On July 20, 1969, my family returned to our house in Champaign, IL, from a year in France, where my father had been a Fulbright Scholar. I was twelve, my brother was ten. I remember we were excited, wondering what changes we'd see after our year away -- and it was like one of those Twilight Zone episodes, where you wake up and everyone has vanished, all that's left is a crumpled newspaper blowing down Main Street.
We'd been traveling for months at this point, so we'd kind of lost track of what was going on in the world, and why the streets would be deserted in mid-afternoon. Suddenly we remembered: "Right! it's the moon landing!"
So I remember being in the house, eating pizza and watching Walter Cronkite on our little black & white TV, seated among the boxes being brought up from the basement where they'd been stored while the house was rented.
On the evening of July 16, 1994, I went to a college Astronomy Club to talk to people and look through their telescopes, to see if we could see any part of the impact of Comet Shoemaker-Levy on Jupiter. Of course, it being New Jersey, it started to rain about an hour before impact and rained steadily for the next 2 days. So I went home and Mister Doctor and I downloaded images as they were posted to various newsgroups and to the fledgling World Wide Web. Or at least we tried -- this was the first news event I recall that broke parts of the Internet due to high image traffic. I mean, the JPL comet home page got almost a quarter million "hits" on one day alone (July 20) -- that was pretty heady stuff!
Perhaps it is just me, but there is a strange synchronicity in the air with the debates about the Confederate battle flag and the publication of Harper Lee's Go Set A Watchman (link goes to the first chapter at the Guardian, read by Reese Witherspoon). The reviews have not been kind, and several links are here.
I've not gotten the book, but I'm a bit baffled by the reviews. Kakutani writes:
Somewhere along the way, the overarching impulse behind the writing also seems to have changed. “Watchman” reads as if it were fueled by the alienation a native daughter — who, like Ms. Lee, moved away from small-town Alabama to New York City — might feel upon returning home. It seems to want to document the worst in Maycomb in terms of racial and class prejudice, the people’s enmity and hypocrisy and small-mindedness. At times, it also alarmingly suggests that the civil rights movement roiled things up, making people who “used to trust each other” now “watch each other like hawks.”
'alarmingly suggests' hints at a sort of historical ignorance that is pretty stunning. Of course, the civil rights movement 'roiled things up'. It led to white flight and a de facto segregation that exists today. Gladwell points out the space that allowed an Alabama governor like Bill Folsom to exist disappeared with the rise of the civil rights movement. That is the reality that Harper Lee was addressing. Now, Kakutani may be upset that the sentence sounds like the civil rights movement had some agency, and agency is always one of those things that are difficult to talk about. But when one notes that:
The racial terrorism ranged from cross-burnings and church-bombings to beatings and murder. In the summer of 1964 alone, Mississippi journalist Jerry Mitchell reports, “Klansmen had killed six [people], shot 35 others and beaten another 80. The homes, businesses and churches of 68 Mississippians associated with the civil rights movement were firebombed.”
'roiled up' seems like a bit of an obvious point.
But Kakutani is obviously quoting the book, but who is saying those lines? Atticus, who is already revealed to be a racist? Jean-Louise, who is travelling back to Maycomb to try and make sense of her relationship with her home? Or someone else? Was Kakutani expecting a rousing speech about the equality of man? Does she not understand what that time was like?
And certainly, Kakutani must be aware of the provenance of the novel, which this Jezebel link discusses. There are complicated questions about whether Lee would have wanted this novel to be published and how it can be attributed to her, and Ullin comes closest to understanding when he writes:
Despite its potential for drama, Lee develops her story through long dialogue sequences that read less like conversation than competing arguments. There is little sense of urgency and key aspects of the narrative — Jean Louise’s naïvete, for one thing, her inability to see Maycomb for what it is — are left largely unresolved.
If I’m hesitant to level such a criticism, it’s because, although “Go Set a Watchman” comes marketed as an autonomous novel, it is most interesting as a literary artifact.
How did Lee take the frame of this fiction and collapse it to create "To Kill a Mockingbird," finding a narrative fluency only hinted at within this draft? How did she refine her language, her scene construction, discover a way to enlarge what are here little more than political and social commonplaces, to expose a universal human core?
As the way with synchronicity, other things appear. The discussions of the confederate flag, along with last minute manuverings by the House. How can one be shocked that Atticus might have ended up racist in his 70's? How can one be surprised, knowing what is happening in the country now, that the idealization of Maycomb, Alabama falls short of the mark.
I'm certainly not a book critic and I don't know the metric on which literature should be judged. Orwell famously trashed Dickens, noting that:
The truth is that Dickens's criticism of society is almost exclusively moral. Hence the utter lack of any constructive suggestion anywhere in his work. He attacks the law, parliamentary government, the educational system and so forth, without ever clearly suggesting what he would put in their places. Of course it is not necessarily the business of a novelist, or a satirist, to make constructive suggestions, but the point is that Dickens's attitude is at bottom not even destructive. There is no clear sign that he wants the existing order to be overthrown, or that he believes it would make very much difference if it were overthrown.
Yet Orwell did love Dickens, calling him "a nineteenth-century liberal, a free intelligence, a type hated with equal hatred by all the smelly little orthodoxies which are now contending for our souls." It seems that the problems with Harper Lee's reimagining of Atticus is more a reflection of our own troubles rather than anything in the story.
Between 1990 and 2010, the number of "unauthorized" (aka "illegal") immigrants in the US tripled.
During the same period, crime rates plunged. Specifically, the rate of Aggravated Assault (per 100,000 of the populaton) fell by helf. As did the rate of Robbery. The rate for Motor Vehicle Theft fell by 40%. (All these per the FBI Uniform Crime Reports)
Therefore, clearly, immigrants are all criminals and are the reason that our prison populations have skyrocketed. After all, since correlation is not causation, lack of correlation must be causation. Right?
I disagree with Sanders on a lot of his positions, but I respect both his principles and his desire to find common ground. He continues to impress me and I hope he ends up being the D candidate...I think its might (*might*) lead to having an intelligent debate during the general election, rather than the more typical talking point slinging.
But such is not the state of the case. I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought light and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak to-day? If so, there is a parallel to your conduct. And let me warn you that it is dangerous to copy the example of a nation whose crimes, towering up to heaven, were thrown down by the breath of the Almighty, burying that nation in irrevocable ruin! I can to-day take up the plaintive lament of a peeled and woe-smitten people!
"By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down. Yea! we wept when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there, they that carried us away captive, required of us a song; and they who wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How can we sing the Lord's song in a strange land? If I forget thee, 0 Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth."
What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy -- a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.
Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the Old World, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me, that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival....
Are you a fan of science fiction and fantasy novels, short stories, art, movies, TV shows, or meta? Have you heard of the Hugo Awards in the past as a good thing, and heard rumors of shenanigans this year? Do you have US$40 you could spend for the right to vote, and incidentally getting some good e-books out of it? You could be a Hugo voter!
How to become a Hugo voter
The Hugos are voted on by members of the World Science Fiction Society, which has a convention in a different city every year. This year's Worldcon is Sasquan and is taking place in Spokane, Washington, from August 19th to 23rd, 2015. You can vote for the Hugos if you're going to attend the con, but you can also buy a supporting membership which allows you to vote this year, and to nominate for next year's awards.
This year's voting closes July 31. You'll get an e-packet of material to help you decide which of the nominees to vote for. This year, the packet includes complete e-copies of: all the nominated short fiction; the complete text of the novels The Goblin Emperor, The Three-Body Problem, and The Dark Between the Stars; complete copies of Sex Criminals, Saga Vol. 3, and Rat Queens; and a watermarked but complete copy of Ms Marvel Vol.1. For the movies ("Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form"), TV episodes ("Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form") and podcasts, you're on your own, though links are provided.
Time is short, and I know the volume of material to consider looks daunting. You don't have to vote in every category! Just pick ones that interest you and give it your best, most honest shot.
I'm particularly encouraging my friends in transformative works and Tumblr fandom to consider voting because you-all are younger than the average Hugo voter (Worldcon members tend to be aging baby boomers, like me), which is good for the future of the award and the fandom, and because many of you have a lot of insights and opinions about visual and audio media: comics, fancasts, TV shows, art.
The voting system
The Hugo Awards use Instant Runoff Voting. There are no more than five nominees in each category, and you rank them in order from first down. This system rewards candidates with broad appeal to all the Hugo voters.
No Award: If you feel, in a given category, that you like Alpha best, Bravo next, and Charlie after that, but you don't think either Delta or Echo deserves a Hugo, your ballot should read:
4. No Award
If you personally would rather see No Award win, but wouldn't be upset if Delta won, then put Delta after No Award:
4. No Award
If you think it would be a travesty for either Delta or Echo to win, leave them both off.
Should you go to Worldcon?
Last year's Worldcon was in London, the one before that was in San Antonio, Texas, next year's is in Kansas City. Because Worldcon moves around, because it's put together by volunteers, and because it has few or no actors attending, it never gets terribly large compared to Dragoncon, much less ComicCon. Currently, Sasquan has about 4000 attending members and 5000 supporting members, from five continents ... plus one in Earth orbit.
Compared to other cons you might have attended, Worldcon runs light on high-gloss movie, TV, and game presentations, but heavy on cosplay and music. Cosplay isn't just in the halls, there's also the Masquerade, a judged costume and stage show that always includes some staggeringly beautiful and complex presentations -- last year's Best in Show Winner, "Aratalindale", for instance, depicted the Valar from Tolkien's Simarillion. Worldcon music includes performances, filking, and many types of dancing. There's an Art show and Artist's Alley, of course. Alas, the deadline for the Writer's Workshop has passed, but there are lots of other opportunities to talk about writing and fanworks.
I'll make another post about this year's Hugo nominees, some historical background, and some possible guidelines about what to look for, but I want to keep it separate from this one. Reblog, tell your friends, think about getting more of us into the structures of SFF fandom. I believe we're the future of the future, and I encourage you to take up that shiny shiny mantle.
Or course, the young lady is French, not American. Why not? Because, in the US, women play softball and men play baseball. A few girls have managed to get on boys teams in Little League recently, or even high school teams. But after that? The NCAA, for example, does not have women's baseball teams, just softball. (Which means that a woman who wants an athletic scholarship can't get one for baseball.)
Women play baseball in Japan (their teams have contacted Miss Mayeux about her playing there). And they play baseball in Europe, obviously. But the US sticks with seperate but equal. (Women did get to play baseball in the US during WW II, when the men were off to war. But that ended shortly after the war was over.)
Which is why, when the first woman makes it to the major leagues, she will probably not be an American. Just another glass ceiling in the US.