A nice, smallish, inclusive con that's like a family reunion. Don will be on panels and such all through the weekend.
Check Farpoint's website for more information.
For everyone who's shared their concern about my health, thank you. I'm feeling much better now.
Diabetes is a capricious condition. Usually I manage to keep the blood sugar spirits appeased, but this time around I lost the insulin lottery.
(For those who have no clue what I'm talking about, last weekend I had a severe low-blood-sugar crisis at Chessiecon. For the first time in my life, I had to leave a panel in the middle due to health.)
I apologize to everyone who might have wanted to see me and didn't. For the record, I'll be at Farpoint in February at the same hotel; please come see me there.
I owe enormous thanks to:
- Jo Hogan
- Carl Cipra, Morgan Stallard, and everyone else who backstopped me on panels
- My fellow panelists who covered for me
- Danielle Ackley-Mcphail who gave me oatmeal cookies
- The nameless fan who donated the pink medicine
- All the others who cared and were concerned
...And, of course, mypoor suffering husband Thomas G. Atkinson.
Thank you all.
It’s Friday, less than 3 days after Donald Trump’s Electoral College victory. Like the rest of the nation, I’m still in the grip of powerful emotions; it’s just too early for sober, rational reflection. Still, there are a few thoughts I feel compelled to share.
1. Blaming one another is not productive.
Yes, white people all have family and friends who voted for Trump. Yes, people of color all have family and friends who didn’t vote. Yes, some people voted for third-party candidates. Yes, some people stayed home because they wanted Bernie instead. We ALL bear responsibility, and we should ALL do everything we can next time around.
What’s important now is what we profess as one of our fundamental beliefs: We are stronger together. Our differences make us better. To put it in classic terms: “If we don’t all hang together, we will all surely hang separately.”
2. Going overboard on identity politics is nonproductive.
Making or believing assertions about “all Trump voters” or “all white people” is no more valid than doing the same about “all people of color,” “all Muslims,” or “all LGBTQ people.” Whatever side you’re on, if you hear yourself˜—or anyone else—saying THEY or THEM, please stop and reflect.
Let’s all try to learn and use the phrase “many but not all.”
3. Diversity includes those who don’t agree with us.
This is going to be particularly hard to remember, and even harder to act upon. I’d like to quote Jim Cummings, an old and dear friend of mine: “If you don’t have friends who disagree with you, then you don’t have enough friends.”
I’ll admit that right now I have a powerful, not-entirely-emotional urge to call for blue states to secede and form their own nation. That’s a familiar world to me: I wrote about such a future in Dance for the Ivory Madonna, which wasn’t exactly a dystopia. It certainly seems that many-but-not-all of my friends and I have little in common with many-but-not-all folks living in rural middle America.
One thought that’s been floating through my head since Tuesday night is “I feel like this isn’t my country any more.” That I feel unwelcome in this post-Trump world. I’m guessing that many of you have had the same thoughts.
Well, guess what? That’s EXACTLY what many-but-not-all Trump voters have been saying for quite a while. Read Arlie Russell Hochschild’s Strangers in Their Own Land. For what seem to me to be mostly emotional reasons, many-but-not-all folks in rural America have felt unwelcome in the pre-Trump world, have felt that this isn’t their country any more.
This feeling is something we now have in common.
I don’t know what to do with this. Many-but-not-all of my friends and I live in what I’ll call New USA; many-but-not-all Trump voters live in what I’ll call Classic USA. Neither of us feels particularly welcome or comfortable in the other USA. It hasn’t been getting any better over the last few decades. I think we’re stuck with this cultural divide for the foreseeable future.
Creating a country in which both groups feel welcome and comfortable is a daunting idea: squaring that circle is going to be very difficult.
4. CAN we live together?
In our federal system, some rules and customs apply to the entire nation, while others vary depending on state or locality. Can we apply this principle to both Classic USA and New USA? Things like traffic laws, construction regulations, and sales taxes change from state to state; maybe we just need to tweak the balance to better fit the two USAs?
Take the Second Amendment and gun control. A very serious case can me made for applying different gun laws to urban and rural populations. If you live in upstate Maine or on a ranch in Montana, a gun is an essential tool; if you live in urban Chicago or Baltimore, a gun is an imminent danger. Wouldn’t it make sense to tweak the Second Amendment to take such a division into account? (When the Second Amendment was written, there WERE NO urban areas as we know them today.)
The rub is that we’re a mobile people. From westward expansion to the Dust Bowl, we have a cultural tradition of getting up and moving somewhere else in the quest for a better life. Some of us get transferred for our jobs, or have to move to where the jobs are. Our families are spread out all over the place, and we want to be free to gather them together wherever we want.
Fifty sets of traffic laws and sales taxes are acceptable, but when we come to the realm of human rights, things are different.
As a gay couple, my husband and I have played the game of Married in One State, Not Married in Another. We would drive past an invisible border, and have to worry about car accidents: if one of us wound up in the hospital, would the other be allowed in to see him? If he’s covered on my health insurance, will it be accepted here?
Imagine two sets of laws dealing with public accommodations and religious freedom. In Classic USA, would any business be able to refuse to serve my husband and me (or our friends R and J, a straight interracial couple)? In New USA, would a Classic believer be forced to deal with someone they consider a heretic or unclean?
I don’t see how these two realities could be accommodated by a federal system. If we are to have one nation, then one or the other reality must control.
5. A two-state solution?
So are we left with secession? Balkanization? If we can’t live as one nation, maybe we could be neighbors. This is the world I wrote about in Dance for the Ivory Madonna, with the former United States divided into half a dozen different nations.
In an earlier century, we fought the Civil War to keep the nation together. I’m trying very hard to channel my inner Lincoln and try to figure out why “keeping the nation together” is a worthy goal.
I guess that boils down to the question “what does it mean to be a United States citizen?” If the answer is “to have a common culture,” then I think we’re losing that battle.
I see two visions of what it means to be a United States citizen. One is the argument from tradition: to be a citizen means to have the sort of common cultural heritage we’re taught in schools, common language, “the American Dream.” Another answer is the argument from philosophy: citizens share common values of the importance of diversity, the dignity and worth of all human beings, the desire and commitment to keep improving, to keep moving toward the “shining city on the hill.”
The argument from tradition looks to the past for our best days, and challenges us to live up to them. The argument from philosophy sees our best days always in the future, and challenges us to progress toward them.
Are these two arguments compatible, or are they mutually exclusive? If, as I suspect, they’re mutually exclusive, then would the two USAs be better served by separating? (And if they do, what about the massive disruption to families, individual lives, property, taxation, and…well, everything? Where do we draw the lines? What do the borders look like? What happens to people who are stuck on the wrong side of those borders?)
I don’t have answers.
6. What to do now?
All of this is long-term stuff. What about the short-term? What about today, tomorrow, next week, next year?
I can’t give anyone any answers. I have no hope or reassurance to offer. We live in a bitterly divided country, and folks who profess to hate me and mine are going to be in charge.
Sufi poets told the story of a great king who commanded his wise men to create a ring with the power to make him happy when he was sad. They gave him a ring with the following words inscribed on it: “This, too, shall pass.” While the ring worked its magic successfully, it also humbled the king when he was happy. I’ve only been around for 58 years, but already I see the wisdom of that ring.
It’s said that during the Watergate period, when Richard Nixon was drinking heavily, his senior aides told the staff not to pass through any nuclear launch orders, but to call the aides instead. During the Cold War, there were several “false alarms” (on both sides) that sent apparently-valid launch codes to specific installations—the soldiers in the bunkers and submarines did not act on those codes, but called for confirmation. There’s some sort of comfort there.
Bureaucracies have an enormous amount of inertia; they’re difficult to move. Authoritarians, having destroyed their enemies, inevitably turn on one another. A million reporters, professional and amateur, want to be the next Woodward and Bernstein and will be unceasing in their efforts to uncover scandal. Mr. Trump has already proven a propensity, given a bare modicum of rope, to hang himself. There’s some more comfort.
Here’s what I’ve settled on over the last few days—my way to go out the door and engage with the world without dismay or fear. Over the next year and whatever follows, I’m planning to sit back and watch the Trump Presidency self-destruct. I rather enjoyed that with the George W. Bush administration, so it seems a workable plan.
And there’s always the 2018 election.
…If, of course, there IS a 2018 election.
Authors Melissa Scott and Don Sakers had always wanted to collaborate on a project, but each attempt produced sprawling ideas and enormous casts of characters that couldn’t easily be confined to a conventional series of novels, much less to any shorter format. As electronic publishing opened up new formats and lengths, it became possible to imagine serial fiction again — and not just serial fiction, but the kind of serial fiction that would allow novelists to explore the sort of expansive, elaborate universes more commonly seen in comics. For the first time, Scott and Sakers could work at the scale their story demanded, without sacrificing character, setting, or idea. What’s in the story? Pirates. Judges. Weird physics. Desperate refugees. Struggling colonists. Missing persons and a mystery ship. A quest for human origins in a pocket universe. A thousand individual stories that together create a much larger tale.
Thanks to websites like Patreon to handle payments, and open-source website building tools like Drupal, the sprawling serial space opera The Rule of Five launches in September 2016, taking full advantage of the enormous canvas available on the web. Each month, Scott and Sakers will post an episode of at least 2000 words — a solid short story. All subscribers will be able to see each month’s episode plus the previous episode. Subscribers at higher levels can get a quarterly ebook compilation, access to all past episodes, and even a print editions containing each completed Season, as well as public acknowledgement for their support. For readers joining the series in progress, quarterly and seasonal compilations will always be available to bring them up to speed.
Taking advantage of change, The Rule of Five offers a new kind of serial science fiction, borrowing structure from comics and series television, but firmly grounded in classic space opera. The prelude is open to all at tinyurl.com/ro5prelude. Episodes will be hosted at rule-of-five.com along with background information about the series. Readers can subscribe to The Rule of Five at patreon.com/ruleof5.
Don will be appearing at Arisia, New England's largest and most diverse sf/fantasy convention, January 15-18 at the Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel.
Arisia is a great, huge, three-ring circus of a con, with lots of things going on throughout the four-day weekend. In addition to thought-provoking panels, presentations by guests, and multiple concerts, there are also dances, a masquerade, parties, and tons of cool people to meet.
This year I'm particularly excited to be one fo the adults assisting the kids' short story writing contest on Saturday. If you're a kid with an interest in writing, you definitely want to be there!
Don will be at Philcon this weekend (November 20-22, 2015).
He'll be onstage Saturday night as Emcee for the Masquerade, and working backstage most of Saturday helping contestants perfect their presentations.
Otherwise, you'll see Don wandering the Dealer's Room, at interesting panels, and (of course) in the bar.
Don will be hanging around the SFWA Pavilion all day Saturday and Sunday, and participating in several scheduled events:
- Meet the Author Social Saturday 7-8 pm
- Design Your Own World (panel discussion) Sunday 11 am - noon
- Science in Science Fiction and Fantasy (panel discussion) Sunday noon - 1 pm
Come on down to the Inner Harbor and see lots of great and fascinating SF/Fantasy writers.
The first issue of The Scattered Worlds and Beyond has gone out to subscribers.
If you're not a subscriber, here's what you missed:
- Welcome to the New Millennium (finally!)
- Year of the Dwarf Planets
- An Extinction to Celebrate
Plus: newly published, what I'm currently working on, my new favorite conspiracy theory, an obligatory hamster picture, on the Andersonville trail, and more.
If you'd like to subscribe to this quarterly treat, start by clicking here.
Bright Promise, the second book in the PsdiScouts series, is now available in Kindle format.
In the 26th century, psi-gifted teens from all over the Myriad Worlds come together as the heroic PsiScouts. Headquartered in the rebuilt Statue of Liberty, the PsiScouts struggle to make a difference in an often-hostile universe.
In the first of two adventures, three PsiScouts must travel through time on the trail of a madman whose plans threaten history iteself. Along the way, they meet some living legends and make some fast friends.
In the second adventure, a group of PsiScouts penetrates a vicious theocracy on a rescue mission that uncovers a terrible secret—a savage hunt where runaway teens are the quarry.
Fans of the Guardians of the Galaxy, the X-Men, the Teen Titans, and the Legion of Super-Heroes will certainly enjoy the exploits of the PsiScouts.
I want to talk about an issue of harassment and discrimination that came up at a con this weekend. I'm going to name the con, but first I want to make crystal clear that the issue was settled to everyone's satisfaction and that the con committee has done everything within their power to make things right.
Let me say that again: the con committee made everything right. For this particular con, the issue is closed with a very happy ending.
If it's all over, why talk about it at all? I have two reasons. First, I want to have this story out there to inspire and empower others who may find themselves in similar situations. And second, I want other cons to be aware so they can possibly avoid such messy situations.
A con illegally discriminated against LGBT fans by posting a "mature content, no one under 18 allowed" sign on an LGBT panel with no such content, while posting no sign on other panels with obvious adult content. We didn't get any satisfaction from the first con staffer we talked to. When we raised the issue to the full con committee, amends were made and the con intends to have a full track of diversity-in-sf/fantasy programming next year.
The long version follows, along with two morals and three irrelevant objections.
Don will be appearing at Farpoint 2015 in lovely Timonium, MD, February 13-15, 2015.
Farpoint is a small, very friendly con celebrating all sorts of creative endeavors. There are activities for all ages, plus some of the nicest people you'll meet anywhere.
If you've never been to an sf con before, Farpoint is a great place to start. Come for a day or for the whole weekend, and be sure to say hello.
Here's Don's schedule for Farpoint:
- Friday 2:00 pm: Panel: Geniuses in Fiction
- Friday 8:00 pm: Storytelling before Movie Night
- Friday 10:00 pm: Farpoint Book Fair
- Saturday 10:00 am: Reading (along with T. Eric Bakutis, David Allen Mack, and Steven H. Wilson)
- Saturday noon: Panel: What WON'T You Write?
- Saturday 1:00 pm: Panel: Big Bang Theory
- Saturday 3:00 pm: Autographing (Bring your e-reader with Don's ebooks on it, and you can get an autographed digital picture of yourself with the author.)
- Sunday 10:00 am: Panel: Animated SF
- Sunday 11:00 am: Panel: BBC Science Fiction
- Sunday 1:00 pm: Panel: Part-Time Writer, Full-Time World Sunday 2:00 pm: Autographing Autographing (Bring your e-reader with Don's ebooks on it, and you can get an autographed digital picture of yourself with the author.)
- Sunday 3:00 pm: Panel: Mapping a Story
He'll be appearing on the following panels:
Don is also reading along with James Cambias and Suzanne Palmer on Sunday at 10:00 am.
Hope to see you there!