The first person I met when I went to university orientation, back in 1985, was Christina: a voracious reader, Henry VIII aficionado and fellow theater geek who joined the student newspaper the same day I did. We laughed, we learned, we did a bunch of shows… and, in the fullness of time, we eventually graduated. Due in part to the mixed miracle that is Facebook, we have remained connected.
Xtina came to Toronto with her husband Scott last weekend, and by way of celebrating Kelly’s birthday took us on Sunday to the African Lion Safari in Cambridge. Ontario friends, I am surprised that it was a couple of Alberta kids who told us there were lions, omg lions, within easy driving distance. To say nothing of the rhinos.
We rounded out the day with a quick run to the Devil’s Punchbowl and then went on to the Vegas-for-families tourist explosion that is Niagara Falls. The splendid natural impressiveness of all that falling water did, once again, transcend the horror of the crowds and the tourist tack.
(I will note for the record that Niagara Falls has the most sewerific Starbucks bathroom I have ever seen. Scott will back me up on this, so you don’t need a photo.)
The first and most incredibly awesome thing about this week is that today, Friday the 17th, is my brilliant wife Kelly’s birthday. Do you want to give her a present? You do? Why not read up one of her recent stories and Tweet the living heck out of how amazing you thought it was. Kelly’s handle is @kellyoyo and I guarantee enjoyment. Try “Waters of Versailles,” creep yourself out with “The Three Resurrections of Jessica Churchill,” or get the newest Asimov’s Science Fiction (August 2015) and read “Two Year Man.”
Meanwhile, I will note that the MCU is celebrating by giving us Teeny Tiny Paul Rudd in a super-suit. Which is, all things considered, pretty swell of them. And our yoga sensei Juan got us to sing her Happy Birthday while we were all in dolphin pose, so total strangers did serious core singing. There’s a high bar here! Just sayin’.
Second good thing, and another request, actually: one of the many wonderful people we got to hang out with at the enormous literary lovefest that is Readercon was Asimov’s editor Sheila Williams, and she happened to mention that the most prominent reviews on the Asimov’s Kindle page are complaints dating back to the magazine’s initial electronic launch, all complaining about technical issues that are now resolved. These reviews have gotten enough “Yes, this is helpful!” thumbs-ups that they’re at the top of the queue. Consider giving ’em a bump down. They’re not helpful anymore; they’re about the past.
Third good thing, with no strings attached: I got to experience the true and abiding smugness that comes of swanning up to the Porter flight crew at our Boston departure gate, and asking if we could get on an earlier flight. We could? Would that cost us more dough? No? And would we still be able to sit together? Yes! This got me adoring goggle-eyes of admiration pretty much all the way home.
Of course, I was able to do this because the “earlier” flight was delayed, but then so was the one we were meant to take. So really I got us home when we meant to be there, instead of two hours after the fact. Still. So savvy. I should teach classes in opportunism. Or something.
Bonus thing: I am 99.9% sure I saw three wild turkeys on a lawn when we were zooming past an office building on the Burlington highway. Turkeys!! Sadly, no pictures.
When we were recently in Boston, we ended up tooling through Whole Foods in search of fruit, yogurt, airplane snacks and the particular kind of entertainment that comes of briefly staring at things you would never seriously consider buying. Among these were some slogan-y fridge magnets, including one that seemed like it could be my new national anthem: Let Go or Be Dragged.
This, at first glance, seemed like a kinder-gentler revision of an attitude I sometimes find myself holding, which might be characterized as Get Out of My Way Before I Set You on Fire.
I do not like to feel impeded. Oh, I know–who does? I’m not a special snowflake in this, though I may be more than usually mulish about plowing on regardless once I’ve decided on a goal.
Anyway, we got back to the fabulous Oasis Guest House, where the WiFi was free-flowing and delicious, and I decided to pin the expression. Upon googling the phrase, I found it’s credited as being a Zen proverb. This presumably means that it doesn’t necessarily arise from the I and my flamethrower are coming through now, thanks place, as I had initially assumed.
I decided I was okay with that, and that I could hold the one reading but maybe strive for the other, and so I pinned it. And damn if Pinterest didn’t then offer up all sorts of other peace & luv bon mots. Of which I did genuinely like a few:
You can’t fix yourself by breaking someone else seemed kind of pertinent to some of the things I’ve been talking about lately. What you allow is what will continue is something I mean to think about. It’s not bad, but there may be a kernel of victim-blaming there. Fall seven times, stand up eight, on the other hand, has that Karate Kid can-do spirit we all know and love.
What are your mantras and how well do they hold up to overly critical scrutiny?
Kelly’s story “Two Year Man” is out today! It’s her first appearance in Asimov’s, and it is gentle yet thoroughly hair-raising. The August issue just hit newsstands; the virtual edition is available, and there’s even an interview with Kelly and some other Asimov’s first timers, by James Patrick Kelly, that you can browse for dessert.
Yesterday’s Joss Whedon post was something I’ve been cogitating awhile, and when I got the first few thinky grapes off the vine I took it to Kelly and the ingenious Linda Carson for a good stomp. It was an effective creative ferment, and I’m pleased with the essay. But things got said and thoughts got aired that didn’t quite make it into the final draft, which is why now Linda has tackled another piece here, in her essay: “Cutting Edge Doesn’t Mean Solo.”
The Joss essay is part of something larger. I am seeing signs, here and there, that a hearty portion of my corner of the Internet–in other words, the SF and fantasy writing community–is open to finding ways to counterbalance the online expression of ancient, vicious human behaviors. These are things that have been around forever: silencing, bullying, shaming, pile-ons. There’s some talk of developing tactics that take us beyond snark. Joshua Choplinksy, for example, lays this out:
I feel that this, which comes to me via Doug Lain, is the essence of an article I no longer have to write. I love a good snarky piece as much as the next guy, but it’s hard to write a piece of that kind without giving lots and lots of energy and attention to the thing or person you’re against. It’s a reward for bad behavior that also acts, fundamentally, as a tactic of escalation.
As I’ve said, I’d love to see a flowering of sharp, hilarious, infinitely readable clickbaity articles that didn’t involve taking someone down a peg. It’s harder to make praise or kudos or approbation interesting and giggle-worthy. I know this, because I write book reviews. Believe me, a brilliant novel is much harder to write about than an interestingly flawed one. But making up the word noises is our primary skillset. If snark has a comedic polar opposite, we’re up to the task of inventing it.
Setting aside the specific issue of pointed responses to oh-so-deserving stupidity online, I’m also seeing conversations whereby people are gathering up How-To articles on the healthy responses to trolling, bullying, and other kinds of internet pile-ons. (If you have a good resource, let me know and I’ll send it to the compilers of same.)
As for me, I’m hoping to get up some kind of Troll-Starving 101 post in the near, after I’ve had a few lovely ferment-style conversations with people at Readercon, and hopefully drawing on work that has already been done. My basic working concepts will probably be something like:
Instead of buzzing like a kicked-over hive of bees about the assholes, the assholes, OMG, the assholes, minimize attention to the bullying/trolling behavior and its perpetrators. How little can we actually say about or to them, whoever they are, whenever they arise, without descending into vagueblogging?
Meanwhile, maximize positive attention to targets of aggression. Find out what they need and give it to them. Post about how awesome they are. Offer to be the guy who reads their Twitter feed for them for a week and compiles a Block/Report list so they don’t have to take the poison in directly. Write about how they changed your life that year they taught at your Clarion. Repost the thing they wrote last year that rocked your world.
Brain Food:Kelly and I spent a few hours at the Royal Ontario Museum‘s Pompeii exhibit, checking out the mosaics and the lava, the buried household goods and statuary, the centuries-old flash-preserved olives and figs and the plaster casts of victims’ bodies. Afterward, we went upstairs to Viva Mexico and marveled at the intricacy of the weaving and embroidery.
Kudos for the Deserving: There are some good reviews and kudos out for Kelly’s “Waters of Versailles,” here at SF Signal’s Women to Watch and at Quick Sips. There’s also a James Patrick Kelly editorial in Asimovs, about Kelly and some other people who’ve broken into that magazine lately. It’s called meet the firsties. It’s meant, among other things, to remind aspiring writers that they might be… nextie!
Still Seeking Scenius: My regular writing date with Gemma Files and Madeline Ashby had a special guest star–author Charlene Challenger, whose The Voices in Between
is currently on the Sunburst and Aurora Award ballots for English Language YA. We went to a new-to-me place, the Istanbul Cafe, which was a completely lovely working environment, and where they played every hit of the Eighties that I ever wanted to sing along and/or boogie to.
My Teenage Cheeseball Obsession: The very best thing that happened this week was that I giggle every time I walk down to Queen Street, because the local shrine to vinyl here on St. Patrick, a store that often has some hilarious blast from the past in its window, had this: