Banana creme

It’s when you scrablle in dark cupboards to find the hand mixer and then realise that it hasn’t been turned on since she died, that you miss your wife again. Every time I try a new or unfamiliar recipe again that calls for a bit of kitchen kit I’ve rarely or never used and find out that yes, of course Sandra had bought it long ago, I’m reminded of how good a cook she was. She could whip together a great meal with minimal effort and make it healthy too.

Me, not so much. Between being fundamentally lazy and only having to cook for myself and what’s the point of going to all that extra effort if you’re just cooking for one?

But sometimes I do find something that looks tasty and easy to make and I get that itch to make it, hence banana creme as blogged by Michel yesterday, seemed like the perfect dessert today on a hot summer day. Had to make some changes though; the local supermarket only had sweetened condensed milk and for some reason no lemons, so had to get lemon juice, but the recipe stayed the same:

A couple of leftover bananas, a can of condensed milk, blitz with the mixer, add a bit of lemon juice to sharpen it up a bit et viola:

bananana creme

Your Happening World (July 14th through July 22nd)

  • 1974 -1986: A Spotlight Chronology (work in progress/draft) | Bits of Books, Mostly Biographies – What is perhaps most notable in placing a series of press reports on abuse scandals over any period of time is that there’s a lot of shock and outrage and not much action from anyone in a position of duty, responsibility or power to do anything except to apparently express more shock and outrage, this time on our behalf, before swiftly moving on. Something the collection of press reports at SpotlightOnAbuse ably demonstrate and which forms the spine of this chronology.
  • BBC – Blogs – Adam Curtis – WHAT THE FLUCK! – That at the same time as the police pursue the dodgy private investigators, like AIS, who are bugging and hacking their way into thousands of peoples' lives, the very same police – along with the security services, GCHQ and the NSA – are doing exactly the same to millions of other people. The only difference is that it's legal – because the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act of 2000, and other laws, allow them to do it.
  • How to find the missing Buk system |
  • i believe you | it’s not your fault – Can we use our collective life experience to be a safe haven for kids who need it? Can we tell stories and answer questions and offer solidarity and resources and maybe break some cycles before they begin? Can we do it with humor and transparency, and without coming across like dorky, hand-wringing moms? After all, so many of us are still those kids. So many of us will always be those kids. Well, we can try. … We’re just people who’ve been through stuff, and we’re here. Ask us anything. It’s not your fault. We believe you.
  • Rick Remender, Alleged Statutory Rape, and Jet Black – If your discomfort with the whole Captain America #22 issue is simply the fact that sex had happened between two consenting adults in the presence of alcohol, this isn’t for you. You’re free and completely entitled to hate that and view it with great disdain but my attitude and problem with the fandom is not because of people finding issue with that overused plot device to get two people to finally be comfortable enough to do it but because of people making claims that Jet Black is 14 years old (when she’s not) and thus stating that despite her even saying she’s beyond those years to dare accuse Remender writing a statutory rape scene and faulting Sam Wilson as a rapist. If you had any of these thoughts, this is for you. Before you continue your crusade, please at least let me provide you with some facts.
  • The End of Fan-Run Conventions? | Cheryl’s Mewsings – My point is, however, that there is no upside to running fan conventions anymore. There is no satisfaction in a job well done. The only probable outcome is that you will spend the weeks after the convention dealing with angry and disappointed attendees, and avoiding social media because you don’t want to have to read the awful things that are being said about you.

(not the) Hugo Awards: John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer

Awarded with the Hugos, but not a Hugo Award, the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer has been awarded since 1973, in honour of the editor who for better or worse has shaped American science fiction the most. Writers are eligible for two years after their first sale and indeed three of the candidates below are in their second year of eligibility, indicated by an asterix:

  • Wesley Chu
  • Max Gladstone *
  • Ramez Naam *
  • Sofia Samatar *
  • Benjanun Sriduangkaew

Save for Wesley Chu, whose The Lives of Tao I’d seen in the local sf bookstore, none of these were writers I knew before I got my hands on the Hugo Voters Package (hurhur). I’ve been slowly working my way through the books and stories in it and have now almost finished reading through the Campbell nominees. I’m still reading Ramez Naam’s Nexus but I already know that he, though not a bad writer, is the least of the five candidates.

To determine the best was more difficult. Sofia Samatar, with her excellent fantasy picaresque A Stranger in Olondria quickly went to the top, but Benjanun Sriduangkaew, represented with three excellent short stories Silent Bridge, Pale Cascade, Fade to Gold and The Bees Her Heart, the Hive Her Belly, was a strong challenger. Sriduangkaew has a vivid imagination andis at home in both science fiction and fantasy, but in the end I still had to give the nod to Samatar.

In the middle of the pack are Wesley Chu, who wrote a decent but not spectacular first novel and who I ended up putting in fourth, while Max Gladstone wrote a much better steampunk fantasy novel. I wouldn’t mind seeing him win the Campbell either, though I do think Sriduangkaew and Samatar both are a quantum leap ahead of him. If either Chu or Naam win thought that would be a disappointment, as their work is no more than competent adventure science fiction. My final ranking therefore:

  1. Sofia Samatar
  2. Benjanun Sriduangkaew
  3. Max Gladstone
  4. Wesley Chu
  5. Ramez Naam

Hugo Awards: Novelettes

Novelette is one of those categories that seem largely unnecessary to me: too long for a short story, too short for a novella, what’s the point here other than length? Can anybody really tell the difference between a short story and a novelette or at the other end, between it and a novella? Better split this category up between the other two and be done with it.

However, since it still exists, let’s take a look at the candidates:

  • “The Exchange Officers” by Brad Torgersen (Analog, Jan-Feb 2013)
  • “The Lady Astronaut of Mars” by Mary Robinette Kowal ( /, 09-2013)
  • “Opera Vita Aeterna” by Vox Day (The Last Witchking, Marcher Lord Hinterlands)
  • “The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling” by Ted Chiang (Subterranean, Fall 2013)
  • “The Waiting Stars” by Aliette de Bodard (The Other Half of the Sky, Candlemark & Gleam)

The two entries I struck through I won’t judge, as I explained before, leaving three candidates. Below I’ve listed them in the order I’ll vote for them.

The Waiting Stars” — Aliette de Bodard
An excellent slice of Banksian space opera, a story of love, family and two incompatible views of the world.

The Lady Astronaut of Mars” — Mary Robinette Kowal
A retired astronaut on Mars, in an alternative history where an asteroid landing on Washington DC in the early fifties meant a much strong space programme, is asked to go on one last mission to a newly discovered extrasolar planet, but it would meaning leaving her husband behind to die, as he only has a year left to live. This is an unabashedly emotionally manipulative story, in that the dilemma at the heart of it does not make sense — why not wait a year if she’s the only one who can undertake the mission, why insist on her having to go right now– but the truth at the core of it, of watching a loved one, a husband, in the final stages of a terminal disease with all that entails, that truth is real.

The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling” — Ted Chiang
A story in which Chiang draws parallels between the introduction of literacy in a tribal society and the near future takeup of almost perfect lifelogging and recall software. Not entirely convincing.

All three stories are good in their own right, but the Aliette de Bodard story stands out head and shoulders for me. I definately need to read more of her.

Cons should worry about victims, not harassers

Thinking more about Wiscon, I came back to the point Rose Fox made two years ago, in the wake of the harassment problems at Readercon:

When someone does something we find noxious, they become the focus of attention: how will they be punished? Will they apologize? Can they be brought back into the fold? Meanwhile, the person they targeted with their noxious behavior is forgotten, dismissed, or scorned. Harassers are often charismatic, which is how they get close enough to harass, and they often target the shy and vulnerable, who are that much easier to ignore if they manage to speak up at all. We are all intimately familiar with the narrative of sin-repentance-redemption, and it’s startlingly easy to try to follow someone through it while all but forgetting that they wouldn’t have even started down that road if they hadn’t treated another person badly.

That is, that too much of the focus in this is on the harasser and that cons even when starting to address harassment do this, sometimes with the best of intentions. As with Wiscon, you get all those pseudolegal procedures and folderol to make sure that harassment policies are fair and balanced and while having due process is important in the justice system, if you run a con it should be more simple to expell people who hassle and harass other congoers. There’s no need to reinvent the legal system.

And at the forefront of every conrunner’s mind should be the simple idea that for every harasser treated with kid gloves and not expelled, several victims or potential victims will feel unsafe and not go to their convention.

Wiscon still favouring harassers

As you know Bob, Wiscon has had problems getting its house in order after Jim Frenkel was accused of harassment. After Elise Matthesen reported being harassed by him last year you would’ve expected him not to have been welcome this year, but that turned out not to be the case. Fianlly, after lots of anger online and elsewhere and more incompetence from the con, Wiscon finally established a subcomittee to look at the Frenkel case and come to a decision about what to do with him. Today it reached its decision:

The WisCon committee announces the following actions:

WisCon will (provisionally) not allow Jim Frenkel to return for a period of four years (until after WisCon 42 in 2018). This is “provisional” because if Jim Frenkel chooses to present substantive, grounded evidence of behavioral and attitude improvement between the end of WisCon 39 in 2015 and the end of the four-year provisional period, WisCon will entertain that evidence. We will also take into account any reports of continued problematic behavior.

Allowing Jim Frenkel to return is not guaranteed at any time, including following WisCon 42; the convention’s decision will always be dependent on compelling evidence of behavioral change, and our commitment to the safety of our members. If he is permitted to return at any time, there will be an additional one-year ban on appearing on programming or volunteering in public spaces. Any consideration of allowing him to return will be publicized in WisCon publications and social media at least three months before a final decision is made.

Based on the policies adopted by WisCon’s Harassment Policy Committee before WisCon 38 in 2014, Jim Frenkel has the right to appeal this decision to SF3, WisCon’s governing body. If he enters an appeal, we will make public statements both when he does so and when the appeal ruling is issued.

Which really isn’t good enough? Because if I read this right, in the worst case scenario, if Frenkel is really really sorry, he could be back at the con in two years time, the year after it back as volunteer. Even a straight four year ban seems too little for somebody who harassed at least one woman at Wiscon, perhaps more. How could his victims feel safe there with this resolution? In everything this statement seems more concerned with Frenkel’s rights than with that of his victims, especially as it offers some sort of vague rehabilitation process he could undergo to be allowed back in less than two years.

Note that Elise Matthesen has already said she’d rather not come back to Wiscon regardless of the economic consequences for her business; I can’t imagine this ruling will change her mind. By bending over backwards to give Frenkel options for redemption, Wiscon keeps driving away his victims, not to mention those who have no desire to become his victim. The con had an opportunity to make a statement here, by banning Frenkel either for life or for a long enough period that it would actually have inconvenienced him; by not doing this they confirm that his rights to come to their con trumps the ability of any woman to feel safe at it.

This is not how a serious con deals with harassment.

Lagoon — Nnedi Okorafor

Cover of Lagoon

Nnedi Okorafor
306 pages
published in 2014

There has been a bit of a spat about the use of dialect and “non-standard” English in science fiction lately, as various people were critical about using dialect all together, finding it gimmicky or too difficult. As Juan Diaz put it “Motherfuckers will read a book that’s one third Elvish, but put two sentences in Spanish and they [white people] think we’re taking over” which is more true than it should be. A novel like Lagoon therefore, which is not only set in a city and country –Lagos, Nigeria — unfamiliar to the average science fiction reader, but which is (partially) written in Nigerian English, using Nigerian vocabulary and grammar, may be somewhat of a challenge. Because while we as science fiction readers supposedly crave the shock of the new, often it’s only if it’s cloaked in familiar language and cultural expectations.

And I have to admit, I did have to struggle a little bit with Lagoon, getting used to the language and the setting, though to nowhere near the extent I had to get used to Feersum Endjinn. For me this was a turn-on rather than a turn-off; I don’t mind working harder for my entertainment if a book is worth it and Lagoon certainly is. This is a novel of first contact where the people encountering the alien are not square jawed space marines but a marine biologist (Adaora), a troubled soldier (Agu) and a world famous rap star (Anthony), taken as representatives of humanity into the sea as the aliens landed there, to be returned to Lagos with Ayodele, an envoy from the aliens who needs to meet up with the president of Nigeria to discuss the future of the country now they’ve made their home there.

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Comic shop Lambiek has to move

Lambiek is probably the world’s oldest continuing comics store, founded in 1968 in the Kerkstraat in the centre of Amsterdam and still located there fortysix years later. However, after the summer this will change as Dutch newspapers report Lambiek has to leave the Kerkstraat due to high rents. Worse, according to Micheal Minneboo Lambiek might close altogether.

That would be an incredible blow to Dutch comics; Lambiek has ben a driving force in alternative and art comics here, as a shop and gallery and since 1994 also through its comiclopedia, still the best source for information about more obscure cartoonists. For Amsterdam, the loss or move of Lambiek out of the centre would mean another loss of a prominent independent shop.

But Boris Kousemaker, the son of founder Kees Kousemaker, is still optimistic about Lambiek’s chances: the advantage of a long history is having a large group of customers and friends willing and able to think and work along for a solution.

Your Happening World (July 10th through July 13th)