Bad Life Decisions: Make Me Read Theodore Beale

While I was at Balticon this past weekend, my husband sent me a text message.  It was a picture of a book.  It was horrifying.  It was this:

War in Heaven, Theodore Beale

Reader, I asked him to buy it.

Why, you ask?

So you can help me raise some money for RAINN (or a charity in your country which does the same sort of work).  For every $5 donated to RAINN, I will read and  live tweet one page of this 399 page delight with the hashtag #readingVD. I’ll also re-publish the tweets and add additional commentary by chapter here at Pretty Terrible–those’ll go up as I finish each chapter (there are 29 chapters in the book, as well as a prologue and an author’s note).

However, I’m not going to read any of it until we’ve raised at least $500–and I’d like to raise that by June 11.  If we manage to raise $2,000 I will read the entirety of Theodore Beale’s Eternal Warriors™: The War in Heaven™.

Here’s the back cover copy:

Mariel thought she was the guardian angel of an ordinary boy–until the night an army of fallen angels took an unholy interest in her charge. Overcome by an angel prince of awesome power, Mariel can only watch as an even greater terror descends upon Christopher’s home then vanishes with him.

Christopher had never believed in angels, or even in God, Heaven, or Hell. But he had never imagined an angel like Kaym, with his hard-core style, terrible beauty, and distinctly unangelic disposition. Kaym has important friends and incredible power of his own–power that Christopher can share, if he’ll join their fellowship and take up their crusade.

And Christopher is willing. He’s tired of following all the rules, and being Kaym’s friend comes with some very appealing perks. In fact, once he has wings and the ability to fly, storming the gates of Heaven sounds like a lot of fun. Still, when he discovers his slightly out-of-favor angels are just as happy to be called demons, even Christopher becomes a bit disturbed…

Sounds super-great and awesome, yes? Cannot wait to find out what Kaym’s “hard-core style” is. One can hope it’s a Metallica t-shirt, black jeans, and a mullet.

So how is this going to work?  Pretty simple: make a donation to RAINN for at least $5 and send proof of your donation (along with the amount of your donation) to mercurysalts at pretty-terrible dot com and I’ll update the total amount raised below. If we hit $500 on or before June 11, I’ll start reading.

I’ll even make the first donation myself.

Donations to RAINN: $695/$2,000

Okay then! Looks like this thing is HAPPENING.  If you want me to read the entire book, we still need to raise $2,000.  Or, you know, more. More is good, as RAINN does necessary and important work.

Lunchtime Art

So one nice thing about my new job is that I am able to take a lunch break. Some days I eat with coworkers, other days I read a book. Today, I made art.

Art is good! And it’s been too long since I’ve made anything.

(And I’m posting this from the WordPress app on my phone, let’s see how this works.)

Surveillance State

People generally like hierarchies and taxonomies. We like to put people in categories so we don’t have to spend too much time looking at them as individuals. Sometimes this is useful, sometimes it isn’t.

Often it’s harmful.

It’s harmful to look at the targets of ongoing surveillance and decide that the surveillance is acceptable because of their (perceived) relative powerlessness in what you have deemed to be the wider community.

So when Eric Flint writes a post which adds a veneer of legitimacy to what James May does–which is ongoing surveillance of women, persons of color, and other marginalized voices in the science fiction and fantasy community–I feel sick.

For those of you who don’t know, this individual has a website.  On this website are hundreds of thousands of words where he attempts to string together a vast leftist conspiracy in science fiction. He does this by surveilling I don’t even know how many people on Twitter and other public places. I am among those he watches as are many people I know. May’s writing veers into what can be generously called crackpot territory, but there are people–mostly of the Sad Puppy variety–who listen to him and take him seriously. Like Larry Correia.

James May was specifically solicited by Larry Correia for a list of targets when Correia was gathering information for the G*merG*te/Hugo piece in Breitbart.

Since Correia didn’t actually name anyone himself, he was able to keep his hands clean in case G*merG*te did decide to go after any of the targets. Handy how that works, isn’t it? You get to have your jollies by training a hate group on a bunch of women and persons of color and you get plausible deniability.

(And am I worried that I am going to bring a world of trouble on my head with this post? Yes, I am. But James May’s behavior is a problem and that needs to be made clear.)

It doesn’t matter how much influence someone has or doesn’t have in a community for their membership, the price of them using their voice should not be ongoing and persistent surveillance by someone who is called an “archivist” by those who ally themselves with him.

It’s not archiving. It’s surveillance and it’s creepy.

So there’s really no other word but sick for the sinking feeling I had in my gut as I read Flint’s most recent post about the Hugo controversy this year.

I generally do agree with Flint that May is not presenting a coherent argument and that he is constantly contradicting himself.  Flint’s comments about May not substantiating his arguments are on point. I also really appreciate Flint’s perspective on the matter of reviews: as someone who used to curate the SFF section for RT Book Reviews, it’s a matter of including books that you think the magazine’s audience is going to want to acquire and read.

But.

It feels to me that in order to make the rhetorical point that James May’s surveillance is unimportant, Eric Flint also needs to emphasize how unimportant the majority of May’s targets are.

This is a problem.

This is part of the ongoing conversation about the importance of different voices in our community. About making space for people who have been told–explicitly and implicitly–that what they have to say isn’t worthwhile and that they need to sit down and listen and that someday, maybe, they’ll be allowed to speak.

Flint attempts to mitigate what he’s implied with this rhetoric, but it’s not enough to balance things out.  He may as well have said, “I’ve only heard of a few of these people and those are clearly the only ones saying anything worthwhile” and been done with it. It’s yet another way to silence people. I can’t imagine that was Flint’s intent.

So while I do believe that Flint’s post was well-intentioned and made many good points in the first half, I came away from it feeling like I’d been put in my place. Flint’s piece takes a paternalistic turn towards the end that simply doesn’t sit well with me. Flint is coming from a place where he expects that his opinions will be given a modicum of respect by his readers and yet he doesn’t seem to recognize that respect goes both ways.

If you want to prove that a creep like James May is chasing shadows you don’t do it by claiming that the people James May is surveilling don’t count.  Instead of dismissing James May’s targets as nobodies, how about we look at what is actually happening here: people are being watched, their words are being twisted out of context, and their names are being given to hate groups. And all because a few people are sad that they haven’t won a Hugo.

Links: 05/15/15

And speaking of: how about that Supergirl trailer? I know lots of people are all “Ugh, romcom tropes” but I’m kind of excited about that because that has the potential to bring in lots of new fans–and as this trailer is a “first look” and is likely composed of scenes from the pilot episode, the actual show may not hew very close to what we’re seeing here. I think it shows a lot of promise and I’ll definitely be watching.

Links: 05/08/15