ConFusion 2018: Visions of Positive Masculinity

(These are my lightly edited notes for a panel I attended at the ConFusion Fantasy and Science Fiction Convention in January of 2018)

DESCRIPTION: From high fantasy adventures to noir mysteries to superheroes and war stories , genre fiction has meticulously catalogued the narrow roles society expects men to occupy: strong, brave, and powerful, but also angry, competitive, emotionally repressed, and misogynistic. What does a character arc look like for the man who has decided not to be the best at performing this toxic vision of masculinity? We’ve seen many stories about women who struggle and triumph against gender roles. How can writers use social expectations of masculinity to create challenges that their male characters have to overcome to save the day?

PANELISTS: David Anthony Durham, Jason Sanford, Jim C. Hines, John Chu, Pablo Defendini

NOTES:

  • Before discussing “positive masculinity”, perhaps a definition of “toxic masculinity” (“T.M.” henceforth)?
  • T.M. may appear in ways that seem innocuous
  • T.M. does NOT mean “All men are bastards!”
  • T.M. is something we are born into but can supersede
  • #NotAllMen is a symptom of T.M.
  • Kylo Ren is an example of T.M.
  • Poe Dameron is an example of a different sort of T.M.
  • We are at the beginning of the pushback against T.M. at the institutional level.
  • Part of challenging T.M. is challenging the idea of “masculinity”, i.g. “What is masculinity? What is masculine?”
  • Works which stand against T.M.:
  • Empathy can inoculate against T.M.
  • Good fiction creates empathy
    • “Write better books, make better people”
  • Can healthy, well-balanced protagonists make for compelling reading? YES!!!!!
  • We would like to see aspects of T.M. addressed in literature in the upcoming year:
    • Aggression
    • Conquest
    • Lack of empathy
  • “We want people to live up to Apple’s P.R., not necessarily Apple’s actions in the world.”
  • Big tech companies are often not aware of, or don’t care about, even the first-order effects of their actions (e.g. externalities, be they environmental, cultural, economic, et al.)
  • Being proud of ignorance is a huge signifier of T.M. Distrust of expertise and education and intelligence
  • Dismantling T.M. is MEN’s PROBLEM. It’s not on women to do it for men.

My thoughts:

This was quite eye-opening for me. I am aware of the existence of toxic masculinity in everyday life, and do what I can to expunge it from my personality and social interactions. Of course, as a guy, and as me being embedded in me, I am not always aware of how I am perceived by people outside of me. This panel was a good view into the various ways toxic masculinity can manifest. Of particular interest was that this panel happened right after an incident in another panel, which led to an attendee exhibiting stalker-ish behavior toward one of the panelists. T.M. in action. I expect I will add thoughts to this subject in future blog posts.

ConFusion 2018: How a Manuscript Becomes a Book

(These are my lightly edited notes for a panel I attended at the ConFusion Fantasy and Science Fiction Convention in January of 2018)

PANEL: How a Manuscript Become a Book (19 January 2018, 14:00)

PANEL DESCRIPTION: “‘I’m just an MS…sittin’ here on an editor’s desk…I hope and pray to be a book someday, but today I am just an MS!’ There’s plenty of information on the web about how to write and sell a manuscript , but the process after the deal is signed is often opaque to new writers. We’ll walk through the steps a manuscript typically goes through between deal day and launch day, and what authors can do to help the process go smoothly.”

PANELISTS: Cherie M. Priest, Navah Wolfe, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Richard Shealy, Yanni Kuznia

NOTES

  • On acceptance: It has to be a great book THAT THE PUBLISHER KNOWS WHAT TO DO WITH (Navah Wolfe)
  • You never learn to write A NOVEL. You learn to write THIS NOVEL. The same goes for editing.
  • Pointing out places that need fixing vs. recommending specific fixes. “This isn’t working” vs. “Maybe try this”
  • When the editors do their job well, you don’t notice them
  • “Junicode” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Junicode) variation of Garamond with loads of diacritics. Created to fill a need in academic publishing
  • “First pass” == “Uncorrected Proof” == “Galley”

My thoughts:

I mostly attended this panel as a sanity check to see if the rest of the publishing world did things similarly to how I did them. Therefore, for me, this panels was more about affirming than learning. Everything discussed jibed with my experiences as publisher and editor at Caffeinated Press. The notes collected here are the “aha!” moments of the panel.

ConFusion 2018: The Care and Feeding of the Subject Expert

(These are my lightly edited notes for a panel I attended at the ConFusion Fantasy and Science Fiction Convention in January of 2018)

PANEL: The Care and Feeding of the Subject Expert (19 January 2018, 12:00)

PANEL DESCRIPTION: “Writing science fiction and fantasy requires a ton of research. Having the internet at our fingertips makes it easier than it used to be, but sometimes we need to ask an expert. Many folks are delighted to geek out about their specialties, but we still need to do due diligence, respect their time, and make sure we’re asking the right questions. How do you find qualified experts? Do you approach them with prepared questions? When is it ethical to pick someone’s brain for free, and when should you insist on compensating your expert?”

PANELISTS: Marissa Lingen, Michael Kucharski, Monica Valentinelli, Patrick S. Tomlinson, Teresa Nielsen Hayden

NOTES

  • Sources at the start of a project are different from sources at the end of a project
  • Non-geek subject experts love it when writers take the time to get it right.
  • Being wrong is the best way to find an expert on the subject. When inaccuracies find their way into print the critics come out of the woodwork
  • A specific detail is an opportunity for your reader to argue with you. Don’t get it wrong
  • Is that particular specificity necessary?
  • Specificity can turn a work of fiction into a period piece. Accurate details (e.g. the price of things) can pinpoint stories in a particular time and place
  • We aren’t building worlds; we are building simulation of worlds. Therefore don’t add too much weight. Do specificity and detail in service of the story
  • SME can provide a sanity check. As in, is this right to the level of detail necessary to be meaningful to the story?
  • [Nature has a sci-fi section?]
  • How to reward/pay a SME: coffee, acknowledgement in print, dinner, money, Tuckerization
  • Wikipedia is a door, not a destination. The sources in a wikipedia article are the STARTING point for research.
  • [Mention of Jonathan Israel as SME for loads of European stuff]
  • If the SME’s response to a question is “it’s complicated,” it is a good indication that this person is, in fact, an SME. A facile or immediate and simple answer is not necessarily a well-thought-out answer
  • People who are weary about a subject are more likely to be experts than are the people who are excited.
  • “Englishing” – turning a translated text into a “regular English” text – is a Paid Thing

My thoughts:

I like the idea that subject matter experts may well be jaded about the subject in which they have expertise. It rings true. Not jaded in the sense that they find it boring; rather that the magic has become the mundane and they have integrated their knowledge into their lives and world-views. Being an expert in a subject doesn’t mean that you can simply recite dry facts.

ConFusion 2018

I will be speaking on two panels at ConFusion 2018! Here is my schedule:

TITLE: Poetry in Novels
DESCRIPTION: Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass include lengthy poems, placing them in a long tradition of long-form fiction that incorporates poetry into the work. How does writing poems for prose fiction differ from writing poems that stand alone? What distinct techniques does it require? Where do poems within stories exist in the landscape of genre poetry today?
PANELISTS: Amal El-Mohtar, Clif Flynt, Jeff Pryor, Josef Matulich, John Winkelman, Mari Ness
ROOM: Isle Royale
DAY/TIME: Sunday, January 21, 10:00 – 10:50 am

TITLE: Analogue Media in the Digital Age
DESCRIPTION: Paper, vinyl, and film, oh my! What are the unique advantages to analogue media, and what’s just a deeply ingrained sense of how media “should” be? Is it not a book without the paper smell, or a song without the soft crackle of a needle on vinyl?
PANELISTS: David Klecha, Gail Cross, John Winkelman
ROOM: Petoskey
DAY/TIME: Sunday, January 21, 1:00 – 1:50 pm

I will, of course, vastly over-think and over-research these topics over the next ten days, and will therefore post my notes.