Con or Bust: Brisbane edition

2b-Green-dino-only-smaller-whiteCon or Bust is an American fan fund created to assist People of Colour to attend SFF conventions.  It’s an excellent project funded entirely through donations and an annual online auction, and we at No Award are very excited that it has come to Australia.

Contact, the 2016 NatCon (this year in Brisbane), has donated two memberships, and there is up to $550 of assistance available for accommodation.

The catch: if you need assistance beyond membership and accommodation — ie, airfare — the deadline for applying is before 11:59 pm, Thursday 25 February, US Eastern Standard Time.  (Yes, my fellow lolstralians, that is working out in our favour, thank you, time zones.)

Go forth, lolstralians of a non-white persuasion, and apply!!

[Con or Bust logo was designed and created by an anonymous artist.]

Stephanie says: Liz will be attending NatCon as the NAFF delegate, so you should definitely find her and yell with her.

taking up room in con spaces

 

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Today we’re talking about cons, whiteness, racism in fandom, and that time a white American splained at Steph about colonialism in South East Asia, a place she is actually from.

Contains lots of swears because it’s that kind of topic and day.

Continue reading “taking up room in con spaces”

Vote 1 Liz Barr NAFF 2016 RIGHT NOW

Fan Fund: a fan-run fundraiser to enable the elected delegate to attend a con that would otherwise be inaccessible to them.

NAFF: the National Australian Fan Fund, created to send a fan to the Australian National Convention (aka the Natcon, because that’s a mouthful).

As it happens, I’m a NAFF 2016 candidate!  (Hamilton interlude: “I was chosen for the Constitutional Convention!”) What does that mean?  If you vote for me, I’ll be able to attend Contact 2016, a one-off con held in Brisbane.

(Further Hamilton interlude: “You’re openly campaigning.  That’s … new.”)

(Further interlude: A CONVENTION IN BRISBANE, WHAT IS THIS MIRACLE?  I could take my mum!  I mean, I actually can’t, because $$$$, but it would be geographically feasible!)

Now, this is one of those years where there’s a strong field all around, and I wouldn’t begrudge any of the nominees if they won … but you should vote for me because (a) I am the only one who has a Harold Holt joke in her candidate bio; (b) HALF A NO AWARD ROAD TRIP (Stephanie will be going to Swancon, maybe, as is her Perthie duty); exciting things seem to be happening in Brisbane, fannishly, and I would like to investigate in person.  MAYBE I WILL WEAR A DEERSTALKER but probably not.

Voting costs $5, and closes Wednesday 23 December (TOMORROW).  GET IN QUICK.

GO HERE AND VOTE 1 LIZ BARR.

are you from linkspam or Mars?

We’ve been sitting on this post for a few weeks, so some of these links are, uhhh, vintage!

Liz is a candidate for the 2016 NAFF race, which sends the successful candidate to Contact 2016, the one-off Brisbane con running over Easter.

I’ll talk about this in more detail in the near future, but if you’re already convinced, voting costs $5 and you can do so at this link.

Stephanie adores Clueless, and just watched it last weekend, and loved this: ‘Clueless’ style: a fashion analysis of the best teen movie of all time

Steph cried with laughter at this: 46 Things That Would Be Different If “Love Actually” Were Set In Australia

Uncovering Australia’s Indigenous past: Forgotten 1920s photos reveal insight into coastal Aboriginal people

When there’s no room at the inn for victims of domestic violence (Don’t read the comments – sadly the ‘most liked’ comments are on the right-hand sidebar, putting them directly in view.)

Does YA fiction need to check its privilege?  On class, and the lack of working class YA protagonists who aren’t leading a revolution.  (Liz agrees strongly with this article, and sadly notes that some of the worst depictions of class are from OzYA.)

An Open Letter to JJ Abrams  – Did you know that girls can be Star Wars fans? Apparently JJ didn’t.  But what made this blog post particularly enjoyable was the author’s account of becoming a science fiction fan in Hong Kong.

Stephen Nothling, vision-impaired artist, brings unique perspective to Brisbane suburban streetscapes

Great piece at Overland on the shit going on against the CFMEU and Australia’s Unions: Black bans and blackmail, and why it’s important.

That’s why having workers’ representatives monitoring safety matters. Last month, when a concrete slab crushed two men to death on an East Perth worksite, it transpired that the CFMEU had been refused entry to the site sixteen times.

No Award reminds everyone that the voices of women (and genderqueer people) are frequently silenced by the medical fraternity and endometriosis is a real thing suffered by Friends of No Award: My Doctors Said My Crippling Menstrual Pain Was “Fine”.

Melbourne history business: The little blue building

Here’s What It’s Like To Go Through Gay Conversion Therapy In Australia

Peter S Beagle, author of The Last Unicorn, screenwriter for the TNG episode “Sarek”, is suing his business partner.  Jim C Hines breaks down the issues as we know them. 

Writing Business

Great point at The Wheeler Centre’s notes: It’s Not Easy Being Green: when young writers meet opportunistic editors.

As Parkhill noted in a response to Kilbride’s piece on Facebook, the core issue was not simply that the piece was ‘garbage’, but that it passed the editorial process at all. ‘Perhaps worse than the article’s content is the fact that [New Matilda] have exposed a very young and inexperienced writer’s ill-formed thoughts to a large audience,’ Parkhill said. ‘This article was by no means ready to go live, and I’m sure in the fullness of time its author won’t thank [New Matilda] for the opportunity or “exposure” but will regret the fact that [they] were willing to publish such asinine crap to which his name will be forever attached.’

Right Place, Right Time: How the Melbourne Voice shuts writers out (as in being in Melbourne, not some publication called Melbourne Voice, as Steph first was confused by)

Steph nearly called this section Gross White People Business

NOPE: No criminal charges over pig head dumping at University of WA Muslim prayer room. GET IN THE BIN.

Seven News reported on Wednesday that police know the man, believed to be a former university student, responsible and found a second pig’s head in his home.

But he reportedly won’t be charged because technically no laws had been broken.

IT’S CALLED RACIAL VILIFICATION GET IT TOGETHER WA COPPERS COME ON.

Inadequate white man gets appointed to important political role; admits he loves revenge: Joe Hockey gets job as ambassador to US, admits staying in parliament would have been about payback. Fucking get it together, come on.

Australians head to Colombian village for cocaine ‘special tour’. ARE YOU MESSING WITH ME RIGHT NOW.

“When I came on this trip, there were a lot of things I hadn’t done at home,” said Rose, 32, from Western Australia.

“There was a bucket list and I always said that if I came to Colombia I would try cocaine.

“In Australia, it is a rich man’s drug and sells for about $300 a gram. Here we have had it for as cheap as $US5. People give it away because it is so accessible.”

GET IN THE BIN

 

 

Liz leaves the house: West Writers Our Stories Forum

The West Writers Our Stories Forum was first held in 2014, and continued this weekend just past. It’s held out in Footscray, in Melbourne’s mid-West, yay! (Very brown territory) Its concept is examining “what story means to a wide range of communities and how we can represent the diversity of stories and voices in Australia’s literary scene.”

[Liz attended on her own, because Steph had a prior engagement.]

Continue reading “Liz leaves the house: West Writers Our Stories Forum”

science fiction saves the future

Stephanie was invited to speak at the Speculative Fiction Festival at the New South Wales’ Writers’ Centre last week. It was curated by Cat Sparks, and it was excellent!

The blurb for Steph’s panel:

Can Science Fiction Save the Future? (11am-12am)

This panel examines science fiction as an agent of scientific and social change, serving as a cultural primer, preparing us for new inventions, moral arguments or major events, such as catastrophic destruction or the possibility of transhuman consciousness. Should SF shake us out of complacency regarding genuine threats to society, as well as inspiring compelling new possibilities?

Steph was on this panel with Joanne Anderton, Marianne de Pierres, Bruce McCabe, and Keith Stephenson.

Stephanie has so many feelings climate change and speculative fiction, news at eleven.

There was a feeling that spec fic isn’t for evangelising because the reader doesn’t want to be lectured at. But I disagree – science fiction is for evangelising. I write climate change fiction because I’m inspired in my day job, and I want everyone to know it and be converted.

Scientific accuracy is as important as being able to write well and to convey your meaning. If we’re to inspire, what’s the point in inspiring things that can’t scientifically happen because they defy physics? There’s an argument to be made for inspiring people to move beyond the known science but there’s only so far one can go with that. Don’t be suggesting our climate change future in Australia is going to be full of, like, coral and white people unless you can prove it.

Scientific accuracy is important in my own work, and preferably in the work of others. There’s no shame in throwing the book against the wall when the science is wrong. And half the fun is creating a fantastical world within scientific bounds.

But also: what’s the point in inspiring when you’re doing it on false pretenses?

But can’t you trust the reader to tell the difference between possible and impossible? Can’t you trust the reader?

Continue reading “science fiction saves the future”

Something something lyrics linkspam

What lies beneath: Sydney gets the southern hemisphere’s first body farm Australia

We Need To Talk About Fairy Bread – Please note that Stephanie has chosen to take “you can’t gentrify fairy bread” as a challenge. But also, what counts as gentrification? As a lower-middle-class person from Perth’s dodgy suburbs, is it gentrification if I take my favourite childhood snack and change it up?

The Future’s Been Here Since 1939: Female Fans, Cosplay and Conventions

Favourite pieces from this weeks’ AusPol: Abbott coins “doing an Abbott” to mean making a mistake; on the impacts of Sir Prince Phillip; on Adam Giles and the NT.

New site Future Black, decolonising design in Australia’s built environment.

One for stationery nerds and people with Khe Sanh earworms: The illustrious history of the yellow legal pad

The article title is misleading, but about how talk of Polyamory is white, when Polyamory isn’t. (Surpriiiise)

MAPS of the countries most vulnerable to climate change.

Notes on the Melbourne Free Trams. We were just going to link this with no commentary, but it turns out Steph has some feelings. The entirety of the City of Perth is a Free Transit Zone (FTZ, for those from Perth), and it a) takes in a huge chunk of the tourist attractions, and b) is used a lot by workers who drive to work, and then would ordinarily take taxis or cars between meetings at different ends of the CBD. The FTZ and the ubiquity of the buses, as well as the existence of the Cats (buses that exist solely to do laps of different sections of the CBD), means they do get used. And don’t end up with the overcrowding issue that Melbourne’s CBD trams were already experiencing. I don’t have a solution, I’m just saying.

Attitude round-up

Last year, the ABC axed RampUp, its excellent site for discussion around disability.  A short time later, comedian/writer/disability advocate/all around hero Stella Young passed away.

That quote, ‘the only disability in life is a bad attitude’, the reason that’s bullshit is … No amount of smiling at a flight of stairs has ever made it turn into a ramp. No amount of standing in the middle of a bookshelf and radiating a positive attitude is going to turn all those books into braille. – Stella Young

Now, the ABC is airing New Zealand show Attitude, a series of short documentaries about people with disabilities.  There is also also a crowdfunding project for an Australian version.

Unfortunately, Attitude doesn’t seem interested in prioritising the experiences and views of people with disabilities.  Here’s a round-up of posts about why it’s not great.

The problem with ABC’s new disability series, “Attitude”

Disability voices have to be heard to change attitudes

Disability media and Attitude TV — Carly Findlay discusses her hopes for the Australian version

Attitude series and the power and responsibility of portraying disability on mainstream TV

More favourable:

Graeme Innes, formerly Australia’s Disability Discrimination Commissioner, writes in favour of Attitude.  

I respect Innes a lot, but I strongly resent that Attitude seems to be entirely aimed at an able-bodied audience.

A different kind of attitude

(note: this post talks a lot about the so-called third world, and basically trades disability inspiration porn for poverty inspiration porn)

For my part, the whole concept of “attitude” is fraught.  My rheumatologist constantly praises me for improving my chronic conditions by having a good attitude, and it makes me quite uncomfortable.  It’s easy to exercise and practice self-care when you have a full-time job, a functional bike and access to an affordable public swimming pool.

And it’s distressing to realise that you’re being classified as a Good Patient just because you have these advantages — while, for example, your mother is classified as a Bad Patient because she has no energy to exercise, no access to a pool, and the public rheumatologist who sees her intermittently assumed she was an alcoholic.  (She’s a teetotaller.)

And I don’t even have that great an attitude.  “Yes, I have multiple chronic illnesses.  It’s very dull.  Let’s get on with it.”  That’s me on a good day.  In a bad week, I can and will bore everyone I know with my incessant complaints about being in pain — but my rheumatologist doesn’t see that.

Adam Baldwin/Supanova/GamerGate round-up

Adam Baldwin is an actor, best known for Firefly, who also holds some very conservative opinions, coined the term “GamerGate”, and facilitated the doxxing of game developer Zoe Quinn.  Here’s a handy round-up of his behaviour.

Supanova is one of the very few pop culture expos in Australia. Adam Baldwin will be a guest at the Sydney and Perth events in June. Suffice to say, lots of people are unhappy about this.  There is a petition to revoke his invitation.  (You should sign it!)

People discussing the matter have been doxxed, abused, driven from their preferred social media platforms, and generally treated badly.  (Liz got off lucky with some rather tedious mansplaining.  Nice try, guys, but I work with lawyers.)

Supanova, meanwhile, has engaged in some epic fence-sitting, also some general rudeness, also tried to manipulate a feminist comedian into supporting them. (The original article, published in Fairfax’s Daily Life, has been removed; the link is to an archived version.)

A summary.

The thing is, this isn’t about Baldwin’s politics.  Hell, Star Trek: Voyager‘s Roxanne Dawson quotes Bill O’Reilly on her Twitter, but I wouldn’t say she’d be an inappropriate guest at a nerd convention.  It’s Baldwin’s behaviour, and that of the people he supports, that’s the problem here.

As a small, fat, feminine and female nerd, I would not feel safe at an event as attractive to misogynist bullies as Supanova with Baldwin as a guest.  And I wouldn’t want to give money to a company that engineers that situation.

Baldwin himself is easy to ignore and avoid — I’ve attended a whole lot of Supanovas, and accidentally encountered a guest once. But the men he attracts?  Most are just keyboard warriors, mired in self-hatred, lashing out at women to compensate for their problems.  But as Brianna Wu’s experience would attest, some are dangerous.  And Baldwin feeds them. That’s why I don’t want Adam Baldwin to be a paid guest at Supanova.

Power, abuse, fandom

Warning: Contains discussion of sexual abuse, including that of children, in a variety of contexts.

Marion Zimmer Bradley enabled her husband to sexually abuse children, and molested her daughter.  Though the business with her husband was apparently common knowledge in some circles, it has only been brought into the open in the last few weeks, and the allegations from her daughter are recent.  Natalie Lurhs at Radish Reviews provides links to discussions, including depositions.

As Natalie — along with others — is saying, fandom needs to take a long look at its history and start addressing these issues.  But it’s not just us:  the fashion industry is still dealing/failing to deal with Terry Richardson; the Australian military has a long history of bastardisation, sexual assault and ongoing abuse in a variety of contexts; the Catholic and Anglican churches, the Orthodox Jewish community of Melbourne, the Salvation Army — secular or religious, celibate or promiscuous, straight or gay, all the identities that don’t fit neat binaries, there’s potential for abuse.  Humans arrange themselves into hierarchies, and then we defend our new status quo, and in doing so, create a space where crimes can be concealed.

In my day job, I’m a court transcriber.  All too often, I deal with child sexual assault.  The other week, I had to listen and type as a defence barrister argued that the sexual penetration of a child under 12 was not rape, because the child might have been “promiscuous”.  (I tend to type this stuff with some nice animal pictures on my second screen, or while doing some mindless internet shopping.)  Sickening stuff.

I can’t do anything about the legal system except produce accurate transcript and hope that it comes to the attention of someone who’s in a position to do more.  And try to vote for candidates who are interested in reform.  What I can do, as a fan and a con runner (people who are chairing Continuum 11: me), is try to make fandom and convention spaces safer.  This isn’t always easy, especially as I’m a relatively young con runner who isn’t part of the whisper network.  I have pretty good instincts about people, and access to fans with longer memories, but I worry that isn’t sufficient.

Continuum has a code of conduct which includes a harassment policy.  It’s revised annually, along with internal procedures for dealing with complaints, and the committee is made aware of it.  This year, we had copies of the code of conduct posted in the foyer and published in the con book.  We also make it clear that children’s programming is not childcare, and children must be accompanied by an adult at all times.  (And, in the kids room, adults must be accompanied by children.)  We welcome having children in our community, and we want them to be safe.

I think it’s good that the convention community is doing some soul searching and working to improve the safety of children.  But cons aren’t the whole of fandom, and the con-going community is by far outnumbered by fandom online.

Is the internet safe for kids?  AHAHAHAHA NO.  And I’m not here to tell people with real, actual children how to supervise them online.  I just have a cat, and I can assure you that he’s not allowed on the internet without an adult human present.

But here’s the thing: fans create fan work, and some of these artefacts are problematic in terms of their sexualised portrayal of children.

Now, drawing [insert underaged characters here] porn is not the same as recording the abuse of an actual flesh and blood child.  But in Australia, and some other jurisdictions, the law doesn’t draw a distinction.  This has been the source of much amusement on the internet, not to mention inconvenience to, say, academics doing studies of manga.  But there’s a reason:  it is not uncommon for abusers to groom their victims by exposing them to illustrations depicting characters from children’s media in sexual situations.  Back in the day, these were pretty crude sketches.  These days, abusers just hit Tumblr.

In 2007, LiveJournal suspended a whole mass of accounts based on keywords in profiles and interests.  This was a heavy-handed and largely pointless exercise — among the deleted were survivor communities and Nabokov reading groups — and it turned out that LJ had been moved to act by a sketchy and homophobic group that claimed to be targeting paedophiles.  LJ failed to communicate with its userbase, and this was basically the beginning of the end of its use as a fandom base of operations.

Aside from LJ’s singularly poor handling of the matter, Strikethrough — so called because suspended accounts had strikes through their names — triggered debate in fandom about the place of fanworks that portrayed underage sex.  A lot of it has been lost to time and friends lock, but among the voices were survivors who found catharsis in fictionalising their experiences.  But there were also red flags, like people saying, “Well, my writing attracts real paedophiles, and I’m nothing like that!” and arguing that it’s a myth that children cannot consent to sex.

The general consensus, in the end, was that the portrayal of underage sexuality was a legitimate fannish expression, and anyone who felt otherwise was a kink-shaming, sex negative prude.  And this has been on my mind in the past few weeks, because I read the Breendoggle documents, and that attitude, couched in the language of the 1960s, is exactly how Walter Breen got away with child abuse.

And no, most people writing or drawing underage sex in fandom aren’t paedophiles.  But if their work is being posted in public, it’s out there to facilitate child abuse.  And it’s easy to find, whether you want to or not.  (There’s a reason I don’t search Avatar character tags on Tumblr.)  It’s a myth that you can wander around the internet and just stumble across photographic child porn by accident, but fan art?  It’s everywhere.

(Spoilers: “But I’m just appreciating the aesthetics of the child porn!” is basically a police interview cliché.  It has its own bingo square.  Or would, if my colleagues and I were tasteless enough to make a child abuse bingo game.  Which we’re not.  Obviously.)

It’s part of the nature of the internet that we can’t control what happens to something after it’s posted — especially with groups that are determined to be as antisocial as possible, and yes, I’m thinking of last week’s Legend of Korra “livestream” that had rape porn in the ad breaks.  But I think it’s worth coming back to this issue again and reconsidering it in light of recent revelations and current knowledge about the way child abusers operate.  We need to consider our current status quo and the opportunities it creates for abuse.  Otherwise, in another twenty years, we’re just going to have more of these terrible revelations.

No Award at Continuum: Stephanie

This whole No Award thing came about last year when Liz and I were on a panel about Social Justice 101 and people kept asking for links to not-USAmerican SJ things and we struggled to provide them. And here we are, almost a year later! What that means is, Continuum is upon us in just 11 sleeps, and I got my final list of panels ahead of the program’s release yesterday afternoon.

Check out the program and maybe come along! It can be a little exxy if you’re used to cons like Supanova, but it’s high quality and also you can come along on Friday night which is a gold coin donation and give it a go, if that’s your thing and you’re not sure. There’s programming from 3pm until midnight.

I’m proud that you can read that program (note: I didn’t have anything to do with this program) and see a lot of the things in there that I tried to help along last year in terms of program diversity, understanding, conversations and just being really obviously queer and brown.

Liz will be making her own post about her stuff shortly, but here is where you’ll be able to find me (when I’m not in the bar or loitering out by Purple Peanuts for delicious vegan food).

I am moderating Triptych:

I: Moving Beyond the Gender Binary

II: Othered Sexuality

III: Gender Stereotypes in Speculative Fiction

The plan with this series of panels has always been to really open up and discuss a lot of the issues behind the representation of gender and sexuality issues in SFF. They’re combined as a triptych (across the entire weekend – including the first one being held during the gold coin donation opening evening) in part as acknowledgement that these issues are complicated and linked together and difficult to put boundaries on or definitions around. In Moving Beyond the Gender Binary, we’re talking about the ways in which beyond the gender binary is represented, and the ways in which it’s not – aliens coded as male or female, concepts of no gender futures, reaffirmation of the gender binary within the text as the right way. Othered Sexuality is about the lack of real translation or investigation when presenting sexuality in fantasy and science fiction, and the ways in which they all ultimately boil down to looking the same as what we’ve got now. And also you know how I love talking about othering, and the role of assuming the other and that there is an other, and what that means for your fiction in the real world. Gender Stereotypes is looking at the ways in which stereotypes are reinforced or subverted, successfully and not.

I think this is going to be really interesting because often gender and sexuality in SFF is used as short-hand for a lot of things and it’s done really poorly. Current gender and sexuality on my mind is Game of Thrones (brown people are queer you guys), Avatar (I don’t even know why) and the sudden fandom thing about America for a Bisexual Captain. And also it involves a lot of different people! (I will be interested to find out how many of them are brown)

I’ve got two solo presentations. Realistic Climate Dystopias was basically the inspiration for my article at The Toast: A Look at Australia’s Climate Change Dystopia.  So it’ll be a lot like that, but less structured and at 11:00 am so I’ll probably be on my second coffee. Chinese Mythology is exactly what it sounds like, because I thought you all deserve to benefit from my thoughts and research on Dragon and his nine sons, the role of the Jade Emperor in creating culture, the mother of the earth, and the horrifying hells.

I will also be on Created Languages, Borrowed Languages, Stolen Languages, which you will not be surprised to learn was my idea.  Languages in SFF and fantasy are frequently used for denoting the other and the exotic but WHO IS THE OTHER YOU JERKS. Is it cultural appropriation? Who is the assumed audience? What does it mean to feel like one has the right to steal another’s culture through their language? Why is it always so racist? Am I going to get very angry? Of course I am. I have like five pages of notes already. Also Guest of Honour Ambelin Kwaymullina will be on this panel and she has already been sharing with us her thoughts especially in regard to indigenous languages and it has been EXCELLENT and crunchy and you will be super sad if you don’t get in on this. Language is really important, my quokkas.

I am listed on Readings Special Stream: Outside the Anglosphere, but I actually have a going away party to attend and shouldn’t have been scheduled then. The hope is that I’ll be doing that reading earlier.  The point of Outside the Anglosphere is not to read one’s own work but to highlight someone else’s, and that someone has to be, as the title suggests, outside the anglosphere.  I will actually be reading from (and, let’s face it, probably digressing upon) Cixin Liu’s article of a few weeks ago rather than a story.

I’ve got one late-night I’ll be drunk panel: The Magical Hat of Mystery. This is in no way social justice related, though it could become so. We get drunk and answer questions pulled out of a hat and submitted before the panel begins. Other panelists are people I’ve been getting drunk with for over a decade, and when I yell at them they know I don’t mean it.

Follow ups, election day, WorldCon, links

I’m pretty sure I promised Stephanie that I would review The Deep ASAP, so that she can borrow the graphic novels off me.  But I’m tired, I’m arthritic, I have a cold.  So here’s a whole bunch of things.

Further to previous posts

1.  In my second Dance Academy post, I said some nice things about Ben Tickle, to wit, that I was unfair to dismiss him as a creepy and annoying Nice Guy.

As of last week’s episode, I hereby take that back, and every other nice thing I said about him as well.  SO THERE.

2.  After I posted about the general whiteness of Adam Bandt’s campaign posters, I started to think that maybe I hadn’t given the Greens enough credit for what diversity they did have.  For example, Stephanie posted this to Instagram.

(I also learnt that Stephanie herself could have featured in the advertising, but people thought she was too busy and didn’t need the extra stress.  When will we learn: Stephanie always needs the extra stress.)

(Not really.)

Anyway, I still maintain that there’s an uncomfortable white saviour narrative at work in the Greens’ visual presentation, but the Greens were doing better than I had realised. And I am really happy that Bandt kept his seat (and sorry that my local Greens candidate, Tim Read, didn’t beat the Libs into second place behind Labor.)

(Living in the second safest Labor seat in the country, you take what you can get.)

Yes, there was an election

And the capitalistic, socially conservative Liberal Party won.  They claim they have a mandate, even though the swing away from the ALP generally went to new parties such as Palmer United, and even though it looks like three Senate seats will go to extreme fringe parties: the libertarian Australian Liberals, the Sports Party and the Motoring Enthusiasts Party.

There has been a lot of classism about the Twitters with regards to the Motoring Party’s new senator.  I’m kind of hoping he turns out to be a brilliant leader, just to shut that up.  But as his Facebook revealed that he’s a 9/11 truther and a misogynist, I’m not holding my breath.

As usual after a conservative win, there has been a lot of gnashing of teeth and threats to move to Canada (where Quebec is banning “prominent” religious symbols that coincidentally are mostly used by minorities) and New Zealand (which already has a conservative government and shite economy).  I like Stephanie’s response best:

This country will have to be pried from my dead, cold, queer asian hands. It’s mine and I’m staying right here and kicking everything over until I’ve got my fingerprints all over the furniture and everything is just the way I like it. 

Now that it’s almost over, we’re down to dissecting the campaign.

I, for one, was quite troubled by the Liberals’ strategy of silencing their candidates of colour so as to avoid gaffes and difficult questions.  This was the case in my own electorate, where candidate Shilpa Hegde did not participate in any public forums or interviews with citizen journalists.  Nor was she seen out campaigning.

As a Commie leftie pinko, I should be glad to see the Liberals mis-step, even if they still win the election, but I think this is a pretty shitty approach.  It’s not enough to have people of colour as your candidates, you have to let them be candidates. Allegedly, or so I read in the mainstream press (probably a Fairfax paper, but I couldn’t tell you when or which one because I’ve been site-hopping to avoid their paywall), the strategy was conceived after Jaymes Diaz famously stuffed up an interview.  If they’re so worried about candidates looking stupid, though, they would have put a lid on Fiona Scott before she could tell the world that refugees cause traffic jams.  Funny how it’s only the non-white candidates who were told to shut up.

And as a person who quite likes democracy, thanks, I’m pretty horrified that the Liberal Democrats got into the Senate by setting up front parties to funnel preferences their way.  (They also got votes because people apparently mistook them for the actual Liberal Party.  Sadly, we cannot legislate for reading comprehension.)  I’ve also been less than impressed with the backroom deals done for preferences, although that had the advantage of destroying the Wikileaks Party, and wow, what a tragedy that was.  Really.

The ABC’s Antony Green has an interesting article here, looking at the history of such developments, and ways we can better regulate Senate nominations without undermining democracy and shutting out smaller parties all together.

Then there was WorldCon

And the annual recriminations that follow.

Things for which there should be no recriminations whatsoever: the excellent Tansy Rayner Roberts won the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer, making her the first Australian woman to win a Hugo.  And I can’t think of anyone more deserving.

Chicks Unravel Time, to which I contributed, did not win the Hugo for Best Related Work, but I’m told that Writing Excuses, the podcast which won, is excellent.  I’m mostly glad that CUT didn’t, say, lose by one vote, because I couldn’t spare the money for a supporting membership with voting rights.

(Every month, it was like, “Hmm, well, it’s only $50 … but my mobile bill is coming up, and that’s going to be $70.  Next month!”  Self, mobile bills are a monthly curse.)

This brings up the first round of recriminations and “what’s wrong with WorldCon” debates, “It’s too expensive.”  Which, sorry, Lolmericans, I know $250 for a five-day con seems like a lot to you guys, but here in Australia, we pay that much for a three-day con.  Aussiecon 4, back in 2010, was close to $400.  (Luckily — or not — my mother was getting married that weekend, so I could only attend for a couple of days.  Oh yeah, her divorce is being finalised next Monday, so congratulations Mum!)

I realise that going from “The supporting membership was too much” to “LOL, only $250 for attending!” isn’t exactly logical, but priorities.  (And also, international travel has really done a number on my credit card.)

There was talk a couple of months ago of introducing a cheaper voting membership, but apparently that’s not practical with the (amazing and brilliant) electronic pack of nominated works.  May I humbly and cheaply suggest that I would buy a voting membership without the voting pack?  I mean, I’d rather have the pack, especially since I don’t usually get access to the short stories and novellas otherwise, but it’s a sacrifice I’d be willing to make in those times when I have to choose between voting in the Hugo Awards and paying my bills.

And if your con is significantly more expensive than others, and you’re widely perceived as being less friendly and less fun, these are things you should maybe be looking at.  I enjoyed AussieCon 4, but I wouldn’t say it was a fun experience (except for the times L M Myles and I spent in the bar, or making fun of terrible Doctor Who panels), and it wasn’t as friendly and open as other Australian cons I’ve seen attended.  Which is, okay, Continuum.

HAVING SAID ALL THIS, I am really hoping I can get to LonCon next year, and Nine Worlds the weekend before.  Lots of people I know and love are going, and it’s London, and … stuff.

Some links to WorldCon discussions:

Three Gray Fandoms – Ursula Vernon on her three fandoms, and how only one is unwelcoming to young people.

WorldCon has some Happy Things Plus Some Problems – an overview of LoneStarCon’s successes and failures.  Includes an account of a wheelchair-using panellist who was unable to access the daises on which the others sat.  A quote: “That’s not cool. It was an oversight in a huge, fan-run convention, so it’s not worth a rage-fueled rage.”

I have to say, I did have a rage-fueled rage about it, because this should be basic Conrunning 101.  Which brings me to…

Disability, Diversity, Dignity – a further discussion of the issue.  The panellist herself pops up in the comments, along with a committee member who, I have to say, does not cover herself in glory.

There are more posts over at RadishReviews — I’m cheating because I haven’t had time to read them all yet, and I’m trying to rest my mouse hand so I can play Mass Effect 2 later.  Hashtag arthritislyfe.

Finally, opera

Hey, I was surprised too.

See, I don’t know much about opera, but Barbara Hambly’s Die Upon A Kiss (part of her Benjamin January series, about a free man of colour in 1830s New Orleans who teaches music and FIGHTS CRIME) is set in the opera season, and is very much concerned with the cultural differences between French and American opera fans, and also a controversial performance of Otello.  (Controversial ‘cos … well, it’s the South.  And Othello is quite famously black.  Except when — anyway, even a white actor in blackface was too much for some historical racists.)

Every time I read that book, I think, “Opera is really interesting.  I should learn more about it and maybe, like, see some and find out if I like it.”

And then the opera community goes and does something stupid, like the Melbourne run of Nixon in China where all the Chinese characters are white people in yellowface.  Or, as I discovered yesterday, Queensland Opera’s Otello, with an all-white cast.

Apparently, or so QOpera said on Twitter when people began asking very pointed questions, modern thinking is that the power of Otello comes from the psychology, and race is a secondary concern.  And also, they did it in South Africa with a white Othello and black cast, so what’s the problem with an all-white version?

Yyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyeah.  You want to make the traditional SF fandom and community look good?  Go look at opera.