ideatrash

Writing, publishing, geekdom, and errata.

A few notes replying to some replies about my leaving Context (UPDATED)

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EDIT: 27 Dec 2014:

Forget what I said below.  Thanks to Janet Province and Dennis Palmer (in particular), this convention is dead.  You should see these two posts for updates:

http://ideatrash.net/2014/12/context-is-dead-thank-jan-province-and.html

http://ideatrash.net/2014/12/mark-freemans-statement-on-context.html

(end edit)

EDIT: 1 Dec 2014:  


I learned last night the Board met and dissolved itself. The Chairs from last year are taking over and reforming everything. This resolves my concerns.  I'm not certain what, if any, role I will have in the new iteration of Context, but if you're local to the area and want to help out, I'm sure they would appreciate it.


Just collecting a few notes, mostly because I (deliberately) left comments on with my last post (and there's stuff on social media too) and I wanted to keep everything in one place.



I deliberately did not name any names, and haven't throughout this whole thing.  The person who was reported as being a harrasser (and his wife) outed themselves publicly, but I still haven't named him.  There's one big reason:

I am not out to punish any particular person.  My goal is simply for Context (and other conventions) to get their stuff together and provide a safe and fun convention.

I did not (and do not) feel that I could guarantee that at this point.  

Perhaps my (and other's) resignations will be sufficient impetus for Context and other regional cons to take things more seriously and be more transparent.


I kept being told that nobody really cares about harassment policies.  That even mentioning that there might be harassment would be a turnoff.  That small cons (or ones where there aren't cosplayers) don't have harassment problems.  That policies should be shorter or less wordy.

My pal Jaym Gates posted this earlier this month:



If you are a congoer, saying things like this publicly is important.  Facebook, twitter, blog posts - and contacting the convention organizers directly or using feedback forms - is vital.

Without hearing from the congoers directly, it can seem like those who are advocating change and reform are overreacting, throwing fits, on witch hunts, and so on.

And stop assuming that if you don't hear about harassment that it's not occurring.  Lack of reporting doesn't mean it's not happening.

Regarding my decision to resign:  My decision did not come out of the blue.  Few people know the full timeline of events or all the things that were said  (some of them were not public;  at least one person kept saying different things to different people).  

I stated my (and several other person's) boundaries about this issue in a letter to the Board a full month ago.  I also alluded to it in this post from the end of October about the difference between threats and boundaries.  This is not a new decision.  In fact, it's been delayed a month by last-ditch attempts to see if things could be fixed to a point where I/we felt that our boundaries could be honored.

As I acknowledged in the posts yesterday, I made mistakes in handling the situation.  I alluded to that in this post made earlier this week.

Finally, I'm certain that others have points of view different than mine, or see the way things unfolded differently.

I would encourage them to try to understand why I (and others, now) see events so differently than they do.  Because that might be the key to starting to really fix things.

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Why I Am Resigning As Programming Director For Context (UPDATED)

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EDIT: 27 Dec 2014:

Forget what I said below.  Thanks to Janet Province and Dennis Palmer (in particular), this convention is dead.  You should see these two posts for updates:

http://ideatrash.net/2014/12/context-is-dead-thank-jan-province-and.html

http://ideatrash.net/2014/12/mark-freemans-statement-on-context.html

(end edit)

EDIT: 1 Dec 2014:  


I learned last night the Board met and dissolved itself. The Chairs from last year are taking over and reforming everything. This resolves my concerns.  I'm not certain what, if any, role I will have in the new iteration of Context, but if you're local to the area and want to help out, I'm sure they would appreciate it.



TL;DR: Without myself and a very few others, I do not believe there would have been any public response to the reports of harassment at Context 27.  I do not have faith that the harassment policy will be enforced or that reports of harassment would be treated seriously at Context in the future. I do not realistically have the ability to make that change before Context 28.

Therefore, both out of my ethics and as a signatory to John Scalzi's harassment pledge, I must resign as programming director for Context. Further, I will not be attending Context 28.




This should have been simple.

The first report came to me in a personal e-mail.

She told me about her experience, about one convention volunteer making her feel creeped on to the point that she and her friends avoided a major area of the convention.

She told me that she originally wasn't going to report it at all, but a mutual friend assured her that I would take the report seriously.

Unspoken was the fear: That she would be mocked. That she would be treated like the problem. That nothing would happen, and it would only get worse next time.

Hers was the first report, corroborated by several other congoers. Then came the other reports, other people reporting the same behavior. Reports of the same behavior from prior years. Congoers saying they'd simply learned to avoid parts of the con where this guy worked.

One person posted about their experience with this volunteer publicly. I assure you, that report was the least of them.

But.

The fear from the first report kept popping up. Fear of having their name smeared across the internet. Fear of being ridiculed or mocked. Fear of not being taken seriously, fear of the harassed being seen as the problem instead of the harasser.

I have tried for the last two months to believe that would not have happened.

Instead, I have come to realize that without the actions of a few people, that is exactly what would have happened.

I made a mistake early on in the process; after I had gotten several reports in the first week after the convention, I sent a summary report (without any names) to an e-mail list that I thought just went to the core convention committee and FANACO board. [1] Instead, it went to pretty much everyone who volunteered at the convention. I was wrong, and I should have simply sent it to the Con Chairs.

But that is not why I am resigning.

This should have been simple.

I cannot imagine a more clear-cut and simple harassment case (without video evidence). Multiple reports, with multiple witnesses for each report, over a period of years. Some chose to remain anonymous; most agreed to release their names to the Board.

It should have been simple. Someone does a creepy thing - and does not deny the reports. A consequence is enacted, you move on.

There were a few people who clearly and unambiguously understood that creeping behavior clearly violated the harassment policy, and supported taking action. [2] Several of those people have already resigned or quietly decided to avoid the convention in the future.

The other voices, including members of both the Board and the Convention Committee argued against taking action, reducing actions taken, and not making things public. [3] This cartoon by Jim C. Hines - though not written about this situation - describes it perfectly:



That cartoon is not a comprehensive list of the pushback that occurred.

One ConComm member asserted that no report of harassment could be taken seriously without an uninvolved third party witnessing it. Another stated that unless reports were made at the convention that they couldn't be taken seriously. In e-mail, a board member used sarcasm quotes referring to the "victims" of harassment. A board member mused about undoing the consequences that were decided upon after the meeting had adjourned. Others blamed those reporting harassment, ignored all but the public reports, and advocated that nothing be said or done publicly. Much was made of the feelings of the harasser - who never denied these multiple reports - while the feelings and safety of congoers were ignored.

That is still not a comprehensive list of the pushback that occurred.

As I said at the top, the public response has largely been driven by a few people. [2] I am one of them. At each step, I have been glad to see that my peers and friends saw the initial reaching out to victims, restatement of the harassment policy, and eventual final statement as the correct and necessary steps to deal with a bad situation.

The statement that was posted simply outlines the situation and consequences.

Approval of the statement was repeatedly delayed. Members of the Board refused to sign it. When it was posted - at the direction of the Con Chairs - I was accused of assuming authority and refusing to work through the administrative structure of the convention. That statement had the signature "Convention Committee", and members of the Committee objected to the implication that they agreed to the statement.

This is still not a comprehensive list of the pushback that occurred.

I hate to have to say this.

I cannot stress this enough:  I hate to have to say this. I have been attending and recommending this convention well before assuming any kind of role in the organization of it. And with only this one small exception, Context 27 was pretty freaking awesome.

But.

Without myself and a very few others [2], I do not believe there would have been any public response to the reports of harassment at Context 27.

I posted this on the Context blog as this began unfolding:

I referred to this document during the opening ceremonies, and we as a convention stand behind our Anti-Harassement (or as I call it, Respect) policy.

Please do not hesitate to let me personally know of any problems you have had at this convention.

This policy will be enforced.

-Steven Saus, programming director of Context 27.

I no longer have faith that the policy will be enforced.

I do not have faith that reports of harassment would be treated seriously at Context in the future, and I do not realistically have the ability to make that change before Context 28. [4]

Therefore, both out of my ethics and as a co-signatory to John Scalzi's Convention Harassment pledge, I must resign as programming director for Context. Further, I will not be attending Context 28.


I will hand over whatever files and planning documents that I used for Context 27 to whomever takes on that role.


[edited 29 Nov 0850:  I wrote a reply to some of the comments below (and on social media) in this post here.  I'm probably not going to reply much to comments below.]



[1] FANACO is the organization that officially runs Context; the Board is not the same as the Convention Committee.

[2] I am not naming anyone throughout this document. My intent is to explain my decision, not to personally attack anyone or tell another person's story.

[3] Many of whom used the construction "I don't approve of what happened, but I don't think we should do ...".

[4] I could continue to argue the point, but within the bureaucratic structure that exists, I do not foresee the ability to effect actual change. Further, fighting for that change would detract from my ability to do my actual *job* at the convention.

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I am resigning as the programming director for Context, effective immediately.

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I wish I could personally thank everyone - the panelists, workshop leaders, and congoers - who made Context 27 such a great event.




 However, I am saddened to say that effective immediately, I am resigning as the programming director for Context. Further, I will not be attending Context 28.

If you are interested, the explanation for my decision is in the next post

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No, You Move

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There was something special about Civil War.  (Relax if you've not read it;  it looks like you'll get a good chance to see it with the MCU here in a few years.)

The something special was Captain America.  Because Cap seems to understand something very important:  The rules exist for the people, not the other way around.

If you agree on the desired outcomes - and that's a big if - then the only measure that matters is whether or not the rules bring you closer to that outcome.

Yes, rules are important.  Bureaucracy exists for a reason, to prevent a different kind of abuse.

When bureaucracy is what keeps us from reaching our goals, then the rules need to change.

When we recognize that the rules are preventing justice, it is time to change them.

And those who value the rules and procedure over the safety and welfare of those the rules and procedures are there to protect and serve... those people no longer share our goals.


(Added today; I originally wrote this post last week)

Here's the fun thing.

This post is NOT inspired by the events in Ferguson, though it fits that situation all too well. 

This principle is more universal than that.

Those people who'd argue you have to stay in an abusive marriage because you made a promise, those people who'd argue that you can't count a harassment report because they didn't report it the right way, those people who complain that you can't kick someone out of your group because the toxic person just managed to stay inside the rules....

They sound like they're on your side.  They sound like they want you to succeed.

They don't share your goals.

They want you to fail.

They just don't want you to blame them for it.


Remember that.

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Your Ears Need This: Face to Face (covers of Major Tom & Back on the Chain Gang)

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You know I'm a sucker for some good pop-punk, and Face To Face seems to have that down:



But even more so than original pop-punk, I'm a huge sucker for pop-punk covers of 80's pop and new wave:





Enjoy!

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The Cool (and slightly creepy) Thing @Bufferapp Did Awesomely

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I'm one of those people who hits the interwebs hard, for short periods of time.  I go through a lot of content and find a lot of stuff to share in a very short period of time.

Yeah, you know that guy who tweets or posts twelve things in five minutes?  That could be me.

Luckily, I discovered Buffer a while back (see my writeup about using Buffer and IFTTT here), and I've been really pleased.  Buffer lets you create a schedule to post social media updates which works great for

Even though I'm still on the free plan1 Buffer does what it says on the tin, and does it well.

And then I discovered this bit of awesomeness when I tagged my girlfriend in a post that I Buffered:




Notice?  It changed from her Twitter handle to her Facebook name.  WITHOUT ME DOING ANYTHING!


Slightly creepy, Buffer.  But damn cool at the same time.

I really do recommend Buffer - check them out!





1 I would love if more of these web apps like Buffer, Trello, or Notify had a slightly more incremental plan - like "pick one perk from this list for $1 a month" that I could afford more easily.

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Review: You by Caroline Kepnes. Good Book, Lousy Marketing

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Trigger warnings for stalking and sexual assault in the book.

(To take a cue from Pseudopod: Trigger warnings are provided solely to allow those suffering from trauma to still enjoy thrillers and horror on their terms. They aren't a rating or inclusive content advisory.)

Caroline Kepnes' debut novel, You, is a mixture of Gone Girl and American Psycho with tonal dashes of Goodfellas and Red Dragon thrown in for seasoning.

And some absolutely horrific (not in a good way) marketing.

Here's the plot in two sentences: Joe is a bookseller, who meets an aspiring writer who goes by Beck, and falls obsessively for her. Emphasis on obsessively.

The plot is almost - almost - irrelevant, though. It is the writing and the characters that make this book distinctive.

The writing is where I'm reminded of Gone Girl and American Psycho - in a good way. The writing is written like undated letters from Joe to Beck, and they're clever - almost too clever, almost too snarky and self-aware. Writers are often advised to kill their darlings; instead, Kepnes has created a book out of almost nothing but those selfsame darlings. My personal favorite:
I hope that most people at this point in time realize thatt Prince is one of the great poets of our time. I didn't say songwriter -- I said poet. Prince is the closest thing we have to e.e. cummings and people are so stupid because they don't come in here and buy books of Prince poems.
But that's my favorite because it reminds me of my girlfriend, not because it stands out. And that's what makes the darlings work here. The cleverness in turns of phrase and pacing is so consistent that they quickly just are, and it works.

Remembering my girlfriend is also where the characters work as well, and where I'm reminded of Goodfellas and Red Dragon. She and I have remarked how frightening being in love can be - both in terms of insecurity, and in how our own feelings seem almost out of control. Kepnes uses this excellently in You.

In the first chapter, Joe is a mostly relateable guy, who is totally smitten by Beck... and then he naturally (for him) moves straight to sitting on the stoop across from Beck's apartment and stalking her. Joe is not a normal or well guy... but so many of the feelings and thoughts he has are normal for someone just falling in love, just turned up a little too high.

 That's where I'm reminded (particularly) of the film Goodfellas. Every time I'd start to empathize with Ray Liotta's character, there'd be something to remind me that this guy was A Bad Man. Kepnes pulls this trick off well throughout most of You, and even when Joe goes totally off the rails, it's very very easy to still understand how he got there in a way that reminds me of the best bits of Red Dragon.

The ending wasn't quite as satisfying as I would have liked, and here's where I'll blame the marketing. The inside cover flap contains this passage:
Beck doesn't know it yet, but she's perfect for him, and soon she can't resist her feelings for a guy who seems custom made for her. When a string of macabre accidents tears her world apart, there's only one person she can turn to. But there's much more to Joe than Beck realizes, and much more to Beck than her perfect facade.
Yeah, um. No. None of this. Beck is never a viewpoint character; the book is entirely from Joe's point of view. This makes it sound like there's a mystery in here, and there isn't.

Sure, Beck's got some secrets, but they're nothing like what Joe has been keeping from her. Beck is a flawed person, but this is a story where Beck is completely and totally the victim, despite the marketing attempt to make the plot of You sound more like the plot of Gone Girl or Natural Born Killers.

I think this is why the ending was unsatisfying for me; I wanted more out of Beck; and the climax and resolution (as well as Beck herself) seemed rushed and weak after the buildup.

You is not (again quoting the flap copy) "a thriller more perversely clever and dangerously twisted than any you've read before".

You does take you inside the mind of someone you aren't, and (hopefully) never will be... but shows you how you could be them, if things were just a little bit different.

In that it succeeds very well, and Kepnes' use of language further recommends this book.



There's one more serious thing about the marketing: I got a review copy of this book from Klout; enclosed was a postcard with the phrase "Stalk the author @CarolineKepnes".


What. The. Hell.

No. Hell, no. 

It's tempting to say that this is problematic and tone-deaf marketing in a year where women have been stalked, doxxed, and threatened.

But that minimizes both the horror of the novel and the horror of stalking in everyday very real life.

  • 6.6 million people are stalked in one year in the United States.
  • 1 in 6 women and 1 in 19 men have experienced stalking victimization at some point during their lifetime in which they felt very fearful or believed that they or someone close to them would be harmed or killed.
The degree of tone-deafness of multiple someones to allow such a marketing tactic go forward - while marketing a book about a stalker - is stunning.  

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It's Not Just A Shirt: What The Logic of The Responses to Critiquing A Sexist Shirt Tell Us

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Small note:  I used donotlink.com for linking to the sexist crap, but as always, watch out for the comments on those sites.

Originally, I didn't think there was anything I could add to the discussion over Matt Taylor's shirt. 

But there's three particular rhetorical tactics that I keep seeing that are widespread in this case, and widespread enough that I've seen them recently in a situation where I do have some impact.

Backgrounder:  Scientist wears the above shirt when leading a live webcast of the historical event of a space probe landing on a comet.  The scientist later apologizes, says the shirt was made by a female friend.  As the Verge pointed out:
This is the sort of casual misogyny that stops women from entering certain scientific fields. They see a guy like that on TV and they don't feel welcome. They see a poster of greased up women in a colleague's office and they know they aren't respected. They hear comments about "bitches" while out at a bar with fellow science students, and they decide to change majors. And those are the women who actually make it that far.
But it's the response to the criticism that is really kind of jacked up.  Here's three.

Lauding accomplishments of the individual doing the sexist thing.


From The Daily Caller:

That’s what this tool of the patriarchy gets for wearing an item of clothing that did not meet with your exacting standards, girls. Sure, he landed a goddamn space probe on a freaking comet, but in doing so, he angered you even more than usual. How dare he?
This type of response is especially toxic... because it minimizes everyone involved. It tries to make you choose between a sexist act and the rest of the person. People are complex, and often contradictory.  Yes, it's awesome the probe landed on the comet. It's also kind of crappy he chose to wear that shirt.  Both things can be true at the same time.

Oh - and as you'll see in the rest of these as well, suddenly the rest of the ESA team who worked on this lander completely disappear.  To hear these folks tell it, Taylor was using an old-school Atari 2600 joystick to land it personally.

Complaining that a good thing was ruined by those upset by the sexist action

From Legal Insurrection

What should’ve been the happiest day of this man’s life for doing something no human being has ever in the history of our entire species done, turned into a tearful apology because of his choice of SHIRT.
But seriously, “feminists” took a groundbreaking scientific advancement and managed to make it all about themselves and their own insecurities.
Welcome to real life, where your crappy choices can have consequences. And when you know you will be on camera in front of millions, the consequences of your actions will be amplified a thousandfold.

Those actions might just tarnish the reputation of the thing you achieved.

The person acting is the person responsible, not the people complaining.

In this case, the action was "putting on a shirt".

If you don't yet see why the "logic" here is problematic, let me try these (unfortunately real-life) examples:

"The people complaining about harassment are ruining the convention."

How about "The people harassing others are ruining the convention".

"The people accusing Woody Allen/Bill Cosby/Bob Barker/[insert long list here] of sexually harassing and assaulting women are tarnishing those guy's reputations!"

How about "Those guys should stop sexually harassing and assaulting women."

Special bonus: Taking "hey, that shirt was a bad call" and now being so fragile that they claim "TEH SCIENCEZ IS RUINED!!!1!!!".

Focusing on who made the shirt or the "why" of the action

I got a shirt with the "Sin like you mean it" logo for my girlfriend at a convention a while back (you can buy it here).

It's a multi-layered joke - some of her friends shorten her name to Cyn, so... yes, I like puns.  And her.

Anyway, it's a cute shirt.  She liked it.  And she almost only wears it when it's an extremely casual event where there are a few close friends there.

Because she knows it's only appropriate in those situations.

Heck, I think Taylor's shirt is pretty cool.  I wouldn't wear it at a public presentation of any kind.

It doesn't matter who got (or made) the shirt; it's about the context in those situations. 

Special bonus:  Claiming that wanting birth control covered by medical insurance means that guys can wear any shirt they want.  No, seriously.


Roundup

Most - no, all - guys do some pretty stupid - and sexist - things in the course of everyday life.  It's usually because they have no clue

It's a testament to the deep pervasiveness of institutional sexism that men can do sexist acts without having any clue that they're sexist. But that doesn't mean you get a pass on being held accountable for your actions.

This is the key:  What you do after you learn that you did something sexist.

Taylor apologized for wearing the shirt, and that's great. Hopefully he's taken some time to think about the impact he has on people, and how he can help make his field better.


But then there are responses like this (cursing throughout): http://www.donotlink.com/ci1s

If you don't want to click through, the exchange there that prompted me to write this today:
...Someone at the place should've told him to change because he's also representing his team and the mission and THAT is what he decided was appropriate.  Again no sympathy.
Are you saying he deserved it because of what he was wearing? Gosh, that sounds awfully familiar.

Before you say it:  It's not just that one guy - the imgur screencap with that as the "punchline" is currently overwhelmingly upvoted.

A culture where getting flak for wearing a shirt is compared to getting raped is one where rape culture is alive and well, in ways small and large.


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You Need This: Tapet (HD Wallpaper Generator for phones)

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I am highly, highly picky about wallpapers on my phones.  I want them to be good-looking and not boring, but they also need to be simple enough that the interface isn't visually cluttered.

This is a high bar to reach.

And a beautiful little app called Tapet performs wonderfully.

It's an Android app (keep reading if you use iOS!) that actually generates wallpapers on your device.  Here's what the interface looks like:


The checkmark applies the wallpaper, the thumbs up and down help the app decide what qualities to use more often in the randomly generated wallpaper, and you can save it to your phone (but don't have to, which is nice).

If you're on Android, you can get Tapet at the Play Store for the low price of nothing

Further, the app can keep generating new wallpapers for you on a schedule that you determine, so your wallpaper is fresh, but still within the same design aesthetic that you normally like.

Now, I said that iOS people should keep reading, and here's why:  I've saved a bunch of wallpapers (and not just ones I'd like) both to give you an idea of what the app can do, but also so that you can snag them and use them on your phone if you choose.   You can see them below, or catch the whole set at this Picasa link.

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We Don't Need To Police Thoughts. Actions and Statements Are A Different Matter Entirely.

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The last several years have been ... interesting... in nerd and geek circles.  We've been dealing with harassment and "fake geeks", sexism in our professional literature, the deeply hate-filled morass that is GamerGate, and more.

One of the things that often gets us off-track is the supposition that we need to change attitudes instead of changing behaviors.

Changing the former is well-nigh impossible, the latter is comparatively easy.

I don't particularly care if someone thinks sexist, racist, homophobic, or other thoughts.  I don't care about what goes on between their ears.

I care very much how people behave toward others, including myself.  (Remember, boundaries.)  Here's an oldie-but-goodie example:

Is your first thought about an editor that they're attractive?  Here's a secret:  I have that thought about some editors too.

And either I'm good enough friends with them that they know it, or they'll never know it, because I have a professional relationship with them.

And I damn well won't make it part of an article in a professional journal about them.

Like I said back at the beginning of this year:
In a professional organization and professional writing you should err on the side of caution.

...if that means that you cautiously avoid remarking on someone's attractive appearance when talking about their writing and editing career because someone might take it the wrong way... then that's okay by me.
The same principle applies everywhere else.
  • Think that cosplayer is attractive?  Great!  Don't harrass them.
  • Suspect that someone else isn't "as geeky as you"?  Great!  Keep it to yourself.
  • Think that cosplayer shouldn't wear that outfit?  Great!  Keep it to yourself.
  • Want to flatter, hug, kiss, or touch someone else?  Great!  Ask first, or keep your hands to yourself.
  • Think that games should have more shooting, more mammary glands, and less emotion?  Great!  Play the games you like and quit threatening anyone who wants something different.
  • Think that harassment policies are stupid or over the top?  Great!  Obey them anyway, or go somewhere else.
Because if you're sexist, homophobic, racist, or generally just an asshat, I'm not interested in changing your thoughts.

But I am damn sure interested in changing the way you treat others.

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Alliteration Ink Presents: The Kickstarter for NOT OUR KIND: TALES OF (NOT) BELONGING

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Alliteration Ink Introduces Not Our Kind:  Tales of (Not) Belonging

This Kickstarter is to fund a genre-defying diverse collection of fantasy and sci-fi stories of cultures, their problems, and seeing life from a new point of view.  It's edited by Nayad Monroe, who previously edited the critically acclaimed What Fates Impose.

When you talk about outsiders, it's easy to think about that sense of isolation when you're not one of the "popular kids" in high school, when you're the new person on the job, when you stand out in a bad way.

But there's more than that.

There's the sense of wonder at a new, alien place. There's seeing everything you know through a new, different point of view.

These stories defy expectations and easy genre boundaries.

But if you want that sense of wonder and amazement when you first encountered speculative fiction, that idea that there is something different, something more just around the corner, just out of sight, that sense of coming home to the unfamiliar, then this is the book you want to read.

In twenty-four hours, we're over 15% of the way to our first goal - and future goals include more stories through an open call for submissions!

You can back the project at http://bit.ly/kicknotourkind and get this book - and some pretty spiffy extra backer rewards - for yourself!

Not Our Kind: Tales of (Not) Belonging - New Fiction Stories -- Kicktraq Mini

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I Wish It Was "Or What?!": Vanity Publishing has Found Kickstarter.

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I'm not sure if this project actually violates Kickstarter's guidelines, but it sure as heck violates my ethical crowdfunding standards:


Yes, that's right. "Backers, submit your story & be in the book". Let's say you're going to give this person (I'll explain why I say "person" in a second) the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they're just offering up open slots to backers - which while still a BAD BAD BAD thing, isn't quite vanity publishi...



Okay, yes. Yes, that's vanity publishing. Straight-up no joking pay-to-play with an implied rights grab for the life of copyright.  And they're going to sell the book (see the full project page screengrab) but don't mention paying contributors.


But y'know, sometimes it's not malice, it's ignorance. It looks like they're brand new to Kickstarter, so it could be. I've run into other people who mean well, but don't realize what they're doi...



Three different names.  Three. Different. Names.

Yeah, that does not create trust, and sure as heck makes things look a bazillion times more shady.

Is this person even real?  What would happen if you tried to contact them?


As I said at the top, I'm not certain if vanity publishing pay-to-play scams are actually against Kickstarter's rules - but it's something you should stay away from.

Writer Beware has an excellent guide on how to better recognize vanity anthologies here:  http://www.sfwa.org/other-resources/for-authors/writer-beware/anthologies/

As much as I think technologies like Kickstarter have given publishers a revitalized role, vanity presses and scammers are everywhere.

There is a reason I wrote my crowdfunding ethics policy;  it's because of people like this.  Compare the rules and guidelines of other crowdfunded projects against that policy, and if something doesn't match up, start asking hard questions.

You can see a screengrab of the full project page as it existed the morning of 8 November 2014 at http://imgur.com/a/asG9h#a6dU1pU

For what it's worth, we're in the last day or so of the pro-rate paying ethically run (with free range authors1) Kickstarter for Not Our Kind.  If you want to support authors and publishers trying to do it the right way, swing by the project at http://bit.ly/kicknotourkind and support us either financially or spreading the word online.

Thanks!



1 Don't ask about the editor...

#SFWAPRO

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Yet another reason to back Not Our Kind right away....

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The Kickstarter for Not Our Kind is in its last three days.   If you've been on the fence about backing this book, it's time to jump in with both feet.

Maybe you're on the fence, despite the backer rewards.  Fair enough.

You're going to get a damn good book.

Sure, you suspect that I'm partial to it myself.  Fair enough.  I'd wonder that if I were you.

But then I'd read this press release from Alliteration Ink:
 
Two stories from Alliteration Ink's 2013 release What Fates Impose made Honorable Mentions for Ellen Datlow's "Best Horror of the Year" for this year. The full list of notable stories is at http://ellendatlow.com/tag/honorable-mentions-2013/.

The two stories selected from What Fates Impose are Amanda C. Davis' "The Scry Mirror" and Andrew Penn Romine's "Ain't Much Different'n Rabbits".

The editor for What Fates Impose, Nayad Monroe, is currently working with Alliteration Ink to raise money for her next anthology. This new anthology, entitled Not Our Kind and including stories from both Davis and Romine, is in its last week on Kickstarter.

You can find What Fates Impose at http://fates.alliterationink.com and Not Our Kind at http://bit.ly/kicknotourkind
It is a big deal to even get on Ellen Datlow's Honorable Mentions list - and to have two stories from the same book on there... well, that says these folks are doing something right.

And on top of the people recognized above, there's a whole host of other awesome - and award-winning - authors whose stories are going to be in this book.

Contribute whatever you can - a dollar, five, ten, more.  You'll get rewards that are more than worth it.

And if you can't contribute anything, spread the word about Not Our Kind

Thank you so much!

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How Technology Has Given Publishers A Revitalized Role

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I am firmly convinced that there is still a role for publishers today - especially small independent ones.

Small publishers are uniquely positioned to be able to produce anthologies and to focus on the art of writing - both in genre and in literary circles.

There are three main technologies that have made small publishers viable at any scale:
  • eBooks
  • Print on Demand
  • Kickstarter
The first two reduce the up front monetary cost of creating a book (or periodical, for that matter) to two categories:
  • Per-unit costs (printing,shipping,"delivery cost" if sold through Amazon)
  • Setup costs (layout, ISBN, cover art, paying authors - more on the last in a few minutes)
Not that long ago, a publisher would have to order print runs of a large number of copies of a book. Which was great ... if that book sold. And pretty horrible if that book didn't sell. And even worse if that book sold far more than initially expected - there are tales of small publishers being sunk by a book's unexpected popularity and being overwhelmed by trying to scale up.

Now, once I've made my money back on the initial setup costs I don't have to worry about losing money on any title. While this isn't a guarantee that I'm going to make money, I won't go into debt just because a single title doesn't sell well.

And that means I can work on "riskier" projects than a big publisher can. The reason why so many books (and movies and TV shows) look like some popular franchise is because of this economic decision.

This is also a boon for literary markets. Many small literary presses don't pay much - maybe only in contributor copies. I suspect this kind of economic pressure (and the need to not buy too many copies of any issue) is a large part of their distribution problems. By cutting those prices and reducing the need to hold inventory, they can decrease risk and focus more of their budgetary risk on paying authors.

Originally, I managed this risk by working on a royalty basis. Authors got royalties from the first copy sold, and keep getting royalties. If the book sells well, they get more money!

The downside, of course, is that if a book doesn't sell well, the authors don't get as much money. Which sucks for everyone involved.

That's where Kickstarter (and other crowdfunding sites) come in.

If you look at the funding breakdown for our current campaign, Not Our Kind, there's money allocated for the authors, editor, and setup costs1.


Doing projects like this means that I can create that "risky" book, fulfill the anthologist's vision, let the authors tell the stories that they want to tell... and still pay them what they deserve.

The books I publish may never have the circulation of a mass-market paperback pushed by a big publisher. But I can damn well make sure they exist, and with the help of Kickstarter, I can also make sure the authors get paid as well.

You can see (and back) our current project, Not Our Kind, on Kickstarter at http://bit.ly/kicknotourkind


1 In this case, I'm including individual production and shipping in the "setup" costs.

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New All-Backer Rewards for *Not Our Kind* and Exclusive Add-Ons!

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There are two big announcements over at the Kickstarter for Not Our Kind:
  • How backers suddenly getting more bang for the buck with additional backer rewards
  • New add-ons of an exclusive t-shirt and discounted eBooks

All Backer Perks

The Kickstarter exclusive edition will feature at least a frontispiece by Jenna Fowler, which will only be available through this Kickstarter.  (If we surpass our goal by enough to pay her for more art, we will, without adjusting any other stretch goals.)  Retail copies of this book will not include this interior art, making your rewards much more valuable - both because of the quality of her art, and also because it will be a very limited run.

Jenna also did the interior artwork for another anthology that I has a story in:  Gears & Growls: Beast Within 4, edited by Jennifer Brozek (who is a story contributor to Not Our Kind).

Upon successful funding, all backers will additionally get audio of Steven Saus' story "The Wild Charge They Made" from Gears & Growls: Beast Within 4. This story features steampunk werebadgers, and is not available in audio anywhere else.

More Choices With Add-Ons

I listened to your feedback here, in e-mail, and on Facebook, and so I'm glad to be able to offer these two additional add-ons:

Selected digital books

If you're just getting started with Alliteration Ink's publications, the $75 reward level is a quick (and the least expensive) way to get all of our titles digitally. But what if you already have some of them? You can add on any previously published Alliteration Ink digital title for $4.50 - that's 10% off the cover price. Get as many as you need to complete your collection; the full list is here: http://alliterationink.com/pubslist.html

Any digital book from Alliteration Ink comes in PDF, ePub (nook, iTunes, Kobo), and Kindle formats.

Just to make it clear:  The $75 reward level is a bigger discount if you're getting all of the books.

Exclusive T-Shirts

If you've been to any conventions this summer where Alliteration Ink had a presence, you might have seen these gorgeous, comfortable t-shirts:

They feature the feather logo on the left breast, and no other advertisement. Classy, sophisticated, and awesome - just like you. Before now, these were only available to a very small group of people, but I'm making them available to Kickstarter backers as an add-on reward. These shirts are not available for retail sale.  They're $30 (including shipping, US only, I'm afraid) for all sizes.

You can choose any combination of any number of extra copies, t-shirts, or extra eBooks; just add the total price of your copies to the amount you pledge. At the end of the project be sure to answer the survey with the extra awards you selected.

How do you get in on all this awesomeness?  You head right on over to http://bit.ly/kicknotourkind and back that project!  You only have a few days left, so don't delay!

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