01 Sep

Some things I’ve learned after eleven days without social media

On the 21st I mentioned I was going on Twitter vacation. I’ve seen a few articles from people who go on social media diets. They come back from down the hill to with their wisdom.

-The most obvious effect is that I’m a lot less distracted. I have ADHD, and I wrote about my last productivity hack on the blog (4 Hacks I’ve Used To Focus Harder While Writing on a Computer), but declaring I’m off social media publicly, while logging out of it and deleting all apps from my phone… has boosted productivity more. I’m super booked up right now, so this has been nice. I’m not wondering what’s happening because I know it’s not even a thing.

-Although productivity for my freelance and writing work is boosted, I only have so many ‘golden hours’ a day where I can throw myself at work. I’m not a machine. Twitter wasn’t using up all of those. Logging in to special working desktops let me partition out things over the last month or so. But I was flipping through twitter a lot in my down time. So I’m finding that, even though it’s only been 11 days, I’m redirecting my down time. I’ve managed to fit in more reading, which is good for the creative soul. I’ve started to blog more. Instead of responding quickly on twitter I’m storing up observations and making notes of them.

-Dragging back the time to read a book was awesome. I listen to a lot of audio books, but I was falling way behind on eyeball 2.0 reading. I wasn’t *not* reading, but I was way slower than I like. Getting two books read over the last 11 days feels more like my proper place. And those books gave me lots of ideas and fed into the ferment from where I will draw future inspirations.

-I can’t entirely escape social media. People who direct message me go into my inbox as I don’t want to miss those. That’s meant logging on to reply, albeit fast and briefly.

-Most people following me on twitter have absolutely no fucking clue I declared a twitter vacation or that I’m not on twitter anymore until October judging by the @ notifications unread number I saw when I had to log in quickly to respond to a piece of writing business.

This last one is the one I find the most fascinating. Right now I’m talking to writers and a ton of people are under the impression that it is *required* that we get on social media.

I keep saying ‘don’t do things you really hate doing.’ I say this to writers of all stripes because I truly believe the following. a) if you succeed at doing something you hate doing, you’re then stuck doing it, if not more, from then on. If you want to do something you hate doing, there are probably more lucrative things than writing you could grit through. b) if you hate it, I think it eventually comes out or shows through.

When I told one colleague about my plan to take a 2 month break, they were like ‘woah, man, that could be dangerous, you need to keep a presence!’

Sure. Maybe. What I also need to do is write more novels. In fact, that’s my primary mission.

But the fact that everyone missed my announcement, and talking about this break, and so on, indicates just how fucking full of static twitter is. You’re following so many people, who’re tweeting so many multiple times a day, that people have to post multiple times and risk annoying followers just to remind them that they have something important to get out (see book launches, etc). And then, even then, afterwards people will say ‘what, you had a new book out. I missed that!’

And the kicker is, I ended up having more of a presence on twitter by getting off of it. Because I wasn’t on twitter on the night of the Hugos batting reactions back and forth, when I saw the ballot I wondered what the alternative non-Puppy ballot was and quickly pulled it together. That link got 12,000+ hits on it, almost all of them from the link shortener t.co.

Which is to say: twitter.

I’m not leaving twitter forever. I will finish this current spate of deadlines. I love and miss you all and I will be back.

In the meantime, drop me an email. Or if you have my number, text or call me.

I’m still here.

01 Sep

President wants more icebreakers in Arctic

One of the things I noticed while researching Arctic Rising was that the US was not able to do much force-projection or borders patrolling, search and rescue, etc with the current fleet, ranking the US below much, much smaller nations with Arctic borders. Looks like someone is paying attention finally:

President Obama on Tuesday will propose speeding the acquisition and building of new Coast Guard icebreakers that can operate year-round in the nation’s polar regions, part of an effort to close the gap between the United States and other nations, especially Russia, in a global competition to gain a foothold in the rapidly changing Arctic.

(Via Obama to Call for More Icebreakers in Arctic as U.S. Seeks Foothold – The New York Times.)

31 Aug

Adventures in Unbearable Pain

On Friday I was going to write about things I had learned since declaring a social media vacation the week before, but was experiencing stabbing pains in a very delicate area and wasn’t in the mood.

Saturday chimney repair people came. Emily (and I’ve been helping) has done some remodeling in the house to put down new floors and we found that our chimney was leaking and rotting a piece of floor. I repaired that but we got a chimney quote. That was expensive, but due to higher than normal amounts of rain, we were lucky to get a person in.

While driving to the hardware store to get a new downspout and some screws I experienced pain so intense I drove off the road. But it ebbed ten minutes later and went away.

I took a nap mid afternoon as I hadn’t slept well, and woke up in so much pain I bolted upright gasping right out of deep sleep. Dizzy, I stumbled into the hallway and with gritted teeth told Emily I wanted to get to the ER. No ifs ands or buts.

Every little second of kids getting ready and Emily getting keys seemed to happen in slow motion. I scared the kids a little writhing around in the passenger seat. Jumped out of the car the moment she got me in front of the ER. Step step step, pause and hyperventilate, step step.

The admitting nurse asked a bunch of questions and told me to breathe slowly, as my teeth were so gritted she was worried about me passing out.

Once admitted, they asked me what I thought was going on and I guessed ‘kidney stone?’

“Who diagnosed you?” I was challenged (I’ve had doctors get a bit snippy with me sometimes about that).

“No one! You’re the medical experts. You diagnose me, you’re right, I don’t know what this is, I just want the pain to stop,” I hissed.

They gave me some pain meds and lots of fluids. I watched trashy TV with Emily (a good friend came over to the house to watch TV with the kids while I was in the ER).

Because I had no lower back pain at all they were not sure, so I got a CAT scan. Into the Stargate machine!

Back in my room, settled in, fully full of fluid, I ended passing a largish kidney stone while waiting for scan results. I wasn’t expecting that, there may have been a yipping quick scream or something along those lines.

The medical staff were super excited and so happy. Like, big grins. They retrieved it for a lab, the nurse showed it to another nurse and everyone agreed that yes, I had been most likely in quite a bit of pain and that, yes, it was a kidney stone.

The doctor rushed into the room like it was Christmas. “We just saw it on the cat scan!” he said, and took a look. “Yes, that’s it, we just saw the picture of it and here it is!” The ebullience in his voice and big grin made me think he was going to high five me. I was surprised cigars were not produced.

I came home, had some scotch, passed out at 9, slept twelve hours or so, and spent Sunday lolling around playing video games.

How was your weekend?

28 Aug

Digging on artist Mike Winkelmann’s futuristic illustrations here

What I love about this is the John Berkey sense of scale in these. Berkey’s massive starships almost always guaranteed a purchase from me when I was browsing the used book store.


Artist Mike Winkelmann has been making an illustration every day for eight years. As his website will tell you, he hasn’t broken routine for 3,039 days—and over that time his illustrations and process have drastically evolved. In his most recent digital illustrations, he imagines dreamlike futuristic landscapes.

A lot of artists and great thinkers throughout history have had rigorous daily routines that keep them productive and creative, all the while honing their specific set of skills. One of the impressive things about Winkelmann’s practice, besides sheer longevity, is that he switches the tools that he uses to create the images each year.

(Via 3 | This Illustrator Has Created A Picture A Day For The Last Eight Years | Co.Design | business + design.)

26 Aug

Some thoughts on the herding of POC writers into diversity panels

Kate Elliott writes:

In the wake of 2009’s #Racefail discussion, LJ blogger delux-vivens (much lamented since her passing) asked for a wild unicorn herd check in to show that people frequently told they don’t read SFF and aren’t present in SFF circles do in fact exist. In some ways I personally think of this as the first unofficial “diversity panel.”

I seem to recall the token diversity panel goes back further than that. I sat on a panel at Conjose in 2002 called “Ebony Age of Science Fiction?” with Wanda Haight, Steven Barnes, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Bill Taylor. And it was incredible seeing a (slightly) more diverse audience than normal Worldcons come to that.

It was, in 2002, packed, by the way. People have been hungry for diversity for a long while, even as others shouted ‘no no no’ and put their fingers in their ears.

Future Classics, a fannish history site it seems, has a lot of panels from Worldcons up. I still remember catching a small piece of Vandana Singh’s Imaginative Fiction: A Third World Perspective panel in 2003 Noreascon. If I recall right, there were some corridor discussions there.

In 2009 I was on a panel at a Worldcon called Writing Racial and Ethnic Diversity in Geographic Terms. You can see a good write up here. If I recall correctly there was much angry aftermath when the panel was over by some people you’ll recognize as ‘sad puppies‘ today (that shit ain’t new).

So while I’m not sure there weren’t token panels before 2009, I do think Kate’s right that around 2009 due to Race Fail there started being more dedicated panels.

Oddly enough, it was about that time I started refusing to be on them due to a reason Kate points out:

Now, however, without in any way suggesting that the need for discussion is over or that we have solved the problems, I am wondering to what degree the “diversity panel” may be beginning to become less effective and perhaps even to exacerbate the problem.

I have begun to agitate, among those who will listen to me, to propose panels with large numbers of PoCs that have nothing to do with diversity. At a couple of cons, I’ve conspired to suggest putting PoCs on futurism or science panels and shock the audience by then proceeding to not talk about race but all the cool shit the PoCs are interested in about said topic.

The one place we managed to get this done I heard was a success, and while some people in the audience were a bit confused, it was a lot of fun.

When I went to Det Con recently I took myself off of diversity panels and their like and asked for hard sciences and futurism. I was on almost no panels with any people of color. At *Detroit Con.* When appropriate, I represented PoC books and media about the future and science to the audience, which I doubt would have been done had I not been explicit about making sure I was on those non specialty panels.

And then, when I was out walking around, several times, people asked ‘oh, hey, I was surprised I didn’t see you an [diversity-related panel X].’

Which is why I did it that way.

I’m not lecturing PoC panelists, by the way, to start spreading around. No, the diversity panels are great. But some day, at a Worldcon, or any other con, I hope to be on a panel of with a large number of people of color that talks about Developments in Near Space Access.

Mainly because I’m trying, in small ways, to fight back against the ‘diverse books book displays’ issue, where a bunch of diverse books are stacked together in a specialty display that… people ignore as they come in.

I think there is a place for that. But I also think honestly representing that diversity means including it not just in cordoned off spaces. Yes, we need diversity panels, and suggestions for diverse books for those of us looking for that. But if that’s the only place we’re showing up, or that a panel-creation committee automatically thinks to stick us… then we’re always going to be in an echo chamber.

So I myself, while championing what others are doing and supporting the diversity panels and sometimes being on them, am trying to more and more to get some PoC friends on a panel with me to talk about other topics, to make those panels diverse just by who is on them.

I haven’t gotten very far with it, it’s still all nascent, but there you go.

24 Aug

Queen’s Young Leaders looking for more Caribbean applications for people working with youth or amazing young leaders

This came through my inbox, I thought I’d pass it along duly. If you are in the Caribbean and doing anything with the youth, you might want to nominate youths doing spectacular things or nominate someone doing something for the young folk:

I am writing on behalf of The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, Comic Relief and The Royal Commonwealth Society, with a request for you to support the Queen’s Young Leaders Awards.

Following the success of the 2015 Queen’s Young Leaders Awards, the search is now back on to find the 2016 Award winners. Here’s a short film showing the highlights from the ceremony https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m1I5BaJ52rk. These awards will discover and celebrate inspirational young people from across the Commonwealth who are making a difference in their communities.

We are planning a burst of social media activity over the days before the application deadline, from now until the 7th September. We are asking influential artists from the Commonwealth nations to help us highlight this very special opportunity for young people in their own country, and encourage a final flurry of applications. We’d love to have some more applications from Grenada!

If you would like more information about the programme or how you can help us, please do not hesitate to contact me.

You can see more at Queen’s Young Leaders.

23 Aug

What the alternate Hugo Ballot would likely have been

I haven’t seen anyone post something showing what the ballot for fiction would have looked like without the ballot stuffing, so here was my quick attempt to piece together what it would have been:

Best Novel

Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie
The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
The Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin
Lock In by John Scalzi
City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennet

Best Novella

The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Pat Rothfuss
The Regular by Ken Liu
Yesterday’s Kin by Nancy Kress
Grand Jete by Rachel Swirsky
The Mothers of Voorhisville by Mary Rickert

Best Novelette

The Day the World Turned Upside Down by Thomas Olde Heuvelt
Each to Each by Seanan McGuire
The Devil in America by Kai Ashante Wilson
The Litany of Earth by Ruthann Emrys
The Magician and Laplace’s Demon by Tom Crosshill

Best Short Story

The Jackalope Wives by Ursula Vernon
The Breath of War by Aliette de Bodard
The Truth About Owls by Amal El-Mohtar
When It Ends, He Catches Her by Eugie Foster*
A Kiss With Teeth by Max Gladstone*

JWC Award for Best New Writer
Wesley Chu
Andy Weir
Alyssa Wong
Carmen Machado
Django Wexler

Quick reactions:

Man, everyone go out and buy City of Stairs. I’m buying Robert Jackson Bennet drinks for a night the next time I run into him. Bennet: I witness you!

In Novella, Pat Rothfuss was amazing with Slow Regard. What a loss. Ken Liu is one our best short story writers alive today, a missed chance to honor him. Mary Rickert, she’s another stunning writer.

Novelette. Go read Kai Ashante Wilson. Now.

That short story ballot would have been diverse and amazing (hell, the whole ballot).

Max Gladstone, I witness you!

The JWC ballot would have been, also, amazing. Wong and Wexler are standouts. All in all, an amazing list of talent, go read these people.

Then, also go read the people who withdrew their stuff from the puppy slates:

Matthew David Surridge. His withdrawal placed Laura J. Mixon on the ballot, who ended up winning. Not possible without him.

Marko Kloos, who is responsible for placing Three Body Problem in the list. In fact, I might be being unfair in leaving his name off the alternate ballot. There’s a very good chance we’ll be seeing more of him in the future on lists.

Annie Bellet, who dropped out of the short story ballot.

This list was put together due to everyone emailing or texting me Annalee Flower’s pictures of the data.

Update: there’s now a link to the full stats PDF.

*Update: I’m told there’s a 5% rule that *maybe* knocks Eugie Foster and Gladstone off the ballot for short story above. I’m leaving them up as great stories to consider reading.

23 Aug

Congratulations Hugo Award Winners. Meanwhile, Sad Puppies smacked on nose with newspaper

I tuned in via UStream to watch the Hugo Awards as I was too busy with deadlines for it to be feasible this year as a trip.

Fandom rejected sad puppies very strongly in favor of no award for any of the areas dominated by slate voting. They’re already spinning defeat as a win, which is funny as they tried so fucking hard to win. Sour grapes.

Interestingly, the one sole category that sad puppies posted a decent piece of art was in movies. Guardians of the Galaxy as a result won. So when they say everyone was part of a social justice conspiracy to vote one way, you know it’s bullshit. Fans were happy to ignore the sad puppy support of GotG and voted for it.

Everything else: fandom basically said ‘don’t piss in a punch bowl and blab about how awesome it is and then tell us it’s a conspiracy against good punch.’

Here are the winners.

Meanwhile, I’m curious to see what the stats are so I can see what great literature was bumped off the final ballots for further reading.

Also, two translated works won. I’m sure chroniclers will update us, but that seems like a big first and it puts the world in Worldcon.

Update: viewing by this pic of one of the voting stats by Charles Stross it is a huge preference for No Award on novella:

Annalee Flower has been twittering posts of the nomination lists, so we can see the lists of writers who were kept off the ballot by puppies slate voting:

Basically we learned the puppies forced a lot of amazing women and people of diverse backgrounds off the ballot.

21 Aug

Twitter Vacation Until October 15th

A long while ago, I read some very good articles about the impact of news.

See, news works on us by making us anxious. Six things under your sink could be killing you! Turn it at eleven. You won’t believe this horrible thing that happened that could have been to someone like you! If it bleeds it leads.

I’d seen the effect that had on people who consumed heavy media diets. My stepdad’s grandmother in Florida, once she was unable to get out of her house much (and in pre-Fox News times) consumed so much news. When I, a geeky underweight nerd, traveled with family to Florida I found that she kept leaving the room whenever I walked in. Turns out that since the only thing she’d seen about ‘teenagers’ was them robbing or beating up people that she was terrified of me.

A diet of constant alarm and fear puts you into a state of fight or flight. I drastically curtailed news shows, media, and such and began to engage with news extremely carefully and mindfully. Began focusing on deeper dives into topics if I was curious.

I do dearly love the water cooler aspect of twitter, and I learned a great deal from so many people linking and explaining important experiences to twitter over the last years. However, the media part of social media means that bleeding leads. I’m not going to bang on about ‘outrage’ culture, that’s not what I’m getting at. I love twitter. It’s a tool. I’ve been on it since 2008. It’s not about that. This is a problem that’s as old as any media. What I’m getting at is that we click and pass on stuff that scares or horrifies us much more than other items. It’s simple human nature, just like more of us turn in to scary news than happy news. We focus on bleeding for leading, always have. And because of the social aspect of social media, it’s been delivering things that I used to engage with more mindfully in a way that is a bit of a firehose.

Right now, I have a tight deadline, and a larger than normal amount of freelance work to do. I’m noticing that social media is fine when I have a lot of emotional energy to handle and negotiate my media intake, but when I’m stressed and overworked my ability to handle it goes down. And when that happens, I’m over flooded with horrible news that’s important, but since social media has so many vectors and ways to deliver fearful news to me, it generally takes away energy that I need for doing my own important work because I have to engage, think about how to react, dig deeper, or move, which often doesn’t work because I then have guilt about either not signal boosting or grappling with something.

This isn’t about people sending me things on twitter or disagreeing with me or anything, it’s just about constant heart-breaking stories being linked that take energy out of me.

So, out of simple self preservation, I’m taking a cleansing break. I’ll be taking it until the middle of October.

The bonus? I will be blogging. And my blog posts will auto post to twitter.

I will not be reading @ replies or twitter. DMs will come to my email, however I won’t be getting on twitter to DM back, I’ll likely just email. You can always email me on the site!

Twitter has been uninstalled from my phone, bookmark deleted from my computer for now.

Ironically, I’ll be using more dead media to make sure I’m not uninformed, and doing more reading during this period. Just in a carefully controlled way so that I’m able to keep a balance going that does not lead to me feeling drained, and figuring out where I can invest my energy best.

As a result, I may even end even up blogging a bit more.

12 Aug

Yes, Virginia, people of color do fucking read SF/F

Here’s an article in SF Signal about the lack of SF/F books with people of color on the cover. And here’s a fairly typical SF/F fan response in the comments that I want to highlight by a commenter called TheAderian that wraps up all the ignorances I’ve had tossed my way in one big bundle. Here are a couple of quick snips I want to respond to (I can’t respond to all of them, I just can’t):

Firstly, I work in a largely black city in the human services field and have done so for a very long amount of time. It’s my job to get to know people and know them well and so I understand the interests of huge amounts of people. It’s not scientific, but I have a pretty good example of the interests of at least one group of “people who have color”


There are no African nations interested in space flight, exploring space, etc. I have never met an urban black person who talks about science fiction concepts wonders what’s on some planet, some star, etc or laments the loss of the space program, they would rather that money spent in their community. I have met black people who grew up in white areas who dream about these things though, thus proving to me that it’s all cultural.

I see it’s that time of year for the ‘poc don’t read SF/F’ statements from the willfully ignorant.

So, no. Just no.

Meanwhile, here is a post where I walk through an entire con devoted to things SF/F in Barbados, where a large percent of the population shows up: http://www.tobiasbuckell.com/2011/07/04/whats-a-barbados-sci-fi-con-like-animekon-expo-snapshots/

And here’s a list of online SF/F fans of color standing up to be counted:


Hey, even rappers/musicians are into SF/F: http://www.thesmokinggun.com/buster/backstage-rider/pharrell-williams-concert-rider-159073 and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pwnefUaKCbc and many more, I literally just grabbed two links off the top of my head, this shit is all over the place.

So yes, Virginia, POC *do* read SF/F, and it’s common. To remain ignorant takes serious work.

Insisting we don’t exist is a tactic in making us invisible, and a huge part of the problem. Please stop this ignorance.

There is much more ignorance in this comment as well. “There are no African nations interested in space flight, exploring space, etc.” Seriously, 30 seconds with Google easily disproves this.

Fucking ignorant.