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Shameless self-publicity

io9 interviews me about gender, politics, and GLASSHOUSE

Rick Kleffel interviews me about HALTING STATE in a two-part audio session recorded back in October.




Nice interview. The problem with any study of human sexuality is that they are almost all based on self-reporting, and that has been shown to be quite faulty. It's an obvious ethics issue. That said, I think you did a very nice job with the culture in Glasshouse. The characters were already used to the idea of switching genders, so there was some built in cultural training that allowed them to adjust and play their parts. The best part of Glasshouse IMHO, was way is used a culture that many of us can relate to (50-60's America or whatever it was), set against a culture none of us can relate to.


In the pictures with the Kleffel interview, what does the light say behind you. I get the PHYSICAL part, but I can't figure out the beginning.


Jeff #1 - The best part of Glasshouse IMHO, was way is used a culture that many of us can relate to (50-60's America or whatever it was), set against a culture none of us can relate to.

While agreeing with you that the way the two cultures were used to contrast each other was excellent, the best part IMHO was that the "idealised" 50s with all the savage workings exposed was i. very closely related to our own enlightened early 21st Century; and ii. very nearly as weird as the far future strangeness.


Neil said, "...all the savage workings..."

Things seem pretty savage now too. At least things are getting warmer!


C.S., You know what I think makes Glasshouse engaging for more than just the average sf reader? I think the story allows for lesbian, gay, bi and transgender people to also feel like they are being included. Do you know how hard it is to find a good sf book that has anything but straight people as the main characters? You didn't need to make anything graphic to make some good points with the alternative crowd. The gay couple in JM and AA were also nice to discover. SF has a history of treating LGBT people as invisible for the most part, or just using them as freaks or bad guys.



On LGBT representation on sci-if: Don't forget Halting State.


Jeff: you'll do even better with Elizabeth Bear's work. Very LGBT positive.


I haven't read Halting State yet, it's next. I'm glad to hear there will be some alternative lifestyle types. As for the other writer mentioned: you know, it's just one of those things where I didn't click with her style. I did try after hearing her speak at Penguicon 07. And I'm glad to hear she has positive LGBTs. I should try reading her stuff again.


Jeff@8, how about Melissa Scott? Very inclusive, and her book Shadowman is a very specific look at gender in the future -- A single planet requires people to declare male or female and stick to traditional roles, while the ships docking there, plus the offices from the overall multi-planetary organization, contrast their open gender/orientation. Melissa hasn't written much since her partner died of breast cancer, but the previous books are good.


SF and fantasy books with gay/lesbian/bi characters aren't really that scarce, partly, but only partly, because SF and fantasy books with gay/lesbian/bi authors aren't all that scarce.

You could start with winners of the Lambda award (many different awards; SF is just one category), or with the Gaylactic Spectrum Award (fantasy/SF specifically, as the name might suggest), or with the three-volume Bending the Landscape anthology (one volume each for SF, fantasy, and horror).


Re: HALTING STATE-type matters, this just in from MIT Technology Review -


'For months, as banking meltdowns in the virtual world Second Life cost participants steep losses of real money, corporate owner Linden Lab of San Francisco stuck to a laissez-faire line, essentially saying, We just host the software; residents should avoid deals that sound too good to be true. But this week, Linden Lab abruptly banned virtual banks that can't furnish "proof of an applicable government registration statement or financial institution charter." The requirement appears likely to shut down all of Second Life's banks.

'"There is no workable alternative," Linden Lab wrote in an announcement posted Tuesday....'


Well all societies are pretty savage*, but the one you're in is softened** by familiarity with the rules and normalisation. From a distance we see the sleek outlines of cultures; we notice when they had a crash, but don't see the slow insidious burning going on inside (to use an internal combustion analogy).

The society in Glasshouse has been chosen with malice aforethought to serve particular ends, but, in the fiction, the designers don't know or care about the differences and changes in the last half of the 20th century. We see them and think they're enormous, but one question it brought to mind was are we just wired up 50s suburbanites with a thin layer of tolerance?

(I should stop here and write up my thoughts on Glasshouse on my own blog; that's a good way of putting it off for 6 months or so)

* Primate Group Dynamics - it's like Chimpanzees but with less grooming
** Until you're caught in the works


Talking of "Halting State" moments etc .....

Perhaps you should revisit your piece on "Nothing like this will ever be built again" Re... Nuclear power stations.

I just hope enough people sit on the heads of the luddites in Greenpeacxe so we DO get enough power.

The answer to the safety scare, is of course: France


Matt @ 10: There aren't that many sf writers, so I wonder if 10% of them are GLBT. So if 10% are (probably more like 5%), how many books with a strong gay character is published every year? I'll look into it. It's not like I'm looking for romance in sf, just good characters. I have a book in my pile that sat at ---- publishing for two years. I was finally told that it didn't pass go. On the side I was told that the owner/publisher liked the story but didn't like the "very" gay protag. Jeez, one orgy sceen and few bath-house encounters and suddenly your characters are "very" gay. ;)


G. Tingey -- nothing like the AGRs will be built again. The stuff they're talking about buying for the new build reactors is just stock GE PWRs of the new generation, or whatever it is Alstom is installing in France. The AGR is dead the same way that Concorde is dead; the PWR is alive the same way that the Boeing 787 and Airbus 350 are alive.


C.S. said, "There's a lot of physiological differences, going all the way down to the cellular level."

Most of what I know about gender I learned from TV and movies. Masculinity and femininity are cultural for the most part, don't you think? Was C.S. nominated for the 2007 Tiptree award for Glasshouse? I hear they have a shortage of nominees this year. So much for the glut of GLBT sf out there.


Jeff: Gender != Sex.

Loosely: Sex is a bunch of genetically determined physiological specializations. We can identify whether someone is "male" or "female" physiologically (or, more rarely, intersexed -- e.g. hermaphrodites). Gender is about the sociological and behavioral roles that are constructed around sex. Gender roles are somewhat arbitrary, culturally determined, and vary radically between societies. (For example, compare the position of women in conservative Pushtun -- Afghani -- society and the lesbian subculture in Berkelely: they're both gender roles for physiologically female humans, but they differ rather significantly.)

A fun exercise is to watch prime-time TV with two handheld counters, one for male and one for female actors. You might be surprised by the results: if human society was accurately reflected by TV drama, there'd be 4 men for every woman!


@ G. Tingey who got on Charlie's case about nuclear reactors coming back. Charlie is correct and here's the full quoted context:

'As Les explained, "nothing like this will be built again". The AGRs at Torness are not ordinary civil power reactors. Designed in the 1970's, they were the UK's bid to build an export-earning civil nuclear power system.'

FYI, today's new Gen-3 reactor designs -- of which the most advanced are coming from the US, not France -- are radically different and simpler than the reactors you're used to in Europe, permitting cadcam-based prefab design and construction as with new cruise liners. See for instance --
'America's renaissance in nuclear power: Next-generation nuclear reactors strive for radical simplicity'

'Fifty-five years have passed since the debut of the earliest Generation-I nuclear reactors, and now a new generation has arrived. These passive Gen-III+ plants, including the ESBWR, resemble their 1970s-era Gen-II predecessors about as much as a Toyota Prius hybrid resembles a vintage 1972 Pontiac. The arc of technological progress embodied in the Gen-III+ reactors has been a steady move toward radical simplification.

'The ESBWR replaces previous reactors’ complex system for residual heat removal with a design that uses no pumps or emergency generators. In fact, this reactor possesses no moving parts at all, except the neutron-absorbing control rods that are pulled partway out from the reactor core to let a controlled fission reaction proceed. That fission reaction generates heat that boils the water in the reactor core. That, in turn, becomes the steam that turns the turbines. When the reactor shuts down, a few valves open, and steam from residual decay heat flows to heat exchangers and condenses, releasing its energy before gravity causes it to flow back down into the core as water. This means that the ESBWR runs entirely on natural circulation forces.'


Jeff@14, many years ago, a gay friend took me to a Bette Midler concert at a bath-house. Bette was great and the bath-house was interesting, but I prefer my SF to have less explicit sex, no matter the gender/number/fetishes/etc. of participants.

On the other hand, Charlie and I have a friend who writes SFish gay porn for an online publisher. Shall I ask for the publisher's URL?


Charlie@17, see also the Bechdel Test for movies.


Sorry folks - I didn't re-read Charlie's piece on Torness before posting.

I DO know the difference between a PWR and an AGR, etc, even though it is not my specialist field (My highest qualification is an M.Sc. Eng....)

What I was aiming at was the building of ANY nuclear reactors for power here again, especially given the luddite activities of Greenpeace's more extreme loonies.
They will raise the "spectre of Chernobyl" time and again ....

Given that when I first saw a diagram of the Chernobyl reactor-type I nearly flipped, since the "design" (you should excuse the word) was fundamentally unsafe to start with, even before sovietised idiots started playing stupid games with it.


#19...I don't want much if any sex in the stuff I read. It's just filler. That's not to say that a little romance isn't nice. It just takes a sentence to let the reader know what's happened. "Sure I'll call you..."

And it's not that I don't think errotica is good writing...I mean, I'm sure your friend is good at it. But I have almost no experience reading it. But, if Stoss or one of his respected writer pals has written some porn I'll read it. Is it illustrated?


And isn't it interesting how cultures throughout time have determined what "real" men are like? This entire gender issue is insane. I can't believe anyone cares about who's on top or bottom or if they wear pants or skirts. That said, I'm so well programmed by --your-- culture that my male gender identity seems pretty well warped for good. I still think I'm going to grow up and be James Bond.


Jeff@22, no, I don't think they're illustrated!


What annoys me is SF novels that avoid describing sex scenes altogether, even when it's clear in multiple instances that sex is taking place. You can find examples of this in Jack McDevitt's "Seeker" novel. The main character is an attractive woman who works for an interstellar antiquities dealer.


Josh: Jack McDevitt is 72. This explains a lot about his fiction.


I think it actually fits in the series that Seeker is part of. I mean it's far-future archaeological detective fiction, basically: and the right mood for both archaeology and detective fiction, to me (Bond and Indiana Jones aside) is sort of, well, 'gentlemanly'. (Obviously not literally gentlemanly, what with the protagonist being a woman, but you see what I mean.)

(Where it doesn't fit is the Omega series, also by McDevitt.)


Nix: I have big problems with a lot of McDevitt's work -- amplified by the fact that he's actually a very good writer: but his world-building lags way behind the rest of the skills in his repertoire.


Charlie, if you make it into your 70's, I hope you continue to be on the cutting edge of writing!

Nix, these days I tend to bestow accolades on SF that doesn't readily fit into expected niches. However, I'd still give "Seeker" a 6 out of 10.


Josh, I think she may be interested in him but he's not interested in her. Them not having sex doesn't surprise me in the least.

Charlie, James says the same about McDevitt's books, but I really like them. They're the only books I read when they arrive. All the others go on the end of the to-read pile.


Marilee: I'm not referring to the Alex and Chase relationship, which is definitely platonic and probably should remain that way since they have a strong business connection. Chase's relationships with some other male characters in the "Seeker" and "Polaris" novels IS described as romantic by the author.


Josh: Oh, that's true. I don't really mind missing the sex, though.