Green Kiki

On convention staffing and lacking "benches"

As some of you may know, I've resigned from my position as Assistant Division Head of Programming at Arisia, and I also won't be on panels or attending the convention at all. I won't go into why here, as I've already talked about it and I suspect that anyone following fandom knows. I want to discuss a side-topic.

A lot of the public and semi-public handwringing has been over the subject of having "benches." When there's no one else capable of doing, say, Program AV for the con, do you hire the rapist (Arisia's answer three years running, it turns out, has been "yes")? When no one else is running for President of the corporation (or when the person running against the problematic person has values you don't agree with), what happens? Long-term, obviously, the con needs to build a bench, train new people, etc. This part's generally obvious and agreed on by everyone, and there are good proposals about how to do it (mentoring, apprenticeships, etc) in lots of places. But that's the long-term solution.

Short-term, though, there are four choices if you lack a bench and don't have someone who can replace the person you need to get rid of:

Choice one is to actually run the con with the dangerous person on board. This is the decision Arisia chose to make (without making the actual danger itself known to members or most staff), and that other cons have done in previous years (see Wiscon/Frenkel). I do not consider it the right one, and it's clear that almost no one else does. Note that as a general rule, only a handful of people on staff at a cone actually will know this is happening (so while I use the blanket terms "Arisia" and "Wiscon," it's likely a small subset of folks near the top of the boards).

Choice two is to suck it up and deal without them. Yes, that means someone else is going to have to do more work, and work they're not qualified for and have to learn quickly. It means some aspect of the con will be weaker than intended. It might even mean that something doesn't take place (if only one person can run the masquerade or a certain special event, that event might not happen). It sucks, but it also ensures that the dangerous person isn't a part of the con. It's NOT, to be clear, sustainable; asking folks to work beyond their means is something that can be justified in an emergency, but not as a regular event. It's also something that some cons can handle better than others (bigger ones usually have more staff to spread around; smaller ones might have a looser structure or fewer technical requirements that require skillsets).

Choice three is to recruit a replacement. If the only person qualified and willing to handle tax issues for the dealers at the con is also someone so toxic that they're on the "do not hire" list for your con, you probably can't ask a Green Room staffer to pick up that ball. So you have to start looking at who has the skillset elsewhere. Look at the org charts of other cons, local and otherwise. Ping the people who do the jobs there and at places like Worldcon to see if A) it's something they can do, and B) if they know others who might be capable of the job. Shockingly, skilled people often know other skilled people. And if you have to, see if money can help. You may not be able to pay someone, per se, but if you can offer a comp, or even a room comp for a night or two, or something, it's money well-spent (that said, also set expectations; this is money being spent to deal with an emergency, and not something that should be expected every time).

And choice four is the nuclear one: If you genuinely can't run the con without a rapist on staff, maybe you shouldn't run the con. That can mean any of A) You personally should not run the con (because maybe someone else can find a replacement), B) the con itself should skip a year to give you more time to find a replacement, or C) the con should end. Really. It's not an ideal choice, but if you find yourself incapable of finding a replacement, or running the event without the person, your choices come down to either letting a known predator have power within the con, or not running. If you really think that the running the con with the dangerous person on staff is the better choice, you're part of the problem.
Green Kiki

The Price You Pay and pseudonyms

The Price You Pay by "Aidan Truhen" was fantastic, and is highly recommended for folks who like their thrillers full-bore ludicrous (think Duane Swierczynski's "The Blonde" or "Severance Package). I'm also fascinated by the whole "this author is actually another author using a pseudonym" thing, since I've never understood that marketing. I do understand an established author using a fake name to try something new, but that's not usually known at the time (Bachman, Galbraith, etc). Ditto for someone using multiple names to separate subgenres for their readers (Jayne Ann Krentz). But this feels similar to the KJ Parker/Tom Holt thing, which was just kind of BS.

Oh, and while I certainly don't disbelieve the theory -- put forth in the NYTimes review -- that the author is really Nick Harkaway, I'd love to know why folks seem to think that; I could see Harkway doing this, but I could also see Charlie Huston or Adam Sternbergh or a bunch of others doing it, too.

(Yes, I posted this to FB, but while no one may be around on LJ/DW anymore, at least posts still make it here in order and won't be buried by an algorithm if anyone shows up.)
Green Kiki

On the Titans trailer

So for everyone complaining about how dark and moody the trailer for the new Titans series is, do y'all remember The Judas Contract (generally considered the apotheosis of silver age Titans stories)? The storyline in which A) middle-aged Slade Wilson sends his 14-year-old girlfriend (and yes, we see them in bed together) to infiltrate the team (including seducing Beast Boy), and B) tiny Joseph Wilson -- aged roughly 4 -- gets his throat slit open with a sword? Titans during any period when people actually read and cared about the book always had some serious darkness going on (see also literally everything about Raven and Starfire's backstories). Dick Grayson cussing is hardly that big a deal.

Instead, maybe complain about DC wanting $75 bucks a year for their streaming service. That's too dark and gritty for me.
Green Kiki

Books read on vacation

Books read either in airports, in planes to and from San Juan, or on the cruise. All are recommended (other than the unnamed one, but it's not horrible, either):

1. The Parking Lot Attendant, by Nafkote Tamirat. This is a ludicrously beautiful and witty novel, even if it fails to quite stick the landing. It's the story of the daughter of Ethiopian immigrants living in Boston, and the weird and titular not-quite-cult-leader she encounters in the local community who draws her into a conspiracy involving a potential utopia. It's hard to describe, but absolutely worth grabbing, and works on multiple levels if you're familiar with the "joys" of trying to get places around metro Boston using public transit.

2. (Unnamed novel reviewed for PW)

3. What is Real: The Unfinished Quest for the Meaning of Quantum Physics, by Adam Becker. I mean, doesn't "particle physics" sound like a perfect topic for travel reading? Seriously, this is an excellent book, much more a science history book than a pure science one (I'm someone who hasn't taken a physics course since the seventh grade, so trust me when I say this is aimed at the general public). It's a great dive into the battle over quantum origins and the battle over the Copenhagen Interpretation, featuring all of the major players -- Einstein, Bohr, Heisenberg, Pauli, Bell, Everett, Bohm, de Broglie, etc. -- with as much biography of them thrown in along with their conflicts and discussion of theory. Really recommended for anyone with an interest in science.

4. The Keeper of Lost Causes, by Jussi Adler-Olsen. I try to read a few mysteries-in-translation every year, and having spent the last few years on French and Japanese authors, am finally swinging back to Nordic crime authors (which may be redundant, as it seems like every author from the Nordic countries who gets translated today writes crime -- see also Alvtegen, Nesbo, Larsson, etc). This book is the first in the "Department Q" series, a story of a cold case unit started for political reasons. It's much wittier than a lot of the generally-grim Nordic Noir stuff, with a solid and flawed hero and some nice twists. I'll definitely be grabbing more books from the series.

5. The Ensemble, by Aja Gabel. This is kind of a perfect little summer beach read (although I read it on the plane ride back). It's the story of the members of a string quartet over the course of fifteen years, complete with their romantic entanglements, health issues, and professional crises. It's a fun and sweet novel about love (in many forms), and probably has extra appeal for musically-inclined folks.

ETA: 6. Florida, by Lauren Groff. A fascinating and melancholy collection of stories. There are themes and repeated symbols (storms, unnamed spouses and children, dogs) running throughout, and it's the sort of collection you want to sit and let marinate in your head for a bit. Also recommended, although maybe not as cruise reading.
Green Kiki

Early January Longreads

Allison Glock's The Eight Truths I Learned From Humping Athletes, reprinted at Deadspin after appearing in GQ twenty years ago, is fantastic

At Vox, Anna North writes, Historically, men translated the Odyssey. Here’s what happened when a woman took the job.

Outside Magazine's been quietly doing some damned fine journalism over the last few years, and Ryan Zinke is Trump's Attack Dog on the Environment is a great profile of a terrible Secretary of the Interior.

Remember Jen Hatmaker, the Evangelical Christian who spoke out against Trump last year? Not surprisingly, she's taken a lot of grief from a religious movement still dominated by racist and sexist men, reports Tiffany Stanley in Politico.

In Deadspin, Emma Baccelleri's Major League Baseball's Statcast Can Break Sabermetrics is a great look at the way stats in MLB continue to evolve.

I've been following the sexual harassment situation at WNYC for a while (On The Media did a podcast on it as well), but the Splinter's David Uberti covers it as well as anyone in his piece, How New York Public Radio is Dodging Accountability for its Sexual Harassment Problem.

At Kotaku, Maddy Myers says that Tier Lists Are Full of Shit, and I can't disagree. I don't do competitive fighting games because I'm terrible at them, but the argument that people should play weird and interesting characters instead of whatever strategy guides tell you is effective but boring resonates (witness the low rank Ghost Rider, who I find nearly essential, gets in Marvel Puzzle Quest).

There's been a LOT written about Star Wars: The Last Jedi (which I loved, incidentally). Todd VanDerWoof, over at Vox, offers The “backlash” Against Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Explained, a good (but FILLED WITH SPOILERS) piece talking about the different kinds of fan reactions.

Back at Deadspin, Eoin Higgins asks Why Won't The FCC Let Orphan Counties Watch Their Local NFL Teams? The answer, of course, is more complicated than sports, as are the implications for local news.

And finally, if you're a fan at all of Serious Eats (and if you like food, you should be, as it's the best site out there), Jonah Weiner at Grubstreet has a fantastic profile of J. Kenji López-Alt called Kenji Dreams of Sausage that's a must-read.
Green Kiki

Final Amazon Deals of the year: magazine subscriptions, kindle books

Two quick deals to close out the year:

The Kindle Daily Deal is on "Best of December" deals, but actually just has a bunch of random books, including Ann Leckie's Provenance for $2.99, Styron's Sophie's Choice for $1.13, and a bunch of others.

And there's a deal on magazine subscriptions, including Entertainment Weekly for $15 for digital only, and Popular Science, Taste of Home, Reader's Digest, Popular Science, or Saveur (as well as a bunch of others) for $3.99 for regular subscriptions.
Green Kiki

Amazon Digital Deal Day: Marvel comics, HBO Now, Overwatch, Kindle books, more!

Amazon's got their "Digital Day" going, with a lot of great deals across various media. A few highlights:

There's a huge Marvel Digital Comics Sale, with graphic novels like Star Wars, Ms. Marvel, Daredevil, Infinity Gauntlet, Hawkeye, and more for under $2.20 each. There are some larger collections like Punisher Max for as much as $5.

If you subscribe to HBO Now, you get a $10 Amazon Credit.

The Kindle Daily Deals include a Aziz Ansari's Modern Romance, Marie Lu's Legend, and Nate Silver's The Signal and the Noise for $2.99 each.

In digital games, the GotY edition of Overwatch is $29.99 (50% off), while Fallout 4 with the Season Pass is $24.99 (50% off). Sid Meier’s Civilization VI Digital Deluxe is $39.99 (50% off), which is the same price for the non-deluxe version, so hey, free DLC.

And if you have an Amazon Fire, you can snag Monument Valley 2 for $2.49 (50% off), which is a great deal on a great game. If you've got younger kids, all Toca games for the Fire are $.99 (66% off). And Teeny Titans -- which is essentially an old-school Pokemon game with the Titans, and is genuinely great -- is $.99 (75% off) on the Fire.

There are a lot of movies on sale, but one notable one is Jack Reacher: Never Go Back for $4.99 to own digitally.

There's a ton more at the sale, if you've got the patience for the deep dive.
Green Kiki

Three quick last-minute Amazon Deals: Book coupon, iTunes/Lyft Gift Cards, H is for Hawk!

1. Amazon's got yet another $5 off $15 Book Coupon! It officially expires today, so get cracking!

2. There are some great Gift Card Deals, including $15 off $100 worth of iTunes cards, $10 off $50 at JC Penny, and $5 off $50 at Lyft.

3. And one of my favorite Kindle Daily Deals is on H is For Hawk, a wonderful memoir, for $1.99 (even if the title sounds like a Kinsey Millhone/Spenser crossover book).
Green Kiki

Oh, hey, an Amazon Board Game Sale!

As happens about once a year at this time, there's a one-day Board Game Sale at Amazon! Highlights include Ticket to Ride for $25.82 (48% off), Betrayal at Baldur's Gate Board Game (which happens to be on my wishlist) for $28.99 (42% off), Lost Cities for $19.40 (51% off), Bloodborne: The Card Game for $18.49 (47% off), and Dungeons & Dragons: Assault of the Giants Board Game Premium Edition for $67.99 (48% off). All are way below other vendors, and there's a ton of other games there, too.
Green Kiki

Thursday Amazon Deals: Get Out, John Wick 2, Kitchen gadgets, PS4 games, Shopkins, K'Nex, more!

All of the Kindle Deals from yesterday are still active, including Scalzi, Grafton, Schwab, Older, and more.

In videogame remakes, Rogue Trooper: Redux for the PS4 is $19.99 (33% off), while Outcast: Second Contact for the PS4 is $22.99 (43% off). Not quite as huge a sale, but still nice, is the collection of the first three Uncharted remakes for $17.99 (10% off), also on PS4. If you want a non-remake for the PS4, there's Bloodborne for $16.16 (19% off).

In kitchen gadgets, the Taylor Precision Products Digital Cooking Thermometer with Probe and Timer is $9.98 (48% off). I cannot imagine not having a digital thermometer for cooking (it was the reason we knew how to take out the turkey last week). It's probably one of my favorite kitchen gadgets. Also on sale is the 8-Inch Multipurpose Stainless Steel Chef Knife with ABS Handle from Utopia for $10.99 (45% off).

In bigger gadgets, the Crock-Pot 6-Quart Cook & Carry Oval Manual Portable Slow Cooker is $19.99 (about $9 off other vendors).

In movies, the three Men in Black films on Blu-Ray will run you $5.99 (53% off), while the Blu-Ray of Blade Runner: The Final Cut is $7.88 (47% off).

For recent flicks, Saban's Power Rangers on a Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital combo pack is $10 (67% off); ditto John Wick 2 and the Blu-Ray/Digital combo pack of Lion. The fantastic (and Oscar-winning) Moonlight is $9.99 (60% off) for a Blu-Ray/Digital combo pack, and Hell or High Water is $9.99 (50% off) for a Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital combo pack. And Get Out is $9.96 (57% off) for a Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital combo, and belongs in everyone's library.

Oh, and Warcraft is $5.99 (70% off) for the Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital combo, but I suspect you're getting what you pay for there.

In toys, there's a one-day sale on Shopkins (which our niece is addicted to), Little Live Pets, and other toys. Some of the items are as high as 75% off!

There's also a sale on LEGO Classic items (there are the yellow boxes of bricks without themes or licenses).

And finally, the K'NEX Thrill Rides-Kraken's Revenge Roller Coaster is $29.99! That's 40% off, but most sellers offer it for more than the $49.99 list price. For folks looking for a more open-ended set, the K’NEX Imagine – Power and Play Motorized Building Set is $22.95 (62% off).