Protest sign reading WE WILL NOT BREAK.

Phones suck. Friends rock. And civic engagement is sustainable.

This started as a Facebook post and got to the point where I could no longer countenance posting it as a status, so hello WordPress my old friend!

So we got together with some friends last night to drink, celebrate each incoming update from the ACLU, and call our reps, and it was GREAT. (I’m starting to think I should put “helps organize community events basically as an excuse to drink with friends and make them listen to her opinions on stuff” on my business cards.) Here’s some things I learned:

1. The Washington legislature has a system in place that allows you to comment on EVERY SINGLE BILL and have your comments sent to your state senator and representatives. Here’s the how-to. H/T to Jeff Petersen for mentioning this one! So remember that anti-protesting bill I mentioned last week, SB 5009? Or that anti-trans bathroom bill, HB 1011? Here’s a way to register your disapproval of those without ever having to pick up a phone.

hb1000-comment-on-this-bill

Here’s another really good one to express your support for.

To the best I can tell, the Alaska state legislature (Alaska being my home state and the place many of my readers are coming from) does not have a similar system to allow comment. However! The AK legislature’s site does list what bills are currently before the Senate and House, and where they are in the legislative process — prefiled vs. in committee, etc — and appears to have tools that will let you track specific pieces of legislation. (Plus they’ve got subject tags so you can find other legislation related to issues that are important to you! Like Anchorage Democrat Rep. Claman’s pro-contraceptive coverage bill, or the House Joint Resolution to repeal Alaska’s same-sex marriage ban.)

Seriously, one of the conclusions I’m coming to is that at most levels of government, they desperately want you to be involved and informed. The systems aren’t necessarily intuitive, but the information is usually out there if you (or people you know — hello, I’m a dramaturg!) are willing to dig it up.

2. Writing scripts takes a lot of energy, but once you’ve got the basic format down it starts to get easier. I crib a lot from The 65 (previously the We’re His Problem Now spreadsheet), but I’m learning quickly that the more specificity you can get, especially as you get down to a more local level, the better. Also, this should not have come as a surprise, but if you are holding a script written for a Democratic representative and have to try and adapt it for a Republican representative while you’re on the phone, you’re gonna have a bad time. Or at least I am.

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A Year of Reading Diversely: Final Tally

One year ago, according to Facebook, my friends Jéhan and Heather challenged me to take the Tempest Bradford Challenge: for one year, stop reading stories by straight white cis male authors, and read only stories by people who identify as female/queer/POC/trans/disabled. I blogged about some of this under the tag “year of reading diversely“. So how’d we do?

Books Read

This is a mostly complete list; I wasn’t smart enough to start Goodreads page or anything because I figured I’d be blogging about each book, more fool me. Starred books are books I did not finish. ♥’d books are books I had read before.

  1. Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie
  2. Sister Mine, Nalo Hopkinson
  3. Fledgling, Octavia Butler*
  4. His Majesty’s Dragon, Naomi Novik
  5. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, N. K. Jemisin*
  6. Under the Poppy, Kathe Koja*
  7. Binti, Nnedi Okorafor
  8. The Twilight Series, Stephenie Meyer*†
  9. The Vampire Diaries, L. J. Smith*†
  10. Dreamsnake, Vonda N. McIntyre ♥
  11. Collected Fictions, Jorge Luis Borges
  12. One Hundred Years of Solitude, Garbiel García Márquez*
  13. The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon, Richard Zimler
  14. Hurt Go Happy, Ginny Rorby
  15. Whose Body?, Dorothy Sayers
  16. Wind/Pinball, Haruki Murakami*
  17. Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie
  18. So You Want to Be a Wizard, Diane Duane* ♥
  19. Gaudy Night, Dorothy Sayers
  20. Strong Poison, Dorothy Sayers
  21. The Grown-Up, Gillian Flynn
  22. The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin
  23. The Door Into Fire, Diane Duane ♥
  24. Chalice, Robin McKinley ♥

†I include these for completeness’ sake and so you don’t get an idea that I was always terribly high-brow in my quest for authors. Also I read them for a job. No fooling.

Did I learn anything?

A few things about myself: I learned that audiobooks are awesome when you have long walking commutes, and that I read printed books a lot more when I have long transit commutes. I rediscovered a love of physical books that had waned for a while with the advent of smartphones. I learned that when left to my own devices, I reread favorite books a lot more than I seek out new stuff. I confirmed that I have almost zero interest in literary fiction, unless it’s genre fiction in literary drag, and even then it’s a tough sell. (Lookin’ at you, Borges and Márquez and Murakami. You too, Zimler.)

I learned a few things about access, too. I mentioned this in an earlier blog post, but one thing that happened was that I often had trouble getting copies of the books I wanted to read. I can get a copy of the latest James Patterson in any format I want with no waiting, but when I tried to get a copy of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms in e-book format (twice), I had to get on a waiting list. Ditto Ann Leckie; ditto Naomi Novik. It seems like there’s a high demand for genre books by women, but the supply doesn’t necessarily keep up. (To counterpoint, though, I also had to get on the waitlist to get a copy of The Brothers K by David James Duncan — a straight white male author if ever there was one — but that probably had a lot to do with the fact that Book-It Repertory was producing a theatrical version of it (which was also why I broke the “no SWM author” rule to read it, because I was working on the play (which was also why I read Raymond Carver who is even more of a straight white male author than David James Duncan))).

It was also, generally speaking, easier for me to grab a book by a female author than by a male author of color. If I had nothing to go on besides a title and the name of an author I’d never heard of, I was more likely to go for a visibly female name than to try and figure out if a male author was not white or not straight. (Though I did try. Often that information is not easily available, for understandable reasons.) I don’t remember exactly how I got turned onto Richard Zimler, but I think it must have been a happy accident that I discovered he’s an openly gay Jewish author — otherwise it’s very likely I would have passed him by. As a result, I’m not totally satisfied with myself in that aspect of this challenge. My list of authors read is heavily skewed towards (presenting as straight and cis) white women. I’d like to read more genre fiction by men and women of color.

Reading so many female authors did throw two aspects of the male authors’ style into sharp relief, though: the writing of female characters and the writing of sex. In some cases — Borges — the women were non-existent. In some cases — Zimler, Murakami — they were written competently but with broader, less interesting strokes than the male characters. And in most of the books I read this year by male authors, I found the discussion of (always heterosexual) sex boring as hell.

[Computer shenanigans ate the final paragraphs here, which is okay because I wanted to edit in something anyway.]

But did you enjoy it?

I did, for lots of reasons! I read a lot of books that became new favorites: the Imperial Radch series, Binti, the Borges stories, and the Lord Peter Wimsey books feature high on that list. I read some books that I enjoyed while also having some problems with them: I liked the mystery and history in Last Kabbalist while finding the sex scenes off-putting, I liked the imagery and poetry of One Hundred Years of Solitude while finding the pace too slow for my taste, I liked the world-building of Left Hand of Darkness while also wanting to throw the book across a train at that one death. I read some books that I liked fine, but doubt I’ll reread.

Some books I bounced off of pretty hard. I didn’t enjoy Fledgling, despite enjoying Octavia Butler’s Xenogenesis books a great deal. I know I need to give Murakami a second chance with something that’s not his first novel, because while I didn’t connect with Wind/Pinball, I found his foreword to the collection engaging and inspiring.

But I read so much more in the last year than I’ve read . . . honestly for years, maybe since my freshman year of college. I finished fifteen books! Eleven of them new to me! At some point I fell out of the habit of carrying a book with me everywhere, and in the past year I’ve gotten back into it. My library card has gotten a fantastic workout, and given SPL’s extensive audiobook collection on Overdrive and their Your Next 5 Books service, I expect to keep patronizing them.

So what’s next?

I’ll be honest, I’m looking forward to reading Stephen King again, especially with the Dark Tower movie slated for next year. I also want to give some of the books I didn’t finish another chance, and read some different stuff from the authors I didn’t quite connect with. And even as I pick up some of my favorite books up again, I want to keep this awareness of a wider range of voices in mind as I read more new-to-me stuff. Moreover, I want to carry it into the other stuff I read, not just fiction. Comics, plays, even research materials — I want to keep looking for the female, queer, non-white, disabled, non-Christian authors first.

I always say the solution to most problems is not to solely take away a bad thing: it’s to add more good things. It’s to tell more and more and more stories, not fewer — and it’s to hear more and more and more stories, too.

Profiles Theatre, rape culture, and abuse onstage and off

Content warning: Discussions of sexual harassment, abuse, rape, and violence against women.


survival

“survival,” keon loo.

It’s been quite a week to be female.

I thought I was going to come back to this blog to write something about how joyful I feel about Hillary Clinton becoming the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, because I have a lot of thoughts and feelings about her, and about representation, and about strong women I have known. I can’t even pick an article to sum up what I’m feeling so I can cheat and not write a whole post — there are just too many interesting pieces being written and published right now.

At the same time as my Facebook feed has been flooded with a head-spinning combination of joy and outrage over Clinton’s nomination, it has also been chock full of commentary about the Stanford rapist. (Warning: link has an autoplay video of the survivor’s letter to Turner.) Again, there are so many blog posts and articles and videos being made about this case that I don’t even know where to start linking.

And, among these, my community — the theatre community — is abuzz with Aimee Levitt and Christopher Piatt’s in-depth investigation of abuse at Chicago’s Profiles Theatre: Continue reading

A Year of Reading Diversely: Ancillary Justice

Recently, I asked my social circle for book recommendations — specifically genre fiction (sci-fi, fantasy, horror … basically anything that wouldn’t be called “literary” fiction by the New York Times), by authors who aren’t straight white men. My friend Jéhan mentioned K. Tempest Bradford’s challenge, which is based on the idea of reading only non-straight/cis/white/able-bodied/male authors for an entire year. At which my friend Heather, being a competitive sort, threw down the gauntlet and dared me to take up that challenge.

So here we go! A Year of Reading Diversely. First up:

Leckie_AncillaryJustice_TPAncillary Justice, Ann Leckie

Buy it here!

Check it out if you enjoy: Star WarsMass Effect, Battlestar Galactica, The Vorkosigan Saga

I started with Ancillary Justice because, well, I had a long list of authors and books, and Ancillary Justice was the first one that was actually available as an ebook from the Seattle Public Library. It seems telling to me that the very first thing I experienced when embarking on this challenge was an obstacle of accessibility. In many cases, SPL just straight-up does not have enough copies of books by authors from marginalized communities — women, LGBTQ people, people of color — to keep up with demand. I’m delighted to know that so many people in Seattle want to read Nalo Hopkinson and Octavia Butler, sure. But just as many people must want to read Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, which I was able to get immediately. Obviously there are best-selling authors from marginalized communities that I can check out easily, like Suzanne Collins, but my “Recommended for you” screen includes starts with James Dashner, Dan Brown, and George R. R. Martin.

Anyway, on to the actual book.

Ancillary Justice is told from the point of view of One Esk (alias Breq), an ancillary: a human body inhabited by a fragment of an AI that once ran a warship called the Justice of Toren. The novel opens with the narrator on a remote planet in the Radch empire, where she discovers one of her former captains lying beat-up in the snow outside a bar. For much of the first half of the novel, the narrative switches between Breq’s attempts to find a reclusive doctor with her extremely unhelpful captain in tow, and an extended flashback to Justice of Toren‘s time on a newly-annexed planet.

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But where’s my Promethea movie?

Black Widow movie poster by Alice X Zhang

Not a real movie. (By Alice X. Zhang, http://www.alicexz.com.)

Making the rounds of social media lately is the Daily Dot’s article “Why we may never get a Black Widow movie.” Some highlights:

As Andrew Wheeler of Comics Alliance pointed out, Marvel Studios will soon have made 10 movies starring blond men named Chris before it has made a film with a woman or a person of color in the lead role.

The most obvious explanation for Marvel’s lack of a female-led superhero movie is, of course, sexism. The explanation for the lack of a Black Widow movie specifically is rather more complicated.

… Johansson reputedly signed a six-picture deal, but after Avengers: Age of Ultron and presumably Captain America 3, she only has one movie left. If Marvel wants a Black Widow franchise, then they’ll have to renegotiate and pay her more money. And because Marvel Studios is known for paying its actors as little as humanly possible (unless they’re Robert Downey Jr., who can demand the big bucks), they’d probably prefer to launch a female superhero movie starring someone much cheaper.

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Track a problem to its source: A #YesAllWomen Follow-up

Image

“Peace is a virtue. A state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence and justice. It is not simply the absence of war.” — Wonder Woman #199.

As of right now, well over a thousand people have read my #YesAllWomen post in the last forty-eight hours, and I’ve gotten more comments, tweets, and new connections than I have since the not a pretty girl series.

Sooooo I’m guessing I struck a chord.

The positive support I’ve received from friends, acquaintances, and complete strangers is overwhelming. Seriously, I’m overwhelmed, I have a headache right now. People from Crypticon have reached out to me to talk about how they can make the con experience better. Other people have gotten in touch just to talk more about horror. And a lot of women have spoken up to say “Yeah. Yeah, that.”

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#YesAllWomen: Creeps and Crypts and the War on Women

ETA 6/4: Hey, I’ve written a follow-up post!

ETA2 6/4: Since this post was published Crypticon has put together a Code of Conduct prominently displayed on their home page, which is awesome. Thank you again to everyone who reached out, took my concerns seriously, and took immediate action.


 

I went to Crypticon 2014 to be creeped out, not to be creeped on.

Ugh, I sort of hate starting this post off like that, because in many ways I really enjoyed my first time at Crypticon. Elisa and I went primarily to meet the Soska Sisters, the directors of American Mary, a horror movie I highly recommend for people interested in female-centric horror and with a strong stomach. (There’s a graphic sequence of rape and several of graphic gore, surgery, and torture. Fun!) I was hoping to meet Doug Jones too, but timing didn’t work out. But we got to meet the twins, with Elisa dressed as American Mary herself, and they were incredible:

Jen Soska hugging Elisa while Sylvia looks on in GLEE

Believe it or not, these adorable ladies create horrifying yet compelling blood-soaked movies!

Jen Soska, Elisa as Mary Mason, Sylvia Soska.

LOOK HOW FREAKING CUTE THEY ARE THOUGH.

They were sweet, kind, and generous with their time, not to mention eloquent in their panel. Meeting them was inspirational in the best way. Continue reading