Put Butler on the World Fantasy Award!

Daniel José Older continues his campaign to replace Lovecraft with Butler for the World Fantasy Award:

“Why Butler?” people asked me when the petition went up, and I remembered how entrenched we all get in our own corners within the genre. Butler’s prose soars where Lovecraft’s stumbles. Her characters live and breathe, confront complexities of power and privilege amid fantastical, terrifying dreamscapes steeped in history and nuance. My SFF community is mostly black and brown, and Butler inspired many of us to start writing in the first place. These folks congregate more often than not in online communities like the Nerds of Color, Black Girl Nerds and the Fan Bros, because outside of ComicCon, SFF cons have historically not been safe spaces for women and people of color. These are the online communities that signed the petition in the thousands, which is what transformed it from being just another attempt at dethroning Lovecraft as the face of one of fantasy’s highest awards (there have been several) to a global conversation with coverage in Salon, the Guardian, NPR and countless blogs.

I still think Older is wrong to diss Lovecraft’s writing talent. It distracts from the real argument and puts hackles up that don’t need to. But what I am coming round to is the idea of replacing Lovecraft with Butler, even if her work isn’t quite the first thing you think of as fantasy. It doesn’t matter that she isn’t the perfect fit for the World Fantasy Award; it’s the symbolism of replacing of replacing a dead white racist man with a dead black woman. It’s not enough just to make the WFA over into a neutral award like the Nebulas because that would still leave most of the major sf awards named after dead white men and even dead white racist men, as is the case with the two Campbell awards. Putting Butler forward as the face of one of the major fantastika awards would send a signal that science fiction and fantasy have changed, are trying to shed their racist history.

#MetalGate: you’re joking, right?

I saw some brief references to #MetalGate on Twitter before the weekend and assumed it was GamersGate loons trying to stir shit. I was right:

Similar to how “#Gamergate” was coined by Adam Baldwin while linking to videos about Zoe Quinn’s sex life, then famously retconned to actually be about ethics in journalism, the origins of #Metalgate seem to be unimportant. #Gamergate has established a template. Throw a hash in front of a word and a “-gate” behind it, and you send out a veritable Bat-Signal to thousands of angry people on the internet: “Social Justice Warriors are doing… something. We may not be clear on what they’re actually saying or doing, but they must be stopped.”

Proof once more, if any was needed, that GamersGate is just another rightwing kulturclash project, just another attempt by “South Park Republicans” and professional culture warriors to seem even vaguely relevant and use the fears and prejudices of unthinking white men to get some sort of rightwing cultural backlash going, gain some foothold in youth culture. Yes, it’s all sound and fury and rape threats that accomplishes nothing except the harassment of more women but hey, it beats working for a living.

Furies — Lauro Martines

Cover of Furies


Furies: War in Europe 1450 – 1700
Lauro Martines
320 pages, including index
published in 2013

A lot of history books about war and warfare, even when they look at the impact war had on wider society, on the civilians and soldiers caught up in it, are remarkably clinical and dry about the violence it brings with it. Not so Furies: War in Europe 1450 – 1700. Before it’s good and well started, you get the first grizly massacre to process, no horrid detail spared, all the better to prepare you for the rest of the book. This is not an easy read, not your average military history wankfest, this is a book with a message and that message is that war in Early Modern/Renaissance Europe was hell, a total war where nobody cared if you lived or died.

That period from roughly 1450 to 1700 was one in which a military revolution took place, with Europe emerging from feudalism and war as a noble pursuit for knights and aristocrats giving way to mass warfare by any means necessary. It was a revolution brought about through the introduction of gundpower weapons making possible new ways of making war, as well as the growing strength of the emerging European nation-states. Add to that increasing religious schism and you have a recipe for warfare on an apocalyptic scale and Martines is not afraid to show what that meant on the ground, for the people caught up in the war.

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Your Happening World (November 26th through December 8th)

Twentyfive years ago today

Lest we forget:

Geneviève Bergeron (b. 1968), civil engineering student.
Hélène Colgan (b. 1966), mechanical engineering student.
Nathalie Croteau (b. 1966), mechanical engineering student.
Barbara Daigneault (b. 1967), mechanical engineering student.
Anne-Marie Edward (b. 1968), chemical engineering student.
Maud Haviernick (b. 1960), materials engineering student.
Maryse Laganière (b. 1964), budget clerk in the École Polytechnique’s finance department.
Maryse Leclair (b. 1966), materials engineering student.
Anne-Marie Lemay (b. 1967), mechanical engineering student.
Sonia Pelletier (b. 1961), mechanical engineering student.
Michèle Richard (b. 1968), materials engineering student.
Annie St-Arneault (b. 1966), mechanical engineering student.
Annie Turcotte (b. 1969), materials engineering student.
Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz (b. 1958), nursing student.

Books read November

Nine books read this month, which began strongly but petered out a bit as a couple of tough books slowed me down.

Schitterende Wereld — Mel Hartman
A disappointing collection of sf short stories based on an interesting concept: twelve stories based on the work of six world famous scientists.

Broken Homes — Ben Aaronovitch
Fourth in a series about a hapless London police officer being caught up in its magical underworld.

Styx — Bavo Dhooge
A bent cop in Oostende returns from the death as a zombie to bring a serial killer to justice

Ter Ziele — Esther Scherpenisse
Sometimes Death has pity for a dying person and brings them to its palace….

A History of the Vandals — Torsten Cumberland Jacobsen
A decent introduction to the history of the Vandals, one of the few such actually available in English.

Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance — Lois McMaster Bujold
The latest so far in the Vorkosigan saga, now starring Miles cousin, that idiot Ivan.

Furies: War in Europe 1450-1700 — Lauro Martines
A distressing look at warfare in Early Modern Europe.

Who Fears Death — Nnedi Okorafor
Okorafor’s first adult novel, a harrowing coming of age tale & quest story.

Het Laatste Verhaal — Guido Eekhaut
In the near future republic of Flanders, two street outcasts team up with a Japanese woman from an alternate world who has a sword that can cut through time and space…

The Dark Colony — Richard Penn

Cover of The Dark Colony


The Dark Colony
Richard Penn
327 pages
published in 2014

James Nicoll is a longtime science fan active on Usenet and Livejournal, who has been working as an internal reviewer for various publishers. As that work started to dry up earlier this year, he started doing sponsored reviews, where people (but not authors) can buy reviews of books they’re interested in, suspect James would like, or at least would have an enjoyable reaction to. I’ve known James for a long time and he’s one of the people I absolutely trust their taste in books of, so I pay attention when he says something he’s worth reading. Which is exactly what he did with Richard Penn’s The Dark Colony and since it was cheap on *m*z*n, I bought it.

Now there was a risk with this. At times James’ fondness for exactly the kind of setting The Dark Colony provides — near future, the real Solar System, no magical rocket propulsion to let people pootle around it in hours or even days, no cheating — can blind him to some of the other qualities (or lack thereof) of a book. Fortunately however, in this case, the book’s appeal exists beyond its setting. Basically, this is a police procedural: it starts with the discovery of a body floating around in the the giant free fall hangar of Terpsichore Station. What’s remarkable is that it’s the body of a stranger to the Terpsichore colony, which only has a few hundred people living in the station and the asteroid itself. It’s up to constable Lisa Johansen to find out where the stranger comes from and in the process she finds herself unravelling a huge conspiracy in the heart of her community and beyond. Yes, this is not just a police procedural, it’s a gloomy Scandinavian one…

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