Sci-Ence! Justice Leak!

Signal-boosting — Call For Female Writers From Obverse Books

Posted in books by Andrew Hickey on April 13, 2013

I was about to post a short review of Lawrence Burton’s excellent Faction Paradox novel and Phil Purser-Hallard’s equally excellent Senor 105 novella (a post which will go up tomorrow or Monday instead), when I went to the Obverse Books website to get links to put in the post, and saw this.

Obverse are putting out, next year, an anthology of Faction Paradox short stories, and it’s to be written entirely by women. From the FAQ:

Are unpublished women writers welcome?

Extremely! I’ll be setting up an (optional) online workshop so that the anthology’s contributors can read and give feedback on each others’ work.
If you have not previously been published, please include the first thousand words of your story with your pitch.

Why an all-woman anthology?

The majority of the writers published by Obverse so far have been men. This anthology is an attempt to circumvent whatever barriers are preventing Obverse from connecting with a larger number of talented women.

I’m a transwoman. Can I pitch?

Absolutely! You too, genderqueer folks.

What do I need to know about Faction Paradox to write for this anthology?

Other than what’s in this document – pretty much nothing! I’ll provide Faction-related content in the form of small stories that fit between each story in the anthology, featuring Tefen and Triphis and their competition. However, if you are familiar with the series, feel free to use its mythology in your pitch.
If you would like to know more, Lawrence Miles’ introduction to his creation is online at:

What genres and styles of short story can I pitch?

Each story needs a strong science fiction or fantasy element. We might see the Earth conquered by extraterrestrials, machines, memes, ghosts, mermaids, intelligent cosmic rays, mutant dogs, gods from a parallel dimension… the more original and weird your invasion force, the better. (Please avoid these heavily used fantasy creatures: vampires, werewolves, fairies, dragons, and zombies.)

However, the stories can present that SF/fantasy element within any genre: romance, horror, comedy, espionage, adventure, police procedural, technothriller, historical intrigue, psychological drama, you name it.

Any setting on Earth is appropriate, and any time, past, present, or future. The well-researched use of non-Western settings, culture, and mythology is encouraged. Characters of colour, characters with disabilities, and characters with alternative sexualities are also welcome. Adult content is fine, but please avoid sexual violence and child sexual abuse.

The stories can be told from the point of view of the subjugated humans – victims, collateral damage, resistance, collaborators, dupes, ordinary people just trying to get on with their lives – or from the POV of the conquerors; but each story will show some of the consequences of colonisation for the human race.

Now, I think this would be a perfect anthology for several of the women I know to submit to. Note especially that *you do not need to know much about Faction Paradox* in order to submit. I also think that this is something that should be supported wholeheartedly — Obverse are a company that put out great work, and it’s always good to see people consciously trying to fix an imbalance.

I’ve not mentioned this before, because the book’s not even finished yet, so there’s every possibility they’ll turn down the finished manuscript and make me look foolish, but the novel I’ve been working on is for Obverse, and I also have a short story in contention for a possible future anthology they’re putting out. I say this just to let people know that I’ve had dealings with two different Obverse editors as a writer, and they are very, very easy people to work with.

A Piece Of Advice To My Fellow Men (warning – potentially triggering)

Posted in Uncategorized by Andrew Hickey on August 20, 2012

I have a very useful tip here, one that, it appears, many men haven’t come across yet. Obviously, this doesn’t apply to most of the people who read my blog, but I offer it up in case anyone’s confused. It’s a very simple tip:

The ONLY way you should ever end a sentence that starts “It’s not rape if…” is with “all parties involved consent.”
(NB this is not an invitation to come up with a ‘clever’ exception to that rule.)

I know, I know, you think that you’ve found another exception — there’s a really good, important, thing you want to say about something else that’s definitely not rape, and you even checked with an actual woman. But honestly, that’s the rule.

If you say *any* other statement — *ANY* — that starts with those four words, it will be heard by every single woman in the world, and a larger percentage of men than you realise, as “I am a rapist and will, if given the chance, rape you, specifically.”

No. Honestly. I know you think you’re talking about something that isn’t rape, so it’s OK, and this is an exception. But it’s not. That’s what you’re actually saying.

Now, for the small percentage of you who actually *are* rapists, then this is a helpful signal for you to give out — it lets the rest of us know to avoid you, so by all means carry on publicly listing all the things that you think aren’t actually rape (but are, all of them, rape). But for those of you who aren’t rapists, you might not want everyone thinking that you are a rapist and that you support other rapists because you think rape is a good thing. If you don’t want to give that impression, just follow that simple rule above and everything will be a lot easier for all concerned.

Neonomicon 2: Someone Stage An Intervention For Alan Moore

Posted in comics by Andrew Hickey on November 11, 2010

I’m a little late to writing about Neonomicon 2 – and Jog and the Mindless Ones have said a lot of what needs to be said here. But I felt the need to put my oar in…

Taken as part of a larger work, Neonomicon 2 may turn out to be worthwhile. However, as a single issue of a comic book – which is, after all, how it’s being sold – it is a vile, vile thing.

Alan Moore’s use of rape in his comics is well-known at this point, as are the arguments over it. One side says, with some justification, that having rape be a plot point in every single major work for 30 years suggests a possibly unhealthy fascination with the subject, while the other side argues that in most cases it’s justified and making a point, not just to shock or titilate.

I’ve tended to side with the latter, because Moore is, firstly, the greatest writer the medium of comics has ever seen, and possibly the greatest writer in any medium the English language has produced in the last fifty years, and secondly someone who is a very outspoken feminist. But my patience with this trope in his works has been getting ever thinner.

But what I want to say, and something that unfortunately hasn’t really been said explicitly in the reviews I’ve read of this, is this:

If you are a rape victim/survivor, even if you do not normally mind too much about ‘triggering’, please think very carefully before you read this comic

I say this because there are at least two people I know of who read this blog, read comics, and have been raped. There may very well be more – those are the ones who have chosen to let me know the fact.

The use of rape here is qualititavely different from anything Moore has done before. Even From Hell, for all its explicitness, showed a certain amount of restraint, but while I would never say that anyone should absolutely refrain from reading anything, still less that someone should avoid any subject, I actually think that this comic could seriously upset and possibly mentally harm vulnerable people.

What Moore and Jacen Burrows, the artist, give us here, is an extended, six-page, explicit depiction of someone being brutally gang-raped. I found it disturbing and mildly sickening, and I am both an insensitive clod and someone who’s been fortunate enough never to have experienced sexual violence myself. This is several orders of magnitude nastier than anything Moore has put in any of his previous work – this isn’t just a couple of panels, with a close up of the victim’s face looking anguished, this is something altogether worse.

Now, it may be that the comic as a whole will be so good, so profound, that it justifies this – I suspect not, but it may be. I certainly wouldn’t rule it out – Moore at his worst is a better writer than most writers at their best, and Burrows is a very underrated artist, primarily because he mostly works for Avatar, not a company known for putting out good work. But as a single issue of a horror comic, this feels closer to something like the issue of Tarot with the haunted vagina. The difference is, Tarot is not something that anyone will pick up unless they’re actively looking for sexualised violence. Neonomicon, by virtue of its writer, is.

Someone needs to sit Alan Moore down and talk to him about this, because while for each individual occurence of rape in his work you can make excuses, it is something that makes his work, when taken as a body, have the effect of trivialising rape – when I’m absolutely certain that the whole reason he includes depictions of sexualised violence is because he thinks it’s an important, awful issue.

My bet is that when Neonomicon is completed, it’ll be an important comic – imagine Moore doing The Filth but in a Lovecraftian vein and without the humour – but taking this issue on its face, without giving Moore the benefit of doubt, it reads like something written by the worst kind of nasty misogynist, like the arsehole who once found my blog by googling “supergirl rape stories”.

But I’m becoming increasingly worried that getting Moore to write a story without a rape scene is like getting Frank Miller to write a female character who isn’t a prostitute, and then I start to think about Dave Sim, and then I start to worry if there’s something intrinsic to this medium that I love that does this to people, and then I think about “supergirl rape stories” again, and I wonder if I should get a different hobby…

Ada Lovelace Day: Emily Short

Posted in computing by Andrew Hickey on March 24, 2010

Ada Lovelace day is “an international day of blogging to celebrate the achievements of women in technology and science.” by blogging about a woman in technology.

Unfortunately, it’s also a day when I’m getting over a bad case of the ‘flu, and not really coherent enough to write well, and I was seriously considering not doing this at all – after all, earlier this year when my work were after nominations of names of computer scientists to name their meeting rooms after, I’d named Ada Lovelace there, so I could have done my bit. But I’ve decided to go ahead with a post about Emily Short.

(I feel quite embarrassed writing about her as she’s someone I don’t know – at all – but who blogs and whose blog I’ve commented on, and so she may well read this. I just wanted to write about a programmer who’s actually one of those responsible for something I actually use on a regular basis).

Short is the writer of a series of games, all of them ‘interactive fiction’ – the kind of thing that used to be called text adventure games. And while I don’t know as much about the genre as I should, I do know that her games are among the best I’ve played, and are regarded as such by the small community of people who are still interested in these things. Rather than be Zork-esque ‘GET LAMP, KILL TROLL’, her stuff is actual art, its sophistication limited more by the relatively crude tools at her disposal than by her imagination or writing ability – a classicist, she often uses figures from Greek and Roman history and myth (I’ll have to replay Damnatio Memoriae soon, as I’ve recently been rewatching I, Clavdivs), and manages to get quite an astonishing level of characterisation and interaction from her NPCs.

But more important than her games, as far as this goes, is her work on Inform 7, a programming language I’ve written a little about before ( here and here ).

The basic concept behind Inform 7 – and the bulk of its implementation – are the work of Graham Nelson, a mathematician. But Short is the co-maintainer of the project (and increasingly its public ‘face’) , and wrote many of the built-in ‘extensions’ (what most programmers would probably refer to as libraries) to the language – as well as providing more than thirty further extensions on the Inform Extensions Page. She also wrote the vast bulk of the 300+ example programs in the Inform documentation, and the regression test suite used on every release (and as someone whose day job involves, in large part, regression testing software, I can tell you what a tedious, thankless, but necessary job that is).

And on top of that, she’s put in this huge amount of work on a community software project (albeit one not yet fully under a Free license, though getting released that way piecemeal) not for any cash, and not even (as far as I can tell) for ‘real-life’ credit – according to Wikipedia, ‘Emily Short’ is a pseudonym.

No doubt there are better candidates for celebration on Ada Lovelace Day, but I’m assuming you all know about Grace Hopper and Rosalind Franklin, so someone doing good work in a tiny niche, but work I for one appreciate, deserves writing about as much as anyone else…

Linkblogging For 22/03/10

Posted in comics, Doctor Who, linkblogging, music, politics by Andrew Hickey on March 22, 2010

I’m working from home today, as I’m too ill to go into work (have also been too ill to blog for a few days). As our systems are temporarily down, I thought I’d take a minute to do a quick linkblog.

Firstly, one that might interest Debi and Jennie (and any other feminists who like comics), Colin, who is normally Too Busy Thinking About His Comics, has another blog where he discusses just 2000AD. His most recent post looks at 2000AD’s portrayal of women in light of some quotes from Mary Wollstonecraft.

Lesswrong have a post on information theory as it applies to using Bayesian reasoning.

An excerpt on the late, great Alex Chilton, from 33 1/3.

Coincidentally, on the same day that my post on how UKIP are liars and racists (and it is important as the election draws near to stress that racist UKIP are racists, and should be given their full name of racist UKIP at every opportunity) was commented on by an illiterate (both in English and economics) moron who couldn’t even see the contradiction in ‘sentences’ like “I am all for immigration, i have no object to it whatsoever, but in the current climate and the way this country is and what future it has lying ahead, more immigrants is not the bloody answer.” (I marked the comment as spam – people who want to see my wife deported are not welcome on this blog), Richard Herring’s anti-fascist show Hitler Moustache was disrupted by a racist supporter of Racist UKIP. (Incidentally I saw the show again just over a week ago, and stand by my original review of it – get the DVD when it comes out next year). Just remember – UKIP are racist scum.

And Andrew Cartmell writes about the recent kerfuffle in the right-wing press when they discovered that some twenty-year-old science fiction shows weren’t entirely supportive of the then-government.


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