brainwane: My smiling face, in front of a wall and a brown poster. (Default)
Spangled (142 words) by brainwane
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Captain America (Movies), The Avengers (Marvel Movies)
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Characters: Steve Rogers
Additional Tags: Astronomy, Wistful, Sonnets

In the 1940s, if you looked up from Brooklyn at night, you could see the stars.

I was showing my friend Elisa the "something doesn't smell right" thread and [community profile] cap_chronism, and she reminded me that also Steve Rogers would be surprised that he can't see the stars at night. So I wrote this sonnet.
brainwane: My smiling face, in front of a wall and a brown poster. (Default)
crossposted from Cogito, Ergo Sumana

I have been to WisCon three times (2009, 2010, 2011) and I am going again this year, yay! If you enjoy my writing, you might like WisCon, and -- especially if you've never tried it before -- you should consider joining me in Madison, Wisconsin, USA, May 22-25 (Memorial Day weekend).

Smart, funny conversations. Mary Anne Mohanraj and me at a past WisCon, photo by E. J. FischerSome of my best WisCon memories are of really funny panels (I enjoyed serving on the "Must Pleasures Be Guilty?" and "Imaginary Book Club" panels, and watching "Not Another Race Panel"). Some are of friendly semistructured interaction like the clothing swap at the Gathering on Friday afternoon. And some some are of formal and informal discussions where incisive people tossed around ideas that gave me new thoughts for the rest of the year. I expect to get all of that this year, and if you decide to come, I'll happily tell you which panels/panelists/parties/workshops/etc. look promising to me!

Relevant sessions. You can create a free account to look at programming signups and indicate your interest in attending -- the deadline is March 29. The programming committee does take those numbers (how many people demonstrate interest in attending something) into account when rejecting or scheduling specific sessions. And there's an Overflow/Spontaneous Programming (a.k.a. unconference) room throughout the convention -- for topics people want to discuss that aren't on the schedule -- where we can hold impromptu sessions about vidding, open source, self-directed learning....

Accessibility lane at WisCon, photo by sasha_feather, CC BY-NC-SAGreat accessibility. I especially love the Quiet Space to regroup, the free-flowing traffic lanes marked in the hall with blue tape, and the rule that speakers use microphones so the audience can hear better. They all help me enjoy the con more, and they help other attendees, which means I can enjoy their company. And overall, I find WisCon participants care about being intersectionally feminist and inclusive (example: discussion and renaming in the Floomp dance party). Sometimes folks make mistakes, as we all do, but we apologize, and fix it, and (although I know other people have had different experiences*) I trust in WisCon in the long term and am happy to recommend it to others, including people who have never been to a scifi con before. It was my first!

First-timers welcome. The site gives you detailed directions to the venue. There's usually a first-timers' dinner (small group expeditions to local restaurants, I think), and orientation sessions, early in the con, to help first-time attendees and first-time panelists (tips) and first-time moderators (tips). If you feel better showing up someplace for the first time if you're being useful, check the checkbox to volunteer, e.g., for a couple of hours in the con suite stocking free food for everybody. And I would be happy to help you meet folks (my credentials from a shy previous WisCon first-timer).

Another world is possible. I cannot overstate how much it has influenced me to participate in WisCon, which asks everyone to influence programming, provides accessibility and childcare and a comprehensive program guide, and nurtures and amplifies feminist voices. And WisCon communicates thoroughly with its community via blog, Twitter, Facebook, an email newsletter and printed, mailed progress reports, and more. This includes talking about really difficult stuff like owning up to past mistakes in handling harassment reports and disinviting a Guest of Honor (if you've never been to a scifi convention, think "keynote speaker").

A gateway to more. I've made friends, started watching or reading new stuff, and joined Dreamwidth to keep in the feminist fannish conversation year-round.

I skipped WisCon for years basically because I had other travel commitments for work, and this year I'm so glad to be coming back. Feminists of all genders who enjoy science fiction, think about coming to Madison in May.

* Kameron Hurley posted "Burn it All Down: Wiscon’s Failure of Feminism" before the WisCon con committee permabanned a particular harasser. As this year's cochair said in criticizing the previous decision for a temporary ban, "WisCon bills itself as a feminist sci-fi con. And compared to some others that I have attended, it is definitely better at paying lip service to being feminist than any of them."

brainwane: My smiling face, in front of a wall and a brown poster. (Default)
A few bits of thought passed across my mind recently, about legacy and friendship and the law, and I found myself curious about whether I'm quite different from my friends in my assumptions about the way my life will go. So: a three-question poll.

Poll #16481 What do you expect?
This poll is anonymous.
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: Just the Poll Creator, participants: 34

Do you expect that someone will, in the future, systematically research your life, e.g., by reading all of your public blog posts and interviewing your friends and family?

2 (5.9%)

10 (29.4%)

Probably not
12 (35.3%)

10 (29.4%)

Not applicable; I know that this has already happened
0 (0.0%)

If you have never been sued before, do you expect that someone will someday sue you?

0 (0.0%)

6 (17.6%)

Probably not
23 (67.6%)

5 (14.7%)

Not applicable; I have been sued before
0 (0.0%)

Do you expect that you have already met everyone who's going to be very important in your life?

0 (0.0%)

5 (14.7%)

Probably not
13 (38.2%)

16 (47.1%)

The poll is anonymous. Please feel free to elaborate on your answers in the comments! EDITED TO ADD: And comments are screened by default and I'm going to leave them screened unless you say it's ok to unscreen.
brainwane: My smiling face, in front of a wall and a brown poster. (Default)
I request your recommendations for fannish meta comparing and contrasting Batman and Iron Man, especially CEO Wayne vs. CEO Stark.

data point

Jan. 31st, 2015 05:12 pm
brainwane: A silhouette of a woman in a billowing trenchcoat, leaning against a pole (trenchcoat)
I have 1671 followers on Twitter and 105 followers on (the microblogging service that runs on free and open source software). I post nearly the same content to both (I don't copy @-replies from one to the other). I get about the same number of tiresome, missing-the-point pedantic, or otherwise sigh-worthy (but not spam) replies/notes on both services. Does that mean that users are 16 times more likely to say sigh-worthy things to me?
brainwane: A silhouette of a woman in a billowing trenchcoat, leaning against a pole (shadow)
Someone posted to a mailing list I'm on about a scifi conference at Oral Roberts University ("Science, Faith, and the Imagination" - keynote speaker Orson Scott Card). I clicked through to "Experiencing Tulsa", whose second paragraph begins:

We are proud of our cultural diversity, and of the cultural activities that celebrate our part and our future.

Unfortunately, the next sentence is not:

In 2021 we will be commemorating the hundredth anniversary of the Tulsa race riot, in which envious, racist white residents killed at least 39 of their black neighbors and destroyed the most prosperous black community in the United States.

And the list of key city attractions -- opera, ballet, the jazz district -- doesn't mention that, as a bonus, if you visit one of Tulsa's parks, you may well be standing on a mass grave.

The scifi conference is requesting submissions of short stories. Alt-history counts....

brainwane: My smiling face, in front of a wall and a brown poster. (Default)
I post more often on "Cogito, Ergo Sumana" than I do on DW, so [syndicated profile] sumana_feed is your feed for that action.

Today over there I posted recommendations for funny, new perspective-y, and tearjerker fanvids, and reported on a bit of an argument around political fanvids.
brainwane: A silhouette of a woman in a billowing trenchcoat, leaning against a pole (shadow)
I am trying out a bunch of thoughts on what some different approaches to software are... beyond waterfall/agile, free software/open source, and FLOSS/proprietary, and beyond shrinkwrap/internal/embedded/games/throwaway....

* Deliberately ephemeral
* Accidentally ephemeral (like some Minecraft mods or personal one-off scripts)
* Enterprisey, scale-centric
* Artisanal/personal/couture
* Educational (as in, writing source code specifically to be read as an aid to learning, as in a presentation, test, blog post, or textbook)
* Angry, competitive, insulting
* Cheery, collaborative, complimenting
* Innovative
* Stable
* Mimetic (copying functionality/approach of other existing software)
* Particularly amenable to any one of the Felder-Silverman engineering learning styles (and not to its opposite)
* Social norms (especially around permission, redistribution, reuse) taking the place of copyright when in a copyright grey area
* Voluntary
* Paid
* School project
* Taking donations, but passing some of them to upstream
* Gift culture
* For-profit proprietary
* For-profit open source
* Copyleft licensing + charging extortionate fees to license differently
* Corporate non-profit open source
* Free software
* Specifically playful, alternative, queer free software
* Copyright abolitionist or nearly so
* No license out of neglect/convenience (the "GitHub License", sort of formalized as WTFPL)
* Piracy, open and proud
* Piracy, furtive and/or (interally seen as) hypocritical
* Grey market (like Minecraft mods)
* Despotism by founder
* Willingness to hand maintainership over
* Benign neglect by owner/maintainer of core infrastructure
* Monolithic
* All the different ways "not monolithic" can look (plugins, APIs, scriptability, portability, content/logic/presentation...)

I'm brain-dumping this as I think noodly rambly thoughts about open source software communities and abstractions we might borrow from other software communities. I absorbed some assumptions fifteen to thirty years ago, of how to use and make software, how open source citizens should act in open source communities, about what the rules are, and about the sets of expectations we have about how we talk and work with each other. And I'm wondering what a genuinely different approach would look like.
brainwane: My smiling face, in front of a wall and a brown poster. (Default)
I just read C.S.E. Cooney's piece thanking an editor for encouraging a particular author to write a particular story, and I'm remembering the innumerable times I recruited or nudged or forwarded or invited or encouraged or hand-held or outlined or co-drafted or persuaded or, well, argued, to help someone do a cool thing.

I'm in particular remembering a guy in the MediaWiki community.

A few years ago, I think, I was looking around some old patches, and I saw there was this one guy who'd submitted good work that always got merged quickly, but who didn't have core contributor privileges to merge work directly. So I asked the core contributors whether they thought he ought to have core committer access. They hadn't thought about that, but, yeah! So I sent him a personal email and invited him to apply.

The next year, as we were planning out a hackathon, I saw that this guy was working on a particular aspect of the tech ecology that we wanted to advance at the hackathon. I asked a few people, "would it be especially helpful if he's there?" and they said yes. I sent him a note inviting him.

He said no, he didn't have the money.

I said we had travel scholarships that would cover flight and hotel, and most of the food would be covered, and transit passes as well.

He said he really didn't have any extra money at all to cover incidentals, and besides, it would be so expensive to cover him travelling internationally, and that money should be better spent.

I said multiple people had requested his presence, and I would find some way to make sure all his expenses were covered, and we really would like for him to come.

He told me I was making him an offer he couldn't refuse, and basically since I insisted, he would go (which meant applying for a passport for the first time, I think).

At the hackathon he got to work for the first time with people he'd been collaborating with online for years -- and as a result of some chats at the event, he got a much better job, working fulltime on open source software. And he was absolutely totally qualified for it, but I know him well enough, now, to think he would not have applied -- too intimidating.

(Edited to add - I believe this is not breaching this person's privacy, for reasons too boring to go into here.)

A few years earlier...

In early 2010, when Paul Cutler encouraged me to come to a GNOME marketing hackfest in Spain, paid for by GNOME, I protested that I had never done marketing before. Paul said he'd seen me work on GNOME Journal with him, I was a good writer and a good project manager and a good editor and I'd be able to do this just fine.

Later that year, Andreas Nilsson encouraged me to apply for the GNOME 3.0 marketer position.....

I don't have time to go into all the "yes you can" I've given and received. But it's just so important. Yes autonomy is important, yes, respecting people's strong "no" is important. But there is an art to encouragement, to respectfully getting past anxiety and self-esteem objections.... I don't know how to articulate it, though.

brainwane: My smiling face, in front of a wall and a brown poster. (Default)
"The Imitation Game", the new film about Alan Turing, is coming out soon, and it reminds me that I should recommend that more people read "The Day Alan Turing Came Out" which Leonard describes as "shameless wish-fulfillment".

Alan Turing, Hedy Lamarr, George Washington Carver, Percy Julian .... thinking about what my own personal hall of fame looks like....
brainwane: Photo of my head, with hair longish for me (longhair)
What are red flags in scifi/fantasy magazines' calls for submissions? What words/phrases make you think "ew, avoid"?

(for a project I'm working on)
brainwane: My smiling face, in front of a wall and a brown poster. (Default)
If you know me via fandom, this might interest you. The Ada Initiative has a tried and tested Ally Skills Workshop that it teaches, which "teaches men simple everyday ways to support women in their communities. In three hours, one person can create 30 new advocates for women in their community or workplace." I've taught this workshop and people find it hella helpful.

Feminist fans at WisCon are hungry for these kinds of resources, and with some additional funding, the Ada Initiative can run a train-the-trainers session at WisCon next year, so people can learn how to run it and take it back to their schools, workplaces, and communities. At this writing, Ada Initiative needs about USD$6,000 more in the next day and a half in order to make this session possible. I hope you will donate towards that goal.

Donate now

(And if this gets funded, it greatly increases the chances I'll come to WisCon next year!)

on spies

Sep. 29th, 2014 07:25 am
brainwane: A silhouette of a woman in a billowing trenchcoat, leaning against a pole (shadow)

"we can be pretty sure that Edward Snowden was not the first person to leak massive amounts of NSA information. He was just the first person to leak it to _us_. Remember the acronym for why people become intelligence agents: MICE. Money, Ideology, Conscience, Ego. Snowden was C – but it is a tremendous leap of faith that NSA has had no one before or since who, instead of being C and leaking to everyone, was M, I or E and leaked only to a grateful and rewarding customer in another country."
brainwane: My smiling face, in front of a wall and a brown poster. (Default) -- "HD can go bite it, seriously. If you want everything to look as real and detailed as possible, I’m not sure if the arts are really the right thing for you." - "You don’t necessarily want to explain things in a pop song. Sometimes it’s better to give an impression than an explanation."

brainwane: My smiling face, in front of a wall and a brown poster. (Default)

It might be good for the world, though temporarily stressful for one's marriage, to edit an anthology together, as Leonard and I discovered when we created and published our speculative fiction anthology Thoughtcrime Experiments together in 2009.* Despite the risks, maybe you should become an editor. "Reader" and "writer" and "editor" are tags, not categories. If you love a subject, and you have some money and some time, you can haul under-appreciated work into wider discourse, curate it, and help it sing.

Thoughtcrime Experiments cover You can do this with lots of subjects,** of course, but doesn't it especially suit science fiction and fantasy? We love thought experiments. We love imagining how things could be different, with different constraints. I love enlarging the scope of the possible, and both the content and the production of Thoughtcrime Experiments did that. Neither of us had professionally edited science fiction before, we released it under a Creative Commons license,*** and we wrote a "How to Do This and Why" appendix encouraging more people to follow in our footsteps.

Every story needs an editor to champion it. One thing we conclude from this experiment is that there aren't enough editors. We were able to temporarily become editors and scoop a lot of great stories out of the slush pile....

It's well known that there's an oversupply of stories relative to readers. That's why rates are so low. Our experiment shows that there's an oversupply of stories relative to editors. By picking up this anthology you've done what you can to change the balance of readers to stories. I wrote this appendix to show that you've also got the power to change the balance of editors to stories.

Another way to enlarge the scope of the possible is to seek out, publish, and publicize the work of diverse authors.***** But if you don't explicitly say you're looking for diverse content and diverse authors, and make the effort to seek them out, you will fall into the defaults. I ran into this; I did not try hard enough to solicit demographically diverse submissions, and as a result, got far more submissions from whites and men than from nonwhites and nonmen. However our final table of contents was gender-balanced, and at least two of the nine authors were people of color.

And if you do not explicitly mark characters as being in marginalized demographics, the reader will read them as the unmarked state. Here I think we did a bit better. And our selections caused at least one conversation about colonialism, and really what more can you ask?

Mary Anne Mohanraj and Sumana Harihareswara at WisCon in 2009(To the right: E. J. Fischer's photo of me with Mary Anne Mohanraj at WisCon in 2009.) It turns out that Thoughtcrime Experiments made a lot more things possible. For example, we published "Jump Space" by Mary Anne Mohanraj, a story that stars a South Asian diaspora woman. I remember sitting in my brown overstuffed chair in my apartment, reading Mohanraj's submission, completely immersed in the story. As I emerged at the end, I had two simultaneous thoughts and feelings:

  1. This is the first time in a whole life of reading scifi that the protagonist has looked like me. This feels like a first breath after a lifetime in vacuum.
  2. Why is this the first time?

Mohanraj, encouraged by the response to "Jump Space", wrote a book in that universe, and may write more. The summary starts: "On a South Asian-settled university planet" and already my heart is expanding.

And then there's Ken Liu.

It turns out Thoughtcrime Experiments restarted Ken Liu's career. Yes, Ken Liu, the prolific author and translator whose "The Paper Menagerie" was the first piece of fiction to win the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Award, and who's been doing incredible work bridging the Anglophone and Chinese-speaking scifi worlds. You have us to thank for him. As he told Strange Horizons last year:

I wrote this one story that I really loved, but no one would buy it. Instead of writing more stories and subbing them, as those wiser than I was would have told me, I obsessively revised it and sent it back out, over and over, until I eventually gave up, concluding that I was never going to be published again.

And then, in 2009, Sumana Harihareswara and Leonard Richardson bought that story, "Single-Bit Error," for their anthology, Thoughtcrime Experiments ( The premise of the anthology was, in the editors' words, "to find mind-breakingly good science fiction/fantasy stories that other editors had rejected, and release them into the commons for readers to enjoy."

I can't tell you how much that sale meant to me. The fact that someone liked that story after years of rejections made me realize that I just had to find the one editor, the one reader who got my story, and it was enough. Instead of trying to divine what some mythical ur-editor or "the market" wanted, I felt free, after that experience, to just try to tell stories that I wanted to see told and not worry so much about selling or not selling. I got back into writing -- and amazingly, my stories began to sell.

There is no ur-editor. It's us.

And there is no ur-geek, no ur-fan. No one gets to tell you you're not a fan, or to stop writing fanwork because it's not to their taste, or that you need to disregard that a work is insulting you when you judge its merits.*****

The Ada Initiative's work in creating and publicizing codes of conduct for conventions, in creating and running Ally Skills and Impostor Syndrome workshops, and in generally fighting -isms in open culture, helps more people participate in speculative fiction. TAI's work is even more openly licensed than Thoughtcrime Experiments was, so you can easily translate it, record it, and reuse it to make our world more like the world we want. For everyone. Please donate now, joining me, N.K. Jemisin, Mary Robinette Kowal, Annalee Flower Horne, Leonard Richardson, and many more. You can help us change the constraints -- help us edit the world.

I'm gonna close out with one of my favorite fanvids, an ode to fandom. This is a different kind of love song / dedicated to everyone.

Donate now

* Some couples can basically collaborate on anything together. Leonard and I, it turns out, can get grumpy with each other when our tastes conflict. Just last night he pointed out that the multi-square-feet poster I presented at PyCon (mentorship lessons I learned from Hacker School) barely fits on the wall in our flat, anywhere, and will be the largest single item of decor we have. My "it would fit on the ceiling" well-actually gained me no ground. I pointed out that it would easily fit over the head of our bed, and mentioned that after all, some couples do put religious iconography there. I backpedaled off this in the face of his utter unconvincedness, and suggested that we *try* it above the TV. It now watches over us, slightly overwhelming. He might be right.

** Maybe you heard about The Aims Vid Album, encouraging and gathering fanvids to the tune of Vienna Teng's Aims? Which is FANTASTIC AND AMAZING and omg have you seen raven's "Landsailor" vid?? I have all the feels about that vid.

*** Although not as free a license as we sort of wished. In retrospect I wish we'd gone for an license so we didn't have niggling questions about whether our sales counted as commerce, etc.

**** Strange Horizons is seeking out submissions from new reviewers, and a Media Reviews Editor. Why not you?

***** I particularly like Patrick Nielsen Hayden's formulation:

I think it's fine to ignore and not read something because the author has called for harm to you or to people you care about. Art and politics can't ever be completely separated. As a general rule of thumb, when we think our approach to something is politics-free, that generally means the politics are so normative as to be invisible.

Cross-posted to Cogito, Ergo Sumana.

brainwane: A silhouette of a woman in a billowing trenchcoat, leaning against a pole (shadow)
My ex (whom I broke up with in May 2001) is now a senior director of engineering at an SF startup; whoa. More path-crossingly, he participated on a GNOME mailing list in 2010, at the same time that I was in that community, and I didn't realize. We basically haven't talked since the early 2000s so my impression of him is stuck then -- is that he's a LARPing, Mac-using, LiveJournaling guy in his early twenties who wants to study martial arts in China. I have way more of a public web presence than he does, so if he wanted to he could have gradually changed his impression of me as I changed.

(I'm not on Facebook so I look up people from my past occasionally, e.g., today when I made a joke about physics majors, and am always surprised.)

I wonder whether a guy like 2014 him would get along with a person like 2014 me, now, if we met fresh. It's not out of the question that we'll run into each other someday professionally.

I suppose deciding to leave Wikimedia is making me think about breakups more generally, and about the closing off of possibilities. I won't know WMF's textures as closely after I leave it behind. They have a future without me and I won't even know about the internal arguments, much less take part in them. It's a strange thing, a parting -- not that it is unusual, but that it estranges you from a part of yourself.


Sep. 13th, 2014 08:25 am
brainwane: A silhouette of a woman in a billowing trenchcoat, leaning against a pole (shadow)
I'm leaving the Wikimedia Foundation. I announced this yesterday and got a bunch of praise from the developer community and Twitter, and OVERWHELMING praise from my colleagues. People I barely got to talk with will miss me. My last day will be 30 September.

Signs of progress: we've fixed this bug: "Vector: Default icon for "profile" in personal tools should be gender neutral and fit with other site icons look & feel". And someone I know helped add a code of conduct to a "Foo Cafe" meetup.

Mindy Preston & Lita Cho both attended Hacker School and then did Outreach Program for Women internships, and wrote up interesting wrapup posts. I'm noodling around thinking about the confluence of Hacker School and OPW. I think it's clear that women who do both are much more likely to get programming jobs than are women who just do one. Together they constitute a 6-month apprenticeship, half face-to-face and pretty unstructured (often working on lots of small projects), half remote and preplanned (usually working on one 3-month project). I think this is complementary in the end, but people going from one to the other get disoriented I think.

I have been getting stellar performance reviews at work and they're really sad to see me go. I'm genuinely choosing to leave. But of course some people will squint at my statement, practice their Kremlinology, and wrongly presume that I'm being pushed out. I think I'm sending pretty strong "this is my choice" signals but I have to be ready for people to doubt that.

Leonard and I have now watched the first half of "British Transport Films Volume Ten: London on the Move". I love old industrial films. And I'm maybe 20% of the way through this His Dark Materials fanfic and a third of the way through "Perfecting Sound Forever".

Several important fundraisers happening right now. TransTech, Growstuff, Ada Initiative, probably more but those are the ones that come to mind.

Time for tea.

brainwane: several colorful scribbles in the vague shape of a jellyfish (jellyfish)
What are Deep Space Nine fanvids you like, especially ones focusing on Kira Nerys?
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