Two Cool Things

A couple of cool things that have gone down in the last couple of days:

1. I’ve been invited to be the Toastmaster for the 2008 version of ConFusion, the convention run by the Ann Arbor Science Fiction Association (the link goes to the site for their 2007 convention, which I’ll also be attending, as a normal human being). This is exciting for me since it’s the first time I’ve been invited to be a convention Guest of Honor in any capacity, and also because I have a fond place in my heart for ConFusion: it was the first non-Worldcon SF convention I ever attended. It’s also the place where, last year, a significant number of the attendees kissed my skull, and one fellow actually licked it. Hopefully, this won’t become a tradition. In all, one of my favorite SF conventions, so I’m delighted that it’s the first who asked me (and who I’ve accepted) to be a GoH.

Incidentally, I have no idea what I’m supposed to do as toastmaster. I am, however, an undisputed master of toast. Beware, dried, singed bread! I am your dread lord! Perhaps that will be enough. And I’ve got, uh, 15 months to figure out the gig.

2. The Android’s Dream has been selected as a December 2006 Book Sense Pick. Book Sense, for those of you who are not immersed in the world of bookselling, is an umbrella organization for independent booksellers to help them compete against chains and online stores by way of marketing and Web sites and the like. Book Sense maintains its own bestseller lists (which I’ve been on before – w00t!) and also a monthly guide to notable books, with the recommendations written by the booksellers themselves. That guide is what Android’s been picked for.

I’m pretty pleased. Looking at the picks for the year so far, there’s a lot of excellent reading there, and while there are a few fantasy books in the mix (and Julie Philips’ Tiptree biography), there’s not much in the way of science fiction so far this year, save for Alan DeNiro’s short story collection. So it’ll be nice to wave the SF flag with Alan to independent booksellers (especially since, to put it mildly, my book and his are very different). And of course, anything that raises awareness of the book with the people who will actually sell the book is a good thing. I’m happy that my book has the opportunity to make that impression.


The Case For RSS Feeds

Got an e-mail today from a reader letting me know he was taking me off his favorites list because he found that my indulgence in one particular general topic impeded his enjoyment of other topics I write about. There is nothing to be done for the problem of topics, of course; I write about whatever I want to write about here and that’s not going to change. Certainly I encourage people to suggest topics for discussion, but the converse is not true, i.e., you don’t get to tell what not to write about.

Also, given the number of people who visit the site and the myriad ways they’ve come here, it’s while it’s almost entirely the case that most people are less than enthused about any one topic I might discuss, which topic that is will vary by individual. Some people will wish I would shut up about politics, some people will wish I would shut up about writing, some people will get annoyed when I play with Photoshop. No one will be happy with me 100% of the time. Them’s the breaks.

However, I do think it’s a bit of a shame if my desire to discuss a single topic — whatever that topic may be — makes someone want to disappear. For those folks who discover they have an allergy to me when I discuss any one topic, allow me to suggest that you put Whatever into an RSS reader. The RSS excerpts for the site are 150 words long — usually enough to get an idea about what I’m blathering about this time — and from there you can decide whether or not it’s worth you time to click through and read the whole thing, or roll your eyes and ignore me until something more interesting to you comes along.

Certainly I don’t have a problem with people filtering my online blatherations. God knows I sort of skip some of my favorite bloggers’ entries when they get particularly screedy about something I disgree with them on, or don’t care about, and if I do it I can’t complain when someone does it to me. I really and honestly don’t expect any of the Whatever readers to enjoy every single thing I write, so please: If I annoy you sometimes, avoid the topics on which I annoy you. Unless you go out of your way to tell me what topics of mine you’re filtering out, I’ll be none the wiser and will happily putter on obliviously. Everybody wins.

You can find the RSS feed at the bottom of the Whatever sidebar; there’s also an Atom feed for those of you who want the full entry sent to your reader. They’re there to be used. Use ’em.


Meanwhile, In Ohio…

From today’s Dayton Daily News:

Domestic-violence law being challenged (registration required):

Ohio is one of those states that in a haze of gay panic (“OMG WTF! Teh gayz wants the marry!!!!11!!!!ONE!1!!”) passed a state constitutional amendment that not only defined marriage as between a man and a woman but went out of its way to make sure no other relationship could ever have the same rights and privileges as marriage. Yes, that sure showed the homos a thing or two — now they’ll have no choice in Ohio but to have the empty personal lives devoid of meaningful relationships that the particularly hateful have always demanded they have.

But it also means that when a straight male jackass beats the crap out of his live-in girlfriend, you know, maybe because she just wouldn’t listen, he can argue to the Ohio Supreme Court, as one Michael Carswell is doing after he was indicted on felony domestic violence, that he ought not be charged with the crime in question. Because the law covers “people living as a spouse” — and as we all know, no one in Ohio can live as a spouse except a spouse.

So go ahead, Ohio jackasses! Beat the crap out of your girlfriends! The worst you can be charged with is misdemeanor assault! You can probably talk your sentencing down to a fine and 15 hours of picking trash off the highway. Plus, it’s more difficult for your girlfriend to get a restraining order against you, which makes it easier for you to keep her in line. And remember, guys, nothing sticks it to the fags wishing for the rights and protections marriage provides than a straight man kicking in the ribs of his live-in lady. Yes, that’ll show ’em. That’ll show them all.

To be fair to Ohio, not every court in the state has determined that the domestic-violence law conflicts with the Ohio State Constitution. However, the 2nd District Court of Appeals, which covers the county in which I live, has ruled that it does. So in my hometown, you can’t be charged with felony domestic-violence if you pummel your longtime companion when she gets mouthy. But I suppose if she wanted protection from your fists, the bitch should have married you.

Meanwhile, the Citizens for Community Values, one of the conservative groups that helped pass the anti-gay amendment in Ohio, and “officially Associated with Focus on the Family and Family Research Council as a Family Policy Council in Ohio,” has filed an amicus brief supporting the guy who is charged with beating the crap out of his girlfriend. Naturally, the Citizens for Community Values isn’t arguing for unmarried men methodically abusing their girlfriends, per se. It’s just that the sanctity of marriage is so important to protect that if it means some shameless hussy living outside the sanctifying grace of matrimony has to forgo the full protection of the law when her guy pushes her down the stairs, well. Some sacrifices have to be made. Unless, of course, she was pregnant at the time. In which case I’m sure all these fine folks would be happy to charge the guy with endangering a fetus. One has to prioritize one’s community values.

What’s really awesome about this is that if the Ohio Supreme Court agrees that the domestic-violence law is unconstitutional, girlfriend thumpers in other states that have similar anti-gay marriage amendments in their constitutions can start to use this strategy in their states as well! It’ll be like a renaissance for unmarried abusers. The glory days, as it were, for gut-punching uppity chicks. And they’ll owe it all to conservative homophobia. Sure, it’s a little weird to get from gay panic to a free ticket for girlfriend abuse. But they’ll take it.

Thanks, social conservatives! You guys rock.


TAD Review on SF Signal

Here you go. It has one spoiler in it, but it’s easy to miss, so I suppose it’s only a semi-spoiler. And it’s also a positive review:

The Android’s Dream might be what you’d find in an Elmore Leonard novel if he were to write a science fiction story with Keith Laumer in Reteif mode – which is to say that it is equal parts crime story, diplomatic drama, political intrigue and science fiction adventure… This is one of those books that makes science fiction fun.

Groovy. I’m happy with the Leonard comparison, since the way I’ve been explaining to the book to non-SF readers is that it’s sort of what Elmore Leonard or Carl Hiaasen would write, if either wrote SF. So I’m glad that sensibility is coming through.

Also, I’m very pleased that what the reviewer came away with from TAD was that he had fun with it. “Fun” is pretty much the entire point of TAD; it really has no ambition other than just to amuse the hell out of the reader. Is amusing the hell out of the reader the way to critical respect, awards, and piles and piles of willing, nubile groupies? Why, yes. Yes it is. Especially the part about the groupies. Come to me, my wiggly ones!

Oh, all right: No, probably not.

On the other hand, let’s not suggest amusing the hell out of readers is not a laudible goal. One of the nice things about science fiction is that you can write with the primary goal of amusing the reader and get away with it, as opposed to most of, say, lit fic, which appears largely designed for the authors to serve notice to their former classmates at Bennington that, indeed, they can write their way out of a paper bag, so ha! Ha! They should have slept with the author after all!

Not that there’s anything wrong with lit fic. Or Bennington. I was accepted to Bennington, you know. Heck, a Bennington grad won the Booker Prize this year, for a novel that is praised for “illuminating the pain of exile, the ambiguities of post-colonialism and the blinding desire for a ‘better life,’ when one person’s wealth means another’s poverty.” Meanwhile, my book starts with a chapter primarily about farting an alien to death. Would I have written a book with farting, had I gone to Bennington? And would it have won the Booker Prize? These are the personal alternate personal histories of my life. Be that as it may, two roads diverged in the woods, and I, well, I took the one in which intestinal emanations were used for humorous effect. And that has made all the difference.

The point is, one of the nice things about genre is that writing simply for the joy of telling a fun story is not necessarily looked upon as entirely wasting one’s time or talent. It’s fun to have fun, but you’ve got to know how. Genre still knows how. I think that’s a good thing. Or at the very least, it’s a good thing for me.

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