s happening is more and more people are seeing the horizon of what’s possible but in this current environment, it’s very hard to …you can hack out a space but you can’t put up walls, [it’s] antithetical to what you want to do.

She then talked about being arrested for direct action against globalization, and the trial process. I got kind of excited listening to this and started writing a poem about it in my paper notebook while also live-Twittering.

A lesson from that story is that the interface between what we’re building, what we’re doing, as anarchists, feminists, activists — the interface between that and the larger world is extremely important and uncomfortable.

Alexis brought us back to talking about culture, narrative, and cultural production. Writing, drama, process, and art.

Andrea then kicked into awesome overdrive.

I love live theater, I don’t know what’s going to happen, even if you have a script. I know my blocking, audience comes in, audience makes me change. Every moment is alive. Feedback between me and the audience and other actors. Have to respond. All theater is to prepare you to be ready in the moment. That’s what anarchy is about. If you just follow blocking and your lines, that’s not going to work. What am I going to do that keeps me…the audience loves it when you solve the problem, in it for the live moment. Image of anarchy as negative melodrama. Good guys/bad guys. Victor Turner: Social drama is essential to humanity. I’m paraphrasing him. Have to have dramatic process in order to perform the meaning that you want. That’s what drama is. Struggle to have lived experience turn into meaning. That is a slow process. We’re stuck on things needing to be fast. Social drama takes time. Slow money, slow food, I think we need to have slow anarchy.

For Andrea, it is about creating ecosystems. There are people who build monuments, and people who build ecosystems. That is true in writing science fiction as well.

I spouted off at length trying to cram in more holographic imprint of what I mean and what I see and know. My process of watching many channels at once for the Arab Spring and Occupy Oakland. Learning to listen and hear decentralized narratives, which are not what you think you want to hear. Book recs: Constellation Games by Leonard Richardson (with caveats); Direct Action by David Graeber; Illicit Passages by Alice Nunn. Marq’ssan Cycle; Kevin Carson. My currently developing theory that a particular current of SF today is not post-apocalypse but is Mid-Apocalypse; not first contact with aliens, not pioneering imperialist expansion, but being inside the process; the 1% are our aliens, already here, alien because we can’t imagine or access their scale of power; this is important in what science fiction is going to become.

We had some audience responses then.

Andrea Hairston talked about capitalism and the idea of “growth”. Opposed to the ecosystem of growth, diversity.

I agree with Andrea and add that it is part of the current of science fiction I’m attempting to describe, which is about deepening interconnectedness — not about first contact or “discovering new frontiers” or invasions.

Timmi talked about journalism and false objectivity.

Andrea talked at length about lland ownership, property, the degradation of the commons which is a big part of our struggle. She brought in accessibility and specifically WisCon’s and other feminist space’s struggles to be accessible, which is part of treating the commons as the commons, as being for everyone; changing cultural attitudes toward the air and smoking, for example. I felt transported all over again to a higher level of thought hearing her bring in so many strands to our central topic — and one that touches on my experience so personally as disability and access and public space.

I put in one more book rec I had forgotten in my earlier burst of book recs that do or represent “what it is we are talking about”. Tales from the Freedom Plough, edited by 6 women, stories told by 52 different women who worked in the Civil Rights movement. Individual stories, sometimes contradicting each other, brought together to represent what happened, what is history, what is truth, and thus what is possible for us to do, like a beautiful and terrifying map. I meant to bring in Always Coming Home by Ursula K. Le Guin, as another exemplar; but we were wrapping up the panel.

Timmi closed the panel wonderfully by quoting Augustine of Hippo:

Hope has two beautiful daughters, their names are Anger and Courage. Anger that things are the way they are, and Courage to make them the way they ought to be.