mckitterick: The ale tasting at the 2009 Kansas City Renaissance Festival. (RenFaire Chris)
2032-07-04 11:36 am
Entry tags:

McKitterick on the interwebs

Welcome to my blog. I've been doing this for a long time, so if you're new here, you might want to start with my bio and tags. I confess that these days, I spend most of my social-network time on Tumblr (because it's the most-positive place on the internets!) and Facebook (because that's where everyone is), so drop by one of those if you'd like to hang out.

Looking for my personal website?

You can also find me on:
        Academia.edu
        Christopher-McKitterick.com
        Dreamwidth
        Facebook (pretty active)
        Goodreads
        Instagram
        The Internet Speculative Fiction Database
        LinkedIn
        LiveJournal
        Patreon (new for 2019!)
        Pillowfort.io
        Tumblr (main online hangout, heavily curated via tags)
        Twitter
        Wikipedia
        YouTube

Almost all my posts are public. I hope you enjoy!
Chris

mckitterick: The ale tasting at the 2009 Kansas City Renaissance Festival. (RenFaire Chris)
2019-03-20 12:03 pm

I've started Patreon!

...where I post the kind of original content l post on my blogs (primarily Tumblr at the moment, keep meaning to visit here more!), plus a bunch more. Of course I’ll share it all with you fabulous lot!
Me from an interview piece
In addition to the types of things I post elsewhere, my Patreon includes original stuff that’s too long for Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram, and so forth. Like:
  • Short fiction (including work written from patron prompts!), both WIPs and (eventually) completed work.
  • Scenes and chapters from novels-in-progress.
  • Personal tales from Stories from a Perilous Youth, the memoir of how I survived ridiculous events I had no reason to, and what I learned from all that.
  • My YA science fiction series, The Galactic Adventures of Jack and Stella – the first book of which is nearly complete! I’ll be looking for patron feedback.
  • In-depth writing advice from my decades of teaching writing workshops and taking them with the most brilliant minds in the field.
  • Spacey astrophotos, cute animal pics, and other photos.
  • Maybe even some videos, if there’s call for it.
  • And more. See below for what I've posted so far.
Things that’ll add up to longer works, I’ll collect into books or novels or whatever format is best, and then make available to everyone as revised, finished, professional books as we meet the listed Goals to support free art for all.

Oh, and I’ll start each month by asking subscribers to provide input, if you want. Not only will that help me develop my work - I love brainstorming and hearing constructive feedback (even if it takes letting go to fully embrace criticism, a skill which all creatives would do well to learn) - it’ll also help make my work more the kind of thing you want to see.

I’ll always try to remember to post links here so you can come read stuff and interact if you want! I don’t want to stop doing the “give it away free and rely on the honesty of readers to give me back what they feel it’s worth, and they can afford” model that I’ve been doing and want to do more of.

But my virtual community is where my heart belongs! You won’t lose me to Patreon like some who started theirs and left their social networks. In fact, if you subscribe or become a Patron, you’ll get even more of my stuff. If you want.

I'm making everything I contractually can publicly viewable, so my Patrons are patron of the arts for everyone who wants to see my stuff. Here's everything I've posted so far, from oldest to newest, fully illustrated:

Update: I’ve continued posting more good stuff if you’d like to check it out. Because we’ve hit the “Unlocked for Everyone” goal for most stuff, everything I’ve posted so far is publicly visible whether you’re my patron or not.

Here’s what’s new on my Patreon since I originally posted this:

Thanks to my generous patrons for making this available to all! Lots more to come.Hope you like it!

McKitterick’s Patreon

Ad Astra,
Chris


mckitterick: At NASA's Moon-rock exhibit when it came to KU. (NASA Chris)
2019-03-01 11:37 am
Entry tags:

Preparing for liftoff at NASA's Johnson Space Center!



During my SF workshop in Houston, I enjoyed the honor of getting the VIP tour of the (full-size!) International Space Station training facility. One of the highlights of my life.

I need to find the photos of me sitting at one of the historic stations in Mission Control...
mckitterick: The ale tasting at the 2009 Kansas City Renaissance Festival. (RenFaire Chris)
2019-02-15 11:17 am

AnLab Award finalist!

WOOHOO! I'm a finalist for the AnLab Award for my novelette, "Ashes of Exploding Suns, Monuments to Dust"!



Analog Science Fiction & Fact magazine (Nov/Dec 2018 issue) posted the digital file, so if you'd like to read it (and the other finalists for the various categories who gave permission), check out the pdf: X

Winners are announced at a breakfast ceremony during Nebula Awards Weekend, so I guess I’m going to the Nebs this year. (If I win, this would be my first major writing award. SO EXCITED!)

(art by Eldar Zakirov - my edit of the original cover art with the banner overlaid)

mckitterick: Yes, this is one of my actual scooter helmets. RESPECT THE EMPIRE. (Default)
2019-01-31 10:52 pm

feeling meta tonight



(now five layers deep)
mckitterick: (write hard die free)
2018-12-18 12:05 pm

Publishing News!

Analog just published my essay, “Literal Metaphors, Science Fiction, and How to Save the Human Species” on their Astounding Analog Companion (available online here: X).

It’s a companion piece for my novella - “Ashes of Exploding Suns, Monuments to Dust” - out right now in the November / December issue of Analog Science Fiction & Fact magazine (available on newsstands for a few more days, or digitally from the publisher).

I’m very interested to hear what people think of the piece (and the story if you read it!), particularly the Sad and Rabid Puppies, because it’s ostensibly just the kind of thing they like: A space opera spanning vast distances and times, packed with super-tech (I invented a new method of moving stars!), interstellar war, and other elements of hard SF - even a protagonist who’s a spaceship captain….

But it subverts the conventional space opera and military narrative to tell an (ultimately) optimistic tale of social justice and hope for humanity. Plus (though I only provide clues and see no reason to call this out in the text) the ace protagonist’s gender is never revealed, because they’re the first-person narrator in a non-patriarchal society (so why bring their gender into it at all?) and there’s no romance, plus aces need better representation in hard SF and I feel the metaphor performs double-duty for this narrative.

Gender only plays an important role in the imperialist “Original Man” humans of Sol System - that’s our Earthly culture projected into the far future, clinging to obsolete social and political concepts while the “Descendent Species” scattered across the stars have moved on in varying ways.

What prompted the essay was getting a letter from a reader who wrote a deeply insightful, thoughtful, and kind analysis of what I was hoping to do with my story. He asked if I’d intended for the protagonist’s struggles with their parents to parallel the narrative of the Descendent Species to Original Man.

[Read on for more non-spoilery excerpt, or see the full thing at The Astounding Analog Companion]…

Ever since reading Iain M Banks’ Consider Phlebas - a novel that helped launch the vessels of the New Space Opera - I’ve believed that the science-fiction mode of inquiry offers the most effective set of tools for examining ourselves and our creations, providing fresh perspectives while opening new dialogues about everything it means to be human encountering change.

One of SF’s greatest tools is the literal metaphor, where an actual, literal thing in the story can stand in metaphorically for something in our world, as a means to critique that thing without immediately throwing up defensive walls against admitting we’ve failed in some way or otherwise need to improve [spoilers trimmed].

This is exactly the quality response every author hopes to hear from readers – when people “get it”—so of course I’m delighted! He was absolutely right about what I was hoping to say through the various layers of literal and metaphorical elements and relationships [spoilers trimmed]. Through these parallels, I hoped to show how each generation passes down the worst—also the best! but also the worst—aspects of themselves to their children. And so on, and so on, until humankind eventually destroys itself.

Unless we can change.

The point of the story isn’t just that we must change to survive the ever-increasing burden of terrible cultural diseases we seem to always pass down—the things that’ll lead to our demise if we don’t—but also that we can change. Even those squeezed by society’s most-oppressive systems, and their forebears’ worst and most-destructive inherited ideas, and their own parents’ worst traits… even those collapsing under the burden of all that awfulness, who are most filled with repressed anger and guilt and need to prove themselves—even suffering the horrific tragedy of losing every single person in their entire world—even such a person bent on revenge to the point they’re about to commit genocide, one most deserving to fulfill their revenge, can change. And learn. And grow. And… maybe not forgive, but accept the offered (genuine) amends.

And then to move on to create something better. To choose hope for the future for humankind, one where we accept the best our parents’ culture—even the best of whatever our earliest ancestors still have to offer, for they surely had some good ideas, too, or else we’d never have formed the first tribes and confederacies. We can accept some things, and discard others that we determine to be destructive to the self, those closest to us, or to the larger culture we love and which brought us into the world and nurtured us. And especially to those yet to be born, generations in the future.

This reader also asked about whether I was trying to say something about how age leaves the Karalang [the protagonist's culture] more vulnerable to primal emotion. This I wanted to address less directly, as I’m only part-way through life right now and cannot fully answer the question for decades yet to come - or centuries, if I were Karalang! But I’ve witnessed enough during my years and through studying human history to observe that many resist change, whether or not it’s good for them or even necessary to remain valuable, contributing members of society. We’ve all seen how many people give in to despair and fear.

Only when people make a habit of constantly becoming better can we build something new and beautiful on the (solid portion of the) foundations poured by those who came before. Only then can humankind reach for the stars without condemning our children’s children’s children to suffer the consequences of and fallout from our pride or honor, bigotry or hate, shame or jealously, selfishness or revenge, or any of a thousand other human faults and frailties. Only then can humankind grow into the best possible version of who we can be, and build a better future than we could before, because humankind becomes better people than we are today.

This goes for our species, yes, and also for each and every one of us, every single day. Becoming better is an endless project—renouncing the flawed people we’ve been before, confessing to and apologizing for the harms we’ve caused, and then making amends to those who must live with the world we’ve created and trying hard to never do those wrongs again.

The very least we can do is treat others, especially the young, better than we’ve been treated. The least we can do is hand tomorrow’s people a cultural and intellectual inheritance that’ll provide them with the tools and resources they can use to shape their future and themselves into something better than we could have imagined or done. And then to get out of the way and trust them to do better.

That’s why I was so moved when another reader wrote, “This is a story that believes in humanity and our future.” Yes, thank you!

As much as I’ve witnessed humans being terrible—and often worse with age, not because of any inherent aspect of aging, but because so many resist change and growth (embodied in the literal metaphor of the long-lived, rigid-minded Karalang culture in the story)—I’ve also gotten to know the younger generation just stepping onto the world’s stages and command centers, and as a group they are the best human beings I’ve ever encountered.

I work with dozens of new students every year, and the trend I see is toward ever-better humans who are ever-more aware of how others feel and want to do something to help. At a very young age, they’re aware of how they (and society) need to always grow and change, to not only tolerate others but love them as kin, to accept and be kind. And to speak out against hate and intolerance. They’ve been handed an inheritance of ashes and dust, yet rather than let their (well-deserved) anger drive them to react with righteous hatred, they choose to let go of the worst aspects of human nature once they become aware of them, and move on when they’re allowed.

Sure, we’re also seeing actual Nazis walking our streets. Humankind remains infected with all the old hatreds and cultural diseases, courtesy of our ancestors. But the cross-cultural, internet-fostered solidarity we’re seeing among today’s youth proves that we as a species are worthy of hope. Because we can be better—the proof is that we (as a species, embodied in today’s youth and many older folks who with generosity adapt and change as needed) are becoming better.

Humankind’s greatest strength arises from cooperation. We didn’t survive the age of saber-tooth tigers by arming ourselves with devastating weapons; no, we thrived despite such dangers because we cooperated with one another and other species.

The ever-increasing power of our technology and other creations combined with the destructive personal and cultural memes we’ve inherited from our forebears threatens the very survival of our species. The only way we save humankind from itself is through solidarity and growth. Not by banding together against a common enemy until it’s defeated, but by joining together to build a better tomorrow.

When we respect our children and the other youth among us; when we ourselves learn how to be our best and how to build a better society, then share with others how we can all become better, always; when we respect but critically evaluate our elders and the knowledge, wisdom, and so-called truths they offer or impose upon us, accepting the good and discarding the bad; when we seek to build a better future, we as a species will get (and deserve) to inhabit a better world. That’s cooperation making us healthy and happy and strong.

I believe in humankind. I believe in people. And I believe in the future. That’s why I’ve always loved science fiction so much, why I’ve read and studied and taught it for most of my life, because I believe SF provides the new perspectives we need to more clearly see ourselves and the world around us, study it, identify the good and bad, and then create new narratives for better ways to live.

In a Summer 2011 Paris Review interview, Samuel R Delany said, “Science fiction isn’t just thinking about the world out there. It’s also thinking about how that world might be—a particularly important exercise for those who are oppressed, because if they’re going to change the world we live in, they—and all of us—have to be able to think about a world that works differently.”

No wonder SF is more popular today than ever among the people poised to take the reins of society. Yes, all the recent controversy in the field has been hugely disruptive. But change is always disruptive, and if nothing else science fiction is the literature of change, not only reflecting and projecting scientific, technological, and cultural change, but also itself ever-changing. This is not our first bout of internal strife.

All we need do is look back over the generational shifts from Proto-SF, through the Pulp Era, the Golden Age, the thematic and literary growth of the Sociological SF period, the New Wave, the diversification and novel-heavy period of the ’70s, Cyberpunk, the New Space Opera, the New Weird, and now the explosion of non-Anglo speculative fiction that’s finally seeing print in the US and other major markets—as if SF has only ever been a European creation.

What’s next? Something great I bet, and certain to be different, reflecting our genre’s heritage of incorporating change at our core so what we produce continues to be true to expressing the human condition experiencing change. Not just surviving it, but finding new ways to thrive.

To be true to what SF has always been and continues to be—that is, to remain relevant—our community of writers, editors, readers, scholars, and everyone else who cares about the genre must embrace change and guide the genre into an ever-changing future. If not, we’ll end up a historical footnote.

Thankfully, I’m confident that won’t happen. Why? Because I contend that what we’ve recently seen in geek subcultures reflects larger cultural changes:

First came Gamergate, which ended with the Gamergaters losing face and much of their influence, because the vast majority of gamers can’t stand playing with jerks—and most game companies don’t want to be associated with them. The gaming community voted with their dollars and creativity against hate.

Then the Rabid Puppies yelped onto science fiction headlines. They tried to erase women, LGBTQ folks, people of color, non-Anglos, and others they see as “not real SF” people from the genre. But the majority of SF readers defeated them so thoroughly in the first year that most Hugo Award voters preferred “No Award” over permitting any nominee to win that was forced into their laps by bigots, racists, and women-haters. We’re still feeling the repercussions of this, but soon things will settle down.

Now American society’s broader #metoo and social justice movements are exposing the misogynists, white supremacists, and other hate- and fear-driven people (studies show represent only 6% of US citizens) who would steal this country from the majority of decent people who only want to help each other build a stronger, healthier place to live, who only want to create a better future. And not just in the USA! Sure, business and politics at the highest levels—exemplified by the kleptocrats in the US Capitol, the Kremlin, and other seats of power—seem to have the upper hand plus vocal support from screaming bigots. But the recent US election demonstrates that most people reject egocentrism, hate, and regressive politics, even though so many have been taught these and other harmful ideologies by previous generations. I predict we’ll see them fail soon, too.

Those derogatorily called “Social Justice Warriors” by the haters might come across as intolerant of intolerance. To which I say, Good! We must never tolerate hate. You can’t fight actual, literal Nazis using only flowers and free love. It took a devastating world war to stop them last time. The social-justice movement is far from militarized; its only tools are persuasion and cooperation. Do they sometimes come across as angry, even irrational? Who wouldn’t, especially after spending a lifetime suffering bigotry, hate, and violence without the support of or comfort from their own communities, government, or even family?

I hope the current rise of the extremist Right fails before we’re forced to endure another dystopian period: Look what it took to defeat the Third Reich. The repercussions of that misstep were horrors beyond most of our imagining, and correcting it took generations. And in regards to this particular conversation, it ended up starving the roots of SF’s Golden Age, ending that blossoming period and throwing the next SFnal generation into an era of despair centered around the New Wave’s metaphor of entropy. I mean, everything has worked out for SF, and it’s become much more diverse in terms of race, gender, and other cultural representation, but let’s not go through that again, okay?

I believe justice and freedom will prevail. Eventually, and always. Sometimes the transition is quick and (relatively) painless. Other times it’s brutal and wrecks everything for a while. But I believe in humankind’s resilience and basic redeemable nature, that most of us want what’s best for the future.

At its finest and most admirable, science fiction is much the same. We’re going through some rough change right now, and many of our most-respected creators and editors are suffering because of it (some needlessly, and others because they’ve not grown as human beings and earned their callouts). I admire and respect those with the greatest cultural privilege who’ve responded to criticism with grace, accepted the error of their ways, and seek to improve themselves, no matter how they were raised, or their age, or other excuses some offer for resisting necessary change and growth.

Adapt, change, grow: That’s how humankind remains the dominant life-form on Earth. And it’s why I believe SF is the dominant literary form and mode for expressing the human condition encountering change—not just surviving, but thriving as we, ourselves, change.

The narrator of “Ashes of Exploding Suns, Monuments to Dust” muses at one point [spoilers trimmed]:

What is honor? Perhaps it’s the satisfaction of knowing that the world ahead will be better than what lays smoldering in your wake. That you’re part of shaping a new path.

Whatever it is, honor only blooms after making peace. With one’s self, with others, with the uncaring Universe. For all our history, humans were driven to make peace when the cost of fighting grew too dear. Despite what Original Man long believed, empire bestows nothing. You cannot win honor; it cannot be taken. It must be earned. It’s also not other-directed, like [the story’s concept of fidalguia]. That was only selfishness and fear masquerading as social concern.

The most difficult peace to negotiate is within. No smiling lie can deceive the person aware of their own mind. There is no greater achievement than learning how to forgive yourself.

Like the people at the end of this story, I look forward to the day when we are finally worthy of respect. When we can look up at the stars and see countless bright futures for the children of humankind. When we as a species finally reach adulthood. Not the rigid adulthood of the past, but something new. Wiser. More honorable. Hopeful.

At least for a little while.

Anyhow, I hope you enjoyed this snippet! If you read the essay on The Astounding Analog Companion (or the story in the magazine!), please comment there or here to let me know what you think. Thanks!

- Chris
mckitterick: (meteor)
2017-05-07 12:37 pm

Aliens!

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft scientists announce that a form of chemical energy that can feed life appears to exist on Saturn’s moon Enceladus, and Hubble researchers report additional evidence of plumes erupting from Jupiter’s moon Europa.



“This is the closest we’ve come, so far, to identifying a place with some of the ingredients needed for a habitable environment,” said Thomas Zurbuchen of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.

“These results demonstrate the interconnected nature of NASA’s science missions that are getting us closer to answering whether we are alone or not.”

Hydrogen gas could potentially provide a chemical energy source for life, and it’s pouring into the subsurface ocean of Enceladus from hydrothermal activity on the seafloor. Ample hydrogen means that microbes – if any exist there – could use it to obtain energy by combining the hydrogen with carbon dioxide dissolved in the water.

This chemical reaction, known as “methanogenesis” because it produces methane as a byproduct, is at the root of the tree of life on Earth, and could even have been critical to the origin of life on our planet (see deep-ocean life that’s billions of years old).

Life as we know it requires three primary ingredients: liquid water, a source of energy for metabolism, and the right chemical ingredients - primarily carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, and sulfur.

With this finding, Cassini shows that Enceladus – a small, icy moon a billion miles farther from the Sun than Earth – has nearly all of these ingredients for habitability. Cassini has not yet proven that phosphorus and sulfur are present in the ocean, but scientists suspect them to be, because the rocky core of Enceladus is thought to be chemically similar to other bodies that contain these elements.

“Confirmation that the chemical energy for life exists within the ocean of a small moon of Saturn is an important milestone in our search for habitable worlds beyond Earth,” said Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist at JPL).

ALIENS.

Full story: X

Lots more Cassini photos of Enceladus: X

mckitterick: Yes, this is one of my actual scooter helmets. RESPECT THE EMPIRE. (Chris Clone Trooper)
2017-04-07 04:00 pm

Beware LJ's new user "agreement"

For the few old-school Internet die-hards still on LiveJournal, I share this from [personal profile] clevermanka's Clevermanka.net blog:

LJ's new user agreement is a giant crock of shit and what you sign might not even be the actual agreement. The language of the English version says “this translation of the User Agreement is not a legally binding document. The original User Agreement, which is valid, is located at the following address: http://www.livejournal.com/legal/tos-ru.bml.” Which is, conveniently, not in English so who knows what you’re actually signing.

So I'll be deleting my LJ soon. Sadly. Man, all those years of journalling... At least DW is kind enough to let us back up our LJs.

If you want to stay connected in the New Home for LJ (aka Dreamwidth), connect with me via my [personal profile] mckitterick Dreamwidth blog (this is x-posting to LJ, so if you're reading this here on DW, hello!).

Best,
Chris

mckitterick: Yes, this is one of my actual scooter helmets. RESPECT THE EMPIRE. (Astro-Jawhawk)
2017-04-05 11:15 am

McKitterick on Dreamwidth

As with most LJ users outside Russia, I've set up a Dreamwidth account that mirrors this LJ account, which is soon to go away unless LJ changes its onerous user agreement. Plus, not sure if LJ will survive. So....

This is me on Dreamwidth: McKitterick

Follow me over there and I'll follow back so we an rebuild this (rather small now) community! Nevertheless, these days I primarily post on these social networks:
Best,
Chris
mckitterick: (write hard die free)
2017-03-16 11:11 pm

"Why so little socially progressive speculative fiction?"

This post couldn't have appeared on my Tumblr dash at a better-timed moment:


…because I’m working on a question someone posed during Karen Joy Fowler’s KU talk last week on feminism in SF and the James Tiptree, Jr. Literary Award. The question was why does the supposed literature of change appear - at least from the outside - to be conservative or non-imaginative in its projections of the future, especially in terms of gender, class, and so forth compared to the literary mainstream.

That’s a fair and interesting question. I mean, if you’re aware of the Sad and Rabid Puppies and what they’ve been trying to do to science fiction, particularly the Hugo Award, and not an avid reader or scholar of SF, you’re unlikely to know the best that the field has to offer is much more diverse and socially progressive than what you typically see in movie theaters or on best-seller shelves.

But I also think it’s a flawed premise, because you can’t pick the best of any other genre (say, the college-literary-journal genre) and compare that to the worst of another (in this case, SF).

The first part of my answer to the question is, if science fiction is, as Sir Arthur C. Clarke repeatedly said, “the only realistic fiction,” that’s in part because of his love for what SF can do, and in part because its practitioners are held to a (often ridiculously) high level of realism, necessary for maintaining the reader’s willing suspension of disbelief - while at the same time developing alien or future or worlds otherwise  utterly different from our own. I mean, I’m working on a story right now where the editor’s only revision request revolves around working out the punishingly challenging math of some new physics I’ve proposed (for Analog SF magazine, naturally). Why? Because we can’t have the highly educated audience being distracted from the main drive of my story (how poisonous traditions and sense of communal honor combined with conflict can lead to tragedy) by faults in the reality of this future alien world-building.

It’s a real challenge to create, for example, an anarchist utopia populated by humans that’s believable (though I was deeply influenced by Le Guin's The Dispossessed). But it’s easy to write yet another dystopian future, because so much of human history provides examples of the horrors humans bring upon the world. It’s not difficult to imagine a future with increasing power differentials between rich and poor, and the power of our technologies suggests that the world is more likely to look like a gritty cyberpunk vision than a Kim Stanley Robinson future.

One of the drivers of my series of Jupiter stories (which will accumulate into an eventual novel) is that I wanted to experiment with how we as a species could evolve human civilization beyond capitalism (at least as practiced today in our culture) to an egalitarian, socialist society - and to transition in a natural and realistic way, co-existing within a broader capitalist society.

The best answer to this question is to refer the questioner to Sturgeon’s Law. Theodore Sturgeon (known for his urging everyone to “Ask the next question” - his signature included a stylized Q with an arrow through it; more here if you’d like to see his essay on this) had grown weary of defending speculative fiction for so many years and pointed out that SF was the only genre evaluated by its worst examples rather than its best.

“When people talk about the mystery novel,” he said at the World Science Fiction Convention in Philadelphia in 1953, “they mention The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep. When they talk about the western, they say there’s The Way West and Shane. But when they talk about science fiction, they call it ‘that Buck Rogers stuff,’ and they say ‘ninety percent of science fiction is crud.’

“Well, they’re right. Ninety percent of science fiction is crud. But then ninety percent of everything is crud, and it’s the ten percent that isn’t crud that is important. And the ten percent of science fiction that isn’t crud is as good as or better than anything being written anywhere.”

SF authors are and have been for a long time addressing progressive social concerns right now. I could point to some of the biggest contemporary names, such as Margaret Atwood, Paolo Bacigalupi, Elizabeth Bear, Cory Doctorow, Ann Leckie, Ian McDonald, Seanen McGuire, Linda Nagata, Nnedi Okorafor, Kim Stanley Robinson, and a thousand others who might not be published through major presses but which, nonetheless, have a major impact on the genre.

I posed these thoughts on my Tumblr blog and my private SF-workshop alumni group, who quickly engaged in vigorous discussion of the topic. A few very smart insights from their responses:

A theater-program director and author added more authors to my abbreviated list: Daniel Jose Older, Malka Older, Nisi Shawl, Octavia Butler, Ursula Le Guin, Amal El-Mohtar, Ted Chiang, Delia Sherman, Ellen Kushner, Sarah Pinsker, China Mieville, and Samuel Delany. We could go on for days, but that list, alone, is solid argument against the notion that progressive-change-oriented SF isn’t being written or published.

The Tumblr blogger @saffronhare​ says, “I’m commenting here not as a literary scholar or even as a person who reads a wide variety of SF, but I am a professional communicator. Part of what I think happens is that storytellers bring an audience through certain levels of agreement and acceptance in the process of world-building. Before we can get a person to believe in what a better future could look like, there is the work of getting that person to agree on the extreme effed-up-ness of things.” Great point! I suspect this is a major reason we see so many more dystopias than utopias.

A former NASA geologist and professor (now SF author) adds, "many of these stories are indeed being written. They just can't get published. Many of the stories appearing in mainstream lit are in fact written by self-proclaimed SF folk that couldn't get their stuff published by the supposed SF publishers." This suggests that the age-old problem of publishing's conservatism is part of the problem, rather than the genre-mindset itself.

The author who blogs under @copperbadge sent a link to this fantastic piece on the subject, addressing the importance of empathy in SF, and “meditating on why so many scifi writers appear to be so conservative.” From near the conclusion (my bolding):

“You can’t control the future. There are too many variables. And if you can’t control the future, but you desperately want to, the next instinctive, illogical step is to prevent it from happening. Keep things the way they are. Maintain the status quo and you don’t have to worry. Ray Bradbury likened social justice to censorship, and was violently opposed to his book about censorship being turned into an e-book that literally could not be burned. Orson Scott Card is terrified that legalising gay marriage is going to screw up the social fabric of the entire country, despite the fact that gay people were happily cohabitating with each other long before he was born and will be long after he is dead. Science fiction writers don’t automatically want to see the future. Some want to script it. Some think the only way to do that is to prevent it from happening.” A great read!

Along those lines, I’d like to share a book that does strive to provide visions of a positive future: Hieroglyph: Stories and Visions for a Better Future (I mean, it’s even in the title), put together by Kathryn Cramer and Ed Finn, the founding director of the Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University, which provides great support for their SF center (and one of members of our new International Science Fiction Consortium). That project proves it’s possible to write excellent future-leaning SF that isn’t dystopian.

Another alum wrote, "One of the problems is the intersection between forward-thinking literature and experimental literature. Often the best examples of literature of change are the least accessible. Ann Leckie's Ancillary Justice was a tough read for me. Because I've lived my life in a society mostly dominated by men, but making space in language for women, reading her book with the default of female pronouns was difficult. [...] I presumed that the most exciting literature of change, the most progressive in the genre, would not be best-sellers. Then I looked up Ancillary Justice and Slaughterhouse Five. Both were best-sellers. [...] When the majority of writers are the ones in positions of privilege (who list no women writers or writers of color as influences on their work), we are not going to see as much writing exploring gender, race, class, etc."

This last observation points to the problem rests on societal issues rather than the genre. In fact, the genre has often been the first to call out those very problems: How often do we use “Orwellian” these days? Or refer to Fahrenheit 451? Or any of the vast back-catalog of speculative fiction which has shaped how we view not only the future but also the world we live in? We cannot accurately predict which of our contemporary works will endure the test of time, or shape the future.

Back to the original question: Why does SF so often appear to not address (especially in utopian ways) progressive social change? Partly it’s because it’s really tough to create realistic worlds that demonstrate such change, partly because humans are kind of terrible. But largely it’s because, like anything humans do, 90% of it is crud. And unless you’re deeply involved in any genre, you only encounter the best work by accident.

I believe it’s safe to say that SF doesn’t shy away from the tough questions, the big criticisms, or exploring all aspects of change. It is the literature of the human species encountering change.

In "How America's Leading Science Fiction Authors Are Shaping Your Future" (May 2014 Smithsonian), author Eileen Gunn writes, "Science fiction, at its best, engenders the sort of flexible thinking that not only inspires us, but compels us to consider the myriad potential consequences of our actions. Samuel R. Delaney, one of the most wide-ranging and masterful writers in the field, sees it as a countermeasure to the future shock that will become more intense with the passing years. 'The variety of worlds science fiction accustoms us to, through imagination, is training for thinking about the actual changes - sometimes catastrophic, often confusing - that the real world funnels at us year after year. It helps us avoid feeling quite so gob-smacked.'"

She quotes MIT professor and engineer Sophia Brueckner, who "laments that researchers whose work deals with emerging technologies are often unfamiliar with science fiction: 'With the development of new biotech and genetic engineering, you see authors like Margaret Atwood writing about dystopian worlds centered on those technologies. Authors have explored these exact topics in incredible depth for decades, and I feel reading their writing can be just as important as reading research papers.'"

In her speech at the National Book Awards, when she was awarded the 2014 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, Ursula K. Le Guin said, "Hard times are coming when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom. Poets, visionaries, the realists of a larger reality."

This is what science fiction does, and why it has remained at the center of my life for as long as I’ve been a self-aware being. And why I made it the Gunn Center’s mission to “Save the World Through Science Fiction!”

Now that I feel this is complete enough to blog here, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this discussion, as well!
 

mckitterick: (Galaxy Magazine cover)
2017-03-07 08:21 pm

Karen Joy Fowler coming to Lawrence: "Exploring and Expanding Gender in Speculative Fiction"

Next Tuesday, March 14, Karen Joy Fowler speaks at the University of Kansas:

Exploring and Expanding Gender in Speculative Fiction: The Tiptree Award at 25.”

The Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction and the University of Kansas Department of English are delighted to bring world-renowned author Karen Joy Fowler to KU to offer this year’s Richard W. Gunn Lecture, “Exploring and Expanding Gender in Speculative Fiction: The Tiptree Award at 25.”

Karen Joy Fowler is the author of author of six novels and three short story collections. Her most recent novel, WE ARE ALL COMPLETELY BESIDE OURSELVES, won the 2013 PEN/Faulkner, the California Book Award, and was shortlisted for the Man Booker in 2014. She has won the Nebula and World Fantasy awards, and this year she will be the Guest of Honor at World Fantasy in San Antonio.

Among her many achievements, Fowler co-founded the James Tiptree, Jr. Literary Award, first announced at the 1991 WisCon, the world’s only feminist-oriented science fiction convention. For 25 years, the Tiptree prize has been awarded annually to a work of science fiction or fantasy that contemplates shifts in gender roles in ways that are particularly thought-provoking, imaginative, and perhaps even infuriating. The lecture will provide an extraordinary opportunity to hear from a pioneer thinker about the relation between feminism, gender, and speculative fiction, from one of the most important and accomplished writers working in the field today.

She lives in Santa Cruz, California where she is currently pretending to write a new book.

Facebook event page.

The event is free and open to the public.

When:
Tuesday, March 14, 2017
7:00pm  - 8:00pm

Where:
Jayhawk Room
Kansas Memorial Union
University of Kansas campus
Lawrence, KS 66045

Cost:
Free

Everyone is welcome!

mckitterick: (Galaxy Magazine cover)
2017-02-24 10:16 am

Change or Die.

I have so many thoughts on this article, “Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds,” how changing our minds is vital to human survival, and some suggestions for how to achieve change.

* In my teaching and personal conversations, I repeatedly stress that the most important lesson anyone who wishes to become a better writer (or artist, or teacher, or scholar, or partner, or friend, or human being, or...) can learn is to work on developing one's empathy, on being able to see outside one's point of view. To follow the scientific method in everything we do.

* That means becoming less selfish, less self-centered. If, as this article argues, our form of "reason" evolved from the need to not be taken advantage of by others in our civilization, we need to evolve our minds beyond this inherent self-centeredness. Technologies like capitalizm reinforce it to such an extent that, combined with our primitive fears, bigotry, misogyny, and xenophobia - plus military, biological, computer, and other technologies - puts us on a perilous path toward self-annihilation.

* We need to admit we're wrong more often. Especially when faced with evidence that undermines our unexamined beliefs.

* More evidence that human intelligence is hella flawed.

* Evidence for where bigotry comes from.

* More reasons to worry that human civilization is doomed.

* This study also reinforces the importance of being a polymath, or at least of studying outside one's limited expertise, working across disciplines, and getting to know and understand a broad diversity of people who are also interested in expanding their POV.

* And, of course, it explains why reality has a "liberal bias" - progressive-minded people actively strive to see outside of their limited POV (at least they should if they want to call themselves good liberals or good progressives). Encounter a fact that counters what you used to believe? Well, if you seek human progress, that means you need to grow your POV to encompass this new information.

* Closed-minded people (extremist conservatives, extremist liberals - anyone unwilling to embrace a new POV or facts that counter their established beliefs) will ultimately be left in the dust... or reduce civilization to dust. Change is vital to the long-term survival of any species, especially one that is capable of utterly transforming its environment, as we do. If we cannot change, we'll perish. And - in reference to yesterday's post about how the Earth is going to try to throw us off in very short order - we better get right on that. Or we'll all be dwelling in the flooded rubble of our collapsed civilizations.

The question becomes: How do we create a fundamental shift in our social relations where listening to others is valued higher than winning arguments or disagreements? Where logic and the greater well-being of our people is valued over individual wealth or power? Where we are taught to exercise literal reason from an early age? Where we are taught from childhood to see the world from others' POVs, to embrace diverse thinking, to not fear the Other, to welcome those outside our tribal associations, to put the good of the species and our habitat above short-term acquisition?

These are huge – perhaps insurmountable – challenges. These shifts in perspective do not appear innate to the human mind. But, now that we've achieved a level of technological advancement that threatens our very survival, these changes are necessary.

Short of a YA-fiction-style apocalypse that wipes the slate clean, how do we get there from here?

The solution might not be as challenging as trying to transform the very basis of human civilization to something that feels too akin to socialism. Perhaps all we need to do is teach the scientific method. Actually teach it, from the very earliest moments when reason begins to appear in the child's mind. That's when we begin to shape our perspective on the world. Children are full of wonder, full of questions. When adults give kids unsupported information, they're passing on a mental disease.

But when we encourage them to explore the question to "Ask the next question" per Theodore Sturgeon's rule, we might be able to transform human reason into something useful, something non-destructive. We might transform humankind into a species that might be welcome into a galactic civilization, if such a thing exists. (Because you know any intelligent aliens would stay the hell away from a species as primitive-minded as ourselves, one willing to destroy itself in order to sustain its worst aspects out of fear and selfishness.)

Changing the adult mind in such a radical way is possible - I've seen it happen in my classes! - but way challenging, and requires dedication and effort on behalf of mentor and changee alike. But positively shaping children's minds in these ways from a very young age is far simpler. And ought to be the purpose of parenthood, anyhow.

The Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction's motto and mission is, "Save the world through science fiction." I've given a couple of keynote addresses recently, both of which centered around the notion that we all need to think like science-fiction writers. And that means thinking like good scientists. And that means using the scientific method in everything we do. The only way to do something better is to eliminate the flaws in our actions and our reasoning. The way to do that is to incorporate new information and new points of view into our understanding of the world and of ourselves.

We can do this. It'll take at least another generation of people who are dedicated to the hard work of changing our entire way of thinking, of raising a new generation of people who are better than we are. But we can do it.

It's imperative that we do. We owe it to our children. We owe them a world of possibilities limited only by their imaginations. We owe them a future.

- Chris
 


mckitterick: (write hard die free)
2017-02-17 12:10 pm

The Handmaid's Tale, Except Under the Radar

For decades, Christofascists and and other far-right extremist conspirators have been training and indoctrinating children to take over our secular institutions. (If that term is new to you - as it was when I woke up this morning - check out this wiki article about the totalitarian and imperialistic movement. tldr: The Christian parallel to al Qaeda.)

Most of us have heard of the “Quiverfull” and similar extremist movements before, people who are trying to overwhelm the nation through rapid breeding and homeschooling, but had no idea just how common such radicals are, nor how effective their training, until after meeting a growing number of escapees from that system in my classes.

This leads me to this article: “I Was Trained for the Culture Wars in Home School, Awaiting Someone Like Mike Pence as a Messiah.”

The article, written by a woman who escaped the brainwashing, tells the horrifying tale of how this nation has come to the precipice over which we now stand shaky and about to fall. These cryptofascist "Christian" extremists have been methodically indoctrinating and training their rapidly growing agents - innocent children - in the tools and weapons of government to make them more effective combatants in political warfare. The most well-known example I can think of is the Phelps family, which was ruled by a dictatorial father who created an army of philosophically violent lawyers by using these strategies to train his children to use otherwise-reasonable rules against the very systems that operate on them.

Excerpts from someone who intimately knows the movement:

“They see Election 2016 as their moment. Pence, with his proven track record of legalizing discrimination and acting against women and marginalized people, is in the White House. The Right has given the tyrant Trump power and fame; he will do whatever they want in order to keep it. This way they can sneak Pence in on a piggyback while filling Congress with even more evangelical conservative Republicans

“Evangelical conservatives are convinced that their agenda will save the country from God-ordained death. Pat Robertson and many others believe that natural disasters are sent from God specifically to punish America for letting marginalized people have rights and be alive. This motivates them to do everything in their power to “save” the country from the ungodly – even, maybe especially – if it involves stripping others of the freedoms they deem to be against God’s wishes. They don’t care if their war for Christ hurts humans they see as living wrongfully, because they are capital “R” Right and that’s what matters. Their Rightness, they believe, comes from God Himself. Their beliefs are callous and without empathy, prioritizing dogma over people. These beliefs are dangerous. Many of us who have come out as queer, trans, or even merely gone to college, have lost family because of this worldview. A single powerful person who is convinced of their own Rightness with no thought of introspection is dangerous. We now have a government full of them.”

With the election of the Trump administration, Christofascists have begun their coup in earnest:

When the “Senate Confirmed Dangerous Christian Extremist Mike Pompeo as CIA Director,” we see how the administration installed someone who believes the US is at war with Islam as the head of our intelligence services.

Betsy DeVos and God’s Plan for Schools” describes how she plans to use school vouchers to strip funding of public schools and support religious training.

Trump’s top strategist, Stephen Bannon shares the vision of a threatened Christendom: “I believe the world, and particularly the Judeo-Christian West, is in a crisis,” he said in 2014. What crisis? “...of our church, a crisis of our faith, a crisis of the West, a crisis of capitalism.” Here’s an article worth reading to understand Bannon: “President Trump’s right-hand man Steve Bannon called for Christian holy war: Now he’s on the National Security Council.”

At the heart of the Christian far-right’s response to this imagined crisis is its “apocalyptic conviction that extreme measures are needed. There is nothing conservative about this agenda; it is radical. Gutting public education will be just the beginning.”

We need to stop them before it’s too late.

We’re in a fight for the survival of our democracy, but only one side seems aware that it’s at war. Right-wing extremists literally call this “the culture war,” and have spent generations preparing for this. The rest of us - the majority of this nation - must immediately organize to fight this existential threat. Moderates and the Left have been piss-poor organizers. We’re only just starting to figure out how to work together for an extended period.

There’s no time to prepare for this. We don’t have generations to train, as they did. The war has already begun. Flags should already be flying upside-down. As the utopian Culture in Iain Banks’ novels (which starts with Consider Phlebas) had to do when faced with religious extremism bent on war, all we can do is organize, defend our present freedoms, train for this form of battle, arm ourselves in the ways that Christofascists have spent generations building up ideological arsenals, and hold the line against aggression until the day we can realistically expect to start pushing them back.

If we are to save this democracy, and (because the US is still the world’s dominant military power) the Earth itself, we need to immediately stop wasting time and resources fighting ISIS and other daesh militants. They’re only a minor threat, and their only big PR victory in the US took place 16 years ago. You deal with small bands of criminals through police actions, not by mobilizing national militaries or stirring up primal fear of The Other. The only thing studying ISIS and daesh attacks has been useful for is as training to combat our real threat: home-grown Christofascism and far-right terrorism.

Make no mistake: As soon as they begin to lose, they’ll resort to terrorism, just as their Islamic brothers-in-philosophy have in the Middle East. The only reason the Christofascists’ attacks have been limited so far to small-scale murders like at Planned Parenthood clinics or Canadian mosques is that they’re winning.The winning side doesn’t need to use terrorist tactics. Their position as the dominant force, by itself, puts them into position to create all the terror they need to control the minds of the masses. And that puts them in de facto control of our nation.

In the same way that moderate Muslims are in the best position to fight Islamic extremism, moderate Christians - those who follow the words of Jesus - need to stand up to Christofascism. They’re on the inside, and the only way to change an institution (short of destroying it) is to clear out its toxic influences and work within the system to rebuild something healthier.

Fight Fascism in all its forms. Restore the separation of church and state. Restore and expand personal freedoms - and that must include children’s freedom from dangerous and destructive cryptofascist indoctrination and brainwashing. 

We’re in the midst of ideological war. The enemy doesn’t need to murder the entire US government (as in The Handmaid's Tale) to create the Republic of Gilead. 

They already are the US government.

Stand up. Speak out. Protest. Create change. And do it now, because time is running out.
mckitterick: Thanks for the art, M'chelle! (robot joy)
2017-02-13 08:14 pm

Radical kindness

My response to the original poster's call for "radical kindness":

"ultimately i think kindness is the most radical thing you can do with your pain and your anger. it’s like, you take everything awful that’s ever been done to you, and you throw it back in the world’s teeth, and you say no, fuck you, i’m not going to take this. you say this is unacceptable. you say that shit stops with me.

"humans are fucking terrible and this awful world we live in will fucking kill you but if you are kind, if you are brave and clever and try really hard, you can defy it. you can impose on this bleak and monstrous structure something beautiful. even if it’s temporary. even if it doesn’t heal anything inside you that’s been hurt.

"i’m gonna sleep and i’m gonna wake up and i swear by everything in this deadly horrible universe i’m gonna make someone happy."


This is why I’ve dedicated so much of my life to doing what I can to help make the world a little better for at least some people.

Because fuck you, world. You don’t get to ruin us! You don’t get to decide who we are when that’s not who we are! If you try to beat us down, we come back stronger and smarter, better able to avoid your next attack. We teach one another how to fight, how to survive and thrive. We work together to make the future a better place, because you can’t divide us. Not as long as we love and care for one another! Not as long as we try our best to empathize with those who also try to do the same with us.

Radical kindness wins when enough choose it. Choose love. Choose life. Be kind. Spread the word. Teach others.

But never surrender. Wherever you encounter it, fight the forces of evil, so we can survive long enough to win this war. So far, humans have always lost to the worst in us in the end: Fallen cities lay in our wake, beauty burned to ashes, freedom crushed to rubble, greed consuming nations, languages lost, civilizations evaporated in the heat and erosion of time, hate devouring the minds and lives of countless generations.

Choose to succeed. Failure is not an option. Fight for a better future by using the forceful power of love, unity, education, and discovery. Together we’ll win. Isolated and alone, helpless and hopeless, we’ll lose.
mckitterick: Here's the 16" Meade Lightbridge Dobsonian that I bought for myself as the prize for seeing TRANSCENDENCE make print. (telescope Chris)
2017-02-06 11:42 am

Back in the astro-seat!

I finally did a little astrophotography again last night, experimenting with my new Meade LPI-G color Solar System imager. This is the best shot I could manage, though I took four long-ish videos (yes, it takes live vids!) that saved in a weird format I can’t figure out how to open or edit, so that’ll be later.

Talk about a series of challenges, though! I wanted to use my apo refractor, because those are optimal for bright objects like the Moon, but when I pulled it out, I remembered I’d swapped its mount for a much sturdier iOptron… and the seller still hasn’t sent me the new controller and cables to make that function (and the mount is now in use with my solar telescope). OK.

So I put that away and grabbed my handy-dandy 12″ Schmidt-Cassegrain. I’d forgotten that I’d taken it apart to install a big equatorial wedge (so it can better track the night sky), but discovered while trying to install it that the wedge expects a slightly different pattern of holes drilled (too old, perhaps?), so I’d loosely re-assembled it. So I had to reassemble it, then haul it out into the yard. It’s a big puppy, btw.

Anyhow. So now it was set up, and I plugged in the extension cord and power supply, got it aligned properly so it could track the stars, and set it to show the Moon. Handily, the mount tracks for crap, and the Moon slowly drifted across the field of view. Which was WAY too high-magnification (another reason I wanted to use the much-smaller refractor: Without an eyepiece, the focal length of a telescope and its focal-ratio determine the magnification of an object, and a 12″ f/10 SCT acts like a REALLY powerful telephoto lens.

So now I went inside to grab my f/6.3 focal reducer, almost halving the magnification, so the Moon only sort-of overfilled the field of view. Ready to go!

Next, I slid the little astro-camera into the eyepiece holder, plugged it into my laptop, and WOW! Live, streaming images from space! Except it still drifted across the field of view pretty quickly. *sigh* Well, at least Moon shots don’t need very long exposures, so you can get pretty sharp images even when the mount doesn’t properly track.

Forgot to mention it was frakkin’ COLD. What stopped me from continuing to take images or try to improve the mount’s tracking is that my fingers were getting too stiff to work properly.

Anyhow, here’s one of the shots I got. The neat software that comes with the camera has some nice processing tools that also allowed me to sharpen the image a bit:

I finally did a little astrophotography again last night, experimenting with my new Meade LPI-G color Solar System imager. This is the best shot I could manage, though I took four long-ish videos (yes, it takes live vids!) that saved in a weird...

Oh, and despite the ridiculousness of trying to take a deep-sky photo through a telescope on a problematic drive on a moonlit night, I also tried my hand at photographing the Great Orion Nebula. I think this little camera will be AWESOME once I get to use it on a properly footed telescope. Check it out!

image

The Moon shot, at least, is not too bad for my first time doing astrophotography in years, and the nebula shot shows great promise, especially considering I took this through a telescope that wasn’t tracking correctly while freezing to death and using new software I don’t really yet know how to use!

BTW, if the images don't become higher-resolution by clicking, I also posted this to my blog on Tumblr:
http://mckitterick.tumblr.com/post/156895844825

More to come!

Chris
mckitterick: Yes, this is one of my actual scooter helmets. RESPECT THE EMPIRE. (Default)
2017-01-12 11:43 pm
Entry tags:

Creatives: A Frank Discussion About How to Interact with Your Fans on the Internet.

I got this in email:

____

I see you posted one of my photos, without consent or attribution, on [link to one of my reblogs].

I am a member of the Professional Photographers of America and Image Rights International and this was stolen from my blog at [the contactor’s site].

I am really surprised that you, as a writer and knowing copyright laws, would use a “lifted” photo.

Please remove.
[Name Withheld]
[Research Institution]
[Work Website]


____

I saw that as an invitation to write this little essay that I urge all creatives to read:

____

Dear [xyz] -

I’m really surprised that you contacted me about this. I didn’t post anything - that’s most of what you’ll see on social networks like Tumblr. Usually what people reblog is reblogged from others who, themselves, reblogged it from original sources, sometimes three or more deep with responses and comments about the original work.

Sometimes the work a person originally posts is not attributed, despite being their own, and sometimes it is, whether it belongs to the original poster or not (say, as on a fan blog, or most social networks).

One of the delights of social networking for creatives is how it drives traffic to your website and where they can buy your work and learn about what else you do. That’s a massive honor for someone to love your work so much that they want to promote you to their friends! That’s what’s called, “word-of-mouth advertising,” the most powerful kind.

The first time my work was pirated, I was upset for a few hours or days. Until I realized how much unexpected benefit I derived from someone sharing without my explicit assent. Had I remained upset and expressed that upset with the world, I would have lost fans. No one in today’s creative climate can afford to come across as “anti-fan.” It’s not a way to keep existing fans and especially not a way to gain new ones, not to mention that it’s just good business sense to not get upset and instead use the interest to your advantage.

So, no, I don’t disapprove as a creative myself when my work is shared online without my explicit approval, because it’s earning me new fans.

I should also say that I’m not the one who originally blogged that. I assumed it was put out into the world by its creator or with the assent of its creator. Absolutely I always try to cite sources when I post things, and include source information in an image where that's available! I assumed this image was put out into the world by its creator, or with the assent of its creator.

No one who uses the Internet is going to research everything that passes through their social networks. That would stop all human interaction and replace it with research! As interesting as that might sound to you and me, it’s also unrealistic to expect of the vast majority of those who use the Internet just for fun. Oh, and I should add that I often add sources when I see a post that's missing attribution and looks like it might not belong to the poster.

If I haven’t convinced you and you still would like to take down your work wherever it’s appeared on the web, there are standard procedures for doing so by contacting the site that hosts them (in this case, Tumblr). I can’t take it down, because I didn’t post it and don’t host the website, like almost everyone else who reblogged it. You’ll waste an immense amount of time by trying to contact everyone in the reblog chain (currently 74,000 or so on that one thread on Tumblr alone!), and needlessly antagonize a lot of potential fans. I’m not antagonized, because I’ll be using this as a teaching moment for my students and my online followers (no worries, I’ll remove the specifics about you or the work, and no one will figure out it was you, because a lot of social networking posts get that many notes, or higher).

A more positive way to reach out to your fans (and those who reblogged that image are fans of your work!) is to jump in to the discussion with a “Thank you!” and a link to your site or where they can buy your work. Win-win all around!

I hope this helps. Thanks for reaching out! I hope you [and you readers - especially creatives - of this on my blog] find this exchange useful!

Best,
Chris

PS: They then wrote back with a note indicating they don’t understand how most social networks function, so I added:

If you haven’t used Tumblr before, the way you see who originally posted something is by looking at the Notes or finding the link to the original poster in the reblogged item. Everyone else was just sharing what they think is a cool item, or responding to it.

--

Follow-up from the person who contacted me about this image she found only on my Tumblr in a Web search:

"First of all, a scholar asked to used my image for her dissertation, and of course, I said yes. I share. Then out of curiosity, I did a reverse Google search and found my image on your blog. I sent out a quick note to have it removed. Apparently, though, you didn't post it. Someone else did. Note that I don't 'go after' everyone who steals my images but I did sign up for Image Rights International after my photo - registered with the U.S. Copyright office - went viral. I've seen it on coffee cups, posters, t-shirts, mouse pads, CD albums, cell phone covers and in companies' advertising campaigns. It's also being sold on PhotoBucket, Flickr and other sites. Not by me. This is the cover of my next book and I plan to donate any proceeds from my favorite charity."

My follow-up response:

I see! Then definitely you want to go after those businesses that are profiting from the image, and there are legal tools for that. Contacting every individual reblogger who liked it but who aren't profiting from it would take you a million years and gain you nothing but negativity all around.

mckitterick: (write hard die free)
2016-11-16 09:11 am

Calling all Trump voters:

I acknowledge that you can't ALL support the awful things your chosen candidate said during the campaign. You might even believe that he just said those things to get elected. Okay. NOW YOU HAVE A SPECIAL RESPONSIBILITY TO SPEAK OUT AGAINST THOSE THINGS.

Speak out against racism, fascism, xenophobia, misogyny, homophobia, and all the other sick, disgusting things your cohort are spewing and doing right now. Speak out against your candidate's choices for advisors when they embody the worst in human nature. Let the rest of the nation know that Not All Trump Supporters are the awful creatures we're hearing the loudest. And because most Americans are so confused and scared right now, you need to do it not in a "Rah-rah we won!" or "Stop whining, we're Not All Bad" kind of way. Be sensitive to other people's real fears and let us know that a Trump presidency is not a parallel to what happened in 1930s German, only in a nation that's the world superpower with nukes and drones over every nation and pervasive surveillance.

Right now, most Americans fear an impending dystopian nightmare. Let us know that you won't allow your chosen representatives make that a reality.

So, please, speak out against hatred and bigotry. You put this guy in the position to change this country. Don't let him and his people destroy it or the rest of the world.

You're the only ones that the incoming administration might listen to.
mckitterick: (write hard die free)
2016-10-22 08:14 am

We live on the cusp of the greatest Golden Age

Just watched the PBS Hamilton musical documentary, and it made me cry all over again to witness the genius that went into making this brilliant show. I got to relive in some small way that once-in-a-lifetime experience. And I realized - this right here is the parallel experience with those lucky few who got to see Shakespeare’s plays live, the first time, with him on stage if he actually did that, at least sometimes.
 
I can confidently say this show is one of the greatest works of art I have ever witnessed, perhaps the greatest work of art of our time, because it represents such a vast array of genius concentrated in a single work, which is accessible to every type of audience from first time fan to most educated scholar. On top of that, it’s so perfectly relevant for this moment in history, when it’s most needed.
 
AND I GOT TO SEE IT IN PERSON, in its Broadway premier run, with the original cast, from the perspective of the best seats in the house, right behind the most excited people in the world because they’d just won the lottery to see this historic event from the front row - and beside me was my partner who was so happy and excited to be here, too! OMG.
 
Perfect in every way.
 
Oh! How delightfully our popular media has changed! I love so much of today’s popular art. When I want to feel happy, I can put on Bob’s Burgers or Brooklyn Nine Nine, or Jupiter Ascending, or read something by John Scalzi or Iain M Banks, or go to so many others, and just like that I find joy and truth. There’s always a movie in the theater I look forward to seeing some time in the near future. There’s always a book I want to read, or graphic novel, or YouTube short, or Tumblr post, or song, or piece of art from other disciplines. There’s always some science or technology I want to learn more about. Photos of distant worlds or microscopic realms. Potential better futures abound - they’re all around us, if only we’re willing to partake of them. And every one of us is invited to be a part of it - not only in the consumption of it, but also the creation.
 
Now feels like the cusp of the most democratic moment in art and scientific pursuit and progressive justice and positive progress the human species has ever seen. Sure, we have a long way to go, but the zeitgeist is moving firmly away from the haters (which is why they’re getting so afraid and vocal) and toward the positive. Art always leads the way. It shows us who we are and guides us toward better possible futures (and warns us away from the bad ones).
 
We no longer need to trade our sense of justice, or fairness, or truth, or intellect, to fully enjoy today’s best art. We no longer need to only fear the changes that are coming ever faster. We can have it all!
 
When has this ever been true before? We’re living in the transition moment into a Golden Age! And it’s one where people are finally beginning to understand the interdisciplinary nature of creative and scientific work.
 
All this got me thinking… what’s so appealing about the idea of a new Magnificent 7? I mean, what’s the point of making a new cowboy movie now, or a remake of this story all over again, at all? And why all the other reboots we’re getting? 
 
And why is science fiction quickly becoming perhaps the most popular and relevant art-form of our time - and becoming more so every day?
 
Because, I would argue, for the same reasons that so many people love the new Star Wars movie, and Hamilton, and the new Mad Max, and the new Ghostbusters, and Agent Carter, and the idea of the upcoming Wonder Woman movie, and so much more:
 
These narratives help us perceive essential truths about human nature that have long been ignored, or undiscovered, or rejected, or hidden away by the mainstream. Because we now understand you can’t separate science from art - or art from science - any longer without causing violence to both… as well as to the truth. These contemporary expressions show us how great humans can become - better than ever! - if we face our past and potential futures honestly, and understand ourselves and others better, so we can reenvision the past and ourselves honestly while being able to imagine better futures and help bring them about.
 
What a time to be alive right now! This is so important, and so incredibly inspiring, both as a creative person and teacher, and human being as well.
 
And I was in the room where it happened. THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENED!
 
You who are striving to create a better, wiser future, or to overtly express it to others in whatever way you do best, I salute you. Thank you. I love you all! 
mckitterick: (Galaxy Magazine cover)
2016-08-15 03:20 pm

WorldCon in Kansas City this week!

This year, the Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction's usual Campbell Conferenceserves as the academic-programming track for MidAmeriCon II in Kansas City. Want to attend some of those? *Full academic-track program schedule here(.pdf)* Don't miss this one, because we'll have hors d'oeuvres for 200 and a cash bar:


And here's McKitterick's MACII Program Schedule:

Thursday Aug 18, 2016

12:00 noon - 1:00pm: Kaffeeklatsch
Convention Center, 2211
Kathleen Ann Goonan (Georgia Institute of Technology) | Bill Higgins | Christopher McKitterick | Brianna Spacekat Wu

7:00pm - 8:50pm: Campbell & Sturgeon Awards Ceremony
Convention Center, 2501D
Join us as the Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction honors the winners of the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best science fiction novel of the year and the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for the best science fiction short story of the year. These awards are unique in that they are selected by incredibly well read authors and scholars in the field. This process side-steps the politics of other award methods. Tonight we will announce the winners and honor their talent with a brief reception. 

Friday Aug 19, 2016

5:00pm - 6:00pm: Autographing
Convention Center, Autographing Space
William Dietz | Derwin Mak | Ian McDonald | Christopher McKitterick | Martha Wells | Sheila Williams

Saturday Aug 20, 2016

9:30am -10:45am: Campbell Conference Round-Table: "The World of Tomorrow is Today: John W. Campbell, Astounding, the Futurians, and the Legacy of the Golden Age”  
Convention Center, 2201
Kij Johnson | Christopher McKitterick | Michael Page | Dr Gregory Benford (UCIrvine) | Elizabeth Anne Hull | Joe Haldeman | Robert Silverberg | Sheila Finch | James Gunn | John Kessel | Elizabeth Bear

This year’s Campbell Conference round-table discussion, as part of the MidAmeriCon II academic programming, considers how the Golden Age shaped science fiction (including this convention) and contributed to the shaping of the present world at large.  We will discuss how the legacy of the Golden Age (especially the legacy of the namesake of this conference) continues to provide inspiration, discussion, and criticism among the writers, scholars, and fans within the field; and how contemporary science fiction extends from (and sometimes diverges from) that legacy.  We will also consider in what ways the World of Tomorrow envisioned by the Golden Age writers exists in the World of Today.

Sunday Aug 21, 2016

10:30am -11:00am: Reading: Christopher McKitterick 
Convention Center, 2203

I'll also be in the Benefit Auction as soon as I can after my Sunday reading, because the Gunn Center's educational-outreach program, AboutSF, is one of the recipients.

Hope to see you there!

Chris