Tag Archives: sf/f

World Science Fiction (Renovation) – Here I Come!

So I will be attending my first ever World Science Fiction Convention this year! 2011’s con is Renovation in Reno, NV. I’ve always wanted to attend a World SF Con and with it being so close geographically this year and a couple of other things that came together it looks like I’m gonna make it! There’s still the matter of rooming to be worked out (if you need a room I have slots, please be not-a-serial-killer, smoking I can live with a knife in the back not so much). Hope to see at least some of my friends from WisCon and World Fantasy there. I’m also going to be on 7(!) panels. Exciting and nerve-wracking.

Here are my panels for the Con:

Thu 14:00 – 15:00, Science Fiction, Gender, and Social Change(Panel), A03 (RSCC)

The workings of any society are a confluence of many different forces and movements. As society changes, its literature and arts (including SF) reflects, anticipates, and perhaps influences the direction and scope of change. How has SF influenced and reflected the changes in gender and gender roles over the past quarter century? As we look back to the work of writers such as Ursula LeGuin and Joanna Russ in the sixties and seventies, what can we say about their impact and
that of their heirs today?

Alexandria Brown (M), Ctein, Amy Thomson, Mari Kotani and Naamen Tilahun

I’m very interested in who we think are the heirs to LeGuin and Russ. Not just authors with a feminist slant (while many authors tend to deny this label) but authors where feminism and gender roles are central to their work in many ways.

Thu 15:00 – 16:00, Why We Still Love _The Twilight Zone_ Fifty Years On (Panel), C1 (RSCC)

While science fiction for kids filled the TV screens of the ’50s, Rod Serling’s _The Twilight Zone_ was, arguably, the first SF show for adults. Featuring sophisticated themes, good writing and a surprising number of young actors who went on to be stars, _The Twilight Zone_ is a classic of the genre everyone should be watching. Our panel talks about some of their favorite episodes and why they’ve lasted.

H. G. Stratmann (M), Gary Westfahl, J. Steven York, John DeChancie and Naamen Tilahun

Okay, admission time. The Twilight Zone freaks me out! Don’t get me wrong, I love it but it still freaks me out. It is one of my mom’s favorite shows so I was exposed to it a lot growing up and I still feel terror over certain episodes (mostly more obscure eps like the one with the bus stop and the doppelgangers). Amazing show, effective and creepy and oh so sci-fi.

Fri 10:00 – 11:00, SF We Love by Writers of Color (Panel), A03(RSCC)

Are you curious about SF by writers of color. How do you
find the good stuff? There are many reading options, and many ways of connecting with the various communities of color producing excellent SF. Join us to look at reading lists from the Carl Brandon Society and other sources. And bring your own suggestions and your squee.

Naamen Tilahun (M), Vylar Kaftan, Anne Gray, Bradford Lyau

Definitely have authors that I think are getting some attention but deserve a lot more. Readying a list.

Fri 11:00 – 12:00, Minority Representation in SF Art and the Ugly Reality (Panel), D05 (RSCC)

Minority representation needs to get better in our visual SF, including casting in film and TV and the design and selection of cover art. A discussion of what’s wrong with the status quo and how the industry can and should improve.

Lee Moyer (M), Aliette de Bodard, Lee Harris, Naamen Tilahun

I have examples I can bring! Examples from multiple decades! Gotta dig through my books and pull out my old copy of Butler’s “Dawn”, Emily Deveport’s “Larissa”, Laurie J. Marks’ “Fire Logic” and of course bring up the recent controversies in cover art and the idea that asking for accurate and inclusive cover art is somehow being a problem author.

Sat 14:00 – 15:00, Unsuppressing Women: The Work and Legacy of Joanna Russ (Panel), D05 (RSCC)

Joanna Russ was one of science fiction’s first
feminist writers and a leading literary critic. Our panel looks at her fiction, reviews, and critical work, and assesses her lasting impact on the field.

Farah Mendlesohn (M), Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Naamen Tilahun, Gary K. Wolfe

Love, love, love Joanna. I’m doing a series over at Feminist-SF The Blog called Remembering Joanna about reading four of the more obscure works she wrote. Only the first part is up so far but I’m hoping to get at least one more up (if not the whole sequence of four) by the time I leave for WorldCon.

Sat 15:00 – 16:00, The Paranormal as Metaphor (Panel), A16 (RSCC)

Paranormal fantasy, including urban fantasy and paranormal romance, is among the most popular genres within speculative fiction. One intriguing aspect of this type of fantasy is its role as a stealth route toward social commentary and change. What are the issues being examined and how effectively are the experiences of various groups presented?

Naamen Tilahun (M), Lucienne Diver, Carrie Vaughn, Rose Fox, Patricia Briggs

Really like the idea of this panel, totally had the discussion of metaphors of vampires and werewolves and witches in on of my classes last year and really enjoyed it. Also sort of want to bring up the opposite effect in metaphor. The way in which Twilight and some other YA works attempt to rework the mythos of these creatures into something that is safe and somewhat non-sexual when their initial metaphor had such a sexual connotation.

Sun 13:00 – 14:00, Feminism in Science Fiction and SF Fandom (Panel), C1 (RSCC)

Feminism and feminist themes are an integral part of SF and Fantasy. There is major annual feminist SF&F convention (Wiscon). Last year the _The Secret Feminist
Cabal_, a cultural history of science fiction feminisms was published. What role does feminism play in modern day science fiction and fandom, and how is that role traceable the seventies and before?

Renée Sieber (M), Ellen Klages, Joan D. Vinge, Naamen Tilahun, Jed Hartman

Loved The Secret Feminist Cabal when I read it when it came out. Gonna try and re-read it before the Con so all of it (or at least the more pertinent bits) are fresh in my mind.

So that is my WorldCon schedule. Hope to see some of y’all there!

Wanna Read Along?

So I am doing an independent study next semester called “Female Protagonists of Colors in Speculative Fiction” and have decided to do most of my reading over this break between semesters to lessen the load in the Spring. A few friends mentioned that they would like to read along with me during this time. So here is the book list:

Required Texts:
James Alan Gardener – Expendable
SM Stirling – Island in the Sea of Time
Octavia Butler – Wild Seed
Nalo Hopkinson – Midnight Robber
Hiromi Goto – The Kappa Child
Larissa Lai – Salt Fish Girl
Leslie Marmon Silko – Almanac of the Dead
Eva Swan – The Bone Whistle
Daina Chaviano – The Island of Eternal Love
Angelica Gorodischer – Kalpa Imperial
Samuel R. Delany – Neveryona
Lizzie Borden’s Born In Flames (film)
Miyazaki’s Nausicca of the Valley of the Winds (graphic novel)

Additional Texts:
David Heath Justice – Kynship
Frank Miller – Give Me Liberty (graphic novel)
Children of Men (film)
Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu – The Shadow Speaker
F.M. Busby – Zelde M’tana

Some are hard to find, like Larissa Lai if you’re in the U.S. because it was Canadian only distribution so feel free to drop some from the list if you guys choose to read along. I’ll be posting about each books as I finish either way. BUT I forgot to post about this until I’d already started so I’ve already (re)read Midnight Robber and will be posting about it later this week.

Just started: Wild Seed

Next Book: Island in the Sea of Time

Probably won’t switch to Island until about January 1st because I’m in thesis crunch time and am trying to finish it before the end of this month by writing about 80 pages. We’ll see if it happens!

Quick Post! – Transcript Published

Attending WisCon this year I participated in a conversation (among mostly fans of Color) about RaceFail’09, the ramifications of that, the confluence of race and science fiction and race in general. Portions of the conversation were transcribed (with full permission asked and granted of all participants) and appear in the new international peer-reviewed journal Transformative Works and Cultures, Vol 3 (2009). Really good conversation around race and being a fan, check it out if you get the chance:
Pattern recognition: A dialogue on racism in fan communities
Second year of grad school is still kickin’ my ass but hopefully things will slow down after the next couple of weeks and I can get back to blogging more regularly.

So Close Yet So Far!

So I’m obviously not as plugged in as I thought I was because until last night I had never heard of the Emmy-winning web series Satacracy 88. Twenty-four episodes were done in ’06 and ’07 and they are all viewable on hulu. Now the pluses are complex, interesting Woman of Color protagonist, plenty of People of Color,  passes the Bechdel Test, gotta support indie art and the plot is pretty interesting and grabby.

I stayed up late last night watching the whole thing, each episode is only 3 -5 minutes and I was loving it until I reached the end. Now I’m not gonna ruin it for anyone who is going to head over and watch it but I found it anti-climactic and boring and just plain annoying.

This time though I can’t really blame the creators or the showrunners for the badness. See, Satacracy 88 comes to us via ItsAllInYourHands.Com where at the end of each episode the protagonist is left torn between two possibilities and the audience vote decides which way they go. It’s like a group census Choose You Own Adventure Book!

They have two other shows on their webpage and on hulu.com but I’m too burned on how Satacracy 88 ended to put myself willingly into mob rule television again anytime soon. I would recommend people go watch it if only so I can have someone to discuss some of the possibly problematic elements I recognized. One of which was Satacracy 88’s origin story which I put under a cut so as not to spoil:

Continue reading

Inspiration Rediscovered

It’s been a month since my last post and I thought I’d explain my absence. It’s a confluence of a couple of factors, planning the immediate future has taken a lot of my time and energy, RaceFail ’09 has made me bitter, angry and apathetic and finally my second semester of Grad School is kicking my ass so hard I had to drop a class. I tried to write a post over the last month but I couldn’t think of anything to write: 

Writing? Before last week I hadn’t written any new fiction since the end of January

Oppression? RaceFail ’09 made me so angry I could not write about privilege and power dynamics without literally feeling sick to my stomach

SF/F? See my answer to Oppression and there hasn’t been a SF/F show that’s pulled me in in ages and until the beginning of March I hadn’t red for the pure pleasure of reading for a long time.

Music? School? Work? Miscellania? Apathy x 10

But this is not a whiny I’m leaving the internetz post. This is saying that thanks to my spring break  (which I’m still currently on) and my vow to step away from all but the most dire of my resposibilities during the week; getting to see/talk to a bunch of great folks like my HLB Allison, Tempest, Nora, etc.; immersing myself in some writing (mine and other peoples) and trips to a few museums I am actually feeling inspired and excited more so than I have in a long time. It may not last but I’m gonna try and hold onto the feeling so forecast for more frequent posts looks good…once I’m back from spring break of course.

Critiquing Joss Whedon

Joss Whedon created – Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, Serenity and the upcoming Dollhouse. Now I have issues with a lot the shows listed, I’m also a huge fan. My problem isn’t entirely with the shows but also in the way a lot of of fans perceive Joss. He gets a lot of cachet from certain segments of fandom – about how he loves strong women, how he describes himself as a feminist, his population of diverse women.

Yeah I kind of scoff at all of that. First of all I will never understand why men who choose to treat women decently get a fucking medal, that should just be par for the course. I know it’s not and we as a society need to work on that but handing out cookies to these men and not allowing them to be critiqued or not critiquing them just allows them to get away with a lot of bullshit – that without the cachet of being a “feminist man” or “pro-feminist man” they would be torn to shreds for.

While I love Buffy & Firefly. (Angel I’m kinda *meh* on) the first thing that I notice is that Joss likes a certain type of woman to be strong: they have to be skinny and white and ever so traditionally beautiful. Not really that feminist to me. I’ve had a lifetime of reading comics where skinny  women become superheroes all the time. Buffy was little different from them to me. I liked her sarcasm, her determination but didn’t truly see her or the show as ground breaking…wait rephrase perhaps it was ground breaking for the medium of television specifically. But it seemed to me that everytime there was a feminist moment of fabulousness it was always within this very narrow view of women so that no ground was actually gained in my eyes. If it was anything it was the feminism he ascribed to was this prevalent “girl-power” pseudo-feminism. Yes, it was great to see girls and women being strong but you know what I would have loved? If we could have seen women of different colors, sizes, abilities, classes being just as strong without fucking up and killing someone innocent (Faith) or dying (Kendra).

And so often the shows fell into stereotypes and tropes:

The destruction of Angel’s life through Cordelia’s rampant sexuality and yes we find out she was possessed and it wasn’t really her but that whole excuse was way muddled and not thought out. 

I would have loved for Gunn (the only recurring POC in his first two shows) to just be able to be smart without a mystical intervention.

The dead lesbian – Tara

The breakdown of women without a male partner or when the male partner leaves – Buffy, Anya, Willow and on and on – in a way where we rarely if ever saw the reverse with Xander and Giles.

There’s a way in which Joss likes to consistently pair physical strength in girls with emotional weakness or fucked-up-ness, almost as if they have to exist side by side and that’s what pissed me off more than anything.

And yes we can’t say that Joss had a hand in all of those, he was the creator but he did not write every episode but as the creator he sets the tone, the pace and the message of the show. None of the show writers are going to write a character completely out of the character that Joss has set. It’s a trickle down effect.

Also I think most of us can agree while Joss might have an inkling of feminism he’s really bad at race…really really bad. Yes, in Firefly we have a mixed crew – which I love – but there’s a way in which River and Inara never have their heritage brought up and the complete absence of Asian folks in this Asian inspired show could be a whole post in and of itself. Just plopping down some folks of color is not good race politics you have to explore it at least a little – and I know he only had 12 episodes. Also the gender politics in Firefly/Serenity weren’t the best. In fact cracked.com listed Hollywood’s 5 Saddest Attempts at Feminism– River’s at #3.

I want to talk about these things, I want to talk about his consistently really bad race politics in all three of his shows. I want to talk about the co-opting of feminism by the mainstream into this whole “girl power” movement where there’s not real critique of power structures and the similarity of this “girl power” movement to the Republican ideology of “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” without any discussion of the continuing hierarchies and how difficult that can make it. I want to talk about all of that and how that’s filtered into Joss’ work but all too often I’m completely shut down by calls of “He’s a feminist!” as if that gives him a free ride to do whatever else he wants.

I own: all 7 season of Buffy, Firefly, Serenity & the first two seasons of Angel so it’s safe to term me a fan but I know that Joss has issues that crop up as do all creators. Shoot I know my own work probably has issues but I would hope that no one would give me a pass, that folks would tell me imy issues so I could be aware of it and either acknowledge it as a problem that had to exist in the work or apologize and try and do better next time. When we don’t allow for these critiques and questions to be voiced then we’re doing a disservice not only to the work but to the creator as well.

There might be posts later that focus on these shows and specifically their race politics when I get the time because:

Buffy – So. California town with little-to-no People of Color?

Angel – Only representation of POC is the trope of ghetto-gang-hustler?

Firefly/Serenity – The already mentioned absence of Asian folks coupled with the complete appropriation of their culture.

Magical Realism

I know that being in Grad School and writing SF/F my stuff will continually be labeled as Magic Realism and it irks me. I’ve always had issues with the genre of magical realism, not because I don’t like the genre or writers but because I think there’s a large tendency in the literary community to lump any People of Color who write Sci-Fiinto Magical Realism. The line between the two genres is more arbitrary and personal I think than anything else. For me it’s where the magic is incorporated into the story and not remarked on as something extraordinary, when the focus of the story is more personal than global and it often revolvesaround family (both of blood and the families you create on your own) but again that’s my personal definition.

But the idea that pisses me off is that if a POC is writing a fantasy at alls then it must be Magical Realism whereas you rarely see white authors treated the same. One example I’ll bring up is Nina Kiriki Hoffman who is one of my favorite authors, her works have many of the hallmarks of magical realism, the subtle magic weaved into an ordinary world but you’ll rarely if ever see her lumped into that category, most of her work is considered urban fantasy. Then you have authors like Nalo Hopkinson – also one of my favorite authors – whose “Brown Girl In The Ring” I see lots of folks terming Magical Realism which I don’t consider it to be because it’s about something that affects a lot of folks in the area and is the hero story of Ti-Jeanne as far as I’m concerned.

Now of course there are pluses and minuses to being considered a Magical Realism writer. The big plus being that you will automatically be given a higher degree of respect and authority within the literary community. The big negative for me is the why POC are automatically Magical Realists. It goes back to the “of the earth” stereotype – that brown folks are somehow closer to the earth and magic than white folks. Which is really a dehumanizing thing because along with this idea is the attitude that magic is something completely disconnected from “civilization” – it’s considered something connected to the primitive and when you look at it that way the fact that any fantastical work by a POC is considered Magical Realism becomes a little insulting because the idea is that if a POC writes about magic they are connecting with some primal force etc…

Magical Realism versus Fantasy is a tricky thing but this goes back to the idea that anything written by an African-American author is automatically shelved in the Af-Am literature section as opposed to its genre. It’s a form of segregation of the books and that’s the same feeling I get when folks divide books that deal with magic into Magical Realism and Fantasy, almost all the POC end up on the MR side and most of the folks on the Fantasy side are white.

Don’t get me wrong I’m not dissing Magical Realism I think it’s an awesome genre and some of my stuff does fit into the category. What I’m angry about is the automatic assumption of any POC who writes SF/F is actually writing Magical Realism. And then of course comes the hand-wringing and wailing over there not being enough POCin SF/F when those who try to break in are often shunted off into Magical Realism.

So yes, that’s my rant for the day.

P.S. – Grad School is totally kicking my ass but I’ve got it all under control…for now.