Browsing articles in "Uncategorised"
Aug 7, 2012
Alex Dally MacFarlane

Thoughts About Anger

I see this question a lot: “Why are you so angry?” It appears in arguments online and offline, typically accompanied by the question: “Why can’t you just calm down?” Implied – sometimes stated outright – is the idea that if only we stopped being angry, other people would listen to what we’re saying.

That’s bollocks – I’ve seen plenty of calm, well-reasoned arguments completely dismissed – but I think this refusal to acknowledge angry statements goes beyond derailing tactic and into a wider problem: lack of respect for anger.

I can only speak for British culture (but I think this is loosely true of many other cultures too) when I say that there’s an emphasis on being polite, on being “civil”, on not “rocking the boat”, not “causing a stir”. Talk too loudly about something and you’ll be tutted at. It’s just not the done thing. This idea certainly exists in the English-speaking internet culture and it is policed rigidly by people from the UK, the US and other countries, and it is fucking us over so much.

~

We need anger. It is powerful. It is loud and it refuses to be ignored.

We need the word “fuck” and phrases like “shitstain”. We need to talk about the things that hurt us with strong language.

We need to make people feel uncomfortable.

Anger is not the only thing we need, but it is a tool in the complex arsenal of dealing with all sorts of problems. It is not everyone’s preferred tool. It is some people’s best tool. Using it should not invalidate the things they are saying.

~

There is depth and complexity in anger, there is thought. It is not a knee-jerk reaction that we’ll get over as soon as we’ve calmed down. It is not everyone’s reaction, but it is many people’s. As Veronica Schanoes said in the recent Readercon discussion about sexual harassment: “Anger is the rational response to being systematically attacked and harassed.” We will not calm down.

And I wonder:

Do they think we enjoy being angry? Do they think anger comes from a place of joy and delight?

Anger comes from hurt, from feeling that there is nothing left to do except scream. Do they think that’s fun?

Do they really think we strive to feel this way?

I would love not to be angry. If I could wake up tomorrow and never again be angry at sexism or homophobia or sexual harassment or our government – I would be so fucking happy, you have no idea. I would get on with my life without a repeated, persistent source of stress and hurt.

~

It seems to me that those who try the hardest to place restrictions on anger end up perpetuating the very thing(s) that caused the anger.

~

We need to respect anger. We need to acknowledge and understand why people are so angry, even if – especially if – it makes us uncomfortable. We need to listen. We need to focus on the sources of anger, the hurts – the forms of bigotry and discrimination that remain in our various communities – and sort our shit out.

Jul 16, 2012
Alex Dally MacFarlane

Clockwork Phoenix 4 Kickstarter

Mike and Anita Allen have launched a Kickstarter for the fourth volume in their Clockwork Phoenix anthology series, which I am very excited about.

The first three volumes of Clockwork Phoenix published weird, genre-crossing, beautiful stories by a wide range of authors – people like Catherynne M Valente, Shweta Narayan, Vandana Singh, Leah Bobet, Ekaterina Sedia, Nicole Kornher-Stace, CSE Cooney, Saladin Ahmed, Tori Truslow and more. As Rose Lemberg says, “There is nothing quite like Clockwork Phoenix on the market, and we need that, because we need stories that do not fit in boxes, we need stories that are different and strange … [we] need to support editors who take chances on weird tales and unclassifiable genre stories that are unexpected and daring.” Given my tastes in reading and writing, I doubt anyone will be surprised to know that I agree with this wholeheartedly. The more places that publish interesting, thoughtful and diverse stories, the better.

In return for support, Mike and Anita are offering a range of prizes, including:
• Digital and paperback copies of the previous Clockwork Phoenix anthologies.
• The conversion of one of your stories or novels into e-book format.
• Artwork by Anita Allen (pins/brooches, sculptures, hats).
• The only copy of poetry zine Mythic Delirium Issue 20 signed by Neil Gaiman.

Head on over to the Kickstarter page to see everything that’s on offer and read more about the previous volumes.

Clockwork Phoenix 4 is almost halfway there already, but there’s still another $2,640 to go.

Apr 10, 2012
Alex Dally MacFarlane

Eastercon: It was fun, but…

I spent a sizeable chunk of this past weekend at Eastercon – the biggest SF con in the UK – and overall had an excellent time: hanging out with friends, meeting some people for the first time offline, and talking to some people I hadn’t ever expected to talk to. I was on my first ever panel. Aside from feeling very introverted by the end of it, I should be able to report that it was a wonderful weekend and Easteron is glorious and leave it at that.

I can’t.

This isn’t a post about John Meaney’s almost impressively offensive attempt to perform stand-up comedy at the BSFA Awards, for which he has fauxpologised, although it partly is. If Meaney’s speech had been the only instance of fail at Eastercon, we would probably gather round, mock him, call him an idiotic fuckwit and go home. But it really, really wasn’t the only fail.

I went to a number of panels about a wide range of topics this weekend. By Friday afternoon – that’s the first day of the con – I was already suggesting that we start a drinking game for people who mention China. (That’s the country, not the writer that Meaney “comedically” thinks is Vin Diesel.) From blithe remarks along the lines of “totalitarian regimes like China” to the utterly baffling, almost no one at Eastercon seemed to have any idea about China the real country, rather than China the caricature as portrayed in scaremongering Western media.

Did you know that in China, people are forced into the fields to hand-pollinate the flowers because all the bees are dead?

Well, now you know.

The one person who did seem to know something about China was Dr Leah-Nani Alconcel, who talked about China’s incredible investment in space exploration technology. This is pertinent to my recent post about non-white SF: China is putting lots of money, training and resource into space science. SF authors, take note. You’ll be shocked to know that unlike everyone else making sweeping statements about China, Dr Alconcel – who gave specific examples from her own experience of talking to Chinese scientists – is not white.

In a panel on Saturday about fantastic landscapes, the panellists started talking about London and how it can seem both real and science fictional. However, when one panellist started describing Lima (a city in Peru), she talked only about how it was science fictional. The idea that Lima is a real city in which real people live is apparently not worthy of comment. (This same panellist also described her book, in which there are very poor people and very rich people, and said the poor people are happy with their lives and even look down on the rich people.)

Later on this panel, the discrepancy between a very pricey hotel and the regular people of Hong Kong was described as an embodiment of Ying-Yang.

On a related note: while I wasn’t at the panel where Damien Walter felt the need to explain Buddhism, I hear that it was quite something.

And Lavie Tidhar reports that after the non-Anglophone SF panel (which featured non-Anglophone panellists), the following “compliment” was given: “For people who don’t speak English as a first language – your English is VERY GOOD!”

On my panel, “The Personal is Political”, which was about taking responsibility for fail (haha), the sole male panellist reported that To Kill A Mockingbird made him ~understand~ racism (Edit: although, when called on this by Jude, he amended his wording) and repeatedly told us all how diverse his award-winning books are and stressed that white males are ~trying their best~. Perhaps I put him on the defensive by saying quite early on that I no longer trust unknown male authors as much as I trust unknown female authors, but that’s not an excuse for his cookie-seeking antics. (Edit: What I think I failed to emphasise here is that it was his whole attitude that bothered me. Everyone says stupid things, but he persistently drew attention to him and his personal attempts to be a good person, rather than discussing the wider issues like the rest of us.) Additionally, while this panel represented a number of female and queer voices, it was strikingly all-white; given its subject matter, this is a glaring problem.

Then there’s the BSFA Awards speech, which was… something else. John Meaney went on for 40 minutes. We got Lauren Beukes being reduced to her looks, we got Ian McDonald being somehow capable of talking to Beukes even though she’s so so good looking (gosh, maybe McDonald sees Beukes as a human being?), we got something about Israelis liking to punch people in the face and how strange it is that someone called Lavie Tidhar could write a book called Osama, we got male allies being called “new men” in a very mocking way, we got a woman liking muscle cars OH MY GOD HOW BIZARRE, we got an impression of a stereotypical working class plumber whose girlfriend likes to go to Ibiza, and by that point I was walking out the door. Given that I was sitting by the door, I can tell you that quite a lot of people were walking out.

In the same ceremony (although before John Meaney got on the stage), Tori Truslow was commended in the James White Award for her story “Train in Vain”. You would think that this, at least, is a cause for 100% joy. Sadly not, as one of the judges described her story (set in Thailand) as containing “exotic intrigue” and “exotic imagery”. She talks about how damaging the word “exotic” is over here.

I think that’s all. But I’m sure it’s not, because I’m white and I only went to so many panels and only talked to so many people. As a woman and a queer person, I felt welcome at the con, but the continual current of fail – especially towards non-white people and countries and cultures – was un-ignorable.

Look. I don’t want to piss over the fun everyone had at Eastercon, I really don’t, because there was a lot of positivity at the con too, but all of the above is shitty and unacceptable and needs to stop, and I can’t not call attention to it.

Feb 21, 2012
Alex Dally MacFarlane

Con or Bust

Con or Bust is a fundraising auction that provides financial support to people of colour who want to attend SFF cons in the US. In the past they have sent a number of POC fans to Wiscon; this year they are aiming to support people who want to go to any US SFF con. You can find out more here.

We talk a lot about wanting to see more POC at cons, without necessarily realising that one big hurdle is the cost of attending. Many POC fans live outside the US; others lack the means to travel within the US. Con or Bust endeavours to help some of these fans attend cons, whether they want to participate in panels or in the conversations all over the con. It has helped Amal El-Mohtar, Jaymee Goh, Deepa D and others attend Wiscon so that their voices could be heard. Click on the links to read what Jaymee and Deepa have to say about the importance of this.

I haven’t had time to offer something personal in the auction, but I’m offering a few used books and one un-opened audio CD.

Moxyland by Lauren Beukes – starting bid $7 – bid here!

Conjunctions 52: Betwixt the Between – starting bid $7 – bid here!

Paper: The Dreams of a Scribe by Bahiyyih Nakhjavani – starting bid $5 – bid here!

Once on a Moonless Night by Dai Sijie – starting bid $5 – bid here!

Saffron And Brimstone: Strange Stories by Elizabeth Hand – starting bid $5 – bid here!

Postscripts, Winter 2007 – starting bid $5 – bid here!

Audio CD of Philip K Dick’s ‘The Adjustment Team’ – starting bid $10 – bid here!

I will cover the cost of shipping internationally on all of these.

Please consider bidding on these, or on any of the amazing offers in the auction (such as Nicole Kornher-Stace’s books or caramels, a wardrobe refresher from Ekaterina Sedia, mythic prints by Terri Windling, a movie review from Genevieve Valentine, Martha Wells’ latest books, an ARC of the VanderMeers’ massive The Weird anthology, a signed copy of Saladin Ahmed’s Throne of the Crescent Moon, a copy of Hellebore and Rue: Tales of Queer Women and Magic, a copy of Catherynne M Valente’s Deathless).

Jan 21, 2012
Alex Dally MacFarlane

INNIT

A, of Requires Hate, has been reading JM Frey’s Triptych, which apparently tries to be really social justice-y and falls flat on its own face, but that’s not what I care about right now! No. Because the author also tries to write British people and that is COMEDY GOLD, MY FRIENDS.

A has been inflicting quotations on me. So many quotations. I don’t have enough of Bacigalupi’s terrible Thai at hand to inflict on her in return, so I’m instead passing on the TERRIBLE, TERRIBLE LOVE to you.

ENJOY.

He was practically vibrating with geeky (endearing) excitement. “Cool, innit?”

“That is totally, totally unfair, innit?”

“A man has two lovers, he should have twice as much sex,” Basil points out. “Laws of…physics or sommat, innit?”

“Your back’s hurting again, innit?” Basil asks, putting a vessel of tea down beside Kalp’s arm.

“First task of Integration,” Basil says cheerily, “is learning which lunch lady to flatter at the canteen, innit?”

“Can’t go changing the timeline,” Basil said with a cheeky grin. “That’s the Temporal Prime Directive, innit?”

Basil whispered quickly, excitedly into her ear. “Yeah? But it…it’s perfect, innit?”

Basil smiled wryly against his mug, lips still on the rim. “Innit?”

APPARENTLY Brits say innit a lot. Nevermind that people who say innit a lot generally have an entire accent going on. NEVERMIND THAT PESKY FACT. (Although to be honest, it’s probably for everyone’s benefit that the author didn’t try to render a glottal stop, let alone a full accent.)

“Blimey, do you see this phone? I can’t use this! It’s a bloody beige brick, innit? It’ll never interface!”

I remain convinced that this line is parody. There is no other explanation.

“She’s…she hasn’t grieved. Any of it. It’s not…healthy, issit?

“So that’s it, issit. All over, then?” he asked

“Your mother has seen you in a filthy uniform. I don’t think a little barn dust is going to make much of a difference, issit?”

I’ve never even heard anyone say ‘issit’. And aside from the ‘innit’, most of the people I know speak pretty much exactly like this guy.

“Bugger.”
“What?”
“I’m stuck. My — bollocks — my bloody sleeve! Grab my trousers.”

C-C-C-COMBO.

Meanwhile he says ‘fuck’ exactly once a grand total of four times.

It’s some kind of bizarre modern equivalent of TALLY-HO PIP PIP that I want to take out back and gently shoot, for its own good.

Dec 9, 2011
Alex Dally MacFarlane

let those foxes fight

Foxes! Bones! Poetry!

What more do you want?

These are all the work of Erzebet YellowBoy, one of my favourite artists, the genius behind Papaveria Pres, who has made books and bone-art with the poetry of CSE Cooney, Amal El-Mohtar & Nicole Kornher-Stace, and Caitlyn Paxson. Are they not phenomenal? I wish I could pet them through the internet.

They have an even grander purpose, however, as part of the Magick 4 Terri auction held to support creator Terri Windling, whose works mean a great deal to many people I know. There is a wondrous large auction over on LJ – take a look!

I, meanwhile, will be making eyes at the fox-arts.

Nov 11, 2011
Alex Dally MacFarlane

If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Lest we forget that war brings suffering.

Apr 28, 2011
Alex Dally MacFarlane

Awards

It pleases me a great deal to see that Zoo City by Lauren Beukes, a book I hugely enjoyed, has just won the Arthur C Clarke Award. It’s one of those books I struggle to criticise, because the experience of reading it was just so much fun. It’s imaginative and thoughtful and well worth a read, if you like unusual fantasy.

What also makes me happy is that this is far from the only award this year to feature cool people. For instance, Lauren Beukes is on the ballot for the Campbell Award, alongside the excellent Saladin Ahmed and several other writers whose work I unfortunately haven’t read; on the recently released Hugo ballot, there’s Aliette de Bodard (who just won a BSFA Award), John Joseph Adams, Liz Gorinsky, Randall Munroe and more. On the Nebula ballot, there are people like Nnedi Okorafor, Christoper Barzak, Aliette de Bodard (again!), Shweta Narayan, Vylar Kaftan and Amal El-Mohtar, and many more.

This is one of the first years I’ve looked at award ballots and not felt hugely apathetic; instead, I’m excited. How cool is it that so many interesting and diverse people have been nominated? And that some of them are winning? I really hope the ballots keep on getting better.

Feb 2, 2011
Alex Dally MacFarlane

Mythpunk Roundtable at Strange Horizons

I’m very busy at the moment: moving up to London this coming weekend, working hard at the dayjob on a big proposal we’re pitching to one of our clients, which is requiring me to work until 10pm quite a few nights, then I’m going with the boss to Frankfurt on Monday (there and back in a day) to pitch it, and I’m trying to fit in writing too, plus occasionally seeing my parents. Not to mention sleeping.

I also participated in a roundtable discussion about mythpunk, hosted by JoSelle Vanderhooft, with Amal El-Mohtar, Rose Lemberg and Shweta Narayan. Our discussion is now online at Strange Horizons.

I still feel hugely honoured and flattered to have been invited; it was a very fun and thought-provoking discussion, covering topics from folkloristics to the stories that resonate (or don’t) with us. We didn’t manage to define mythpunk, but I’m happy with that. It seems less a term and more an idea, to me, that can be used and invoke in many ways.

I hope you’ll find our discussion interesting.

Jul 27, 2010
Alex Dally MacFarlane

PS:

I’ll be in China for a month. According to the internet, I’ll be able to access gmail and my website – wordpress.com is blocked, but not websites hosting wordpress on their own servers – so email and blogging should continue as normal. Should. If all goes quiet for the next month, I’m just having some fun on the other side of a Chinese firewall and will be in touch at the very end of August.

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