The Vampires of New England Series--Inanna Arthen

Rewriting The Rules

October 23, 2010

Conceding with Grace

Filed under: convention — Tags: , , , , — admin @ 9:14 pm

I have many thoughts about the controversy involving feminist science-fiction convention Wiscon and its decision to rescind its Guest of Honor invitation to Elizabeth Moon. I’m not going to discuss this topic directly right now–it’s much too large and tangled an issue to address simply, and I do not have the investment in Wiscon that others do. I have never been to a Wiscon and never plan to attend one.

However, the controversy has made me reflect on my own recent decision to recuse myself from an organization which I realized I had been taking advantage of–more thoughtlessly than dishonestly, but it still presented me with a small crisis of conscience.

In early 2008, I joined Broad Universe, an organization that was founded at Wiscon in 2000 and which, to quote its website, “is an international organization of women and men dedicated to celebrating and promoting the work of women writers of science fiction, fantasy and horror.” Note that it says, “women and men.” The FAQ further explains, “Anyone — man, woman, transgender, people of color, people of pallor, cats, Martians — anyone who shares that interest is welcome to join us in the bright circle. We are not a women-only organization.”

I joined at Level One membership, and I participated in Rapid Fire Readings, book information and/or sales tables at conventions, and the members’ book catalog. When I say, “participated,” I mean that I pitched in as a volunteer, almost immediately. I organized and emceed the first Rapid Fire Reading I took part in because there was no one else to do it, and I helped staff the tables at conventions. I sold an article to the Broadsheet newsletter, and I volunteered to do a fairly large research project, going through issues of Locus magazine collecting statistics on male and female writers who were listed and reviewed in the magazine.

I’d read the membership information, but I didn’t really think about it. I had lots of friends in Broad Universe and I volunteered to help out with their work because when I join an organization or group, that’s what I do. I think it’s accurate to say that, entirely aside from dues, I put as much into Broad Universe as I got from it. I’m even part of the informal local chapter, New England Broads, which does local group readings and other events.

Then, last year, Broad Universe hired me to redesign its three-fold flyer. In the course of doing that, I went over the website and printed materials very carefully–much more attentively than I had done before. At that point, I found myself with a moral dilemma.

The membership page of the website says, “Anyone can become a Level One member, but because of BU’s mission, only women may participate in the BU catalog, group readings, BU book-launch parties and similar marketing efforts. The rest of the Level One benefits are accessible to all Level One members.” In the section about eligibility for the book catalog, it says, “We jokingly say that if you use the women’s bathroom, you’re automatically in the catalog, but of course, that’s too facile and not entirely accurate. Still, if you self-identify as a woman, this is the place for you.”

That’s the phrase that jerked me to a dead stop. I don’t self-identify as a woman. Not at all. In fact, I identify so strongly as non-gendered that I refuse to answer gender questions, or lie, have written letters of complaint to companies that made gender information mandatory, and refuse to wear certain female clothes, like skirts or high-heeled shoes. This is a huge matter of principle for me. Certainly, life has denied me most of the “universal experiences” which are considered part of being female, and which are a source of bonding for nearly all women.

So I wrestled with this question: was it fair for me to continue enjoying the benefits of an organization founded specifically to support women writers, just because I can “pass” as female? Wasn’t it hypocritical of me to deny a female gender identity and yet quietly allow others to assume I had the same rights that they have? Whatever the reasons (and I’m sure they’re complex), I haven’t experienced most of the negative effects of sexism that so many women have suffered. I didn’t need Broad Universe–not the way real women writers do.

I pondered this for several months, and I almost resigned from the organization. But I value my friends there, and I still wanted to support the work it does. So, I renewed my membership at “Level Two,” which only includes the benefits which are open to non-female members. I no longer read in RFRs, although I’ll organize and emcee them, and I don’t put my books out for sale on the Broad Universe table. I’m not entitled to do those things. Broad Universe is for women writers, and I can’t insist that I’m not female and then conveniently pretend I am whenever I can get something by doing so. I’m a slave to my principles. It’s a horrible curse.

It’s a small thing, compared to what’s been going on with Wiscon and Elizabeth Moon. But some commentators have raised the question of whether a person with opinions so strongly at variance with the stated mission of Wiscon should, in all honesty and integrity, accept a position of honor from them. I can’t go so far as to say, “Elizabeth Moon should have had the grace to withdraw her acceptance as Guest of Honor, when it became apparent that her sincere views conflicted so violently with purpose of the convention and the feelings of its members.” That decision is between Ms. Moon and her own conscience.

But I know what I would have done.

(Crossposted from In Common with Humans)

October 6, 2010

My schedule at Albacon this weekend

This coming weekend, October 7-10, is Albacon, in Albany, New York. If you’re a writer, aspiring writer or avid reader, this is the place to be on Columbus Day weekend! There’s a reception on Thursday evening, and the convention opens with an all-day Writers’ Workshop on Friday. Here’s what I’ll be doing at Albacon, with descriptions and other participants. All of this is subject to last-minute changes, of course–it’s a convention!


Squire, 60 mins
Out of the Word Processor and Into the Bookstore
You’ve sold your manuscript and signed the contract. What happens to your book now? Learn all the steps of a book’s journey from author’s submission to readers’ hands, as hardcover, paperback and ebook editions. It’s a long road with more twists and turns than you might think, especially in the digital age.
with Ron Miller (Artist Guest of Honor), Ian Randal Strock


Squire, 60 mins
Vampires: Sparkling or Bloody?
Vampires: rotting corpses who feed on human vitality or dreamy sparkly beautiful mopey demi-gods? Discuss.
with Susan Hanniford Crowley, Elizabeth Darvill, Jackie Kessler (Moderator), KT Pinto, Morven Westfield
(I almost recused myself from this one. I get so exasperated by all the misinformation that gets repeated over and over and over about vampire folklore and fiction, I tend to make an obnoxious ass of myself on vampire panels. I was really hoping I would be assigned to moderate so all I’d have to do is ask questions and smile. With friends and BLUM’s newest author on this panel with me, I better be nice! :-( Maybe I’ll just put my foot in my mouth before I talk.)

Albany, 60 mins.
Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading
Readers: C. Margery Kempe, K.A. Laity, Roberta Rogow, Morven Westfield
A “rapid fire reading” is the reading equivalent of the tapas bar–delight your ear’s palate with a varied sampling of short excerpts by members of Broad Universe, the only organization dedicated to supporting and promoting women writers of SF/F/H.

Albany, 60 mins
Solo Reading
I may read from more than one work, and I may read an excerpt from my work-in-progress, All the Shadows of the Rainbow and invite comments from my listeners. I’m still putting it all together, though!

Squire, 60 mins
Connecting with Readers Workshop
What does it take to reach readers? How do you cultivate a relationship with your fans?
with Stella Price (Moderator)

Con Suite, 2 hours
By Light Unseen Media Meet and Greet
By Light Unseen Media takes over the Con Suite to celebrate a great year in 2010 so far, and our newest release, Blood Justice, by David Burton. We’ll have some good food, a little music, books, conversation, and BLUM authors Inanna Arthen and KT Pinto (if we can coax her away from the Masquerade!). Drop in and say hello!

Town, until whenever
Steamy Romance Reading
The stories don’t have to be scorching, but it helps! This is a 18+ event. Attendees will have the chance to win some swag thanks to Authors After Dark.
with Kimi Alexandre, Susan Hanniford Crowley, Bianca D’Arc, Elizabeth Darvill, Kayleigh Jamison, C. Margery Kempe, Jo Lynne Valerie, Kit Marlowe, Stella Price, Morven Westfield
(It sure does get hot in Albany on Saturday night! We’ve all got some juicy pieces to read, so bring a cold drink along!)


Town, 60 mins
Small Press: The Good, the Bad and the Surprising
As the dinosaurs of publishing lumber along wondering about this ebook thing, are the nimble mammals of the small press your best bet?
with Bianca D’Arc, CJ Henderson, David Hartwell, Peter Prellwitz, Michael A. Ventrella
(I am totally unbiased and objective about this topic. No, really. Switzerland’R'Us. And if you believe that…:-) )

All information about registering, hotel rooms (rooms are still available), and the complete program are on the Albacon website. Hope to see you there!

(cross-posted from

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