This Thursday (and Elsewhen) in San Diego

Yes, I’ll be in San Diego this week, and all my events are on Thursday, the 24th. Here’s where you will find me:

1:30pm: Reading at the Grand Horton Theater, 444 4th Avenue (between Island and J streets). I’ll read a bit from Lock In, or I might decide to do something else. You never know! Be on edge!

9:00pm: I’ll be making an appearance at the LA Times Hero Complex party.

Thursday evening I may also be making appearances at w00tstock and/or the Geek and Sundry party, depending on several factors. Twitter will be the best place to find out where I will be that evening (and if I know earlier than that evening, I’ll note it here).

I’ll also be in town Friday and Saturday. Much of that will be for private business — I’ll be having meetings, y’all — but I might decide to park myself somewhere and do “office hours” at some point. Again, Twitter will be the place to learn about that. If I do office hours I will be happy to chat and/or sign books.

I will not be at the convention center or on the SDCC floor. Here are the reasons for that.

If you can’t/don’t see me this week in San Diego, I will be back on September 8, 7pm, at Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore as part of my Lock In tour. Details on my official tour schedule.

See you in San Diego!

My 80s Dance Set List from Detcon 1

I’ve been getting requests for the set list of songs that went into the 80s dance I DJ’ed at Detcon 1. I had a source list — songs that I selected as the ones ready to queue up — of 346 songs, with everyone from Africa Bamabaata to Cher to Stephen “Tin Tin” Duffy to Ozzy Osbourne on it. Of those, I ended up playing 45 songs, or about 13% of the available playlist. Those songs (as best as I can remember them — I was busy DJing at the time) are listed below, alphabetically by song as opposed to by order of play.

For those wondering how I chose which songs I was going to play, the answer is outside of the first two songs (“Let’s Go Crazy” and “Dancing With Myself”) two songs at midnight (“Time Warp” and “Rock Lobster”) and the final song (“Smells Like Teen Spirit”)*, I just read what the crowd seemed to be into, and also took requests. The overriding DJ philosophy was to give that particular crowd at that particular dance as much fun as possible over the course of three hours.

And now, without further ado:

The Detcon 1 80s Dance Set List!

Addicted to Love — Robert Palmer

Beat It — Michael Jackson

Bizarre Love Triangle — New Order

Blister in the Sun — Violent Femmes

Call Me — Blondie

Cars — Gary Numan

Dancing With Myself — Billy Idol

Dead Man’s Party — Oingo Boingo

Don’t You (Forget About Me) — Simple Minds

Genius of Love — Tom Tom Club

The Glamorous Life — Shelia E

Head Like a Hole — Nine Inch Nails

Hungry Like the Wolf — Duran Duran

I Feel For You — Chaka Khan

I’m So Excited — Pointer Sisters

I Want Candy — Bow Wow Wow

Jungle Love — The Time

Just Like Heaven — The Cure

Kiss — Prince

Let’s Dance — David Bowie

Let’s Go Crazy — Prince

A Little Respect — Erasure

Lucky Star — Madonna

Master and Servant — Depeche Mode

Mirror in the Bathroom — English Beat

Miss You Much — Janet Jackson

My Sharona — The Knack

Pour Some Sugar On Me — Def Leppard

Relax — Frankie Goes to Hollywood

Rock This Town — Stray Cats

Safety Dance — Men Without Hats

Sexual Healing — Marvin Gaye

Situation — Yaz(oo)

Sledgehammer — Peter Gabriel

Smooth Criminal — Michael Jackson

Super Freak — Rick James

Tainted Love — Soft Cell

Take On Me — a-ha

True — Spandau Ballet

Under Pressure — Queen with David Bowie

Walk Like an Egyptian — The Bangles

We Got the Beat — Go-Gos

* There were three songs not from the 80s that were played: “Time Warp” from the Rocky Horror Picture Show (because it’s a Michigan SF/F convention tradition to play that song at midnight); “Rock Lobster” by the B-52s (because I thought it the best song to follow “Time Warp”); and “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana (because it was the last song of the dance, and I think the song pretty much closed the door on the 80s era of music).

Also, because I haven’t said it before: Thanks to the Detcon 1 folks, and particularly Detcon 1 head Tammy Coxen, for asking me to DJ the dance. I had a ton of fun doing it, and I think the folks at the dance had a lot of fun as well. It was a personal highlight of a convention that was already pretty damn terrific.

Detcon, Briefly

Me and the wife at the Detcon 1 80s Dance Party, at which I was DJ. Photo by Al Bogdan.

I spent the weekend at Detcon 1, the North American Science Fiction Convention, held this year in Detroit, and had a pretty fabulous time. The convention was held at the Renaissance Center in downtown Detroit, and it was the first time I’ve been downtown Detroit for a couple of decades. Those hoping for a report on a blighted hellscape will be disappointed — we walked around downtown quite a bit and it was was perfectly fine; a decent number of restaurants and shops and such, with the extra added benefit of Canada on the other side of the water. I’d be happy to visit again soon.

I kept myself busy at Detcon 1 with several panels and events. All of my panels were good ones, which is a happy thing, since that’s not always a guarantee. But every panel had a good mix of smart panelists and engaged audiences, so I came away from each feeling pretty good about them. I also had an excellent reading, in which I was paired up with Jacqueline Carey. What she writes and what I write are sufficiently disparate that we both worked on the assumption it would be a fine time to introduce ourselves to at least some portion of the audience. It worked out pretty well, or at least, the audience didn’t divide into two camps and decide to have a knife fight. So we had that going for us.

My big event without question, however, was the 80s Dance Party on Saturday, for which I was the DJ. I had DJ’ed a dance party at a science fiction convention before — at Capricon, a couple of years ago — and on the basis of that I was asked to host a dance here. I overprepared just a bit, in that I had a playlist of 23 hours worth of music for a three hour dance, but it worked out well for me in that I had a lot of options for when the actual dance. The dance took place in a pretty ideal space (the 42 North lounge at the Marriot hotel) and the convention threw in a laser light show for free, so if I screwed it I couldn’t blame the location.

Fortunately, it does not appear that I screwed it up. The dance floor was full for the very first song (Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy”) and it was full for the last song (“Smells Like Teen Spirit,” because it was the song which officially closed the door on 80s music), and it was full for all the songs inbetween — which is, to my mind, is the relevant standard for a successful dance party. I also hopped about like a madman for three hours straight, occasionally going out on the dance floor myself, and at least once getting up on a chair to pump up the crowd. It was a ton of fun, but man, am I feeling it today. Worth it, though.  And I got offers to DJ other convention dance parties, so if this whole writing thing falls through one day, it’s nice to know I have a backup skill.

The only downside to Detcon was that on the way home I seem to have been hit with a case of sudden onset con crud and ended up crashing out in the back bench of the minivan for most of the ride home. I’m still fairly out of it; I suspect tomorrow will largely be spent sleeping and staring glassily into the TV. Again, worth it for such a fine weekend. I would do it again.

View From a Hotel Window, 7/18/14: View of Two Countries Edition

In the foreground of this picture is the United States; in the background, and unusually, south, is the great Nation of Canada. From these facts you may ascertain that I am very near the waterfront in Detroit. Also, when Steve Perry sings of someone being “born and raised in South Detroit,” he may be speaking of someone growing up, Eloise-like, in this very hotel, because as far as Detroit goes, this is as south as it gets.

Detcon1 is a very good convention so far; I had one panel yesterday which seems to have gone well, had dinner in Greektown and then hung about in the bar with friends until it was time to lose consciousness. In all, an excellent day. Today I have two panels, a reading and I’m taking part in the mass autographing. Which is to say a pretty busy day. I’m gonna get to it.

Off to Detcon1

By the time you read this, I will either be at or be very near to Detcon1, this year’s NASFiC (an acronym which, if you already know what it means, suggests you are exactly the sort of geek who will be at the convention already). Once there, I will commence with four days of general nerdery, and I will speak on panels, read from my work, sign books, and DJ what is sure to become the most infamous 80s dancein modern history. Can’t wait.

It does mean that posting here is likely to be sparse through Sunday (the end of the convention), however. As always, in trying times such as these, I suggest keeping tabs with me through the magic of Twitter. The last few tweets of mine are always on the sidebar here, but here’s my actual Twitter page. Keep it open and with you at all times (or, you know, just follow me on Twitter, which is the less dramatic but probably easier option).

Have a good weekend, y’all.

The Big Idea: Sarah McCarry

On the road again — or perhaps, on the road for the first time? Sarah McCarry is a writer who perceived a certain lack within a particular narrative trope. Dirty Wings is her attempt to address it; here she is to tell you about it, and the book.

SARAH McCARRY:

When I was nineteen or twenty I used to drive up and down the west coast like the length of the 101 was a trip to the corner store. I had fallen in love with someone who was good at getting into trouble, and then it turned out I had something of a knack for trouble myself. Out there at the edge of the world with the silvery mass of the Pacific at my feet, a wilderness of stars pricking to life in a darkening sky so big the bright spark of my own life shrunk to nothing—out there it was easy to believe that nothing much mattered, that any want I dreamed up was a reason to keep going, that running away and running toward were only different ways to tell the same story.

We don’t tell girls to set themselves free. My own life, up until the moment I left home, was a more or less ordinary one. I wanted something bigger, but I didn’t have the words to name the shape that size might take. When I was very young, I believed in dragons, thought there was one out there waiting just for me—waiting to pluck me out of the mundane (tormented on the playground, awkward, too mouthy, too smart, not quite right for a girl) and carry me into the fantastic, where the qualities that made me unwelcome among my peers would reveal themselves to be a hero’s gifts. But in a few years I saw that the idea of a story with a girl like me at its center was itself so fantastical that the dragons would’ve been more likely. I hankered after far horizons, but good luck getting there, young lady: the road is no place for a girl. There was a home in the world for clever girls—that I didn’t doubt. But I wanted to be more than clever. I wanted to be bad news.

“When a man steps onto the road, his journey begins. When a woman steps onto that same road, hers ends,” Vanessa Veselka writes in “Green Screen,” her magnificent essay on the lack of female road narratives. The older I got, the more often I met girls who were living the stories I wanted, the stories that taught me how to make my own life in their image: girls who hopped trains, hitchhiked alone across continents, vagabonded through other countries, bicycled solo for thousands of miles, wandered without company through wildernesses. But for the most part, those girls’ stories—our stories—are left off the printed page. We get dragons, sure; we can be sorceresses and princesses, witches and swordswomen, assassins and vampires and robber brides and queens. Sometimes we even get to be monsters. But a girl whose heart’s too big for her body, a girl whose whole self says go out the door and keep going—that girl’s still got to write her own book.

So I did.

Dirty Wings is about a lot of things: it’s about love and death and music, and it’s about what happens when old stories catch up with new ones—the old story, in this case, being the death-tinted romance of Persephone and Hades. Underworlds both literal and imagined, labyrinths within the heart and below the earth. It’s about the magnificent allure of truly bad decisions, and it’s a little bit about magic, and a lot about friendship. It’s about the wide salt home of the Pacific, and that ribbon of the 101 that’s stitched still, forever, through my heart as much as it is the hearts of the girls I wrote about: Cass and Maia, new friends and twinned spirits on a road trip that will alter both their lives.

But really what it’s about—what it’s about for me, anyway—is being that girl with her eye on the edge of the world, that girl who says yes to all the wild things, that girl teaching herself how to run for the sake of running, choosing the uncertain, writing her own rules. Telling her own story, drawing her own maps. That girl who decided not to wait around for dragons. I wanted a story about girls who made their own trouble, and so I wrote it. Here’s hoping you like trouble, too.

—-

Dirty Wings: Indiebound | Barnes & Noble | WORD Bookstore (signed copies) | iBooks

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s website and blog. Follow her on Twitter.

On Book Reviews at Whatever

One of those “post once for future reference” posts.

I’m getting a lot of requests for book reviews, many from indie/self-published authors who are, understandably, hoping to see their book talked about, but also from editors/publicists from established presses. So please allow me to note:

I do not regularly, nor do I plan to in the immedate future, review books here on Whatever.

The primary reason for this is simple: I have a finite amount of time, and that time needs to be spent on my own books. I don’t get paid for reading books; I get paid for writing them. The secondary reason for this is that I’m not a gentle critic, and I don’t expect that people asking for reviews would be happy with what I have to say if I don’t like their books.

This does not mean that I don’t read other people’s books; I do. I read them for fun and enjoyment, not with an eye toward formal reviewing. I may from time to time write a quick review or comment here about a book I particularly liked (or, and rather substantially more rarely, gripe about a book I didn’t like). This should not be construed to suggest I intend to regularly review books here.

In lieu of regularly reviewing books, I do the following:

1. I present the Big Idea feature here, in which authors talk about their books. Here is how to be considered for the Big Idea. Indie/self-pubbed authors: please note the criteria for inclusion.

2. I (usually weekly) note new books/ARCs that are sent to me, both here and on my Twitter account. As I take a picture of these books/ARCs, a physical copy of the work is required. Here is how to be considered for this particular feature. This is open to any author.

Either or both of these achieve what I suspect is the goal of most people asking for reviews, which is exposure here on Whatever. It’s also easier for me. Everyone wins.

Requests for reviews will largely be ignored. I don’t have time to respond to each review request. Sorry.

Editors/PR folks at established presses, I understand review requests are part of your boilerplate. However, please take a moment to update your contact information about me. I’m happy to consider your authors’ works for inclusion in the Big Idea feature, but please note that I will not request their participation. You (or they) must ask. Thanks.

The Big Idea: Sebastien de Castell

Author Sebastien de Castell dislikes knights — well, dislike may be too mild a word for it — and loves justice. Does that sound mildly contradictory to you? De Castell explains why it is not, and how his novel Traitor’s Blade aims for that justice through a new and unexpected class of hero.

SEBASTIEN de CASTELL:

I hate knights.

How is it that the biggest bunch of self-involved bullies in all of European history became the most prominent heroes in fantasy literature? These are the same brutish and brutal thugs who murdered, raped, and pillaged their way across Europe and the Middle East in the name of God (thanks a lot, Pope Urban II). Which pre-Madison Avenue public relations firm managed to convince us that knights – I mean, fucking  knights - were the paragons of honour and virtue in the Middle Ages?

Were there any  good knights? Sure. William Marshall, sometimes called the ‘Flower of Chivalry’ was probably an alright fellow, but he’s the exception that proves the rule. The vast majority of medieval knighthood was made up of noble-born thugs whose most positive contribution to society was due to the occasional accidental death that comes from charging at each other with long sticks on horseback for the entertainment of slack-jawed yokels.

The hell with knights. I’d rather write about heroes.

That little rant is what launched me into writing  Traitor’s Blade. I wanted characters that I could see myself rooting for–men and women without the advantages of wealth or military power who fought in service to an ideal rather than a particular church or nobleman or even their own personal honour. In other words, I wanted my main characters, Falcio, Kest, and Brasti, to be the opposite of knights.

I took my starting point from the  justices itinerant of England’s twelfth and thirteenth centuries. These were magistrates, appointed by the King and commanded to travel from village to village to hear cases, pass judgments, and ensure verdicts were upheld. A similar phenomenon existed in the United States, especially along the frontiers. In fact, Abraham Lincoln spent much of his early law career on horseback, travelling alongside a judge (the actual term ‘circuit court’ comes from the designated routes of these wandering magistrates.)

I was fascinated by how dangerous a life being a  justice itinerant might be. What happens when a baron or count decides he doesn’t like your verdict? Which way might the local knight or sheriff sway when his financial wellbeing is in the hands of the man you’re ruling against? Worst of all, what happens when the sovereign who appointed you dies? Those questions became the basis of the Greatcoats – the wandering magistrates of  Traitor’s Blade who dedicate their lives to bringing justice to those living under the capricious rule of the nobility only to be disbanded when the king who appointed them is deposed and killed.

With  Traitor’s Blade, I wanted to explore the struggle to keep alive an idealistic view of the law that is at odds with the very foundations of a feudal society. This meant recognizing that, while Falcio, Kest, and Brasti might be heroes to me, they wouldn’t be seen that way by the majority of the population in the world in which they live. Where the knights are admired and respected as military men in service to the will of the gods (which, miraculously, tends to align with the interests of the nobles who employ them), the Greatcoats are despised by the nobility and often reviled even by the peasantry who see them as having failed to bring the justice they promised.

Creating these anti-knights also meant thinking about tactical considerations. Where knights are designed for war, especially mounted combat, the Greatcoats are trained to be expert duellists. In a society like Tristia, the fictional country in which the novel is set, trial by combat is an idea that is ingrained into the culture. It made sense that the men and women who had to hear cases and render judgments might often need to uphold their verdict at the point of a sword. So while the knights wear heavy armour, the  Greatcoats wear, well,  coats - long, leather coats with thin bone plates sewn inside to provide some measure of defence against the weapons of their enemies while still being light enough to manoeuvre in for extended periods of time.  This also fit with the Greatcoats’ need to travel long distances at speed and be protected from the elements. Their coats contain dozens of hidden pockets with little tricks and traps and chemicals to help them survive the dangers faced by those whose role is in direct conflict with the powerful in society.

The more time I spent envisioning the Greatcoats, the more I found myself searching for other adaptations to the way laws are administered in a corrupted feudal society. Verdicts need to be remembered in order to be upheld and a large portion of the population in a country like Tristia would be illiterate. So the Greatcoats set their rulings to the tune of songs that people know – making it easier for people to remember. Verdicts also need people willing to do what’s necessary to uphold them, and so the gold buttons on the coats could be used to pay twelve men and women who would act as a kind of long-term jury and ensure the ruling was upheld after the Greatcoat left.

The process of developing a new societal role inside of a more traditional fantasy setting was without doubt one of the most fun parts of building the world of  Traitor’s Blade. I doubt that the historical  justices itinerant were much like my Greatcoats, just as the knights of European history have little in common with their modern portrayals. But I like to think that there was a spark of that idealism in those who once wandered the long roads in an effort to bring the machinery of justice to those who lived far outside the protection of the courts.

—-

Traitor’s Blade: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s blog. Follow him on Twitter.

An Interesting Quandary

I went over to Scribd and discovered that several titles of mine were on the site without my permission, which gave me an opportunity to try out Scribd’s DMCA reporting form and process. I’m happy to say that Scribd seems to be doing a fine job on that score: The elapsed time from report to removal of the content was about ten minutes. That works for me.

However, one title of mine, The Rough Guide to Sci-Fi Movies, I haven’t requested to be taken down yet. It’s not up on the site by permission of the publisher, because among other things, the book is currently out of print and the rights have reverted to me. I certainly haven’t given permission for the book to be there, either.

But as noted, the book is currently out of print — there might be a few copies still in bookstores, but not enough to represent any major economic benefit to me at this point, and no more are going to be made. I retain the rights to the work and may eventually do something with the contents of the book, but at the moment I don’t really have any solid plans. Which means that although the text is there illegally (and I can have it taken down), at the same time it’s not actually doing me any economic harm to have it up there, either. It’s not stealing sales from me because as an out of print book there are no sales to steal.

And so my position on it is kinda: Meh. I took down the books of mine that are still in print; if you want them, please pay for them or borrow them from a friend or your local library, that what bookstores, libraries and friends are for. But the out of print ones? For now I’m content to leave them out there. If I ever do get around to doing something with the text I might change my mind. Or I might change my mind because I’m mercurial. Until then, though, if you see The Rough Guide to Sci-Fi Movies on Scribd or anywhere else, have fun with it.

My Detcon1 Schedule

I’ll be at the Detcon1 convention this upcoming weekend, Detcon1 being the North American Science Fiction Convention for the year (and the NASFiC being the convention that gets run in the US/Canada when the Worldcon is on a different continent). It’s in Detroit, downtown. It’s not too late to come along — it should be a fine convention, not in the least because I will be DJing an 80s dance at it. Yes! Me! Finally, all those years of dance training will pay off! Or something!

In fact, here’s my whole schedule for the weekend:

Thursday, July 17

5pm: A Renaissance for Science Fiction

Chuck Von Nordheim (moderator), Saladin Ahmed, Anne Harris, John Scalzi, Ellen Denham, Carrie Patel

Our panelists discuss the theme of Poul Anderson’s Detention Guest of Honor Speech: authors should create “not merely clever variations on a theme, but stories which are about people and about science and about history and about art and about philosophy and about the way a mountain looks at twilight when the stars are just coming forth. That kind of science fiction is entertaining.”

Friday, July 18

2pm: Dealing with Bad Apples

Steven H Silver (moderator), Tim Miller, Mark Oshiro, Jesi Pershing, Diana M. Pho,John Scalzi

Trolls, creepers, or just plain jerks. We’ve all encountered them at cons and online. Panelists discuss tools–like comment moderation and harassment policies–for keeping foul and prejudiced people from chasing others out of our community spaces, events, and organizations. And what to do when “they” are “us.”

3pm: Fanzines and Professional Writing

Steven H Silver (moderator), Nicki Lynch, Roger Sims, Jim C. Hines, John Scalzi

At Detention a discussion by the editors of amateur magazines was sparked by Ed Wood asking, “Why weren’t fanzines as good as they once were and why were their writers no longer becoming top quality pros very often?” The panel lasted from about 11 p.m. Sunday until 4:30 a.m. What is the state of fanzines today? How have digital formats affected fanzines? What role do they have now in the career of a professional writer, especially compared to 50 years ago?

4pm: Reading: Carey/Scalzi

Jacqueline Carey, John Scalzi

Jacqueline Carey and John Scalzi read from their work.

Saturday, July 19

12pm: The Other Worldbuilding Panel: Gaming

Jon Davis (moderator), Mike Substelny, John Scalzi, Carrie Patel

Our panelists discuss worldbuilding techniques for video games, focusing on how stories are developed and told for interactive software titles.

10pm: ’80s Dance with DJ Scalzi!

Join DJ Scalzi for a retro dance. Wear your ’80s on your sleeve!

Sunday, July 20

12pm: Creators and Brand Identity

Beverly Bambury (moderator), Martin L. Shoemaker, Sean Mead, John Scalzi

Neil Gaiman. John Scalzi. Would they be mid-list authors in a world without the Internet? Can you be famous in 2014 only by writing or making art? How does a creator build a brand?

I’ll note that for the 80s dance I have (I think) two hours for the dance, and 22 hours worth of music ready on my dance playlist. Because I believe in overpreparation. It’s gonna be fun.

I should also note that there is supposed to be a mass autographing session at 8pm on Friday. I am likely to be there if you wish to have books signed.

When I am not at panels or events, I am likely to be in the bar, per tradition. Feel free to say hello!

See you at Detcon1, I hope.

Lock In on the August 2014 LibraryReads List

This is a nice way to start the week: Every month, librarians pick the 10 books they are most looking forward to, out of all the books published that month, in the Library Reads List. And for August, Lock In is one of them. That’s really cool. Note that the Library Reads List is across all genres, not just science fiction and fantasy, which makes it even cooler — it’s nice to be peered with every kind of fiction (also on the list for August: The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman. Awesome).

There’s more happy news for Lock In coming, but I’m waiting to find out when I can share it. When I can, I will. In the meantime, this is certainly more than good enough. It’s a lovely thing to know librarians like your book.

The Lowest Difficulty Setting in Action

I noted a couple of years ago that Straight White Male is the lowest difficulty setting in the game called life (in particular the Western civilization variant of it). This annoyed many a straight white male, who didn’t see his life as being particularly “easy.” Noting that “lowest difficulty” is not the same as “easy” did not assuage this agitation. And well, I can understand it: If you genuinely think your life sucks — and it may! — it may be hard to imagine that you still get advantages other folks don’t.

So maybe this will help: A 25-year study followed the experience of nearly 800 children in Baltimore, from first grade into adulthood. Half their families were low income, many with parents who had not finished high school; 40% of those low-income kids were white.

A couple of relevant points from the article:

Looking at where these children started in life and where they ended up, the study results are troubling but clear: At 28, hardly any of the children from a disadvantaged background, black or white, had finished college.

But even without the benefit of a college degree, whites, and white men especially, had vastly better employment outcomes. At every age, the white men experienced shorter spells of unemployment, were more likely to be working full-time and earned more.

And:

[T]he consequences have been especially dire for African-Americans. As young adults, African-American men had fared much worse than whites in the job market, even though they and their white counterparts had about the same levels of education and the whites reported higher rates of marijuana and heavy drug use and binge drinking…

Indeed, throughout the course of our study, it was clear that African- Americans face greater barriers to employment. Having an arrest record or failing to complete high school were less consequential for white men than for African-American men: 84% of whites without a high school degree were employed at 22; among African Americans, just 40% were.

And this is the point of the lowest difficulty setting metaphor. It isn’t that folks who are straight, and white, and male, can’t or don’t find themselves on the bottom rungs of the socio-economic ladder. They can and do, and there’s no doubt that it sucks. But even then, they can catch some breaks that others — in this particular study, black men — don’t (or don’t catch as often).

Which is to say: Even as much as your life blows, straight white dude, the black dude in exactly the same situation is likely to have it worse. And not because of anything he (or you) did. Just because it’s the way things are.

This study applies specifically to Baltimore, it appears, and factors in Baltimore’s own history of racial and cultural biases. But I would not in the least be surprised if other studies in other major cities across the US (at least) cropped up similar data. Baltimore is not exactly unique in terms of its racial dynamics. Nor does it seem that the authors of the study would be surprised; the sales copy of the book the above article is based upon notes: “[Baltimore's] struggles with deindustrialization, white flight, and concentrated poverty were characteristic of most East Coast and Midwest manufacturing cities. The experience of Baltimore’s children who came of age during this era is mirrored in the experiences of urban children across the nation.”

Now, bear in mind that when I said “maybe this will help,” that I don’t actually expect the sort of straight white man who fervently believes that is life is harder than anyone else’s, harder than anyone else can possibly imagine, and that society is even now feasting upon his set-upon bones, will pause to consider the data above. For that sort of dude, mere data are not nearly enough in the face of certain belief. For everyone else, including the straight white males who aren’t already conflating their own personal unhappiness with society squishing straight white men in general like bugs, this might be useful.

(Here’s another take on the data, at Science Daily (but largely written, it appears, by Johns Hopkins’ PR folks). There’s more in the study than just the one aspect I’m highlighting here, all of which are pretty interesting.)

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Quick Review

It’s very good. As others have noted, it’s probably the smartest franchise film of the summer, which could be textbook damning with faint praise, but isn’t. It’s also probably more accurately titled Dawn of the Planet Where Paranoid Assholes Really Have Done Their Level Best to Ruin Everything, which means, obviously, one could easily read lots of parallels into the real world into it. It’s not exactly a cheerful film, is what I’m saying. But well-written, well-acted, well-directed. It’s worth your time.

On a technical note, there’s not a moment in the film that I spent thinking about the fact I was looking at CGI apes, which given the number of the apes on screen, and the amount of screentime the apes have, is pretty remarkable. Credit here is split equally between the screen-capped actors (Andy Serkis most notably, but also many others) and the effects folks. We’re on the other side of the Uncanny Valley of the Planet of the Apes.

(Note: I saw the film in 2D, not 3D. It works very well in 2D; I suspect the extra dimension isn’t really necessary or even desirable.)

How I am Spending My Saturday

I’m signing signature sheets for the Subterranean Press limited signed edition of Unlocked. The amount you see there is what I’ve signed so far; subtract that from the height of the box to the right, and the height of what you have left over is how much I have yet to sign. So the day will consist of me watching movies while I sign my name more than a thousand times. I’ll be pacing myself so I don’t end up being a hand cramp attached to a body. There are worse lives to have.

Hope your Saturday is awesome. See you tomorrow.