Monday, March 29, 2021

Farewell to "Superstore"

I came to "Superstore" when it was already several seasons in and loved it and then got concerned enough with one plot shift, that I wasn't able to enjoy the rest. It's mostly a me problem, so I won't go into it here. 
In addition to being a show that showed many of the weird truths about working retail, both good, bad, and just awkward, like the corporate cloud that was sad about racism, it did a thing that I really don't think has been done on TV before*. 

Sandra, who was played by Kaliko Kauahi was a part Hawaiian character who didn't happen live in Hawaii. Obviously I care about this because I am also a diaspora Hawaiian. But I want to note that this is fairly true across American media, the rare times Indigenous people are portrayed they are always just there because they have been in the same place for a few hundred years. Think about this, have you ever watched a show with a Cherokee character in Florida? An Inuit in California? I'm pretty sure I haven't. But there are characters from Florida in shows set in New York or Indiana.

And look, I've also never seen a show about Asian Americans set in the South, so there are lots of ways and axes along which media could do better. 

But Superstore did this one thing. And Sandra was odd and weird, but not because she was Hawaiian, she was a Hawaiian character who was odd and weird. Thanks to the show for letting me see that.

Here's a wonderful interview Indiginerd did a while back with Kauahi.

*I am happy to be wrong about this being the first.  Feel free to let me know.  Note that Sandra did become a main character, so the fact that several shows set in Hawaii have had supporting characters played by Hawaiians, which was nice but not what I was talking about here.  

Edited to correct typos.

Friday, March 26, 2021

LTAFS 7 and 8

For eagle eyed or perhaps just better at counting than I readers, I did not skip post 6, there are two 4's.  Or were, before I edited that post.  Anyway we have: 

Edited to update links.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Three Interesting Things

1. Anthony Christian Ocampo wrote about how the Atlanta area shootings demonstrate the paradox of America for many Asian Americans
2. Kate McKean wrote about how sometimes the more you know about an industry, the harder it is to give advice
3. Kacen Callendar wrote an incredible piece on accountability vs. shame, and how the folks conflating the two create issues for our ability to learn and grow as a culture.  

Monday, March 22, 2021

Ups and downs

Last week I got my first dose of the COVID vaccine. I experienced several hours of uninterrupted joy when I thought about the things that within weeks were going to be just a little bit easier to do. 
And then I realized I was going to get the second dose close to when my friend died, and I cried that she had the misfortune to contract this disease early,  such that even though she was healthy, even though it was caught early, the treatment protocols were so nascent that it didn't work. 
Last week the Oscars nominated two women directors for the first time ever. Sadly not three.
They nominated an Asian American for acting which was the first in a while.  
And a white man drove to three separate locations to kill a bunch of Asian Americans. The English language media used the police as their primary resource, so the first few days of reporting focused on the killer, on why he said he had and hadn't decided he needed to kill people. 
Korean language media had an eyewitness report that told a very different story.  
I know the world is always like this. That you can do this for any week. Some weeks the swings feel wilder, more radical.  
It becomes harder to maintain joy, and can even feel like the joy you do feel is irresponsible.  But of course joy and hope have to be maintained. I reference the hope is a discipline quote a lot, because it's important to remember.  I can hold space for my concerns, my sorrows, and my hope. 

Edited to correct typo.

Friday, March 19, 2021

LTAFS 5 & 6

Edited to update links.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Three Interesting Things

1. Cathy Park Hong spoke with Alexander Chee about her book Minor Feelings and some of the issues of the Asian American experience that it touches on. 
2. Mike Chen's piece about sci-fi can both reflect and help us move forward better was posted a few weeks ago, but has even more resonance in light of the Atlanta area shootings.  
3. This imagining of a future where one can huddle close to a friend from Saeed Jones is lovely.  

Monday, March 15, 2021

About Substack and Platform Choices

I have not been unaware that some writers with some pretty bigoted views had found themselves a home at Substack.  I had many justifications.  I had watched the whole Patreon fallout as Patreon first actively recruited folks that were active in sex work, were LGBTQ and such, then then a bit later, changed their terms because some funding sites are very unhappy about such things.  
I have heard about the toxic environment at Mailchimp.  None of this is a justification for Substack, it just made it easy to be like, well there are terrible people everywhere.  Terrible people use sidewalks too, I'm not going to stop using sidewalks.   
Substack did a free virtual conference, provided mentorships, and did some things that made me feel fond of them. 
They also sent out a whole thing about how they didn't really moderate content because everyone was opting in. It wasn't like other things where the algorithm forced you to see things.  No one got anything they hadn't clicked on, and if they didn't like something they could unclick, unsubscribe, and all was well.  It is true, but wishy washy.  Patreon recently had to kick off someone who was posting videos of criminal behavior.  These things are going to happen, and if your response is going to be, well, these people are all demonstrating interest in bad behavior, I am not satisfied.  There needs to be a plan.  Preferably before it's needed.  
And then it was revealed that there was another program - Substack Pro.  Those people Substack was basically paying an advance on to cover them growing their audience on Substack for a year.  They say they didn't announce participants because the idea wasn't for these people to be brand ambassadors, just to go off and do their thing.  Except of course, it isn't that simple.  If a Pro writer is using their Substack to espouse terrible bigoted beliefs, then Substack is profiting off of bigotry. There is a difference between we provide a platform that anyone can use, and we have chosen to bankroll certain members of that platform.   If a Pro writer is using their Substack to harass a colleague they dislike, then Substack is finding that harassment.  (Jude Ellison Doyle has some further thoughts on Substack here.)
So now Substack being like, oh we don't want to tell you who the other writers are seems less like oh we're trying not to make them advertisers, and more like - we picked people with a wide range of views and we like both the bigots and the social justice folks all chipping in, but if they find out they are all here, one or both sets might leave.  
Given pandemic brain and such, I am not currently going to move my posts off Substack.  I am suspending all paid subscriptions, because my reader's money is not going to fund this. 
I have already expressed to Substack that I think the very least they owe us, is full disclosure of who is a Pro member. If they comply, I may take further action, but I will not reactivate subscriptions during the LTAFS series at all.  So all posts for that will just be free.  

Edited to note, the newsletter is moving to a new platform. The posts will still be free, I'll update the links as the archive becomes available.

Friday, March 12, 2021

LTAFS 3 & 4

The next two posts for the Let's Talk About Fictional Sex series are up:

Edited to update links.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Three Interesting Things

1. A thing I had failed to think about until Twitter pointed me to this article this week, is how online health apps can both comply with HIPAA and share a bunch of your data with a lot of other apps. App based therapy is likely better than no therapy, especially in a pandemic where options and access are more limited than usual, but it's good to be aware. 
2. Ashley C. Ford's piece on Stacey Abrams is incredibly thoughtful. 
3. I do not speak French, beyond some very limited phrases, but found this idea of connecting French language speakers with seniors in France quite amazing. 

Monday, March 08, 2021

Reporting on Diversity

In prior years I've referenced The Ripped Bodice's Diversity Report with caveats. This year, I am only going to talk caveats.  I think the people behind the report have full time jobs that are not this. I think they are looking to provide useful metrics.  Publishing in general is very bad at metrics.  A YA book by a Black author about a Black character has shattered bestselling records, and the numbers of other Black character stories being published has, well, it hasn't moved much.  
One of the things the Lee and Low study does is look at publishing.  It looks at editors, interns, agents, and other folks who are in positions to help get stories published for readers to consume.  And it looks at the characters in those books.  
So, while I totally understand that in looking at romance, and in looking at authors, that this report was meant to compliment rather than duplicate existing data.  Yes, of course not all agents and editors who publish kid lit publish romance, and vice versa, but we don't really need two reports to prove that publishing remains very white.  
However, a handful of people googling authors and making their best guess based on pictures and bios of their ethnicity - it was always going to be flawed.  Yes, there are many people who read boldly and loudly as their ethnicity.  And we need for publishing to publish those people as much as they publish people who don't look fit the so-called stereotype of Asian, or Black, or Pacific Islander, or Latinx.  
But I also want to tie this in with another discussion that's happening primarily in kid lit spaces.  The #OwnVoices tag was created as a signal for authors to provide to readers, to say this book was written by someone from that marginalization.  Because publishing's first reaction to calls for more diversity has often been to ask white authors to write more of it.  And I also think that's why The Ripped Bodice Report wanted to look at authors.  Interracial and multicultural books are being glommed onto by a lot of authors. But not all of those authors are there because it matches their lived experience.  And we have all had that moment where a book that should have been a book that spoke to us, instead left us cold.  Of course someone who shares my background can still write a book I won't like.  But chances are I won't dislike it because it did something ridiculous like tell me DC never gets hot in May.  
What we are now seeing, a few years into the idea of own voices, is that own voices is getting used too broadly and also as another gate.  On the too broadly front, it means that like a lot of terms, it's just being used to mean writing by a person who is not white, not straight, not abled bodied, and so on.  Rebecca Roanhorse mentioned her Star Wars book was called own voices by some, and well, she is not from a galaxy long ago or far away.  Recently a writer talked about having shopped a story where he more obviously matched one of the marginalizations of his character but an editor expressed concern that he did not appear to match one of the others.  And that wasn't the point of own voices.  None of this is to say readers can't decide if they want to read a story where an author is writing outside their experience or not.  But the reality is there is little evidence that white writers - writ large (I'm sure there are some small examples here and there) - are being asked by gatekeepers to write only characters that match their lived experiences.  So if that level of gatekeeping is only applied to marginalized writers, then it just becomes another tool for publishing to acquire less stories from writers of marginalized and underrepresented communities.
So back to the diversity report.  I want the traditional romance publishing machine to acquire more writers of color.  Other communities that are underrepresented and marginalized too.  I want those writers to be able to write about people that look like them, and even white people if they feel so moved.  I want traditional publishing to support those writers the way they have supported other writers.  That includes making them lead titles, publicity campaigns, the whole shebang.  But I also want traditional publishing to have a plan to support those writers and things they are more likely to go up against - be it social media harassment, book event issues, and so on.  Because if traditional publishing isn't prepared for the differences in supporting those authors, then feeding more authors into that system isn't really making the world a better place.  
Publishing is a business of course.  But serving a wider variety of readers is actually good business.  Traditional publishing as it currently stands is leaving money on the table.
I do think the Ripped Bodice Report provided a baseline to see what the scale of the problem we are dealing with is. The methodology used means the year over year comparisons aren't particularly useful  Now we have to work on actually tackling it.  

Friday, March 05, 2021

Let's Talk About Fictional Sex (LTAFS) 1 & 2

The first two posts for Let's Talk About Fictional Sex are up: 

Edited to update links.

Thursday, March 04, 2021

Three Interesting Things

1. I do not have children but Nicole Chung's answer to a parent who discovers that their child has been participating in anti-Asian bullying is I think important to us all.  The racism exists everywhere. 
2. And while we're on an advice column kick, let me share you the most interesting real life secret baby question I have seen (so far).  
3. Do you need a story about the Thai navy rescuing four cats?  Perhaps you do. 

Monday, March 01, 2021

Stops and Starts

I was talking with someone about meditation recently.  And of course meditation isn't just the act of successfully sitting still listening to one thing and thinking of nothing else.  If you can get there and stay there, it can be incredibly helpful and useful.  But - as with so many things - the act of trying can be important.  I think it's easy to get caught in the continuous improvement cycle. Every time I meditate, I must meditate better than the last time.  But I hang out with a lot of runners and they talk about things like tapering.  The idea that after you've hit a good milestone, or as you prep for a long race, you plan for a few days where you do less of it.  
For me meditation has sometimes looked like knitting and doing nothing else while knitting.  Or knitting and listening to one thing.  Or going for a walk and not listening to anything.  But some days, I cannot stop myself from trying to add another thing.  Maybe I could listen to that audiobook and also check my email.  I cannot do both well.  I know this.  
I was recently thinking about how sometimes I bounce around trying to make progress on six projects, instead of working on one and getting it done or closer to done.  How having worked on pieces of six things feels like working harder than working on one even if working on pieces of six things often means none of them are done yet.  
Now, sometimes, some projects need other pieces from others, so cannot be finished and the ability to bounce is useful and helpful.  And some days, I trick myself into working on all the things, instead of finishing one thing.  
My friend likes to quote me saying isn't it nice to know it's a blip and not a system failure.  There are reasons I work this way.  There are days this is a useful way.  And there are days it is less helpful.  And recognizing the pattern makes it more likely I can identify it and adjust as needed.