Monday, June 29, 2015

A few thoughts about The Phantasmagorical Cross-Cultural Sexual Cogitation Panel

I spent the weekend at Fourth Street Fantasy, which was up to its usual high standards.  All of the panels consisted of smart and amusing people, and The Phantasmagorical Cross-Cultural Sexual Cogitation Panel was no exception, so when I quibble, please note that I'm not quibbling with individuals. Some panels simply don't cohere, which may mean they need to be held again, or may mean they're not quite Fourth Street Panels, or may just mean I wanted more than I should've.

Before I say anything about sex and storytelling, here's what underlies my thinking:

1. I like explicit sex in stories when the scene shows a significant change in the relationship between the characters.

2. I like writing to educate people about sex. There's a reason there's a condom when Wolfboy loses his virginity.

3. I completely sympathize with gay folks who want more gay characters. There's a reason I've done my best to include some in every novel I've written since the first, and if I ever do a sequel to Cats Have No Lord, I'll be revealing that not all of the characters are as straight as they may've seemed. (But I'm not making a retroactive announcement, 'cause what's not in the text doesn't count.)

That said, when I listen to panels like The Phantasmagorical Cross-Cultural Sexual Cogitation Panel, I feel like people doing alt-sex panels want more frequent, more varied, and more accurate sex in the same way NRA members want more frequent, more varied, and more accurate guns. They're not quite getting the point of stories.

At the beginning of the panel, someone shared the fact that 3.8% of the adult population identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. This isn't significantly different than eighty years ago, when the accepted percentage was about 2%. People were surprised that the number was so small, which is common: the media has gone from making minority genders invisible to making them seem more common than they are, and fandom has lots of folks of different genders because we've always prided ourselves on being accepting.

But I'm a little sorry I didn't raise my hand to stress the change that matters most: The US has gone from a few folks supporting gay marriage to the majority of folks supporting it, and the majority of Americans would not be upset if a child was gay or lesbian. There are people who say the future is queer, and they may be right, but the data we have suggests the future may still be more straight than queer, yet no one will judge anyone on the basis of their preferences for consensual sex.

ETA: Shorter version: In the future, no one will give a fuck who you fuck, so long as the fucking's consensual.

ETA: Related in my head: Your Sex Is Not Radical | Yasmin Nair

Friday, June 26, 2015

My favorite cartoon about the Supreme Court's gay marriage ruling, and a comment

ETA: The legal issue should be simple. When segregation was legal, forbidding interracial marriage made legal sense; when black folks got equal rights, that had to include the legal right to marry. The situation is no different with gay folks.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Two examples of the unexpected consequences of banning (pornography and swastika)

History Lesson: what happened when Canada enacted a feminist anti-porn law? | A Glasgow Sex Worker:
Within the first two and a half years after the Butler decision, well over half of all Canadian feminist bookstores had had materials confiscated or detained by customs.
Swastika (banned in Germany):
A controversy was stirred by the decision of several police departments to begin inquiries against anti-fascists. In late 2005 police raided the offices of the punk rock label and mail order store "Nix Gut Records" and confiscated merchandise depicting crossed-out swastikas and fists smashing swastikas. In 2006 the Stade police department started an inquiry against anti-fascist youths using a placard depicting a person dumping a swastika into a trashcan. The placard was displayed in opposition to the campaign of right-wing nationalist parties for local elections.

ETA: For anyone who doesn't know the history of the swastika before the Nazis appropriated it: Swastika - Wikipedia

Two favorite versions of The Internationale. What are yours?

Tony Babino - L'Internationale:

Soul Flower Mononoke - The Internationale:

For those who don't know the song, here's a more traditional take in Russian from the movie Reds:

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

On subverting symbols, why I wrote Captain Confederacy, and the current Confederate flag controversy

Let's get the big one out of the way: No Confederate flag should have a place of honor on a US federal, state, county, or town government building. They are the flags of a 19th-century slaveocracy, 400,000 rich Americans of all races who seceded because they wanted to keep owning humans. Most of them were white Christians, but the group included black men and women like William Ellison and Maria Weston, Jews like Confederate Secretary of State Judah P. Benjamin, American Indians like Confederate General Isacc Stand Watie, and Asians like Christopher and Stephen Bunker, the children of Siamese twins Chang and Eng. What united them was the willingness to buy and sell slaves of African descent. The last flag of slavery fell at Appomattox and never should have been officially raised again. But it returned when Southern states opposed the civil rights initiatives of the '50s and '60s. Real conservatives would want states to go back to the flags they flew before those new flags were made official by rich racists.

And now, the but: No flag should be banned. Make symbols taboo, and you give them power. The way to weaken symbols is to subvert them. That was my intention when I wrote Captain Confederacy. This is the cover to the first issue:

It was reproduced at Scolding Polemic Bun Toons! YAY! | Ty Templeton's ART LAND!!, where I said,
As the author of Captain Confederacy, I’ll give you your answer about the guy in the snake suit: in the first issue, he was an actor in a propaganda unit in a racist parallel world Confederacy. He turns against the program. The series had two arcs: the first was focused on the white guy who played Captain Confederacy. In the second, published by Epic, a black woman became Captain Confederacy. The whole thing began as a comment on nationalistic superheroes, because there’s something about wearing flags and hitting people that has always bothered me.

Historical footnote: A Captain Marvel one-shot from Marvel featuring Monica Rambeau was the first comic book from a major company that starred a black female superhero. The second Captain Confederacy series from Epic was the first comic book series from a major company that starred a black female superhero. I’m a little proud of that.

And last, I completely agree that the Confederate flag has no place on any government building in the USA.
This post was inspired by When Anti-Racists Adopted the Confederate Battle Flag - Hit & Run : Its use of "anti-racist" seems ahistorical—at least, I never encountered the term then—but the article's interesting for any student of the civil rights era.

This post was also inspired by this short story: "The Appropriation of Cultures" by Percival Everett

Monday, June 22, 2015

Falcon by Emma Bull — now available as an ebook!

Currently available for $3.99 at

His life is a race against time. And time is winning.

He was a prince, until his world was plunged into civil war. He was a son, until he discovered his mother’s secret. He was an exile, until he became Niki Falcon, piloting a ship linked to his nervous system, crossing light-years in a breath, addicted to the drug that makes it all possible.

Now he needs to free a planet. But to save Lamia and defeat its enemy, Niki Falcon needs to cheat both physics and death...

A Locus Recommended Novel for 1989

New York Public Library list of best books for young adults, 1989

“Ms. Bull has an unabashed enthusiasm for the mythic dimensions of adventure fiction.” —The New York Times Book Review

“I was on the edge of my seat waiting to see how the story was going to end... Bull knows how to fit bombshells in unobtrusively, then explode them at exactly the right moment.” —Locus magazine

"Absorbing...Entrancing." —Lois McMaster Bujold

“Emma Bull is one of the best writers working today. She combines an elegant style with high adventure and thoughtful speculation. Falcon is one of my favorite novels. Read it.” — Steven Brust

“Falcon soars! Exciting, evocative, and entertaining. I couldn’t put it down!” —Chris Claremont

“A taut and chilling SF adventure. Bull is outstanding among the new generation of writers.” —Julian May

"Stark and strong: Strict science fiction, purely myth. A perfect novel!" —R. A. MacAvoy

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Why the two translations of Blaise Pascal's quote about brevity make me smile

Blaise Pascal offered one of the great writing quotes: Je n'ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parce que je n'ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte.

It's usually translated as "I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time." The more literal translation is "I made this [letter] very long, because I did not have the leisure to make it shorter."

I smile because the less literal translation shows he could've made the sentence shorter if he'd had more time.

This observation was prompted by a bit in Amazon's New Plan to Pay Authors Every Time Someone Turns a Page - The Atlantic:
If I work hard to be pithy and crisp in order to keep the reader’s skittish attention, there will be fewer pages to read, and less money to be earned. Writing concisely is an art that takes a lot of time and careful editing. As Blaise Pascal said...
Payment by the word has always bothered me because it rewards sloppy writing. Payment by the page isn't better. In the world I want, writers will be able to write without having to pit artistic needs against commercial ones.

ETA: "The secret of being a bore is to tell everything." —Voltaire