Hugo nominations!

I’m back in Australia, and some time in the next couple of days I’ll get around to blogging about my last few days in Japan.

But at this moment, I want to jump streams and casually mention that Chicks Unravel Time has been nominated for a Hugo Award!

We’re nominated for Best Related Work, and there’s some stiff competition.  For one thing, we’re up against Chicks Dig Comics, which is from the same publisher, has some overlap in contributors, and is probably an excellent book in its own right.  (I haven’t read it, which is shameful, but have you seen my to-read pile?  I’ll get to it some time in 2015, I’m sure.)

Free book! With writing in!

Not pictured: MY FACE
IN THE PAPERY FLESH

You know what’s pretty exciting?  Holding a book that contains stuff you wrote.  Maybe you get used to that after a few books, I don’t know.  Wouldn’t mind finding out, but at the same time, this is pretty awesome.

You know what’s even better?  Holding a book that contains stuff you wrote … and knowing it’s full of EVEN BETTER THINGS.

So while I was at ChicagoTARDIS I got the other contributors present to sign a copy.  And now I’m giving it away!

WHAT: One copy of Chicks Unravel Time autographed by editors Deborah Stanish and LM Myles, cover artist Katy Shuttleworth, and contributers Lynne M Thomas and, um, me.

HOW: Leave a comment to this entry, describing one thing you love about Doctor Who.  For example, “I love Doctor Who because Jo Grant is funny and clever and I think she’s very underrated as a feminist companion,” or, “I love Doctor Who because bow ties are cool.”

WHEN:  I’ll choose and announce the winner next Saturday, a week from now.

OTHER RULES:

  1. I’ll ship anywhere that Australia Post will let me.
  2. Winner will be selected by a random number generator.
  3. Entries that put down some other aspect of the series will be disqualified.  For example, “I love Doctor Who because Amy Pond is useful and clever, not like those other companions,” or, “I love new Doctor Who because it has actual characters instead of screaming women in miniskirts.”  That stuff just makes me a bit cross.

ChicagoTARDIS

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…

The giant clam of feminism

Deb Stanish and L M Myles, editors of Chicks Unravel Time — hey, I’m in that, remember? — were interviewed over the weekend by Radio Free Skaro, which instantly became the very first podcast I listened to.

At one point, discussion arises as to whether CUT is specifically a feminist book, and the editors disagreed.  Deb said that just because a book is written by women, it isn’t automatically feminist.  LMM pointed out that simply “talking about Doctor Who” has traditionally been a masculine activity — there have always been women in the fandom, but books of criticism about the series have very rarely featured women’s voices.

In a desperate attempt to suck up to both editors at once, I’ve been flipping back and forth all day.

See, I agree with Deb that merely being written by a woman doesn’t make a work feminist … but then I find myself thinking, no, but the act of writing itself might be.

And I agree with LMM that discourse about Doctor Who has been traditionally male-dominated (to say nothing of the show itself, which has had shockingly few female writers, directors and producers).    On the other hand, the Aussiecon panels in 2004 amply demonstrated that just because a woman is talking about Doctor Who, she isn’t necessarily saying feminist things.

(This is to say nothing of the many other misogynistic ideas that I’ve seen women in fandom promote — that Amy’s worth is defined by the length of her skirts; that marriage makes River and Amy worthless; that it was a feminist act for Rose to discard every aspect of her life that didn’t revolve around the Doctor; and so on, and on, and on.)

Well, I thought, as I pottered around making tea, I know my essay didn’t have an explicitly feminist agenda.

Sure, said the other part of my brain, it’s just about how season 17 was badly received by male fans because it was driven to a large extent by female characters.  And then you start writing about the Countess Scarlioni’s personality instead of her looks, which has never been done before.  And your general “Romana is the Doctor” agenda.

Goodo, then!  Pats on the back for me!

And, of course, feminism is a broad church.  I have a friend who thinks all sex work is exploitation, and another who has featured in feminist porn.  I know pro-life feminists and feminists who think that’s a contradiction in terms.  Fandom is full of women who seem to have very serious feminist objections to the existence of mothers, although personally I suspect that’s more about their psychology than feminism.

I don’t think Catherine Deveny’s writing is especially feminist, except occasionally by accident, but I have friends who worship her.  Someone out there thinks Germaine Greer and Helen Razer are relevant.  Personally I draw the line at feminists who limit the concept to cis, white, able-bodied women, and everything else, maybe I’ll disagree, but it’s not a life or death issue.

Incidentally, “feminism” doesn’t look like a word anymore.

SO, IN CONCLUSION, I’m fairly optimistic that CUT will be regarded by some people as a great feminist work, and by others as an abomination unto Nuggan.  (The same day it was announced, a post went up on Tumblr decrying the use of “chicks” in the title, so odds are good.)  And I have to say, I’m eager to see how the debate plays out.

Chicks Unravel Time

Chicks Unravel Time. It’s a book. That I’m in.

I’m super-excited and proud to announce that I have an essay in Chicks Unravel Time (Mad Norwegian Press, edited by Deb Stanish and L M Myles), a look at every season of Doctor Who from a female perspective.  Other contributors include Barbara Hambly (so I know what my mum will REALLY be excited about), Joan Frances Turner, and Diana Gabaldon, so I’m in totally august company.

I got to write about season 17, and the way its reputation has been rehabilitated since it first aired.  You may ask, “How can a season that was script edited by Douglas Adams and included Daleks, Paris and a guys in bull masks and platform shoes get a reputation for being bad?”  And I say, “I DON’T EVEN KNOW!  But it’s surprisingly good despite budget problems and general behind-the-scenes shenanigans, and is driven by relationships and women in a way that people generally don’t expect of Classic Who.”

Then I talk about Nick and Nora Charles and get in a reference to Sherlock and a dig at Adric.