beatrice_otter: Men may move mountains, but ideas move men. (Ideas move men)
I've been in fandom for almost twenty years, and here are some things that are true of pretty much every fandom I've seen: There is a lot more sexism, racism, homophobia, ableism, anti-semitism, etc., in fandom than most of us would like to admit, and the vast majority of it is unconscious. People (mostly white, etc.) THINK they're being perfectly unbiased and fair, and they really, really aren't. Their unconscious prejudices are shining through. And it sucks. We, collectively, suck.

But here's something I think most people miss: when we talk about this stuff, the point is not to make people feel bad. It's not about who's a "good," non-racist person, and who is a "bad" racist. It's not about proving who's "pure" and who's not. (Or at least, if that's why you're doing it, you're a really screwed-up self-righteous asshole.) IT'S ABOUT CHANGE. Because the thing is, we are all swimming in a sea of racist, sexist, queerphobic crap all the time. We can't change the larger culture (at least not by ourselves), but we CAN change fandom. I know, because fandom has gotten better about this stuff over the last twenty years. There is still a LOT of room for improvement, but it's better than it was. And it can get better than it is. But not if we ignore the problem or sweep it under the rug or get defensive. The first step in sucking less is to realize that you suck in the first place. The second step is figuring out how to suck less.

This post is about that second step. This post is about how to take the knowledge that, yes, we have some problems, and work to make those problems smaller. This post is about how to work through that, grow as a person, learn to suck less, and still have fun in fandom while you're doing it.

There are a lot of posts out there about how to be a good ally. There are also lots of posts out there about avoiding racist/sexist/ableist/whateverist tropes in fic. And there are a lot of good posts out there pointing out that fandom gets WAAAAAY more interested in able-bodied neurotypical cisgender white men than about any other character. We all know what the problems are, or at least, we should. But I think there's a need for "okay, I want to be more inclusive/suck less, how do I do it" on a broad level before we get to the nitty-gritty of "these are tropes I should avoid or be careful about." Namely, how does one get oneself to be fannish about characters that all one's cultural conditioning is screaming at you to ignore?

First, some basic principles.
1) This is fandom. It is supposed to be fun. This should not be like that terrible assignment from your least favorite teacher in school, fandom should be fun.

2) We've all been marinating in a stew of racism/homophobia/sexism/ableism/antisemitism/islamophobia all our lives. Even if, on a conscious level, you disagree with any given ism, your gut has been conditioned to prioritize white able-bodied cissexual neurotypical men over everything else.

3) Racism and sexism suck, and sucking is bad, and it makes fandom NOT fun for those on the receiving end of it. We should all be trying to suck less, both as a goal in its own right and because we want fandom to be fun for EVERYONE.

4) It is possible to work at sucking less while still enjoying fandom.

5) The higher we are in the kyriarchy, the more damage your sucking causes, and the more we are protected from that damage. So, like, a white person is part of the power structure that causes and benefits from racism; we're less likely to see it, more likely to cause damage to others because of it. BUT we also have a lot more power to change things for the better. It's not up to black people or Latin@s or Asians or Roma or LGBTQ people or people with disabilities or Jews or any other oppressed group to fix things--they're not the problem. The ultimate responsibility is up to Whites to suck less. (This doesn't mean that, say, a Black person can't suck--just that they are WAY less likely to damage others through their suckitude.)

So the question is, how do we as White people have fun in fandom while sucking less? Fear not! It's actually pretty simple, you just have to make that a consistent priority.

Let's define Principle 1. How is fandom fun? Well, for me, fandom is fun because there are shows and movies and books that I love, and I love reading and writing fanfic and meta about them, and squeeing about them with my friends. I find all of those activities fun. I hope you all do, too. I want you to keep on finding those things fun.

BUT there is a problem. We are conditioned by our society to value men more than women, Whites more than any other race, able-bodied neurotypical people more than disabled and/or neurodiverse people, etc., etc., you can all fill in the hierarchies that our society has tried to instill in us (and has probably succeeded in instilling more than you realize). The preference for white men in fandom isn't any worse than in other places in our society. It's true, and I think it's important to remember.

The problem comes in when we leave it at that. "Well, it's not my fault, and anyway even if I AM conditioned to pay more attention to whitecock more than anything else, this is fandom so I should be able to just ignore that and go on like always." Aaaaand then you continue to have fun, but you keep sucking, and hurting people in the process.

We have all been conditioned to favor whitecock above everything else. By which I mean, our society privileges stories about able-bodied neurotypical white men above stories about other people. A white man who has super incredible abilities and can do all the things is Batman, a white woman with all the same qualities is a Mary Sue, and is usually depowered to make room for the male hero, to boot. And characters of different ethnicities, or religions, or with disabilities, don't even have it that good. We think stories about white men are interesting because ... those are the stories we've read, watched, listened to the most. We're used to them. We've been taught all our lives that these are the good stories, the stories that matter. And so most of us have learned to prioritize those stories on an unconscious level. And we show that in our choices, which shows we watch, which actors/actresses we think are hot, which characters we write about.

The good news is, that's conditioning. It's not some inborn genetic thing, it's how we've been trained. And we can train ourselves differently!

It starts by being mindful. What we consume shapes us, right? So keep that in mind when you choose what you consume, what movies, what books, what TV shows, what fanfic. I'm not saying "don't watch your favorite show if it's got too many white men." But let's be real: some TV we watch/read because OMG ITS TEH BEST EVAR!!1! and some we watch/read because it's fun and some we watch/read because our friends are and some we watch/read because it's better than other things we could be doing.

When you're making a choice between two shows/movies/books that will probably be about the same level of entertaining, go for the one that's less ALL WHITE MALE. This is the age of the internet, where our choices are much greater than they've ever been before. When you're browsing Netflix on a Tuesday night looking for a fun movie to watch, give higher preference to diverse shows. Not in an "OMG, I can't ever watch anything with white men again, no matter how awesome it is!" way, but rather in a "I've seen so many movies about White Men(tm) in my life--is this one going to just be more of the same? Are there other options I might enjoy?" way. When you've got a variety of options and they would all be enjoyable, go for the ones least likely to reinforce the WHITE STRAIGHT ABLEBODIED NEUROTYPICAL CIS MALE IS THE DEFAULT AND BEST inside your head.

What this can look like in practice: I like Marvel, but I am not a big enough fan to watch all of their shows. I pick and choose and leave myself time for other shows as well. On Netflix there are two Marvel shows I could be watching that are roughly comparable: Daredevil and Luke Cage. Both are about urban superheroes, but Daredevil is white and Luke Cage is black. (Also, Daredevil has some really terrible Yellow Peril stuff.) So I watch Luke Cage. I enjoy it. I'd probably enjoy Daredevil, too, but I don't have time for everything, and so I prioritize. And I don't treat it like I'm taking my medicine and forcing myself to watch something because it's more socially just and not because I like it. I go in expecting to have fun. And you know what? Usually I do.

Another example: back in 2011, I needed something new to be fannish about. I had enough time to be fannish about one television show in addition to the stuff I was already fannish about. There were two shows premiering that fall that looked interesting to me, both rather similar: Grimm, and Once Upon A Time. Both were urban fantasy. One starred a white man, one starred a white woman. I chose the one starring the woman and went in to it prepared to love the show. Not grudgingly, but "ooh, this could be fun." And I loved it. If I hadn't, I would have stopped watching it after a couple of episodes and switched to Grimm. That was always an option; I wasn't watching OUaT to be masochistic about "doing the right thing." I was choosing which of two interesting options to give brain and heart space to, and I was going in to it with a brain and heart open to being pleased. If, despite that, it didn't please me? I'd move on to the next thing. Plenty of other fish in the sea. But I started with the less-whitecock option.

What this does is it gives brainspace to new possibilities. It erodes the assumption your hindbrain makes that white men matter more than other people do. It erodes the assumption your hindbrain makes that white men are more interesting. The more attention you pay to people outside the cultural norm, the more interesting you find their stories. When you do this, you are actively re-training your cultural conditioning about who matters and who is interesting. And you are having fun while you are doing it.

This has two ways that it will erode your suckage in fandom-related ways. First, it increases the number of people likely to be in non-whitecock fandoms, which is a slight counterweight to the overwhelming whitecock nature of fandom in general. One more person reading the fic and (hopefully) commenting. One more person posting about it, whether you do meta/art/fic/gifs/fanmixes/videos/whatever. Second, if you do this consistently over a long period of time, you will find that your instinct to always focus on white male characters will erode. Your background assumption of who is interesting and who isn't will start to shift.

Do this with the fannish content you produce, as well. You have a tumblr? Give preference to reblogging women and people of color. If you see something about white guys that is AWESOME AND SQUEEWORTHY, go ahead and reblog it and enjoy it while you do. But, you know, a lot of times we reblog stuff that's interesting but not full-on capslock squee, right? Stuff where it takes a second to decide if you should reblog or not. Where you could go either way. And in those cases, make a conscious decision in favor of diversity. Stuff about white men? If it's in that "should I reblog this?" category, don't reblog it. Stuff about anyone else? Do reblog it. When figuring out new content to post, do the same thing. AWESOME SQUEEFUL STUFF? Post away! Interesting but not incredible? Give more weight to stuff about women and people of color and queer people and disabled people and neurodiverse people and Jews and Muslims and all the rest. It's not about harshing the squee, or putting your fannish tastes through some kind of quota system. It's about balance. Trust me. The world and fandom both have PLENTY of whitecock stuff, they'll get along just fine without more. But there's a shortage of everything else, so that's where the focus should be.

And you can do the same with fanfic! Again, I'm not saying "never read your favorites!" I'm saying, be mindful. Are you a big Captain America fan? Check out the Sam Wilson and Natasha Romanov and Maria Hill fic in that fandom, and keep your eye out for more. When you do so, consider filtering out Steve/Bucky stuff occasionally. (http://erindizmo.tumblr.com/post/65292624924/7-step-tutorial-on-how-to-filter-out-characters) After all, presumably you already read a lot of S/B. Your goal isn't to find fics where Sam is in two scenes to get the Whitecock together or help them work out their shit, but fics where Sam gets to really shine. As himself, not just the sidekick to the whitecock. And don't do it grudgingly; do it with open heart and mind, ready to embrace Sam in his awesomeness. This isn't to say you should never read whitecock fic, if that's your thing, but rather that there should be a health(ier) balance. This isn't about forcing you to choke down your bitter fannish medicine; it's about expanding the things you love. It's about creating more opportunities for joy and squee.

And when you read those fics, comment on them! Spread the love! Authors who write about women or people of color tend to get fewer comments on those fics than on stories focused about white male characters, which is discouraging. Share the love; kudos and comment. A comment saying "Good fic" is great, it doesn't have to be long and involved. This holds true for all your fic, by the way, not just the fic where you're consciously diversifying your reading habits. Reading a Steve/Bucky fic and the author wrote Sam well, or Natasha, or Maria, or Rhodey, or Dr. Cho? Tell the author! Point that out specifically. Doesn't have to be elaborate; "I liked Sam" is fine. The point is to reward people for being more inclusive.

When you find a particularly good fic based on a certain woman or character of color, check out the author's page. Chances are, they've got more like it. If they do, and you like their work? Subscribe to them so when they write something, you see it. Again, the goal is to still have fun with awesome fic, but shifting what you consume to be more diverse. Because that will shift your internal default away from the Straight White Neurotypical Ablebodied Man that our society tries to push as the default. And that will affect how you see the world both in fandom and out of it.

Part of the fun of fandom, for many of us, isn't just about consuming content, it's also about creating it. I love writing fanfic. And here's where a lot of peoples' asses start to show, and where they start whining about how they just write what they write and they only get plotbunnies for whitecock. And that may be true, but again, this is something you can actually change. If your brain doesn't come up with plotbunnies for characters of color, or for women, or for lesbians, or for a mixed-race canon couple, or for disabled or neurodivergent people? You can work on coming up with plotbunnies on your own and train your brain in the process!

For example! Say you are a fan of The Flash. For every episode you watch, come up with one plot bunny for a non-white male character. You don't have to write it; that's another step down the road. It doesn't have to be something huge. The first step is getting your brain used to generating plot bunnies for characters you normally wouldn't. If Iris had a big part in that episode, think up a story idea for her. What was she doing while Barry was fighting the villain of the week? How's things going at work for her? If Joe had a big part, think up an idea for him. If there was an Iris/Barry moment, think up a story idea for that pairing. Wally, Cisco, Caitlynn, Lisa Snart, you get the idea. If you're a Supergirl fan, come up with a story idea for Hank or James or Renee Montoya or M'Gann each episode. You don't have to write it, the goal for this part is to get you used to thinking of these characters as people with stories. People you are interested in. I mean, if you get a great idea and want to write it, awesome, but step one is to get your gut and your hindbrain primed to think about these people and care about their stories. You've already been primed to care about and think about white male characters by everything you've seen and read and heard since you were a baby, but there's been precious little priming you for everybody else, so a little extra effort is probably going to be needed.

The next step is similar to the choosing-fandoms step, only for choosing plotbunnies. You will probably have some ideas that just yank you over and demand to be written, so write them. But if you are anything like me, there are also times that you want to write and have a lot of different ideas you could write, you just have to decide which. And in that case, you can probably guess by now, give more weight to the non-whitecock options. If you have four plot bunnies you could write, and two of them are about white male characters and one of them is about a white woman and one is about a character of color? Give more weight to the woman and (especially) the character of color. I'm not saying "you can never write white men again!" I'm saying that in your decision-making process, recognize that the rest of the world is weighted WAY THE FUCK IN FAVOR OF WHITE ABLE-BODIED NEUROTYPICAL CIS MEN, so to provide balance, we should be weighting in favor of everyone else, and giving the most weight to the people that society gives the least weight to.

The things I've outlined in this post don't magically get rid of all that social conditioning overnight, and they don't magically fix everything. What they do is they give you a place to start, and aim you in a direction so that, if you work on it over time, you will suck less while still having fun in fandom and making it more inclusive. And the more people who do stuff like this, the less fandom will suck over time.
beatrice_otter: Cover of Janelle Monae's Archandroid album (Archandroid)
I got the first three books for Christmas, devoured them, got the rest of the series, and am on my second read-through.  I have some questions.

First, what was Faceless Man #2 doing between the incapacitation of the first one and the Covent Garden riot?  Was he just living the life of a posh Londoner doing a bit of magic on the side?  Given later events, this seems ASTONISHGINGLY unlikely, but that is all the evidence we have.  Was he continuing on with the Strip Club of Doctor Moreau, and if so, why didn't whats-his-face, the burlesque owner who gets killed by the Pale Lady in Moon Over Soho (and the guy who tipped them off about the club's existence), know the club was still in operation?

Second, what does Faceless Man #2 reappearance on the scene of the London Underworld have to do with the Covent Garden Riot?  Quite aside from Peter's guess that he's interested in Leslie because of something leftover from her time as Pretty Polly, the burlesque owner pins his reappearance on the scene as connected with the Covent Garden riot.  Was he stirring up things, and is that what gave Punch his boost and set him on his way, besides the one-night revival of the play Pyke was in?  Or was his reappearance a reaction to that huge event?  Did it spur him on, or provide something he needed, or deprive him of something he wanted?

I know there were other questions I was going to put in this post, but I can't remember them.
beatrice_otter: Finn holding a blue lightsaber (Finn)
The thing about Rey is that for her to be a Skywalker would betray her whole thematic arc from The Force Awakens, in ways that would be really unfortunate for some of the people who identify with her.  She really has two: first and most obviously, "I'm no one," who becomes powerful.  She doesn't have fancy background or training, she's not some mystical Chosen One, she just steps up and claims her strength and succeeds.  That's a powerful message to send, not just to girls but to all people.

Second, she suffered because of (as far as she knows) her family.  She had years of abandonment, hunger, terrible conditions, because of what was done to her as a child.  Through it all, she had this idea in her head that if they would just come back--they, the very people who left her to that--everything would be fine.  That there would be a happy family.  But she is the one sinned against, here.  There are so many people (and I work with some of them) who have been abused and/or abandoned by their families.  Most of the time, reconciliation is not possible because the abusive family is not willing to change to become non-abusive or non-neglectful.  Any reconciliation requires the victim to make excuses for and buy into the abuser's story, at great cost to their own mental and emotional stability and healing.  (Yes, I know, there may have been extenuating circumstances.  That does not negate the damage Rey has suffered.)  Our society privileges "heartwarming reunion" even if it means papering over and ignoring the damage done.  I want more than that for Rey, and I want more than that for the people who identify with her.  I appreciate that her arc was to let go of her idealization that "when they come back for me, everything will be fine," and go on to a new life not dictated by the family that (whether intentionally or not) left her in hell.

I will be very disappointed if Rey is secretly a Skywalker.  I really hope they're trying to fake us out, and it's Finn.  But regardless, I'd rather no new Skywalkers than Rey being one.
beatrice_otter: What are we Protesting against? (Protest)
You've probably already read it, but [archiveofourown.org profile] franzeska has some EXCELLENT meta on AO3 about fandom, racism, sexism, shipping, slash/gen/het, fandom history, hypocrisy, and counterproductive activism.  It's long but OH SO GOOD.  With a lot of really important points that get completely missed in most discussions of these issues.  I have a few quibbles and one major problem with the piece, but overall I agree with most of it.

Your Vagina is a Bigot; My Vagina is a Saint

beatrice_otter: Saavik and Spock (Saavik and Spock)
So, I have a question about Vulcan biology.

I have long been puzzled by the inherent illogic of a heat that can kill you.  Heats are supposed to grow the species, not reduce it.

But the thing is, terrestrial animals that have a heat, usually it's one heat cycle per year or so.  Because that gives you time for the babies to be born and grow a little bit before winter sets in and obviously you don't want to be pregnant during winter scarcity, and then by the time a year has gone by the babies are old enough/mature enough that they don't need Mama and another heat cycle begins in the spring.

Vulcan heats are seven years apart.

My first thought, as I began contemplating this, was ... how long are Vulcan pregnancies?!?  Because Vulcan children seem to grow at about the same rate as Human children (7 year old Spock in the animated series episode Yesteryear looked and acted about like one would expect a 7 year old to, and there was never any hint that he was developmentally advanced or delayed for a Vulcan), and so if you think time between heats=pregnancy+time for baby to no longer be an infant, well, you start to wonder if Vulcan pregnancies are like three years long or something.

But then I realized that I was overlooking part of the nature of a terrestrial heat cycle.  Part of it is also to time things such that no one is pregnant during winter, the time when resources are scarcest.

Which leads me to wonder: does the planet have a year that is seven Earth-years long?  It seems like that would be pretty far from Vulcan's sun--Mars has a year that's two of our years long, Jupiter's years are 12 years long, would a planet even be habitable in that range?  (And if this is the case, does that mean that all Vulcans go into Pon Farr at about the same time every seven years?  Eeep!  Talk about a disruption to the society!  Of course, if this is the case, how do they keep it secret?  Just kick every non-Vulcan offplanet for six months every seven years?)

Is there some other reason for a seven year cycle that I'm not thinking about?

But this brings me back to the first question, that’s bugged me for years. And perhaps provides an answer. If resources are (or were, when the species was evolving) so scarce that they can only afford to have a kid once every seven years, maybe it is designed to clear out deadwood. Maybe part of the reason for such a deadly heat is to reduce competition for resources which the species can’t afford to waste on non-reproducing members.

I wish fic spent less time on teh sex and more time on the biological, social, and cultural aspects of it.
beatrice_otter: Luna Lovegood, Hermione Granger, Cho Chang (Girls of Potter)

So I was reading a Harry Potter fic, and something occurred to me which never had before.  And it’s a question about mail.  Because the wizarding world is the opposite of the muggle world, in that they have instantaneous physical transportation (floo, apparition, portkey) but not instantaneous text-based communication (letters carried by owl).

What happens if an owl is bringing you a letter from London and you are, say, in Scotland, at Hogwarts, and the owl is almost there, and then you floo/apparate/portkey somewhere else.  Say, London.

Does the owl know and turn around mid-flight?  Would the owl then become very bad-tempered from the extra distance you made them fly?
beatrice_otter: Saavik (Saavik)

I was reading a Sentinel-AU fanfic, and it occurred to me that reading and writing such fics would be good practice for writing autistic characters.  Because Sentinel fics are all about the senses and thinking through what it would be like if you had hypersensitivity.

Guess what!  Hypersensitivity is a common symptom of autism spectrum disorders!  We’re not Sentinels, of course, but we are often really sensitive to things that allistic people don’t even notice, and we often have trouble filtering out the things we’re sensitive to.  That’s one of the more common causes of autistic children having meltdowns (which allistic people sometimes mistake for temper tantrums).  The world is a big, noisy, smelly, overly-bright place designed for people whose senses work differently than ours, and children especially have trouble processing it, and so they get hysterical because they Just. Can’t. Cope.  (Which is why one of the most effective ways of dealing with a meltdown is to take them into a dimly-lit, neutral room and have them lay down under a blanket you know they like the texture of, so you can block out all the overwhelming stimuli.)  Adults tend to have better coping skills and better ability to avoid the things that really knock us for a loop, but it’s no more pleasant for us as adults than when we were kids.

So you know how in Sentinel fics, clothes feeling like sandpaper is a major clue that Character A is now a Sentinel?  It is super-common for people on the autism spectrum to have that issue with clothes feeling like sandpaper.  And yet, at the same time, that same person might not even notice getting a cut–it’s a different sensation.  It’s not all things relating to a particular sense, for us; we tend to be hypersensitive to certain things.  For example, my nose is normally pretty bad, I’m not good at picking up and determining odors, but the “new car” smell makes me nauseous and I JUST CAN’T STAND IT.  Most textures don’t bother me to feel (and a few I really, really love), but there are a couple that freak me out.  So if you’re writing an autistic character, and you want to get into their head, pick a couple of sensitivities and show the reader why the autistic person doesn’t like them (or, conversely, really really likes them).

Of course, one of the differences between Sentinels in fic and autistics in reality is that when a Sentinel has a sensory issue, most people are sympathetic.  When an autistic person has a sensory issue, we’re told to get over it and stop being so weird.
beatrice_otter: Me in red--face not shown (Default)
I've recced this before, but with the movie in theaters I thought I should point this out again.  John Lennard is an Oxford grad who's taught at Cambridge, and who is also a fanfic author (bracketyjack ).  He's written a very thoughtful essay on just why Fifty Shades is problmatic by explaining all the various and sundry ways the author is trampling all over fanfic, feminism, and bdsm while profiting from them.  It's both readable and well-researched, and you can pick it up for a couple of bucks at Amazon, or read it for free if you have Amazon Prime.
beatrice_otter: Captain America (Captain America)
On Tumblr, someone pointed out that given Howard Stark's now-canon background (where he grew up and his parents' occupations), he is almost certainly Jewish passing as Gentile.  And that, you know, this gives extra oomph to him helping Jarvis get Anna (his Jewish wife) out of danger and to England and later America.  (And I want to read that story, and I hope someone is writing it!)

But you know what other story I want to read?  The one where it's a Jewish holiday and Steve absentmindedly mentions it to Tony ("Happy Chanukah!" or appropriate greeting for whichever holiday it is) and Tony is baffled because he's not Jewish (not anything, really, pretty much raised atheist), and Steve is Catholic (or Episcopalian, I've seen an interesting meta on what it would mean if Steve was an Irish Protestant, but whatever he is, definitely Christian.)

So then Steve is all, wait, but Howard was Jewish, and he didn't show it, but then things were a lot worse for Jews in those days, I thought you would be public with your religion/ethnicity!

And Tony is all, no, nope, nuh-uh, no Jewish background in the family that I know of.

And Steve goes, then how/why did Howard know Yiddish?  Because a lot of the scientists on Project Rebirth were Jews, so Yiddish was spoken around the labs, and Steve never heard Howard speak it but he definitely understood what the others were saying when they were cursing people out or arguing or joking around in Yiddish, so.

And Tony's mind is blown, and he goes on an incredibly tacky orgy of self-discovery to "find his Jewish roots."
beatrice_otter: Saavik and Spock (Saavik and Spock)
For [personal profile] laurajv: What are the most interesting ideas about Vulcans you've seen in other people's fanfic?

Hrm.  Now, this is a tough one.  If you count the 80s Star Trek novels as published fanfic (they really are, particularly when you consider how many of those authors were fanfic authors who sold their fic to Pocket Books), well, I don't know if it gets easier, but it does get easier to pinpoint specific things and attribute them to specific authors.

See, the thing is, I have VERY SPECIFIC IDEAS about Vulcan culture, mostly derived from those 80s Trek novels.  I did some meta about it a few years, back, after the first AOS movie, and you can find it here.  My first criteria for Vulcan fics is "how well does it match up with my headcanon" and if it doesn't, then it doesn't really matter how interesting it is, it's not going to grab me.  (This is one of many reasons why Enterprise was problematic for me.)  And when I do read a fic and go "wow, awesome Vulcans!" it's usually because the author shares many of the same fanons gleaned from the Trek novels of the 80s (especially Spock's World, The Romulan Way, The Vulcan Academy Murders, Dwellers in the Crucible, etc.)  So right now, it's hard for me to list any specific interesting fanon from fic, because it gets mixed up with what was in those books to form a whole Vulcan worldview.

I mean, your fics always have awesome Vulcan worldbuilding, and I like [archiveofourown.org profile] macedon's Vulcan fics so much (Wisdom and Beauty, the Anselm series)  ... Oh! [livejournal.com profile] xparrot had a really great take on Vulcan grieving practices in Markings.  Also, [personal profile] ljc has a great meta about the Vulcan trickster T'Kay here.

beatrice_otter: Tardis on a green field (Tardis)
Doctor Who is awesome. It's also intimidating, with fifty+ years of background. So it's awesome that [personal profile] londonkds has put together a series of meta posts about the history of Doctor Who from the beginning--the strengths and weaknesses of each era, best and worst episodes, and enough about what was going on behind the scenes to put it all into context. Really, really excellent stuff.

Doctor Who: a guide for the overwhelmed: Part One: the 1960s
Doctor Who: a guide for the overwhelmed: part 2: the 1970s
Doctor Who: a guide for the overwhelmed: part 3: the 1980s
Doctor Who: a guide for the overwhelmed: part 4: the 21st century
beatrice_otter: Eowyn holding a sword (Eowyn)
Henneth Annun has been one of the larges Lord of the Rings story archives for over a decade.  There are many stories there whose authors have left fandom and can't be contacted, and many of those stories are unique ... found nowhere else, certainly not online and for many of them the original authors may not have copies anymore.

And they've been hacked multiple times recently.  Their code is old and decrepit.  It would take not just money but technical resources they don't have to code a new archive and/or figure out how to transfer stories from their (old, outdated, and custom) code to a modern software that would be less vulnerable.  They can't do it.  So they're closing as of the end of this year--just a month away, now!  (This was announced back in September, but I only just heard about it now.)

They want to save as many stories as possible.  Multiple other LotR archives have offered to host stories.  But the mods and maintainers don't want to transfer stories to other archives without the permission of the original authors (which is why they aren't just using the AO3 Open Doors project, which would handle moving all the stories over to AO3 for them).

So!  This is where the call for help comes in.  They need volunteers to a) try and track down the original authors to either get them to move their stories or allow them to be moved and b) download copies of stories in case that permission comes in after the deadline (which is, after all, only a month away at this point.)  They've been at this for a couple of months already, but with thousands of stories to be saved I bet they're still chugging away and could use some more help.  If you've got the time, this is an important part of our fandom heritage even if you're not into LotR fandom.

beatrice_otter: Poirot: Little Grey Cells (Little Grey Cells)
So, [livejournal.com profile] wiscon!  Which proudly bills itself as a feminist science fiction/fantasy con, and yet in the last couple of years has shown that they have issues actually acting like a feminist con.

Short version: Jim Frenkel, formerly an employee of Tor Books (one of the largest and best SF/F publishing houses in the US, is a serial harrasser.  As in, he's been behaving badly towards women for twenty years, but mostly what's been done is that women "in the know" warn other women to keep away from him.  In 2013, he harassed a woman who a) made a complaint, b) followed through on it, and c) called out [livejournal.com profile] wiscon when they let her report fall through the cracks.  Lots of feminist SF/F bloggers take up the call.  You can read about it on the Geek Feminism Wiki.

Jim Frenkel lost his job over the incident, which shows that Tor Books took it seriously.  Not so, [livejournal.com profile] wiscon, which allowed Frenkel to come to the 2014 con and even had him slated to moderate panels, on the original schedule.  Cue righteous wrath.  (They apologized pretty nicely for letting things slip through the cracks such that the 2013 concom knew about him and the 2014 concom didn't.  It was a pretty good apology, taking full responsibility for screwing up.  Pity it wasn't followed by a genuine turnaround on behavior.)

The final decision is that Frenkel is banned for four years for sure--and if, at the end of those four years, he can provide evidence that he has changed, he can come back.  Note that he can appeal, but it has been made quite clear that his victims can't.  Cue even more righteous wrath in the SF/F blogosphere, and as usual Radish Reviews has both good commentary and a good link roundup of other responses.  I particularly like Sigrid Ellis's post on procedure and how, you know, a con disciplinary committee is not a court of law and why the differences matter.

Which got me thinking.  I am a pastor.  Churches are also places that should be safe where trust has often been abused.  And our councils are also not courts of law.  So, here's what "best practices" are for churches for handling predators once they have been identified.  First, we have to protect their victims from further harm.  That's number one.  But we also, as churches have an obligation to everyone--including predators--to spread the Good News of God's love to all people.  When Jesus told his followers to visit the people in prison, he didn't say "but only the nice people who are falsely/wrongly accused."  So we can't just throw the predators out.  But at the same time, our first priority has to be protecting the victims and possible victims.  So here's the compromise when we know there's a serial predator: they can attend worship, but not any other event (Sunday School, picnic, work day, whatever) where the predator's target group will be present.  And they can only arrive ten minutes before worship and must leave immediately after it--they can't hang around.  And any time they are on the church property, the church has a couple of designated people to stay with the predator and make sure they behave themselves.  If they have already preyed on someone within the congregation, a church may well work with neighboring congregations to find someplace else the predator can attend where the predator will be watched to ensure no further harm is done but the victims don't have to deal with them.  The chances of the predator harming someone are minimized.  That's what you should do when you can't just throw the predator out.

But a con is not a church, and if there is a deep moral imperative to allow anyone (even predators) at a con, I've never heard it.  If there is a deep moral imperative for why it has to be one con in particular and not another, I've never heard it.  And if there's any procedure in place for what to do if Frenkel appeals after four years, gets a couple of character witnesses to swear he's reformed, and gets back in, and how to handle him to make sure he doesn't revert to type, I haven't heard that either.
beatrice_otter: Elizabeth Bennet reads (Reading)
You know what I find really annoying in Pride and Prejudice fic?

All the stories where there's nothing wrong with Anne de Bourgh but her mother's fussing, and if she just got out and was active, she'd be just perfectly normal and as soon as her mother's out of the picture Anne is a lively and outspoken woman.  That's like, 95% of the fic where Anne appears.

And you know, it's possible that's the case.  But while they may not have had much medical knowledge in Austen's day, that makes it even more likely that she really has some kind of nasty ailment that won't kill her but will keep her from being able to do much.  Maybe something we'd find easily treatable, but that they wouldn't have a clue about.  And yes, upper-class girls were often cossetted, but not to the extent of being turned into invalids by it.

And as for Anne becoming lively and outspoken when her mother's not in the room, that's much worse.  There's a couple of possibilities.
  • she really is sick, in which case her mother's presence or absence may affect her comfort but she won't have much energy to speak whether or not Lady Catherine is in the room.
  • she does not have a physical illness beyond her mother's interference, but she's naturally shy and/or introverted, which won't change whether or not Lady Catherine is present or
  • she does not have a physical illness beyond her mother's interference, and she's not naturally shy and/or introverted, but her mother has bullied her into becoming so, which also will not change whether or not her mother is present.  Particularly since the amount of bullying/abuse necessary to make a healthy person physically weak is, er, pretty substantial even if (especially if) we're talking about chronic rather than acute mistreatment.
I highly doubt her illness is imaginary or made up or forced upon her by Lady Catherine's having decided that she is sickly and to be treated as such.  It's possible, but unlikely.  But if that's the case, she is going to be so psychologically damaged.  She would NOT be turning into a normal, social, outgoing woman the minute her mother's back is turned!
beatrice_otter: Star Trek symbol--red background (Red Shirt)
Fair warning: I am not an economist.  The sum total of my formal economics training comes from a J-term college class called "The Economics of Science Fiction and Fantasy Worlds" in which we read eight novels in a month and discussed the economic underpinnings of the worlds described therein.  My undergraduate degree is in history, however, and history is very much concerned with the economies of the past.

First, let's start with the Federation.  The Federation, we are told, has no money.  Nobody gets paid; nobody gets a bonus; things don't seem to work on a barter system, either.  There are credits, which appear but rarely, and are used as a unit of exchange; but we are repeatedly told that there is no money and credits aren't money even though we see them used as such.  Various Star Trek people, including Ron Moore, thought this was absurd, but Gene Rodenberry insisted it was so.

I always thought this was absurd, myself.  Look, resources have to be allocated.  Work has to be done, and people have to be compensated for their labor otherwise the dirty un-fun jobs won't get done.  If you don't need money to live on, I can see people having certain careers just for fun and for something to do.  Starfleet officer?  You  betcha, you would not need to pay me to be a Starfleet officer.  Musician, author, various forms of artist, sure.  Engineers and doctors and such, yes, I know people who would do those jobs without being paid (as long as their basic needs were taken care of.)  Construction, yes.  You might have a problem getting enough people to fill your society's need for those jobs, but you could get some and I'm willing to handwave that with automation and such you would need fewer of them than we need per capita today.  But plumbers?  Miners?  Bureaucrats?  You can replicate just about everything, but you still need to have people to make and maintain the replicators, and fabricate larger things.  Like houses.  You're telling me you have enough people who do that just out of the goodness of their hearts?  I thought, you don't have to run your economy the same way we do today; there have been lots of economies throughout history.  You don't have to use your money the same way, but there does have to be some form of exchange, whether money or barter.

Economic patterns from hunter-gatherer to the modern world: a history in five paragraphs. )
Future patterns with a Star Trek twist. )

So when I put all of this together, all of a sudden the Star Trek "no money in the future" schtick seems a lot more plausible than it used to.  I'm not convinced things will go this way, but I see how they could.

beatrice_otter: The one thing you can't trade for your heart's desire is your heart. (Heart's desire)
I don't know how I started reading Hockey RPF.  I don't like RPF and know nothing of hockey.  But I did.  And found this: lives to live through seasons by [archiveofourown.org profile] oflights, where babies don't come from sex and growing inside a human, but by being wished for.  If you and your partner wish for a baby, one appears floating down out of the sky in a little basket with the parents' names on it.  (This is apparently not related at all to gender, sex, or sexuality.)  And, if you wish for a baby but have no partner, sometimes (rarely) you get a baby that comes down out of the sky that's just yours!  (No telling whether it's a clone, the story doesn't say.)  Oh, and there are drugs you can take to suppress the wishing, so that wanting a kid doesn't mean one will come out of the sky.

I think this should be A Thing.  The implications and plot possibilities fascinate me; as in ABO universes, I wonder why there is a male/female sex/gender divide.  But in this case, I also wonder why sex exists, because it has no connection to reproduction.  Is it just a fun way to build intimacy?  And if you don't need a sperm and an egg and one person to provide a womb, why is there a sex binary?  And how do wishbabies affect marriage and perceptions on sexuality?  Because while we think marriage is about love, for the vast majority of human history it's been about family continuity and making sure you know whose kid you're raising.  (That is historically one of the big reasons why adultery is a huge deal for women but not for men.)  But with wishbabies, you know who the parents are; they're written down for everyone to see.  How does that affect marriage and gender roles and social perceptions of acceptable sexual behavior?  Promiscuity will not result in unwanted/unplanned babies; celibacy and monogamy are completely divorced from whether or not you have a kid.  Furthermore, there are no unwanted babies.  Babies can only come when they are wanted.  What effect would this have on the amount of child abuse?  There would still be some; just because people want a baby doesn't mean they are mentally fit to take care of one.  But as you can see, there are a whole lot of basic social and cultural assumptions that go right out the window (or get tweaked in odd ways) when you have wishbabies instead of biological reproduction.

If wishbabies were real, would the Shakers (a Christian sect that practiced strict celibacy and so relied solely on converts) have died out?  Would Christianity be so fixated on sex if it wasn't connected to reproduction?

And then I started thinking about fic ideas.  How would this play out in various fandoms?

Wushbaby Plot Bunnies )
Proof of Life )

beatrice_otter: Superman--red cape (Superman Cape)
So I just came across an "interesting" piece of meta about Superman as a 20th Century Messiah.  I get cranky about this, because the religious symbolism of Superman is quite obviously MOSES, not Jesus, as befits a character who was created by a couple of nice Jewish boys.  (Seriously.  His people were in jeopardy, so his parents put him in a little vessel/basket/ark and sent him off, so that he could survive and be raised by foster-parents.  Moses in the Nile getting raised by Pharaoh's daughter, anyone?)  Most of the other points of Superman that get pointed out as being analogous to Jesus either apply to Moses or other Hebrew Bible figures even more or are actually, er, not really applicable to Jesus.)

This one, however, takes the cake.  It starts off by talking about the Jesus/Superman/Messiah thing (complete with a Sacred Heart of Jesus painting right next to an image of Superman stripping off his suit to reveal the iconic S).  Then it mentions that Siegel and Shuster were Jewish, and this was the 30s and horrible things were happening to Jews, and that's why they needed a Messiah so they wrote Superman!

Problem: besides the fact that Superman is way more like Moses than like Jesus, if two nice Jewish boys were going to make a Messiah-like character, he would not be like Jesus.  No, really, Jesus does not fit the ideas that Jews have, now or at any time in the past, about the promised Messiah.  That's why, you know, they didn't follow him.  Over the milennia, Jews have had a wide variety of expectations about what the Messiah was going to be like, but the comparisons that come up the most often in such discussions are Moses, Elijah, and David.  It was at that point that I shook  my head and stopped reading.

If you want to talk about Moses and Superman, I am all over that.  Jesus and Superman ... no.

(Yes, I get that Siegel and Shuster haven't had creative control for seventy years, and that Christians have added in various Jesus-like actions and attributes, but by and large those haven't become a part of the core character.  Everybody knows about Superman being sent off as a child from Krypton to be kept safe from the dangers that threatened his people, you will find that backstory in every single Superman incarnation ever.  Things like the Superman Returns ending where Superman sacrifices himself to save the world from Lex Luthor's plot and lies in a coma in the hospital for a few days, on the other hand, are not part of the core mythos.)
beatrice_otter: Captain America (Captain America)
[tumblr.com profile] historicallyaccuratesteve reblogged this post about Sam Wilson reccing Steve all these songs about Captain America to give him a pop-culture feel for what people think of when they think of him.

And part of it was this:
Oh god oh god oh god, imagine no one telling Steve about Isaiah Bradley until Sam recommends a song to him and he researches what it’s about and is suddenly breaking down all the doors in the US government because why the fuck do I have a Smithsonian exhibit and Isaiah Bradley doesn’t even have an official biography???


And now I WANT THAT FIC.  I want it like burning.  YOWZA!

Go-look

May. 14th, 2014 07:04 pm
beatrice_otter: Men may move mountains, but ideas move men. (Ideas move men)
One of my favorite bloggers, Ada Palmer, just reviewed a new SF/F short story, The Litany of Earth by Ruthanna Emrys that is up for free at tor.com or for $1 here if you want to support the author. The review is here: Discontinuity and Empathy: a non-review of “The Litany of Earth” by Ruthanna Emrys.

First of all, I've never read a Cthulhu-mythos story, but this looks so interesting that I may read it anyway.

Second, this is the single most interesting book review I've ever read. It's not a synopsis, a critique, or a highlighter of the best bits. It is, instead, an exploration of the ideas and connections that the short story evoked in her. If you are at all interested in the history of Western thought, comic books, or shared-worlds meta-fic, you should read this review even if you aren't interested in the story she's reccing. Because the review is interesting enough to stand on its own feet and not just as a "should I spend my time/money on this story?"

Third, if you have any interest in the history of Western thought or comic book fandom (or how the two interact), you should already be following Ada's blog exurbe.

beatrice_otter: Captain America (Captain America)
I have a problem with always-a-girl genderswap AUs of Captain America.  Not because I dislike genderswap--in fact, I love a good genderswap.  Because of the name.  I know the genderswap convention is to just feminize the name (Tony becomes Toni, Steven becomes Stephanie, James becomes Jamie, etc.).  And there's a reason to do it that way; it's immediately obvious who the character is a genderswap of.

But the thing is, when people name babies, they generally don't have one name and then choose the female form or male form when they find out if it's a boy or a girl.  With some names, such as Anthony (Tony) vs. Antonia (Toni), they're both relatively popular names, and at that point I don't mind it.  But for Steven/Stephanie, well, let's take a look at some hard numbers, shall we?

I get my numbers from SSA.gov, which has name frequency rates for the top thousand names used for American babies since 1896 available on its website.  Pulling up "Top Names of the 1910s," which includes Steve Rogers' year of birth, we find that Steve is 116 on the list, with 9,639 boys born in that decade named Steve.  Not the most common name, but not terribly unusual, either.  (James, by the way, was number three, with 275,079 boys in that decade named James, which may be why he went by "Bucky" instead.)  If we go over to the girl's side of the list, the name in the 116th slot is "Cora."  "Stephen" (spelled differently, but basically the same name) is 89 on the list, with 13,502 boys in that decade born with the name of Stephen.  (The corresponding girls' name is "Ellen").  If we take Steve and Stephen as basically the same name and add the numbers of boys with those names together, we get 23,141 boys born in that decade with a name variant of Steve's name, which would put us up in the mid-50s on the list, between Chester and Herman (corresponding girls' names being Bessie and Pearl).

Where is Stephanie on this list of common American names in the decade of Steve's birth? It's not even on the list.  See, the bottom names on the list are the 200th most common names, and those are Bert and Lela, respectively.  Where was Stephanie?  Well, if we pull up the popularity of the name "Stephanie" from the same site, (here's the search page but I can't find a way to link the specific search) we find out that in 1918, Stephanie was the 333rd most popular girls' name.  In that decade, it varied between 423 and 302--hardly a name one would expect to see very often.  In the mid-40s, it began creeping up, until from 1960-2007 it was always higher-up than 100 on the list.  It peaked from 84-87, when it hovered at 6th most popular name.  People my age are named Stephanie, not people my grandparents age.

Now we should consider Steve's family background (after all, in his day, children were a lot more likely to be named unusual names if they were family/ethnic names.  It's not like today where couples get baby name books looking for exotic names they like.  There had to be a reason to name a child something unusual).  Well, Steve was a working-class Irish Catholic.  Stephanie is not a working-class Irish Catholic name; it's French.  The only reason I can think of for an Irish Catholic working-class family in 1918 naming their daughter "Stephanie" is if they were naming her after St. Stephen, but usually you do that if the child was born or baptized on the feast day of that saint, and St. Stephen's feast-day is December 26th.  And he's the patron saint of martyrs and stone-masons, so not necessarily the guy you'd choose to set up as the patron saint of your baby girl.  If Steve's father were named Steve, I can see "Stephanie" in honor of him after his death, but his name was Joseph.

So what can we call always-a-girl!Steve that would be more period appropriate than Stephanie?  Well, you could go with Cora, Ellen, Bessie, or Pearl (which were as popular as the variations of "Steve"), or you could go with something that sounds similar and is on the list of popular names.  Stella, for example, is at #64 out of 200 on the "Popular Names of the 1910s" page, and Estelle is at #125.  Those sound similar to Steve's name so it would be easy for the audience to remember, and they are actual period names that she might realistically have been called.

(Also, both Stella and Estelle mean "star."  Which makes me chortle gleefully, to have a Captain America whose actual honest-to-God name means "star".)

(xposted to [community profile] cap_chronism )

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