Tag Archives: Radio One

Do We Need Another Beauty Queen?

Yesterday it was announced that there would be the first Miss Vancouver, multi-ethnic beauty pageant. Marina Hossain, is the CEO of Jam Expo Inc., which will be organizing the pageant for the Health and Beauty Expo. So first off, Canada hasn’t had a Miss Canada pageant since 1992. High production costs and declining interests were the reasons given. The other part was that people just weren’t interested in seeing women sashay along in a bathing suit and an evening gown, and giving their five minutes on how I hope to improve the world.

Yesterday’s CBC Radio One had a pageant coordinator also mention that Canadians just aren’t interested in being beauty queens, yet the ethnic beauty contests have continued. Obviously these contests do give exposure to the winner, as well as some prizes and cash. But the other reason they’re not popular is become they are still sexist and based on “beauty.”

So here comes Ms. Hossain with a new one that blends all ethnicities. Common ground is good but it’s still a beauty pageant. In fact, Hossain says, “Some can sing, some can dance, some have a nice face. Not everybody has that. But it’s the same as any other talent, like swimming. I see it in the same line. Beauty should be appreciated, too…. Beauty is something you have to work on. You have to furnish it. It’s a talent, knowing how to keep up with your body and health. Plus the natural talent you’re blessed with.”

A talent? Right. Being beautiful is a talent like having a well working heart, or two good eyes. You’re born with it or you’re not. Being born with something is not a talent. Some people have natural abilities in drawing or running but it still takes work to be good at and maintain a consistent level of talent. Beauty I guess can also be maintained: eat healthy, exercise, sleep properly. But then there is always botox, and  silicone and plastic surgery to make one beautiful. That’s a talent for those with money.

Hossain thinks beauty is a legitimate female talent. Wow! Why not have a beauty pageant for flowers then? Beauty, where the winner will be crowned with a tiara. Like a true Disney princess world in which Hossain wants to perpetuate the aspect of women being pretty trophies.

Contestants will be judged on the health of their skin, hair, fitness level, etc. They will get to parade along in white T-shirts and jeans, evening gowns and ethnic wear. Swimsuits may yet happen. So someone like me, born in Canada to Canadian parents, whose ethnic grandparents died early and didn’t pass on their cultural motifs for Italian and Danish ethnic/rural clothing would  wear something decidedly…Canadian. Like jeans, or Birkenstocks, or cowboy boots, or a shirt, or… Hmm, I wonder how the judges will like that ethnic dress. But I’m sure they’ll be fair…in judging who’s most beautiful in their ethnic wear.

It makes me wonder if someone, a woman who is sturdy, perhaps small hipped but barrel chested, thick through the shoulders but with amazing skin, lovely hair and who exercises four times a week could ever win, even if her attributes were better than her slimmer opponents. Especially if she had a bulbous nose and squinty eyes but was the nicest person you ever met, with intelligence and compassion for all. Would she win? I’m guessing, not.

While other pageants in recent years had to disguise the parading of female flesh with humanitarian works and community work, this is hardly mentioned up front. It’s all about the talent of beauty. Here is rule # 7 in the requirements:

7. Candidates will not be permitted to have any body art or body piercing that is visibly offensive.

Hmm, visibly offensive. I’m sorry, ma’am, your botox lips are visibly offensive. Excuse me sir, your balding head is visibly offensive. Why you, your height is visibly offensive. That leaves a lot to interpretation but then Ms Hossain and her judges get to be the judge of that. Just hope you figure it out before you send in your $138 nonrefundable registration fee. Oh and you have to be in good health and not have any medical problems. Is that fair under the human rights code? Well probably since they’re making it for young women 18-28 who can never have been married. I wonder if they want them to be virgins too.

But perhaps I’m being harsh about this vapid throwback to stereotypical pageants that promote the objectifying of women. I’d believe more that this was something new and great if it wasn’t a promotional gimmick for the expo. I’d believe it had altruism at its heart if there had been any mention about what the women are expected to bring to the world and community. Sure, that might help decide but it’s obviously not the thrust. I’d believe this was for a more balanced and less genderist idea if it included men and didn’t have the Disney princess tiara.

Unfortunately I find it hard to believe in or support this trophy girl award. There is a good reason that Canadians don’t want to enter such bigoted pageants.

http://www.jamexpo.ca/RULES-MAY2009.pdf

http://www.jamexpo.ca/vancouver.php?pageid=29

http://www.straight.com/article-212939/beauty-talent-says-organizer-new-miss-vancouver-pageant

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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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Writers Losing Rights

This is of concern to all writers in Canada, and really elsewhere though the issue of moral rights is called differently in other countries. Following is a letter I drafted and sent to various organizations (PWAC, Canadian Authors Association, League of Canadian Poets, Canadian Writers Union, Writers Guild of Canada, Canadian Poetry Association). If you are a writer in Canada and want to maintain the integrity of your piece and the right to have your name attributed to it, then you should be very concerned with CBC’s rules in their contest and the taking of moral rights. If you are part of a writer’s organization, please voice your concerns to your executive.

Dear members of the writing community;

 

CBC has long supported the arts with various programs including contests. Last year I noticed a contest for a poem on Mark Forsyth’s BC Almanac (Radio One). But when I read the rules and regulations CBC asked for all rights, including moral rights. I thought and hoped that this might just be an error, not to be repeated.

 

However, this year, CBC has been advertising Canada Writes, geared specifically towards writers. The full rules and regulations can be found at: http://www.cbc.ca/canadawrites/rules.html. The paragraph that concerned me was found under 4. Registration:

 

Entry forms become the property of CBC, free of any compensation or charges, and will not be returned to contestants. All submissions must be original and not infringe copyright or the rights of any other party, individual or otherwise, including but not limited to any person, group, entity, or company. By entering the contest, each participant shall waive any and all moral rightsover his/her entry and grant CBC an irrevocable licence to use of the work on-air or online: the entries may be read and aired on CBC Radio One in whole or in part, or online, on any websites or platforms related to the CBC, without any compensation being payable to the participant.

 

While it is not uncommon for some contests to ask for all publishing rights in return for a contest prize, it is highly unusual to ask for moral rights. Any reputable publisher will not ask for such rights and CBC taking this precedent is dangerous. The issue of rights is a complicated and often confusing one. I am no copyright lawyer but as a writer and artist I am concerned with this requirement by CBC. Below is a definition of moral rights:

 

http://www.nolo.com/definition.cfm/Term/D4718204-9904-42DF-8A5C84A64827173D/alpha/M/

In copyright law, rights guaranteed authors by the Berne Convention that are considered personal to the author and that cannot therefore be bought, sold or transferred. Moral rights include the right to proclaim authorship of a work, disclaim authorship of a work and object to any modification or use of the work that would be injurious to the author’s reputation.

 

This is of such concern to me that I cannot conscionably sit back as either a writer or as the president of SF Canada without bringing it to people’s attention. On January 19, I emailed CBC expressing my concerns. I heard nothing. Again I wrote on January 30, asking for a response and should I not receive one by February 6 I would contact as many Canadian writers’ organizations as possible. (If you would like to see a copy of those letters, please contact me and I will send them.)

 

If we ignore this, we set up a precedent for artists losing moral rights, where their works can be altered or attributed to someone else at the whim of the owner. If your organization has already been in contact with CBC and has any news on this issue, I would be interested in hearing what is happening.

 

Over the years, in various ways writers’ works and rights have been jeopardized. With a united voice I believe we can stop this trend and educate people before it becomes entrenched. I must say on a personal level that I am shocked and saddened that CBC would stoop to this level and I sincerely hope it is just the work of overzealous lawyers and can be circumvented.

 

I look forward to talking more with you and finding a solution.

 

Regards,

 

 

Colleen Anderson

President

SF Canada

 

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Moral Rights

On Sunday, Jim Gunn talked about an essay for an old SF collection and how one author wouldn’t sell his piece because he would have to waive moral rights. Jim seemed to think this was silly, to not sell a story over moral rights. Maybe he was talking about that particular case only, where the essay was written specifically for that anthology. Earlier last year, on my blogspot blog I wrote about CBC radio having a contest and taking all rights. Also checking out Radio One’s program “This I Believe” they said: By clicking on the “submit your essay” button below, you are transferring to CBC all rights, including copyright, in your essay and are waiving your moral rights in the essay. As owner of copyright CBC, and third parties authorized by CBC, will have the exclusive right to make unlimited use of all or part of the essay in any and all media in perpetuity worldwide.

CBC wasn’t paying for these pieces. “Fill our programming for us for free. After all, it is our national radio station.” By writing for CBC, you’re volunteering it to these programs. Yet, many artists donate or volunteer their works for a particular show or event or book. So what’s the difference between donating a piece, giving copyright for a specific time and waiving moral or all rights?

The owning of copyright is a complicated thing and there are lawyers and agents who specialize in the fine print. Basically, by transferring all rights it means that you can no longer use that piece of your writing in any way. You cannot send it to be published or shown anywhere else. You really can’t even ask permission since CBC now owns it completely. Take a person who sells a sculpture. Someone else owns the sculpture but the artist might still have prints or photos of the sculpture sold or put in books. In the case of writing, many writers make a living from reselling their pieces to different publications.

Although in most cases of publishing one sells specific rights (and often specific media rights such as electronic or print publication) for a limited time, there are cases where you sell all rights, which still does not include moral rights unless they say so. But should you sell a book to a publisher, the rights give that publisher the exclusive right to publish your book for a period of time, compensating you as is laid out in your contract. If you sell to a magazine, you are paid for the piece, by article, word count or column inches and can after a time, resell that piece to other publications. Greeting card companies do it as a matter of course because they want to own the slogan in perpetuity.

There are first world rights, English only rights, print only, first North American, electronic and a motley assortment of many other combinations, often with a nonexclusive right to put in a print anthology (if you sell a short story to a magazine), which only gives that publisher the first right to ask you if they can put it in but you have the right of refusal.

In most cases rights revert to authors as per the contract, and the majority of authors will not write something in which they do not retain rights. I have never sold anything where the rights did not revert to me. Exceptions are for anything you write while in the employ of a company. In that case, they own it but you can still get writing credit for it and have your moral rights.

Moral rights are the most important to keep and it’s shocking that CBC resorted to such tactics. Waiving moral rights means that a company/magazine/publisher can take your piece and alter it, making it unrecognizable, printing pieces out of context and otherwise changing your words, and you will have no recourse. If I was a painter and sold a painting of a house to someone and waived my moral rights, they could then paint in a dead dog and a person dismembering someone else and I could say nothing. I’m not sure but it’s possible moral rights might also mean your name is no longer attached to your work. In the above example you would probably be happy if they left your name off but anyone who takes your moral rights can destroy what you’ve created and say you made it.

Of all rights, moral rights are the most important and the most worrisome when a big corporation like CBC is asking for them. When moral rights go missing it’s immoral. Any artist, whether writer, painter or jeweler, as well as any person who appreciates any form of art should consider very carefully what it means when you sell all rights and waive your moral rights.

I, for one, could not morally let this happen. There is no reason that anyone would need moral rights if they’re above board. An awful lot of money would have to exchange hands for me to waive these rights. Whether you sell a story or a photograph, you have the right to keep your moral rights. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_right

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