Monday, September 26, 2016

A Bookish Weekend

Friday night I managed to locate a banned book hidden in the city.  (If by hidden we understand we mean placed face out on a bookshelf in the Reading Room at the Petworth Citizen.) So I felt that was a good omen for the bookish weekend ahead.  
Saturday was the National Book Festival.  Kwame Alexander brought musical accompaniment that he used while talking abut wanted to write a story about a kid who didn't like words until he met a cool librarian. 
Meg Medina talked about her memories of growing up during the Son of Sam summer, and how she realized that pervasive worry would be applicable to today's kids who deal with shooter drills.  Shannon Hale talked about her inspiration for the Princess in Black series, the idea of an unlikely superhero.  She also brought kids on stage to create their own unlikely superheroes.  And kids, I would read the tales of Ultimate Fishie.  Call me.  
Gene Luen Yang spoke with NPR Books' Petra Mayer about getting the call about the genius grant (in his car, about to go to Panera) and that with the New Superman series, he wanted to mimic early Clark Kent's journey from being a bully who misused his superstrength, to the stand up guy we think of today.  
Representative John Lewis talked about raising chickens, and how he felt a little bad now about swapping out the eggs the hens were sitting on.  He may also have commented on chickens being better listeners and more productive than some Congress people. Andrew Aydin talked about going from having Hill staffers make fun of his love of comics, to being a co-author of a graphic novel with Lewis.  He also said his mother had always advised him to stay clean shaven, but given the growing anti-Muslim sentiment, he had grown a beard to try and make use of his position of privilege as a known safe person. 
The Books to Movies panel had the Washington Post's Monica Hesse interviewing Patrick Ness, Katherine Paterson, and David L. Paterson.  Ness wrote A Monster Calls on spec (ie, with no other funding and such in place).  He and David talked about the process of encapsulating a book into a movie, that the script is going to be much shorter, so you have to figure out where to cut, and where you can have the visuals do a lot of the work.  we saw clips of each, and rumors that I teared up are just that, rumors. 
Then I went to the Poetry Slam.  They had brought six teens from across the country to compete and we weren't given their team affiliations until the end, but those Indiana teens brought it. They were asked to use a books or reading theme. Some went very specific, some went very personal, and the crowd was great too.  They covered things street harassment, teacher expectations, parents who didn't understand their educational drive, LGBTQ rights, heartbreak, and we had been advised that snapping while a poet was on was a method we could use that shouldn't break their flow, and my snapping fingers were sore at the end.  
Sunday, I went to the final day of the Baltimore Book Festival.  
I hung out primarily at the Maryland Romance Writers tent and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers tent.  I confess my ability to track names and such had deteriorated a bit, but I caught some discussions about historical romance, paranormal romance, sci-fi heroines, and romance tropes. The Baltimore Book Fest is right along the Harbor and there's a variety of food, so it was a great end to the weekend.  

Friday, September 23, 2016

Project Runway is Back

Yeah, I know, it was back last week too.  I have some early favorites, but despite the fact that this is the 15th season of Project Runway Original Recipe which means not only are there 15 seasons of this kind of "Project Runway" to watch, there are also umpteen all-stars, kids, Under the Gunn, and other variations.  Oh, and you could watch practically any other competitive reality show ever to get a sense of the following things: 
You will work in a cramped space.  Or for a while you will.  As they eliminate folks it will get less cramped. 
You will live in shared apartments with the same people you spent all day working next to. 
You will have unrealistic timetables to complete your work. 
You will have limited budgets. 
You will have to regularly discuss your life or your fellow designer's lives. 
You will be tired. 
You will be asked to work with things that are not fabric. 
And yet, they were surprised, I mean maybe they only showed the clips of the designers willing to play along and pretend to be surprised, but they were surprised to enter a room fill with stuff for the first party and be told, ha, this is your first challenge.  Yes, sometimes they have just had an opening cocktail.  Not in a room with balloons, and bags and pillows. And the first challenge being the first meeting with Heidi and Tim has happened like eight times.  So, even if you only had time to watch one season, chances were good you saw this. 
But, I give them credit, so far no one has sent a naked model down the runway.  So there's that. 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Three Interesting Things

1. The question has been raised if police offices can or should offer medical assistance to those they have shot. Yes, I'm sad we are asking this question, but the answers about differing requirements for first aid training and who pays for first aid kits are illuminating. 
2. This article about the push for prison abolition had some food for thought. 
3. "Speechless" was one of the bright spots in my week this week, and I enjoyed this interview with the creator about his choice to hire a disabled actor to play a disabled character.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Link to: The Five Things I need from White People Right Now

The saddest thing about this post from Derrick L. Weston, is that it is already one highly visible police shooting behind. And I am aware that DC has it's own recent police officer onvolved shooting that has not garnered quite as much national attention. 

Monday, September 19, 2016

Sports Romance and the Handling of the Audience

A few weeks back, there was an article about sports romance.  In it, there was mention that while plentiful, there is less sports romance featuring athletes of color, which given the current makeup of quite a few sports in the US, is out of sync.  As often happens, folks discussed this on Twitter.  And some folks showed up mad.  They said they were authors of sports romance and if they wanted to write about white people they could.  That they had happy publishers and happy readers and everyone should stop attacking them.  And buy their next book. 
So, let's unpack this.  
As writers, particularly genre fiction writers, there are a lot of thinkpieces afoot.  Most of them are a bit click baity, a little pearl clutchy, and are just there to poo-poo the thing that kids and/or women are reading.  So, I understand that when an article comes out about the thing you write, you may be predisposed to assume it is attacking you. 
Saying many of the books in a sub-genre feature white main characters is not an attack.  I mean, I guess, if it were untrue it would be an attack, but right now, there are two things working against that.  Most books in all categories are about white people.  Above and beyond the racial makeup of our country. And in the NFL, which happens to be the sport I see the most sports romance about, there are significantly more black players than white players. (Numbers for several pro sports here.) 
If your books do feature characters of color, it's still not an attack.  Because this is a big picture statement.  Just like if I said there was more heterosexual romance than queer, I'm not saying there isn't queer romance, I'm saying the numbers tilt towards heterosexuals in a way that is out of sync with the numbers in real life. 
If your books do not feature characters of color you may feel like this is an attack. It isn't.  Nor is saying, I find books that feature unrealistically white sports teams hard to read.  People saying there's a thing they can't get over in your books isn't aimed at you. If I wrote a vampire book and someone said, oh, I can't read vampires because my babysitter tortured me for three years with vampire stories*, I wouldn't say, oh but my vampires are really good.  I would say, okay, you are not my reader.  At least not for this story. 
And if it still feels like such a statement is aimed at you the author, then maybe you should look inside yourself and figure out why.  Do you maybe feel like you have been failing to represent fully in your fictional world?  If so, you can work on that.  
Also, it's becoming really common to see folks counter any criticism as being part of the call out culture, even though, jumping in people's mentions to tell them your books are just fine with all their white characters is actually more of an attack than the person who said, I can't read a sports books that ignores the existence of athletes of color.  These are separate things.  Yes, there is a rise in people calling out certain behaviors.  Sometimes those calls get vicious.  Painting all criticism as the same, in fact, attempting to imply that noting there are white characters is even close to calling someone out, is not only untrue, it's also an insidious attempt to turn people to your side and get them to attack others.  
You can write books with white characters.  There are just scads of data that prove no one has had any trouble getting books published with white characters.  No one said you had to stop writing white characters.  But it does absolutely imply that you are cherry picking.  Look, you were the one who created a world with only white characters.  You can keep on doing that.  Just like I could write a book series with only red headed vampires. (Sorry, vampires, I do seem to be picking on you today.)  Anyone who showed up and notes that I only have red headed vampires isn't attacking me.  They are noting.  I can go add a brunette vampire or not.  I can choose to explain why my vampires all have red hair or not.  But expecting readers not to notice is not only silly, it implies I hope my readers don't pay attention to things.  

*Made up example.