August 30, 2014
Spoiler thread for Lock In by John Scalzi
Posted by Teresa at 11:25 AM * 33 comments

Lila’s requested a thread so she can talk about Lock In without spoiling it. Good idea. Contents enclosed.

August 28, 2014
The first four sentences of Craft of Deyng
Posted by Teresa at 06:15 PM * 47 comments

Like it says on the box:

SEn the paſſage of this vrechit warlde, the quhilk is callit dede, ſemys harde, perelus, ande rycht horreble to mony men, alanerly For the wnknawlage at thai have thare-of, tharfore this lytill trety, the quhilk is callyt the craft of deyng, is to be notyde & ſcharply conſederyt to thaim that are put in the fech[t]inge of dede; For to þaim, ande to al vthere folk, It may awaill rycht mekle till have a gude ende, the quhilk makis a werk perfyte, as the ewill end wndois al gud werk before wrocht. The fyrſt chepture of this trety begynnys of the commendatioune of dede, Fore ded, as haly wryt ſais is mar pretiouxe and worthy, is maiſt terreble, of al thing that may be Thocht. Ande in-ſamekle as the ſaull Is mare pretious & worthy than The body, in-ſamekle is the ded of It mare perulus and doutable to be tholyt. Ande the ded of synfull man, but ſufficiant Repentans, is euer ill, as the dede of gude men, how ſoding or terreble at euer It be, is gude & pretious before gode: For the dede of gude men is nocht ell bot the paſing of perſonis Retwrnynge fra banaſynge, offputyng of a full hevy byrdinge, end of all ſeknes, eſchevyng of perellys, the terme of all Ill, the brekinge of al bandys, the payment of naturell det, the agane-cumynge to the kynde lande, ande the entering to perpetuall Joy and welfare; And tharfore the day of ded o neide men is better than the day of thar byrthe; And ſa thai that ar all weill ſchrewyne, and deis in the faithe and ſacramentis of haly kyrk, how wyolently at euer thai dee, thai suld nocht dreid thare ded; Fore he that valde weill de, ſuld glaidly dee, and conferme his wyll to the wyll of gode; for ſen vs behwys all de o neid, and we wat noþer the tyme nor the ſted, we ſuld reſaue It glaidly, that god and nature has ordanyt, & gruche nocht thar-wyth, ſen It may nocht be eſchewyt, For god, at ordanyt ded, ordanyt It fore the beſt, ande he is mare beſy fore our gud than we our ſelf can ore may be, ſen we ar his creaturys and handewerkis; and tharfore al men that wald weill de, ſuld leir to de, the quhilk is nocht ellys bot to have hart and thocht euer to god, and ay be reddy to reſaue the ded, but ony murmwr, as he that baide the cumyne of his frend; & this is the craft that al kynd of man ſuld be beſye to ſtudy in, that is to ſay, to have his lyf, how velthye or pure that It be, takyne In paciens that gode sendis.*
Because I like it, that’s why.

Those are some fearless spellings, and that last sentence is epic.

August 27, 2014
Lichtvergadering
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 04:23 PM * 23 comments

Just a reminder: we are having the Dutch Gathering of Light on Sunday, August 31 (that’s this Sunday!) at Proeflokaal de Prael. This is your chance to hang out with Patrick and Teresa, and maybe that other mod who keeps hanging about the place. In addition, there will be many fine members of this community, and one or two people whom I have invited because they might like us.

Note that there are two locations for de Prael, the brewery and the tasting room. This is the latter. Its address is Oudezijds Armsteeg 26, 1012 GP Amsterdam, and its precise position may be ascertained with the assistance of many of the fine mapping programs avaialble on this here internet.

The intention is to gather at about 1:00, drink some beer, eat some hapjes, and generally hang about for a reasonable number of hours. (I cannot say what constitutes “reasonable” in this context*.)

Events, clarifications, and the answers to logistical questions will be answered in-thread on the day. You can also track me down as evilrooster on Twitter.

Be there, or be…elsewhere.


* Some would say that the last three words there are extraneous. That is a base lie and a calumny, and any who say it should suffer a horrible fate.

August 24, 2014
American Canyon quake
Posted by Teresa at 06:37 AM * 22 comments

Are the Californians okay? How was your earthquake?

August 17, 2014
MidAmericon 2
Posted by Patrick at 02:34 AM * 109 comments

Today in London, the right to host the 2016 World Science Fiction convention was granted to the group bidding to hold it in Kansas City, Missouri. Their Worldcon will happen 40 years after MidAmericon, the only previous Worldcon held there.

MidAmericon 2, the 74th World Science Fiction Convention
August 17-21, 2016, in Kansas City, Missouri

Guests of Honor:
Kinuko Y. Craft
Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden
Tamora Pierce
Michael Swanwick

Toastmaster:
Pat Cadigan

The original MidAmericon, the 34th World Science Fiction Convention, was held September 2-6, 1976. It was my first Worldcon. I was seventeen years old. I can’t begin to list all the things that happened there that would affect the rest of my life. Some of them I was present for. Some I discovered only years later.

Among the people I met for the first time at MidAmericon: Paul Williams, whose later importance in our lives I have yet to manage to write about. In brief, Paul is the person who, in 1983, discerned that the two of us needed to be science fiction editors in New York City, instructed us in the steps necessary to accomplish that, and activated his remarkable network in support of making it happen. If we had never known Paul we would be living substantially different lives.

Another person I met for the first time at MidAmericon: The great science fiction editor Terry Carr, my and Teresa’s role model in so many things. Terry’s entire life was the canonical demo of how “fan” isn’t the larval form of “professional” but a co-existing state. He died in 1987, age 50. We’re still pissed at him about that.

Among the things that happened at MidAmericon: The scrappy, inexperienced, only slightly-organized science-fiction fans of Phoenix, Arizona, with whom I was socially affiliated despite not having lived there since May, 1975, unexpectedly defeated the long-established Los Angeles group in the site selection for the 1978 Worldcon. Which we promptly announced would be named “Iguanacon II.” (There was never, except in an obscure work of fanzine fiction, an “Iguanacon I.”) Setting in motion a tremendous cascade of events and connections, some good, some dreadful. We should never have tried to run a Worldcon. We pulled it off.

Among the people I didn’t meet at MidAmericon: Tom Doherty, then the new publisher of Ace Books. It was Tom’s first worldcon as well.

Among the people who weren’t at MidAmericon: The young Teresa Nielsen, who I knew through an APA of which we were both members. She had planned to attend but was waylaid by illness. We met in person, in Phoenix, just a few weeks later anyway. By then we were both members of the fledgling committee to actually run the 1978 Worldcon. We didn’t become Patrick-and-Teresa until a year and a half later, in the final epic pre-Iguanacon months of drama, bloodshed, heroism and betrayal. I think it was sometime after the Catalog of Ships but before the defeat of Achilles. Memory is treacherous. You’ll have to ask someone else.

Here in the endlessly strange future, I can’t begin to tell you how honored Teresa and I are to be among the guests of honor at a World Science Fiction Convention. And I can’t possibly express how appropriate it feels that this should be happening at a Worldcon in Kansas City. From both of us, thank you to the lovely KC people who invited us. We’re looking forward to it more than we can begin to say.

August 15, 2014
The Guardian, or at least the writer of an unsigned editorial therein, gets it
Posted by Patrick at 06:10 PM * 91 comments

Check out the third link from this unsigned editorial. Wait, you don’t need to, you’re already there.

Hello from Loncon, which is going very damn well.

August 14, 2014
Gatherings of Light: Worldcon and Amsterdam
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 03:13 AM * 51 comments

This post is intended to index and expand on the currently planned Gatherings of Light. I’ll be editing it as more information becomes available/more decisions are made.

Please note, by the way, that lurkers are expressly welcome to come to these gatherings! You may be urged to de-lurk, but only because we will probably turn out to like you, and want to hear more from you. And you’re totally allowed to say “commenting is just not my thing”, or “I’ll think about that” and stay in lurkerdom.

  1. Thursday 14 August, Worldcon, 7:30 PM, meeting at the tree in the Fan Village
    We will meet and decide on a place to go from there, departing at about 8:00. actually, we’ve kidnapped a table by the tree. Come to the fan lounge.I will then post the location here, and anyone available later is welcome to join us. (special thanks to iamnothing for getting this ball rolling)
  2. Saturday 16 August, Worldcon, 7:30 PM (tentative)
    There may be a second gathering on Saturday evening. This is not yet certain. Discussions about whether this should go ahead in this thread or the Making Light at Worldcon thread. Updates here if we make a decision.
  3. Sunday 31 August, Amsterdam, 1 PM, Proeflokaal de Prael
    For the Continental crowd, a gathering before Patrick and Teresa hop the pond. The location is a tasting room/pub attached to a local brewery, right near Centraal Station. Please comment in this thread if you’re coming so I can update them with numbers.
August 06, 2014
Toni Weisskopf gets almost everything wrong about the Futurian Exclusion, but we like her anyway
Posted by Teresa at 10:45 PM * 337 comments

I like Toni Weisskopf. I’ve got absolutely nothing against her personally. But I’ve had a tab open on her essay The Problem of Engagement since it was published, and I want to close it.

Thesis: Toni has somehow gotten hold of a very tendentious version of the Tale of the Futurian Exclusion. She needs to read some primary and near-primary sources on the period, which will mostly be Fred Pohl’s and Isaac Asimov’s memoirs, but that’s not suffering. Other suggestions will be gratefully appreciated. Thank you.

Toni begins:

The latest fooforaws in the science fiction world have served to highlight the vast cultural divide we are seeing in the greater American culture. SF, as always, very much reflects that greater culture.
Science fiction, both the literature and its community, has always reflected its time, and the contexts in which it exists. Nonskiffy political topics have always been a part of that context — and necessarily so, because science fiction is a massive assertion of real-world causality. There has never been a time when politics were not part of the general discourse of our genre.*

Personally, I’m made nervous by language like “the vast cultural divide we are seeing in the greater American culture.” When you see the very complex subject of cultural divides being reified into a single big cultural divide that’s All About America and is split along the red/blue line, odds are you’ve run up against far right’s “culture wars” agenda.** It’s a decaying old hunk of fish that no one I know of wants to to see dragged into the house.

It is also nothing new.
If such a thing as that single great cultural divide existed, which I deny, and specifically existed in SF, which I strongly deny, it would unquestionably be a new thing. Not only has politics always been part of the discourse of SF, but the politics discussed have always been all over the map. For example, the Futurians, who tend to get referred to as though they constituted a single unified political faction, included a card-carrying communist, a Trotskyite, a kindasorta fascist, and an Alf Landon supporter.

To the best of my recollection, the closest SF has ever come to a formal division of the house was that time a bunch of SFWAns took out ads to express their opinions, pro and con, on the war in Vietnam. Let me assure you that the fact that two SFWAns agreed about Vietnam was no guarantee that they agreed about anything else.

When you add culture to the politics, SF’s opinions become much more diverse. They could only be mapped along a single line of division if the mapmaker were Benoit Mandelbrot.

When fandom was first starting
Fandom had been up and running full-tilt for years. The Futurian Exclusion was not the kind of fight that happens between strangers. NYC fandom had been in a state of constant political flux, and throughout that time, the factions and individuals that would be involved in the Exclusion incident had sometimes been allies, oftener been opponents, and frequently gotten up each other’s noses.

Times were hard. People had to make their own fun.

there was the “Great Exclusion Act”
Later, quieter writers have been known to just refer to it as the Futurian Exclusion.
when a group of young, excitable, fanboys
If any single phrase has kept me from closing the tab on Toni’s essay, it’s that one.

It’s hard to explain just how wrong it is. Almost everyone involved in that convention was young, and while I don’t see the need to describe them as fanboys, all of them could be described that way.* The Futurians were no more excitable — arguably, they were a shade less excitable — than the three guys running the convention.

Those are lesser points, though. The central point is that the Futurians were one of the single most important and influential groups in the history of science fiction. The six excluded fans were Frederik Pohl, Donald A. Wollheim, Robert Lowndes, Cyril Kornbluth, Louis Gillespie, and John Michel.

You probably aren’t familiar with the last two names, but if you know science fiction, you know the other four. (Even more Futurians.) Lightly dismissing them as “a group of young, excitable, fanboys” without mentioning their names suggests you’ve either gotten hold of a very weird version of the story, or you’re trying to make a case in which major and well-known facts are inconveniences to be avoided. Since it’s Toni, I just think she needs to read some more reliable sources before she tries this again.

attempted to spread their political/fannish feud propaganda at the first Worldcon in New York,
I very much doubt that Toni has any idea what that flyer said. IIRC, there were no surviving copies, so no one really knows. [Hurrah, I was wrong! Dave Kyle saved a flyer, and published it over at Mimosa, so now we can see what all the fuss was about. IMO, it’s too breathless and pushy to be really first-rate agitprop — likelier to turn off newbies than enlist their sympathies — but isn’t over-the-top flaming by fanzine standards of the day.**] … The flyer was described at the time as “Michelist”, which if you’re being parsimonious just means it came from the Futurians. And since New York fandom was awash in nonfannish politics during that period, there’s no justification for labeling it “propaganda”, as though it were singularly political in ways that other fan publications of the time were not.*
and were not only prevented from doing so but not allowed back into the con.

What happened, roughly speaking: the “Triumvirs” (Will Sykora, James V. Taurasi, and Sam Moskowitz), who were running the convention, were a little slower and a little less political than, and chronically at odds with, the “Quadrumvirs” (Pohl, Wollheim, Lowndes, and Michel). Their tendency to get up each other’s noses was IMO more a clash of personalities than anything else.

The extent to which the Exclusion was prompted by anything the Futurians did onsite on the day is not entirely clear. Apparently the Triumvirs had been talking in advance about doing something of that sort, and they made reference to some kind of vaguely described trouble at an earlier gathering in Newark. IIRC, the flyers weren’t read and given thoughtful consideration; they were grabbed and stuffed into the garbage. Six Futurians weren’t allowed to enter and attend the convention, but at least four were (Dave Kyle, Richard Wilson, Jack Rubinson, and Leslie Perri).

It wasn’t handled well. As Fancyclopedia 3 says in its entry on the Exclusion, “The reaction of fandom as a whole, while not necessarily pro-Futurian, was very definitely anti-Exclusion.”

All fandom was aflame with war!
Sorry, I can’t bear to let that stand. The correct line is All fandom was plunged into war.
(The fact that this line is a cliché
It’s a fannish catchphrase.
is also a clue that fandom is not, and never has been, a calm peaceful sea of agreement.)
No one who has any acquaintance with fandom thinks it is. One has to wonder at the perceived need to deprecate Pohl, Wollheim, Lowndes, Kuttner, et al. for one episode of interpersonal friction during a period that was rife with them.
The reason we have a fandom to disunite now, is because calmer heads prevailed.
No. Fandom just got better at being itself.

We have fandom because fandom wanted fandom to happen, and made it happen, and liked the results, and so did it again. It rests on the innumerable shoulders of the fannish community, and is built by their hands and uttered by their mouths. Some of its very colorful history has involved feuds, standoffs, and other expressions of conflict. A good deal of fandom’s neverending oceanic braided conversation has been political, in one sense or another; and the fannish discourse would be poorer without it.*

Bob Tucker in particular, with intelligence and humor,
Lest anyone be confused about this, Bob Tucker was not at the first worldcon. He didn’t go anywhere near it. I don’t know whether she knows it, but Toni is now talking about Tucker’s long-term influence on early fandom. He wasn’t the only fan who took fannish institutions less than seriously, and encouraged others to do the same, but for a long time he was the most prominent and influential of them.

Like stromatolites making oxygen, the process of making fandom funnier was a gradual one that stretched out over many years. If you’re interested, while you’re checking out Bob Tucker’s fanwriting you should also check out Robert Bloch, Walt Willis, and Burbee and Laney.

led fandom to the idea that it ought have nothing to do with greater world politics, but should concentrate on the thing we all loved —
Oh, no no no. That is so wrong that the internet has no standard meme capable of expressing how wrong it is.

What Bob Tucker, rising first and shining best, understood before anyone else did was a great truth: fandom isn’t about anything but itself. Fandom is about fandom. Fanzines and conventions are congenial venues for a particular kind of conversation loved by our oddball population of people who at some point in their lives have probably read a great deal of science fiction and fantasy, but don’t necessarily feel the need to talk about it at every opportunity.

No one has ever taught fandom that it ought not have anything to do with the politics of the larger world. Tucker sure didn’t do it, especially in his professional fiction, which you should also check out. What he suggested in his fanwriting was that fans and fandom weren’t obliged to be political, and that some of the political beliefs being espoused by members of the SF community were very silly. Which? True.

— but should concentrate on the thing we all loved, that being science fiction.
No way. Tucker knew better than that.

Fandom at its best is notorious for talking about anything other than science fiction — though mind you, it’s great at talking about the genre when it wants to. Tucker got that. You’d have to be the Recording Angel to know the answer to this one, but my guess is that he held the lifetime record for number of times he had to listen to bewildered complaints about fanzine articles being about subjects other than SF and science. Perils of being an early adopter.

Midwestcons were Tucker-shaped occasions, and he was their resident deity. I never got to go to one, but stories about them were a staple of my fannish youth. Midwestcons were known for their eclectic mix of fans, and for having no programming whatsoever. Everyone just hung out by the pool and talked. People would travel long distances to attend them who never ran into each other at any other point in the year because they normally moved in such different fannish circles. Basically, it was a convention for fans who liked Midwestcons, whoever they might be.

(Does this inform my understanding of site moderation? Of course it does.)

(Mind you, his sympathies were with the ones who were excluded, but he was able to overcome his own political inclinations for the best of fandom.)
The idea that Bob Tucker gave up an entire range of conversations he found interesting in order to push a lifelong agenda of forcing fandom to only talk about certain subjects is deeply, deeply weird.
The fact that fandom as an open culture survived more than seventy years is a testament to the power of that simple, uniting concept.
That is not how fandom works.

However, if that were how fandom works, Toni wouldn’t have to preach it. It would simply be the way things are.

I don’t see how forbidding a range of subjects that fans naturally talk about can amount to an open culture. Even more, I don’t see how Toni thinks it’s possible to talk about science fiction without talking about politics. As I said at the beginning, SF is built on massive assertions of real-world causality: “If this goes on, these things here will happen.” Any time you do that, you’re making a vast number of assumptions about how things work, who benefits from them, and what’s really going on. The genre is political to its core.

I only know one way to argue that some SF is political and some isn’t. You do it by defining “political agendas in science fiction” as “assertions of causality that differ from my own.” As in: “this person can’t possibly believe that in a widespread major disaster, people would rather cooperate, and maintain rule of law, than take to the hills with a gun and declare that the law of the jungle is the only law that now applies. They must be saying that in furtherance of some political agenda! Whereas my own grimdark stories about survivalism in anticipation of social chaos are just the way things are — not political at all. Talking about them isn’t talking about politics; it’s talking about science fiction.”

Eh, maybe I have that wrong.

That we are once again looking to be rift by a political divide was perhaps inevitable.
The existence of this rift has been asserted several times now, but it’s never been described or defined. Frankly, I don’t see any reason to believe this one exists.

I’ve been in fandom a long time. Rifts do develop, and sometimes build up so much stress that when one it finally makes itself felt, the backlash is terrible. Often it comes in the form of a feud whose destructive vindictiveness takes participants on all sides by surprise. But the thing about rifts like that is that they never build up where you’re looking. If you could see the stress accumulating, you’d do something about it before things turned explosive. The worst rifts are always unforeseen.

But as fandom has grown, expanded and diluted itself, we may have won the überculture wars and lost our heart. We have not been able to transmit this central precept to new fans. Geeks are chic, but somehow we’ve let the fuggheads win.
I’m not sure who these fuggheads are. It’s like I can see the outline and postholes of someone’s agenda, but I can’t tell what the building was for.

The heart of my fandom is just fine. We’re still being kinda dumb about opening doors for younger fans, but we’re finally having some forty-years-overdue conversations about POCs (real and fictional) in the genre, and we’re actually making progress on the “touch: consensual or it doesn’t happen” front.

And, from my observations, this is an inevitable consequence of the creation of any kind of fandom, from tattoos to swords to us. There is a thing people like. Thing people make initial contact with each other to discuss things and thingishness. At some point a woman (and it’s usually women, no matter what the thing) organizes gatherings, and thing fandom grows bigger and better. At some point, the people who care not about things, but merely about being a big fish in a small sea, squeeze out the thing people. Sometimes thing fandom just dies, sometimes it fissures and the process is recreated. So the fuggheads always win. The only question is how long can we delay their inevitable triumph?
While this has some slight resemblance to a piece I once wrote about social misunderstandings and the perception of power, it in no way resembles fandom as I know it. Among other things, if fuggheads inevitably triumphed, fandom would have died off long ago.

What you have to understand is that when you’re at a convention, pro publishing is a bubble. It’s got a lot of nice people in it, and on a moment-by-moment basis it may not be obvious that you’re having a nonstandard convention experience; but it’s still a bubble.

One of the reasons I love doing programming at conventions is that it gives me a rock-solid excuse to spend an hour having an interesting conversation with people I might otherwise never meet. Doing a stint as a volunteer works too.

Hmmm. This is getting long. One more bit:

Now we have not only 300 hundred channels of cable (and nothing on), but the vast output of the Internet, both pro and amateur. It is possible to be a science fiction fan and have absolutely no point of connection with another fan these days.
Ask them what they like and why. Listen when they tell you. Don’t make the kids do all the bridge-building.

Humbly acknowledge in your prayers that you would never in a million years have come up with Chibi Sauron on your own.

August 01, 2014
An Update on Velma
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 02:52 AM * 48 comments

From the thread on Velma, an update:

This is Kristen, Scraps’ sister. Sorry that I don’t know how to make this an entry of its own; if someone who knows how to could do so, I would be grateful.

Velma (sister-in-law) update - This is what I know: (Apologies if it’s too long. I’m trying to keep a balance between too much information and not enough.)

1st surgery = Wednesday of last week. (July 23; details about that in one of my previous posts)
Velma went into that surgery in a less-than-ideal physical state - very weak, hadn’t gained back weight she had lost in the previous month. (Hospital decided to do surgery even though Velma wasn’t where they wanted her physically because Velma had been losing ground in terms of getting to a stronger place, and because one of the tumors was growing rapidly.) Although weak, Velma seemed to be recovering appropriately. (I had a good conversation with her that Friday before I went back to Portland.) At some point she was moved out of ICU.

Yesterday I received three emails from Scraps.

First: A bad news and good news kind of email.
The bad; This is from Scraps’ email. “Last night was very hard. Velma was in excruciating pain. Her time for the epidural was ended, so that came out, but her heart and lungs were still weak, so the doctors were concerned with giving her too much pain medication and having her heart stop. Unfortunately, they stopped short last night, and while they adjusted, Velma suffered.” Her pain medication was increased; doctor explained that they wanted Velma to be pain free, but they needed to be careful.
The good, again quoting Scraps: “Today she walked almost twice as far, two times. She was glowing; that was good. And the pain is definitely down. She’s been drowsy, but they’ve been watching.”

Second: A short email titled “bad update.”
In intense pain. Moved back to ICU. Temporarily put out and tubes (breathing, etc.) reinserted. (my summary)

Third: She had fluid in her belly.

Today, received three texts from my Mom. Velma had emergency surgery this afternoon, because of an infection. (Don’t have any more details than that.) Quoting Mom here: “Dr says hour by hour to pull through on this part … very low blood pressure … Reason touch and go right now is she so weak after last surgery… Crucial next few hours.”

That’s what I know. Haven’t heard anything from Mom for over three hours.

Prayers and strong healing thoughts for her please. And for my brother.

Being as I’m the praying type, my prayers are with them both, and with their families. I’m sure the affection and goodwill of the community is, too.

Update from Kristen: Velma came through the surgery fine.

July 30, 2014
Open thread 199
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 04:10 PM * 944 comments

One of my long-running disgruntlements with survivalists and Galters is their collective ignorance of one key aspect of self-sufficiency: cloth. I can’t count how many people I’ve watched loading their own ammunition and slaughtering their own deer. But all the while, they’re wearing flannel shirts and jeans made of fabric that was woven on an industrial scale, from mechanically-spun fibers, before being shipped across the world either made up or on bolts. Even when they sew the garments themselves, their participation in our shared culture lies across their shoulders and hangs from their belts.

I suspect that a substantial element in this inconsistency is the relative priority of men’s work over women’s, which determines what actions are more valuable for Making A Statement. But I think a good deal of it is also simple blindness: fabric and clothing is so ubiquitous in our civilization that all we focus on is its variations (AKA fashion, style, or what those damn kids are wearing).

Spinning and weaving are crafts or hobbies (knitting and crochet less so). As a culture, we’ve forgotten how much of the lives of all classes of women, from the Middle Ages to well past Jane Austen’s time, was spent on thread, fabric, and clothing†. Our closets overflow*, and only the mindful consider how much of our history was made by people with at most two outfits, Sunday best and workaday garb. Even wealthy Bingley had but two new coats a year.

(I read somewhere that one of the reasons that the National Socialists did so well in Germany is that they gave people a chance to join organizations with uniforms, which is to say, provided them with clothing during the Depression.)

I often wonder what things we carry now the way that medieval women carried their distaffs: continuously, unconsciously, and (in the sweep of history) temporarily. What will our descendants look back on and say, “they spent so much time doing that. Thank goodness we don’t have to”?

† eg Mrs Norris in Mansfield Park: “That is a very foolish trick, Fanny, to be idling away all the evening upon a sofa. Why cannot you come and sit here, and employ yourself as we do? If you have no work of your own, I can supply you from the poor basket. There is all the new calico, that was bought last week, not touched yet. I am sure I almost broke my back by cutting it out.”
* with clothing that lasts less and less well, because cheaper fabrics keep the price down

Continued from Open thread 198

July 28, 2014
Making Light at Loncon 3
Posted by Patrick at 02:25 PM * 243 comments

Both Nielsen Haydens and Abi Sutherland! Opinions! Moderation! Speech acts!

All of our events will be in the ExCel Centre. I have taken the liberty of condensing the official panel descriptions. The full program guide is here.

Thursday, 14 August

1:30 - 3:00 PM, London Suite 2
Diggy Diggy Hole!: Minecraft and Gaming Communities
(What it says on the tin. The game is one thing, but the intense communities it’s spawned are another.)
Esther MacCallum-Stewart [m], Abi Sutherland, Mark Slater, Alexander Dan Vilhjálmsson

4:30 - 6:00 PM, Capital Suite 9
Ideology versus Politics in Science Fiction
(And how most SF hasn’t got a clue how either of them work.)
Teresa Nielsen Hayden [m], Martin McGrath, Laurie Penny, Kim Stanley Robinson, John Courtenay Greenwood

Friday, 15 August

10:00 - 11:00 AM, Capital Suite 1
Don’t Tell Me What To Think: Ambiguity in SF and Fantasy
(Ambiguity: it’s a thing.)
David Hebblethwaite [m], Nina Allan, Scott Edelman, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Ellen Klages

10:00 - 11:00 AM, Capital Suite 9
The Deeper the Roots, the Stronger the Tree
(Pre-genre authors whose work featured little or no fantastic content, but who SF&F people read and obsess about anyway. Dumas, Doyle, Austen, etc.)
Abi Sutherland [m], Zen Cho, Mary Robinette Kowal, Keri Sperring, Delia Sherman

12:00 - 1:30 PM, Capital Suite S
Settling the Alien World
(Worldbuilding in real time.)
Marek Kukala [m], Robert Reed, Tobias Buckell, Amy Thompson, Abi Sutherland, Laurence Suhner

3:00 - 4:00 PM, Art Show
Art show docent tour
(May require advance signup.)
Led by Teresa Nielsen Hayden

4:30 - 6:00 PM, Capital Suite 3
The Role of Fandom in Contemporary Culture
(Or, how the entire world turned into fandom while you were distracted.)
Chris Gerwel [m], Jean Lorrah, Emily January, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Laurie Penny

4:30 - 6:00 PM, Capital Suite 2
Saturday Morning Cartoons: The Next Generation
(You may have heard that there’s a lot of good stuff happening here lately. You heard right.)
Amal El-Mohtar [m], Abigail Nussbaum, Abi Sutherland, Andrew Ferguson

Saturday, 16 August

10:00 - 11:00 AM, London Suite 4
Kaffeeklatsch
(Will definitely require advance signup.)
Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Haytden

4:30 - 6:00 PM, Capital Suite 14
What Is I?
(Consciousness: it’s a thing.)
Ken MacLeod [m], Russell Blackford, Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Martin Poulter, Ashley Pollard

Monday, 18 August

10:00 - 11:00 AM, Capital Suite 8
All the Traps of Earth
(Culture, the “natural” world, and how their relationship’s been handled in SF&F.)
Sam Scheiner [m], Glenda Larke, Amy Thomson, Anne Charnock, Patrick Nielsen Hayden

1:30 - 3:00 PM, Capital Suite 16
Codes of Conduct
(At science fiction conventions. Sure to be a dull panel, because nobody has any opinions about the subject.)
Crystal Huff [m], Michael Lee, Teresa Nielsen Hayden, B. Diane Martin, Patrick McMurray

July 22, 2014
A fund for Velma and Soren
Posted by Patrick at 07:30 AM * 34 comments

A guest post by Debbie Notkin:

Many Making Light readers know Velma and Soren (Scraps) deSelby-Bowen. Those who read the open threads here may also know that Velma has recently been diagnosed with cancer. She hasn’t been very specific on the site, but I have her permission to tell you (to tell anyone, in fact) that the cancer is “smooth muscle cell neoplasm.” Velma was scheduled for surgery tomorrow (7/23), but they have just discovered at least one infection, and surgery may be postponed. Velma’s doctors tell her that surgery will likely be followed by chemotherapy. I will do my best to keep Making Light readers informed as I learn more.

Velma has been out of work for some time, and will not be able to work for some unpredictable amount of time going forward. Soren’s stroke of several years ago (followed closely on this site) makes it very difficult for him to earn any income, though he does have some disability income.

Their need is great, and is not likely to get any less great for many months. I’m asking this community for donations to help them survive this period. I have set up a unique gmail address (velmascraps@gmail.com) for nothing other than taking Paypal donations and communicating with me and a team of supporters about this issue.

If you can’t/don’t use Paypal, you can email me at the velmascraps address and we can discuss other means of getting money to them. Since we’re hoping to cover their needs for several months, some people may want to donate a lump sum to spread out over that time, and other people may want to send monthly small amounts. PLEASE, no one give anything that will affect your own ability to get along.

I have been unable to identify any online services that will track monthly donations and reminders (if anyone knows of one, please tell me!). If you would like to make a monthly donation, someone will send you an email reminder around the 25th of each month. If you need to halt your donations, just let me know.

Please pass this along to anyone who you think knows them or might otherwise help, but who doesn’t read Making Light.

And thank you in advance for your generosity, whether in the form of money or good wishes and good thoughts. They need those too.

July 21, 2014
I dreamed a Wikipedia entry
Posted by Patrick at 11:42 PM * 93 comments

I dreamed a Wikipedia entry. It was about William Rowse Sitcup, a deservedly obscure figure in the history of colonial Virginia. Born to a family long established in James County, young William grew up living a life of the mind. For reasons imperfectly understood, by adolescence he became obsessed with the geographical details of Virginia itself—its tidewater region, its Piedmont, its rugged western mountains, its long Shenandoah valley, and all the individual counties. He became convinced that the Dominion had been, in its physical shape and political subdivisions, ordained by God as a perfect miniature of the greater world outside. (The fact that Virginia contains no deserts, no year-round snowcaps, no rainforest, and no permafrost seems never to have impinged on young Rowse’s—he went by his middle name—frenzy of hermetic insight.) On reaching his majority, he came into an inheritance that gave him a modest level of financial independence, and allowed him to pursue his dream of visiting all of Virginia’s counties—this is when “Virginia” included what are now the states of West Virginia and Kentucky—in order to deliver a series of lectures to be offered to the public in each of them, elucidating to no-doubt-thunderstruck audiences his vision of the Dominion as a divinely-wrought miniature of the great world, hammered out on God’s anvil as a benign but distinctly pedagogical message to erring humanity. It goes without saying that, in Rowse’s worldview, the institution of slavery was assumed to be part of the divine plan. It is peculiar, then, that on his visit to Ohio County, in that portion of then-Virginia which stuck like a northern-pointing spear between Pennsylvania and Ohio, Rowse was on several occasions heard to express sympathy and support for slaves who had managed to cross the Ohio and light out for freedom. Whether he actually met any is lost to history. Little is known of him following this sojourn beyond the mountains; he died under mysterious circumstances in Palmyra on his way back to his familiar Tidewater home. After much pressure from his family’s solicitor, the inkeeper returned Rowse’s portfolio of manuscripts, but when it was opened in the parlor of the family’s old manor, all that remained was a fall of ash and the smell of rosemary. Citation needed.

July 18, 2014
Penny Dreadful: The Mysterious Affair of the SPOILERS
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 03:26 AM * 15 comments

Once again, I am writing a spoiler thread for a show I haven’t watched. It does protect me from inadvertently spoiling it in the OP, at least.

Reading up on it on the internet, it sounds like a good argument for public domain: the opportunity to recast and reconsider classic figures from literature and popular culture. In a funny kind of way, I’m grateful that Sherlock Holmes’ status is still up in the air in some jurisdictions, since otherwise, I’d worry that his all but inevitable presence would distort the show.

But I digress. Here’s a chance to discuss the show, the characters, the plots, and the possibilities without needing to ROT-13 anything.

July 10, 2014
Singularities in the rearview mirror
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 06:58 AM * 109 comments

Writing at io9 recently, Charlie Jane Anders mentioned Jo Walton’s 2009 essay on tor.com, which discussed George Eliot as a pre-SF writer who dealt with SF themes and topics. From the tor.com essay:

She saw how technology changes society—she understood that thoroughly. In a way, she was someone who had lived through a singularity—she had seen the railroad coming and had seen how it had entirely transformed the world she grew up in, with second order effects nobody could have predicted. Her books constantly come back to technology and the changes it brings.

I was emailing back and forth with Serge, and he mentioned a series he’s been enjoying lately: Halt and Catch Fire. It’s not SF, in the sense that it’s not postulating an unknown technology. Rather, like Middlemarch, it’s an examination of the impact of a real technological change on a pre-existing society. It is, if you will, looking at that particular view out the side-windows or the rearview mirror rather than the windscreen.

I think this particular sub-category of liminal, not-quite-SF storytelling is interesting, for the same reasons that I’m interested in the SFnal flavor of the real-world terraforming efforts that I see around me in the Netherlands. I think they can inform our thinking, both about change and about the ways our genre deals with change. Also, it’s neat.

What other stories are there in this area? And where else, on the borderlands of our genre, are there similar caches?

(Thanks, Serge, for suggesting that this would make a good blog post.)

Copyright 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 by Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden. All rights reserved.