2017 – Looking Forward

As Hugo Award season begins with the opening of nominations, I’m thinking about my plans for the year ahead – which include attending Worldcon for the second time (after Loncon3 in 2014), where I’ll get to see the Hugos given out first-hand.

I don’t travel much, but 2016 was a bigger year for me than usual – I spent a week in Norway, I attended Nine Worlds Geekfest in London (which was a really good con, that I wish I’d managed to write something about here), and I took my usual trip to Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival. In 2017 things are looking similar – I’ll be heading to Scandinavia again, this time to attend Worldcon 75 in Helsinki – unfortunately that doesn’t leave me much time for sightseeing, but I’m going to hang around an extra couple of nights to see the city. I’ll be going back to Nine Worlds, because it really was that good last year. And I’ll probably be going to Edinburgh yet again.

Of course, there’s one issue with these plans: They’re all in August. That is going to be one long and expensive month, which is why I’m not 100% certain about the Edinburgh Fringe this year. The rest of my year will be uneventful, I expect. The first few months of 2017 I’ll be trying, as usual, to get as much Hugo-eligible novel reading done as I can in time for nominations (nominating for the Hugos is a big deal if you care about the results, by the way – in the past categories have been swept by a small handful of voters, though this year there are new rules in place to help with that), which I’m further behind after my shorter-than-usual 2016 reading list.

As for the rest of the year, well. I’ll keep reading, keep gaming, keep watching great films and TV, and maybe even get around to writing about some of it here. More often than last year, at least.

Awkward

This post is something of a companion piece to my post “Anxiety“, and it’s one I was supposed to write over a month ago.

At the end of November I went down to Leeds for a day, for two reasons. Firstly, to see old friends I had been out of touch with for years, and secondly, to visit the Thought Bubble comic convention. Each of these things served as an excuse to do the other, really.

Thought Bubble became the first convention I’d ever attended, then. I can’t say I was entirely certain what to expect, though I wasn’t surprised by how it went. I spent several hours walking around the halls, and attended one panel, the Writer’s Roundtable, which was interesting.

But that’s pretty much all I did: I walked around the three halls. For hours. I saw some interesting art, I saw creators I recognised, but I was too uncomfortable and awkward to actually interact with people.

I did manage to exchange a few awkward words with a few people – usually with the easy excuse of buying something from them. I managed to mutter some very awkward praise to one creator whose book I’d recently read (“It was… uh… really good.”)

I couldn’t bring myself to line up for signings. I bought a signed print, but only while the artist (Fiona Staples, of the excellent Saga) was away from her table.

I don’t know how people do it – go up to a stranger and praise their work, ask them to sign something, whatever. I just wander round awkwardly keeping to myself.

And now I’m wondering how bad I’m going to be at Loncon3 in August. Will I just not dare interact with the great authors I see there, get books signed, say I liked their work? It’s entirely possible, knowing me, that I’ll find myself still just walking past and looking…

A Little More on Con Harassment

As a small follow-on to Friday’s post, here are a handful of other posts that have come up over the weekend, continuing the conversation started by Elise Matthesen’s article on reporting harassment.

To start with, if you really want to dig into all that’s being said, this page here is collecting links on all of it, including the below.

Meanwhile, I’ll slink back to the Drafts page and try to make this post on Le Guin’s Tehanu fall into shape. It’s not cooperating so far.

On Harassment and the SFF Genre

These days I spend quite a lot of time reading things that are going on within the SFF writing and publishing community, because of Twitter and the blogs I follow. Lately a lot of the discussion has been around misogyny and sexual harassment within that community.

There was one big mess in the SFWA recently, where articles by Mike Resnick and Barry N. Malzberg in the SFWA Bulletin, the organisation’s internal publication, included comments widely criticised as sexist, and a response to those criticisms that only made things worse. The stir caused by this was massive, there are dozens of posts you could link to, but I particularly like Foz Meadows’ complete tearing apart of the writers of the column.

On top of big flare-ups like that, you have the ever-present reports of sexism, sexual harassment and even groping of women at conventions – not just SFF conventions, but other “geeky” fields like video games, anime, comics. Recent examples, but by far not unique, are:
Slut Shaming and Concern Trolling in Geek Culture, about the responses women receive when they cosplay at conventions, from men and women.
The “Gropecrew” terrorising an anime convention, which was one trigger of the Hal Duncan post I linked to a few days ago.
– Today’s widely shared post on Reporting Harassment at a Convention by Elise Matthesen, which along with talking about her own experience also highlights the fact that so much of the harassment that occurs is never officially reported.

All of this together is weighing more heavily on my mind because I know that in August next year, I will be attending my first ever convention. As a straight, white male, I can say that in all likelihood the only thing I will have to fear when I go there is my own anxiety. It’s depressing to think, however, that for a large portion of the people attending, that convention will not be a safe place. It seems almost a certainty that some level of this will occur at any such event. At the very least that women in attendance will have to spend their time their aware that it could happen.

It’s something that deeply concerns me, because at the same time that I acknowledge the problem I do not know that there is anything I personally can do to change it. All I can think to do is share links like these, and add my voice to those saying that it needs to stop.

More of the Same Old…

A little while ago there was the big hubbub around the horrible misogynistic reaction to Anita Sarkeesian’s Women vs. Tropes in Video Games. While that was still winding down, Destructoid blogger Ryan Perez decided to tweet Felicia Day (creator & star of online series The Guild, star of Joss Whedon’s Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, and creator/producer of the excellent Geek & Sundry YouTube channel) and ask does she actually contribute anything to geek culture?, and referred to her as a glorified booth babe. (Destructoid fired him for his remarks.) Then there was a minor fuss when a few idiots decided Felicia wasn’t a real geek because she made a country music video. This week’s big hot mess is supposed “fake geek girls”, as described by Joe Peacock in an article on CNN, “Booth Babes Need Not Apply”.

Despite the title, the article isn’t really about the professional “booth babes” hired by companies to attend cons and promote their products (although he seems confused on that point, and his argument wanders in that direction a few times). This is how he starts it off:

There is a growing chorus of frustration in the geek community with – and there’s no other way to put this – pretty girls pretending to be geeks for attention.

And later moves from that assertion into comments verging on the outright offensive:

I call these girls “6 of 9”. They have a superpower: In the real world, they’re beauty-obsessed, frustrated wannabe models who can’t get work.

They decide to put on a “hot” costume, parade around a group of boys notorious for being outcasts that don’t get attention from girls, and feel like a celebrity. They’re a “6” in the “real world”, but when they put on a Batman shirt and head to the local fandom convention du jour, they instantly become a “9”.

They’re poachers. They’re a pox on our culture. As a guy, I find it repugnant that, due to my interests in comic books, sci-fi, fantasy and role playing games, video games and toys, I am supposed to feel honored that a pretty girl is in my presence. It’s insulting.

Of course he makes sure to state that he doesn’t think of all female geeks like this, and – referring to the Ryan Perez incident – takes pains to single out Felicia Day as a valuable asset to the geek community, but it doesn’t really do much to make up for the attitude he expressed in this piece. There’s much to be said against the professional booth babes – though this should be directed at the companies that hire them, not the models doing the job – but he makes it clear (for the most part) that he’s not talking about the ones who are paid to be there: these “fake” geeks are just in it for the attention of people like him.

John Scalzi took Peacock to task in his blog post Who Gets To Be a Geek? Anyone Who Wants To Be, focusing on the presumption made that these cosplayers are not real geeks. Take a look too at Peacock’s own replies in the comments thread, where he tries to explain himself. John’s main point is simple: What does it matter what their reason is for participating in geek culture? That they’ve chosen to do it means they do want to be some part, like it or not.

To be honest I think this is less a problem of Peacock’s intent in writing the piece, and more his failures in expressing the idea – both in the confusion between professional booth babe and amateur cosplayer, and his poorly chosen tone in that first half of his article (and the penultimate paragraph, where he tells these women they shouldn’t be surprised they get harassed via XBox Live). It really doesn’t make him look good.

There’s also a post worth seeing by Nick Mamatas, where he talks about the association of bullying to geekdom, and tries to get at the heart of why self-identified “geeks” so often seem to form these exclusionist and discriminatory attitudes towards other people who they judge as not belonging to their culture.

Wonder what it’ll be next month? Have no doubt, there will be more…