Archive for the ‘ Social Networking ’ Category

On Convolution 2016

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I mentioned this on Twitter, but now I’m making it official: I am once again a guest at Con-Volution! I’m very pleased to be joining the convention again. My panel schedule is as follows:

Friday, 5:00pm – 6:30pm: Classic Scary Stories: Shelley, Poe, and Others

Looking back on some of the classics of literary monster-makers and scary storytellers

Saturday, 12:0opm – 1:30pm: BOF: Marvel Universe

There’s SO much to love about the Marvel Universe, both in Comics, and in Cinematics — so come join other fans to chat about what you think has been done well, could have been done differently — and even better — what’s next! (I’ll be moderating this birds of a feather meetup; I’ll be the one in the Avengers t-shirt. You know, the one.)

Saturday, 5:00pm – 6:30pm: Building a Better Monster: The Nuts and Bolts of Monster Physiology

It may seem like the more tentacles and claws, the scarier the monster, but when it comes to writing a monster worth its scales, sometimes less is more. Or is it? We’ll discuss!

Sunday, 12:00pm – 1:30pm: How Far is Too Far? Introducing Change to Established Characters

Just three words: Captain. America. Hydra. When does an evolving, long-time character get driven too far off its original basis, and is that a good thing, or ultimately bad, no matter what?

Sunday, 2:00pm – 3:30pm: We Love the Scare

Discussing the need for horror in pop culture, modern media, and fiction. Why it works for us, and why we need to keep it working.

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In and around all that, I’ll be attending some of the other programming (I’m not only a panelist at Con-Volution, I’m also a member!), and I’ll be around and available to chat as much as anxiety allows. I’ll probably also camp out in the gaming room for some Sentinels of the Multiverse at some juncture, though I’m going to have to schedule that on the fly. If you’re looking to see me, I’m going to be most available on Saturday; I am commuting to and from the con this year, so it’s very likely that on Friday and Sunday I will be leaving soon after my panels, probably after having dinner with friends and performing some of the (pleasant) duties that come with being a convention guest.

Also, my now-usual disclaimer: I suffer from society anxiety. I’m medicated for it, but it does mean that sometimes, talking to people is very difficult for me, and it is likely to be even harder after a day of public speaking and answering questions. I won’t blow anyone off, and I encourage people to talk to me, but if I need to make a hasty exit, I am not being trite when I say it’s me, not you.

I hope to see you there!

Side by Side…with a Friend

It’s only natural in the course of human events for us to congregate with like-minded people.  This is doubly true in college, when key parts of our identity have been atomized and a portion of our life has been severed from the trunk and grafted to this new, unfamiliar place.  When I was at UC Santa Cruz, I bonded with people over a love of adventure games, a love of roleplaying games, a love of Neil Gaiman…and slightly later (like weeks later), a love of writing.

One of my friends (he called us brothers at the time), Matt Marovich, was in about the same place I was: uprooted, socially awkward, and possessed of a dream of somehow earning our bread and butter off writing.  We both carried notebooks everywhere (his tended to be a lot nicer); we read voraciously; we talked books and mythology when we could.  We read each others’ stuff, and to this day he swears he saw potential in what I wrote, though both of us were at the time raw and unmolded.  I seem to recall I saw potential in his work, too, and I did my best to tell him so, through my battles with social awkwardness.  I was lucky enough to be part of the cadre of editors working with him to get his first short story published in The Edge of Propinquity (where my I-hope-soon-to-be-world-famous character, Strangler Tom Holkins, got his start).

This September, I have the honor and the privilege of appearing in an anthology with Matt.  “Riding Westbound” will be appearing alongside his short piece “Toll Booth” in Space Tramps.  Congratulations, Matt, and thanks again for all the encouragement you gave me in my darker hours.  I hope I was able to give even a third of it back.  You say you knew it was a matter of time; I say that I’m just glad neither of those unskilled but determined college kids gave up.

Dark Victory

Alright, people, time for me to comment on the latest and greatest Internet kerfuffle: Cooks Source.

I won’t go back and talk about what’s already been said; the Internet drowned in information about this already.  To recap for those who weren’t dragged into the discussion, one of my soon-to-be-patented Internet Drama Timelines:

  • A writer by the name of Monica Gaudio is part of a group of writers and researchers who are into trying to rebuild and decipher period recipes.
  • One day, a friend of Monica’s contacts her, congratulating her on getting her article on apple pies published in Cooks Source magazine.
  • Monica contacts Cooks Source, and, well: read her story for yourself.
  • Cue Internet backdraft as this delightful tale gets out to such illustrious figures as Neil Gaiman and Wil Wheaton.

Well, it looks like it worked, because it looks like Cooks Source has closed down.  And what a classy, classy sendoff editor Judith Griggs has given it.

I’ve already vented my spleen about the other parts of this issue, so let me break it down here:

I’m sad for the people who depended on Cooks Source for their revenue, with the exception of Judith Griggs and anyone who was in fact complicit in her behavior.  Cooks Source did not only rip off Monica Gaudio, as she claims; they also ripped off a lot of other people, and probably even more that the Internet wasn’t able to find due to their obscurity.  But any people who needed the advertisement that Cooks Source offered, well, this sucks for them, especially because they are probably small, independent businesses and really could use the help.

I’m also sorry, yes, to Ms. Griggs for the degree to which the Internet took this.  She deserved to be publicly outed and shamed, but outright death threats and hate mail were not called for.  I added my voice to the pile, but I kept myself restrained to calling her out for her actual sins: plagiarism, egotism, and gall.

This final letter, though, evaporates my sympathy for her.  I try to take everything I read on the Internet with a grain of salt, but this is…well, petty.  Also, as far as I can tell, a blatant sham of a story designed to make her look good.  I still wish the Internet would take a collective chill pill, but, I don’t really feel bad for someone who can approach this issue this way.

This whole story, though, aggravating as it is, leaves me with one big ray of hope: the power of the Internet.  The Internet got this story spread rapidly, crowd-sourced the research and contacts necessary to find her other victims and to make sure her advertisers knew about it.  Technology prevented Judith Griggs from getting away with what she did, and in the end, delivered a fitting punishment: a total loss of a market for her magazine.

Frankly, much as I feel for the blow to the businesses she may have bolstered, I say: Good riddance, Cooks Source.  May you serve as a warning to everyone who might try this after you.  And good on you, Internet, for at least some of you taking the correct route to justice.  I just hope there are some lawsuits forthcoming that get the full truth and scope of this story out into the light.

Don’t Roll My Dice For Me

I have just learned about the TeleEroticist/Reasons I Hate Girls tempest currently wracking the Internet (and Twitter in particular).

To avoid saying much about the names of the people involved, let me first point you to the Jezebel article on the subject, then summarize the salient points I’m worried about here:

  1. Woman and man make each others’ acquaintance.
  2. Man and woman both blog/tweet about sex, man under the guise of his blogs “Reasons I Hate Girls” and “100 Girls in 100 Days”, woman under the moniker “TeleEroticist”.  Both are aspiring writers. doing some writing as they try to work up to their career aspiration.
  3. Woman gets popular due to her Internet musings.  Man less so.
  4. Somewhere in here, it turns out man’s musings are fictional, while woman is (near as anyone can tell on the Internet) an actual sex-worker, hence her anonymity; disclaimer about said fictional origins is nearly nonexistent according to my one source.
  5. Rumors start circulating about woman getting something more concrete out of this growing Inter-fame (nothing concrete, she insists, but there are rumors).  Man becomes jealous.
  6. Man reacts to jealousy by alerting woman’s sister to the TeleEroticist Twitter account, and then publicly outing her via Twitter.
  7. Cue Internet backlash!

The quotes I’ve seen from the man in question seem at the very least latently sexist (probably more like blatantly), and definitely petty toward this woman in particular (I am, if you can’t tell, avoiding using their names to at least do some small amount toward halting the outing of either involved party).  This sort of thing incenses me, and not merely because of the sexism; what this man did, even if it hadn’t been done to a sex worker, is potential career homicide.

It’s like this: an artist, of any sort, depends on a combination of skill and popularity to make their way in the world.  This is a fact; even if you’re an incredible writer, you won’t make a dime if no-one has heard of you or likes you.  As such, artists getting involved in politically contentious issues (like, say, sex work) is a serious gamble; you’ll note that most of the artists you see publicly connecting themselves to political causes or “hot potato” cultural issues are either very famous (and so likely to retain fans who already love their art even if they disagree with their politics), or very underground (and probably not doing it for the money).

The two issues exempted from this seem to be free speech and copyright issues, because, naturally, artists are probably fans of freedom of expression and being allowed to keep the rights to their work, and very, very few people would dump on them for this.  (Artists also seem to get away with having serious substance abuse problems, but that’s a whole other ball of wax.)  Everything else—human rights, gay rights, sex-positivity or negativity, gender relations, views on the military, etc., etc.—is fair game to cause people to leave their fandom in droves.  And without fans, artists don’t have patrons; and without patrons, artists die.

There’s a flipside, too: artists still building their careers tend to need day jobs.  Burger-flipping.  Copy-editing.  Call centers.  We wish we could make money off blogging, but it doesn’t work out that way.  And like anyone with a day job, we could get into trouble if our opinions were ever directly connected to us, with the added benefit that it’s possible (if we’re lucky) that we’re more widely read than a random Borders employee’s LiveJournal, and so more likely to suffer the sting of damaged career prospects if our exact identity is revealed.

This is not to say only famous or underground artists are political; plenty of artists, yours truly included, choose to make some of their politics known under their “base” Internet personae.  I’m not shy about my feelings on gay rights, or bias in journalism, or net neutrality.  But every time I talk about those things, I am rolling the dice that taking such a stand isn’t alienating a career prospect, either in writing or else-wise.  But that’s my choice, and while I make it with trepidation every time, I make it for myself; I like to believe that maybe it’s keeping me from getting stuck in a contract that forces me to shove a fist into my mouth on certain issues so I don’t lose my book deals, but I’m probably aggrandizing by thinking it ever matters.

The bottom line is, outing those parts of myself is my choice.  And that, for me, more than the outer’s rampant sexism, more than his obvious envy, more than any other noisome part of his behavior, is the part that incenses me the most.  TeleEroticist was forced to take a very serious risk, one far more serious than my being anti-Prop 8 (even assuming all the sex work she does is legal, there’s a social stigma attached that is far worse than anything I’ve said), and in the process she was stripped of agency.  People are already rolling the dice by posting any opinion on the Internet, and people whose popularity is tied into their career are rolling for even higher stakes.  Do us a favor; don’t roll them for us.

For Want of a Knee

Some mornings, the filmy sensation over your eyes is absolutely worth it.

Like so many here on the least-seamy underbelly of the Internet, I have the privilege of knowing Whitney Moses.  For those of you who do not share in that joy, Whitney is a massage therapist, dancer, and all-around sweetheart who recently got into some nasty trouble with medical bills and the need to pay them (a sad story, which I will not belabor here; suffice to say I’m on her side and it inflames my politics every time I think about it).  She was stuck with a bill which had a chance to devastate her life, or at least set it back a long way; and what did the world do?

The world decided to help her.

Last night was the first (to my knowledge) bout of the Whit’s Knee Fun-Raiser, a series of performances, raffles, and silent auctions all geared toward helping Whitney to pay off her bills.  The show was at the Uptown in Oakland, which manages to be one of the few nice bars I have ever been to, and has a stage that splits the exact right difference between cozy and big.  I was only able to stay for the first act and a third or so–a performance by Mark Growden, who reminds me of Tom Waits in all the right ways and himself in all the really right ones, and a performance by one of the big stars of Hubba-Hubba-Revue–before the long road back to Mountain View started looking inescapable.  But the point wasn’t the performances, as lovely and enriching and fun as those were; the point was being, in whatever small way I could, a part of Whitney’s community.

Every time I intersect with her life (and the life of her boyfriend Nathan, whom I’m privileged to have known since college), I’m blown away.  Her life is filled with some of the most intelligent, gifted, ebullient, and loving people I’ve ever met, and they’ve never failed to make me feel welcome.  It’s likely that it’s rose-colored glasses, but I have yet to come away from a trip to their sector of the East Bay feeling anything but inspired.  And now, I’ve seen these people come together and help a marvelous person through a tough time in a way I thought only happened after a casting call and two years of on-location shooting.  I’ve seen real community respond to real trouble; a reaction to the plight of our fellow man that inspires and warms me in ways that very, very few things can.

I came away from Oakland last night with a glimpse of world I thought I was making up; and while I know it was about helping Whitney, and I in no way want to shift the focus from her, I do have to say that last night, as with every night before that, was an inspiration.  People like this exist, and I can only hope I gather more of them to myself in the future.  For now, I’m grateful to have the friends I do; and I’m grateful to see the Internet, the newest medium for building community, creating something of such beauty.

On the Subject of Sites

This one’s short, I swear, and largely experimental.  There have been a handful of site updates (mentioned in the Recent News on the main page) that I wanted to both alert my lovely readers to and test out for myself.

First off, in the “blog” category, you’ll see some links to Facebook and Twitter over on the left, along with a link to the RSS feed for the blog; I’m sorry I don’t have a big shiny button for it, but the theme I’m using doesn’t have one included, and the one RSS plugin I’ve tried to add in resulted in a cancerous little floating link along the right-hand edge of the page.  It’s a work in progress.

In the “general site” category (though the blog is included in this one), you’ll find social networking links at the bottom of each of the Selected Writings and each individual blog post (only when viewed on its own page, not on the main blog page itself).  So, if you feel inclined to share the cleverness of me with the world at large, I now provide you with the tools to do so; if there’s a networking site you folks want to use that I’m not providing a link to, feel free to let me know and I’ll try to get right on that, plugin willing.

And finally, in the “general Interwebs” category, I have finally, finally, finally gotten this sucker integrated with Facebook and Twitter, so if you’re following me there, you’ll get a notification about the blog having gained shiny new entries.  So do follow me over there; some announcements might get made there before they get made here, and then where would you be?

That’s all I have for now; time to go back to the 9-to-5 work.  I hope you’re all well out there and staying cooler than I am.