It takes enormous faith in humankind to be continually disappointed by people.
Personally, I’m pleasantly surprised if most people can get through the day without resorting to cannibalism.
It takes enormous faith in humankind to be continually disappointed by people.
Personally, I’m pleasantly surprised if most people can get through the day without resorting to cannibalism.
My 1:00 pm panel today was on Video Game Art. But it was Easter Sunday, and only 3 people showed! So we decided to rebel a little. Veteran artist Brian Snoddy and I invited the audience up to our table, and they all pulled their chairs around to chat. We basically spent the whole hour sharing our concept art, talking about work, and hanging out.
Was kinda awesome.
And my final panel of Norwescon 40 was not actually a panel! It was a podcast, live recorded for the audience.
“All things being equal, the coolest answer is the correct one.”
A splendid time was had by all. In general, Norwescon was a fantastic convention this year. My team-mates at Kerberos collected some great feedback from the playtesters of the new board games in development, I met lots of fantastic creators and fans, and I really appreciated all the people who came up to me later to get free downloads of my indie games, or tell me that they appreciated my thoughts.
It’s good to get out and be social once in a while.
People are continuing to playtest our new board games at Norwescon 40. 😀
Started my day at a rollicking Video Game panel with Donna Prior, Veronica Hamilton and moderator Johnny Nero, Action Hero.
It was a good conversation about what we’re playing, what games we’ve made, why you can never get the latest Nintendo device when you want it, what games are worth in terms of time and money, and how to be a supportive and responsible gamer and fan.
Quality audience contributions, too. Love gamers. 🙂
My last two horror panels at Norwescon 40 were also excellent!
Evan Peterson led a fantastic discussion of religious tropes and iconography in horror with Tegan Moore and a very intense, quietly thoughtful audience. The panel was called “Fear of God(s)”, and there was a surprising intensity to the mood in the room. I guess the Easter/Passover connection a little hard to set aside?
My last horror panel was “A Wolf in the Fold”, a discussion of shapeshifter myths and werewolf tropes in modern horror. Alex C. Renwick and Julie McGalliard had a lot of interesting folkloric tidbits that I’d never heard of, particularly from Cajun country and the Caribbean.
Grateful as always to participate in great programming. Many thanks to the Horror track lead Nathan Crowder for giving us such interesting topics this year.
From this point on, the convention is all about games and ancient history–and there’s a lot to say.
Sparks flew at the Games As Art panel. Moderator and artist Lee Moyer with me on one side, arguing that games are Art BECAUSE DUH and ex-Blizzard heavyweight Alex Irvine on the other side, arguing that games are in fact NOT Art and shouldn’t have to be.
(Game designer David Fooden keeping his head down and talking about his new game Yukon Salon when the dust cleared.)
RAAAR ART FOREVAH…
My last panel of the day was Slavery in the Ancient and Medieval World. Alan Andrist, Peter Fuller and special guest star Victoria Whitlock talked about slavery as an ancient and modern institution, from Roman times through the Viking era and into colonial times. Tough subject, but covered a lot of useful territory. I hope the audience enjoyed it.
Summary Notes from the Standing Up to the Mob panel. This was a discussion at Norwescon 40, with Cat Rambo, the current President of the Science Fiction Writers of America, Michelle Mickey Schulz, the Editor/Publisher of Geek Girls Rule!, veteran cosplayer Torrey Stenmark and fan fiction maven Minim Calibre.
Going by memory, I would say that these were the highlights and generally agreed-upon conclusions:
1. All women who are visible and active as creators and critics in fandom and tech are targeted for hatred, harassment, and erasure. Do not deny this fact, do not disbelieve their reports, and do not equivocate any experience you’ve had as a Dude Creator with what women are getting. It’s not equivalent. And never will be.
2. The purpose of a lot of the on-line harassment that women receive is to overwhelm and silence the victim.
For this reason, if you’re trying to engage and “draw fire” for a woman on-line, you need to actually behave as if you’re tanking a Monster that has an AoE attack. Get AWAY from the intended victim. Remove the tags that link her to the conversation, get her out of the loop, do not drag her back into the fire.
3. During a hate blitz, offer whatever help or support a woman asks for. BY FAR THE MOST IMPORTANT GESTURE YOU CAN MAKE IS FINANCIAL SUPPORT FOR HER WORK. Beyond that, you can offer to handle her email for a while, and just deal with the death and rape threats so that she doesn’t have to. This method worked for Mickey Schultz when she was being barraged by psychotic fans of a famous web comic; it had the additional benefit of giving her husband much deeper empathy, not only for her but for all women in fandom.
[3a. “Taking a Break” from on-line interaction is a completely valid way to decompress and exercise self-care as a female creator or critic. You are allowed to leave the party at any time.]
4. A little extra vigilance in what you share as a female creator in production or fandom, in terms of on-line information, can be helpful to avoid being a priority target for doxxing. Some women have had their names removed from a company directory at work, some avoid mentioning their children, pets or partners on-line, etc..
Your safety is more important than sharing every aspect of your life.
5. Do your best as an ally to hire, support and create safe and sane work environments for women.
Do not allow misogynistic hate speech on your company channels and forums and in the comment section of articles on your website. Delete that stuff with a mighty “hammer of loving correction”.
Protect your employees and female guests who are interviewed or contribute content to your feed.
Hold male creators ACCOUNTABLE for failing to deal with their toxic male fans, as well.
6. The community’s actions to deal with serial harassers, creepers and sexual predators is VERY important. Raise and uphold community standards in every social space you occupy.
Don’t just warn people about the Missing Stairs. Fix the stairs and make it as safe as you can.
Please feel free to share. If you were there at the panel and I’ve forgotten anything important, please mention it in the comments.
Woot! My team is at Norwescon this weekend play-testing our new board games, The Pit and Control! Come on up to Maxxi’s or down to Evergreen 1 & 2 to throw some dice and kill some monsters.
You know you wanna. 😉
Had a great panel today on “Standing Up to the Mob”, with Cat Rambo, Michelle Mickey Schulz, Torrey Stenmark and Minim Calibre. Good overview of the necessary skills and knowledge for people who want to support the women working in various industries in fandom. It was a good enough discussion that I will make a separate post to compile my notes about what was said.
[Note: I realized half-way through this panel that I had been swearing continually for 30 minutes. Sorry about the language, folks. This is a subject that makes me really angry.]
Also perversely enjoyed my history panel on The Evolution of the Secret State Police. Very intense, detail-rich discussion with a powerhouse panel: History Track lead Bill Gruner, intelligence expert Bart Kemper, and author/criminal justice lawyer Frog Jones! We covered a lot of ground and discussed police and espionage traditions from Roman Antiquity to the Pinkertons, FBI, Stasi, KGB etc.. (Plus there was bourbon.)
We talked about Lovecraft, sharks, isolation, mental institutions and “asylum horror”, “female hysteria” and how the things (and people) we are encouraged to fear are often targeted for violence.
It was a good discussion and a good crowd, especially so late at night!
Just finished my first panel of the convention, “Let’s Design A Monster”, and it was really a gas. Ogre Whiteside and Dylan Templar and I worked with a fantastic audience and whipped up four really horrifying monster concepts. I liked at least two of them well enough to want to write brief, skin-crawling little stories about them–that’s rare for me!
I love throwing out an idea to the audience and seeing people visibly shudder and rub the goosebumps off their arms. Still got it.
I’m not going to ruin this movie for you. I loathe spoilers in general, and I loathe spoilers of really good films in particular.
I will simply say that this is the best zombie movie I have ever seen. It may in fact be the best zombie movie ever made, although I can’t claim to have seen them all.
It is certainly the only film I’ve ever seen which seriously rivals the original Night of the Living Dead in quality and relevance. I include the entire directorial career of George Romero post 1968 in that estimation, to put things in context–in my opinion he has never made a better film than the original NotLD, and neither had anyone else–until Train to Busan.
I may write more about this film later, possibly in a post that’s clearly labeled with spoilers. For now, I just want to deliver the simple message: this movie is on Netflix now. You should see it.
In the course of my reading for the Woke As Fuck Club this year, I’ve picked up a few titles that are not really in the wheelhouse of the club. Ben Passmore’s brief and poignant Your Black Friend is a single-issue comic which has the word count of a prose poem and the impact of a much longer essay.
Your Black Friend is addressed to the white friends of black Americans. It’s about a subject which is becoming increasingly urgent in modern discourse, which I would summarize as The Racism You Don’t See–the anti-blackness that is invisible to white people, whether it manifests in the world around us, in the white people we interact with, or in ourselves.
The framing device of the comic is a scene in a coffee shop. A white woman with “an Eat-Pray-Love vibe” is chatting with the barista, and talking about “this sketchy black guy” that she reported to the police recently, whose crime was “coming out of this backyard with a bike”. When the barista asks for a description, she describes a the bike better than the man. But her “sketchy black guy” turns out to be a perfectly innocent and ordinary person, a neighbor that the barista knows well. He lives in that house, he owns that bike, he’s a regular at the coffee shop.
Your Black Friend, the narrator of this comic, can clearly see that this white woman has been openly caught out in a moment of racist prejudice which could easily have endangered a black person’s life. The barista has revealed her racism–but he does not actually call her on it. And neither does the white friend sitting across the table from YBF, reading her “Yoga Cook Book” and oblivious to the conversation.
This experience of being thrown under the bus is a universal of being black in America, with or without white friends. As he puts it, “What white ppl fear most is ‘making things awkward’.” Even people who call themselves friends would rather be controlled by their fear of humiliation than stand up for black people. Even the minimal risk of using their privilege, their RIGHT to be vocal and labeled “angry” without serious repercussions–is too much to ask.
What follows is a haunting and lyrical monologue from the point of view of Your Black Friend, opening up with real vulnerability and expressing his deep discomfort with his position between the two colliding suns of blackness and whiteness.
I don’t want to spoil it, because buying and reading this comic is a pretty smart way to invest five bucks, especially if you happen to be white and have any interest whatsoever in being a better person. But I do think it is worthwhile to talk about the issues that he brought up which made me feel personally uncomfortable and guilty.
Ben Passmore took a significant risk and opened his heart to share his discomfort with me, and he deserves the courtesy of having his reviewers interrogate their own shame. I think I have some of these attributes of whiteness, at times. And I am ashamed to the degree that I am a bad friend.
The Fear of Making Things Awkward.
I’m not going to beat myself up endlessly over this, but it’s definitely a fear of mine that crops up when trying to speak up for black people. Especially when black people are present.
I can’t presently untangle the knot of motivations and emotions that make up this fear. Some of it is actually positive intention, and the desire not to cause negative impacts. I know from recent experience that black people can suffer unwanted and exhausting repercussions when their white friends and colleagues start running their mouths. This is why caution and a little extra thought is needed before you tag them on Facebook or link to them on Twitter. Every POC author, critic and game developer in my network is at risk of being harassed and having their energies drained by trolls. If I want to consider myself a friend, I need to battle those trolls myself, if anyone’s going to.
Some of it is probably just personal weakness. I have some issues with social anxiety. And it must be said, I have always had a tendency to Make Things Awkward since I was a small child. This does not make me a bad person in the moral or ethical sense–in fact, I get lots of pats on the head for being a person of integrity and courage. But there is a price to be paid for being The Girl Who Called Bullshit. Making people uncomfortable can be a curse as much as it a blessing. Some people will always love me for my ability to speak up–some will hate me.
What worries me, though, is that maybe at least PART of the reason I fear “awkwardness” is that I am afraid of losing some of my in-group privilege as a white person. If I’m “Awkard”, if I become known as Always-Angry Arinn, maybe I’ll have fewer white friends? Fewer career opportunities? Fewer invitations to conventions and anthologies which are run by white people? Fewer dates…?
It sounds stupid and petty, once I type the words. But maybe it’s a legitimate fear. I have no reason to think that I will suddenly be embraced by black people just because I’ve alienated white people. And hell, maybe there are people of every race and background who just wouldn’t care to be associated with an Angry Person regardless.
It doesn’t really matter why I’m afraid of “awkwardness”, though. What matters is that my fear of awkwardness should never overshadow my fear for the lives, safety and dignity of black people in general, and my black friends in particular. And whatever loneliness or disadvantages I might suffer as a consequence of speaking up are staggeringly trivial compared to the consequences for black people if I don’t.
Putting On “Black Voice”
Ben Passmore mentions the white mimicry of black speech patterns on page 2 of this comic–it’s one of the first things to come up on his list of uncomfortable things that he doesn’t really know how to bring up. He describes his white friends “putting on linguistic ‘black face’ (he calls it ‘black voice’) with unfamiliar black people and especially black kids.”
Speaking of awkward? Yeah. This one is very awkward for me. African-American Vernacular English is recognized in academic circles as an official dialect of the English language. It has internally consistent rules and like most dialects, it serves a specific population of people as an in-group marker. It is at least partially designed and intended to mark those who cannot speak/understand it, or who cannot perform fluently, as outsiders.
I do not speak AAVE, and I would not ever try to use it to appropriate an unearned insider status with a black person I’ve never met. But I do consume books, music and art which are created by AAVE native speakers. And these artists have influenced me, sometimes in ways that I haven’t explicitly acknowledged.
I have been a fan of black blues musicians since my teens. Since the mid-1980’s I’ve been listening to John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Robert Johnson, Koko Taylor, Bessie Smith, Big Mama Thornton, Aretha Franklin…and their white imitators and proteges, like Janis Joplin, Bonnie Raitt, Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin. The imagery, emotions and lyrics of the blues are now a part of me, and it’s a part I value. I still count it as one of the high points of my life that I got to see John Lee Hooker live before he passed. And if it wasn’t for the blues, I’d have nothing to sing on karaoke night.
I could say similar things about my early reading of black authors like Iceberg Slim, who hit me like a train when I was in my late 20’s. I would still count him as one of the most original voices in the English language, and I can’t really calculate how powerfully he shaped my ideas of what racism is, or what the 20th century felt like for black Americans.
This being said, when I saw the blonde girl on page 8 say, “Can I be ‘woke’?” it gave me a pang of guilt and sadness. Because despite the fact that I run a study group called The Woke As Fuck Book Club, the truth is…
I can’t be ‘woke’.
I can use the word, but it isn’t mine. It will never mean to me what it does to a black person.
“Woke”, to a white person, is a state of compassionate, honest and active awareness about the world around me. It’s my willingness to recognize how privilege works and how people without it are marginalized and harmed. Being “woke” for me, as a person with a lot of privilege, is always going to be about listening, learning, and taking action whenever and however I can.
“Woke” for a person without privilege, particularly the black community that originated the term…means something entirely different.
For them, “Woke” is not just awareness and activism, it’s threat management. It’s a state of hyper-vigilance, the soldier’s edge, the boxer’s dance. Looking for the next blow before it lands, moving to block or dodge it. Keeping your eyes open and your phone battery charged so that you can record your interactions with the police. Staying alert and being ready to respond in a heartbeat to preserve your life, your job, your family, your community, your people as a whole. Listening to the daily barrage of micro-aggressions and making strategic choices about whether to respond. Being unwilling to take promises and statements at face value, because you’ve been lied to a thousand times.
Woke is a lot of things that are all about blackness…an existential state that excludes me from its Venn diagram.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to change the name of my study group. No one has asked me to, and the fact that Ben Passmore points out that white ignorance and entitlement make him uncomfortable is just part of the benefit I’ve received from pursuing this path.
Forming the Woke As Fuck Book Club was one of the better decisions I made in 2016, and I’m becoming a better and stronger person every day because of it.
That said…I’ll always be a white woman. “Woke As Fuck” is a goalpost that will shift eternally out of my reach, and I need to make peace with that reality. I cannot fix the world so easily. I cannot unmake my privilege or dismantle systematic racism by reading a few good books or writing even the most thoughtful review.
I do hope it will make me a better friend, though.
Just a quick note to say that I’ll be getting together with some fabulous women to read some of my fiction for Women In Horror Month, this coming Sunday.
Local friends and fans–don’t miss it!
Couth Buzzard Books
8310 Greenwood Ave N
Seattle, WA 98103