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”.

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What it might mean to make maps

We have now mapped the tiny corner of our creek and given names to nameless places, extending human dominion to yet another junkyard and mudflat.

Chart of Pete's Harbor and Environs

As I kayaked around with my friend Adina she babbled to me charmingly of how we were in the same place but in a different place. Everything about the land and the water became different because we were on the water looking at the land. I agree! Distances open up hugely and pinch themselves up into almost nothing depending on the wind and current and tide. The parking lot of an office, a boring place, turns out to be the best fishing spot on the creek, full of families hanging off their truck tailgates.

Many of my names for the creek are jokes but they reflect the way we are using the creek as kayakers and what we think is important. The places where trash collects, the strength of the current, the mudflats, the sticks and pilings and pylons that are landmarks, the place where the grebes hang out, the wind shadow of Middle Bair Island.

We remap our minds by traversing the edge of the known map. I was thinking about frontiers, wastelands, and edges. At Open Source Bridge I said some stuff about wastelands. When you hear a place described as empty, reach for your gun. Just kidding. No, when you hear a place described as empty, you can be sure someone is exploiting it. The desert, the wasteland, and the frontier, are obfuscations.

So in my naming of these places I open up different possibilities of exploitation, but since no space is unnamed and unobserved — they are named and observed and mapped by governments and corporations — I would prefer that they be named and observed in a decentralized way by anyone at all. (Which is one reason I adore Open Street Map and Open Sea Map.)

Voyages

As I look back on the history of Bair Island and Redwood Creek I keep finding ghost places – like “South Shores” which was an attempt by a developer to rename the slough as a suburban extension of “Redwood Shores”. Or like Deepwater Slough, which still has a faint track on the satellite photo – the C shaped trace that loops across Middle Bair, across from the Port – the dredged mud and pickleweed it encloses still privately owned and still named “Pacific Shores” probably for some totally screwed up future condo development scheme.

Bair Island EIR map

The Bair Island history, its battles, and its 2006 EIR are all deep background good for anyone interested in the proposed 12,000 household development of the wetlands-turned-salt-ponds owned by Cargill. On the maps they’re the pink rectangular areas that barely even look like bay anymore.

A neighbor of mine across the harbor is gearing up for that battle on another blog, Virtual Saltworks. The ponds are still part of the bay and still supposed to be open space and wetlands. We could use a little bit of digging into maps and history – what was First Slough like before it was diked? What would it take to restore it at least to the state that Bair Island and Corkscrew Slough are in now?

Soon the abandoned docks and the piers for electric company access to overhead cables will be decorated underneath by pirate mailboxes where Milo and I will leave secret messages for the world.

I have some great ideas for Community Kayaks. They’d be like the civic projects for free bicycles anyone can use without fuss. It would be very easy and cheap to start and maintain a simple flotilla of boats free for anyone to use. More local people would use Redwood Creek, would see the edge of our town, the cultivated-wild places that exist right next to the industrial port where oceangoing cargo vessels offload their gypsum, sand, and gravel and load up clanking waterfalls of scrap metal. People barely care about the Creek because they don’t know it’s there. If they paddled around on it they might get fond of it.

I got a little obsessed with the Alviso boat ramp opening. If you live in Redwood City – do you know where the public boat launch ramps are? There are two that I know of!

What is the Bay for? Who gets to go on it? You shouldn’t have to be rich – or go on a giant ferryboat – or treat it like a sort of horrible wet golf course –

Where are my beautiful floating islands made of trash and full of ecological minded Burning Man hippies cultivating flats of pickleweed and nesting habitats for Caspian Terns? I also imagine a beautiful anarchosocialist cooperative marina with art projects and rogue marine science. It would be easy for us here in the harbor to be monitoring water quality, observing the plants and birds and fish, and so on. Decentralized maps and some kind of visionary open data project could make for some great open source science – I’m sure someone’s doing this already.

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Feminism, movies, and Twilight


There’s a great post by Ide Cyan over on Feminist SF: The Blog! on two recent vampire movies – Låt den rätte komma in (Let the Right One In) and Twilight. Though I haven’t read Twilight or seen the movie, I was very interested in her analysis of its popular appeal:

Twilight’s popularity is intimately tied into the gendering of romance. Love stories do impress women with the importance of finding a lover of the opposite sex, to fortify the institutions that are at the basis of a patriarchal society. Because we live in a patriarchal society, it is with individuals from the class of their oppressors that women are encouraged to find romance. The mystification of oppression consequently blurs the distinction between the ideal lover and the lover as he represents a source of oppression for a woman.

There’s good discussion in the comments, including the opinion of a feminist SF fan from Sweden on genre movies there.

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Potlatch sf convention’s Books of Honor

Potlatch, a small, book-focused science fiction convention, wanders up and down the West Coast of the U.S. Every year that I’ve been to it, it has a Book of Honor instead of a Guest of Honor. There is only one event track, so everyone goes to the same big panel discussions or talks.

This year there are two Books of Honor: Always Coming Home by Ursula K. Le Guin, and Growing Up Weightless by John M. Ford.

Here’s my Thoughts on Always Coming Home a few days after reading it. In the comments thread, many people threw some great analysis into the mix. Here is a good entry point, from oyceter, to the many cultural appropriation discussions that caught fire a couple of years ago in (feminist) science fiction communities, discussions and posts of endless depth and beauty.

In Always Coming Home, I appreciated the ways that Le Guin told stories about war. The smaller scale war was almost, well, consensual, between the two sides and the individuals who fought in its battle. Yet its buildup, and the conditions that brought it about, the small group or cult of warriors, had the tragic inevitable-yet-still-maybe-stoppable feel that I get from Icelandic sagas. The best bit were the discussions the Valley people had after the war. They were good and complicated.

Here are my rough notes on Growing Up Weightless:

Growing Up Weightless is good – dense – circular – I mean it seems best to read circularly in order to get the depth of it. really unusual & haunting. The scene with Avakian the old designer, as good or better as any similar weirding propheticism from Gene Wolfe – Oh maybe a little evocative of Hathor’s damaged speeches about the sails – The larping teenagers and their raw naive gestalt (reminding me of that story of the children raised in the floating sargasso sea-cities ) So aware of each other but not knowing how to talk to each other’s depths other than in game space and not even then. The idea – so floaty & soap bubble – of kids raised in the sort of way i imagined as the utopian future, kids bopping around, running as a team, learning stuff, doing projects, join a theater company, invent a microchip – incomprehensible cluster of age-mates, like twins-speech – And their utopian angst – always watched, always eluding – with even cleverer parents – What would they do? What would they learn? What is the plot in that sort of micro-utopia even if it’s just the utopia of a sensible education system and children with a decent set of human rights? The weird failed delicacy of the parents and of their own relationship – all very weightless itself – the composing scenes and the composer sleepign and waking as if full of music or light and noticing a hair from his busy partner’s head on the pillow. so I enjoyed the poetry. The light & shadow – and the dragons. The girls of the bunch, the kid’s mom too, significant and with their own agency clear – their own thoughts, dreams, burn with ambitions, on the cusp of decisions, thinking things they hardly dare hope, no one is overdetermined; beautifully. It’s a plot that achieves being poetic. I am extremely unbored. Will re-read while taking notes for the linear thinking bits of us all, because it does need notes and lines and character lists and some explaining.

Well, I really look forward to Potlatch! It’s like a crazy all day marathon grad school seminar, where a hundred people have actually done the reading, the extra homework, weird special projects, and have years of deep background into the subject.

You might not know that if you aren’t “in fandom”; but I am here to tell you that science fiction conventions, like LiveJournal discussions, are often dismissed by mainstreams and academics who would be *astonished* at the education available, the thoughtful conversations, the deep interest, and the process going on 24/7, in those places.

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Call for submissions: WisCon Chronicles, volume 3

Call for Ideas and Contributions
WisCon Chronicles Volume 3 – WisCon 32

Were you at WisCon 32 in 2008? Aqueduct Press would love to hear from you with ideas and materials for Volume 3 of The WisCon Chronicles.

ANY panel, event, or paper you’d like to write about is fine.

Here are a few that we’ve noticed people talking about:

* Maureen McHugh and L. Timmel Duchamp’s Guest of Honor readings and speeches
* Women and Hard SF
* Elves and Dwarves: The Racism Inherent in Fantasy
* Fanfic and Slash 201
* The Battlestar Galactica panel
* The Eclipse One Cover Debate
* Not Just Japan: Asian Science Fiction and Fantasy
* Writing Working-Class Characters

We’d also like to see writeups of your hallway conversations: What fantastic discussions did you have in the interstices? In the hallway, in the lobby? At parties, at dinner, in your room, or online?

If you were at WisCon and would like to participate — to offer ideas or to submit an essay — please get in touch with us. Don’t be shy.

If you were blown away by a WisCon panel that we haven’t mentioned and would like to see its ideas expanded upon in The WisCon Chronicles, Volume 3, please let us know. Tell us the name of the panel, which participants (including audience members) most engaged you, and what was valuable to you about the discussion. What was thought-provoking, inspiring, enraging, hilarious, worthy of deeper discussion? If you’re interested in writing an essay on the topic or contributing to the book in some other way, let us know.

Please query before writing an article. If you want to submit an article or essay, please email a query or proposal by September 15, 2008. (The earlier the better.) The deadline for the submission of finished essays will be October 15, 2008. Text in the body of the email is preferred, or rich text format (.rtf) files as attachments. We’re looking for essays of 800-3000 words. If your submission is published, you will receive a small payment and a copy of the book.

Feel free to forward this call for submissions!

Thanks,
Liz Henry
email ideas and submissions to: liz@bookmaniac.net

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Wiscon panels coming up, and some commentary on a game

Here’s my panels for Wiscon! I can’t wait!

Last year’s flirting panel was a blast and at this year’s followup I’m hoping to make a cool handout. Debbie says if I email her the stuff she’ll make the handout, because I have too much to do! One good technique “touch/don’t touch” is actually playing out mini scenarios and then switching roles, so that you get to do the no-saying and the no-recieving and get practice doing that gracefully on both sides. (Something I learned in anti-date-rape workshops in the 80s.) Another super great idea I learned from Ian K. Hagemann – to always thank a person who lets you know a boundary, because they are honoring you by communicating it instead of letting you continue to cross it in ignorance.

I don’t have any specific and book-focused panels this year – no time to prepare properly for that – But I can’t wait for the Karen Axness Memorial Panel where we all list great little-known books by women sf writers and there are always fabulous handouts that expand my reading list. I’m also excited to go to the cultural appropriation panels.

Speaking of cultural appropriation! I can bring a copy of this: Bone White, Blood Red: a roleplaying game of the Pueblo Revolt. It is written in the voice of “Spider Grandmother” and “Worn Pot” who teach Bear, Coyote, Wren, and Badger how to play the game. My immediate reaction is basically, “huh” and a stance of automatic suspicion against what I think of as Cherokee hair tampon syndrome.

The game would be rough for me and I would rather just have character sheets with the beads and string as a metaphor or an optional visual aid, as I could never remember all the details of which bead meant what without written notes. But I would certainly give the game a try and the difficulty of remembering stuff would be part of the point. (Would that difficulty be fun, though?) As the fictional in character bits in roleplaying game books go, this one is not bad at all.

So is it cultural appropriation? Well, yeah. Does that make it awful? It’s not a yes/no on/off answer. It means that it is open to some criticism and commentary, which game authors as well as book authors should listen to with an open mind and some humility, as the Spirit of the Century rpg authors recently did.

In other interesting gaming news, you can download and playtest Steal Away Jordan. The players all play slaves in the U.S.

Your name
Your name is not your own. If you were born into slavery, your parents may not have had much say in the choosing. The name your master calls you may not be the name your relations use in private. If you run away, you will change your name. Therefore, the GM chooses your name, but you may pick a nickname.

That’s pretty interesting! You can read a report and discussion thread of a playtest game on The Forge.

Anyway here’s my Wiscon panels!

===============

Feminist SF Wiki Workshop
in Caucus Room (Time to be determined)

Come learn about the Feminstsf wiki, learn what wikis are and how to edit them, contribute your ideas, creativity, and feminist vision to the wiki.
Equipment: projector that can plug into a laptop, and a screen
Length: 70 minutes
Laura M. Quilter, Liz Henry

Please Touch/Don’t Touch (Feminism, Sex, and Gender)
Friday, 8:45-10:00 p.m. Friday, 8:45-10:00 p.m. Friday, 8:45-10:00 p.m.
One of the many qualities which sets WisCon apart from most other SF conventions is the perception that, for one weekend a year, the Concourse is a safe and inclusive space for SF fans of all genders, orientations, identities, races, and religions. Many people have commented that this extra level of comfort seems to create a very “touchy-feely” environment, with a lot more casual physical contact between old friends and new acquaintance, and a very different, (more open?) environment for flirting and hook-ups. But not everyone is quite so comfortable with such a relaxed atmosphere… Where do you draw the lines between casual and significant, affection and flirting, too much and not enough? How do the conditions change from situation to situation? And how do you tell someone to “back off”… or deal gracefully when someone else lets you know that you’ve crossed a line?
Karen Swanberg, M: Debbie Notkin, Mary Kay Kare, Liz Henry, Jed E. Hartman

Let’s You And Her Fight (Feminism, Sex, and Gender)
Sunday, 10:00-11:15 a.m. Sunday, 10:00-11:15 a.m. Sunday, 10:00-11:15 a.m.
This year there was a panel about how to flirt at Wiscon. Next year I’d like to see a panel on how to fight at Wiscon. It’s not bad to want to get along; but it is when that urge causes us not to speak our minds in public, and leaves us gr umbling in private. How do you speak up and explain that you think the respected panel member is talking out of her hat, while maintaining a friendly attitude towards someone who is, after all, a fellow feminist and fan? Ideally people will get a chance to practice. I would particularly like to draft Steven Schwartz for this panel.
Steven E. Schwartz, Liz Henry, Joan Haran, M: Alan Bostick, Lee Abuabara

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Very cool literary reading: Nalo Hopkinson, Jewelle Gomez, Marta

This is going to be an amazing reading. I hope to see lots of you there! I will probably be late, unfortunately, but will be there and then be at the afterparty at Debbie Notkin’s house.

Octavia E. Butler Memorial Tribute Fundraiser

Nalo Hopkinson
Jewelle Gomez
Susie Bright
Marta Acosta
Jennifer de Guzman
and
Guillermo Gomez-Peña

A fundraiser reading to benefit the Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship.
Fabulous fabulists honor one of our great writers and raise funds for the next generation.

Sunday, March 4, 5 – 7 pm

The Starry Plough
3101 Shattuck Avenue
Berkeley, CA.
510-841-2082
http://www.starryploughpub.com/

$5-20 sliding scale.

The Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship will enable writers of color to attend one of the Clarion writing workshops, where Octavia got her start. It is meant to cement Octavia’s legacy by providing the same experience/opportunity that Octavia had to future generations of new writers of color. In addition to her stint as a student at the original Clarion Writers Workshop in Pennsylvania in 1970, Octavia taught several times for Clarion West in Seattle, Washington, and Clarion in East Lansing, Michigan, giving generously of her time to a cause she believed in.

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Excellent feminist rant on being "of a time"

I really enjoyed Ide Cyan’s “Timeless” on the Feminist SF blog; it’s a polemic on Time and social change, and was sparked by Ide’s notice of the ubiquity of the defense that a sexist or racist or otherwise annoyingly biased person was a product of their time. This sets up a framework in which “now” is seen as a product of progressive linear evolution with Now and Us ethically on top. I agree with Ide Cyan that this is a false construction, a construction in which Time stands in by a trick of rhetoric for individual responsibility and agency; a construction that is deeply harmful.

The part has become the whole.

It’s very, very convenient. It’s very, very easy. And it means the oppressed vanish in a puff of rhetoric.

Her concluding paragraphs using synechdoche and the body (namely, assholes) was hard-hitting, outrageous, and deeply funny!

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Strange Horizons / Speculative Literature Foundation reading

This Wednesday, May 10, at Valencia Street Books — There will be a rapid fire reading and generally fun hang-out at from 7 to 9pm. Rapid fire! 3 minutes each!

I’ll be reading along with a bunch of other people, including Charlie Anders and Susan Marie Groppi, Tim Pratt, Heather Shaw, Jeremy Smith, Vylar Kaftan, Corie Ralston, Thida Cornes, Lori White, Pat Murphy, and Keyan Bowes.

I always have a great time at Valencia Street Books, because Alex generally greets me with the joy of a meerkat finding a, well, whatever the hell makes meerkats freak out with joy and spaz out, a nice juicy grub or a crippled grasshopper maybe. Anyway, zie always picks me up and swings me around in the air with strong skinny arms and a manic grin. We know each other from old “Skiffy” game-playing days at University of Chicago, where I used to kick Ken Hite‘s ass at every board game and make him beg for more.

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Tiptree winner announcement!

Congratulations to Geoff Ryman, who has just won the James Tiptree, Jr. Literary Award for his book Air: or, Have Not Have. It’s an unusual book and a great story.

The award goes each year to a work of speculative fiction that expands and explores gender. I had a great time being on the Tiptree jury this year!

The short listed works are:

Willful Creatures by Aimee Bender (Doubleday 2005)
“Wooden Bride” by Margot Lanagan (in Black Juice, Eos 2005)
Little Faces” by Vonda N. McIntyre, on SciFiction, 02.23.05
A Brother’s Price by Wen Spencer (Roc 2005)
Misfortune by Wesley Stace (Little, Brown 2005)
Remains by Mark Tiedemann (Benbella Books 2005)

The long list and special mentions will be announced in a week or so.

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