Monthly Archives: February 2009

Writing: The Ghettoization of Speculative Fiction?

CBC, ghettoizing SF, bad science fiction, badly written fantasy

From a 50s B-movie. Unfortunately some people think SF novels are still like this.

Yesterday on CBC Radio’s Q, Jian Ghomeshi talked with Clive Thompson about the ghettoization of speculative fiction or whether William Gibson was the next Tolstoy. Thompson was extolling the virtues of SF, sort of. Or damning with faint praise. Below is the response that I sent, which I also put here in case CBC decides they have moral rights on my opinion.

Dear Jian,

 

I’m not quite sure what to make of the speaker Clive Thompson you had on talking about SF, science fiction, or speculative fiction since it encompassed both science fiction and fantasy works.

 

I write here as an individual but also as the president of SF Canada whose members consist of professional writers and others in the speculative fiction community. I missed the first part of Thompson’s conversation but I also express here views of the members of SF Canada.

 

Although Clive was supposed to be regaling the virtues of SF, he sounded uninformed in many ways. As a reader he seemed to exhibit huge gaps in knowledge when he said that most SF is badly written, misogynistic, dominated by men. And he gave Heinlein and Dick as examples. Robert Heinlein and Phillip K. Dick were in their heyday in the 60s and 70s; that’s at least 30-40 years ago. Taken in context, Heinlein was no different than many authors (whether SF or not) of the day, and some of his views on relationships were far reaching for the time.

 

Thompson did mention Cory Doctorow, who is a Canadian but there was a huge gap in between. (Doctorow’s book has been nominated for this year’s Nebula awards.) Some of the bigger names in speculative fiction may be men but there are many women writing and of merit: Ursula Le Guin, Kij Johnson, Pat Cadigan, Pat Murphy (of old, Andre Norton, James Tiptree, Anne McCaffery), Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Kris Rusch, Nalo Hopkinson, etc.

 

If he was talking Canadian speculative fiction, then he was all over the map with his observations so I must presume this was about SF in general. There is very little that is published these days that would be misogynistic unless it was showing a particular culture. Much is extremely well written and if you ask Michael Chabon, winner of both SF awards and the Pulitzer, he places more value on his SF awards.

 

Basically Thompson picked some of the worst or most dated examples for his points. It would have been better to see more current knowledge that goes beyond Margaret Atwood.

 

As for ghettoization, well there is good and bad writing in all genres. He spoke about the issue of whether one would place Oryx & Crake on literary or SF shelves and how it was confusing for publishers. I spent 20 years in the book industry as book rep and book buyer (for a store). This doesn’t confuse the publishers as they are the ones that came up with the categories through their marketing departments. A book will be marketed to the group that they think will buy the most copies. The cover will be changed accordingly. So in essence it is the publisher that has ghettoized all genres.

 

As to the attitude toward SF, well it depends. What sells the best in movie theatres, and is often based off of a book? There is indeed a snobby attitude that only literary is real writing and many of those writers who do write speculative stories adamantly say that it is not of that ilk. My creative writing degree did not include speculative fiction because of the attitude at the university that the only good writer was a dead white man. I would argue that erotic fiction and romances have a lower spot in the old world thinker’s eyes of “genre” and ghettoization, even though they may sell better. Harlequin romances have some of the highest sell-through rates of any books. Are they good? I don’t know as I haven’t read one.

 

Thompson also mentioned that SF is doing quite well. On one level yes, on another, not so much. Fantasy still outsells science fiction and in many cases editors are begging for science fiction stories. But sales of speculative fiction? Yes, the Harry Potter series can speak to that.

 

Next time, when talking about SF and whether William Gibson (an expat American living in Canada) is the next Tolstoy, it would be great to have someone up to date on current speculative fiction trends. Heck, try Neil Gaiman who you talked with a couple of weeks ago, or contact SF Canada and we’ll send you a boatload of opinions by Canadians.

 

Regards,

Colleen Anderson

President

SF Canada

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Writing: The Sad State of Poetry in Speculative Fiction

Waaay back, when I first started to get serious about writing, I wrote poetry. Okay I started writing poetry at the angst-ridden edge of twelve, and shelved much of it until my twenties. Eventually though, my poetry grew up and ventured into the world.

My first professional sale was for a whole $1.45 and yes it was a science fiction poem to Star*line. I continued to sell a poem here and there for usually five bucks and a copy of the magazine/book. Then I hit it big and sold a poem to Amazing Stories; $36 USD. Wow! And from that, I was invited (they actually contacted me) to join the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA), THE professional organization for science fiction writers throughout North America. (I  don’t think I’d ever heard of SF Canada way back then.)

Thirty-six dollars and SFWA membership. SFWA works on a third of the pie idea. Three pro sales makes you a real writer. One or two-thirds makes you an Associate. You still pay the same amount but you get fewer privileges and can’t vote for the board or the Nebulas. What does it get you? That may be a different post but there is a wee bit of prestige, a very wee bit if you stay Associate forever.

I’ve sold more poems and stories since then, but everything must be speculative obviously for SFWA’s requirements. The publication that your piece appears in must meet the demands of a high production number, be a long running publication, pay pro rates, be American (and a few, very few Canadian magazines), etc. for membership qualification. Oh and poetry, well SFWA decided to drop it like a hot potato. No longer can you become a member on poetry alone. Not even if you’re the best poet in the world. Bruce Boston is probably the best Speculative poet out there. Certainly the most well-known. Canada’s own Sandra Kasturi is no pale shadow either. And there are numerous more.

But here’ is thesad state of the beleaguered poem. Someone got it in their head that because a poem is a hundred words or a hundred lines then why, it’s gotta be easy and fast to write. I’ve spent days, even months writing a poem (in some cases, years, but not constantly). I doubt it was any poet who said, scrap the poems from SFWA. And if three measly poems were just too few for a full membership, then why not make it six or nine or a dozen? Nope, SFWA allows stories, novellas, novelettes, books, even flash fiction in the right circumstances (though I hear that’s iffy) but poetry. Ick. That stuff is for intellectuals pontificating down their noses. Who reads it?

And really, that is part of the problem, isn’t it? Who reads poetry? There is a small point here that I believe poetry is part of the old bardic tradition and really is meant to be heard and seen. Look at poetry slams (a discussion for another day). Many people read it…sometimes, for it to still be bought in some places. But enough? And poetry, well it’s unfathomable, bizarre, esoteric. And spec poetry has just gotta be worse. Doesn’t it? I mean aliens in a story gives you time to paint an elaborate picture, but a vignette? Well, we don’t have time to look at that.

Sigh, there was an era where everyone was taught to read poetry. And what is “The Cremation of Sam McGee” if not speculative poetry? Poetry doesn’t have to be unfathomable or above people’s heads though I’ve had the most straightforward poems rejected by editors who said their audience wouldn’t understand them. Say the poem is confusing but don’t lower the intelligence of your readers, please.

Oh and did I mention that speculative fiction is the worst paid genre out there (except, would you believe, erotic fiction)? Yes, I can write a poem and receive $100 for it from Descant, or a story for a lit mag and get anywhere from $100-$1000, or I can write an article for anywhere from thirty cents a word to a dollar and more. Sure ,there’s a range but if you’re writing poetry and speculative poetry, well you really are the dregs of society. Not even as good as the tentacle waving scum of speculative story writers. No sirree. You’re filler on those pages that don’t have a story long enough.

That is the sad sate of speculative poetry. Alas. And this attitude is often held by those who have never written it or tried to understand it. SFWA has some pretty old-fashioned ideas that makes me wonder on the value of continuing to be a member when I’m a small time Canadian writer.

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Should Drugs be Legalized?

This should be justified as, should recreational drugs be legalized? With Vancouver’s recent spate of gangland shootings (13 in less than three weeks) this topic has come up that they’re fighting over drug money. A very good supposition and though there are those that say it has to do with pot, I’m guessing there’s a full gamut and the relatively cheaper marijuana is at the bottom of the list, which is topped by crack cocaine, crystal meth and heroin.

So, should drugs be legalized? Remember prohibition, when alcohol suddenly became illegal (having been drunk for years) and the religious right screaming temperance? Of course there were some legitimately good reasons for limiting alcohol intake. The Wild West gained its moniker for a good reason and the TV series Deadwood is not far off the mark, when only men came to new areas to mine gold or trap or work in lumber mills. Vancouver’s own early history is so colored, with the first women in the townships being the bar girls and First Nations women, sometimes married to a lonely man.

But prohibition only meant that what people wanted now had to be procured through illegal means. The underground became more established and organized crime ran booze in from various areas. Rum runners became a common aspect of the prohibition years in the early 20th century. Prohibition did linger in that there are now certain laws around the consumption of alcohol. 

Once alcohol was legalized the only way organized crime could make money off of it was to bring in far larger quantities at cheaper rates. Or say, smuggle tobacco and the far more lucrative and illegal drugs.

So yes, if we legalize all those illicit drugs, we take the cash crop away from the gangs and put it in the hands of the government. Marijuana, which is far less nasty than alcohol in its affects on humans should be legalized to save the cops time for the important issues. Like the drug addled crimes of addicts breaking into homes and cars for their next fix. They don’t tend to do that on marijuana.

So let’s say we legalize all drugs. The cost goes down for the drug, which takes down the cost of law enforcement and break-ins. The price of health care might be the same or might go down. It may not be as fun to take if the drug is no longer illegal. Will there still be addicted people? Yes, but maybe fewer. And they won’t be as stigmatized. Well, maybe. After all, we do have alcoholics in all walks of society and there is still a stigma, but many of them hold down jobs to pay for their habits. They’re less likely to be breaking into someone’shome or car with readily available and cheap liquor. Ask the lawyers and business people who are alcoholics. (Note: this is just an example of a few professions but like I said, it’s in all walks of life.)

There is another aspect. Yes, it’s sad to see people addicted and this often speaks to underlying problems, many of which can be tracked back to one form of abuse or another. So the money saved in crime prevention can be put towards mental health, and the cost and distribution of drugs lessens. It would take time to implement but it can work. This last aspect is that we stop controlling another person’s decisions and let them be responsible to themselves. It’s not perfect and we need laws with which society must function. But changing some of the laws on drugs could lessen the gang crime and the substance abuse.

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Taser Inquiry–Dziekanski’s Death

The inquiry continues into the Tasering death of Robert Dziekanski, or the conducted energy weapon, as the police call it. One of the RCMP officers testified yesterday to conflicting admissions. Now, if you’ve seen the video the crucial moments are fuzzy, where Dziekanski is actually tasered. But even though he tossed a chair or two he was not in a high fury. You can see he is agitated or scared, by his fast breathing. Then you see there are security guards who don’t seem to be talking to him but keeping him penned in and it looks as if he’s barricading the doors.

What the guards and RCMP probably didn’t know was that he was there for hours and hours. He would have been dehydrated and confused, tired, maybe angry. What the guards did know is that he spoke a foreign language, pretty common for people coming in to an airport. It doesn’t look like anyone tried to communicate with him in his language.

The video shows four RCMP coming in and talking to him. He throws up his hands and walks away. What I thought, was that a taser needs to touch a person’s skin, but it fires dart-like electrodes. At the point that they fire the Taser Dziekanski smashes his fist into his hands and does look a bit combative but he’s just been zapped. Then they hit him again, and he rolls out to the floor, obviously in great pain. You see an officer fire a third time and I don’t know when the other two shots were fired.

Now the officer, Constable Gerry Rundel, testified yesterday saying that Dziekanski resisted and took a combative stance. If I throw my hands into the air, does that mean I’ll now get shot by the police, by Taser or gun? How does this gesture then differ between that of saying “I give up” or “I’m frustrated and can’t communicate” with uh, “Rarrr, I’m coming at you like a man-eating tiger”?

Rundel also said that he feared for his life at one point. Fear? For his life? Let’s see, there were three security guards just standing around before the police came. The four, count em, fourRCMP officers carrying weapons and wearing bullet proof vests somehow couldn’t talk to or restrain one man just standing there at the time. It used to be, before Tasers, that cops were trained on how to restrain a person without causing more damage. But they seem to just fire at him, and five times?

There’s much ado made about the stapler. Not a staple gun, not an industrial, electric staple gun. Just a stapler used for stapling a few papers together. I’ve put one through my finger before and somehow not only lived to talk about it but have borne no scars. But the RCMP who are supposedly trained in methods of restraint and oh, powers of observation, mistake the nasty office stapler as a weapon for which they fear for their lives? All you secretaries and aides of the world unite! Forget the pitchforks and scythes. Grab up those staplers and we will put fear in the hearts of those who oppose us.

If this is the state of our police force, then no wonder gangs are taking over. Sorry, but they’ve becoming pussies if a stapler scares them and if it takes four men armed with Tasers to take down an agitated man. If an officer fears for his life over such an action, then he should not be a police or RCMP officer. And if this is how they’re trained, I too fear for my life should I ever have to encounter the RCMP.

The police chiefs are now out in force today, defending the Taser and saying it saves lives (and it does seem to take a few too). Well,  if we go with the adage, guns don’t kill people, people kill people, then it stands that indeed Tasers don’t kill people, police kill people. I am critical here because there has been far too much abuse by those who are supposed to uphold the law. If their training makes them more fallible than the perpetrator, then they need new training, including how to minimize damage and physically restrain someone. How about some martial arts?

It used to be that a Taser was to be used if there was risk of injury to the individual or others. Serious risk of injury. Use as a last resort before pulling out the gun. But now, everyone better be on their best behavior because the next time you give someone the finger, swear, or turn your back on the RCMP they will Taser you as being combative and resistant. They won’t talk to you, they won’t find other ways to take you down. In fact, if you’re going to jump off a bridge and you turn your back, make sure you really mean to commit suicide because they’ll Taser you on the way down.

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Editing: A Job Interview

This happened some time last year when a job for editing showed up on one of editors’ lists I am on: a publisher looking for freelance content editors. I sent my resume in and got a forwarded email that said sign into an instant messaging group to discuss this. Now this was for book editing and that’s my specialty, been doing it for 15 years. So the managing editor asks if I use story arcs and I ask her to define what she means in terms of editing as people use this term differently. Basically, she means plot, conflict, resolution and flow. Etc. The usual. She says editing is usually between 25-50 hours a manuscript, which is fine; nothing unusual.Then I ask what they pay and she says 10%. O-kay. So I said, could you please break this down for me as I’m not sure what 10% is from and I’ve always worked hourly contracts before. (I mean it could be 10% of cover price and books printed, or sold, or 10% of wholesale.) I don’t know. It’s a simple question.

She then goes on to say that line editing is a waste of time and that if a writer can’t write, then they (the publisher) don’t want the book. I said, I understand, however when I did copy editing it was never for the same repetitive mistakes but sometimes to correct grammar, odd typos, and check for consistency (continuity). After all, we all miss things in our own writing from seeing it too often, and copy editors give a fresh eye to the grammar.

Then she says, “We love our proofreaders. We don’t need proofreaders.” She says this a couple of times, adding they have no work for hire. So I say, I’m sorry, I thought you were looking for content editors.

Through all this she has not yet given me that breakdown of 10% but basically, from what I can tell, the editor gets paid if the book sells. It could be $5 for all I know. I have already said, yes but I’ve worked hourly before so I don’t know how this breaks down. She says, “Hon, I’m not disputing (but she is) and I’ve worked for 5 publishing houses in 7 years.” I didn’t bother to get into the one-upmanship and say I’ve worked for as many if not more in 15 years. Hon? From someone I don’t know? That’s pretty condescending. It’s like she hasn’t read my resume, nor heard what I was saying and was on a personal crusade.

At this point I’m getting angry as she seems to presume I’m talking about proofreading. I’ve already talked about content and have said I’ve done proofreading, copyediting, line as well as structural and stylistic editing. I know the difference. I’m not sure she does. Then she blathers that she’s had 200 responses and needs to make sure she has a content editor (after once saying she had 3000 manuscripts and rejected them all).

I haven’t met this person in person but I’m already getting a sense that her pile is bigger than everyone else’s. And working for her would be a personality conflict waiting to happen. At that point I say, I think I’ll pass on this as I’d like to know I’ll be paid a base rate for what I do. MFG! Does this woman think all publishing is based out of her ebusiness? (Turns out she’s the CEO too.)

Fine, name as many publishing houses as you want, but don’t discount there is more than one way to do things and pay people. She seemed to believe her way of paying was the only way, and indeed it may be for ebooks, but it’s not for other publishers. Having worked for US and Canadian publishers, I know. I have invoices. I’ve been paid an hourly fee on all of them. In a few cases when I freelance I might have charged by the project but usually I charged by the hour.

I think I avoided a very uncomfortable and possibly not lucrative job editing books for peanuts.

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Internet & Sex & Voice

Has the internet changed since those early DOS days of looking for cheap sex and hot chat? I remember getting on to the great vast abyss of the internet. There I sat before my black screen, the neon green cursor blinking a way. Like shouting into a black tunnel, I would send questions out, hoping for an answer from the unknown universe of the internet, not yet called the world wide web.

There was little in the realm of urls. Locally, there was an ISP called Mindlink. It might have been the only one or one of very few at that point. When I joined up and went online to these groups, Mindlink would show the names of all the people online. Sometimes it was ten, sometimes twenty at a time. I joined a couple of chat groups and found that they often contained pedantic blowhards who shot down anyone talking about a subject. They were so obnoxious in trying to show their stellar intelligence that I left them to join Mindlink’s nonsense group.

When you signed up for thsi group you were asked for an alias. Once given, no one would ever see your real name unless you chose to reveal it. For whatever crazy reason, I chose the moniker Laughing Fist. There were others on the group like Feste and names I no longer remember. And true to the name of the group, we talked nonsense. Sometime puns, sometimes jokes, sometimes mad ramblings, but the group was created to counteract all those “serious” groups of know-it-alls.

Mindlink would hold meets where members could meet in a pub in public. My partner at the time had no interest in computers and internet and I really didn’t feel a need to go to the meet-ups. As I was trying to find information on subjects, mostly for writing, on the internet, I discovered that there were numerous chat rooms. A lot of those early groups had specific topics or the alt.groups. But sure enough, about 90% of them dealt with sex, maybe because 90% of people on the net were men and boys.

Mindlink had instant chat and whenever I signed on to the list, where everyone could see your name, I would get guys messaging me right away. Everyone could post a profile and I made it clear that if you asked me how old I was first, then you weren’t interested in chatting with me but just trying to date me. And then there were the guys who would ask if I was interested in hot chat. Basic talking dirty online. I wasn’t interested, have never really been interested. For one, I had no idea how old the person was or what he was like. For two, I’m a writer. I can write all sorts of stories. It might get them off but I’d only be practising my writing.

I also realized in the nonsense group where everyone had shortened my name to Fisty, that they thought I was a guy. Probably from the name and from the way I wrote. Once I realized that, I said nothing that would give away my gender. It was fairly easy and made me realize how much you can have a different personality on the internet. Unfortunately as internet use expanded, the stalkers and degenerates found it as a way to lure impressionable and gullible teenagers. I did eventually show up at a meet where everyone was surprised to find out Fisty was a girl.

I don’t go searching out the millions of sites on porn, and as search engines have become more sophisticated one is not as likely to stumble on porn, hot chat, or sex sites unless one wants to. So what percentage of the internet is taken up with sex? I’m sure there is someone out there adding up the googling and could tell us…maybe. But I think even looking at WordPress and my blog gives an idea. I write on a range of topics but some of the ones that get the most hits are the ones about sex, genitals, prostitutes.

We think that humans are more advanced or far above our animal brethren but we forget we are run by the same instincts as they are: the need to procreate. Of course, we have gone further in eroticizing many aspects, making some good and wholesome, some naughty, dirty or downright perverse. We have cultural conventions and moires that animals don’t have. So in essence we have complicated sex, but people still think about it a lot. Whether we’re curious, or appalled or turned on, many still want to read about it.

I think the internet may be broader and more far reaching from those early days of hot chat but I’m not sure by how much. And look at how far we’ve come in less than twenty years. We have way more pictures. 🙂

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Internet: Rudiments of Courtesy and Respect

I have been on the internet since it was DOS, a big black screen with glowing green text. The early chat rooms and newsgroups were full of pedantic people trying to prove themselves in one way or another, from the spelling nazis to the socially insecure showing their scintillating intelligence and argumentative nature. In the new newsgroups, there are often rules against correcting someone’s typos but you can still get the know-it-alls. You also get the people who have to air their grievances against another for one and all to suffer through.

We live in a modern age of computers and instant messages. Before those came along there were phones and letters. Before that era, there were letters and pigeons. Before that, and during, there were riders on horses. Communications could always fall into the wrong hands, or not get through, or your courier be killed…if it was really important and political.

Some of our view of courtesy comes from the Victorian era but even before that, through much of the middle ages there were such things as courtly behaviour. Nobles and the higher echelon, even the peasantry, showed respect. Sure, rumours existed but they were and have always been perpetuated by people talking about the subject behind the subject’s back and never addressing the issue directly. Should one noble to the other have something particularly vicious to say, probably couched in witty ways, it was usually done face to face, because the fewer witnesses the better to deny it ever happened.

To call one out, especially one of any noble lineage was tantamount to a duel or a war, or maybe an assassination. Words had power, have always had power. Words can slander, can give respect, can color one’s view. But even as much as words reflect on the subject, they also reflect on the speaker.

No matter how wronged a person is, or how justified they may be in speaking of the scurrilous things people have done to them, when even the injured get on the soapbox it most often is not pretty. Be careful who you paint with that brush for the paint can spatter on you. I have seen this over and over, and used it as a good lesson. When the wronged one starts pointing a finger back
and getting to name calling, that person too loses credence. Sometimes turning the other cheek is the best policy.

To air one’s laundry, whether yours or the pilfered goods of the “other”, it is still airing your laundry in public. It is a tactic that holds the public hostage to a viewing whether they want it or not. It is a tactic that one does to shame the other. It is a tactic that shows the one who airs as callous, mean, little and low class. It is a tactic meant to anger and to justify one’s own behavior. And it is always lowly done and not of the noblest of intentions.

Here are a few rules by which I judge if there is courtesy and respect. I try to use these. Discussing is one thing but belittling or berating others is not acceptable.

1. If you have nothing nice to say, shut up.
2. If you hate someone, tell them personally. We don’t want to know.
3. If you want to be Machiavellian and stir the pot, well then you really think
you’re so witty that no one is catching on as you sit back and lick your paws.
You’ll believe yourself superior, but it’s not very noble either.
4. If you have to show off your intelligence and superior knowledge in a
pedantic manner, then you’re not very secure and it shows.
5. If you have to whine about how much you did and that no one ever notices or
wants you, then no matter your position you’re not doing this for noble means and
maybe there’s another reason no one wants you.
6. If you make yourself a martyr and make sure everyone knows, then expect to
be used that way and not to get sainthood at the end.
7. If you’re getting so out of hand in your vitriol that someone has to smack
your hand, well then maybe it’s time to go to mommy until you grow up.
8. If you can’t be constructive, or don’t know the facts, shut up.

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Genital Fads

Because it’s looking like spring (at least here in the Pacific Northwest) and little shoots are poking through the ground, and the big VD just happened (that’s Valentine’s Day not venereal disease though they do have a relation), I remembered a conversation with a friend last fall.

We were at the World Fantasy Convention, in the art show. There were some dark, moody-broody pictures involving nudes. After my friend looked at one, she said to me, “I noticed that the woman in that photo had her genital area shaved. Am I way behind the boat here? Is this something that people are doing now?”

And I enlightened her that it is in fact a fad these days for men and women to be hairless. Women already have shaved underarms and legs for years. Now they may have their pubic patch trimmed or taken away completely, commonly called a Brazilian. Men have also been getting waxed of recent years, from back and butts, to chests and genitals. Some of them shave the genital area or go in to see an aesthetician to have as one friend referred to it, a crack and sack hair removal.

It’s been common in the Middle East for hundreds of years, yet in Italy of the last century a woman with hairless legs were considered to be tarty or ladies of the night. But this modern age is not the first time that people have applied fashion trends to their genitals.

If we go back in time there were ribbons applied to pubic curls in the 17th century. Known as a merkin, men or women would adorn these pubic wigs to either disguise the syphilitic ravages to their flesh, to discourage vermin (having shaved the region) or because people found a dense bush more sexually appealing. Some extravagances involved crimping the pubic hairs, adding ribbons, jewels or flowers. Quite a treasure trove for the exploring Don Juan.

Adornment hasn’t just happened to the pubic hair but to the flesh as well. There have been an abundance of piercings for men and women, some being ornamental, others religious, others for sexual enhancement. These have been done for centuries in some Asian and African countries and are popular in some aspects of North American and European culture.

Clothing has also been worn at different times to enhance the genital area (besides the merkin). These have included extravagant codpieces from the German Landsknecht “slash and puff” clothing, through the Elizabethan and Tudor periods. As well, various tribes may have worn penis sheaths made from wood or gourds, such as the New Guinea koteka. Tattooing is also not new.

The fashion of making ourselves as hairless a possible will probably change in decades to come. Nothing is new and nothing is permanent. Whether we see these pubic fashions as awe inspiring, fashionable, sexy or ridiculous they too will change in time. Someone will come up with something new, maybe wearing airplane parts or hanging Christmas ornaments from their pubic regions. Who knows, you might be the first to have the newest undercover fad.

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Writing: Shirley Jackson Lottery

Shirley Jackson once wrote a story that gained all sorts of fame, “The Lottery” as well as The Haunting of Hill House and other books.  Well, now there is an actual lottery related to this author and for raising money for the awards, given to stories with a horror, psychological suspense or dark fantasy aspect.  http://www.shirleyjacksonawards.org/  There is about one more week to buy tickets for this.  I’ve bought some, hoping to get a manuscript critique. We always need outside feedback. Details are below.

Online “Lottery” to Benefit the Shirley Jackson Awards Takes place from February 9 through February 23, 2009“Lottery” tickets are $1 each and can be purchased from: http://www.shirleyjacksonawards.org/store/

Partial List of Donations to be Awarded

• From Ash-Tree Press: Collections of Sheridan Le Fanu: Mr. Justice Harbottle; The Haunted Baronet; Schalkin the Painter.
• From Laird Barron: A signed/personalized copy of his award winning short story collection, The Imago Sequence (Nightshade), plus an original piece of short fiction, in a separate, unbound manuscript.
• From Elizabeth Bear: Personally inscribed copy of The Chains That You Refuse, an out of print collection of short stories
• From James Blaylock: Signed copy (by James Blaylock and Tim Powers) of The Devils in the Details (Subterranean Press)
• From Douglas Clegg: Signed copy of the Vampyricon trilogy
• From Jeffrey Ford: Keyboard used to write several novels & collections, signed by Jeffrey Ford, to the winner.
• From Neil Gaiman: Keyboard, signed by Neil Gaiman, to the winner.
• From Brian Keene: Signed galley for Scratch, his forthcoming novel
• From Nightshade Books: Limited edition of Tim Lebbon’s Light and other tales of Ruin
• From Stewart O’Nan: Signed copy of unproduced screenplay, POE
• From Paul Riddell: Carnivorous plant terrarium
• From Peter Straub: A reading copy of The Skylark, Part 1, read at ICFA in Orlando 3/2008.
• Tuckerizations by Ekaterina Sedia, Laura Anne Gilman, Nick Mamatas
• Manuscript/Proposal critiques from John Douglas, Alice Turner, Beth Flesicher, Helen Atsma, and Stephen Barbara

“Lottery” Rules

Tickets will be on sale from February 9th through February 23rd, midnight, Eastern Daylight Time. The lottery will be held on February 23rd at midnight. Items will be raffled off individually. Persons may purchase as many tickets per item as desired. For example, a person may purchase ten tickets for the “ITEM” and fifty tickets for “ITEM 2.” Each ticket purchase increases your chances of winning. For example, if you purchase five tickets of the “ITEM 3” and a total of ten tickets for that item have been sold, your odds of winning are 5 out of 10.

For each item, one winner will be chosen using a computerized random number generator. The winning names and prizes will be announced on the Shirley Jackson Awards website. The donating party will mail or deliver the prize to the lucky winner.

All proceeds from the lottery go to support the Shirley Jackson Awards.

Boston, MA (February 2009) – The Shirley Jackson Awards will hold a “lottery” to raise funds for the award. This on-line event takes place from February 9, 2009 through February 23, 2009. Persons buy as many “lottery tickets” as they want in hopes of being selected the winner for any of an array of donated prizes from well-known authors, editors, artists, and agents.

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Dating Site Pictures

So it’s just past that big day brought to you by Hallmark, florists and chocolate companies. I’ve never been big into it, single for a lot of it and find it contrived. On Saturday I bellydanced at a 50th birthday party, then stopped in the local watering hole for a drink or two before home. A woman was writing up a note to pass to a band member because she said she was there with her boyfriend, it was Valentine’s Day and he wouldn’t hold her hand. I kinda wondered if he knew he was supposed to and was thankful not to be in that boat.

But it got me thinking of the dating sites I’ve tried before (Okay Cupid, Plenty of  Fish, Lavalife) and the pictures men post. I wrote this up a while back but it’s still apropos to dating.

I have this word (many in fact) of advice for people:

  • Try updating those pics, or more likely your fashion sense. Giganto aviator glasses went out in the 70s or the latest, the 80s, and even if you were going to wear them, you’d need to have a way funkier wardrobe than is revealed by your pic.
  • And the moustache, gah! If you’re going to go with something that only cops wear you may as well go crazy and have handlebars on it or a Hitler style brushstroke.
  • Don’t stand like tweedle dee with your belly sticking out and your hands down by your sides. You look retarded.
  • Try getting a picture that is actually clear. A fuzzy pic in low light does you no justice. Unless you really want to defeat yourself at the dating thing before you start.
  • Having one eye doing something way weird from the other one makes you look like a psychopathic killer and although it may do to weed out the nonserious, it will also get rid of any sane thinking person too.
  • Putting a picture of a monkey, a horse, a tiger or any other wildlife is nice. But I don’t want to date them. And if I think you look like a tiger or a monkey’s ass I’m not going to want to date you either.
  • Likewise, lovely landscapes are nice but if I want to see them I’ll go for a walk. You are a landscape of flesh, eyes, nose, mouth. Show it.
  • Putting up your game geek pics (where you’re almost drooling, overly dishevelled, somewhat crazed looking) with words like “blank mindless stare” as the caption, well, hmm, you sound like too much of a winner for me.
  • Looking like you just puked over the side of the boat after downing a keg is not so attractive either.
  • Oh, and a picture of you covered in blood and gore (even if it is simulated) is just downright not gonna have me meeting you for a first date.
  • Pictures from South Park are original…for South Park. But not for you. Try your face. It’s unique.
  • A picture of your hand, or belly, or eyeball, or other lascivious body part, although of you does not tell me what you look like. And if I’m going to meet a stranger from online I want to at least know what you look like beforehand in case my body is never found. Oh, and silly me, I’m really not interested in what your dong looks like (unless it’s Adult Friend Finder where that’s what you’d expect).
  • Wearing your pagan/Dungeons and Dragons/Lord of the Rings robe for a picture might be something you wanna save until you get to know the person. Just listing you play RPGs or are a pagan should be enough.

Pictures in different types of clothes: sporty, tux, costume, can be okay as long as you show normal attire as well. Now, albeit there are some perfectly fine pics and you can enlighten with a caption. But trust me, one of the above with: “I’m a perfectly average chap,” or “I’m an outgoing guy who likes walks on the beach,” are just not going to cut it. If you go with the freakish pics, then you better be downright entertaining, erudite and interesting in your profile. Now if you don’t wanna date, no problem. I’m jes sayin’.

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