Conventions Feed

HIEROGLYPH Tour Schedule

ImageThe Hieroglyph tour may be coming to your town. Here are the tour dates so far. Watch this space. I will post more dates.

  • September 10: Menlo Park, CA, Kepler's Books, 1010 El Camino Real, 7:30 PM. Order tickets online. Techno-optimism: Neal Stephenson and friends. Panelists include Neal Stephenson, Annalee Newitz, Rudy Rucker, Keith Hjelmstad, Charlie Jane Anders and editors Ed Finn and Kathryn Cramer.
  • September 15: Los Angeles, Zocalo Public Square at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 250 S. Grand Ave., 7:30 PM. Can Science Fiction Revolutionize Science? Science fiction writer Neal Stephenson and Arizona State University physicist Lawrence M. Krauss, both of whom contributed to the new anthology Hieroglyph: Stories and Visions for a Better Future, visit Zócalo to discuss whether science fiction can truly change contemporary science, and what the alternative futures we imagine mean for present-day innovation. Make a reservation.
  • September 30, New York City: Project Hieroglyph: Book Launch and Celebration sponsored by Tumblr and ASU Center for Science and the Imagination, featuring Madeline Ashby & Elizabeth Bear, Tuesday, September 30, 2014 from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM. The event is free, but preregistration on Eventbrite is required.
  • October 2, Washinton, DCCan We Imagine Our Way to a Better Future? It’s 2014 and we have no flying cars, no Mars colonies, no needleless injections, and yet plenty of smartphone dating apps. Is our science fiction to blame if we find today’s science and technology less than dazzling? Inspired by Neal Stephenson’s 2011 article, “Innovation Starvation,” in which he argues that science fiction is failing to supply our scientists and engineers with inspiration, and the new anthology Hieroglyph: Stories and Visions for a Better Future, this event will explore a more ambitious narrative about what’s coming. From the tales we tell about robots and drones, to the narratives on the cutting edge of neuroscience, to society’s view of its most intractable problems, we need to begin telling a new set of stories about ourselves and the future. URL TBA.
  • October 3-5, Ottawa: Can-Con - Kathryn Cramer & Madeline Ashby.
  • October 22, Phoenix, Arizona: Changing Hands Bookstore, 7PM at the Cresent Ballroom. Tickets, which require a book purchase, required for admission. Visit the Changing Hands website for more information and to purchase tickets. Project Hieroglyph science fiction authors, scientists, engineers, and other experts share their ambitious, optimistic visions of the near future. Presenters will include science fiction author and essayist Madeline Ashby (Machine Dynasty series), Aurora Award winner Karl Schroeder (Lockstep), Clarke Award finalist Kathleen Ann Goonan (Queen City Jazz), Zygote Games founder James L. Cambias (A Darkling Sea), acclaimed cosmologist and astrobiologist Paul Davies (The Eerie Silence), science fiction and fantasy anthologist Kathryn Cramer (Year’s Best SF), ASU Center for Science and the Imagination director Ed Finn, and legendary Locus, Nebula, and Hugo award-winning author Kim Stanley Robinson (2312 and Red Mars). 
  • October 26, SeattleNeal Stephenson and Cory Doctorow: Reigniting Society’s Ambition with Science Fiction. Tickets available here.

More events TBA.


My life as an attachment parent: feminists should have understood but mostly didn't

The New York Times has a mothering discussion centered around the question, "Has women’s obsession with being the perfect mother destroyed feminism?"

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I read this exchange and it feels to me like it comes from a different planet than the one I have parented on. I am, in the vocabulary of this discussion, an attachment parent. I never found myself to be part of the kind of cultural hegemony implied by the NYT discussion. (Though, for a while I seemed to be the person the BBC Radio called to speak about public breast feeding.) Rather, I went about the matter of parenting my children while pursuing my career in science fiction, such as it is, without much feeling of being part of any larger movement.

The strain for me was not a tension between motherhood and career, but rather the lack of support for the idea that with a little extra help from those around me I could remain a full participant in the intellectual and cultural life around me. I would get all the way to the convention, but in the end often couldn't get the support to allow me to attend any program items except those where I was a panelist.

This experience has left me deeply disappointed in the science fiction field's brand of feminism which should have understood what my parenting choices represented, but mostly didn't. Gradually, I stopped showing up at events like World Fantasy Con and ICFA because I could no longer ignore the professional disrespect this state of affairs implied.

Yesterday, received an evaluation from the school district of one of my children who has substantial learning disabilities which contained a sentence that makes me very proud. The evaluator remarked that my son seems to have a positive sense of self “rooted in close and supportive parental relationships.” And that is what I was trying to do. 

Kate Eltham, baby Elizabeth, & Kathryn Camer

I do not demand of other people that they do nearly all of their business travel in the company of children, or that they breastfeed while giving speeches, signing books, speak on panels, like I did. But in my life there would have been a lot less conflict between motherhood and career if there had been a little more recognition of the project of combining the two.

The idea articulated in the NYT that by doing what I did I have somehow been a threat to feminism makes me want to kick their editors in a particularly sensitive spot in the ankle.


My first time exhibiting in the Boskone Art Show

Peter & the sand table

This was my first time exhibiting in the Boskone art show. Many people had nice things to say about my work, and at least three expressed the desire to buy prints at a lower price point than what I had in the show. And I promised to post information about how to buy my prints via my ImageKind.com store.

The photo, "Peter at the Sand Table," which was my most popular piece is HERE. And the journal collages, which people also liked a lot, are HERE. I showed only two, but I have six on ImageKind.


January collage work

On New Year's Day, I bought a package of three blank journal books for the kids and I in Lake Placid. In January, I have found myself using my little book to do visual journalling and then, later, collage work. Here is a sample page spread. Scan 14

I had gotten bored with using only printed prose from magazines and newspapers I was willing to cut up, and had the epiphany that we have a whole bookstore full of interesting books downstairs.

I brought a computer printer that will no longer act as a printer but still functions as a copier to the bookstore. Then I chose about six books to copy from: some drama, some fiction, and some non-fiction. The rule I set for myself was I  could look at the pages for layout to make sure they had the right kind of text, but I couldn't read them in advance before trying to work with them.

I am pleased with the result and have ordered some sample art prints of six two-page spreads to see if they came out as well as I think they did. I will probably have some of these in the Boskone art show.

(Click HERE to see a larger version of the image.)


My 2011 ReaderCon Schedule

Here's my ReaderCon Schedule. I am especially looking forward to my Friday evening reading, for which I've done a lot of preparation. I will be reading from Our State of Play: Notes Toward the Liberation of Our Utopia, which is in essence stand-up tragedy.

Our State of Play 3

Friday 12 noon Salon E    Autographing: Kathryn Cramer, John Jospeph Adams, & David G. Hartwell.

Friday 9 PM  VT    Kathryn Cramer reads from Our State of Play: Notes Toward the Liberation of Our Utopia

Saturday 12 Noon RI    The Year in Short Fiction with Kathryn Cramer, Gardner Dozois, Ellen Datlow, and Paula Guran.

Saturday 1 PM    Remembering Joanna Russ Kathryn Cramer, Samuel R. Delany, David G. Hartwell, (and, I hear, also Michael Dirda): In the wake of the recent death of Joanna Russ, there will be a lot of discussion of the influence of her works and her ideas. Here is a chance to hear a discussion of the woman who had those ideas and did that work, by people who knew her in person. Joanna Russ valued her friends and her friendships, and we on the panel valued her as a friend. We’ll tell stories and maybe even read some of her letters. 

Sunday 1 PM    Social Darwinism in SFnal Thought: In a 1978 essay, Philip E. Smith II analyzed a central ideology of Robert Heinlein’s fiction: social Darwinism, a belief in “survival of the fittest” within struggles between racial and social groups. Ideas of biological determinism and eugenics informed SF stories throughout the pulp era, from Tarzan to “The Marching Morons,” and gained complexity as genetic science revealed new wonders and mysteries. Is social Darwinism still an idea that burrows within SF subtexts? How does contemporary SF explore and exploit ideas of nature and nurture?

 


A response to Debbie Notkin and Victor Raymond

I am really bothered by the responses of members of the Wiscon Con Committee to Jay Lake's concerns that Wiscon -- formerly one of his favorite conventions, and also formerly one of my own favorite conventions -- might not be a safe space for him. Wiscon Co-Chair Debbie Notkin wrote what she clearly intended as a sensitive and reasonable response. It doesn't come off that way to me. 

It is condescending and willfully obtuse of her to assume that the problem for those she's heard from is that some of the people at the convention may be black. The matter at hand with Wiscon and several other conventions is programming that encourages the continuation and escalation of abuse and hostility towards members of the sf community. Notkin's summary response -- "please don't come to WisCon if it isn't right for you" -- is inadequate and inappropriate.

Although Wiscon has gone the furthest to host and encourage some of this kind of programming, this matter is not restricted to Wiscon. No matter how idealistic their reasons for hosting passionate discussions which began online, con-committees need to balance that idealism against the need to provide an environment free from abuse and harassment.

In Tempest Bradford's comment section, Victor Raymond boils the issue down into a dichotomy of whether one is worried about physical assault or just being disagreed with, and wonders out loud whether he is just being dense. While I think a year ago assault was a real possibility in the context of some of these conversations, the way things have played themselves out, the hostility and harassment seem to be mostly in the online components of the convention experience. This means you don't even have to be present to "win." 

Thanks to the Internet, you can now get harassed at a convention without even attending. You don't have to say anything that someone is disagreeing with. You just have to be.

Victor is setting the bar way too low. The question of "safety" should not be merely whether anyone got punched or pinched, but also whether your convention promotes a hostile environment for members of the sf community, even those who didn't attend.

These may or may not be Jay Lake's specific concerns. I haven't discussed this with him. But con committee members should do a lot more listening and a lot less defending when concerns like these are raised.


Oppression, Feminism, & Motherhood

I was on several excellent panels at Anticipation which I hope to write about later, and on one panel that was hopelessly ill-construed. It was a panel on which four white people were assigned the task of discussing whether ethnic and sexual minorities ought to write for the mainstream sf audience or whether they could or should write for more specialized audiences more connected to their concerns, and if they were to do that, how would they make it into the SF canon (this last point was illustrated by a quote from Joanna Russ.).

One of the designated panelists did not attend the convention, one overslept and missed the panel by accident, so it was me and this white guy who later remarked online that he has clearly been assigned to the wrong panel. 

This was not THE most socially awkward panel assignment I've ever been given. That would be the panel entitled "Politics & Bad Manners" at a Minnicon many years ago, where as I recall one of my fellow panelists was dressed in a monk's habit, and everyone but me had known in advance that this was the annual Libertarian revival panel. I  spent the panel defending things like the existence of public sidewalks. But this pannel at Anticipation was certainly up there.

Several audience members seemed to have a lot to say on the actual topic assigned, so I invited "Ide Cyan" and a woman whose name badge said "Isobel" to join me as panelists. "Isobel" declined, but made many productive comments from the audience. "Ide Cyan" joined me on the panel, but only after anxiously showing me her name badge so I would know who I was tangling with. She tried hard as a panelist, but also was extremely tense and trembling and talking very fast, as though frightened of me. (I think that is the first time I've ever been on a panel with someone who appeared physically frighten of me.)

The panel went how it went, which is as well as could be expected given both the panelist problem and an oddly constructed mandate. (Canonicty is a completely separate issue from the economic and artistic viability of subgenres with specialized audiences.) I'm told that Jo Walton had written beautiful and lucid panel descriptions that were then mercilessly pruned by a clumsy editorial hand. I think this panel description was one of the victims.

"Ide Cyan" argued that the central issue was oppression. I attempted to get her to unpack her argument, and asked interview style questions about what she meant by oppression. Another blogger has described her as becoming "tongue-tied" when presented with this line of inquiry.

After the panel, I invited her to join me for a cup of tea for further discussion, but she declined; she and a group of other audience members, who seemed to be a portion of Fail Fandom, left as a group. According to their blogs this group went off and discussed how appalling it is that I claim to be oppressed because I am a parent and because of where I live.

Before departing, "Ide Cyan" instructed me to read Joanna Russ's book What Are We Fighting For? Sex, Race, Class, and the Future of Feminism, a book which as it happened was sitting on my night table. A while back I blogged my dismay with the opening chapter. It is a book that Joanna worked long and hard on, the book in which she intended to reconcile socialism and feminism, and which was published too late to have the impact it might have had because it took her so long to write. (Our collective recollection is that she was already working on that book when I attended the Seattle Clarion in 1984; its copyright date is 1998.)

Joanna Russ was my first science fiction mentor. She was my professor at the University of Washington for two years. I spent many happy hours taking up her office hours when everyone else was scared to talk to her. A few decades ago, I knew her pretty well. She was in chronic pain. She was on heavy-duty anti-depressants that messed up her short-term memory in ways that were sometimes comical. She is also a genius, and I treasure the time I spent sitting at her feet (sometimes literally) listening to her hold forth.

That having been said, I don't think What We Are Fighting For? works in the way she intended. In trying to reconcile socialism & feminism, she has for the most part left out the problem of motherhood and the relationship between the parent and the State. Her discussion of motherhood is extremely slight. The most extensive passage I was able to find, via index and skimming, is a mother-blaming section on the role of families in perpetuating oppression and sexism. (p. 347) Clearly, something had to go or this book never would have got finished, but I think it is unfortunate that the oppression of mothers by the State was omitted from discussion.

So what is oppression? Its definition is not one of Joanna's central concerns in this book; she is writing for an audience that thinks it already knows what oppression is. Oppression is depression — "a feeling of being oppressed"; persecution —"the act of subjugating by cruelty";  and subjugation — "the state of being kept down by unjust use of force or authority." In my daily life, I have experienced all three in connection with being a mother and it is not a minor thing. It is a major force in my life.

I seriously doubt that Joanna Russ I know would argue that I and other American mothers are not oppressed. And I wonder by what right self-described feminists discard out-of-hand claims by individual mothers that they suffer oppression.

Is 21st century feminism really feminism at all? If it has abandonded mothers as such, it has abandoned its task of advocating the liberation of women. 


The Blair Witch Panel: Cultural Memory, Societal Resilience and Change

Anticipation (the Montreal Worldcon)

5-075 Mon/Lun 12:30 1hr30min
P21BF Human Culture
Cultural Memory, Societal Resilience and Change
Blind Lemming Chiffon, David Anthony Durham, Geoff Ryman, Patrick Nielsen Hayden

panel just about to start

Panel just about to start.

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Blind Lemming Chiffon speaks for a while; Patrick Nielsen Hayden appeals to a high power for salvation.

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David Durnham & Geoff Rymam begin to appear concerned.

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Patrick looks at Blind Lemming wondering if this guy is for real.

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Geoff Ryman touches his forehead just before putting his head down on the table.

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Despair sets in. The panelist begin to look helpless and trapped. Patrick flees in terror along with a portion of the audience as Blind Lemming invites a filker up to sing a song that will clarify his argument which has thus far eluded the other panelists. 

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Someone in the audence asks, "Is this some kind of tradition?" Someone else says, "No, this is not a tradition. It is surreal."

The footage cuts off with the end of the song when more of the audience flees. Footsteps are heard in the halls.


Readercon 2009 photos

I've posted our photos from Readercon 2009.

David Hartwell, Charles N. Brown, & Jeri Bishop

David G. Hartwell, Charles N. Brown, & Jeri Bishop. Update: LOCUS is reporting that Charlie died last night "peacefully in his sleep on the way home from the convention.

John Clute, Jeri Bishop, Michael Bishop, & Gary Wolfe

John Clute, Jeri Bishop, Michael Bishop, & Gary Wolfe

Kit Reed, Samuel R. Delany, & Ellen Datlow

Kit Reed, Samuel R. Delany, & Ellen Datlow

Sarah Smith (with newly broken arm), & her son Justus Perry

Sarah Smith (with newly broken arm), & her son Justus Perry


Stoker weekend, day 1: a friendly pleasantly serious mellow vibe

The Horror Writer's Association Stoker Weekend started yesterday morning, and we are having a great time. People are very friendly and it has the kind of pleasantly serious mellow vibe of World Fantasy Cons and Necons I remember from about 20 years ago. There are about 250 attendees and the hotel space has areas for easy gathering both inside and out.

My Flickr photoset is HERE. Scott Edelman's photos are HERE.

First thing Friday morning, we checked out the pool.

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We talked to Scott Edelman over breakfast, and then I hung out in the lobby meeting new people before opening ceremonies. 

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At opening ceremonies the guests were introduced, including my husband, David Hartwell, F. Paul Wilson, and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. 

opening ceremonies

Afterwards, it was time for a glass of wine (Ron Larsen bought me a really nice glass of white wine) and I drew Quinn Yarbro outon the subject of how she came to be a shuttle bus driver for the 1968 WorldCon. (She'd seen a call for volunteers in IF.)

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At 2PM, I was on an anthology panel moderated by Ellen Datlow with Bill Breedlove, RJ Cavender, Chad Helder, Stephen Jones, and Vince A. Liaguno. I've known Ellen and Steve for 20 years, but the rest I think I'd never met. It was a wide-ranging interesting discussion of anthologies and anthologists, one of the better panels I've been on on this subject in a number of years.

After that we headed for the Gauntlet Press Party, where Richard Matheson (in a wheel chair) and his son Richard Christian Matheson were to be found.

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At the party, I had a long intense conversation with Alan Rodgers and Amy Sterling Casil (whom I hadn't seen in ages).

We had a quiet family dinner of comfort food in the hotel restaurant (by this time we were all quite exhausted). Then we took a nap for an hour, because tehre was more to come.

The Gory Ghoul Bar was the event the kids had most been looking forward to. The kids and I put on our costumes and David put on a David outfit (it involved a purple shirt and an yellow tie). There was loud ebullient rock and roll of fluctuating key performed by mostly costumed authors and publishers. My kids danced a lot, and I danced too, mostly to help keep little girls from skinning their knees or colliding with something. 

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F. Paul Wilson did a fine job of "I'm an All Right Guy" by Tom Snyder. Scott Edelman has posted the performance to YouTube. (My daughter Elizabeth is the dancer in the unicorn pegasus costume.)

F. Paul Wilson on guitar

Peter and I both won costume prizes. he won as Goriest Ghoul or most Horribly Horrible or something, and they made up a special category for me: Best Tim Burton movie refugee. I was wearing one of my mother's 1950s party dresses (carefully preserved by my grandmother, which I received as part of the settling of her estate in 2008) plus a black velvet hat.

I am looking forward to the Non-Fiction Horror panel this morning. So far, it seems a good time is being had by all.

at the evening costume party at the stokers


Gender, Identity, SF, & the Singularity ( a draft essay written 7/14/07)

The following is an unfinished essay drafted in July of 2007 in response to a panel I was on at Readercon in 2007. I could not lay hands on some crucial resources, such as the essay "Performance" by Don West (byline "D. West"). It appeared in Malcolm Edwards' fanzine TAPPEN, issue 5, 1982. Reprinted in DELIVERANCE, a 1992 collection of West's fanzine writing, in order finish it, and so I never did, though God knows, as we excavate the Hartwell basement archives, it may in time turn up.

I've decided to publish this unfinished draft, since my opinions on pseudonymity have recently attracted so much interest. 

—Kathryn Cramer



Glass21

I am pretty good at communicating my thoughts to the science fiction field most of the time, both in essays and on panels. But once is a while, I find that I've said something I thought was clear, and that it really didn't communicate. In a number of cases in the past, this has lead to book projects or essays, for example my anthologies The Architecture of Fear and The Ascent of Wonder, or essays such as "Science Fiction and the Adventures of the Spherical Cow."

I seem to have just had such an experience, given comments I've heard or read about the panel at Readercon entitled "The Singularity Needs More Women." Such comments are for the most part not hostile, and it was not a hostile panel. Rather, I gather that some substantial portion of the audience did not get the connections I was trying to make between the science fictional notion of the Singularity and the here and now, specifically in relation to people's online construction of their identity.

I'm not going to try to rehash what was said on the panel, but rather explore what I was getting at from a different angle. —K

In a way, this was an impossible panel: We were invited into the hazardous quicksand of feminist identity politics to indulge in fantasies about what things would be like if this were only cleared away, if only all gender-related constraints on our identities were removed. We mostly didn't go there. And inasmuch as we did go there, it has not made people happy.

One continuing theme I find myself wanting to talk about at Readercon is that we already live in an unrecognizably transformed world; social changes have been worked upon us that we are unable to recognize or articulate. On this panel, I used the example of online identity and pseudonymity; in previous years my example has been how suburbia as it actually exists has become unrecognizable and that its social codes have been transformed in unrecognized ways, transformations that often are not a liberation.

Both the the Singularity and Transhumanity are social concepts. The core issue of the topic of Singularity and its relationship to gender is the extent to which one believes gender can and will be transcended through technology. And a key element in these concepts is our inability to recognize a transformed society and our transformed species: The Singularity is supposed to be an unrecognizable transformation. One thing usually said on panels about the Singularity and science fiction is that if such thing is truly unrecognizable, then one can't really write fiction about it. This panel was no exception.

A couple of works I should have talked about and didn't: Frederick Pohl's story "Day Million,"  a story about social identity in the far future that David Hartwell and I described in an introduction as "a story set in a future so distant and different that we can only glimpse it in mysterious reflections and intriguing images," and Bruce Sterling's Schizmatrix. A "Day Million" moment in Schizmatrix is when a man proposes to his ex-wife and so much has changed in their post-human existence that she accepts his proposal without knowing she's married this man before.

"Day Million" is of course deeply entangled in the subculture of science fiction's Futurians, which had its geographical center in New York City, and later in Milford, Pennsylvania. The post-Futurian sf sub-culture centered around the influential Milford writing workshop, held in Milford.

For a while in the 1980s, I lived in Milford, Pennsylvania and worked for Virginia Kidd, a literary agent and the ex-wife of SF writer James Blish. Before taking the job, I read Damon Knight's The Futurians to catch up on the back gossip. (I discovered later, after many conversations, that there is no one canonical account of the Futurian era: each person has their own -- most are fascinating -- and they mostly don't match.)

One key element of Futurian society was choosing a name. Many of the Futurians changed their names in order to change their lives. Virginia Kidd's first name on her birth certificate was not "Virginia." James Allen, another agent with the Virginia Kidd Agency once told me how Virginia counseled him to change his name when he became a literary agent. Virginia's good friend and client, Judith Merril (who was also Fred Pohl's ex-wife), told me over dinner how she came to change her last name to Merril. (She subsequently wrote this up for her autobiography.)

No one knew who the heck Lester del Rey was until several years after his death. He left behind a substantial estate and after several years of attempts to sort out the inheritance, it was apparently revealed that his name was Leonard Knapp.

Such name changes were partly pragmatic, since many were Jewish and could expect a more successful career under a non-Jewish name. And at least one member of that generation was looking to avoid back child-support. But there was also a substantial element of social fantasy. One thing I tried to understand over many such conversations was exactly why the Futurians perceived changing one's name as such a powerful act. I interpret "Day Million" as a partial expression the fantasy of only apparently real identity, or perhaps of the Modernist idea of a mask identity.

I see the current popularity of the concepts of the Singularity and trans-humanity as closely tied to online experimentation with the fantasy of apparent identity. Examples I used on the panel included Wikipedia admins who insist on the use of a pseudonym and claim that all attempts to decipher it amount to stalking; and Second Life, which requires you to adopt a pseudonym when you register -- you must select your last name from a pull-down menu and may only specify a first name; and the vast social wasteland of online dating, an unfolding disaster in human relations on a huge scale. My strong anti-pseudonymity message is not something people are all that receptive to at the moment.

The science fiction community strongly influenced the early evolution of the Internet because so many techies read sf and are involved in the sf community, and sf's ideas about pseudonymity and the adoption of a fannish name and persona seem to me to have influenced Internet fashion.  Cyberpunk sf was especially influential upon the shape of Internet social space: from William Gibson we have the very name of cyberspace, which as I recall he described in the 80s as that place you are when you're on the telephone — except that now 100 million people might overhear your call,which is recorded and archived.

There is one important difference between Futurian beliefs about only apparently real identities and the current online version of disposable personae or identity: The Futurians chose a name and tended to stick with it for the rest of their lives, whereas online identities are much usually more ephemeral. Also the Futurians used such names in person, whereas online aliases are mostly intended for use in electronic communication in cyberspace.

A significant transitional figure is James Tiptree, Jr. (aka Alice Sheldon aka Racoona Sheldon), a mother of the cyberpunk movement. She was a client of Virginia Kidd's. After her death, I accepted a couple of her posthumous awards on behalf of the Kidd agency. My husband, David Hartwell, was her editor and one of the few people in science fiction who ever met her in person. (Philip K. Dick, another writer who prefigured cyberpunk, is in some ways an opposite figure to Tiptree. He was concerned with distinguishing the authentic from the "only apparently real." )

Alice Sheldon used her real name in her everyday life, but used an alias for her writing and correspondence in the science fiction field. Her true identity and gender were only revealed after the death of her mother, a well-known writer. Her fascination with the power of pseudonymity seems to have its origins not in the Futurian subculture, but in that of the CIA. She was briefly employed by the CIA and was the wife of a high ranking CIA official, Huntington Sheldon. The Sheldons were part of the intelligence subculture that founded the CIA.

(Perhaps the origin of the false identity as it is used in the "intelligence" community is the Romantic spy and criminal fiction of the 19th and early 20th century: in the Robin Hood stories, Richard the Lion-Hearted supposedly sneaked back into England to depose the bad king.)

Tiptree had a tremendously seductive literary voice and persona. But while the science fiction field may have benefited from her adoption of an alias, since it arguably enabled her to write a highly regarded body of fiction, it is not clear that she herself benefited. Her adoption of the Tiptree pseudonym apparently started as a joke, and took on the role in her life of an addictive drug. Her life did not end well: She had chronic problems with depression and ended her life by shooting her husband and then herself. Tiptree is an icon in feminist sf as someone who liberated her writing voice by adopting a male pseudonym. In the context of a discussion of trans-humanity and gender, she perhaps represents feminist hopes for liberation from the constraints of older constructions of female social identity.

Though Tiptree and Phil Dick are in some ways opposites as literary figures -- Tiptree as icon of the power of pseudonymity, and Dick as an icon of the technological relevance of Kierkegaardian authenticity -- both writers are intensely concerned with alienation, which seems to me one of the core issues of Internet constructions of personal identity.

The argument can be made that the adoption of the alias James Tiptree, Jr. allowed Alice Sheldon a truer expression of her inner voice than society would have allowed for someone named Alice Sheldon, and that the adoption of an alias was a form of authenticity. This argument is rarely used with regard to adoption of aliases today, with one notable exception: The strange case of Laura Albert aka J. T. Leroy. Albert, an author who lost a civil suit claiming fraud brought by a movie company, gave some very interesting testimony:

Ms. Albert herself, in testimony from the stand, suggested that JT LeRoy was far more than a pseudonym in the classic Mark Twain-Samuel Clemens mold. She offered the idea that JT LeRoy was a sort of “respirator” for her inner life: an imaginary, though necessary, survival apparatus that permitted her to breathe.

The portrait of Alice Sheldon in her biography suggests some similarities to Albert. Interestingly, the end of the New York Times article about the ruling against Albert suggests that she is now "liberated" from her pseudonym.

Despite the many arguments that are made about the necessity of Internet pseudonymity for reasons of privacy, alienation is much more important to the core ethical issues of online communities and their strivings toward a trans-humanity, a transcendence of all constraining circumstance. While we are no more intelligent and perhaps no less powerful online than we are in person, we can certainly make ourselves seem  unrecognizable and estrange ourselves from our genders of birth, our ages and educational levels (see the Essjay controversy), our marital status (as is widely practiced on dating sites), etc. While this is not true trans-or post-humanity, it represents at least a kind of fantasy of trans-human existence, easier than a make-over or reinventing yourself under your own name. Much as we would like science fiction to be about the future, it is so often about the present. 

For the most part, writers such as Charles Stross and Cory Doctorow who are concerned with the Singularity subject matter, do not try to conceal the connection of their writing to the here and now.

We did, I think, get at that issue toward the end of the panel: How gendered popular types of Internet communications truly are; how much more flamboyant gender expression sometimes is online than in real life, and on the darker side, how much more overt and nasty online enforcement of gender codes can be.

Backlash is at least as characteristic as liberation of rapid social change generated by technological change. Is the Internet fad for pseudonymity a form of backlash or of liberation? The popular claim that a protected pseudonymity is necessary to protect people from stalking suggests that pseudonymity is a backlash against unwanted transparency. David Brin claims that transparency is "freedom's best defense." I think I agree with him.

Before the panel, I was asked by the convention program chair whether I was pro- or anti- the notion of the Singularity, ostensibly because this was anticipated to be an anti-Singularity panel. I'm not sure whether the above discussion makes me pro- or anti-Singularity. I believe we are already in the midst of rapid transformation that is rendering the world unrecognizable, already in the midst of a rising inadequation of the mind to the world.

There is another word for this: alienation. And perhaps that is what we should be talking about.

Or maybe not. From Charles Stross's Singularity! A Tough Guide to the Rapture of the Nerds, a definition of the Singularity:

The SIingularity is what happens when reality throws a divide-by-zero error or you extrapolate a curve to a straight line. Or something. Maybe it's what an Italian rock star says when you give him a wedgie. Who knows? All I know is that Vernor Vinge invented it -- damn him! (If it wasn't for those meddling computer science professors I could still be writing about PixieDust ...)

Anyway. You don't need to understand all that stuff to write about the SIngularity. What you need to understand is that after the SIngularity things will be cool. We'll all be PostHumans or UpLoading ourselves into our pocket calculators, there'll be lots of ArtificialIntelligence to help fight outbreaks of GreyGoo, and if there are annoying folks you don't want to have around you can just tell them to go TRanscend.

It's the hot new topic for wish-fulfillment adventure and escapism. And there'll be jam for tea every day.

As the Mad Hatter said, "Have more tea."

(to be continued at some point  . . .)


Wiscon program item noted without comment: "Something Is Wrong on the Internet!"

http://wiscon.piglet.org/program/detail?idItems=302

Program Item
NameSomething Is Wrong on the Internet!
Track(s)Feminism and Other Social Change Movements (Reading, Viewing, and Critiquing Science Fiction)
DescriptionWhat keeps you going at 4 a.m. when there's so much fail, and only you and your fellow Internet drama addicts stand against it like stubborn superheroes? Let's talk about why Internet drama is important to us as activists and as fans, why we engage or disengage, and what it all means when ideas and personalities clash in public discussion of sf/f books, tv, fic, and culture.
LocationCapitol B
ScheduleSun 10:00 - 11:15AM
PanelistsM: Vito Excalibur, Piglet, Liz Henry, Julia Sparkymonster
UPDATE: Two accounts of the panel, one from Laura, in the audience, with several unattributed quotes about mobbing:

Hint of a fail is when a person says “There is a mob after me!”

. . . and . . .

If you never shut up about things, then you will continue to be mobbed.

And one from Liz Henry:

danny: what seems to spark a particularly bad reaction is a bunch of people's reactions being called a "mob" - it is not a mob it is a lot of individuals having their own valid reactions.

Out sick from Boskone on Valentine's Day

I had dithered a bit about whether to go to Boskone. (David had always planned to attend and is there now.) The logistics were complicated. About a week ago, I made the decision to go, planning to driving up Saturday morning.

Didn't happen. I've been sick in bed and have been running a low fever, so, no, I didn't get the kids in the car and drive to Boston. David, who drove up Friday morning and is on the program and has a dealer's table, says it's smaller than usual, but a really pleasant time. Hi Boskonians! (KC waves at you through the screen.)

I may be sick, but I'm not having a bad day. Elizabeth brought me breakfast in bed. I pulled myself together to take the kids out for a child-appreciation Valentine's Day lunch, and then we went to the chocolate shop and stocked up on bonbons. 

So I may be sick in bed, but I am well-supplied with great kids and cats and chocolate. Things are all right.


Playing Hookey from the WorldCon

SN852040

Cheryl Morgan has noted that my kids and I are absent from Denvention. Ah, I'm busted playing hookey from the WorldCon. No, I'm not in Denver, I'm in Westport, NY painting my basement and painting pictures of Lake Champlain.

SN852014Meanwhile, Peter & Liz performed last night at the Deport Theatre as part of the theater's summer apprentice program. Amazing action photos here. Today Elizabeth goes on a trip to a local farm.

SN852027

SN852038This evening, the kids and I are going to an event at an "art farm." If by chance NYRSF wins a Hugo, I'm sure David will bring it home. I will, however, be in Montreal next year.


Confluence Pix

I've created a Flickr photoset for our Confluence photos  and will add more later. Here is the scene so far:

Mike Walsh sells books

Mike Walsh sells books in the Dealer's Room. (Didin't I see him last weekend?)

panel: Is the Internet Essentially Fungal?

Panel: Is the Internet Essentially Fungal? with Kathryn Cramer, Geoff Landis, James Morrow, Mary Turzillo

JJ presides over the beer tasting

JJ presides over the Beer Tasting. (Yummy!)

Charlie Oberndorf & Jim Morrow

Charles Oberndorf & James Morrow at dinner on the terrace.


Greetings from Confluence

confluence t-shirt

I have arrived at Confluence and have my first program item in  about two hours, a panel which I proposed on whether the Internet is essentially fungal, which I think it is.

Here's my program schedule. I'm expecting this will be a lot of fun.

Friday   6:00pm  Is the Internet Essentially Fungal?
      Kathryn Cramer   (M)
      Geoffrey A. Landis
      James Morrow
      Mary A. Turzillo
  In his book  Mycelium Running, mycologist  Paul Stamets argues that fungi are nature's Internet. Perhaps it's really the other way around. Is the Internet essentially fungal? Discuss from the SF  worldview (and perhaps from Lovecraft's as well).

Saturday 1:00pm  Critic Guest Talk: The Game of  Genre
   
  Kathryn Cramer

Saturday 4:00pm  Trends in Short Fiction: From Original Anthologies to Online Fiction
      Lawrence C. Connolly
      Kathryn Cramer   (M)
      David Barr Kirtley
      Paul Melko
      Karina Sumner-Smith
  Every year, we hear predictions of the death of short fiction. Yet, every year, some of the genres best works are not novels but short stories and novellas. And more new outlets are appearing.  There are more good original anthologies than we've seen since the golden  years of Universe, New Dimension, Orbit, and Dangerous Visions. And online markets are flourishing. The panel looks at some of the best  new short fiction, where it can be found, and the prospects for the future.

Saturday 5:00pm  What's Best?
      Kathryn Cramer   (M)
      David G. Hartwell
      James Morrow
      William Tenn
  Never mind what's best THIS YEAR, how do we decide what is best in  sf and fantasy anyway?

Sunday  10:00am  Kaffeeklatsch/Literary Beer

Sunday  12:00 noon Real Life Utopianism
      Kathryn Cramer
      Joe Haldeman
      James Morrow   (M)
      Kathryn Morrow
      Charles Oberndorf
  SF as a literature is  strongly concerned w /utopias and dystopias. How do we individually relate these visions to our real lives? What  have we done lately at  achieving utopia?

Right now I'm in my hotel room, having eaten lunch andd taken a shower. Against my better judgement, I spent a few minutes on the Internet and found myself trying to parse why    Violet Blue is trying to get a restraining order against some guy who had never previously impinged on my consiousness  (for his Wikipedia edits having to do with her Wikipedia entry).  What he had done to upset her looked to me simply like standard fairly reasonable Wikicrat behavior.  I never did figure out what this particular fuss is supposed to be about.

When oh when will I learn that I really don't need to try to follow the threads of this kind of Internet  mycelium? Fungal. Yes, the Internet is fungal.


Readercon Pix & Others

so many books, so little time!

I have posted our photos from Readercon, which was last weekend, as well as our photos from the NYRSF 20th Anniversary Party the weekend before.

NYRSF party

(Is Donald gesturing, or is that air guitar?)

Now, I am off to Confluence in Pittsburgh, where I will be  P. Schuyler Miller Critic Guest of Honor. Wheee! (Be there or be sqaure!)

Masterpage

(After that, I'm going back to the Adirondacks to rise with the sun and plant pretty flowers in the mountains.)


Balticon Photos


I
've posted our photos from Balticon including shots of Michael Flynn, Connie Willis, Walter Jon Williams, Urban Tapestry (the music guests of honor), and Karl Scroeder, plus a photoset of the nearby Oregon Ridge Nature Center.

David Hartwell & Karl Schroeder in the dealers' room
David Hartwell & Karl Schroeder in the dealer's room

gameboys
kids w/ Gameboys

Oregon Ridge Nature Center
Peter & David explore the swamp at the nature center


YouthCan 2007

Monday, I took my son Peter to YouthCan 2007, a conference for kids on helping the environment through technology held at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

Most of the people attending were part of school groups, some from as far away as Argentina, Russia, and Iran, though most from the US. In all, attendance was about a thousand.

A couple of years ago, I tried to arrange for a delegation from my son's school to attend, but in our district there were too many bureaucratic obstacles, and so I failed. This year, when I received a reminder of the event via email, on whim I decided that Peter and I would attend.

I decided to drive in rather than take MetroNorth from Pleasantville, since once you get off MetroNorth it is a bit cumbersome to get -- via public transportation -- from Grand Central Station to the museum. We left home about 8:30 AM and got a nice parking space in the museum parking garage (for which I later paid a hefty sum: $43).

(I had arranged for a babysitter for my daughter in in the afternoon [$30-something], and for the Mother Hen bus service [$30] to get her from pre-school and take her there, so Peter and I had as much time as we needed. Museum admission was free with the event, but I had already run up over a $100 tab as soon as I set the plan in motion. And Linda Hirshman wonders in a New York Times OpEd piece wonders at the struggle of moms rejoining the work-force, or meditates on our competing obligations; or something. It cost a hundred bucks to spend the day with one child in NYC without the other. In my utopia, this would be cheaper.)

IMG_0264.JPGWe arrived before opening ceremonies began; opening and closing ceremonies were held in the Hall of Ocean Life -- with the full scale model of a blue whale hanging from the ceiling -- a great venue for any event. The room full of kids and chaperons was better behaved than one might have expected as we waited for the rest to arrive because there was so much to look at just in that one room.

Andrew RevkinAndrew Revkin, a science writer for The New York Times and author of the kids' book about global warming, The North Pole Was Here, gave what was essentially the keynote speech. He made the interesting point that he realized that after writing 300 NYT articles, the people he should have been writing to were kids, since the decisions affecting our current climate are already made and that the decisions made now and in the near future most affect those under 19. I would have liked to see his one-hour presentation on his trip to the North Pole, but I had Peter signed up for something else, and so just bought a copy of his book to read later.

There were three program slots to sign up for. Our first was EcoMedia, held by The Bronx River Art Center:

Become educated about the Bronx River environment through several student multimedia approaches with different tools involving ecoTV, ecoGames, ecoWeb, ecoSound, and ecoPhoto.  See an amazing project unravel before your eyes as students in this ecological workshop, translate ideas like invasive species or watershed physics.

This was my first exposure to 13-year-olds giving software demos. I suppressed the impulse to try to help. It made the biggest impression of all on my 9-year-old son, who had seen mommy do many or all of the things the kids were showing him how to do, but having kids show him was different.

IMG_0273.JPG

Miamia Country Day School on combating world hungerThe next session we went to was held by third graders from Miami Country Day School and consisted of a series of presentations by groups of third graders on solutions to the problem of world hunger.

How much land is actually useful for agricultural purposes? Find out and learn about a more effective way to grow crops in many of the poor regions of the world. Be ready to take home all you need to make your own container garden. Make up a recipe with organic herbs flown fresh from our school garden for your enjoyment! This workshop is hands-on, nose-on, and mouth-on.

The kids were doing a splendid job. But the room was hot and crowded (too small for the number of people there) so we slipped off for lunch before the end.

In the cafe, we found the group who had given the ecoMedia presentation, so we sat with them when we ate our lunch.

Guerilla GardeningThe third session we attended was Guerrilla Gardening, held by sixth graders from the Salk School of Science in New York City.

Save the plants and save the world! Learn how you and/or your school can create amazing indoor gardens while recycling and reusing your kitchen refuse. Plant beans, corn, potatoes, ginger, and much more. Leave with a head start on your own garden!

The students collectively taught a lesson that they might have had at school with their teacher. We drew sketches of various kinds of seeds found in many kitchens (kidney beans, bird seed, popping corn, etc.) then we made planters for them out of clear egg cartons and each came home set up to sprout the seeds on our windowsills.

IMG_0306.JPGAfter that, we attended the lively closing ceremonies in which there was some moderated discussion of what we had gotten out of the day. One of the teenagers attending had submitted a compelling short essay that was read out loud.

Peter at the microscopeAfter the official conference was over, we paid a visit to the Discovery Room, one of Peter's favorite parts of the museum. He looked at live grubs and butterfly wings under the microscope. We also spent a while in the museum's enormous gift shop.

eathing a snack at the end of the dayAfter a snack in the museum's main dining room, we went up to the top floor and saw the Audubon exhibit and the dinosaur skeletons. we saw a few more exhibits and then headed home.

For next year, when Peter will be in middle school, I think I'll try again to get a school delegation together to give a presentation.


Kathryn Cramer complains about conventions and childcare, part 463

It says a lot about American conventions and conferences of all types that Harry Brighouse had to write this sentence:

The topic was Rethinking Gender Egalitarianism, and I was leaving my wife at home much of the weekend with a 4-week-old baby and the girls.

There was aparently much discussion of the issue of society & childcare which followed once he'd arrived at the conference. But, speaking as a wife who these days frequently stays home from events she would have preferred to have attended, I do wonder which voices in this discussion did not show up to be heard because the problem is not adequately addressed by our cultures' public gatherings.


Capclave Pix

I've got photos from Capclave up on Flickr.




Xtreme Ruffles at Albacon

Albacon is being held in an Albany, NY hotel that is also hosting a pagent for little girls. So girls in Xtreme Ruffles and pancake makeup are occasionally visible from the Albacon function areas. My three-year old daughter caught sight of some of the pagent proceedings and exclaimed that she wanted to go to "the face-painting."


Cory Doctorow & his MacBook

IMG_5570.JPG
I tried to get Rudy Rucker to take this shot of Cory Doctorow yesterday, after the "Bloggers as Public Intellectuals" panel at the WorldCon (featuring, in addition to Cory, Kevin Drum, Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden, MaryAnn Johanson, & Phil Plait) and but Rudy didn't do it. So I took the shot myself today.

There is a better version of this to be had, but I thought it was interesting to pose.

Here's a fuzzy shot of yesterday's panel I took with my cell phone:

Publicintellectuals


Not Going to WFC

A couple of people have asked whether I'm attending the World Fantasy Convention in Madison. Yes, my husband is heads the board of directors of the organization that oversees the convention from year to year, and yes, this year's theme, "The Architecture of Fantasy and Horror," would be a perfect venue for me, since in the 1980's I edited two anthologies of architectural horror, The Architecture of Fear, for which I won a World Fantasy Award, and Walls of Fear, for which I was nominated for a World Fantasy Award. But NO, I'm not going.

I would leave it at that, because of course with every convention there are some people who can attend and some who can't and many of those who can't can't for reasons that are not fair, like not having enough money. And certainly, over time, I've gotten to go to a lot of conventions. But I wanted to spin this out for you a little in terms of science fiction and its social policies and what happens specifically to women.

A while back I wrote a bit about the situation of childcare at conventions at which I was able to show up. I had great difficulty being able to attend the convention program because of the lack of childcare at conventions. While other people attended the program, I would usually be in the halls with my kids, no matter how interesting I might have found the goings on inside.

People took me seriously. In response to may complaints, some changes were made. Not enough, but some. I had an impact.

But now, for the most part, I am not getting to those halls in the first place. One of our book contracts was not renewed and so money is tight. The Glasgow Worldcon had put me on the best batch of program items I had ever been assigned. But I had to cancel because the plane fares never came down to the level we could afford for a family of four. And back last fall, I had to eat a ticket to France for Utopiales because our family-member childcare for the trip fell through, and we couldn't afford to buy childcare on the open market in Westchester. (I haven't managed to get to Eurpore since Peter was born in 1997.) Between Utopiales and the Glasgow Worldcon, that's two trips to Europe cancelled in the past year.

And I'm not going to Madison. With my son in an elementary school that is very pushy about its attendance policies, we couldn't really bring him given the complexities of getting to Madison. Childcare for the weekend while I went out would be amazingly expensive here. We make $90,000/yr below the median income for our school district, so for the most part, I can't buy babysitting at market prices. (A sitter for an evening out costs about $15/hour around here, so I don't get out much.) The noose tightens, so I'll probably seeing less of people who expect to just see me around, if only in the halls though not in the panels or evening parties.

I would lay on you my grandmother's line, "I'm not complaining, but. . ." (When I was a kid I would always believe her: that she wasn't compaining, even though that line always prefaced a complaint.) But it would be a lie: I am complaining. But I'm telling you folks in the science fiction field about this not because I expect you to fix it for me, but because I'm sure I'm not the only woman you are losing access to over things like this.