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theferrett July 11 2014, 15:02

On Expunging Creepers From Conventions, Or: Why The World Is Exceedingly Complex

While pretty much everybody lauded the Geeky Kink Event’s attempt to keep sex offenders out, there were many who groused that the Sex Offender list was not a ban list for conventions.  And some asked a question I’ve asked before, which is, “Why don’t more conventions band up to create an officially shared blacklist?”

That’s a good question.  Let’s break that down in some detail.

The first thing you need to understand about fan conventions is that the people attending them tend to see cons as this monolithic corporate entity – and why not?  They bring thousands of people together!  They rent a whole damn hotel!  They decorate, they cater, they hold parties, they hold concerts!  These conventions must be professional organizations!

Whereas the truth is, most cons are run on a shoestring budget, barely making back their costs, about one bad event away from going broke.  They’re also all staffed by volunteers; I know few conventions that have one full-time salaried employee, let alone a board full of them.

No, unbelievably, the cons you love are most likely run by people in their spare time – all those guests booked for you in the two hours they have after they get home from work, all those investigations held on weekends when you’re out watching movies and they’re dealing with convention feedback.  Cons are not so much the “MegaCorp funds the grand ballroom gala” as “An Amish barn-raising.”

If you have fun at conventions, ponder this and thank the crap out of your local con-organizers.  Better yet: volunteer.

But this does mean that while conventions mean well, and the people are dedicated, they’re working with volunteer effort – which is to say that yes, the Literary Track that went so well last year is now in danger of going to shit because Louise moved to Minnesota and she was the only one who knew everything.  And she didn’t leave notes.  The guy who knew how to find the good hotels has to work double-shifts because of his new kid.

Conventions are not one entity, but rather a constantly-fragmenting hive mind composed of well-meaning people doing this in the corners of their life.  And as such, cons are good at doing what they’re passionate about, but it’s hard to say “Fred, you must follow these rules and regulations” when Fred gets to say, “Or what?  You’ll tell me not to come here, and I’ll get my weekends back?”

The fact that conventions get anything competent done is, in fact, a testament to the goodness of the human race.  Again: volunteer.

But when conventions are saying, “How do we keep these molesting dorks out of our con?” they’re often a bunch of not legally trained, not experienced people.  At this stage in time, yes, “Keeping cons a harassment-free space” should be a priority for everybody.  But when you see a con doing something spectacularly stupid, it’s often because Joe New Volunteer With More Enthusiasm Than Brains got put into a slot that, sadly, nobody else was stepping up to fill.

…did I mention “volunteer”?  Okay.  Good.  We’re done with that.

Anyway, so hopefully now you see your average con not as a sleek Porsche, but more like a soap box racer made of old popsicle sticks held together with duct tape.  They all strive to be the best, and many of them manage it, but they are constantly battling attrition and resources to make the magic happen. The fact that the magic happens at all is a miracle.

So anyone who wants to devise an official “blacklist” shared among not just one of these constantly shifting volunteer organizations, but many of them, is trying to herd cats.  The person they’re supposed to talk to each year about this may change as people shift positions, and Jackie who was totally stoked for this safety drive may have given up cons and moved on to Burning Man, and now who are you supposed to talk to at ConSternation?

Who knows?

But even once you get past that very considerable hurdle, you have the big issue: How do you compile a list of ban-worthy harassers?

Keep in mind, many people who get harassed – or even out-and-out raped – do not want to talk to people at the con.  All they want to do is leave this experience behind, and “testifying to a group of strangers” – even strangers inclined to believe in them – is not a part of their healing process.

And let’s say someone gets physically assaulted at your convention, and talks to a group of her friends.  The friends go to you to report what they’ve heard, but there’s no physical evidence or eyewitnesses.  And you’re willing to take her word for things, in fact are perfectly primed to toss this asshole out on just one word from her… but she won’t talk to you or anyone official at the con because she’s freaked and doesn’t feel like reliving the day.

Do you blacklist someone based on second-hand testimony?

Some say “yes,” some say “no,” but that’s a tricky goddamned call.  In fact, banning the dude in the absence of testimony may actually make the victim’s life worse, because people are going to ask “So why’d he get banned?” and gossip will flow, and now the victim’s name will be out in circles she may not want them out in.

It’s not simple.

And – again, remember, cons are each composed of messy well-meaning volunteers – what crimes get you banned for life?  If you say, “Well, we’ll come up with a clear list of bannable offenses” and break it down in detail, well, you have just started a large board argument at every convention you’re asking to join over “Whether these rules are acceptable to us or not.”  (Quite possibly with the obligatory sides taken of “Too strict” vs. “Not strict enough.”)  And like every law, you’re going to come across situations that aren’t covered, because creepers creep in new and not-so-exciting ways all the time.

Yet if you take the alternate route of, “Well, you know what’s acceptable,” remember: well-meaning volunteers.  They might not.  Or they might not feel comfortable enough to ban people based on “gut feels” and hence default to not-banning when they damn well should.  It could be that your ban-list creates a false sense of safety, which is, in a way, even worse.

And then you get into the whole mess of “How do you report this stuff?”  The initial instinct may be to say, “Well, we won’t reveal any details, of what happened, we’ll just ban them.”  And congratulations!  You have just become the TSA’s “No-fly” list – a mysterious shadow cabinet that holds secret trials and doesn’t tell you what you did.  Even if you’re really good at weeding out creepers, you’re going to cause drama among people who don’t trust organizations. And as we all know, cons never have attendees of libertarian bents with deep mistrusts of authority.

Or maybe you give some vague details. Yet as organization after organization has discovered, people can put together stories from the vaguest hints.  You run a very good risk of inadvertently outing a victim.

Yet either way you go here, private or public disclosure, you run the risk of legal action.  Banned douchebot may not take well to being ejected from one convention, but he’s unlikely to go nuclear.  But if this project gets successful and banned douchebot is banned from not just one convention but most of the fun gatherings on the Eastern Seaboard, he may well get a lawyer and decide to see what he can shake loose.

And yes: you will probably win the court case.  But you’re very naive if you think “winning the court case” means “JUSTICE SERVED PIPING HOT!” Remember, cons are run on shoestring budgets, often only carrying maybe $500 to $1000 in profits over to the next year.  Douchebot doesn’t have to win the court case, he just has to force TinyCon to pay out in legal fees.  Too many legal fees, and they go broke.  And that’s a concern.

Is it any wonder a lot of cons just rely on whisper campaigns?  Even though they’re closely dependent on reputation, fragile, and can break all too easily?

None of this is to say that cons should not attempt to fling out the creepers, of course.  They should.  And most do try.  But because people criticized using the Sex Offender registry as a blacklist and asked, “Why not just use a customized one?”  And this is why creating a really good list is an honest-to-God struggle.

The real world is complex.  We struggle with very serious problems that don’t have easy answers.  And a lot of cons have been trying to provide better alternatives, with some success, and the fact that they achieve any headway at all is laudable as fuck.  Applaud them.  Contemplate how much work is ahead of them at making cons into safe spaces.  Understand that mistakes happen, and happen for these reasons, and should never ever happen, but even as you hold their feet to the fire understand all the vectors for error they’re juggling.

Now.  If you’ve run a con and got any good tips for keeping people out as a convention (and not the usual true-but-not-particularly helpful “Tell everyone to be eternally on their guard!”), then share.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/418992.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.
nellorat July 11 2014, 12:07

Call for Input, F/SF/H

One of the panels I'm on at Nasfic (at which we will be FanGoHs, squeee!) is on the classics of fantasy, science fiction, and horror. The moderator has a good idea: each panelist will discuss three classics in each area, with a tenth from any area.

What would y'all pick?

Inquiring minds need to know.

status: busy, getting ready for a big day at work
andrewducker July 11 2014, 11:00

Interesting Links for 11-07-2014

chris_walsh July 11 2014, 06:21

R-E-S-P-E-C-K, get launched in a trebuchet!

The title is meaningless. I just wanted to say something like it.

Hmm. What in fact would "re-speck" be? A speck is tiny, usually a synonym for dust, so maybe re-speaking is reducing something back to size. To dust-size.

This power could be used for evil. OK, I won't seek it. Next I'll seek sleep instead.
andrewducker July 10 2014, 19:22

Labyrinths and Lepidoptera: How I spent my day

We went out today to Symonds Yat. Which is, I think we can all agree, an excellent name for anything.

We were visiting the Butterfly Zoo and the Hedge Puzzle, which I think we can all agree is a terrible name for anything, but particular for a maze which was actually great fun (and had me completely lost wandering around it).

The butterflies were great - I love anything which has you wandering around with the animals, rather than separate from them, and having a huge butterfly land on my leg - and then crawl merrily onto Noah's hand, to be paraded around for ten minutes and shown off to anyone who would hold still and listen, was a joy.

We then wandered through the maze, Julie saving me from bumbling blindly in circles, Mike made it through in three minutes flat, and Mum and Noah had to be rescued by Hugh. There was a dome in the middle, to make it easier to find it, and a viewing platform that allowed you to shout helpful instructions to people. Or to take the piss, if they happened to be your loving brother.

Photos - and videos - under the cut!
Because I love you.Collapse )



Original post on Dreamwidth - there are comment count unavailable comments there.
scottynola July 10 2014, 17:35

Teenage Wasteland

My friend Laura says we shouldn’t feel guilty about anything (book, movie, TV show) that gives us pleasure. I have, of course, embraced this whole-heartedly; I do have a long history of enjoying things that the cultural elite have dismissed as low-brow, and I have always enjoyed them proudly. The novels of Sidney Sheldon, disaster movies, and reality television are amongst the so-called low brow things I am supposed to feel guilty about enjoying, but why should I feel guilty about anything I enjoy? Everything I watch, everything I read—these are all influences on me as a writer, a creative person, food and fuel for my brain and my creativity.

Yet I do feel a little guilty still about watching the Pretty Little Liars television show.

Last night, we finished watching Season 4. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Pretty Little Liars, it’s basically a teen soap opera with an emphasis on crime, kind of like the old Edge of Night soap I used to love. The premise is simple: there were five girls who were close friends, but over Labor Day weekend before their junior (sophomore?) year, the leader of the group, Alison DeLaurentis, disappeared during a slumber party. The show opens a year later when Aria Montgomery and her family return to the small town of Rosewood after spending time overseas (I want to say Iceland, but that may not be right). Things have changed in Rosewood during her absence; their little group has splintered—Emily is focused on swimming and her emerging lesbianism; Spencer is focused on getting into an Ivy League school; and formerly overweight Hannah has transformed into an Alison replacement, and become best friends with former geek Mona. Aria’s return brings the four girls back together again—along with the sudden appearance of someone who is only identified as “A”, who sends them threatening texts or leaves threatening letters for them in places. Shortly thereafter, Alison’s body is found buried under the gazebo in the DeLaurentis backyard, and the show is off to the races. Who killed Alison? Who is “A”, and how does “A” manage to know everything there is to know about the girls, including their darkest secrets, and how does “A” always manage to stay one step ahead of them?

Well, in fairness, as Paul has pointed out more than once, “A” stays ahead of them primarily because they aren’t particularly smart.

What amazes me, though, is that the show is on the ABC Family network. We have watched and enjoyed several ABC Family shows, including Kyle XY and Greek, but I am constantly surprised by these shows because when I think family television, I think ‘squeaky clean whitebread middle class America;’ shows like Leave It to Beaver and The Brady Bunch; corny clichéd programs that always try to teach lessons, etc. But Pretty Little Liars is pretty subversive for a ‘family’ program; Emily is a lesbian, has had several relationships which include same sex kissing and cuddling scenes; these teenagers all drink and have sex without thinking about it twice and are never ‘punished’ for having sex (there hasn’t been a pregnancy scare, for example); Aria is involved with an older man she meets in the first episode who turns out to be one of her teachers at Rosewood High School, which for all intents and purposes makes him a statutory rapist with again no ‘punishment’ or judgment of this relationship, which is kind of hard to believe (to be fair, Aria’s parents do NOT approve but don’t put a stop to it, either); Hannah’s mother sleeps with a cop to make a shoplifting charge against Hannah go away—and all the lies! My God, these girls lie as easily as they breathe…not to mention all the times they interfere with police investigations, steal things, contaminate crime scenes—the list goes on and on. Hannah has a tendency to seduce her older sister’s boyfriends. People get murdered, the identity of “A” is often revealed, only to discover that this particular iteration of “A” isn’t the real mastermind, but rather someone also being manipulated by the real”A” as the story plays out lazily over the seasons.

It’s entertaining enough, and the plotting is done very well—but the episode-to-episode writing is hit or miss. There are times when it seems like the writers forget that the girls are, in theory at least, reasonably intelligent, and have them spout the most absurd dialogue or behave in the most ridiculous, contrived ways that are out-of-character but necessary for the plot itself to advance. The acting ranges from decent to horrifically bad. One thing I do like about the show is that former young stars are cast as the parents and/or adults in this show; Laura Leighton (so memorable as Sydney on Melrose Place) plays Hannah’s mother Ashley; Aria’s parents are played by Chad Lowe and Holly Marie Combs from Charmed; and Nia Peeples from MTV plays Emily’s mother. People are killed all the time; I can’t even keep track of all the murders that have occurred in this show.

As I said, though, the plot is so tangled and confusing—with characters turning out not to be who they appeared to be years later—but oddly enough, it always manages to make sense, which I have to admire. After four seasons, we still don’t know who the real mastermind behind everything is, and often the murders don’t turn out to have anything to do with the central issue of who killed Alison?

The show is based on a series of books by Sara Shepard, which just today I looked up—there are sixteen books in the series! JFC.

And now, back to the spice mines.
andrewducker July 10 2014, 17:22

Solving the newspapers' money problem.

Reading this story about the New Yorker changing its online strategy is puzzling for me.

Because, once again, they're going for a variant of "We'll give you some stuff for free, and then when you're hooked, charge you for full access."

And that's a strategy that seems completely mired in the past. It assumes that a reasonable response to "You've read 9 articles in the last month, so the 10th requires you to sign up/hand over cash." is to do so - because clearly if you read ten articles on the New Yorker you're a budding New Yorker reader, ready to pledge your allegiance and wear the t-shirt.

Whereas my reaction to hitting a paywall is to sigh, and go check who else has the same story. Because I wasn't convinced that _that_ article was going to be great, I just wanted to read about the particular news event, and so long as I'm reading somewhere vaguely reputable* I don't really care who it is that's telling me what happened.

So the time to drop the paywall in front of me is not when I arrive at your site for the first time - it's a quarter of the way through every article. Once I've had a chance to get into it and decide that it's worth reading the rest of it.

And then (and this is the important bit) you have to make it _really_ easy for me to pay you. Not with a micropayment system that's specific to your site - because frankly I've never read the Minnesota Examiner before, and am not likely to again, so I'm not wasting three minutes on the sign-up dance. But with a system that covers hundreds of newspapers, if not thousands of them.**

I want something that essentially asks "Are you a subscriber to the gold-plated read-any-newspaper-you-like system?" - and if so lets you in to read as you like, collects a bunch of stats centrally, and then divides up my $50/month based on what I read where. Or tells me that this article is 5 cents and lets me click ok to carry on, again using a centralised system shared between hundreds of newspapers that I only have to sign up to once.

Because I don't mind paying for news, but I'm not a reader of any single newspaper- I'm a reader of _the media_. And so, frankly, are most online paper readers nowadays. The days of following a single paper of record are, if not dead, then on the way out swiftly***. And if you want to make money off of me directly (rather than through advertising to those people that don't use AdBlock) then that's something the newspapers need to take into account.

So once I'm signed into AllMyNewspapers.Com I never want to see another advert or paywall ever again. If they don't make it that easy, I really can't see it working****.


*By which I mean that they only lie 5% of the time, and I know where their biases are. :->
**I know I'm suggesting a massively centralised system here. I'd rather there were multiple competing ones here, but I suspect that "paying for content" is something that's going to swiftly become a monopoly.
***So far as I can tell the majority of people get their news through people linking to things on social networking sites,emailing them round, and other sharing methods. Some people, obviously, have to go to the site directly in the first place, but I strongly suspect that that's rapidly becoming a minority sport.
****Excepting specialist content. The Financial Times can get away with it. Or The Economist. Or even places like Ars Technica, which I pay for.



Original post on Dreamwidth - there are comment count unavailable comments there.
bev_vincent July 10 2014, 16:49

What I did on my summer vacation

Necon—which we regulars call “Camp Necon”—is coming up. It’s my writer’s vacation retreat each most years, and I’m very much looking forward to it. I won’t be on any panels (I was scheduled for one, but it conflicted with my departing flight), but I’m gonna have a good time all the same.

A couple of weeks ago, my daughter and I went on a Maritime Canadian vacation. When we first planned it, we were only going to go to Halifax, where we both attended university, but I decided to turn it into a bit of a road trip adventure.

A rainstorm swept through Houston just before our flight, which delayed our departure. I was a little worried, since we had a tight connection in Detroit. Delta now lets you connect to their site in flight, even if you don’t buy WiFi, so I could check up on things. Unfortunately, the site wasn’t updated with our departure, so the alerts grew increasingly alarming: you’re going to miss your connection. Click here to make alternate arrangements. However, the alternate arrangements always involved new flights starting from Houston and we were well into the flight! As it turned out, we were only a few minutes late arriving, and our connecting gate was next to the one at which we arrived. One really nice thing about the Delta app is that you can follow your luggage, and we were able to confirm that our bags had made our connecting flight, too. Useful information, although it wouldn’t be so nice to see that your bags hadn’t made the connection, or were now en route to Katmandu.

Our first stop in Canada was Prince Edward Island. No, that’s not exactly true. Our first stop was at Tim Horton’s in the Halifax airport. We stayed over at the airport hotel and headed off to PEI the next morning. I haven’t been to the island in 40 years, give or take, and my daughter has never been. We crossed the Confederation Bridge for the first time ever on Monday morning and meandered our way to Cavendish, where we visited the Anne of Green Gables tourist attractions. There’s a small museum where we caught a short video about Lucy Maud Montgomery’s life. Then we went through the barn and toured the house that is set up to replicate the one Anne Shirley lived in. Apparently many international tourists come there thinking Anne was a real person. Across the road, there’s a site I’d never visited: the place where LMM grew up. Her mother died of TB when she was two, so she was raised by her grandparents. All that remains of the house now is the stone cellar and a water well, but there’s a bookstore nearby run by relatives. We were treated to a nice talk by a woman whose husband was the great-grandson of the people who raised LMM. She was old enough to have attended LMM’s funeral in 1942, though she didn’t say how old she was at the time.

After Cavendish we went to Charlottetown. If I’ve ever been there before, I don’t remember it. It reminds me a lot of Halifax, in condensed form. The waterfront even has many of the same businesses. Preparations were well under way for the July 1st (Canada Day) celebrations, and it’s the 150th anniversary of the conference that led to the formation of Canada. We walked all over, including a trip through Victoria Park.

The next day, we went to southern New Brunswick to spend a day visiting with my relatives. We had a lobster feast that evening, the first time my daughter’s ever had it. It rained hard during our drive back to Halifax on Wednesday afternoon. The rental car was prone to hydroplaning when there was standing water, so we took our time. We were in no rush, and the sun stayed up until after 9 pm.

When we got to the hotel, we were informed that there was a package for us in the room. The publicist for the Syfy series Haven, which films in nearby Chester, had delivered an amazing gift basket that contained Haven goodies along with chocolate and other delectables. I’m still working my way through it. There was also a DVD that contained an episode of the show and an hour-long behind the scenes feature, so we watched that during the evening. I wrote about our visit to the Haven set earlier: that took up our Thursday. We went to my daughter’s favorite pizza place when we got back into the city.

On Friday morning, I had a taped interview lined up with the German TV station VOX. They have a thing coming out this fall and had reached out to me a few weeks earlier. Rather than having them schlep all the way from NY to Texas, I suggested they come up to Halifax, which worked into their schedule. The interviewer and her videographer arrived on Thursday evening; unfortunately, their gear did not, so we had to push the interview until late in the morning. I spent nearly two hours with them, though the first 30 minutes mostly involved getting the lighting right in the hotel suite where they were set up.

Once that was finished, I walked down to the Public Gardens to meet up with my daughter. We toured the waterfront, had a beavertail (our first) and wound up at the farmer’s market, where we had my daughter’s favorite tamales. She met up with some friends and I had a beer and a salad at a sidewalk cafe on Quinpool, where my daughter joined me later.

All too soon, our Maritime adventure was over, and we headed back home on Saturday afternoon, after having a donair at King of Donair on Quinpool en route to the airport.

Originally published at Bev Vincent. You can comment here or there.

seanan_mcguire July 10 2014, 16:35

Lafferty Air, now boarding.

The random number generator has spoken, and the winner of two signed books by the awesome MUR LAFFERTY is...

apocalypticbob !

Please send me an email via my website contact form, so that I can pass it off to Mur and get this party started.

Thanks to everyone who entered. If you've been looking for some summer reading, I highly recommend picking up a copy of The Shambling Guide to New York City. It's a heck of a lot of fun, and it's always nice to discover a new author with an awesome body of work.

Go forth, and read!
greygirlbeast July 10 2014, 16:22

"I twisted you over and under to take you. The coals went so wild as they swallowed the rest."

And, suddenly, it's not hot anymore. Today's high might reach 85˚F. The air through my office window is cool, and it's currently only 79˚F in Providence.

Late last night I learned that I've received three nominations for the 2014 World Fantasy Awards: Best Novella (Black Helicopters); Best Short Story ("The Prayer of Ninety Cats"); and Best Collection (The Ape's Wife and Other Stories). News like that makes going down to meet the dream monster a little bit easier.

Though it hadn't been the plan, yesterday's proofreading of "Far From Any Shore" led to some revision and expansion of a couple of scenes, so another entire work day was spent on the piece. So, today I'll do my best to get Sirenia Digest 101 out to subscribers.

Our "Pay For Hubero's Face" auctions continue, Round 2. Please have a look, and please bid if you see something you like. Thank you.

You know, that AM/FM transistor radio that my mother bought in 1973 with S&H Green Stamps never needed a single goddamn update, and it never needed a new operating system, and it lasted for over a decade. The television I bought in 1996 with one of my first good writing paychecks and which we only stopped using about three months ago, never needed an update, no OS swap, and it worked like a dream for eighteen years. Eighteen years! Never mind I've never once needed to update the copy of Watership Down I got when I was in eighth grade, in 1977. My copy of Savage Pellucidar, ca. 1974, I don't need a fancy, schmancy next-gen Schnook or Swindle to read it. Hell, my first computer, my beloved Pandora, a Mac Color Classic, worked just fine from 1993 to 2004 – when a mover bumped the box it was in and damaged it. That's eleven years without an update or a swap in the OS, and it only went in for repairs once, because the on/off switch broke. I'm using stereo speakers I bought in 1986, and then there's my completely functional 1941 Quiet Deluxe Royal typewriter – in tip-top shape.

But now, with the iPod, the iPad, my iMac, the Asus I game on, the PlayStation, all those streaming services we use through the new television, we have to face a constant, baffling barrage of updates and patches and glitches and bugs and the like. And if a computers that gets heavy use, as mine always do, lasts for four of five years, I'm lucky. We're on our fourth digital camera since 2004, because the things just wear the fuck out. Electronics are being built to need constant revision, and they're cheap junk built overseas to a) wear out quickly and b) be replaced by "better" models ASAP. Planned obsolescence has never been a third so pervasive and so profitable. Thank fuck we don't really do much with phones. My cell phone is years old, and it isn't the least bit smart, thank goodness. One of our two phones, we got it in 2006.

Sometimes, things truly were better before.

Fuck the updates.

Now, work.

Is It Live Or Is It
Aunt Beast (?)
nihilistic_kid July 10 2014, 15:59

Kit Reed: A Writer for Life

Today begins the 25th Readercon, an always very interesting and occasionally horrifyingly doctrinaire science fiction convention. For those who don't know, science fiction conventions have guests of honor and program books, and generally there are a few appreciations of the guests of honor, written by friends, acquaintances, or fans.

Here is my piece, for guest of honor Kit Reed.




There are few writers one can fruitfully read throughout one’s entire life. I don't mean that one can return to an author’s book and continue to enjoy it, the way an older person might do with The Lord of the Rings. Kit Reed isn’t about middle-aged nostalgia for a sticky day of summer reading between grades three and four, she is a writer who simply writes and publishes very widely. As a child, as a teen, as an adult, when climbing the hill of middle age, you’ll find her.

I knew her books, but paid no attention to the byline, as a child. As a kid I loved The Ballad of T.Rantula, though I was tricked into having my mother buy it for me. It wasn’t about kids teaming up with a superhero-wrestler after all, despite the cover. The whole thing wasn’t even science fiction; it was just about a boy whose folks were divorcing. It was perhaps the first “real book”—as I called non-speculative material back then—that I ever voluntarily read.

The first book I ever bought with my own money—a few bucks made helping out in my uncle’s lunch counter when I was nine years old—was Other Stories and ...The Attack of the Giant Baby. The cover looked funny, and the title story was funny. But Reed’s collection also contained stories that were simply over my head, this despite having somehow gotten Naked Lunch out of the library the year prior. What was I supposed to make of “Winter”, the book’s first story? I skipped ahead to “Attack of the Giant Baby” and literally years later thumbed back to “Winter” when I was ready for it.

As a young man I wandered away from the greasy kid stuff that is the mainstream of science fiction and fantasy, and immersed myself in what was called “downtown” writing, at least in downtown Manhattan, where I was living. Dennis Cooper, Eileen Myles, that sort of thing. And that led me to contemporary innovative/avant-garde/transgressive American fiction generally, and who was there waiting for me? Kit Reed, with her slim novel from Black Ice Books—a defunct and missed, by me anyway, imprint of Fiction Collective 2—Little Sisters of the Apocalypse. The innovative tradition in the US is not known for sentiment, but Reed managed to create something that was both gonzo and emotionally mature, with a gag title.

I still had no idea that Kit Reed was the same author of the half-forgotten books I’d read as a child.

I first got what we used to call net.access in 1989, when I managed to find my way to a TinyMUD via a raw telnet connection. There I was told that I needed an email address, because there were “dozens of machines out there” and I couldn’t just have messages sent to me without knowing that I belonged to sunysb.edu. And Kit Reed was exploring similar worlds at around the same time. When the Web finally got up and running and became useful enough to search phrases like “book about giant baby” or “tarantula ballad divorce”, I finally realized that I was a Kit Reed fan. And Kit Reed had anticipated me with her novel @Expectations. Again, this was not science fiction so much as it was basically a novel about my own 20s, which had been spent almost entirely online.

Then, finally I was hooked. Kit Reed. Don’t just look for books with wacky titles, look for Kit Reed. Was I living with a woman with an eating disorder? Yes, and Kit Reed wrote Thinner Than Thou. In my thirties, did I start getting very anxious about starting a family? Of course, and Kit Reed wrote The Baby Merchant. When I had young cousins to buy presents for, Kit Reed was there again, The Night Children, a novel about that pretty common daydream kids have about spending all night in a shopping mall—it was a daydream I always had. (Naturally, I read the book before making a gift of it.) And only after reading The Night Children did I find her broadly similar 1980 title Magic Time, on a blanket set up on the sidewalk by a street peddler, and inhaled it. Kit knew I’d be an adult looking for an adult version of her twenty-first century YA novel back when I’d picked up my first of her titles as a child.

Now I’m middle-aged, with a baby and a day job. I’m as surprised as you are. I work in a slum zone that is rapidly being gentrified thanks to the fascist handclasp of transnational venture capital and supposedly “progressive” local government. The homeless outside my office don’t even have it sufficiently together to sell old Kit Reed paperbacks on blankets; it’s all bloody meth scabs and ranting into traffic. They live under the shadows of high-rise apartment buildings being put up on either side of my workplace—an old concrete slab where fancy social media companies relocate to get tax breaks. Those apartments are renting for $3500 a month for a studio. One-bedrooms are $4500 a month. Having a family? Living more than two minutes away from the cubicle where you already put in a twelve-hour workday? That's so random—let’s disrupt life-as-we-know it!

And just now, as I type these words, a new-to-me Kit Reed novel has arrived in the mail. Fort Privilege, about the wealthy ascending skyscrapers to avoid the rampaging poor, from back in 1986. She saw all of this, every major episode of my life, coming decades before I did.

I’ll be reading Kit Reed till I die. I have to find out what happens next.
theferrett July 10 2014, 14:06

On Cons Screening For Sex Offenders

I’ll be presenting on polyamory at the Geeky Kink Event New England this year (come visit! It’s fun!) , and was finalizing my schedule with the organizers when they said this:

There will be a charge…. to run a check against the sex offender registry.

“Huh,” I said.  “They’re going to check to see if I’m a sex offender?”  And sure enough, I checked their website, and found this stunning little number under “Registrant Screening“:

When you register for GKE:NE, we will do two things to help ensure a safe, secure atmosphere for all of our guests.
  1. We will run the registrant’s name against a shared list of people banned from various kink and alternative lifestyle events on the Eastern Seaboard.  Reasons someone might be banned include forms of severe misconduct, such as consent violation.

  2. We will run the registrant’s legal name through the sex offender registry of either their home state or, by default, New Jersey.

And I thought, “How insanely great is that?”

Admittedly, the Geeky Kink Event is a kink event (the TARDIS bondage box and the sensory deprivation Companion Cube might be your clue as to the sexy here), so screening for sex offenders is a little more vital than it might be at your average filker con.

But I really like what this says about their commitment to their attendees: We’re going to try our damndest to keep the creepers out, and you safe.

Now, is the sex offender registry a particularly great method of filtering people?  Sadly, no.  The sex offender registry has a distressing amount of false positives, particularly from teenagers in consensual acts who got caught by angry parents.  There are people who plea bargain down to sex offender status not because they were guilty, but because they had 100% chance of walking free if they took the label or some not-zero percentage of jail time if they didn’t.  The sex offender list is imperfect and broken in an America that really dislikes sex.

Worse, the sex offender list isn’t near-comprehensive, either.  There’s a lot of rapists and molesters who didn’t get their much-deserved day in court, so “Not being on the list” is not proof that this is an upstanding citizen.  (Which is why GKNE backs it up by checking with their sister cons, sharing their ban-list.)

That said, holy fuck you guys go for making the attempt.

Screening for creepers is a tough job, in real life.  A really tough job.  The court system is incomplete, the word-of-mouth is ephemeral, the drama high, the legal hassles are tricksy, the defenders multitudinous, the creepers insidious.  People don’t like accusing other people, because it feels bad and often it puts a victim in a spotlight when they’d rather just forget this happened, so sometimes getting evidence would involve making a victim’s life infinitely worse.

And – never forget this – some of the consent violators are really nice guys.  Which is why I encourage you to question me, question your friends, question everybody, because “a nice guy” can often mean “has leveraged sympathy to get better traction for despicable acts.”

But make no mistake: despite its flaws, there’s a lot of dangerous fucking people on the sex offender list, too.  And rather than throwing up their hands and saying, “Wow, this is complicated, who the heck knows?”, the Geeky Kink Event is at least attempting to enforce some standard that – though I’m sure they’d readily admit has some flaws – is still much, much better than leaving it open to whatever creepazoids hand them their money.

I’m glad they’re screening.  I’m glad they’re asking about me.  I do not want to ruin someone’s convention experience, and if they check me out and think that I’d hassle people, I support their right to kick my ass to the curb.  (I doubt they will, as they vetted me last year before I emergency-cancelled thanks to Rebecca’s sudden illness, but who knows?)

Every convention is its own society and its own set of morals.  That society is shaped by what behaviors are judged acceptable – and, by proxy, what people you allow in to act.  Shaping that society is not wrong – in fact, it’s part of what makes the really good cons great – and finding ways to keep the away people who’d ruin the experience of the good people you want to attract to your gatherings?

I support that.  And in the absence of ideal solutions, I’m glad to see GKNE working towards imperfect ones.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/418716.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.
andrewducker July 10 2014, 13:09

Coin locks and supermarket trolleys

BBC article here, talking about Morrisons removing all of the coin locks on their trolleys.

And I have mixed feelings. Because it is a pain having to ensure you have a pound coin with you whenever you go shopping*. And I don't like being treated as if I'm going to steal a trolley.

On the other hand, I do remember when they first came in, and we went from never being able to find a small trolley, to suddenly there being a load of them available at all times...

*Or constantly carrying a thing which is the same shape as one. and also seems to always cost £1.



Original post on Dreamwidth - there are comment count unavailable comments there.
bart_calendar July 10 2014, 13:08

Haters Gotta Hate

I think we now have a winner for the most obnoxious mommy blog of all time. Shockingly (not) it's headlined "I Taught My Daughter To Hate."

It chronicles how the mom has spent years teacher her daughter to be a total asshole and how proud she is of the monster she's created.




"Boo! Hiss!" That is what my daughter will yell out whenever we drive by a McDonald's or a Burger King. On occasion, she will also stick out her tongue at the massively popular fast food chains.... This isn't the only negative behavior she displays when faced with something she thinks is "like totally gross." When she sees a person smoking on the street she will not only give them the stink eye, but she covers her mouth in an attempt to not have a single particle of smoke reach her mouth or nose. It's pretty dramatic and usually leaves the smoker bewildered by her reaction."



Because, you know bothering total strangers on the street is exactly what little kids should be doing. And, boy does the mom think this is awesome.




"This behavior totally warms my kale-eating, Greek yogurt-loving, grass-fed beef burger-grilling heart....Yes, this is all my doing. Since she was old enough to comprehend the English language, I have not-so-subtly taught her to have a disdain for certain things, so much so that you could call it a "hate." When we would see a Mickey D's commercial on TV, I would warn her of the dangers of fast food. When we would see someone smoking, I would bring up the dangers of cigarettes. These carefully crafted asides on my part really have sunk in, and now I don't have to give her any guidance to "hate" these things — she hates them all on her own."



She worries for a bit that teaching her children "hate" might not be the greatest thing in the world but then is like "fuck it, I'm glad she's a hateful snot."




"I will go on record that there are some behaviors or unhealthy things that are totally hate-worthy, like smoking. And it is our duty to guide our children to think negatively of those things."


rozk July 10 2014, 11:56

First for a while

DIDACTIC POEM NUMBER SIX OF INDISCRETIONS

I talk too much. And sometimes it annoys.
I talk quite indiscreetly to a crowd
of things said soft, in bed, not quite aloud.
It was the same when I went out with boys

I wanted to acknowledge, hold my hand
in public. I rush love that should be slow
and easy. Where there's nuance, want to know
in crisp clear terms. The need to understand

what's growing changing is this poet's flaw.
To take each single moment that's occurred
between us, try to find the perfect word
for kiss or touch, the one that makes it more,

eternal. Lovers, poets, share lust's greed.
We speak embarassingly from sheer need.
andrewducker July 10 2014, 11:00

Interesting Links for 10-07-2014


Original post on Dreamwidth - there are comment count unavailable comments there.
bart_calendar July 10 2014, 10:36

Sex Crime

Over on Gawker there is an interesting piece about a guy charged for not disclosing his HIV status to sex partners. There are back and forth arguments on whether or not that should be a crime. That's interesting, but it ignores the fact that there are people out there who intentionally infect people - shouldn't we be talking about that?

GLADD has commented on the case, essentially arguing that this dude had no choice but to not tell people he was HIV positive:



"(I)f you don't understand why a young gay black man has difficulty disclosing his status, you're clueless as to why the epidemic is affecting young gay black men in shocking numbers. We have an environment in which those with HIV are labeled as murderers, and then wonder why they have trouble disclosing."


As far as I can tell that means "how the hell else was he going to get laid?"

That may very well be the case here, that the dude was just worried that he'd not get fucked if he told his status. What it ignores is the culture of stealthing (tricking men into unprotected gay sex) that exists.

There are numerous websites out there with details on how to do it. Check out this (NSFW) one that is particularly evil.

Here's some of his "helpful" advice.



"Put your condoms in your car for a few days, especially if you can sit them on your dashboard. Then bring them inside and put them into your freezer straight from the extreme heat. Then take them back outside to the car. Doing this a few times — extreme heat, extreme cold — really breaks them down but only once or twice helps."


Here's some more.



"First and foremost, get rid of all condom-safe lubricants but not the bottles they came in (maybe not all… when you do have the barebacker over, you might prefer one). Fill up these "safe for condom use" bottles with oil or petroleum lubricants."


And more.



"You must control your breathing so that when you cum, it's not apparent you're cumming. Immediately after shooting in the bottom's ass, pull out and reach down to appear to pull off the condom. In this process, wipe off any excess cum from the ass. Produce the wet condom and drop it somewhere near his chest and/or face. Now breath hard and "cum."


Now I'm not saying that anything like this happened in this case. But stealthing needs to be part of the ongoing discussion of the criminalization of HIV transmission. There are literally dozens of sites out there with guys trading tips on how to stealth and talking about the times they've stealthed and encouraging other dudes to stealth.

That has to mean that it's happening. And, when it does, I do think it should be a crime.

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