Tuesday, March 14, 2017

2016 James Tiptree Jr. Award

I'm late to this party-- I've just seen the announcement for the 2016 James Tiptree Jr. Award. I've taken this from the Award's website:

Congratulations to Anna-Marie McLemore, who has won the 2016 Tiptree Award for her novel When the Moon Was Ours (Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press, 2016).

About the Winner

When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore is a fairytale about Samir, a transgender boy, and Miel, an orphan girl who grows roses from her wrists and is bullied as a result. In fact, there is a fairytale within the fairytale: the first chapter telling us the version of the story that mothers would tell children for years after — before also telling us what that story leaves out. Then the book takes us through all of it, step by step, exploring the heartache and frustration that being and loving differently generates. Beautifully, the novel never lets go of its unique magical realism framework. While the thoughts and emotions these characters share are incredibly familiar to anyone who is queer or trans or has loved someone who is trans, the imagery and particular scenarios the characters encounter are also completely bright and new.

In the author’s note at the end of the book, Anna-Marie McLemore tells us that when she was a teenager she fell in love with a transgender boy who would grow into the man she married. This is their story, reimagined as legend.

 In addition to selecting the winners, the jury chooses a Tiptree Award Honor List. The Honor List is a strong part of the award’s identity and is used by many readers as a recommended reading list. These notes on each work are excerpted and edited from comments by members of this year’s jury.

This year’s Honor List is:

Eleanor Arnason, Hwarhath Stories:Transgressive Tales by Aliens (Aqueduct Press, 2016) — This is a wonderful collection of stories that examine the ways that culturally, deep-rooted assumptions around gender restrict vocation and recognition of skills. Arnason tells of a culture with significantly different gender assumptions and customs that lead to a number of subtly shifted societal impacts — both positive and negative.

Mishell Baker, Borderline (Saga Press, 2016) — A fascinating whodunit with wonderful characters, Borderline spotlights diversity and intersectionality. Most of the characters in this novel are viewed as disabled by others, even by each other. But the characters’ so-called disabilities give them advantages in certain situations. Understanding this helps the characters love each other and themselves. Almost every character can be described as having attributes that are both disabilities and advantages. What builds us up can bring us down. Or put another way: our imperfections are openings to beautiful achievements.

Nino Cipri, “Opals and Clay” (Podcastle, 2016) — A beautiful love story about solidarity. With just three major characters, this story does a lot with gender, demonstrating how gendering can be something one does to control or out of love.

Andrea Hairston, Will Do Magic for Small Change (Aqueduct Press, 2016) — A beautiful story of magic and love that spans two centuries and three continents, moving between times and places through a book-within-a-book structure. Its 1980s protagonists are a family who has been torn apart by an act of homophobic violence. Through a discovery of their past, they are able to reconnect and find love again. Among other things, this novel depicts an amazing range of queer characters. Importantly, the book de-colonizes these representations, making queerness not a white or American thing, but something that emerges in different shapes and structures at different times and places, particular to individuals as well as the cultures and communities that they are a part of.

Rachael K. Jones, “The Night Bazaar for Women Becoming Reptiles” (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, 2016) — A moving story set in a world where people live separate lives by night and day, with an opposite-sex lover by day and same-sex lover by night as the standard family structure. The theme of being trapped in one’s body and circumstances and in the customs of one’s times is dealt with well. The metaphor of a city/body that traps people in prisons of identity was very powerful. A surprising (yet well set up) twist to the story broadens its scope.

Seanan McGuire, Every Heart a Doorway (Tor Books, 2916) — This is a lovely YA novel about teenagers who return to our world, against their wishes, from magical lands that they entered through secret pathways — a magic door, an impossible stairway at the bottom of a trunk, a mirror. Their parents cannot understand their pain and misinterpret the stories their children tell and send their children to Miss West’s Home for Wayward Children. Miss West, herself a returned child, helps them deal with their separation or return to what they all think of as their real homes. This novel came to the attention of the Tiptree jury because of the reasons the children are taken from or rejected by their magical worlds. The protagonist, Nancy, is asexual, and finds an ideal world through her door. A character named Kade was born Katie, and discovers he is a boy, not a girl. He is thrown out of Fairyland as punishment for his transition. Two twin girls named Jack and Jill take up identities opposite from those their parents imposed upon them. There are beautiful lessons here about the importance of finding one’s home–that place where one can be one’s self. An emotionally engaging novel.

Ada Palmer, Too Like the Lightning (Tor Books, 2016) — This book will start conversations about gender, philosophy, religion, government, even war.The judges perceived contradictions within this book that may be resolved in the sequel, but these only serve to spark interest. In the future in which it is set (the twenty-fifth century of our world), gendered language is considered taboo in most circles and gender/sex-related cues are minimized and overlooked in clothing, vocation, and all other public areas of life. However, the book slowly reveals that gender stereotypes, sexism, and sexual taboos still remain strong despite the century’s supposed enlightenment and escape from such notions.

Johanna Sinisalo, The Core of the Sun (Grove Press/Black Cat, 2016) — This emotional, moving and thought-provoking novel, set in an alternate present in Finland, provides a critique of heteronormativity, eugenics, and all forms of social control, done uniquely and with humor. In this alternate present, the government values public health and social stability above all else. Sex and gender have been organized as the government sees fit, much to the detriment of women, who are bred and raised to be docile. All .drugs, including alcohol and caffeine, have long been banned. Capsaicin from hot peppers is the most recent substance to be added to the list. Our protagonist, Vera/Vanna, is a capsaicin addict. Consuming peppers provides an escape from a world that has treated her horribly. Most chapters are from Vera/Vanna’s perspective, but others relate the history, laws, fairytales, and other literature of this fictional Finland.

Nisi Shawl, Everfair (Tor Books, 2016) — In this gorgeous steampunk revisionist history of anticolonial resistance, a coalition of rebels defeat King Leopold and transform the former Belgian Congo into Everfair: a new nation whose citizens comprise Africans, European settlers, and Asian laborers. Told from many different perspectives, the story switches among the viewpoints of a dozen protagonists. This novel shows how relationships can grow over time between people of different races, classes, and religions as they build community together. Characters work through their internalized racisms and demonstrate how this is necessary for those in interracial relationships.

But Wait — There’s More!

In addition to the honor list, this year’s jury also compiled a long list of twelve other works they found worthy of attention.

All the Birds in the Sky, Charlie Jane Anders (Tor, 2016)
The Waterdancer’s World, L. Timmel Duchamp (Aqueduct Press, 2016)
Lily, Michael Thomas Ford (Lethe Press, 2016)
King of the Worlds, M. Thomas Gammarino (Chin Music Press, 2016)
Vesp: A History of Sapphic Scaphism,” Porpentine Charity Heartscape (Terraform, 2016 – an online interactive story),
Cantor for Pearls, M.C.A. Hogarth (De La Torre Books, 2016)
The Obelisk Gate, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit, 2016)
An Accident of Stars, Foz Meadows (Angry Robot, 2016)
Sleeping Under the Tree of Life, Sheree Renée Thomas (Aqueduct Press, 2016)
Suddenly Paris, Olga & Christopher Werby (CreateSpace, 2015)
The Arrival of Missives, Aliya Whiteley (Unsung Stories, 2015)
The Natural Way of Things, Charlotte Wood (Europa Editions 2016)

Now What?

Anna-Marie McLemore, along with authors and works on the Honor List, will be celebrated during Memorial Day weekend at WisCon 41 in Madison, Wisconsin, May 26-29, 2017. She will receive $1000 in prize money, a specially commissioned piece of original artwork, and (as always) chocolate.

Each year, a panel of five jurors selects the Tiptree Award winner. The 2016 judges were Jeanne Gomoll (chair), Aimee Bahng, James Fox, Roxanne Samer, and Deb Taber.

Reading for 2017 will soon begin. The panel consists of Alexis Lothian (chair), E.J. Fischer, Kazue Harada, Cheryl Morgan, and Julia Starkey.

The Tiptree Award invites everyone to recommend works for the award. Please submit recommendations via our recommendation page. Full information on all the books mentioned above will be in the Tiptree Award database before the end of March 2017.

It's me again, just to express special pleasure that two Aqueduct Press books (and three Aqueduct Press authors) are on the Honor List, and two Aqueduct Press books are on the long list. I have to say, between the works named above and the Lambda Literary Award finalists' list, no one can say that 2016 wasn't a fruitful year for those of us hungry for sharp, challenging reading.  

The 29th Annual Lambda Literary Award Finalists

The 29th Annual Lambda Literary Award finalists have been named, and I'm thrilled to announce that Andrea Hairston's Will Do Magic for Small Change is among them. Congratulations to Andrea and all her co-finalists!

I'll post below the finalists for the science fiction/fantasy/horror category, but will link to the full slate (which is very long, given all its categories), since year after year it's been a source for me of interesting work I'll want to read but that hadn't yet come to my attention. (Among other things, this year, is a biography of Audre Lorde by Gloria Joseph.) You can find the full slate here: http://www.lambdaliterary.org/features/news/03/14/29th-annual-lambda-literary-award-finalists-announced/

And here are finalists in the sf/f/h category:


- See more at: http://www.lambdaliterary.org/features/news/03/14/29th-annual-lambda-literary-award-finalists-announced/#sthash.6s24VfpA.dpuf
LGBTQ Studies
- See more at: http://www.lambdaliterary.org/features/news/03/14/29th-annual-lambda-literary-award-finalists-announced/#sthash.6s24VfpA.dpuf
LGBTQ Studies
- See more at: http://www.lambdaliterary.org/features/news/03/14/29th-annual-lambda-literary-award-finalists-announced/#sthash.6s24VfpA.dpuf

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Christina M. Rau's Liberating the Astronauts

I'm pleased to announce the release of Christina M. Rau's Liberating the Astronauts, a collection of poetry, as the fifty-fifth volume in Aqueduct's Conversation Pieces series, in both small trade paperback and e-book editions.

From the Pointer Sisters doing the Neutron Dance to David Bowman’s exclamation while traveling through the star gate near Jupiter; from stealing Joan Didion’s sadness to erasing F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Gatsby, this collection weaves its way through the awkward paradox of wanting freedom while fearing it. A little science, a bit of sci-fi, a little feminism, a bit of lit, in Liberating the Astronauts, we see that not fitting in gives us the freedom to stand out.

“Since the dawn of time, man has dreamed of visiting the stars and escaping 'the surly bonds of earth,'(*) and since the 1950s, space has been viewed as the final frontier to be explored by mankind. Christina M. Rau's new book is one of the most intriguing collections of poetry that investigates this instinctual call of discovery. She examines outer and inner space, with poems that tap into science as depicted through fact, fiction, and fantasy. Actual events and those of literature are used as her influences. As a true poet she explores space on multiple levels, the intricate complexities and simple realities of the cosmic bodies both personal and universal, that evoke thought and emotional response. Ms. Rau takes the reader for a ride of adventure and discovery so if you are so inclined, cut the cord and read Liberating the Astronauts.”
 ——Peter V. Dugan, author of Medusa’sOverbite and Eulogies for Dreams ________________________________
(*)The High Flight by John Magee

You can purchase copies now from Aqueduct Press

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Four Questions and Answers about Time's Oldest Daughter

Aqueduct Associate Editor Arrate Hidalgo Sanchez put four questions to Susan W. Lyons about her just-released debut novel, Time's Oldest Daughter:

Why Sin [the novel's protagonist]?

Because I always thought of her as, forgive me, more sinned against than sinning.  She has such an intriguing genealogy. I think about one of her literary ancestors as the Scylla in Homer’s Odyssey but also in Ovid’s Metamorphosis, a beautiful virgin who is transformed by the jealous sorceress Circe into a woman fair above the waist but with dog’s jaws below (maybe the original vagina dentata) that whelp hellish creatures.


Another more recent ancestor, as described in Spenser’s Faerie Queene, is Errour: half woman, half serpent, who gives birth to all kinds of ugly little heresies.

Gender is destiny for them as well as both female characters in Paradise Lost, who are commanded to report directly to their authors rather than God. Eve reports to her author Adam from whose rib she is generated. Sin, less fortunate, reports to Satan, who births her parthenogenetically, the way Athena springs from the head of Zeus, although with none of his love or pride in her, nor with Athena’s early association with Wisdom. 

Come on, Milton!  Really?

Seriously, what kind of authority figure is Satan? To make matters worse, when Satan ignores her, it is God who assigns Sin to live with Death, bear more creepy monsters, and guard the gates of Hell. Where’s the free will in that? 

She’s a character begging to tell her own story her own way.

One of the things I love about Time's Oldest Daughter is its cheerful mingling of the chemical and the biblical. It seems to reflect your background in teaching science and literature at the same time. How has this informed your writing, and more generally, your approach to art?

I learned from Milton that distinctions between the metaphor, the metaphysical, and the physical are relatively recent. When, in book 2, he describes chaos with its “embryon atoms” (900) and “shock of fighting elements” (1014-15), can particle physics be far behind?  And while Milton’s timeline about Earth’s creation may be a little hazy, his ordering of light, water, and the “washy ooze” of the primordial (7, 303) travels companionably with evolutionary theory toward the origin of life. Sarah Tolmie, author of The Stone Boatmen and Two Travelers, has characterized Milton as the “domineering father of speculative fiction in English.” Although an irritating misogynist, Milton was also a marvelous world-builder who made connections between and among the emerging bodies of knowledge in 17th century metaphysics, natural science, and philosophy. 

Among more contemporary academics, the temptation is often to disaggregate knowledge into piles of specialized disciplines, but the metaphor remains as useful to a physicist constructing string theory as to a writer playing with time.  And who can resist a cosmic big bang?

You discovered feminist science fiction later on in life. How did it happen, and through whom?

It turns out I liked feminist science and speculative fiction all along, but I didn’t know that’s what it was called.  I admired the feminist writings of Betty Friedan, Simone de Beauvoir, Marilyn French, Elaine Pagels, and, in particular, Carol Gilligan, but I didn’t associate them with the kinds of speculative literature I enjoyed by Madeleine L’engle, Margaret Atwood, Ursula Le Guin, Angela Carter, Peter S. Beagle, and, later, Marie de France. I also liked the stories of John Milton, J.R.R. Tolkien and T.H. White, despite their offensive ground rules about race and women. I just didn’t put feminism and speculative fiction together.  Nor did I associate any of those stories with science fiction. You know—Chewbacca and outer space? 

Fortunately, my friend Pamela Bedore, an associate professor at the University of Connecticut whose areas of scholarship include popular literature and feminist theory, guided me gently into the vocabulary of literary genres. For non-theorists like me, Margaret Atwood’s In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination (New York: Anchor Books, 2011) provides a wonderful introduction to the kind of world-building that can occur away from the patriarchal gaze.  In the introduction, Atwood describes an amiable argument with Ursula Le Guin about  fantasy, science fiction, and speculative fiction, the genre borders of which, Atwood writes, are “increasingly undefended, and things slip back and forth across them with insouciance” (7). 

An insouciant little story shrugs her shoulders as she travels freely and charmingly across those genres still guarded by canons and other academic artillery. “You can call me fantasy,” she murmurs to the remaining gatekeepers, “or you can call me science fiction.” Then she whispers, “Just make sure you call me.”

You have mentioned in the past that something you admire about feminist science fiction is the ability to re-imagine myths and fairy tales that are traditionally told by authoritative male voices in new ways. What does it mean for you to reimagine Milton's particular view on Genesis, the source not only of religious dogma but also of deeply-running assumptions about humanity's purpose on Earth?

Fairy and folk tales, quests, and myths are our creation stories: the first ones we learn as children; they form the foundation of our understanding of what it means to be human and gendered.  How did we get here?  Why are we here? What is our purpose? Do we discover knowledge or construct it?

Genesis provides a fundamental set of western creation stories and not one but two versions of how God makes humans.  In the first, from the King James version (1.27) “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created he him; male and female he created him them.”  What a confusion of pronouns!  Robert Alter, in his Genesis: Translation and Commentary (New York: W.W. Norton, 1996), points out that “man” (the Hebrew is adam) is generic for human, and that ‘him’ is “grammatically but not anatomically masculine” (p. 5).  

The second version of this story occurs in the second chapter of Genesis: God creates Adam (Man) first and Eve (Woman) out of Adam’s rib, to be his helper.

Guess which version Milton chose?

But Milton was only reinforcing the dogma already in place for 17th century Crown and Cross, when the pronouns and sources of power had syncretized into the portrait of a ruler God who is singular, male, domineering, frequently angry, dangerously whimsical, and entirely transactional.  Eerily contemporary, yes?

And Milton was also writing literature that would find generations of Paradise Lost readers believing such a God was simply dull and overbearing when compared to Satan with his high energy, rhetorical flourishes, and championing of individuality. Talk about unintended consequences.

So you have to hope and believe that the dogma that locks Genesis in a dusty case in a dim room in the museum of the past can be trumped by literature that brings these stories out into the light of day and invites everyone to take a fresh look.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Time's Oldest Daughter by Susan W. Lyons

I'm pleased to announce the release of Susan W. Lyons' debut novel, Time's Oldest Daughter, in both trade paperback and e-book editions. As the cosmic Big Bang propels Time, energy, and matter into motion, God and Satan squabble over their respective domains while Sin and her son Death stew in squalor and despair at the Gates of Hell. All she wants is to care for her child, who has an enormous appetite but nothing to eat in their dreary prison, other than herself, of course. But then Sin notices, far above the stink and squalor of Hell, the clean and sparkling garden of Eden, where Death’s apple-cheeked cousins Adam and Eve enjoy delightful childhoods and plenty of fresh, wholesome food in a setting where Death himself could thrive. So what’s a good mother to do?

Sarah Tolmie, author of the acclaimed novel Stone Boatmen and Two Travelers, writes:
Time’s Oldest Daughter tells an impossible story of the world before the world, the time before time, when none of the categories we use to think with yet existed. Lyons spins out the intertwined beginnings of semiotics and physics, from the first separation of subject and object in language (Satan’s separation from God) to the necessary co-presence of matter and time in the universe (as Satan and his daughter Sin fall into the world of physical and temporal forces and order them through their experience). The primary agent who navigates the ongoing process of a creation that includes quarks and photons, bacteria and algae is female, and infinitely older than Eve: Sin, born in heaven before the fall, the shadow that fell as Satan stepped away from God. John Milton, Sylvia Plath, Stanley Fish and Julia Kristeva would all recognize themselves in this book, though none of them wrote it. Lyons did, and her remarkable rethink of Paradise Lost in the person of Sin, Satan’s daughter, struggling to find a place for her son, Death, in creation is wonderfully and determinedly original.”
Faren Miller, in Locus, notes, "Susan W. Lyons's lead quotes in Time's Oldest Daughter ignore the limits of fantasy, with a line from biblical ''Genesis,'' three from Paradise Lost, then Einstein at his most succinct: E=mc². The daughter (Sin) speaks in the first-person, addressing a Daddy who’s not Time (as the word always appears here, regardless of context) but Lucifer, Bringer of Light, AKA Satan.... Time's Oldest Daughter magnifies notions like winter-death to cosmic dimensions without excessive length, solemnity, or bombast. This Divine Comedy can be genuinely comic (raucous and vulgar, with a great cast of caricatures) yet manages to slip both wise and touching moments into its sly insights about life, the universe, et cetera.

You can purchase copies of Time's Oldest Daughter from Aqueduct here

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Guest post by Beth Plutchak: White Ladies, We Need to Talk

White Ladies, We Need to Talk
by Beth Plutchak

It’s been a ride. I’m feeling a little queasy. But honestly, we’ve been here before and we need to be prepared not to make the same mistakes. I had such mixed feelings when I first heard about the Women’s March on Washington, originally named the Million Women’s March. I thought, this is a great thing, this is going to be big, this is important, this is solidifying (at least once they changed the name from the one they appropriated from black women). I also thought, what? Now? Now, you’ve noticed that white women are under attack. What about everybody else? And where were you before the election?

I’m terrified by the profoundly anti-American changes that have happened in Trump’s White House, from his nominees for key positions, to the unprecedented types and circumstances of his executive orders, to the central role of neo-Nazi supporter Steve Bannon and the reflection of neo-Nazi ideals in afore-mentioned nominees and executive orders. My family is black, brown, queer, poor, and disabled. The people I love are under attack in dangerous and specific ways that don’t touch me as a white woman, even though I am also under attack.

I was happy to learn that sister marches were being organized for women who couldn’t make it to DC. I live twenty minutes outside of Madison, WI and expected many of my family and friends would make the Madison March. At the same time, black women started saying “Where y’all been?” It took white women no time at all to call them out for being divisive.

The whole thing had echoes of the “divisiveness” in the feminist movement of the seventies. For my white college classmates feminism was about access to birth control and legalized abortion. We were so young, so naïve. Family planning, we thought, was about putting off having children until we were settled in our careers, and managing the number of children we did have. But I got kicked out of white feminism when I got pregnant at nineteen. And all of a sudden black and brown feminists who wanted to talk about forced sterilization, leaving their children uncared for when they were at work caring for white women’s children, and the violence of poverty made much more sense to me.

White feminists, led by the National Organization for women, made a strategic decision to focus on narrow interests that centered white women’s concerns. The only family planning they wanted to talk about was access to birth control and legalized abortion. NOW’s singular focus on the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment meant burying the concerns of women marginalized across more axes than gender. It turned the focus of the white feminist movement away from radical change. Later Gloria Steinman famously quipped, “We’ve become the men we wanted to marry.”

White women didn’t want to end the capitalist patriarchy so much as we wanted to have equal access to its fruits. We took up the mantle of progressivism, promising the more marginalized that their turn would come. We misquoted Martin Luther King—“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” We ignored the fact that the universe itself is amoral. The universe couldn’t care less about moral justice. That depends upon the acts of human beings. We settled for a rising tides approach to equality, and look what that got us: the Reagan revolution. Seriously, it was only a matter of time before we were fighting these fights all over again. Conservative forces learned what would satisfy white women and how easily they would betray women of color, queer, and disabled women. The Overton window was pushed further and further right. And it’s not like black and queer women didn’t warn us. They encouraged us to join the movements that they created to fight poverty, mass incarceration, police brutality. And what did we do? We doubled down. We bought over two million copies of Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In. We either declared the goals of black mothers “special interests” or used the tone argument on anyone who didn’t agree with us.

We, we white women, helped to set up the chain of events that got us to Trump’s America. And now there is only one way out. Inclusiveness is not the answer. We don’t need to bring more women of color into white movements.

We need to pay attention to what those more marginalized than us have been saying and what they are doing.

We need to ask humbly what we can do to help. We need to recognize and internalize the fact that our country was founded on violence against black and brown bodies.

We need to recognize that American art, literature, and music are infused with the courageous will to live in the face of genocide and slavery. We need to stop centering whiteness. After all, we are sleeping with the enemy. That enemy gave us a reprieve in return for upholding systemic racism. That reprieve is now over.

Beth Plutchak is the author of Boundaries, Border Crossings, and Reinventing the Future, just published by Aqueduct Press.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Beth Plutchak's Boundaries, Border Crossings, and Reinventing the Future

I'm pleased to announce the release of Boundaries, Border Crossings, and Reinventing the Future by Beth Plutchak, the fifty-fourth volume in Aqueduct's Conversation Pieces series, in both small trade paperback and e-book editions. The personal is political, and the political is personal. This collection of essays and an sf tale explores the intersections of representation, science fiction, feminism, social justice, and fandom, specifically in relationship to the feminist sf convention WisCon. Beth argues that to build a new future we need new stories, stories that tell us where we have been as well as show us where we are going, and she uses feminist theory to analyze feminist sf fandom's history, present, and future.

 You can purchase the print and e-book editions here.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Cynthia Ward's The Adventure of the Incognita Countess

I'm pleased to announce the release of The Adventure of the Incognita Countess, a novella, as the fifty-third volume in Aqueduct's Conversation Pieces series. It is available in both small trade paperback and e-book editions.

It's the easiest assignment a British intelligence agent could hope for. Lucy Harker needs only see the secret plans of the Nautilus safely across the Atlantic. As German spies are largely a fantasy of newspapers, she anticipates no activities more strenuous than hiding her heritage as Dracula's dhampir daughter. Then among her fellow Titanic passengers she discovers the incognita Countess Karnstein--and it seems the seductive vampire is in Germany's service. Can Agent Harker stake Carmilla before her own heart--and her loyalty to the British Empire--are subverted by questions as treacherous as a night-cloaked iceberg?

The Adventure is available now through Aqueduct's website, and will soon be available elsewhere.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Guest post by Sally Seattle: Hate Speech, Free Speech, and the UW Shooting

 [Note: "Sally Seattle" is a pseudonym for the author of this post, who is personally known to me. I have agreed to preserve the author's anonymity to protect the privacy and safety of them and their family. I welcome further contributions to this discussion, provided, of course, that they meet Aqueduct's sense of community standards. --Timmi]

Hate Speech, Free Speech, and the UW Shooting 
by Sally Seattle

On January 20th, a man was shot outside an event at which Milo Yiannopoulos was speaking. The event took place in Seattle, Washington, USA, at the University of Washington's "Red Square." The alleged shooter was apparently a Trump supporter who had showed up to the event intoxicated and with a loaded gun. And the victim was an antifascist and member of the Industrial Workers of the World General Defense Committee. (He has asked his name not to be shared publicly.)

The incident has received international attention now, with articles appearing in major U.S. newspapers, a Southern Poverty Law Center report, and the Guardian newspaper. (Guardian article: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jan/25/shooting-milo-yiannopoulos-speech-seattle-charges) It is also raising a lot of questions, the kind that are tough to handle. Since the feminist science fiction community has dealt with similar problems, I thought I would put out a general “ask” for advice and opinions, specifically to be shared with people doing antifascist work.

 1. How to tackle the "free speech" angle?

In the weeks leading up to the event, I listened to discussions from the left about why "hate speech is not free speech" or why, conversely, leftists should support the right to free speech. There was an ongoing discussion about whether shutting down Yiannopoulos was the right thing to do, or whether it would be better to ignore him and hold a competing event. These conversations are repeating themselves every time a Yiannopoulos event is held. It seems to me that the entire debate has taken a wrong turn somewhere. But I don’t have a solid analysis here -- just a collection of questions and thoughts.

One thing that strikes me: Yiannopoulos' right to free speech was never truly at risk. As a member of the one percent, he has the money and the fame to say whatever he wants, whenever he wants, and get the word out to all his supporters. In fact, Yiannopoulos could have easily given the exact same speech virtually rather than in person, probably without the protests.

Another thing is that the university gave him not only free speech, but also a platform, publicity, and a police presence. At the same time, earlier in the day, they tore down posters that protestors had put on the building.

It seems that people are skipping an important conversation about which limits we typically put on free speech and why. It is illegal to cry "fire" in a crowded theater, for example. But the kind of violence Yiannopoulos is notorious for doing is more indirect. People are arguing that this is or is not free speech, but not talking about where exactly the line should go.

There is also a general lack of clarity of what constitutes a limitation of free speech. There is a big difference, often missed, between shouting somebody down and asking the government to do it for you.

Finally, the specific context of Yiannopoulos speaking on college campuses is worth exploring. It is fundamentally ironic that the speaking event is part of a right-wing attempt to silence left-leaning professors, on the grounds that left-leaning professors are silencing their students by putting limits on hate speech. Also, looking at the history of Gamergate, which violently suppressed the voices of women gamers, it is clear to me that Yiannopoulos wants free speech for himself alone. But that wouldn’t be clear to his followers or to confused bystanders.

2. How to handle accountability?

On the one hand, there is a call going out (https://itsgoingdown.org/shooter-unarmed-anti-racist-walks-free-authorities-silent/) asking why the alleged shooter has not been charged with a crime, and there is concern that failing to arrest them sends a message that it's fine to go into a crowd and shoot an unarmed person.

On the other hand, according to news sources (https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jan/25/shooting-milo-yiannopoulos-speech-seattle-charges), the shooting victim himself is asking not for charges but for a "restorative justice" process. This comes out of a much-needed movement against the prison-industrial complex--which is the modern-day continuation of slavery.

Who exactly should be held accountable, and what form should that accountability take?

3. Did the university and the police take a side?

As local activist and blogger Geov Parrish has pointed out (http://geov.org/gp/?p=653), the police presence was unusual. Ordinarily, if a crowd of fascists and anti-fascists were occupying the same space, police would stand between the two sides. All the police were up front, protecting the people coming to see Yiannopoulos, leaving the people in the crowd unprotected.

4. What can the feminist science fiction community contribute to this conversation?

The science fiction community has had its own run-ins with Gamergaters, in the form of the man who calls himself “Voice of God.” He invoked the right to free speech after calling author N.K. Jemisin an extremely vile name on an official Science Fiction Writers of America forum, and there was a hue and cry over his ultimate ejection from SFWA. He went on to start his own publishing house and rig the Hugo Awards through his “Rabid Puppies” campaign. Along the way, liberals and feminists became rebranded as “social justice warriors” -- and, as warriors, a legitimate target for attack.

There is a thorough treatment of these events in an article on Eruditorumpress.com, in an article whose title begins with the strangely appropriate beginning “Guided by the Beauty of Their Weapons. ” ((http://www.eruditorumpress.com/blog/guided-by-the-beauty-of-their-weapons-an-analysis-of-theodore-beale-and-his-supporters/)

Science fiction fans ultimately decided, through voting and much discussion, that we wanted diverse voices rather than rabid dogs. That was a win. There are a ton of lessons to be learned here. And some of them are extremely relevant to ongoing attempts to deal with Yiannopoulos’ tactics. I’m just not sure what they are.

5. How soon will the shooting victim recover?

I left this question for last, but it is topmost on my mind. Although the struggle going on here is political, it is also deeply personal. At the same time as we are fighting fascism, we are also trying to heal the hurts in our communities, and this is one of many. In the days after the shooting, his situation was upgraded from "in critical condition" to "stable" to "recovering." May he make a full recovery.

And in the meantime, there is a fundraiser for his medical expenses, which are unknown at this point.

Fundraiser link: https://www.crowdrise.com/medical-fundraiser-for-iww-and-gdc-member-shot-in-seattle/fundraiser/gdcsteeringcommittee

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Resistance and solidarity events

I've just learned that Seattle's Stranger keeps a calendar of resistance and solidarity events. Glancing at their list of events for the week ahead, I see a wide variety of things one can attend, ranging from marches (there's one this afternoon, and another later in the week for Black Lives Matter) to rallies ("Stand with Immigrants! An Emergency Protest", which is scheduled for Sunday afternoon) to shows ("Resist! A Show of Burlesque, Bellydance, and Punk Rock") to art exhibits ("Protect the Sacred: Native Artists for Standing Rock") to workshops ("Black Arists Lead: Creative Education for Liberation and Survival"), and much, much more (concerts, fundraisers, etc). If you live in the Seattle area, the link is: http://www.thestranger.com/events/resistance.

Are such calendars being kept in other cities? If you know of additional examples, please furnish a link to them in a comment. I'd love to be able to post other sources that this blog's readers can consult. Such events not only allow you to express your concerns and outrage at all  the injustice and damage and pain that the current administration in Washington is inflicting on the US and the world at large, they also feed your spirits, strengthen your hearts, and enlarge your imagination. (And sometimes even bring amazing insights to your understanding of the world you live in.) Resistance and solidarity are our hope for making a future we can stand to live in.


For people in Portland, check out the Portland Mercury's page:  https://www.portlandmercury.com/events/resistances-and-rallies

Friday, January 27, 2017

Orwell's not our go-to guy

One week into the new regime ruling the US, resistance is mounting on all fronts (even in, of all unexpected places, every rank of the Democratic Party), as the PotUS has signed a flurry of obnoxious and inadequately thought-out executive orders, fired the four senior career officials managing the State Department, censored and harrowed employees of the National Park Service and the Environmental Protection Agency, and made a series of wild, incoherent tweets and speeches.  (Among other things, of course. My list is in no way comprehensive.) Added to that, a lot of people are becoming preoccupied with rumors circulating furiously about how many top Republicans and West Wing staffers are voicing concern about the PotUS's sanity with reference to the Twenty-fifth Amendment (presumably with special reference to Section 4, which makes provision for the removal of the president should they be found unfit to carry out their duties). I agree, of course, that it's scary to think about the VP's taking over: we know a lot about his place on the ideological spectrum, and we can't help but suspect that Washington insiders would be so relieved to have him replace the sitting PotUS that he'd likely enjoy the proverbial "honeymoon" with both the press and Congress that the sitting PotUS has done his best to sabotage. But let me point out: this all just speculation. Even if the top Republicans manage to make the VP the US's commander-in-chief, we'll need to go on as we've begun. Make no mistake, because he would be disciplined and methodical, the VP would probably actually be worse

And how is it we've begun? With resistance and the organizing of resistance. To quote Rebecca Solnit's report on the first week in the Guardian:

 The word resistance is everywhere. Former labor secretary Robert Reich gives a daily address on Facebook Live called the Resistance Report. The group 18millionrising.org, which represents Asian and Pacific islanders in the US, has launched a “100 Days of Resistance” campaign. The Working Families party reports that on Tuesday more than 10,000 people went to congressional offices to protest against Trump. Climate and human rights groups launched Unstoppabletogether.org to link human rights, racial and environmental justice. Greenpeace hung a gigantic banner off a crane next to the White House: it said “Resist”. Organizers tell me that hordes of people who have never been active before are looking for ways to plug in. People whose immigration status, religion or healthcare needs mean they may be directly threatened are terrified, and in many cases mobilized.
For me, the picture of the US today is one of dawning hope. Congress has been chipping away at us for years, doing incremental damage that many people either did not recognize or simply stomached in silence. The sitting PotUS, in all his unhinged, ill-informed, self-deceiving outbursts, puts a single face on the demand for privilege in all its possible manifestations, visible as it's never been visible before. Maybe 34% of the US public is in accord with his sentiments, but that's as much support as he's going to get. The rest of us know we don't want to live in his reality. I hear that Orwell's 1984 is selling like hotcakes. May I suggest a more heartening choice of reading, one that refuses despair and has a more realistic view of change and possibility? Rebecca Solnit wrote Hope in the Dark back in the chill, gray days following the 2004 election. In it she notes how quickly resistance to power is forgotten, how insistently power crafts narratives that obliterate how often and significantly resistance brings about change. Change begins first in the imagination. And I don't mean in Orwell's imagination, either.