Sign up here to get info on new releases and giveaways!

Archive for the ‘Assumptions’ Category

Katha Pollitt Moneyshot

“The widespread support for Polanski shows the liberal cultural elite at its preening, fatuous worst. They may make great movies, write great books, and design beautiful things, they may have lots of noble humanitarian ideas and care, in the abstract, about all the right principles: equality under the law, for example. But in this case, they’re just the white culture-class counterpart of hip-hop fans who stood by R. Kelly and Chris Brown and of sports fans who automatically support their favorite athletes when they’re accused of beating their wives and raping hotel workers.

No wonder Middle America hates them.”

Read the rest.

Someday I Will Be Famous Enough to Fix My Covers

I saw the initial row over this, but somehow the resolution totally passed me by (I don’t spend nearly as much time on the internets these days). There are lots of stories about SF/F publishers whitewashing covers. So even if you’ve got a heroine who’s a far darker shade of pale, it’s unlikely it’ll be seen on the bookshelf.

This was one of those, “Yeah, and this surprises people because…?” But it’s important to remember that our silence as authors can be read as complicity. If you don’t say something publicly – even if you’re fuming – readers assume you’re just going along with it. And that’s a shame. Because as somebody who has sometimes wanted to drag a publisher out and kick them in the shins publicly, I can tell you I’m not so keen on doing it because it means, you know, I might be out a meal ticket.

That said, I need to choose my battles. Because if I end up with a whitewashed cover someday, I’m going to have to say something about it. Even if it means the loss of a meal ticket. Because at the end of the day, it’s about systematic silencing, erasing. It’s about lying.

That said – and understanding what JL was up against – I find this to be a pretty cool win.

Bloomsbury backs down in Larbalestier race row

The Importance of Tragedy

One of the things I always thought odd about American taste in fiction and cinema is our aversion to tragedy. Filmmakers, in particular, are constantly changing movie endings for American audiences to “lighten” them up. Many British books just aren’t carted over the ocean for the simple fact that they’re just “too depressing.”

I had a lot of trouble understanding this phenomenon. I figured it had something to do with our belief in the American Spirit and Manifest Destiny. I figured we were terrified of tragedy, and in love with the idea that science and progress and good, god-fearing folks could overcome everything.

But it still bugged me. Because I love tragedy. I love watching the inexorable trudging on events toward a inevitable end knowing there’s no way to stop it… but watching our heroes bravely try anyway. I like the cathartic rush.

Then I watched this TED talk with Alain de Botton and was suddenly stuck by what he had to say about our aversion to tragedy. Tragedy, he points out, was created to teach us compassion. Instead of looking at somebody who’s down on their luck and saying, “God, she’s such a loser. She must have done something pretty terrible to end up that way,” we learn the old “there but for the grace of god go I” lesson. We learn that each person who’s down on their luck isn’t a loser, but merely “unfortunate.”

But in America, we don’t believe in misfortune. We believe in pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps. We figure that bankrupt people living out of a friend’s house, unemployed, with chronic medical conditions, working temp jobs, are just… losers. Lazy. Meritless. After all, if they worked hard and had merit, they’d be winners, right? They’d be successful American entrepreneurs.

But what our American dream ignores – each and every time – is the influence of tragedy on people’s lives. We don’t like tragedy. We don’t like the idea that sometimes you really do get hit on the back of the head with a shovel for no reason. Sometimes, shit happens.

Because if shit happens, then we can’t ignore the bum on the street. We can’t plead entitlement for healthcare. We can’t just say, “If you don’t own your own house, you’re a loser,” or “if you don’t have a car, you’re a loser.”

Without tragedy, without teaching compassion and morality by putting us all in the shoes of good people who experience bad things, we look down on the poor, the uninsured, the bankrupt, the destitute, with scorn, derision, and not one ounce of compassion. After all, they must have *done* something (or *not* done something) to get there, right? I’m good, I’m hard working. That will never happen to *me.*

I mourn our lack of tragedy.

When Your Results Confirm Existing Biases, Check Your Controls

I do love it when somebody has one of those, “Oh, shit, we totally missed something incredibly obvious” moments.

The mere act of physically approaching their potential romantic partner, behavior far more typical of men than women, makes people more confident and increases their attraction to their potential partner. In other words, by acting more like men (by physically approaching their dates), they begin to think more like them as well (by being more confident, aggressive, and less selective). In support of their embodied cognition hypothesis, Finkel and Eastwick show that, whether they are men or women, “rotators,” who approach their dates, have greater self-confidence than “sitters,” who are approached, and once they statistically control for self-confidence, the institutional arrangement (whether men or women rotate) ceases to have any effect on whether men or women were more selective.

Another Interesting Tidbit

This was a tidbit of particular interest to me from the article I link to below:

Indeed, some scholars say they believe the reason Muslim countries have been disproportionately afflicted by terrorism is not Islamic teachings about infidels or violence but rather the low levels of female education and participation in the labor force.

Like everyone else, I, too, am curious about how a female dominated society whipped up into religious fervor would act. There’s a lot of reasoning that societies of women will be inherently more peaceful than those where men predominate in public life.

As you’ll see in God’s War (and much of my short fiction), this isn’t a belief I ascribe to. The issue may not even be religion (see the recent reaction in the U.S. to healthcare reform). I think there’s a deeply human fear of change and “the other,” and I just don’t believe that switching the genders of the participants will change anything.

It’s like saying that since I’m a woman, it’s impossible for me to be a misogynist. Um, hello? I was raised in a misogynist society. I’ve said on many occasions that I’m one of the biggest misogynists I know. I’m *aware* of that casual misogyny (and casual racism, also a byproduct of growing up in a racist society), and I work hard every day to fight it. But if you put somebody – no matter their gender – into a society that glorifies war/conquest/God/bloody triumph, you will create a violent people.

Viking women spent a good deal of time alone on their islands while men were away, and they were more than capable of slaughtering any wayward band of mauraders who came their way. I think that glorifying violence is what makes people violent. If violence truly was considered repugnant, effeminate (for lack of a better word), cowardly, debase, and truly morally wrong under any circumstances, our lives – in a society run by women or men – would be far different.

The question then being, “Are societies of women less likely to glorify violence than societies of men?” To which I’d reply, “It depends.”

Where did their beliefs come from? Have they risen to “power” from within a violent society? Did they have to do it violently? Is there religion/society already glorifying violence? How would they distort themselves to fit the culture? Because let’s take a good, hard look at how women distort themselves to fit into our culture. Think about that for a minute. Old beliefs remain, and if you’re a women dominated society that’s constantly under attack from the outside, you’re either going to find ways to defend yourself… or your women-friendly society isn’t going to last very long.

It’s the Women, Stupid

In many poor countries, the greatest unexploited resource isn’t oil fields or veins of gold; it is the women and girls who aren’t educated and never become a major presence in the formal economy. With education and with help starting businesses, impoverished women can earn money and support their countries as well as their families. They represent perhaps the best hope for fighting global poverty.

And yet, for all the great information in this story… I was struck by how there was little to no mention of changing *men’s* behaviors and *men’s* attitudes toward women. Yes, give women aid, education, to lift populations out of poverty… but how does one go about changing the cultural attitude that women are beasts of burden?

By allowing them to make a buck, I guess. Which seems like an oddly capitalist solution. We measure the value of a life… by how much money it can make.

Hrm.

Not arguing with the solution. Just… concerned about that solution. Read the very excellent, For Her Own Good: 150 Years of the Experts’ Advice to Women for more about how the industrial revolution actually contributed to the *devaluation* traditional “women’s work.”

Like everybody else, we’ve just had to learn to do new things.

But you know what? Men have – and continue to need to – learn new ways of living, too. Giving women all the burden of change while excusing men who spend their family’s money on alcohol and prostitutes… well.

Seriously.

For those tired of reading about this crap and want to make a difference, I recommend Kiva.

Change has Always Been Bloody, Yo

History suggests that major social policy unfolds on a continuum. The Social Security Act of 1935 disappointed liberal New Dealers because what was called “old-age insurance” covered only about half the adult population. It excluded farmhands, domestics, employees of small businesses, and most blacks. That was because FDR needed the votes of Southern Democrats, the Blue Dogs of their day. (The bill cleared the House Ways and Means Committee with only one Republican vote.) Similarly, the Civil Rights Act of 1957, immortalized in Robert Caro’s Master of the Senate, was weak tea. It had to be strengthened by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In the later bills, Lyndon Johnson betrayed Southerners he had made deals with in 1957. If Nancy Pelosi can’t break Rahm Emanuel’s promise to Big Pharma’s Billy Tauzin this year, she can try to break it in the future. And Tauzin will lobby for more favors as the all-important new regulations are issued. Nothing in Washington is ever set in stone.