Friday, June 28, 2013

Does SF Have a "Casting Couch"?

I was reading a blog post this morning about sexual harassment of a writer by an editor at a recent science fiction convention. The writer decided to make a formal report—and I applaud her decision, but among the concerns she listed for a writer making this choice, particularly a young writer just starting out, was concern that this could hurt her career, that the editor wouldn't buy her work, or that he would get her blacklisted so that nobody would ever buy her work.

Let’s look at these fears. One: The editor won't buy your work. This is certainly a possibility, but do you really want to sell to this editor? Do you want to work with him to polish your novel and get it into production? Given the lack of respect he has shown for your person, how is he likely to treat your work? Think about it. Then find another editor. There are lots of editors out here, and it's a pretty diverse group.

Two: The editor will get you blacklisted so that no other editor will ever buy your work. Not in this universe. Even in the days when all editors were men, there wasn’t that much unanimity of opinion. I sold my first novel to DAW Books, and I can imagine what Don Wollheim would have said about an editor who treated a woman like that, not to mention what his wife Elsie would have said—and possibly done—about the situation. And the next generation of editors, including the current head of DAW Books, Elizabeth R. Wollheim, has a lot more females in it. By now, we might even outnumber the men.

There are certainly reasons why a woman would hesitate to complain about such mistreatment. I was raised in an era where I wasn't even supposed to notice it. These days my feeling is that if I don't complain and do everything I possibly can to stop what he's doing, I am at least partially responsible for the damage to the next woman he hurts. SF does not have a "casting couch," and nobody should be left to believe that we find sexual harassment—or any other kind of harassment—acceptable.

If something like this happens to you, don't chose whether to report it based on fears for your career. Jerks like this are people you don't want to work with, and our field has plenty of decent, caring, and supportive people who are a joy to work with.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A Song For Capella

I started my blog with weekly accounts of where I got the ideas for each of my stories. After a couple of years I ran out of stories, and (after exhausting 'Operas I Have Been a Supernumerary In') moved to other topics and a significantly less regular blogging schedule. Now I have a new story out, so I'm back to my original topic.

I recently edited MUSIC OF DARKOVER and, following Marion Zimmer Bradley's practice of ending each anthology with a short funny story, I wrote one. I was already reprinting a few stories with musical themes from the first twelve Darkover anthologies, so I included one of mine. It had been nineteen years since the last anthology, so I figured there were people who hadn't seen them before, even though the MZB Literary Works Trust is slowly reprinting them (five done, seven to do).

My story "A Capella" from SNOWS OF DARKOVER used one of my favorite characters from Marion's novel THE HEIRS OF HAMMERFELL: the composer Gavin Delleray. In a Regency novel he'd be considered a dandy, but in addition to his interest in his clothes and appearance, he's also a musician and composer.

In this story he's supposed to be writing a song for a celebration of the marriage of Capella Ridenow and Lord Alton, and he's having trouble. The fact that the bride referred to the groom as "a brute and a bully" and prefers his white stallion to her new husband makes it difficult to write anything romantic, and Gavin is a romantic soul. I don't know if there's such a thing as composer's block, but it certainly seems reasonable; I think all creative people have days when the creativity just doesn't seem to be there.

There has to be at least one musical in-joke, so while Gavin is struggling to write something and thinking of horses, his mind veers off to cats and he writes "Duel for Two Cats." This is a take-off on Rossini's Duetto buffo di due gatti (aka Duet for Two Cats). There are several versions of this on YouTube, and it's really funny. Gavin finally manages to produce a song, of course, about Capella, Lord Alton, and his white stallion.

The anthology begins with Leslie Fish's song The Horsetamer's Daughter, but I didn't realize until somebody pointed it out that I had produced an anthology that began and ended with horses. That's an idea; we're always looking for anthology titles. Next year's will be STARS OF DARKOVER, but maybe one of these years we'll try HORSES OF DARKOVER and see what we get.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


I used Grammarly to grammar check this post, because it's amusing to see how a computer program thinks I should write.

Once you come up with great ideas then you have to put them on paper, and all too often what I typed is not what I thought I typed. Fortunately there are utilities to help me with proofreading, such as spell check and grammar check programs. For ordinary business writing, they're probably pretty useful, but once you start writing fantasy, or even historical fiction, you run into problems. I long ago turned off the grammar check on Word, and I've lost track of the number of browsers/computers I've told to ignore "spelling errors" that are actually the names of my characters. The Darkover anthologies, such as MUSIC OF DARKOVER, which I just edited, are even worse, because Marion Zimmer Bradley made up her own languages. Still, spelling can be managed. Grammar is much more difficult.

Recently I discovered a site called Grammarly, which not only does grammar checking, it also checks for plagiarism. I wondered how well that would work, so I put in a 500-word chunk out of the middle of my first novel, CHANGING FATE, and it gave me an "Unoriginal text detected" message. It must have one heck of a database to catch that.

I also put in part of a legal waiver:
Whereas, (a) some of the Vessels are experimental and developmental in design and intended for extreme propulsion; (b) use of such Vessels involves an inherently high risk of damage or injury that is accentuated by their intended competitive use; (d) sailing or mere presence on any Vessel is an inherently hazardous activity...
Grammarly objected to the passive voice, but it does not appear to have noticed that the text has (a), (b), and (d), but not (c).

I don't know what grammar checkers have against the passive voice. What was this document supposed to use in place of "...that is accentuated"? Perhaps "...that their intended competitive use makes worse"? Also, the passive voice is particularly useful in dialog, especially when the character speaking doesn't want to say who did whatever it was that someone did. Consider this wonderful example from Lois McMaster Bujold's novel BROTHERS IN ARMS:
"Er—insults were exchanged, sir."
"And tempers kind of got out of hand. Bottles were thrown, and thrown on the floor. The police were called. She was punched out." Xaveria eyed Danio warily.
Miles contemplated the sudden absence of actors from all this action, in Xaveria's syntax.
Grammarly gives this blog a score of 56 out of 100.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Music of Darkover

It's easy to know where I got the idea for MUSIC OF DARKOVER. Deborah J. Ross and I are editing an anthology called STARS OF DARKOVER, to be published in June 2014, and Leslie Fish submitted a 34,000-word story. (It's the story version of the filk song "Horsetamer's Daughter, which runs 12-14 minutes, so I guess the length isn't too surprising, but that's a bit more than a third of an anthology.)

I really liked the story, so I came up with the idea of giving it its own anthology--after all it was a third of a book. And if there was a subject I knew something about after spending two decades in MZB's employ, it was music. Marion was a gifted musician and a great lover of opera--she had box seats at the San Francisco Opera. Then there was the memorable occasion when she was in Germany for the annual Frankfurt Book Fair and somebody invited her to go to the Vienna Staatsopera. She jumped at the chance and made it memorable for the rest of us by not telling us about it. From our point of view, she disappeared in Germany, and then turned up in Austria three anxious days later (anxious for us, that is; she had a great time).

So I started with Leslie's filk song and story, and added a story by India Edghill with an accompanying song by her sister Rosemary, three stories about music from earlier Darkover anthologies, an article by Margaret Davis about working with Marion when Margaret and Kristoph Klover were starting Flowinglass Music, Marion's songs from DARKOVER LANDFALL and the two she wrote herself, filk songs by Cynthia McQuillin, new stories by Raul S. Reyes and Michael Spence, and the traditional short, funny story for the end, which I wound up writing myself.

One amusing this about this project: Marion always said that "filk singing should be done in private by consenting adults." I remarked in one of the introductions that nowadays it seems to be done well after I go to bed at cons. I was at CONduit in Salt Lake City a week before the book came out, and I woke up at 3 a.m. Monday morning and couldn't get back to sleep, so I got up and went down to the business center to work. On my way to the elevator I encountered a group of filk singers, who hadn't yet been to bed. For me it was Monday morning; for them I think it was still Sunday night. So I guess filk singing is being done by consenting adults.