Sunday, July 20, 2014

Fort Smith, AR: Where Right-Wing Xtian Propaganda Comes To Play

So I'm checking the movies again, in case Dr. Skull and I might have time to see one this evening.

You'll remember we saw Snowpiercer at our local indie theater last week -- that's about the only hope we have of seeing anything interesting or decent in this town.  We saw Philomena there on Christmas day; and Bella played there, though we didn't get a chance to see it.

But right now, guess what's playing in our town -- I mean, you know, besides the usual Things Blow Up blockbusters like Transformers 15 and Purge 2, and X-Men Who Cares?

America: Why You Should Hate Obama.

Heaven Is For Real.

Glenn Beck's We Will Not Conform.

The Persecuted: Why MURICA Hates Jesus and All True Xtians.

And up until a few weeks ago, we STILL had God is (Not) Dead playing on two screens here.  I kid you not.  (I wish I was kidding you.)


Friday, July 18, 2014

Conservative Fiction

I'm just gonna submit this shit without comment, y'all.

Well, one comment.  This is what they consider their best.

They're proud of this.

Rapping With Sylvia Spruck Wrigley, RSonic, and Crossed Genres Press

So, check this.

Y'all might remember this story, from our Flash Fiction issue, "Space Travel Loses Its Allure When You've Lost Your Moon Cup," by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley.

One of my favorites, by the way.

Anyway!  Rsonic, whose webpage is here, has written a rap about the story.

Totally NSFW, as Sylvia warns!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

First Job

Over at Whatever, Scalzi talks about his first job, as well as what it was paid (and what the same job pays now), and invites others to do the same.  This post was inspired by a blog called the Billfold doing a column in which people answer that same question.  (Which is pretty interesting, by the way.)

Anyway!  My first real job was working the desk at Tulane Medical Library in 1983, about three months after I graduated from the University of New Orleans with a B.A. in English.  It took three months to find an actual job -- I spent about six weeks of that time working at a deli in the mall* -- because this was during the Reagan years, when it was Mourning in America.

My starting pay was just over ten thousand a year, and (I think because I worked for Tulane Medical School) I paid into the state retirement system, which meant I didn't pay into Social Security.  I had no idea what this meant at the time; what it turned out to mean was that, when I quit three years later to go to graduate school, the state paid me (either some or all, I don't remember which) of that money back as a flat fee, rather than fund any of my eventual retirement.

According to the BLS Inflation Calculator, ten thousand dollars in 1983 money is about $24,000 now.  It seemed like a ton of money then, when I was single and with no kids, living with my parents and saving up money for graduate school.  Within a year, as well, they had raised me to $14,000/year, which is $32, 000/year.  Also I had health insurance, full dental, and one day's vacation plus one day's sick leave a month.

Looking back, it was a hella job.  Except it was also hella boring, and the librarians there were mean as wild hogs.

                                                    *** **** ***

Now the first actual paying job I ever had was when I was either eight or nine -- I can't actually remember which.  It paid four dollars a month.  I had to fold and distribute these newsletters around our neighborhood.  It was also hella boring. This would have been 1968 or 1969.

The inflation calculator tells me four dollars in 1968 had more than $25.00 worth of spending power.  And I do believe that, because four dollars seemed a lot of money to me in those days.  But I also remember feeling it was not at all enough money, especially since my older brother got seven dollars (because he was my boss; he had contracted the job, see, and hired me on) for the same work.

So I conducted my very first slow-down strike, refusing to conduct the work in a timely fashion.  Eventually my father had to negotiate between us.  I demanded a raise. I wanted equal pay for equal work.  My brother the boss refused to grant it.

(He was only a year older than me, so he wasn't doing any more work than me; and I'll also state that he had not gotten this job himself -- my father had gotten it for him, and advised him about the politics of contracting out the work to his employees, me and my little brother, for less pay. Foolishly, he advised him about all this in front of me.  I think this might be the moment I became a radical.)

My father instructed me I had a choice at this point.  I could accept the lower pay or I could quit.

"Fine," I said.  "I quit."

He stared at me, utterly astonished.

"You can pass out your own papers," I told my brother, and got up and left the negotiating table (our dining room table).

This was not the last time, I think, that I would take my father by surprise.  Though I don't know why -- his labor force, after all, had nothing much to lose. I didn't have kids to feed or rent to pay; I wasn't even saving up for a bicycle.  My only vice was fiction, and the local library was free.

Real-world oppressors, obviously, do a much better job.

*And I also interviewed for about 90 other jobs, including jobs at gas stations, and one where I would have been poodle-skirt wearing roller-skating cocktail waitress** at a bowling alley, I kid you not.

** I double-dog dare anyone to do fan-art of this.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Snowpiercer: Review

Well, as all y'all who are long-time readers here know, I loves me a story about a revolution.  And Science Fiction is my thing.

So I had high hopes for Snowpiercer, which is the tale of the oppressed, downtrodden proles of a near-future dystopia rising up in the attempt to seize (literally, in this case) control of the world from those in power.

I won't say I was entirely disappointed -- the movie was fun.  I will say But.

Here's your premise, in case you've been living in a cave and haven't heard of the movie.  (It's been big news in the SF world for about a year.)

Somewhere around now (2014, in other words), the world undergoes a global climate shift.  But -- surprise -- it isn't overheating.  It's global freezing.  Everyone freezes to death, instantly, apparently, except the people who managed to board the train of Wilford, a comic-book supergenius on the order of Tony Stark who has invented a self-sustaining train that circumnavigates the globe, once each year.

Those who bought tickets are ticket holders -- either first class or (I guess, though this isn't covered in the film) working class.  Those who couldn't buy tickets live in the tail section, and pay with their children and their labor, very like the proletariat of Rome.  They are repaid with barely edible protein slop, squalid living conditions, and brutal oppression; and they are reminded that they should be grateful, since they are lucky to be on the train at all.

Rebellions are apparently frequent, and brutally suppressed, but another is brewing at the opening of the film -- Curtis and his sidekick, along with several others, are forming a plan to break out of the tail section and move through the train, right up to the front, where they will kill Wilford and take the Engine.

So far so good.

And the rebellion, when it comes, is fast-paced, with nice reversals and fight scenes and very effective scenes.   The journey through the train, in which we get to see the light and luxury of those in the front compared to the misery of those in the tail, is also nice.

But.  Here's my but.

(1) A lot of whack, and very little actual science.  For instance, the great global freeze is explained by something that sounds very much like Chemtrails.  Please.  And the train runs by a perpetual motion machine, apparently, which "everyone" in 2014 was Too Stupid to believe would work. Also, we're shown people frozen instantly, like frozen standing in place, flash-frozen.  A planet that cold is a planet where the train as we see it would not be functional.

(2) Not enough economics.  Even assuming the can-opener, I mean the perpetual motion machine, how, exactly, is this train feeding all these people?  We do apparently have a working class, but where are the grain fields to grow the grain that feeds those cattle?  What are all those chickens eating?  I am willing to believe in a cattle car or two filled with cattle and chicken, but what are they eating?  I would like a little more explanation about that.

(3) The ending.  What a disappointing ending.  I won't give spoilers, and I realize it's hard to write endings for revolutions, but wow.

Anyway, it was fun to watch, so maybe crank down your expectations?  Go to a matinee?  Rent it on Netflix?

Or read the graphic novel, instead, which i09 says is better, though less revolutionary.

Update: A further objection, very spoiler-rific, which occurred to me as I was driving to my writing group this afternoon, is in the comments.

Update #2: I can't believe I forgot to talk about the woman characters.  Although yes I can, because, very forgettable.  Which is to say, while there are women in this movie, it barely passed the Bechdel test.  Only a couple of them are named, and of those, only two talk to each other, briefly (one threatens the other).

Women in this movie are stock figures only (Strong Black Mother, Crazy Female Aide, Cute Aisan Daughter/ Magical Aisan Chick), existing only as background and to support the men.

Again, it looks as though in the graphic novel, the women characters might be better served?

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Hey Guess WHAT?

My kid took those exams today, y'all.

Those big news exams we've been studying for -- well, she's been studying for -- since May.

The ones that she had to pass to get into high school: Algebra I, Physical Science, Civics, English I.

(The ones where I whined recently that half of Civics was Economics and what sense did that make?  Yeah, those.)

And did she pass them?

Did she?

Oh, baby, she killed'em.  She didn't just pass them, she left them behind rolling in the dust.  You couldn't even see those exams in her rear view mirror.

I've got me a brilliant, hard-working little scholar here.

Who plans to do online comics but that's okay too.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

The Kitten Trap

Our second cat, Junti, used to be our kitten.

Now that Junti is a cat...

...the kid says it's time for a new kitten.  That's what she said when Jasper -- who used to be our kitten...

...became our cat.

This is a trap, isn't it?

Friday, July 04, 2014

Hugo Voting!

I have put in my Hugo ballot!

The only one I had serious trouble with was the Best Fan Writer, where I had to decide between

  • Liz Bourke
  • Kameron Hurley
  • Foz Meadows
  • Abigail Nussbaum
Seriously.  Who am I supposed to pick as best, and then second best, and then third best, and the fourth best, from THAT list?

They're all the best.

And the ballot doesn't let you rank them all as #1, sadly.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Crossed Genres Issue 19 is Live!

The new issue of Crossed Genres is up -- Flash fiction this month, and some really strong stories.

Of special interest to me, as the mother of a sixteen year old, is that our Spotlight author this month is sixteen years old.  (The Spotlight author is the author we publish every month who is making, with this publication, their first professional sale.)


by Rachael K. Jones
Ashes to Ashes
by Jes Rausch
Loving Armageddon
by Amanda C. Davis
Cecille and her Sister
by Maya Surya Pillay
A Visit from the Hag
by Kate Hall
by Joyce Chng
Under the Bed
by Effie Seiberg
by JY Yang
The Ancestors
by Laurie Tom
What We’ve Lost, Sometimes
by Karen Bovenmyer
The Pumpkin-Carving Contest
by Dayle A. Dermatis
What Came Last
by Lindsey M. Sheehan
The Seeds of Foundation
by Pedro Iniguez
Spotlight interview:
Maya Surya Pillay


Friday, June 27, 2014

The Reverse Ghandi: First We Fight Them...

During the latest iterations of the Far-Right Conservatives dickishness -- I am speaking here, among other things, of Ann Coulter's amazing column on Why Soccer Is Bad, and (more locally) Republican Senator Jason Rapert, here in Arkansas, attacks on the judge and the ruling overturning our state's gay marriage ban -- during these times, as I was saying, a general truth emerged to me.

You all are familiar with Ghandi's rules for how revolutions progress: First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.

It occurs to me that the inverse is true for those on the other side of this hegemonic discourse, and our dealings with that side.  Which is to say:

First we fight them, then we laugh at them, then we ignore them, and then we've won.

Those on the losing side of this battle -- Coulter, Rapert, Rod Dreher, Rush Limbaugh, Phyllis Schlafly, Dennis Prager, Mike Adams -- for a while, they had a nice gig going.

They only had to speak to be taken seriously, by the media, and more importantly, by those of us who were fighting them.

Progressives would spend hours and weeks battling their most ridiculous statement, while they received praise and (frequently) book deals for their reactionary fluff.

So when Schlafly said, in 2007, that rape within marriage was not rape, because women consented to sex by marrying a guy, she got a lot of attention.

When Rush said we didn't need to protect the environment, that there were more trees in America now than "when Columbus discovered the continent," many people took time to consider and refute his bizarre contention.

And when Coulter (who has said so many ridiculous things it's hard to keep up) wrote her pile of nonsense, Slander, in 2006, Progressives went nuts refuting it.

Even here on this blog, I used to spend a lot of time refuting and disputing Right-Wing bullshit.

That was during the stage when we were fighting.  It lasted, probably, from about 1850 to somewhere around 2010.

Now we're mostly laughing.  Limbaugh's constant racism and Schlafy's constant sexism and Mike Adam's tinfoil hat fantasies no long seem worth refuting.  We just roll our eyes and maybe snort in derision.

When Jason Rapert started his fulminating after the Piazza Ruling (for reference, Rapert also runs an Impeach Obama movement here in AR), we likewise just rolled our eyes and snorted.  "Now he's just being a dick about it," I posted on FB.

We are very nearly through the laugh at them stage, in other words; we really have begun to (mostly) ignore those whose worldview used to be hegemonic.

Soon they will all be what most of them already are -- the equivalent of those cranks who corner you at a party or in front of the Wal-Mart and complain at you lengthily: how you can't tell the men from the women anymore (these haircuts!), or how kids today have no respect, or how women used to cook for their families, back when America was Great!

Really, we're already laughing only a little, and mostly ignoring them.

Really, we have already won.

Update:  This is what I'm on about (Probably apocryphal, but none the less!)

Thursday, June 26, 2014

A Theological Inquiry in The delagar Household

So I'm writing away on my current novel, listening to Gangstagrass through my neon-green earphones, when my kid comes and stands patiently in front of me, which is how she always gets my attention when she wants to talk.

I pull off the earphones.  "What."

The Kid: "If Christians...some Christians...believe that life begins at conception, you know, like when the egg gets fertilized...?"

Me: Yes, what?

The Kid:  "Well, what do they do about identical twins?

Me:  "What now?"

The Kid: "The egg splits after it's fertilized.  Right?  So what do they think that one twin doesn't have a soul?  Is it a demon sort of thing?  Or that the twins have one soul between them?  Or what?"

Me: "They don't actually believe that life begins at fertilization, is the answer."

The Kid:  "Well, but if they did believe it.  How would they handle twins?  Does God put two souls in the egg he knows is going to split? Or..."

Me: "You are way over-thinking this.  They don't bother thinking about any of this in any kind of depth."

The Kid: "When does God put the souls in?  I mean, could he come along and stick an extra soul in after?  Does one of the twins not have a soul for awhile, and then --"

Me: "Some cultures used to kill one of a set of twins, you know.  Maybe because it's a demon."

The Kid: "But how would you tell which was the demon?  I mean, they're identical.  Also, how does God get the soul into the fertilized egg?  Is it like an automated process, or does he reach down and poke it in along with the sperm."

Me: (Putting back on my earphones) "Way over-thinking this."

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Books I'm Reading / Have Read: Recommendations

Here is my somewhat didactic list of books you might ought to read, if you haven't read them yet.

You'll notice these lean heavily to the SF/F side of the bookstore.  Don't act so shocked.

Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie. This is hand's down no fooling the best SF novel I have read this decade.  It's also causing a small amount of (insider-baseball) controversy, because of a gender-issue thing Leckie does with her pronouns.  That's only one bit of the book, but it is an important one, and one (apparently) deeply disturbing to the time-anchored SF writers / readers among us, who dismiss the entire book due to it.

The Rosie Project: The story of how a scientist who does not know he's on the autism spectrum, having determined he needs a wife, goes about attaining one.  This is probably the most charming of all the novels I have read this year.  Also an excellent example of your unreliable narrator.

My Real Children, Jo Walton: I've been a fan of Jo Walton since reading her Tooth & Claw, which is sort of Jane Austen but with dragons as the main characters (and highly recommended).  This, her latest book, kept me up and reading until three in the morning.  It's the story of a woman with lives in alternative universes, who finds (at the end of her life/lives) that she can remember both of them.  One choice changed everything.


The Kitchen House, Kathleen Grissom: Set 19th century Virginia, this reminds me a tiny bit of Octavia Butler's Kindred.  Only a tiny bit, though. It's a slave narrative that centers around an indentured Irish orphan child and the slaves who become her family.  Conflict arises as she comes of age and can't align herself with the white culture which claims her, but can't remain part of the slave culture.  This was a risky book to write (obviously), but Grissom navigates the tricky ground with success, mostly, and the book is a page-turner. (Trigger warnings apply,

THE KITCHEN HOUSE by Kathleen Grissom

Closer to Freedom: Enslaved Women & Everyday Resistance in the Plantation South. Stephanie Camp. I discovered this one through Historiann's blog.  It makes an excellent pairing to The Kitchen House.

A Discovery of Witches: I'm only halfway through this one, but I'm liking it a lot. The writing is lovely, and the author, Deborah Harkness, seems to be deviously and subtly interrogating many of the tropes common to vampire / romance novels in general. (Such as that women secretly want to be overpowered by dark, dangerous, infinitely superior men, and to be told what to do by these men.)  I also love this one for the academic background.  It's (somewhat) realistic portrayal of what life as an academic is like.  (Diana doesn't do enough teaching or dealing with students, is my only complaint.)

The Rabbi's Cat, Joann Sfar: I'm re-reading this because I'm teaching it.  It's a graphic novel about a cat that gains the power of speech after eating a parrot.  Set in 1920's Algeria, the book gives a charming picture of life in a cosmopolitan world and time, while also discussing some hefty ethical and religious questions. The art is lovely.

What are y'all reading that you recommend?