Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Listen to "It Takes Two" on Starship Sofa

Breaking radio silence to let you know you can listen to a podcast of my novelette, "It Takes Two," here on Starship Sofa. It's narrated by Christie Yant and runs just a little over an hour. The intro starts at 12:25 with the story proper at 14:45. Enjoy.

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Saturday, May 15, 2010


In a few minutes I pull my ethernet cable and don't plug back in until June 6th. Which means no email, no blog, no Facebook, and no Twitter. If you need me, there's the phone. If you don't have my phone number, you don't need me.

If you feel the urge to send me email, just wait until June. The first thing I'll be doing on June 6th is deleting all the messages in my mailbox. Yes, all of them. So save it, okay?

I'm planning on a fabulous three weeks--mostly at home, but not entirely. Lots of time to sit quietly (and not so quietly) with my sweetie. Watch movies. Read books. Go to the park. Eat lunch out. Go to a museum or two. Sit blankly on the deck in the sun. Work on Hild. Talk to friends. Oh, it's going to be good.

I hope you will also take the opportunity to have some nothing-in-particular time. It's a necessary human thing. Most of us don't do it enough.

Indulge yourself. I'll be back in three weeks.

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Making a book from Wikipedia articles

(Via GalleyCat)

Yep, lots of videos this week. But they're all so interesting... Anyway, this notion of being able to make POD book from wiki articles is a very, very cool idea, something I'll probably use when I start collating research for Hild II and III. (I hate reading onscreen, and when pondering non-fiction like to flip back and forth, write in the margin, etc. Which is still easier on paper than with my Kindle.) Perhaps when I have a first draft of Hild, I'll make a book of some* of the research that readers might find helpful--then sell it online, with 10% of the proceeds going to the Wikimedia Foundation.

*Most of my research is done with hideously expensive academic texts, but Wikipedia will probably be enough to fill in the background for most casual readers. And for those who really get into it, I'll probably put an extensive bibliography online closer to publication.

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Bronte power!

(Thanks, Angélique.)

I love the Brontësaurus transformer thing. Schools should hand them out before their students plod through the books. (Yeah, I always disliked the Brontës; I think Jany Eyre sucks. But, hey, I might have liked it better if I'd had a Brontësaurus to play with...)

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Lesbian Science Fiction Disco!

You can make your own using almost anything. Perhaps Ammonite should be the boy (oooh, irony). Perhaps Stay should dance with The Blue Place (oooh, narcissism). Perhaps I should go write some more Hild...

(via PW's Genreville)

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Monday, May 10, 2010

Alan Sillitoe

I just found out that Alan Sillitoe died: April 25th, aged 82. He was one of the UK literati's Angry Young Men, one of those 1950s writers who deliberately turned their backs on tradition. He was a Nottingham lad, who wrote about working men--not the kind of thing Polite Writers did back in the day, unless the working men (and, yes, it was always men) were trying to better themselves.

Sillitoe wrote Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, and The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner. I'm not sure we would have seen eye to eye, but I would like to have met him. You might recognise one of his most famous aphorisms: "Don't let the bastards grind you down." Though I kind of like "It's a fine life, if you don't weaken."

Note: on Saturday, May 15th, I'm going off the grid for three weeks: unplugging my ethernet cable and going cold turkey: no email, no blog, no Facebook, no Twitter. If you have anything you need to talk to me about, do it before then. I'll post a reminder on Friday. Basically I'm not going to be around May 15th - June 6th. Any email I get during that time I'll just delete when I plug back in--so, eh, don't send anything between the 15th and the 6th.
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Saturday, May 8, 2010

Taser Buzz Kill

After the recent amazement in the press about five healthy women being able to disarm one single man, I thought it might be a good idea to repost this article I wrote a couple of years ago for the Huffington Post. For some reason, HuffPost dropped most of the links I provided--weird, but there you go--and in my switch from PC to Mac this spring I seem to have lost the original. I've put a couple of URLs back in but don't have time to do all the research again. You'll just have to--okay, you don't have to, you're a grownup--take my word that all my arguments were supported with links to facts and figures.

There's been a lot of buzz in the press about women's Taser parties. (They're like Tupperware parties, but sell C2 Tasers instead of plastic tubs.)

These reports infuriate me.

Apparently, many women who go to these parties live in constant fear of violent sexual assault. And they believe that having a Taser will protect them. Perhaps they imagine a hooded stranger in their apartment or their parking lot. Perhaps they imagine that they will whip out the Taser, zap the bad guy, and a few minutes later watch as the cops march him off. Bloodless and neat. Her Taser is a "safety blanket," says Dana Shafman, the entrepreneur who started the parties; if she leaves the house without one she goes "into panic mode."

But it's not safety blankets that protect you. You do that.

You start by being informed. Most (68%) violent and/or sexual assaults are perpetrated by a man the woman knows. Most assaults happen in or near the woman's home (72%) or the home of a neighbor or friend (11%). You are much more likely to get hurt in your breakfast nook than in a dark alley. The man trying to hurt you is more likely to be your ex-husband or boyfriend or colleague than a hooded stranger. So, statistically, we're talking about Tasing someone you know who moves on you unexpectedly in close quarters, in a place where you feel safe. But, hey, no problem, because the Taser is pretty foolproof. Right?

Well, no, not exactly.

The C2 Taser electroshock weapon, sold in a range of pretty colours (and designed to look like a woman's electric razor), is a one-shot-only device, effective to a maximum of 15 feet. If you miss with your one shot, you have to use the Taser as a contact stun gun (known as dry Tasing). Dry Tasing is not particulary effective for putting someone down; it hurts but doesn't incapacitate. You have to hold the weapon against your target for at least five seconds - and trust me, it's difficult to do anything for even two seconds in a fight.

So don't miss with that first shot. But, hey, why would you? After all, it's easy to hit something as big as a man from 15 feet. Right?

Well, no, not exactly.

Maybe your assailant will announce politely from no more than 15' away that he wishes to hurt you, then stand still and wait patiently as you struggle to understand what's happening, remember where you put the Taser, pull it out, and aim. Maybe your hands won't be shaking from adrenaline.

Good. Then shoot him and put him down. Put the Taser on the floor next to him and walk away while, for 30 seconds (six times as long as the maximum used by police Tasers), the C2 pumps current into his nervous system. This could lead to permanent heart arrhythmias and/or fractured vertebrae. But why should you care? No doubt your assailant deserves it.

There again, the person getting damaged could end up being you. Like any weapon, the Taser can be taken away and used against you. Remember all those stories you've read about home owners killed by their own guns? I see no reason to suppose that the statistics for Taser owners would be any different.

A weapon is only useful if you're willing and able to use it when you're attacked. So if you buy a Taser (or pepper spray, or gun), be prepared to carry it with you everywhere -- the shower, the conference room, while taking out the garbage. Practice drawing it and firing it. Come up with all the what-if scenarios you can imagine, and rehearse them. A Taser isn't a magic amulet, able to protect you simply by existing. It's a tool (a moderately useless one, in my opinion), and it is as only as effective as the person using it.

The quote from a Taser buyer that disturbs me the most comes from an Arizona Taser party host. "If you know you're going to be in a certain situation where you might be uncomfortable, why not have it with you? It just makes you more confident."

And we're back with the notion of a safety blanket. But safety blankets have never saved anyone. Here's a better way to approach the possibility of danger: don't expect a weapon you haven't trained with for a hundred hours or more to function as a mystical shield. If you do, you'll be blunting your most powerful survival tool: your instincts. When you begin to feel uncomfortable in a situation - when you are afraid - that's your instincts, screaming at you that something is wrong. Those instincts can save your life. (Read Gavin de Becker's The Gift of Fear. Better, read my novel, Always, which is all about the women in a self-defense class who grow and learn and bond--and make awful choices.) Don't smother them under a safety blanket.

I taught self-defense for five years in the UK. It works. According to U.S. Department of Justice statistics, women fight off unarmed rapists successfully 72% of the time. If he has a knife, she'll fight him off 58% of the time. If he has a gun, she has a 51% chance. Unarmed, untrained: if you fight back, you'll probably win. But if weapons make you feel better, then just look around you -- they're everywhere. In your purse: perfume, nail file, phone. In your kitchen: cleaning spray, fire extinguisher, all those knives. In your car: air freshener, cigarette lighter, and the car itself.

The world, as Aud Torvingen would say, is a "garden of weaponry." Tasers are the least of these. The most important are the ones you always have with you: your mind, your common sense, your bravery. Your best weapon is yourself.

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Friday, May 7, 2010

4% Neanderthal, fanfiction, and other links

First of all, the UK election (because I'm, y'know, English): Hung parliament, with all kinds of horse trading going on. all the news you need from the Guardian.

Fanfic wars in f/sf. Again. This time it's Diana Gabaldon throwing a hissy fit, and Charlie Stross saying (I'm paraphrasing--Charlie's far too nice to say this) she's bugfuck crazy. My thoughts on the matter are pretty simple: unless you have a legal relationship (e.g. you've optioned movie rights; you're publishing one of my novels) only I get to make money on my creations. Apart from that, have fun. There again, I've been known to be a bit dim about fanfic.

Over at Sterling, the links this week are mostly advice, from agents and editors and authors, plus one nifty infographic on how books really get made.

Over at the economist's technology blog, Babbage asks if Haystack will make a difference. "Haystack does two things: first, it encrypts all online activity ‑‑ emails, web pages, Twitter, anything. That means anyone conducting surveillance on a particular online connection will see gibberish ‑‑ a code that's very hard to crack.

The second thing that it does is that it hides this encrypted data in what looks like normal traffic. It appears that you're doing all the things that are completely allowed or approved by the government. So we take that encrypted data, and again, like hide it ‑‑ that's the Haystack concept."

Plungo-rama! The stock market plunges about 1,000 points then (mostly) comes back up. Some blame a glitch, some a fat-fingered trade, some the troubles in Greece. Me, I've been sort of expecting a double dip this year and pulled what money we had in stocks out of the market a few weeks ago. I just couldn't stand the stress. You?

Two of the best links for last: self-defence works. (It does. I wrote a whole book about it. I taught it for five years. I wrote a thing in HuffPost a while ago.) More women should study it.

And finally: we could be up to 4% Neanderthal. "'The Neanderthals are not totally extinct. In some of us they live on a little bit,' said Max Planck Institute evolutionary geneticist Svante Pääbo./ It took four years for Pääbo’s team to assemble a working sequence from DNA in the bones of three 38,000-year-old Neanderthal women, found in Croatia’s Vindija Cave. The sequence, published May 6 in Science, covers about 60 percent of the entire genome."

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Thursday, May 6, 2010

Black Death

"Crucify them all!" "I'll slice you open!" I think I could do without the pustulence but, eh, I might have to see it anyway. In theatres May 28. And before that there's Robin Hood. And before *that* Iron Man 2. Can you spell 'epic'?

I'm going to have a seriously fab month. You?

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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Calling all SF readers, and queer YA writers

Want to read future Hugo-winning f/sf? Well, for the price of becoming a supporting member of Aussicon 4, the world science fiction convention, you can get the 'Hugo packet', which is a fabulously complete packet of electronic text of all the nominated books and stories on the final ballot. Wow. Go look at the nominees. Then think to yourself, is all that juicy fiction, plus the right to vote for your favourite/s, worth the very small sum of AU $70/US $64? So go join, go read, go vote. What a steal...

Brenda Bowen, an agent at Sandford J. Greenburger, is looking for up and coming quiltbag YA writers. According to LambdaLiterary, she's "particularly interested to find a writer for a YA book project she is developing. Please send a writing sample to Synopsis + three sample chapters from a YA novel would be best, but an equivalent is fine." What are you waiting for?

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Saturday, May 1, 2010

Don't ask, don't telephone...

It's Saturday, my brain is fried, so here's linkage for the weekend.

First up, via the Advocate, this remake of Lady Gaga/Beyoncé's 'Telephone' by servicemen in Afghanistan. [Update, apparently Aaron, one of the soldiers in the video, has two mums.]

Second, here's part of the reason for my brain being fried: climate change is making my allergies worse. I've always been violently allergic to tree pollen. Now, according to Mother Jones, more CO2 means more pollen--which means a more pronounced reaction to foodstuffs related to some common tree pollen species. "People who are genetically presdisposed to fruit and nut allergies," people, y'know, like me, tuh, "may find that increased exposure to birch pollen makes their food reactions worse. Similarly, more ragweed pollen could aggravate symptoms in people allergic to melon." (Thanks, Cindy.)

This one's old but I find myself thinking about it on and off: how to make a stylus for your iPad from a pencil and a sock. Seriously. Very cool. (Thanks, Jennifer.)

Another Jennifer tells me she'll be curating a lesbian poetry series at Kissed By Venus a website which "presents original short fiction, book reviews, author interviews, and commentary on lesbian fiction (and related subjects) by a wide range of writers and readers, from all corners of the lesbian fiction world."

The Publishing Triangle announced their awards last night at a ceremony at the New School's Tishman Auditorium, "where prizes were given in the categories of lesbian poetry, gay poetry, debut fiction, LGBT fiction, gay nonfiction and lesbian nonfiction." has the skinny.

And finally our weekly roundup of links for writers is up over at Sterling Editing. Lots of good stuff, including a long article from the New Yorker on the future of books. (For those who don't track all the industry goings-on, it's a good catch-up article.) As you'll see from the post, Kelley and I are planning to be off the grid from May 17 through June 6. With any luck, I'll see through my allergies and the allurements of Hild clearly enough to do a real blog post before then.

Meanwhile, have a fabulous weekend.

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