aberwyn: (justice)
1. The mess over the ebook rights to the first Deverry novels, DAGGERSPELL and DARKSPELL, has finally been resolved. Doubleday -- not Random House, not Bantam -- had them all along. Doubleday has now transferred the U.K. territory rights to HarperCollins UK, who will at last have the entire set out on ebook.

2. I've finished SORCERER'S FEUD, the second Tor and Maya book. It needs copyediting, polishing etc, but should be out this summer. POD from Osel Press, ebook from BVC.
aberwyn: (justice)
Because, slowly but surely, we're winning. By 'we' I mean women, minorities, and common sense.

The current flap, started by a petition about the new editorial policies at the BULLETIN, is actually an old flap resurgent in a new form. Some months ago the SFWA BULLETIN, a periodical that not a lot of people read, had a ghastly sexist cover and some old-style male chauvinist columns. Women protested. The columnists became irrational. The real issue was 'male privilege,' specifically, the right of males to say demeaning things and make demeaning images of females whenever they felt like it (insert stamp and pout here).

The protests actually did some good, in that the SFWA officers took a long look at the amateurish rag that's supposed to represent our professional organization and decided it needed to change. No more titty pix on the cover, respect for all members inside -- this would seem to be a no-brainer. Unfortunately, we have members who could be described with that very term.

So there was a Petition, claiming that the president intended to "censor" the BULLETIN because he wanted to institute the same peer review of articles that other professional journals have. Writers of said Petition do not understand the First Amendment right of free speech very well, so they dragged that in, too. What has resulted is an outpouring of hatred and contempt for all things female, including some truly upsetting remarks by male members about various female members, one of whom at least has done a lot for this organization. The outpouring has, in my opinion, nothing to do with the First Amendment and everything to do with insecure men who see women as threats and, worse than threats, competition.

We need to remember that this pot wouldn't be boiling over if the heat hadn't been applied. The heat is a victory, even though there's been backlash.

If good people refuse to join an organization, then the bad people get to keep control. So I'm staying. Others' milage may vary.
aberwyn: (justice)
If you think American health care doesn't need a vast overhaul, read this:

aberwyn: (justice)
Everyone raves about doing research on the Internet. It's supposed to be easy, which is true; fast, also true; and accurate -- but there's the rub. What is the sound of two "facts" rubbing against each other when they differ? The shriek of a frustrated researcher. Are books better sources? Usually, if carefully chosen -- but again, not always.

Recently I decided to do some research on Neo-Nazis for the last two Nola O'Grady books. Someone needs to poke a little fun at these vestigial dorks, so why not me? For this purpose I have created a group called The Golden Tentacle, cf. Miguel Serrano's El Dorado Cordon, and my intrepid band is in league with, of course, the psychic squid from alternate Venus. (Yes, it's complicated.) Anyway, I started doing some mostly unpleasant reading, which led me back in time to the roots of Nazi ideas, that is, to the situation in Germany in the 1920s, as the Nazi Party was forming, and other interesting topics. (Okay, we all know that Kit can find any subject interesting except maybe golf.)

A confession: I am badly hampered in this project because I don't know German. I'm restricted to English and French sources, and for a change, the French are in some ways worse than the English, especially when it comes to Nazi "occultism." Yes, there are online translators. Their results are often laughable.

At this point I ran into the Contradictory Information problem. Part of this arises from the heavy firebombing of German cities during WWII. A lot of documentary evidence went up in flames, especially as it applies to the minor figures of Nazi history. We know a lot about the likes of Goebbels and Hitler, but much less about the men who scurried around following their lethal orders. When they realized they'd lost, the Nazis themselves destroyed a lot of information, both written and physical, as when they blew up parts of the death camps. Finally, a lot of the surviving paper data has been hoarded by the Russians until just recently.

Another big problem comes from the sheer amount of utter nonsense that's been written about the supposedly "occult" or "demonic" ideas that allegedly "dominated" the Nazi ideology. Bullshit, nine-tenths of it, but it's made a lot of money for unscrupulous authors who claim to be writing non-fiction. The worst is perhaps Trevor Ravenscroft and his SPEAR OF DESTINY, but there are many others. Don't believe a word of it, is my advice. What the Internet's done is taken this vast confused body of information, speculation, cross-referencing, and outright lies from books and mixed it up yet once again. The gullible have websites about Nazi magic, hidden military bases, flying saucers, Thule, Atlantis, various lost cities in the Far East, Holocaust deniers, nd other fictions. Each website seems to cite the others in an endless loop.

Here's an example. Since I'm also interested in the Cathar heresies of the Occitan in the Middle Ages, I decided to get more information about Otto Rahn, a middlebrow medievalist who wrote a couple of interesting if romanticized books on the Cathars and the Albigensian Crusade against them. He was recruited into Himmler's "Aryan culture" arm of the SS, so the two lines of research crossed. Sources agree when he was born and when he died, 1904-1939. When did he join the SS and how? I've gotten two different dates and three different versions of how. Did he commit suicide or die in an accident? The first is very likely but some say the second. Since he died in March of '39, why wasn't he buried until '40? No one seems to know, but the nutcases think he was reanimated by a Nazi zombie program.

A modern writer, who I shall leave nameless, has written a whole book claiming Rahn was the "inspiration" for the Indiana Jones movie about the Grail. This book's adverts are decorated with a picture of a man who has to be 50 or so while Rahn died at 35. (Unless this is a snapshot of the zombie.) Rahn's work had next to nothing to do with the stuff going on in the film, but Nazi! Secret! Stuff! still sells. (Rahn's discussion of the Grail centers around textual analysis of Wolfram von Eschenbach's PARSIFAL. His grail is NOT the cup of Joseph of Arimethea.)

It's all enough to make the casual researcher gibber hopelessly.
aberwyn: (justice)
All my life I've been "clumsy". That is, I bang into things, trip over things, walk off the edges of sidewalks, and so on and tediously so forth. I was born toward the end of WWII, when all the good doctors were off with the troops. Old doctors came out of retirement to help on the home front. The doctor who delivered me, retired from the Navy many years before, had never delivered a baby before. He applied forceps to my head, squeezed, and dragged me out. My mother was so heavily drugged that she was unconscious at the time. (This happened to vast numbers of mothers and babies -- it's part of the reason the natural childbirth movement became a reality later, the memory of past mistakes at work.)

The result of this forceps pressure is still with me, a dent in the skull, damage to the visual centers of the brain on one side. As a child I had constant trouble with my balance as well as a host of other small problems that I learned how to compensate for. Now, I have almost no depth perception, the final result, the one I've never been able to "learn away". When objects around me are moving, or when I'm moving, I cannot accurately tell how far away or how close, how fast or slow they are moving. Hence the "clumsiness." I use that word in quotes because my mother's favorite nickname for me was "clumsy clot." She refused to believe that I had a real problem. I was just stubborn, lazy, not paying attention, so on and also tediously so forth.

I mention this now because a number of people have asked me why I don't drive. By this point in the screed, dear readers, it should be amply clear. I'd be a dangerous menace on the roads, that's why. I did try to learn how -- twice, in fact. In high school and much later as an adult. Both times the driving instructors refused to teach me after one lesson. The first time, in fact, the instructor insisted on refunding the money my mother had paid for his course. (She saw this as my failure as usual.)

Anyway, what's interesting about all of this is how so many people, friends of mine in fact in this very time of my life, cannot seem to remember or believe me. I do know some people who lie to make excuses for things they don't want to do. I very much wish I was lying about this. I'd be less bruised, for starters. The reason for the lack of belief is, I think, because of my generation. When I was young, so many women still believed that only men should drive, that women weren't "supposed to". I never felt that way. Needless to say, anyone who knows my feminist views would find it laughable to think I did. And yet people still assume I don't drive out of some such belief.

The past is always with us, in so many ways.


Dec. 31st, 2013 10:22 am
aberwyn: (justice)
My name is legally Katharine, but my real name is Kit, ie the name I've always been called, the name that suits me best. I received this name from my father in 1944, a month or so before he was killed in action in World War II. It's one of the very few things I have from him, as I was only 2 months old when he died.

I mention this only because some other Kits seem to think they have a sovereign right to the name, and that's kind of annoying.
aberwyn: (justice)
By making a hero out of George Z. the NRA's true believers are canonizing a coward. Like Z, they are terrified of some mysterious force, The Other, Liberals, dark-skinned people, whoever and whatever, that somehow threatens them and their families. Without guns they'd be terrified. With them, they're merely frightened.

There is a big difference between people who own guns because they hunt, target shoot, or have rattlesnakes on their property, and the people who Believe In Guns and the NRA. The latter are the problem, not the former. When they live in cities, the GunCult People are dangerous.
aberwyn: (justice)
We have another year ahead of fighting those who want to turn you into a fascist Third World country, but we've made it this far.
aberwyn: (justice)
Many years ago, before there was an Internet (yes, children, such a time was really real,) there were these things called APAs. Originally an APA was an Amateur Publishing group that sent each other samples of their hobbyist printing efforts. Others adapted it to exchange news and information by mailing photocopies of letters back and forth, actual paper letters! I belonged to a small but really good one for SF and F writers. One of our members was a really decent fellow I'll just call X.

X had been struggling along with a few Hard SF publications, but at length he wrote a really good, substantial novel. The editor he'd worked with, a woman, disliked parts of it because there were no female characters or some such gender-related problem. X's agent responded, "It's time for you to have a male editor." Emphasis the agent's as I remember, but also mine. That was the reaction -- if this girly doesn't get it, we'll switch you to a guy, and he will.

X was chuffed by this. He was shocked when the women in the group reacted negatively. Being a decent guy, he did try and did understand after some conversation. I don't know if the agent ever did. I doubt it.

This was a long time ago, but it's stuck in my mind. Not long after, I ran into the "men don't read books by women" buzzsaw when a senior editor refused to authorize publicity monies for the Deverry series in the USA on those grounds -- even though the series was doing so well in the UK.

Have things changed? Are you kidding me? My point with retelling these anecdotes is that the sexism in the SF and F world goes beyond sexual harassment. The harassment, I'd venture, arises from the general ground of our culture that puts women as second best, less important, less competent. In the minds of too many men in our field, women still exist mostly to please men, including providing sex on demand.
aberwyn: (justice)
For this I used a passage from FLICKERS, my mainstream (as yet unsold) novel:

I write like
Cory Doctorow

I Write Like. Analyze your writing!

meme via La Marquise de
aberwyn: (justice)
I was thinking the other day about those altered book covers that went viral a while back on the Internet, the ones where books by male authors were given new covers as if they'd been written by female authors. The point was to show how work by women often receives covers that lower the readers' expectations, that brand the book as somehow lighter and fluffier than work by men.

There's another kind of coding that happens in genre books, with the legitimate aim of telling readers what's inside the book so they won't be disappointed. "Genre" after all means "a class, a classification of like things", books in this case. Readers who don't like a particular sub-class don't want to buy it by mistake. Fantasy books usually have human and other figures on them. Hard SF have astronomical details or space stations or at the least, elaborate weaponry. Urban fantasy generally has tough-looking young women or vampires on it. Romance has beautiful people embracing. And so on.

So it occured to me that if someone writes a book that doesn't quite fit a sub-genre, the cover shouldn't either. Hence the very atypical cover on SORCERER'S LUCK. We'll see if it helps, hinders, or makes no difference at all to how the book sells. I suspect the third alternative there, frankly. Genre "rules" are often arbitrary and lose meaning with time.
aberwyn: (justice)

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Sorcerer's Luck by Katharine Kerr

Sorcerer's Luck

by Katharine Kerr

Giveaway ends July 13, 2013.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

aberwyn: (justice)
The thing is, it's very hard to define. I don't have an easy answer to roll out, because this question is tangled with issues of racism. When does basing part of a work of fiction, particularly fantasy or science fiction, on another culture turn into "appropriation"? The question's particularly fraught if that culture originally belongs to people of a different genetic heritage than the writer. And the problem gets worse if the writer comes from a European genetic heritage and the culture in question belongs to people who don't.

No one is going to object if I base a culture on the Medieval Baltic region or Wales or Britain in general. Those people are my ancestors. But if I decide to study an African culture and use it in my fiction -- there lies the problem. As writers we would need to do such an thing with respect, but how do we define that respect?

It seems like a good way to approach the question is to take some examples of blatantly wrong cultural appropriation and analyze them. I can think of two egregrious examples, Hollywood's treatment of Native Americans in just about any movie you can think of up to the 1970s and TV shows as well. The other is the Disney film, THE SONG OF THE SOUTH, and its basis, Joel Chandler Harris's Uncle Remus tales.

The Hollywood "Indian" is a grand example of The Other as enemy. The cultures of the First Peoples are used ruthlessly to provide villians in most cases and for little else. Tonto is not enough of an exception if he counts as one at all.

SONG OF THE SOUTH is a lot more complicated example. I'll say more about that when I'm not so tired, but in the meantime, comments (on any of this) are very welcome.
aberwyn: (justice)
The title of this post summarizes what "male privilege" boils down to. I refer, of course, to the recent two-man column in the open-to-the-public SFWA Bulletin that defended the "Boob Babes in Chainmail" trope for cover illustrations. Well, it started there but went on to defend various other public manifestations of leering sexist attitudes in the field of SF and Fantasy. The column displayed the usual sorts of logical fallacies, over-generalizations, and above all hurt feelings of such defenses of such behavior. Others, particularly Foz Meadows, have dissected it adequately by now.

I want to talk about something that happened years ago now but which I still remember. No one insulted me personally, mind -- this is rather a sad but interesting example of how unconscious biases can creep out into the light. Years ago, on the long gone but still missed SFRT on GEnie, some male writers, one an Eminence, two much younger, were discussing novels by women they labelled "angry feminists". The men were angry, too, about the terrible caricatures of men that these nasty women put into their books. Their male characters were power-hungry, greedy, violent, brutal, treated women badly, and ignored their kids. What? the male writers said. Nonsense! We're not like that.

And they weren't. Decent guys, really, all of them. They were forgetting that some men do fit those descriptions in the books. Alas, and unfortunately. So in the minds of these male writers, such descriptions of men meant -- and here's the kicker -- it meant these women were bad writers. They wrote weak, lesser fiction because of it. They didn't know what men were like. They hated men. Etc etc etc. And it ruined their work.

So okay, we all know I'm a trouble-maker. What about the boring, predictable, one-dimensional sex-object women characters who appear in so much male-written SF? I asked. The Eminence agreed that yes, those characters do appear, (much to the annoyance of one of the Younger Men, who tried to deny it). Well, I said, since those writers fail to depict real women, that must mean they aren't very good, either. Oh no, said the Eminence, because they deliberately chose to portray the women that way.

You don't think Tepper and Zimmer Bradley (the two female authors being dissed) deliberately chose to portray their male characters the way they did? I said.

The response, across the board, was an annoyed "that's different." The male writers assumed that the women writers were just incompetent. End of discussion. Male writers got to put fantasy female objects in their work. Women writers did not get to put nightmare male characters in theirs. The one made a conscious and entertaining choice; the other was just plain wrong.

That half the human race would not find those fantasy figures entertaining just didn't enter into their thought-worlds. Even if they had realized it, would it have mattered? Of course not. Men were the important readers. They got to have what they wanted in a book Just Because.
aberwyn: (justice)
Apparently Amazon and Lightning Source are having a Major Disagreement, which means Amazon is not carrying their POD books at the moment. Just as SORCERER'S LUCK comes out. Sigh. However, publisher says he'll do a CreateSpace version over the weekend.

Don't quit your day job, folks. Unfortunately, I don't have a day job. :-)


May. 21st, 2013 06:53 pm
aberwyn: (justice)
I'll be hanging out at Baycon in San Jose on Saturday only. Since this was a last minute idea, I'm not on any programming. But if you're there and see me, say hi. :-)


May. 19th, 2013 03:36 pm
aberwyn: (justice)
At 7 pm, on June27, that's a Thursday evening, Kate Elliott and I will be doing a joint reading and booksigning at Borderlands Books in San Francisco, CA.

She'll be reading from COLD STEEL, and I'll be reading from SORCERER'S LUCK. If you can't make the signing but would like signed copies or a copy, contact Borderlands. They take advance orders and will ship.

aberwyn: (justice)
SORCERER'S LUCK is finally coming out. The paper edition from Osel Press will be available in the last week of June, and the ebook will come out from Book View Cafe on July 16. Since I've posted excerpts here on LJ, I thought I should show everyone the finished product.

View Image )
aberwyn: (justice)
At San Diego's Gaslight con (steampunk) there is going to be an auction to raise money for Jay Lake's fight against cancer. I am planning on sending goodies down there, and anyone who has anything they'd like to donate, it would be much appreciated. I know Val
Ontel--have for years. She's a super person, and will do a terrific job. (Imagine the enthusiasm of a fan and a lifelong children's librarian, and you've got Val!

Items go to:

Jay Lake Auction
c/o Val and Ron Ontell
4557 Rueda Drive
San Diego, CA 92124

If you feel like spreading the word, it would be much appreciated. Deadline for receiving things is 25 April.
aberwyn: (justice)

Judy's gonna do a space opera! This one sounds fabulous in both the root sense of that word and its idiomatic meaning!
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