Michael Burnham Is The Protagonist


This is a belated cross-post of a Dreamwidth* post I made on Friday 27 July. I’ve found myself linking to it a fair bit, especially in light of programming decisions at Star Trek Las Vegas, so it’s now updated and saved here for posterity.


* Dreamwidth: Like LiveJournal but without the Russian government.

Michael Burnham Is The Protagonist

(Imagine the clapping hands emoji between each word.)

(Or, “ensemble cast” is starting to sound a lot like a dog whistle.)

I tweeted on Sunday:




I need my Disco fix badly enough that I lurk around corners of the internet like Reddit, which is outside of my usual bubble, and I’ve seen this enough that I actually recoiled when I read Tom and Lorenzo saying,¬†“…we‚Äôre struck by how fun this all looks and by how much the rest of the ensemble is being punched up a bit, making this seem slightly less like The Michael Burnham Story and a bit more like a classic Star Trek show.”

See also: literally any journalist, blogger or below-the-lines commenter who describes Anson Mount as “the new lead”.
Continue reading “Michael Burnham Is The Protagonist”

Liz @ Continuum

Continuum is a fan-run Australian convention taking place in Melbourne over the long weekend from June 8 to 11. I’ve co-programmed it for the second year in a row, and I’m extremely excited about the line-up of stuff we have happening.

Here’s where you’ll find me:

Friday | 7pm –¬†Very Disco

Star Trek: Discovery brings the venerable franchise into the 21st century, with more ambiguity, serialised storytelling and fungus than previous iterations. Let’s talk tropes, tribbles and Klingon subtitles.

There is an approximately 100% chance I will be talking about Katrina Cornwell. But also gatekeeping, angry man-boys, and what¬†‚Äúreal‚Ä̬†Star Trek¬†looks like.

Sunday | 11am –¬†Fannish Legal Shenanigans

OH&S on the Enterprise; suing Hogwarts for child endangerment; is that unicorn endangered?

I’m on this panel because (a) it was my idea; (b) I wrangle barristers for a living, so my whole life is legal shenanigans.

Sunday | 4pm –¬†Out in the Open

Fan fiction used to be hidden away, subject to takedown notices, and sometimes kept secret from friends and family. Now there are successful mainstream novels about fic writers and readers, and some creators allow writers to earn money from their work. Is this legitimisation or exploitation? What has been gained and what’s been lost in the process?

This is a really interesting issue, and I’m looking forward to talking about it.

Monday | 11am –¬†One Star

How to handle negative reviews ‚ÄĒ as an author and as a reviewer. Some forums, especially GoodReads, can foster an ‚ÄúUs versus Them‚ÄĚ mentality. What‚Äôs the professional and respectful way to approach critical reviews?

So one thing I’ve found really interesting is the evolution of the idea that you’re either a reader or an author, and the two categories are mutually exclusive.

Outside of these times and places, I can probably be found lurking around the reg desk, or sitting in other people’s panels, or napping under the table in the committee room.

(If you find me in that last place, and you’re not on committee, well, that will raise some questions.)

Chicks, eh?

It’s been a rough few weeks to be a woman, an Australian and a science fiction fan.

I don’t have anything to do with SFWA. ¬†It’s the Science Fiction Writers of America, after all, and even if I was qualified to join (which would involve, for starters, finishing anything), I’m not entirely clear on what the body offers non-American authors.

But it is, effectively, the professional body for an industry I’d like to someday join, so I keep half an eye on its doings.

Suffice to say, the “professional body” has had some problems with, you know, professionalism. ¬†Here’s a nice run-down; no need for me to sum it all up again.

It troubles me that here we have an organisation that is, in practice if not intent, only welcoming to 50% of the population.  (Technically 49%, I believe, but never trust a stat you got from Tumblr.)

The men of Mad Men, season 1.
Some people think that Mad Men is about how we need to get back to a time when workplaces looked like this. Those people are wrong.

I admire John Scalzi a lot, and I respect his efforts to move what looks (from the outside) like a toxic organisation into the twenty-first century. ¬†But the kickback is ugly. ¬†They say, “Don’t read the comments”, but sometimes it helps to know your enemy. ¬†Like here.

Growing up, I didn’t believe in sexism. ¬†When I was 12, my parents went through one of their particularly right-wing periods, and they told me one day that if my brother and I ever went for the same job, I would get it because I’m a girl.

(In reality, my brother and I did once go for the same job, albeit several years apart, and he got it and I didn’t. ¬†But he’s also much smarter than me, and a harder worker. ¬†Maybe because he was told he’d be competing against privileged feminazis, I don’t know.)

Parental eccentricities aside, though, I was lucky. ¬†I came of age in the ’90s. ¬†The most outrageous example of sexism I encountered was in 1999, when a nice lady from Sarina Russo visited my school and told us that girls shouldn’t wear trousers to job interviews, or seem too intelligent, because you didn’t want the interviewer to think you were arrogant.

(I have gotten plenty of jobs after interviewing in trousers. ¬†Not that I wear them much any more, because apparently it’s physically impossible to make pants for my body shape, but if I could find work pants that fit, I would wear them every day.)

Somewhere along the lines, that changed.

I believe it’s fashionable to blame Britney Spears and Lady Gaga for the change, because by all means, let’s blame women for sexism. ¬†A friend of mine attributes the shift to a decade of conservatism under Bush and Howard, the rise of the religious right and the messed up gender dynamics of abstinence-only sex education.

(I think celibacy is a dandy thing if you can do it, but it really helps if you know what you’re abstaining from, and where your boundaries lie. ¬†Apparently these are bad things that will Destroy Children’s Innocence, just like teaching kids the proper names for their genitals.)

I’m not really interested in the whys and wherefores. ¬†(That’s totally a tautology, by the way!) ¬†I’d like for the tide to turn, and then the historians can get on with looking at causes, and I will read the books they publish and feel enlightened.

(Unless they blame Britney Spears and Lady Gaga.)

The business with the SFWA would just be so much background noise if not for what has been going on in Australia this week:

  • The Prime Minister – a lady politician, in the parlance of Resnick and Malzberg – makes reference to the misogyny frequently employed in criticisms of her work. ¬†She is accused of playing the gender card.
  • Approximately 24 hours later, a menu from a Liberal Party fundraising dinner (remember, the Liberals are the conservatives here, because everything is upside down in Australia) is leaked to the press. ¬†It includes “Julia Gillard Kentucky Fried Quail – small breasts, huge thighs and a big red box”. ¬†Please note that in the language of high school students and dickheads, “box” is slang for “vagina”. ¬†The media tells us this is all a lot of fuss over nothing, can’t you take a joke, etc.
  • A couple of days later, a radio presenter asks the PM if her partner is gay. ¬†‘Cos he’s a hairdresser, right, and ‘cos what type of bloke would be involved with a woman more powerful than he is? ¬†The journo is fired, promises legal action. ¬†This insult also involves a man, so it’s taken a bit more seriously.
  • About a day later, although by this point all the events were kind of merging into one, Lieutenant-General David Morrison, Chief of Army, addresses a problem of institutional misogyny in the army, and makes it clear that this is unacceptable. ¬†He‘s¬†hailed as a feminist hero, and there are calls for him to “run for Prime Minister”, even though that’s not actually how our system works.

And I’m just tired. ¬†Tired because this is how our country treats a woman in power, and how many young women like me are watching this and going, “Wow, actually, you know, I don’t think I¬†will go into politics”? ¬†Once or twice is sexism, but this barrage is just misogyny. ¬†Hatred and fear of women.

And what has Gillard done to deserve it? ¬†Her government’s policies regarding asylum seekers are shameful and inhumane, but the other side’s are worse. ¬†She doesn’t support gay marriage, but neither does the Liberal Party. ¬†Her policies have disadvantaged single mothers in receipt of payments, but so do Tony Abbott’s.

(That both sides are terrible doesn’t make it okay. ¬†I really despise what the Labor Party has become, and I hate that they prioritise money and xenophobia over human rights. ¬†But it’s not as if the Liberal Party and the Murdoch press are approaching this from a position of moral outrage, you know?)

She’s a woman, and she’s in politics, and she is, despite the media’s narrative of failure, quite good at advancing policies, often through compromise and sheer bloody mindedness. ¬†And for some reason, the Australian media just can’t wait to be rid of her.

(Remember how, before the US election, it was a dead certainty that Romney would win and Obama would be history? ¬†That’s the same narrative playing out here, hopefully with the same result. ¬†I for one am growing tired of the assumption that the next election is decided. ¬†I mean, come on, guys, we actually get a say in this!)

I am so tired of feeling like I have to defend my right to be here.

It doesn’t help that I spent much of this last week transcribing the trial of an accused rapist. ¬†There are supposed to be rules about how the defence treats the complainant, but in practice, it’s still okay to make insinuations about her style of dress, her make-up, whether she was wearing a brightly coloured bra, whether her creative pursuits indicate she doesn’t understand the difference between fantasy and reality.

I’ve been intermittently watching a J-drama called¬†Strawberry Night, about a rape survivor who becomes a police officer.

It’s basically a series about rape culture and institutionalised sexism in Japan. Cheery stuff!

In the TV movie that precedes the actual series, there’s a flashback to the trial of her attacker. ¬†As a teenage witness, she’s standing behind screens so the jury can’t see her. ¬†The defence counsel trots out all the usual, horrible cliches: ¬†you liked it, you led him on, you made it up.

And Reiko loses her temper and steps out from behind the screens, haranguing the lawyer herself: How dare you say that about me, how dare you dishonour the work of the police officers who pursued this case and the officer who died arresting this man?

It’s cathartic, but when I first watched it, I felt like it was too¬†on the nose, too much a wish-fulfilment fantasy.

Then I started transcribing criminal trials, and now I go back and watch that scene again (even though I’m only a few episodes into the series proper) because it’s so satisfying. ¬†It could never happen in real life, but it really is lovely to see it happen on a screen.

I am very, very tired. ¬†And all I’ve done is watch! ¬†But being a witness, as my therapist said last year, is traumatic in its own way.

Yesterday I burrowed in and worked on a project I have going, and then played Mass Effect and read a book for a while. ¬†It was very soothing, except when I remembered that women aren’t welcome in gaming either, and … actually, no, I have no criticism about the book I’m reading at the moment. ¬†Whispers Under Ground by Ben Aaronovitch, number 3 in the Rivers of London series. ¬†It’s the type of thing my parents called literary fast food, but it’s not so much McDonalds as a burger from that really excellent place that uses the best quality meat, and fresh bread and salads, and makes their own sauces.

It has been a long week. ¬†And coming off the back of a really satisfying con where women’s voices were heard and interesting and funny things were said, it feels a bit like a punch in the face. ¬†(I gave some serious thought to moving to Canada to escape Australia’s politics, but I don’t like the cold, I don’t understand ice hockey, and I can’t eat poutine.) ¬†I realise I’m making a lot of things all about me, but my therapist also said that’s empathy, and I should stop criticising myself for having feelings.

ANYWAY, it’s a nice day, and I’m going to go and have brunch with my excellent friends, and then maybe look at the Mass Effect tag on Tumblr and satisfy myself that my FemShep is better than everyone else’s. ¬†(I presume that is a natural part of the Mass Effect experience? ¬†Seriously, why does the male version of Shephard even exist? ¬†He’s so … well, not my type, suffice to say.)

How do I Continuum?

So, Liz, how is your Continuum going? 

Pretty good, thanks! ¬†It’s the last day, and I’m sitting on the floor behind the reg desk, fingers on keyboard, but brain engaged in conversation.

Also I’m sleepy.

So, late nights?

I like to be in bed at 9.30! ¬†I’m a nanna!

What are people talking about?

RaceFail, social justice and inclusiveness in fandom and the genre writing community have been coming up a lot!  Maaaaaaaaaaaaybe because I programmed a bunch of panels on the subject?  I deny all responsibility.

But we did talk about RaceFail on Social Justice 101 on Saturday morning, and a couple of hours later, N. K. Jemisin mentioned it in her Guest of Honour speech.

Cool story, Liz. What’s RaceFail?

RaceFail ’09 was a series of incidents in which prominent SF authors and editors said really stupid things about race. ¬†It started out with a well-intentioned post by Elizabeth Bear about how to write PoC, and ended in some terrible behaviour, including the outing of a prominent Fan of Colour’s real life identity.

You can find a more detailed history here.  While it was going on, Rydra Wong maintained links to posts and discussions on the subject.

So RaceFail is still a thing?

Sadly, there are still authors and editors who say terrible things about PoC, or who write stereotypes, or who think it’s just too hard to write anything but white characters.

But RaceFail also triggered lots of wider discussions about fandom, inclusion, internalised *isms, and wider issues of social justice in the context of science fiction and fantasy fandom and publishing.

Hence the Social Justice 101 panel!

Yep! ¬†I have an issue with a lot of fandom’s current social justice discourse, in that it uses a lot of academic concepts and terminology (much of which is apparently now obsolete in actual academic circles), yet becomes quite hostile to people who don’t understand the terminology. ¬†There’s a dash of classism, but mostly I fear that the language of social justice is being misused as a tool for exclusion and even bullying.

In short, it’s a social injustice.

That’s a bit rough.

Yeah, well, I think it’s human nature to take good things and misuse them. ¬†See also self-styled allies who, instead of being¬†good allies and educating the ignorant/curious so that marginalised people don’t have to, snap, “It’s not my job to educate you!” as if they themselves were part of the marginalised group in question.

(“I don’t understaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand why it’s offensive to say there are no black SF fans!” — for example — is a common method of, at worst, derailing a conversation, or at best, taking up a person’s time and energy by asking them to justify their existence and opinions.)

“Educate yourself” and “Go and Google it” are often the responses in these situations, and I don’t think that’s a wholly useful response on the part of allies. ¬†Not everyone has the education and intellectual capacity to seek out and critically analyse information. ¬†And there’s a lot of bad information out there. ¬†A friend, on being told to go and educate herself about trans* issues, went off to Google and found a whole lot of transmisogynistic and cissexist radical feminists who use the language of social justice to spread hate and intolerance.

Early on, Social Justice 101 had as its blurb, “Just this once we’re here to educate you!” ¬†We changed that because it’s not really fair to have an in-joke on a 101 panel, but that was the intent of it.

That’s really inclusive of you.

I know, right? ¬†I’m so great. ¬†*hairflip*

…actually, I was afraid that either the audience would be really hostile, or I, as a product of a racist culture, would say something really offensive, but it was a great audience and a great panel. ¬†Most people had at least a little bit of background in the concepts from observing social justice discussions online, and we defined terms like “privilege” and “oppression olympics”.

We also talked about some of the ways fandom socal justice has gone a bit wrong, like treating privilege as if having it automatically makes you a bad person. ¬†Which is wrong — we all have privilege in different ways, and the point of social justice is to recognise that and keep in mind that our experiences are not universal, and that the default narratives of our society don’t always recognise that.

Or, being another way, being a white, middle class man does not make you a bad person, nor does it mean you automatically have an easy life with no challenges. ¬†But the challenges you face will be different from those faced by, say, an Aboriginal woman with a disability, and it’s important to recognise that and try to create a society where it all evens out.

So nothing challenging then?

It’s really hard! ¬†And I think there’s a fear that if we make a mistake, it will be held against us forever, so why even try? ¬†(This, again, I believe, is a place where fandom’s social justice discourse can go wrong.)

And one thing I said, which I think is important, is that sometimes these discussions can get very fraught, and you need to look after your own mental health.  For example, I have an anxiety disorder and am very conflict-averse.  Sometimes social justice discussions make me anxious, and I have to make the conscious decision to step back and let it go on without me.

So you think people should talk about oppression, but nicely!

I hope I’m being more nuanced than that!

One thing we defined in our panel was the tone argument.  This comes up a lot in anti-oppression circles in general.  It goes like this:

Person A: Says something a bit sketchy.

Marginalised Person: Says that that was a bit sketchy.

Person A: Complains that Marginalised Person’s opinion is invalidated because they’re being rude.

No actual rudeness is necessary for the tone argument to be invoked, although quite often it ends with a marginalised person losing their temper, and the person who started the whole thing going, “See? ¬†They really are irrational and angry and not worth listening to!”

And, needless to say, social justice discussions get fraught, and marginalised people have good reasons to be angry.

But for my own mental health, that’s usually when I close the tab. ¬†Luckily I don’t usually participate in these conversations, so I can do that, because I’m not actually participating. ¬†And the fandom police don’t actually come to your house and arrest you for not following every single discussion.

(Sometimes I see people remark that anyone who isn’t participating in Conversation X is automatically supporting the oppressor. ¬†Those people must have much more spare time and energy than I do.)

Basically, I think that as long as you’re not actually telling people to be nice or you won’t follow the discussion — and why would you do that? ¬†It’s rude. ¬†Dickish, even — you have the right to draw your own boundaries.

(Clearly I’m writing this for an audience who are not themselves participants in social justice debates. ¬†I lurk myself. ¬†That’s the entire foundation of my so-called expertise.)

No one has actually called you an expert.

Shut up.

You talk about anything else?

Apparently I have a lot of opinions about Doctor Who.

You amaze me.

I know.  I was a bit shocked too.

I really like Melbourne’s fandom, though, because at ChicagoTARDIS, the older male fans talked over me, patronised me and finally ignored me. ¬†The older male fans here were respectful, polite, and even though at least one of them is WRONG about Amy Pond, I didn’t feel like I was in a hostile environment.

Are you about to use the words “safe space”?

I think that, as much as we work really hard to make Continuum a safe space, that judgement is ultimately very personal and subjective.

Do you have any Doctor Who opinions worth sharing?

Someone asked about Amy and Clara being too mysterious, and whether that made them objects in the Doctor’s eyes. ¬†It’s a criticism I’ve seen around Tumblr as well.

I disagree that it’s inherently bad to have a mysterious companion. ¬†We’ve had many, many years of the show where the Doctor was a MYSTEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEERIOUS AND POOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOWERFUL ALIEN MAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN … and his companion, the everygirl.

And there’s nothing wrong with an everygirl or 30, or even an everyman or, um, four. ¬†But to me, it is really exciting that the Doctor is as fascinated by his companions as they are by him. ¬†And not a patronising “You sit at home and eat chips and that’s brilliant except actually the narrative repeatedly suggests I despise you for it” sort of way.

Additionally, I think that growing up involves learning about yourself, and perhaps discovering that the things you took for granted as a child or young adult aren’t actually true. ¬†For me, it was really exciting that Amy’s story addressed that, and that she continues to be strange and mysterious even after she’s married and domestic.

I don’t think it was as effectively done with Clara, but I don’t consider it an inherently problematic trope.

And as my fellow panellist Kathryn Anderson pointed out, we’ve had 50 years of the Doctor as a mystery to be solved, and no one has said this is problematic or objectifying. ¬†But once you give that narrative to a woman, suddenly it’s an issue.

This looks like a good segue into the Gender Bending panel!

Yeah, three panels I did on Sunday:

  • Panelbending (about¬†Avatar: the Last Airbender, OBVIOUSLY)
  • Gender Bending
  • Racebending

Whoever programmed this convention is a — DAMN.

Anyway, yes, my friend Lucy Baker is doing a PhD on fandom, and particularly rule 63, gender bending and … I don’t know, stuff. ¬†Academic stuff.

So Lucy, Rachel Holkner and I ran a slideshow of pictures — mostly cosplay, some fan art — and talked about a few things.

Well, that narrows it down!

Well, quite often female versions of male characters are really hyperfeminine and sexualised, even if the male version isn’t. ¬†For example, we agreed that a female version of Tony Stark¬†would be really sexy and sort of flashy, because Tony is already really into gender performance. ¬†Whereas Rachel actually cosplayed the Terminator — Schwarzenegger model — for the panel, and deliberately constructed a costume that was not¬†overtly feminine. ¬†Except, of course, for her modest heels.

We also talked about stories that just wouldn’t work if you swapped the protagonist’s gender. ¬†You can’t have¬†Mad Men with Donna Draper. ¬†You can’t have¬†Breaking Bad with Wallis White.

We also touched on this, and it occurred to me again while I was running the vid show last night, the Marvel movieverse is¬†full of male gender performance. ¬†I just mentioned Tony Stark, but¬†Captain America is basically about Steve Rogers adapting to a body that’s as masculine as his ambitions. ¬†Natasha deliberately adopts the persona of a vulnerable woman so that she’ll be underestimated in battle.

You need to spend less time on Tumblr.

I feel like we could have said something interesting about¬†Hannibal, but we haven’t actually watched it yet.

We did, though, talk about¬†Elementary, and Joan Watson, and the way she is very feminine, and quite sexy in her manner of dress — short skirts (with leggings), high heels — but not sexualised. ¬†Also, pretty amazing.

Did you hijack any other panels to talk about amazing female characters?

I just like Lin Beifong a lot, okay?

How was the vid show?

I think it went well!  I hope it went well, anyway.

One of the vids I showed was Chaila’s “Keep the Streets Empty for Me”, a¬†Twilight vid that positions Bella as the hunter, her prey partially being Edward, but also sensuality and physical power. ¬†There was a certain amount of sniggering when the (small) audience realised it was a¬†Twilight vid, and¬†certain parties¬†may have gotten on with the serious business of sharing lollies. ¬†But it’s such a compelling, dark vid that it sort of magnetised the audience and regained their attention.

You know, I think it must have been a successful vid show, because when I came out of the bathroom afterwards, people were serenading N. K. Jemisin with “Blue (Da Ba Dee)”, which was the song behind the penultimate vid. ¬†(We know how to show an author a good time here!)

Anything else?

LOTS.  I think my brain is broken.

We’re back to that sleep issue.¬†

I love sleep so much.


Were meant to flyyyyyyyyyyyyy!

Ain’t no party like a Khan party!

‘Cos a Khan party don’t stop until it’s conquered 25% of Earth and fled justice into space!

SPOILERS: Probably safest to assume that everything after this paragraph contains spoilers up to and including Star Trek Into Darkness.  

I saw¬†Into Darkness with my friends a couple of weeks ago, and even after I recovered from my lens flare headache, I was kind of unimpressed. ¬†I’ve been a Trekkie since I was ten, and I don’t go to a¬†Star Trek movie to see Spock punching a dude in the face, you know? ¬†And it’s a shame, because I had enjoyed JJ Abrams’ first round with the franchise, and now I just want to reject everything about it, even the 100% brilliant aspects like Zoe Saldana, John Cho and Simon Pegg.

When¬†Star Trek¬†came out, it inspired me to go back and watch the whole of TOS and TNG. ¬†(I got about halfway through DS9, which was great, but then I kind of got distracted. ¬†I’ll go back to that and VOY at some stage, I swear. ¬†As soon as I get over my fear that Voyager won’t be as perfect and brilliant as it seemed when I was 14.

(Actually,¬†Voyager was the fandom that taught me that all showrunners hate puppies, kittens, happiness and women, which is probably why I like Steven Moffat so much — he seems to tolerate puppies, kittens, happiness and women, and that’s a big step up from Brannon Braga. ¬†When you lower your standards, you can’t be disappointed.)

Anyway, this time around, I gathered some friends and said, “Hey, totes gonna watch ‘Space Seed’ and¬†Wrath of Khan. ¬†You should come over and stuff.”

And they did, even though they weren’t big¬†Star Trek¬†fans, and were somewhat more positive towards¬†Into Darkness than me.

Remember how I blogged about fannish defensiveness a few weeks back? ¬†Showing¬†Star Trek to my friends is really nerve-wracking, because there’s always a small part of me that worries they’ll … I don’t know, hold me responsible for Shatner’s line reading? ¬†It’s a neurosis. ¬†And also quite silly, because my friends these days are sensible women who can cope with watching old fashioned TV, and don’t judge me for liking something that’s a bit stilted and odd.

But wow, “Space Seed”¬†is old fashioned. ¬†Not as shockingly as early¬†Doctor Who¬†—¬†Star Trek had a much better budget, and the general film quality was higher (even setting aside the difference between colour and black and white), but the pacing is veeeeeeeeeeeeeery sloooooooooooow compared with modern television.

TOS ran four minutes longer than TNG (something I felt was quite unjust when I was young), and they really take their time setting up the plot and characters.  If this was made today, Khan would take take over the Enterprise much earlier, and the rest of the episode would be one long action scene.  As it is, the capture of the crew, torture of Kirk and defeat of Khan and reclamation of the ship all takes place in the last quarter hour.

…also if this was made today, apparently, Khan would be played by a white British actor, rather than a Mexican in brownface. ¬†Which is also problematic, but it’s an historical artefact from 1966/67. ¬†Ricardo Montalban spent much of his career playing men of other races, including Asian, because Hollywood’s pretty racist and a man has to eat.

The interesting thing about Khan was that the original script portrayed a¬†Nordic superman. ¬†And Gene Roddenberry basically went, “Well, if you’re creating a superhuman out of the best humanity has to offer, he’s probably not going to be white.” ¬†So although there are a lot of issues with Khan, from the brownface to his relationship with McGivers, he simultaneously represents 1960s racism¬†and progressivism.

In fact, in “Space Seed”, Scotty describes the eugenics warriors thusly:

“They’re mixed types. Western, mid-European, Latin, Oriental.”

I’m wincing and impressed at the same time. ¬†Nice try, 1966.

It’s kind of unfortunate, then, that by 1982, this is what Khan’s people look like:

Khan's followers as they appeared in 1982. They're uniformly pale-skinned and blond.
Whitewashed AND they went the full Mad Max.

Well done on not putting Montalban in brownface this time?

According to Tumblr, incidentally (because I hit the tags in search of Carol Marcus gifs, but I’ll get to that later), casting a Mexican to play an Indian is way more racist than casting a white man to play the same Indian, and also it’s impossible for Khan to be a man of colour, because scientists are racist and would have bred their superman to be white. ¬†To which I say, congratulations, you are officially more racist than 1966!

The other problem with “Space Seed” is that it’s also an artefact of 1960s attitudes about women. ¬†Although it hardly seems fair describing it as such, since at the same time as¬†Star Trek was giving us Marla McGivers,¬†Doctor Who was adding Polly Wright to its already impressive list of brave, clever, sensible female characters. ¬†

(Uhura is woefully underused in “Space Seed”. ¬†IT MUST BE A DAY ENDING IN Y. ¬†She does the comms thing, and then gets physically threatened by Khan’s henchmen until she activates the KirkTortureCam. ¬†Nichelle Nichols does give some great Outrage Face at this treatment, though.)

Anyway, Marla. ¬†She’s the ship’s historian, and I’d like to think that it’s awesome that history is so respected in the Federation that starships carry their own specialists, only … what do they do? ¬†Marla betrays the ship. ¬†The Enterprise-D had one for five minutes, but then he got shot, and never replaced. ¬†BECAUSE WHAT DO THEY DO? ¬†Even Kirk doesn’t seem too sure.

Marla’s not even a good historian. ¬†She’s basically the equivalent of those women who write love letters to serial killers in prison. ¬†Her quarters are a shrine to Great Men Who Conquered Shit And Killed People¬†– Alexander the Great, Caesar, Napoleon – and she also paints their portraits. ¬†And she falls for Khan because he’s a Great Man Who Conquered Shit And Killed People, not an emasculated specimen like the men of the future.

(Someone should write an essay about masculine anxieties as represented in “Space Seed”. ¬†Someone who’s not me, I mean.)

The most interesting moment in this relationship is when Khan tells her, “Go. Or stay. But do it because it is what you wish to do.” ¬†It makes the coercion that follows look consensual!

But my favourite scene in the whole episode is the one where Kirk, McCoy and Scotty express their admiration for Khan, and Spock is horrified and outraged that they’re being fans of a problematic person. ¬†(Khan Noonien Singh. ¬†Amanda Palmer. ¬†Can¬†you see the difference?) ¬†Here’s a transcript:

SCOTT: I must confess, gentlemen. I’ve always held a sneaking admiration for this one.
KIRK: He was the best of the tyrants and the most dangerous. They were supermen, in a sense. Stronger, braver, certainly more ambitious, more daring.
SPOCK: Gentlemen, this romanticism about a ruthless dictator is —
KIRK: Mister Spock, we humans have a streak of barbarism in us. Appalling, but there, nevertheless.
SCOTT: There were no massacres under his rule.
SPOCK: And as little freedom.
MCCOY: No wars until he was attacked.
SPOCK: Gentlemen.
KIRK: Mister Spock, you misunderstand us. We can be against him and admire him all at the same time.
SPOCK: Illogical.

I can only assume that Spock then goes off to call them out on Tumblr.  As soon as he finds a gif that will express his lack of feels.

ANYWAY, Khan is brought to heel and sent into exile with his people, on the grounds that ’tis better to reign in hell than serve in heaven, and Marla goes with him because the alternative is (I assume) a cushy Federation jail, and who wouldn’t want choose an inhospitable, uninhabited planet over that?

And we’re left with the final mysteries: ¬†why would a group of escaping war criminals steal the ship that signals their criminality to any passing Australian? ¬†How can a ship called S.S. Botany Bay¬†send up no red flags whatsoever? ¬†I guarantee you, deep in the bowels of the Enterprise, some Aussie crewman had been singing “Bound for Botany Bay” for¬†days by the time everyone else figured Khan was bad news.

The 1982 movie poster for Wrath of Khan
They really don’t make movie posters like they used to. I wonder what happened to all the artists whose skills are now obsolete?

The first thing to note about Wrath of Khan is that it introduces two new female characters and gives them substantial roles.  In fact, it has more female speaking parts than Into Darkness, and 100% fewer underwear scenes.  

(On the other hand, despite the presence of Carol Marcus and Saavik, Uhura is still¬†underused. One thing I wholeheartedly love about the reboot is how it does give Uhura significant time and attention — although it’s still nothing compared with the male leads — and I just wish Nichelle Nichols had received the same kind of respect.)

Part of the reason I was so keen to rewatch¬†Khan was Carol Marcus. ¬†I didn’t¬†hate her in¬†Into Darkness, but I did hate that they took this independent, funny, super-intelligent woman who managed to be defined by neither her son nor her ex-boyfriend, and turned her into a generic Strong Female Character whose primary motivation is her daddy issues. ¬†With a gratuitous underwear scene.

I mean,¬†Khan!Carol is middle aged, and it makes sense that a younger version would have different priorities and maybe less confidence than her older self, but I couldn’t see a shred of the future Carol in the new version. ¬†Alice Eve is no less competent than Bibi Besch, but the writing just wasn’t there. ¬†New!Carol was just hollow.

And it did bug me that they took Carol Marcus, who is proudly civilian, and whose scientific drive is for the creation of life from nothingness, who regards Starfleet as a tool for the advancement of science and a necessary military evil, and turns her into … a weapons specialist. ¬†At first this made sense, with the militarisation of new Starfleet, but then, the Starfleet of the movies is also highly militarised.

It’s significant, I think, that when David Marcus accuses Starfleet of stealing and weaponising the Genesis research, none of the other younger scientists disagree. ¬†Only Carol, who is old enough to remember a gentler, exploration-based Starfleet, contradicts him.

That generation gap is significant, because Wrath of Khan is less about a crazy dude trying to kill everyone, and more about middle age, loss, obsolescence and facing death. ¬†The Enterprise is full of junior officers in training, with Spock in command, and Kirk sort of flailing about in a new position as an admiral. ¬†And then, amidst all that, his past comes back to haunt him: ¬†an enemy he thought he’d left behind, the woman who broke his heart, the son he never knew.

And then¬†Spock dies, and Kirk faces death and the no-win situation properly for the first time. ¬†And, because he’s kind of an asshole, he finds it exhilarating. ¬†Rejuvenating. ¬†He feels young at the end. ¬†Sad and overwhelmed with loss, but also young. ¬†And also, Spock’s death? ¬†All about him.

Amazingly, this coda doesn’t detract from the power of Spock’s death. ¬†Although the truly amazing thing is that when Kirk, at the funeral, describes Spock as “the most human soul he has ever known”, Spock doesn’t rise out of his coffin and say something sarcastic. And Saavik is too grief-stricken to do it for him.


Saavik is Spock’s protege. ¬†In terms of character types, she’s basically Romana I – a beautiful brunette ice queen with more theoretical knowledge than practical experience, and magnificent eyebrows.

They’re not very, you know, Vulcan eyebrows, though. ¬†And she actually sheds a tear at Spock’s funeral. ¬†See, a cut scene would have revealed that Saavik is actually half-Romulan, and not completely down with this total lack of emotion business. ¬†But because that information was taken out, and Kirstie Alley wasn’t given the classic Vulcan eyebrows, she can come across as a bit of a half-baked Vulcan.

DOESN’T MATTER, THOUGH, ‘COS SAAVIK IS GREAT. ¬†She challenges Kirk, making him¬†hugely uncomfortable, while Spock just stands in the background and looks approving. ¬†But she also respects Kirk and learns from him — she’s not just a Strong Female Character whose version of feminism is an inability to admit she’s wrong.

I mean, not that she overtly admits she’s wrong, but sometimes her eyebrows suggest that she’s taking things in.

Saavik was Kirstie Alley’s first big movie role. ¬†By the time The Search for Spock¬†came around, Alley asked for a huge amount of money, and Saavik promptly regenerated into Robin Curtis.

Curtis was very good in the role, and her version of Saavik was much more classically Vulcan, but she lacked the quiet sass that Alley’s version had. ¬†Nevertheless, it’s a real shame that she barely appears in¬†Star Trek IV, and after that she just vanishes from the Trek universe.

(But it could be worse — Valeris, the traitorous Vulcan in¬†Star Trek VI, was originally going to be Saavik. ¬†Hoo boy, did we dodge a bullet there! ¬†Although we also have to put up with Kim Cattrall’s acting, which is never a highlight.)

AND THAT WAS THE KHAN PARTY.  I believe we have tentative plans for one day having a Whales and Tribble Party.  Because boy, do I know how to show my friends a good time, or what?

Fake Real Geek Girl

You’ve heard about Fake Geek Girls, right? ¬†Terrible, conniving women who spend time and money on costumes and merch, studying a fandom, not to mention paying for hotels and convention memberships, all so they can PRETEND TO BE FANS, to LURE INNOCENT YOUNG GEEK MEN into their TRAP. ¬†Said trap being, as far as I can tell, that they don’t want to have sex with the men who desire yet hate them.

Yeah, I don’t get it either. ¬†But the idea is out there — not just being perpetuated by actualfax journalists and industry professionals, but lurking on Tumblr, Reddit and 4Chan. ¬†There are no female geeks. ¬†They’re just¬†pretending. ¬†Women are¬†cheerleaders, which is the female equivalent of the¬†jock, and the¬†jock is evil. ¬†Also, high school: never actually ended.

(I’m not the only one who has that nightmare, right? ¬†I’ve had so many dreams where I somehow forgot to complete my science class that I have trouble remembering that not only did I finish science, but I came fourth in my grade. ¬†Which isn’t all that impressive, because it was multistrand science, and also I missed, like, a term due to illness that I never made up, so actually, it wasn’t so much that I was good at it, as I was just in a really average grade.)

Now, I’m a Real Geek Girl. ¬†I even have the business cards to prove it!

(…Well, minicards. ¬†I felt like a wanker as I ordered them, but every time I go to a con, I find myself wishing I had something to hand out with my Twitter and blog addresses on it. ¬†And you can also put text on the back. ¬†So I have Real Geek Girl cards. ¬†Or I will when they arrive.)

I’ve been a Trekkie since I was ten. ¬†I have childhood memories of¬†Doctor Who. ¬†I started my first fan fiction when I was 12. ¬†I’m helping to run a science fiction convention, for heaven’s sake!

Doth the lady protest too much?

Well, yeah.

I love¬†Voyager, the¬†wrong version of¬†Star Trek. ¬†(It’s full of women, you know.) ¬†As a child, it was Sylvester McCoy’s era of¬†Doctor Who that I watched (it was full of women, you know), and as an adult, it was New Who (it marginalises men!) that made me fall in love with the series and seek out Classic Who again. ¬†Just like my subconscious thinks I’m a fake high school graduate, my jerkbrain thinks I’m an imposter.

Fandom loves a hierarchy, especially if it can put women close to the bottom. ¬†(Along with other marginalised groups, of course, and I don’t mean to dismiss or erase the experiences of genderqueer fans and fans of colour. ¬†But at the same time, I can’t talk about their experiences either.)

She’s not really a fan. ¬†She’s fannish, but she shouldn’t be. ¬†She’s a fan, but look what she’s into. ¬†

A few years ago, when I worked at Borders, a customer annoyed me so much that I turned our exchange into a crude comic.


(Actual fact: there is a rare flower that blooms whenever the “City of Death” score is played.)

(Incidentally, I actually do have a chin.)

This isn’t just the fannish patriarchy. ¬†The female-dominated end of fandom has its own internal hierarchy, with fic writers, vidders and cosplayers at the top, artists in the middle (“Anyone can draw!”) and lurkers — consumers,¬†our own audience — at the bottom.

(For some ranting on the subject, come to the Lurker Panel at Continuum this year! ¬†And if you’re wondering if it was a challenge to round up a panel’s worth of lurkers and persuade them to speak in public, you’d be quite correct.)

And crossing gender barriers is the idea that you’re not a “real” fan if you only like one era, or one spin-off, or you got into it because you like an actor. ¬†There’s a reason Laura Mead’s essay in¬†Chicks Unravel Time, “David Tennant’s Bum”, got so much attention from reviewers — she was proudly proclaiming that she was the Wrong Type Of Fan.

(The fact that her essay was also an exploration of the ways the Tenth Doctor represented a different kind of masculinity in his heroism seemed to go unnoticed — it’s not a new thing to say about the Doctor, but it has traditionally come bundled with baggage about asexuality, ie, he’s not a traditionally masculine hero¬†and he wouldn’t touch anything so disgusting as¬†a woman.)

I have this theory that, aside from the human love of constructing hierarchies, there’s a strong element of insecurity at work.

I mean, I don’t give credence to the stereotype of the nerd with no social skills, who lives with his parents in a room full of action figures, but I think a lot of us had a hard time in high school. ¬†Bullies will latch on to anything that makes a person stand out, and only the very self-confident can keep that from touching them.

(And that self-confidence is what makes those kids popular. ¬†Not that I could see it when I was a bad tempered 15 year old who hated everything and everyone but especially the popular kids. ¬†But looking back, they were just as weird and awkward as everyone else, they just pretended they didn’t care. ¬†I should have spent less time hating them and more time trying to cultivate that independence.)

When I was 11 and 12, some girls in my class used to slam me against a brick wall and shout, “BEAM ME UP SCOTTY!”

Those girls? ¬†My best friends. ¬†You know, when they weren’t bullying me, or belittling me for liking things they didn’t enjoy, or using me as the butt of their jokes…

I did eventually figure out that actually they weren’t my friends at all, but even now, I sometimes find that I tolerate poor treatment from people just because they say they’re my friend, and I get very, very defensive if people tease me about the stuff I’m into.

And it’s that defensiveness that creates these toxic hierarchies, these cultures of exclusion. ¬†If what I like becomes popular, there won’t be room for me. ¬†If there are new people coming into my fandom, I need to establish myself at the top of the peak, because what if they turn out to be really popular?

And then, sometimes, that gets tied up with the misogyny that permeates our society. ¬†It’s a mixture of fear, male entitlement, and the psychological scars of adolescence.

Or maybe I’m just extrapolating from my own experience to the entire human race, which is probably a bad idea, but I feel like there might be a grain of truthiness somewhere.

Books, podcasts, and I am not actually stalking Tansy Rayner Roberts

I’m not! ¬†Because that would be creepy, and also illegal, and also it would involve a higher level of effort than I’m accustomed to.

But when I was at ChicagoTARDIS, there was a certain amount of SHOCK and DISAPPROVAL when I said that I didn’t listen to the Galactic Suburbia podcast. ¬†I was given to understand that it’s my duty as an Australian feminist genre fan to give it a burl.

So I downloaded the last two episodes of 2012, and gave them a listen this week — well, I’m still partway through the November 22 episode — and, yes, everyone was right. ¬†This podcast is clever, informative, highly relevant to my interests, and I’ve been remiss in not listening to it before.

In fairness, I only listened to my very first podcast just recently. ¬†And my second. ¬†And now my third, fourth and fifth. ¬†(I’ve stopped counting now.) ¬†There came a point a few years back where I stopped listening to the radio because the announcers were all inane — yes, even on Triple J, hallowed youth station though it is — and technology enabled me to choose my own music. ¬†I figured that a podcast would be similarly irritating background noise.

Yes, I was wrong. ¬†For my morning commute, when I want some kind of mental stimulation but am too sleepy to read, podcasts are perfect. ¬†Of course, my commute is 20 minutes and most podcasts seem to go for about an hour, but, you know, we’re coping.

And a good thing, too, because now there’s a new podcast in town, and her name is Verity.

Verity is a feminist Doctor Who podcast, and frankly, a ridiculous number of the contributors are my friends.  I listened to the first episode yesterday, and it was great.  It was positive and affectionate while acknowledging faults, and the breadth of opinion meant that I got to agree with someone most of the time.  It was a very nice way to spend a couple of train journeys.

Now, both of these podcasts feature Tansy Rayner Roberts, whose short story collection Love and Romanpunk has been sitting on my bookshelf for, oh, a year and a half.  And she has a fantastic essay in Chicks Unravel Time, and she said clever things on panels at Continuum last year!

Then, on Wednesday, just as I was beginning my great podcast adventure, one of my BFFs tweeted about reading and loving¬†Love and Romanpunk. ¬†(She reviews it here — I studied in the same Classics department, as does my brother now, although I’m fairly sure she’s the only one who got to design collapsible boats in class.)

Well, that was it. ¬†Clearly I had no choice but to read it. ¬†So I spent the second day of the year lying on the couch, absorbed in “Julia Agrippina’s Secret Family Bestiary”, which effectively hooked me for the rest of the stories. ¬†If anyone else looks at the Julio-Claudians and sees literal monsters, this is totally the book for you.

Jan 4: download the new issue of Apex Magazine. ¬†(I subscribed. ¬†You should, too!) ¬†And look, there’s a reprint of Roberts’ story “The Patrician”, from the same collection!

I am not stalking Tansy Rayner Roberts, but it’s possible that her works are stalking me.

I’m actually okay with this, since one of my goals for 2013 is to read more Australian authors. ¬†I went a bit overboard working out reading stats for 2012, and one of the results was that, of the 141 books I read, only 19 were by Australians. ¬†That’s pretty shameful. ¬†So yes, for 2013 we’re reading more Australians, more short stories, more in general. ¬†NOT THAT IT’S A COMPETITION. ¬†(It’s totally a competition.)

The problem is, there are so many good books! ¬†Here’s my to-read pile:

So many books...
So many books…

Most of these were purchased in the US, and I’m still working through them. ¬†And this is without factoring in the ebooks I haven’t read yet!

I really need one of those jobs where people pay me to read.  But, like, books that I choose, not that my boss chooses for me.


I’m baaaaaaaa-aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack! ¬†Didja miss me? ¬†Come on, at least pretend you noticed I was gone. ¬†Unless, of course, you were following my adventures on Tumblr or Twitter, in which case it’s probably like I never left, and you’re possibly quite sick of me. ¬†Hmm.

ANYWAY, since I originally started this blog in the wake of Continuum 8: Craftonomicon, and my appointment as programming whosit for Continuum 9, I thought I’d post my ChicagoTARDIS thoughts here.

ChiTARDIS was my very first fan convention for a specific fandom. ¬†I got to meet a bunch of old friends, some of whom I didn’t even know were attending, and I made a bunch of new friends. ¬†I was a bit creepy at the back of Burn Gorman’s head (he just had a very crisp haircut!) and passed Anjli Mohindra in the ladies room, where she was worried she wouldn’t make a good impression on fans.

Programming-wise, I … well, I spent a lot of time in the lobby. ¬†And the bar. ¬†And at Target. ¬†This isn’t so much a reflection on the program itself, but more that it seemed a bit silly to travel all this way, meet people in person for the first or second time, and then not spend time with them.

Having said that, the only panel I really regret missing was Fond of the Ponds, with L M Myles and Deborah Stanish, which was apparently 55 minutes of pure Pond-love. ¬†Most of the panels I did get to involved people being wrong in outrageous ways, like on the companion departure panel, where it was claimed that Martha achieved nothing in season 3 (she just saved the world, no big deal), and that Romana II was useless except for making goo-goo eyes at the Doctor. ¬†(I just … look, some woman went and wrote a whole essay about season 17 and how it’s quite good, and basically turns Romana into the Doctor, and you should totes go and buy this book.)

One panel that was PERFECT and WONDERFUL in EVERY POSSIBLE WAY was the Chicks Unravel Time panel. ¬†Well, there were some questions about whether or not the title is an attempt to reclaim a sexist slur, which I found odd, because when I was a teen in the late ’90s, “chick” was just the feminine of “dude”, no slur intended. ¬†Bit past the point of reclamation, y’know? ¬†But the women asking the questions were older, so I think this is a generational thing.

Anyway, that panel was wonderful, and people seem to like the book (it has three Amazon reviews, you know!), and we got to talk about the parts we enjoyed most. ¬†I said something completely incoherent about Tansy Rayner Roberts‘ essay about the Trial of a Time Lord season, which … well, I attempted to watch it once — I own the box set and everything — but now I want to give it another go. ¬†In fact, the whole book makes me want to watch all of Doctor Who, even the bits I previously didn’t like.

SPEAKING OF WHICH, the other panel I was on was called It’s Stopped Being Fun, Doctor … But I Can’t Stop Watching! ¬†About that thing where you’ve completely fallen out of love with a show, but you keep watching it. ¬†And blogging about it. ¬†And — my personal pet peeve — going into other people’s squee posts to tell them how much it sucked.

I figured it was going to be a panel fraught with disagreement. ¬†What I didn’t expect was that the fifth panellist wouldn’t even turn up, leaving me as the only woman on the panel, and the youngest by about a decade. ¬†I spent most of the panel being interrupted, contradicted and mansplained at, and when I couldn’t get words in, I settled for pulling faces. ¬†Did you know that Star Trek: Voyager only became good in the fourth season because then the writers had a pretty girl to motivate them? ¬†Of course the show wasn’t already improving in its third season (the normal trajectory for a Star Trek spin off) — no one was watching then. ¬†Well, no men, apparently, who are the only viewers that count. ¬†(In fairness, I think that was Brannon Braga’s attitude as well.)

And, to bring the discussion back to¬†Doctor Who, a story driven by characterisation is … inherently bad?

It was very strange. ¬†But I did learn a lot about panel moderation, ie, you need to have it. ¬†So that’s good!

After that panel, my friends swept me away to the bar.  NEVER TO EMERGE, except for food and sleep and hanging out in the lobby.

IN CONCLUSION, ChicagoTARDIS was a really interesting and overall positive experience. ¬†One day I’d like to get to Gallifrey, where apparently the programming is stronger but the lobbycon is less comfortable. ¬†But more than Gally, I’d really like to one day be in a position to see my international friends more than once every couple of years. ¬†Money in exchange for labour seems so inefficient…

My First Continuum (by Liz, aged 30)

Not only my first Continuum, but only my second fan-run convention! ¬†(The first was Aussiecon 4 back in 2010, and I missed half of that because I had to go to my mother’s wedding.)

Needless to say, I was a¬†tiny bit nervous, especially as my first continuum also involved my first, second and third panels, and while I knew a bunch of people on the committee, I knew they’d be busy, you know,¬†running a convention and wouldn’t have much time for holding my hand while I went into social anxiety mode.

(I did spend a fair amount of time lurking around registration, being awkward.  Sorry/thank you for putting up with me.)

Lessons I learned:

1. Stay in the hotel.

Since I live in a nearby suburb and my tram home goes right past the venue, I didn’t see any need to stay in the hotel.


The problem with having rheumatoid arthritis is that I don’t have a great deal of physical stamina. ¬†(I skipped last year’s Continuum because I knew I was on the edge of a bad flare-up and would need the long weekend for sleeping.) ¬†I wound up going home early on Saturday afternoon, missing the Doctor Who and Game of Thrones panels AND the Maskobalo because I just couldn’t keep my eyes open.

(I should say that Emilly invited me to use her room for a nap, but I had a full face of make-up on and no way to remove it, or to replace it after my nap.  And so performative femininity claims another head!)

Lesson for the future: staying at the venue means not having to choose between panels and sleeping during the day.

2.  People come to panels and, like, ask questions and stuff!

My very first panel, with Emilly and Skud, was an introduction to fanvids.  We had a vid show, organised roughly by theme, and we had some brief introductory comments for each theme.

But then there were people in the audience!  And they asked questions and had comments and debated whether or not a vid fit the theme we suggested!  It was great!  But also scary!

So if you’re picturing your very first panel, and what you’re seeing is yourself and a select group of other people pouring wisdom into the minds of a silent and attentive audience — well, good luck with that.

3.  Book people are, like, really nice.

My first panel involved me and a bunch of friends talking about and showing fanworks, which is well within my comfort zone.

My second panel was called The End of the World is Just the Beginning, and dealt with dystopic futures in YA fiction.  And on this panel were two YA librarians (Emilly and Sue Ann Barber), the CEO of the Queensland Writers Centre (Kate Eltham, who is also a writer), and a YA novelist (Michael Pryor).

And, um, me.

Now, back in the good old days I worked at Borders Carlton (RIP), where I could generally be found lurking in the children and YA section.  Before that I worked for Angus & Robertson for a few years, and before that I was a library assistant.

(Back then there was this odd book kicking around the YA section. ¬†It had quite an interesting cover, and a couple of the librarians swore it was amazing, so we always had it on face-out shelves. ¬†But for some reason we couldn’t¬†pay teen patrons to borrow it. ¬†It was called Twilight, by an unknown first-time author named Stephenie Meyer, and it looked like this:

Now, I did not love¬†Twilight when I finally read it, but I really like this cover. ¬†Yes, it’s distorted and doesn’t really say much about the novel, but it depicts a female character WITH A FACE. ¬†And I really,¬†really hate faceless women on book covers.)

Anyway, I’ve digressed, but the point is, I was mostly there as a fan, and at first I was quite nervous that I’d be either dead weight or obnoxious.

Well, there was the lesson: book people are lovely, and the other panelists set me at my ease. ¬†And what followed was a really interesting conversation about the difference between post-apocalyptic versus dystopic societies (is there a difference? ¬†I say yes, but I’m a pedant), and the features that distinguish adult from YA dystopias (emphasis on character, I think we agreed, was a stronger feature in YA).

We also talked about the way dystopias reflect the society in which they were written — the nuclear holocausts of the ’50s and ’80s, the financial and economic collapses of the 21st century. ¬†Why are dystopias currently so popular with teen readers? ¬†I suggested that most teens these days are too young to have clear memories of the world before 9/11 and the War on Terror. ¬†Michael talked about the British “cosy¬†catastrophes” of John Wyndham and John Christopher, where the world has ended and the survivors are mostly middle class. ¬†(This covers Terry Nation also, it occurs to me now.)

Someone in the audience asked if the 1930s — also a fairly grim time in modern history — spawned any dystopic fiction for teens — or, indeed, any kind of sci-fi aimed at a younger audience. ¬†And no one could think of any! ¬†Though pop culture was¬†very different back then, and advertising gurus had yet to invent the teenager. ¬†There’s¬†Brave New World, of course, and Orwell, but are they¬†aimed at young readers?

I think I was the one who pointed out that the “big” genres for young readers then were adventure stories and boarding school novels. ¬†However, I was¬†not the person who instantly suggested we need a panel for boarding school series. ¬†I just endorsed it heartily.

And because there were two librarians on the panel, I walked out with a list of books to read:

  • The Crossing¬†– Mandy Hager
  • Grimsdon¬†– Deborah Abela
  • Nightpeople – Anthony Eaton
  • Ashes¬†– Ilsa Bick
  • Across the Universe – Beth Reavis


I slept for three hours on Saturday afternoon, okay?  Then I stayed home from the Maskobalo and watched Gosford Park with my BFFs instead.

5.  Award Ceremonies:  More Exciting Than You Thought!

For one thing, I won third prize in the Continuum short story competition for my story “Sketch the Sun”, and suddenly I was up on stage having to give a speech. ¬†AWKS.

But it was a really enjoyable evening, with lots of people I’ve heard of but don’t know getting awards for things they’ve created. ¬†That whole concept is a bit amazing to me, I’ve got to say. ¬†Hosts Ian Mond and Kirstyn McDermott did a lovely job.

Also, it’s my new goal in life to win the Norma K Hemming award for “excellence in the exploration of themes of race, gender, sexuality, class and disability in science fiction”. ¬†Not only because that would be a real honour, but because the trophy is glass engraved with a beautiful squid. ¬†(Or is that just for 2012? ¬†SAY IT’S NOT SO!)

6.  Talking About YA Is Still Great.

My¬†third panel was called Beyond Paranormal Romance in YA Speculative Fiction, and this time I was the only non-author! ¬†But fellow panelists Kelly Link, Michael Pryor (again) and Sue Bursztynski were all great,¬†and the panel basically turned into “YA novels we think are pretty ace, regardless of genre”, which was fun. ¬†(I had feared it would turn into some kind of “BUT WHAT WILL THE BOYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYS READ?!?” but that was neatly avoided.

Books I recommended, but then, I’ll recommend these any day:

  • Legend – Marie Lu (Amie Kaufman, in the audience, went and got my hopes up by telling me the sequel is already out, but she was unfortunately mistaken, and now I have to wait, like, SEVEN MONTHS!)
  • How We Fell – Megan Crewe
  • The Queen’s Thief series – Megan Whalen Turner
  • Feed – M T Anderson

And I’m sure there was much more, but suddenly there was the closing ceremony, and once again I had to speak in public, this time assisting to announce Continuum 9. ¬†Which I’m already getting excited about, as I’m doing programming. ¬†I’ve also decided to give myself the title of Official Tram Artist of Continuum 9, and you can see examples of my, hah, art at our Tumblr.