Monday, November 28, 2016

Depersonalized personalization (or is it personalized depersonalization?)

I keep hearing about "the Trump voter" or "Trump voters" as if these theoretical entities are a source of valid generalizations or conclusions about our changing world. Certainly they're components of the media's narratives about the election. Yesterday Tom read out a passage from a book he's been reading, Cathy O'Neil's Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatening Democracy that brought home to me just how naive and simplistic the media's narratives about the election really are. This is a book that considers a variety of ways that mass data and algorithms are getting it wrong and continually screwing things up for the individuals who are the sources of the data that's being mined. (Counterintuitive, some people would say, since for years people thought that supplying companies and institutions with data about ourselves was harmless and often a means for avoiding paywalls.) In a chapter titled "The Targeted Citizen," discussing "microtargetting," which produces customized ads and news, she notes:
Successful microtargeting, in part, explains why in 2015 more than 43 percent of Republicans, according to a survey, still believed the lie that President Obama is a Muslim. And 20 percent of Americans believe he was born outside the United States and, consequently, an illegitimate president. (Democrats may well spread their own disinformation in microtargeting, but nothing that has surfaced matches the scale of the anti-Obama campaign.)
Conventional political campaigns still direct the majority of their media buy to television ads, which have a more equalizing effect, but even television advertising is becoming personalized. It may be worth noting that much was made, during the campaign, of the Clinton campaign's reliance on television and Trump's preferred use of the Internet, the medium par excellence for microtargeting. If you want to say different things to different people, especially if you want to propagate "fake news" designed to appeal to particular mindsets, obviously Internet advertising and messaging works more effectively than television ads do. O'Neil predicts that
It will become harder to access the political messages our neighbors are seeing--and as a result, to understand why they believe what they do, often passionately. Even a nosy journalist will struggle to track down the messaging. It is not enough simply to visit the candidate's web page, because they, too, automatically profile and target each visitor, weighing everything from their zip codes to the links they click on the page, even the photos they appear to look at. It's also fruitless to create dozens of "fake" profiles, because the systems associate each real voter with deep accumulated knowledge, including purchasing records, addresses, phone numbers, voting records, and even social security numbers and Facebook profiles. To convince the system it's real, each fake would have to come with its own load of data. Fabricating one would require far too much work for a research project (and in the worst-case scenario it might get the invetigator tangled up in fraud).

...The political marketers maintain deep dossiers on us, feed us a trickle of information, and measure how we respond to it. But we're kept in the dark about what our neighbors are being fed. This resembles a common tactic used by business negotiators. They deal with different parties separately so that none of them knows what the other is hearing. This asymmetry of information prevents the various parties from joining forces--which is precisely the point of a democratic government.
So what does the media come up with to "explain" the disconnect between coastal "elites" (as if--yet another imaginary entity) and "the Trump voter"? A bubble that people on the coasts live in! Is this naivete--ignorance of the effects of microtargeting--or deliberate obfuscation? For rank and file workers in the media, likely the former. But I bet the ones devising the microtargeting split their sides every time they hear about "the bubble."

It's Sarah Tolmie x3 at Strange Horizons this week

This week at Strange Horizons you can (1) read or listen to Sarah Tolmie's "Dancer on the Stairs," one of the tales in Two Travelers (which Aqueduct released earlier this year), (2) read Maureen Kincaid Speller's interview of her, and (2) read Molly Katz's review of Two Travelers. Reading the interview just now, I saw that serendipity had struck again.

Sarah muses:

 It must be pretty clear to anyone who reads my fiction that I am a fan of the slow approach. It is, in fact, the slowness of writing—and of reading, which, while not so slow, is at least repeatable—that is its main strength, in my opinion. If you are writing, or reading, you can actually have time to think. Great things are accomplished by thinking, and we hardly ever get to do it any more. Our culture doesn’t value it. It is quite separate from talking. Reading books can prompt much silent reflection, and writing one is an enormous, extended act of silent reflection, unlike anything else I can think of. It is, as far as I am concerned, the greatest pleasure there is.
Which resonates, for me, with what Andrea Hairston talks about in her recent post. Sarah and Andrea are utterly distinct writers and thinkers (as am I from them), but we all seem to have arrived at the same sense of reading's importance in creating space for thought (which is what, until recently, I thought "mindfulness" actually meant--which now, apparently, it definitely does not). 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Take Back The Narrative (Ongoing Action)

This is an invitation to go out right now and BUY A BOOK!

The Waterdancer’s World by L. Timmel Duchamp

The Obelisk Gate by N. K. Jemisin

When The World Wounds by Kiini Ibura Salaam

Everfair by Nisi Shawl

Sleeping Under the Tree of Life by Sheree Renee Thomas

Buy these from the publishers and/or get them at a local bookstore or borrow them from a library.
This is also an invitation to support Independent Presses like Aqueduct Press ( and Small Beer ( who always let us feast our minds! Buy any of their books. Right now!

Just so you know, I am speaking as someone who does live theatre in a film and video world and who believes in hard copies, pens, her NOOK, and pdfs. I don’t want to give up hugs for emoticons and like buttons, no matter how much love I lavish on my laptop.

In the weeks since the presidential election, I have spoken to many artists who worry that they are insignificant in these trying times. In the furor of the moment, we might forget that democracy requires citizens who understand the narratives of their nation, of the world.

The Hopi say: the one who tells the stories rules the world.

So WHY READ A BOOK?  A Reminder List—please add to it:

To sustain our spirits and challenge our thoughts
To delight in our humanity and commune with the folks we agree and disagree with
To have laugh out loud fun
To remember what we dare not forget
To engage in play
To time travel
To gain empathy
To imagine what we would never have imagined
To practice falling in love with a world we don’t yet inhabit
To engage in radical hope
To embrace the play of ideas
To banish despair
To practice being someone else and living in many skins
To spark insight
To focus and meditate and engage in slow thinking
To commune with the ancestors
To make that way out of no way

Reading a book is not the instant miracle that will dissolve horror with a click. Like theatre, reading a book is a rehearsal of the possible. Reading a book requires slow thinking. We will need slow thinking to meet the challenges of the next few years. So train up. READ A BOOK!

The marvelous Nalo Hopkinson recently encouraged a group of us (artists) to embrace the complexity of who we are in order to be ready for change. To do that in an age of sound bite/Twitter simplicity, we must find elegant modes to disrupt myopic, fast thinking. We must make slow thinking pleasurable. READ A BOOK! Go to a play or a concert! Focus on the work people are doing. Turn off the toxicity. 24-7 on that negative tip can be debilitating.

Reading neuroscience, I learn that our brains are set to amplify the bad, dangerous, awful things. The Internet can become a horror echo chamber, preying on our propensity to notice the negative, like the weather channel always featuring the mega-storms coming to devastate us. We can so easily lose perspective and flounder in a spectacularly awful moment, however—

Meanness does not have a mandate.

We are the flesh of our ancestors and of our great, great, great grandchildren. We are never alone in this difficult now. We make the world with our thoughts and our passions. Stories are sacred time machines connecting us to one another.

SO GO OUT AND BUY THESE BOOKS from the publishers or a local bookstore and spread the word! Boost the signal!

The Waterdancer’s World by L. Timmel Duchamp

The Obelisk Gate by N. K. Jemisin 

When The World Wounds by Kiini Ibura Salaam

Everfair by Nisi Shawl

Sleeping Under the Tree of Life by Sheree Renee Thomas

Submissions Hiatus at Aqueduct Press

Here's a brief announcement from the managing editor of Aqueduct Press:

We are not accepting submissions at this time. Our publication schedule for 2017 is full; we plan to begin accepting submissions again in late spring of 2017.

Monday, November 21, 2016

A few thoughts about the moral weight of a human life

I'm one of those people who like to skim through the end notes in a book I'm about to read even before I start reading the main text. Yes, I know: the received view these days is that books shouldn't even have them. But I like them for two reasons: (1) they point me to new stuff to read and (2) even in this post-fact world, I continue to set great store by documentation and think that facts and opinion are two different things. Anyway, when I bought Amtiav Ghosh's new book, The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable, which is partly about why people in general and writers in particular find it difficult to write and think about global warming even when they don't deny its existence (and are even deeply concerned about it), I immediately flipped to the back of the book to look through the end notes. Among those that caught my attention was this one:
Something like this was actually implied by Larry Summers when, as head of the World Bank, he proposed that polluting industries should be relocated to less developed nations: "After all, those living in the Third World couldn't expect to live as long as 'we' do, so what could be wrong with reducing their lifetimes by a minuscule amount..." See David Palumbo-Liu, The Deliverance of Others: Reading Literature in a Global Age (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2012), vii-viii. Other economists have applied a similar logic. As George Monbiot points out in Heat: "In 1996, for example, a study for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimated that a life lost in the poor nations could be priced at $150,000, while a life lost in the rich nations could be assessed at at $1.5 million."
The first time I read this [and yes, that's the same Larry Summers who made the invidious comments about gender and doing science], I thought of how the Dakota Access Pipeline project blithely decided that it would be better to damage the health of Native Americans than those of the mainly white residents of Bismarck.I suppose corner-office types like Summers think of Native American land as being, in a sense, "less-developed nations." Certainly they seem to think that the lives and health of people who live in poor areas worth less than those who live in cities with mainly white residents. This rerouting decision for the pipeline is such a commonplace choice by businesses sanctioned by city, state, and federal government authorities that I'm sure the executives who made that decision imagined they'd be long gone before their decision might face (if ever) public scrutiny. And in fact, most news outlets refused to cover the story for a long time.

I recalled Summers' infamous remark this morning when reading about the law enforcement heavies shilling for the Dakota Access Pipeline's interests (some of them imported from out of state) turned a fire hose on protestors standing on the other side of a razor wire fence. I suppose they're feeling frustrated: even after weeks dealing out abusive treatment of protestors and even Trump's election, the protests persist and the federal government has not given them the permits that would make the last step of the project legal. Assault by fire hose has never been considered humane treatment even in warm weather. (Fire hoses and vicious attack dogs, which have featured in the attack on those actively opposing the pipeline, were weapons of choice in the attacks against Civil Rights actions in the US south in the 1950s and 60s. Given that it's November in North Dakota, illness and hypothermia are not unlikely consequences. Which in turn conjures up another ugly image from US history.

I suppose the reason so many people like watching cop shows and reading murder mysteries is because they tend to portray the dominant outcome as a moral triumph, which, when we're reading, we're desperately hoping for. Hence the embrace of words like "Good Guys" and "Bad Guys." In real life, the institutions of law enforcement are only occasionally interested in working for moral (recently designated "social") justice, and the people who call themselves "Good Guys" are able to use the narrative designation to deceive themselves. If it were otherwise, you wouldn't see law enforcement officials routinely acting as enforcers for business interests, without regard for the health and lives of the people they've been sent in to silence. I imagine that many officers have mixed feelings about this. But how much, really, can such officers do to challenge the role that these institutions are often called on to play (besides, of course, quitting)?

Which reminds me of another thing. In a recent episode of On the Media, When Real Police Shootings Look Nothing Like the Movies, host Bob Garfield investigates the history of television and film narratives of police shooting civilians and how that has influenced the striking difference between real and fictionally depicted police shootings in US culture. Given how keen television police show writers are to get cop culture and the language of policing right, the question arises: now that we have so many videos of how these shootings actually go down, will the popular narrative actually start to change?

  ETA: I've now read in the Guardian that 300 of the protestors assault with rubber bullets and a fire hose have been injured and twenty-six hospitalized. Injuries include bone fractures, internal bleeding and hypothermia. Another proud day for US law enforcement.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Guest post: What now? A Parent in Dismay by Kristin King

As the mother of two middle school students, I approached the election with dread. I hoped my candidate would win and the nation wouldn’t be thrown into turmoil. But even if I’d gotten my way, we’d still be in deep trouble. Mass deportations, shredded safety net, environmental devastation, and all sorts of trouble coming our way, not just for the next four years, but for the next twenty. For the next hundred.

So I’ve been a parent for thirteen years, an activist for twenty, and a writer for forty. All these aspects of my life have to come together now and help me build a better world, in the face of deep trouble. I want people to be kind to one another. I want us to share instead of hoarding, accept instead of building walls.

The lessons 

That’s the what I want. But how do I get it? My twenty years of activist work has led me down quite a few dead-end alleys. Too much single-issue politics, infighting, lack of vision, accidentally working with people whose politics I oppose. Some good things too. But here are some of the lessons I’ve come to:

(1) Nothing short of everything will succeed. To me, that means class-struggle intersectional feminism.

(2) We gotta watch our language. I just said “class-struggle intersectional feminism” and most people are going to say, “What?” This blog, people know what I’m talking about. But it’s also ivory tower lingo. Whenever we use language, we should be aware of who it lets in -- and who it keeps out.

(3) We have to organize. The left keeps saying that but doesn’t know what it means. It doesn’t mean “get lots of people out for noisy protests”! That’s mobilize. Do it for sure, but it’s not organizing. Organizing means getting together in an organization.


(4) Organize democratically. Most of our organizations are run by the nonprofit industrial complex. Rich people are at the top of that. If we have any hope of organizing democratically, we have to build new structures, ourselves.

(5) We have to win.

Where I learned them (for example) 

(1) I’ve been thinking about intersectionality this year, while working on a racial equity team in Seattle Public Schools. We got most of it right. When girls of color were sexually harassed by other kids, we were all clear on the links between gender and race. We looked our own privilege up and down, found our common ground, made a plan, moved forward. But there was a class division I was frankly afraid to touch. I’ve also been thinking a whole lot about gender and how the feminist movement did and did not address core issues. Women are not liberated because we can be forced to have babies (by rape and restrictions on birth control) and then forced into marriage or the workplace while we are still doing the 24x7 job of caring for these babies. Short of a universal basic wage or gift economy, I don’t see how that can be fixed.

(2) From a working-class white male, telling me the story of how he’d been flipping conservative neighbors radical by knowing where they were coming from and where the common ground was. If the left coulda done that, instead of going on about stupidity, the current president-elect would have no base.

(3) All the damn times I put sweat and tears into a group only to find it had no chance of growing bigger than eight people. That sucks.

(4) The Washington State PTSA. I went to a convention where a key vote was happening and learned exactly how and why the democracy was in name only. The PTSA was voting on whether or not to endorse charter schools and had put out a voting guide with a “pro” side to the argument but no “con.” When I showed up with a flier listing the cons, I learned that most people considered the whole vote a strategic game. (One day I’ll write up a blog post on that, because it astounded me.)

(5) If you know me, you’ll know I can’t go far without bringing up Doctor Who. Right now I’m thinking about the most grim and emotionally compelling episode I’ve ever watched, “Heaven Sent.” In it, our hero is trapped in a prison, in emotional torment of a highly personal nature. He keeps wanting to give up, but the memory of a dead comrade, Clara (clear, clarity) keeps saying. “How are you going to win?”

What we do now

We organize. As in, build organizations that can sustain our momentum and carry our positive visions forward for the next hundred years. That’s it. Everything feels hard right now, and it is. People will suffer. A lot. But we keep on going.

And then we win.

 Kristin King ( is a writer, parent, and activist who lives in Seattle. Her work has appeared in Strange Horizons, Calyx, The Pushcart Prize XXII (1998), and other places. Two of her stories appeared in an Aqueduct Press anthology, Missing Links and Secret Histories: A Selection of Wikipedia Entries Lost, Suppressed, or Misplaced in Time. A selection of her short fiction has been collected in Misfits from the Beehive State.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Take Back The Narrative

Bernice Reagon

This is a time for action, for words of fire, for all of us thinking and acting together to find a way out of no way.

I’ve been in a rage. I’ve been crying and trembling, walking around in a daze. I’ve been grieving. Like everybody else I know. I have scrolled through Facebook, taking in the love, the anguish, the insight, the rage, the hope.

I washed and conditioned my hair with hot oil. I biked for two hours up into the hills.

I scrolled around obsessively for the answers, hoping to find the reasons for this tragedy, the answers to a nightmare. Finally, I realized what I was really looking for in every article and post was the miracle that would make it all better. I realized I wasn’t going to find the miracle answers. I’d have to make the answers, conjure miracles with all of my communities, with the majority of the electorate who voted for Hillary or someone other than Trump.

I wrote and called my friends. My friends called to check on me. Friends from Germany sent emails. I received meditations, dances, images for self-care.

I read eloquent essays and personal stories. I did not feel alone in my grief.

I resisted feeling that what I do is pointless. I am on sabbatical and two of my students emailed, asking if I was all right. They said they missed me and the classes I teach—where they and other students can feel safe as they challenge their minds and spirits, as they learn how to invent the future they want. I cried reading their note. How did they know this was just what I needed?

I offered love and support wherever I could. Timmi Duchamp asked me to write this blog. I agreed.

Many offered immediate and long term actions to take:

Friends said they would help Transgender folks with paperwork

The NRDC pledged to keep standing with Standing Rock.

100 women of color leaders (#our100) asked us to affirm our unity, and together recommit to continue our work towards this promise of liberty and justice for all.

The Union of Concerned Scientists asked us to work to keep science as a critical foundation for public policy.

The Sierra Club said we won’t stop fighting.

The ACLU said see you in court.

Michael Moore offered to-do lists on Facebook. said let’s get together with folks and make the revolution.

18Million reminded us that the number of women of color in the Senate quadrupled and we should support them.

Jezabel offered a list of organizations that could use our help.

And remember—the majority of the electorate voted for Hillary or someone other than Trump. Hillary won the popular vote. Let’s get a hold of the narrative.

Many artists wondered if what they do is significant—particularly in the face of the horror, why write magic or science fiction? Who wants to read our stories?

We, the people, your communities, we need your stories, your music, your insights, your dances, your films! Artists must not feel that what they do is insignificant.

Folks said they were too old for this and then talked about all they were going to do! So, offer shelter, be a shield, organize, fight like hell, write a book, have everybody’s back like they have yours. Do whatever you can do and go ahead and be cranky and too old for this shit!

I also saw folks saying Clinton failed to energize Black folks, Latinx, and the young (CNN for example.) And there have been numerous complaint articles and outrage posts at the white woman who voted for Trump rather than Hillary.

They (those who are not the majority of the electorate who voted for Hillary or someone other than Trump) want us fussing and cussing and blaming the black people who didn’t show up for Hillary like they did for Obama, or the college educated white women who voted for a racist/misogynist who’d like to grab their pussy if its cute, or the Latinax who voted more for xenophobe Trump than they did for Romney, or for the gay Republicans for whatever they are doing. All the while giving a pass to the white men (college educated or not) who voted for a white supremacist narcissist whose followers chant I hate Muslims, kill the bitch, fuck the nigger, gas the Jews.

This is the same pass too many have been giving to Trump all along: he’s racist, but you can hold your nose and vote for him because he’ll give us jobs. He hates women, Mexicans, disabled people, queers, Jews—but that’s not important, ‘cause he’ll fix the economy.

Don’t be derailed. Don’t be distracted. Let’s control the narrative.

We should expect as much from the (grown ass) white men who voted for Trump as we do from everyone else. Grown ass white men shouldn’t get an academy award for being reasonable or a pass when they’re pushing their horror as usual reality down our throats.

We don’t have time to waste or people to waste. We can’t throw away the black folks who did vote for Hillary because of the black folks who didn’t! Ditto the white women and the young people who voted for Hillary.

We need to do all those things that everybody has be writing and talking about together.

We have to fight for the women in the Senate, together.

We have to support each other’s work together.

We have to stand up to lies together.

We need to be shields for whomever we can, together.

We need to take back the narrative together.

Each of us is put here in this time and this place to personally decide the future of humankind. Did you think the Creator would create unnecessary people in a time of such terrible danger? Know that you yourself are essential to this world. Understand both the blessing and the burden of that. You yourself are desperately needed to save the soul of this world. Did you think you were put here for something less? 

WisCon Chronicles call for submissions: deadline extension

This from Jaymee Goh, editor of the forthcoming volume of The WisCon Chronicles:

WisCon, WisCon, DO YOU READ?

 In the face of the election results, I am EXTENDING the deadline for the WisCon Chronicles to December 1.And if you need to use this platform to talk about the trial of whiteness that is the election, that would not be amiss.

WisCon, WisCon, DO YOU READ?

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Day After

Once again, the United States will be inaugurating as president a candidate who did not receive the majority of the votes cast (commonly referred to as "the popular vote," as though it were a popularity contest). The conservative-dominated Supreme Court, which had the privilege of determining the outcome of the 2000 election, insisted then that our system does not guarantee that all citizens have the right to vote or that all citizens' votes count equally. Since then, the Supreme Court's 2013 ruling struck down a key part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. There's no question in my mind that the curtailment of the protections inherent in the Voting Rights Act was, a factor in the outcomes of yesterday's general election; it's impossible to say yet just how significant a factor it was in the assignment of Electoral College votes (one of the many elitist institutions built into our "democratic" system). I expect we'll be hearing more about this soon.

Very early this morning, over at The New Yorker, David Remnick, clearly in the throes of the initial shock, wrote:
The election of Donald Trump to the Presidency is nothing less than a tragedy for the American republic, a tragedy for the Constitution, and a triumph for the forces, at home and abroad, of nativism, authoritarianism, misogyny, and racism. Trump’s shocking victory, his ascension to the Presidency, is a sickening event in the history of the United States and liberal democracy. On January 20, 2017, we will bid farewell to the first African-American President—a man of integrity, dignity, and generous spirit—and witness the inauguration of a con who did little to spurn endorsement by forces of xenophobia and white supremacy. It is impossible to react to this moment with anything less than revulsion and profound anxiety.
I, too, feel sick and flattened. (And also angry.) But to my mind, we've had many sickening events in the history of the United States and liberal democracy, and over my lifetime I've witnessed or experienced a good many of them, some of which have come into my mind today in a sort of physical resonance of memory. Each time I've been through one of these sickening events it has felt as though this country has gone insane. Each time, I've just had to go on. Last night in the small hours I said to Tom and the friends who had come to watch election results come in, "I'm too old for this." Maybe I'd hoped I wouldn't find myself in this place yet again. Going into the election I'd known it would be a long hard struggle if Clinton won, but I hadn't been able then to bring my mind to bear on the long hard slog we'd face if Clinton lost--precisely because I knew it would be as arduous and exhausting as walking through waist-high mud, something that at my age would involve using muscles that were beginning to weaken and melt to flab. Now I have no choice but to let the fact of this defeat sink in--and then to go on, no matter how high or thick the muck.

A variety of explanations for the triumph of the Republicans, who will now control every branch and aspect of the federal government, are in the air. I could probably list a dozen that I've heard or read in the last eighteen hours. You can read a few of them, mostly centered on the gender issue, in a discussion on the Guardian's website: Arwa Mahdawi's commentary particularly moved me:
Trump’s win has trained a spotlight on the extent of the misogyny that runs through America. Importantly, however, it also reveals just how far women’s rights have come; how much has been achieved; how threatened the denizens of a fading America feel. Trump’s victory is the last gasp of a desperate white patriarchy. Clinton may have lost the election but that doesn’t mean women lost on Wednesday morning. Our fight isn’t over.

Ah, but we also need to be careful not to frame Trump’s victory as a case of men versus women. Exit polls show that the majority of white women voted for Trump. It seems that upholding white privilege is a bigger priority for many women in America than protecting legislation that gives them control over their own bodies.
Indeed, if Trump’s win has taught us one thing it’s that we need to stop talking about “women’s rights”. We need to stop pretending that women in America are a homogeneous group with the same privileges and priorities. Feminism is meaningless unless we talk about intersectional feminism. It’s women of colour who should feel the angriest today. It’s women of colour who have been most let down. And it’s women of colour who have the most to lose.
What preoccupies me now, at this moment, is the future ownership of the public sphere.Will the media flip to fawning over the man who can't speak without lying and threatens vengeance on those who take note of this lies, and allow each and every lie to pass without challenge? Will the language of the most blatant, offensive white supremacy become socially acceptable and adopted by the "liberal" media? This occurs to me today because my body and spirit feel, this day after, as it did when the US public sphere went from massively opposing the invasion of Iraq in 1990-91 (with a whopping 90% of the population against it) to celebrating and glorying in the ease with which the US military machine was able to grind down its former ally. US public sentiment is fickle; it always sides with the winner.

I raise this concern not to wallow in despair, though certainly even the most optimistic of us are indeed wallowing today as we reel from a blow we aren't yet able to take in. Rather, I want us, looking to the weeks and months ahead, to do what we can to speak the truth and protect one another from the force of a hatred that will be flowing full-bore through some of the most powerful channels on the planet. Those of us who know how to use words and know how to think past double-speak and dog whistles need to occupy the public sphere to the utmost of our ability. Please, my friends: think, speak, and write. We are not defenseless.    

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Quote of the Day

I'm generally not a big fan of Rousseau, but sometimes he does nail it. This observation strikes this particular Usian who, whatever the outcome of this general election, knows it won't bring an end to our national state of anxiety:

Citizens only allow themselves to be oppressed to the degree that they are carried away by blind ambition. Since they pay more attention to what is below them than to what is above, domination becomes dearer to them than independence, and they consent to wear chains so that they may in turn give them to others. It is very difficult to reduce to obedience anyone who does not seek to command.--Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Discourse on the Origin and Foundations of Inequality among Men

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Lola Robles' Monteverde: Memoirs of an Interstellar Linguist

I'm pleased to announce the release of Monteverde: Memoirs of an Interstellar Linguist, a novella by Lola Robles translated by Lawrence Schimel, in both small trade paperback and e-book editions, as the fifty-second volume in Aqueduct's Conversation Pieces series.  You can purchase it now from Aqueduct at

Terran scholar Rachel Monteverde journeys to Aanuk, a paradisiacal planet famous for both its beaches and the generosity of its nomadic inhabitants. The aanukiens are not the only people on the planet, however: Rachel is eager to meet the Fihdia, a cave-dwelling people who share a congenital condition that makes them blind. Rachel’s relentless determination to communicate with them despite the Aanukien’s dismissal and the Fihdia’s secretiveness will yield more than she ever hoped for.

Rachel Cordasco writes of the novella in a review for Speculative Fiction in Translation, "Robles expertly mixes notes that Terran linguist Rachel Monteverde took for her report to the Society for the Study of Interstellar Languages with Rachel’s reminiscences about life on Aanuk and the ways in which language acts as the common denominator among otherwise wildly distinct cultures. At its heart, this is a story about translation’s importance in breaking down barriers between people, and Lawrence Schimel’s translation of this story about translation is so smooth you almost forget that Monteverde wasn’t originally written in English....Monteverde is unlike anything else you’ll read this year. It raises language itself to the level of a main character, one who may be invisible but nonetheless forms the basis of all interaction and understanding. Without language, we wouldn’t have Monteverde, and without translation, us English-language readers wouldn’t have access to this small but brilliant book."

 A few details about the author and translator:

LOLA ROBLES is the author of three science fiction novels, La rosa de las nieblas (1999), El informe Monteverde (2005) and Flores de Metal (2007) as well as a collection of lesbian science fiction short stories co-written with Ma Concepción Reguiero, Historias del Crazy Bar y otros relatos de lo imposible (2013). Her most recent book is the essay En regiones extrañas: un mapa de la ciencia ficción, lo fantástico y lo maravilloso (Palabaristas, 2016), a panoramic overview for the lay reader of the basic concepts of non-realist genres, their divisions and overlaps.

She has also published numerous articles and studies focusing on Spanish-speaking women authors of science fiction and fantasy, with pioneering works analyzing Gothic narratives through a feminist lens or the treatment of trans* experience and identity in genre literature. From 1987 to 2002, she coordinated the cultural activities of the Biblioteca de Mujeres (the Women's Library) of Madrid and was one of the founding members of the Red de Bibliotecas y Centros de Documentación de Mujeres (The Newtwork of Women's Libraries and Documentation Centers). Since 2006, she has given a monthly lecture and reading group discussion called Fantástikas, focusing on women writers and characters in genre literature. This workshop is adapted for people with visual disability, especially since the author herself has low vision. Blog: Fantástikas:

LAWRENCE SCHIMEL writes in both Spanish and English and has published over 100 books as author or anthologist in many different genres—including fiction, poetry, non-fiction, and comics—and for both children and adults. He has won the Lambda Literary Award twice, for PoMoSEXUALS: Challenging Assumptions about Gender and Sexuality (with Carol Queen; Cleis) and First Person Queer (with Richard Labonté, Arsenal Pulp Press), and has also been a finalist for this award 13 other times. His anthology The Future Is Queer (with Richard Labonté;, Arsenal Pulp Press) won the Spectrum Award, and he has also won an Independent Publisher Book Award, and a Rhysling Award, among others.