The Ducklings Are Here!

I’m a bit behind posting all of this, but we have three ducklings at the Thrasher Studios Microfarm. All of them are doing very well, too. Out of 8 eggs we had three that hatched and survived. Since it was our own DIY incubator, we’re counting this as a success; however, we’re unsure if we’d ever use a non-professional incubator again. Regardless, the brace has three new additions: Kaylee, born first on April 13; and then Zoe, born April 18, and then Inara right on her heels born on April 19 in the wee hours of the morning.

Our DIY incubator cost us less than $10. Here’s what our DIY incubator looked like:

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This incubator set up cost us less than $10.

















We kept track of the temperature — not the easiest thing, even with a slider switch on the light to heat it (99 degrees is the aim). Also keeping the humidity up near hatch date was a challenge as well. A wet sponge inside the incubator worked wonders to keep the humidity where it needs to be (about 55 to 65 percent). Then the eggs got rotated three to four times a day. A little X or O on each side let us know what was what. Then I numbered the eggs to keep track as we candled them to make sure they were progressing.

It’s amazing to me at how big the ducklings are when they first come out. How do they fit in there?

How does all of that duck fit in that egg? This is Kaylee just moments after she was born.

How does all of that duck fit in that egg? This is Kaylee just moments after she was born.











If you want to see how ridiculously excited I was to watch her actually hatching — you can check out this video. Feel free to turn down the video. I am a complete dorkfish.

Kaylee arrives in the World.

The painful thing about waiting for ducks to hatch is that it takes a long time. It took Kaylee nearly 48 hours from first pip to out of the egg. Her sisters took about 24 hours from first pip to out of the egg.

Here’s photos from Zoe and Inara’s hatching:


Zoe right after hatching.

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The first crack of Inara’s egg after Zoe was out.


We awoke the next morning to find that Inara was hatched and Zoe was being a good big sister.












The waiting is by far the hardest part. Poor Kaylee had to be without any siblings or company, save her human companions until her sisters arrived, So we put a mirror and a stuffed animal (no pokey bits or eyes) into the brooder so she wouldn’t be lonely.

Kaylee snuggles her stuffy and the mirror also kept her company while she waited the five days for Zoe to arrive.

Kaylee snuggles her stuffy and the mirror also kept her company while she waited the five days for Zoe to arrive.












They are now settled in and doing very well.

Three Duckling Sisters in their brood

Three Duckling Sisters in their brood









They even got to meet Mama Jayne (Tufted Duck) and Papa Joe (Pekin Drake) today while I cleaned their brood (you will do that a lot!). We’ll continue to slowly introduce them so they get used to each other. Jayne has been very broody lately, so I know she’s ready to be an active mommy.

Mama Jayne and Papa Joe are interested in the little peepers in the basket, but a bit wary.

Mama Jayne and Papa Joe are interested in the little peepers in the basket, but a bit wary.











Next up is to sex them. I tried to do it with Kaylee today and it looks like she’s a female duck and not a drake. But, I have to wait a few days to do Zoe and Inara. Obviously our naming scheme is hoping for all ducks. Regardless they are a perfect mix of Jayne and Joe and should be really fun to watch them grow up.








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Crying Foul at the Hugos and the Potential Alienation of What May Keep It Strong

download (2)I’m going to put on my ranty pants here. You’re welcome to stay and enjoy the ranty show, or head on down the information highway.

A little background before I start ranting, questioning, and basically trying to wrap my head around this whole political farce in the art world called the Hugos. I know I’m a bit behind the power curve, as they say, about this issue, but I was busy writing this weekend (I’m in a writing class right now) and, you know, living my life away from the computer from time to time.

A fellow writer friend and his wife, both huge fans of science fiction (and fantasy) much like me, talked me into going to Sasquan this year. It was likely the closest opportunity to participating in the World Science Fiction Convention any of us would have. I’ve made it known often that Science Fiction writers like P.K. Dick and William Gibson were some of my earliest influences on the speculative fiction that I write. Being a part of WorldCon (its umbrella name) wasn’t to be missed. Bonus? I got to nominate for the illustrious Hugo Awards. Nice!


Right before the voting closed, I posted that I had some holes in my nominations ballot — mostly in Graphic Novels and Editors. I am very aware of the who’s who in SF editing, but I was not feeling ‘just’ in my nominations and was looking for outsiders to validate or make me reexamine my knee-jerk thoughts. This year I’ve been re-reading many of my favorites from my formative years and hadn’t explored many of the current inventory of Graphic Novels. I also posted in a couple of writing forums very early on if people had suggestions for works I “shouldn’t forget” to send them my way for consideration. There’s so much work out there. No one person can read it all. But, I did want to move forward with what I thought was deserving, especially if it widened the SF community to a more diverse representations of work.

People did send me suggestions. I read (okay, I devoured) many of them. Some of them made my personal nominations ballot, because I was like “Damn! This is way better than I was thinking,” but, also, there’s five nominations slots. I had lots of holes. I didn’t always nominate all five available, either. Just those I thought deserving.

download (3)I don’t necessarily consider myself a SJW, that pejorative Social Justice Warrior label that those who are okay in an oppressed world serve as something bad, especially when it comes to my media. But, this whole Sad Puppies bullshit (read the link, I’m not going to explain it here, thanks) makes me out to be one. Fine, you say SJW like it’s a bad thing. If seeking out literature from across the globe (nay universe) isn’t foundational to the whole science fiction world, I think I’ve interpreted everything wrong. I’m not sure how many others who voted had the kind of angle I did — looking at work not necessarily found on the shelves at Walmart or Walgreens. I hope I’m not the only one.

Of the people I nominated, how many were included in the final short-list for everyone to vote on? Two. Just Two. Both in the Semiprozine category. None of what I nominated made it. Really? You can’t tell me that none of VanderMeer’s Southern Reach books made the cut? That The Three-Body Problem wasn’t on the ballot. UGH. The force with Sad Puppies was strong. Are there still deserving people on that final ballot that I will vote for? Yes. My ballot MAY look suspiciously like one suggested here.

As I’m personally examining the issue, I keep coming back to the thought about what would I do if my work might be the subject of such controversy. If one of the short-list noms happens to be a person who was voted in the Sad Puppies slate, but wasn’t necessarily a proponent of it, would you stay or go? Some folks have chose to not accept the nomination. I can’t say I blame them. But, a Hugo award does wonders for people to find your work, for other editors and publishers to take note of what you’re doing as a writer and artist. It would be a tough call.

oh-you-read-enders-game-tell-me-how-much-you-love-science-fictioThe call would have to be if there is such a political agenda to the Sad Puppies slate. Many have suggested it’s the old patriarchal guard doing its thing (one such nominee was published by Patriarchy Press, and there’s the seeming Orson Scott Card supporter nominee, too). Others have written, including those involved within the SP, that much of what they wrote to support their campaign for one particular slate was crying out against diversity That people, such as myself, that seek out such different voices, which includes world literature, are ruining science fiction fandom. To Brad and Larry, I would say, I believe I make it a more interesting fandom. Insert what they say about opinions adage here.

Some folks have determined other ways of dealing with this, basically take the voting fraud of Sad Puppies and make it void. If WorldCon did something like that, which I highly doubt they will, would it mean the end to the Hugos? I don’t know.

I just can’t wrap my head around it. I think of myself as the average Speculative Fiction Reader. Where I’m not a typical reader is that if you put a small press book on a table next to a big press book and ask me to choose, I’m likely going to pick up the small press book. Additionally, many of the books in my library are author-published titles. I’m not prejudicial to how something is published, is my point. When the Sad Puppies campaign first hit the internet, I was thinking they had opinions and ideas about who should be on the ballot, much like I did, and I couldn’t fault them. But, then an uglier truth became apparent.

Tony Stark readingClearly it doesn’t matter thanks to the folks giving dogs a bad name everywhere. For a newbie to this whole thing, I’ve a bad taste in my mouth. This may be my last year as a WorldCon member (although I get to vote next year as a Hugo nominations qualifying member) or an attendee at the conference. I don’t know. My experience in August and what happens with the final award presentation may determine such a decision by me. There are some that are saying that my participation in this is a potential reason as to why the whole Sad Puppies 3 campaign was created, or that my participation and others like me is what will ‘save the Hugos.’

To all of this, I’m still processing and compiling. I’m not sure what my vested interest in this is. Do I think speculative fiction is important? Yes, I do. Do I think the Hugos help to bring great spec fiction to the focus of the constant rapid change or media consumers? Yes, I do.  Do I consider myself part of the speculative fictions, including science fiction, community? Yes, I do. I may not be a Scalzi or a Hines or even Gibson. Hell, I’m not even at the Jim Butcher level. But, whatever. I’ve been a longtime reader and this is what I write. It should be important.

Now there is the availability to vote a “No Award.” Will I do that? I don’t know. Most of what made the short list, I’ll have to investigate, although a cursory glance has already given me a healthy dose of side-eye. The fact that the final slate has people I haven’t heard of is not scary, but suspect. I’m keeping an open mind, as one is wont to do in Science Fiction especially. Has there always been that segment of the SciFi world that is close-minded and not ready for change? Sure. Every group has that minority. I’m not going to let their existence be the end all be all. In fact, there’s a part of my thought process that believes voters like me — just like the swing vote on Survivor, will be the ones that turn this whole thing around. I also will give some good attention to making sure the nominations I gave to The Hugos are counted in the Locus Awards.

Almost-Human-image-almost-human-36082367-700-700I think much like one of the authors I nominated as a Campbell contender said, much of this Sad Puppy Think of the Children blustering, will just fade away and the Hugos will continue to keep people like me, who are searching the nooks and crannies for good stuff. That much like Elizabeth Bear wrote, fandom will continue and will likely survive, as it has in the fires of other assaults. My hope is that the Hugos community comes on the other end of this as a smarter and better true anarchy.

I’m going to take off my ranty pants here. As you look away (or stare if you like — I was in the Army and have children, I’ve no modesty any more) you can check out what my ballot looked like in the end:

Your nominations for Best Novel:

Southern Reach Trilogy Jeff VandeMeer FSG Originals
Maplecroft Cherie Priest Penguin
The Bees Laline Paul Harper Collins
The Three-Body Problem Cixin Liu Macmillian
The Peripheral William Gibson G.P. Putnam Sons

Your nominations for Best Novella:

The End of the Sentence Maria Dahvana Headley & Kat Howeard Subterranean Press
Where the Trains Turn  Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen
Dream Houses  by Genevieve Valentine  WSFA Press
The Beauty  Aliya Whiteley  Unsung Stories

Your nominations for Best Novelette:

From the Nothing, With Love Phantasm Japan Project Itoh
Written on the Hides of Foxes Alex Dally MacFarlane Beneath Ceaseless Skies
The End of the World in Five Dates Claire Humphrey Apex

Your nominations for Best Short Story:

This Chance Planet Elizabeth Bear
Cimmeria: From the Journal of Imaginary Anthropology Theodora Goss  Lightspeed
Childfinder Octavia E. Butler  Unexpected Stories
Sarah’s Child Susan Jane Bigelow Strange Horizons
Lucky Strike Kim Stanley Robinson Strange Horizons

Your nominations for Best Related Work:

Special Needs in Strange Worlds  Sarah Chorn SF Signal
IFLScience Contributors
The Secret History Of Wonder Woman  Jill Lepore

Your nominations for Best Graphic Story:

Aama  Frederik Peeters SelfMadeHero
Ant Colony Michael DeForge Drawn and Quarterly
Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel Anya Ulinich Penguin Group

Your nominations for Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form):

Autómata Gabe Ibáñez Green Moon
Appleseed Alpha Shinji Aramaki Sony Pictures
The Quiet Hour  Stéphanie Joalland Frenzy Films
Flashes Amir Valinia AV1
Snowpiercer  Bong Joon-ho Opus Pictures

Almost-Human-586x310Your nominations for Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form):

Unbound  J.H. Wyman Almost Human
Arrhythmia J.H. Wyman Almost Human
Long Into The Abyss Antonio Negret The 100
274 Cameron Porsandeh Helix
Boy Parts  Brad Falchuk, Ryan Murphy American Horror Story:  Coven

Your nominations for Best Professional Editor (Short Form):

Julia Rios
Alisa Krasnostein
William Schafer

Your nominations for Best Professional Editor (Long Form):

Amanda Rutter
Ann VanderMeer

Your nominations for Best Professional Artist:

Abigail Larson
Kekai Kotaki
Kentaro Kanamoto
Yuku Shimizu

Your nominations for Best Semiprozine:

Strange Horizons Niall Harrison
Lightspeed John Joseph Adams

Your nominations for Best Fanzine:

Bookworm Blues Sarah Chorn
People of Color in European Art History

Your nominations for Best Fancast:
No nominations. I for the life of me could not figure out what qualified for this, and honestly, I think this should be separated into pro-podcast and amateur podcast. 

Your nominations for Best Fan Writer:

Liz Bourke Sleeps with Monster –
Sarah Mesle Breakers of Chains review
Genevieve Valentine  Strange Horizons

Your nominations for Best Fan Artist:

Finnian MacManus
Jane Patterson

Your nominations for The John W. Campbell Award (not a Hugo):

Usman Malik Resurrection Points
Alyssa Wong Scarecrow –

download (1)

Posted in And Sometimes There Is Politics, Inkster (Writing Superhero) Dispatch, Literary Criticism, Poor Man's MFA, Publishing, Reading, Social Action Writing, Supporting All Artists, Supporting the Writing Community, Write Life | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

#LifewithAutism: My kid has a different operating system




In our household, the divide between PC and Mac is strong. Also at least half the family prefers to dual boot both a Linux and Windows operating system. Sometimes the technology we prefer makes for some lack of communication because maybe my android won’t talk to my son’s iPhone. Heck, my husband and I have the same phone, but the way we manage it, means he doesn’t like to use my phone and vice versa. “Yours is like a foreign system!” he said the other day.humor-vs-windows-mac-linux-3

My husband’s statement made me start thinking about my special-needs son, who lives with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Bean, as many of you via the internet know him, is now 19. The struggles to get him educated, live independently, and employed have been a constant struggle.  I regularly tell people when trying to understand Autism that my son was born with a different operating system. His co-morbidity diagnoses also strap him with some faulty software. Sometimes, as he grows, or endures conditioned experience, that faulty software goes through ‘patches’ or ‘upgrades’. (The co-morbidity is most likely extreme symptoms of Autism, but it helps to have people understand to explain he has a mood disorder or generalized anxiety order – but its foundation is ASD. Also, since Autism is neurological/biological disorder, not a psychological or emotional condition, other diagnoses can/may exist.)


Art work by Leslie Nan Moon (used with permission)

I don’t like to blog about our struggle or his struggle much. I try hard to keep his personal life private. But what happens to him, as my child, impacts me and my whole family. Everyone in our household’s lives has been colored by Autism. There’s a blue cloud, if you will, over all of us. Also, I’ve learned in the last couple of years, that sharing helps others not have to suffer some of the same things my son, my family, or me have endured. If someone can learn from my experience, all the better the world my son will get to live in – especially after his mother – me – his chief care giver has headed to the summer lands. For now, the blue cloud, that eternal puzzle piece, is a focal point of our lives – like it or not.

Thursday, April 5, was World Autism Day and the world made an effort to “light it up blue” to help raise awareness about Autism, in essence giving everyone that blue cloud for the day – sort of. Raising awareness is definitely needed. I often have to “educate” people on Autism. They think every person with ASD is like Dustin Hoffman’s character in Rain Man. That they have some super power – whether its mathematical genius, photographic memory, or apparently, they can fly. (Yes, dear readers I actually had a person ask me what my son’s Autistic superpower is. In that particular case it was keeping me responsible from not throat punching the person. I just simply said that he doesn’t wear a cape and walked away.) Other beliefs about Autism are that you only have Autism if you cannot speak. Or that a person with Autism will never live a satisfying life.  All of these are falsehoods; therefore, you can see raising awareness is needed. Thankfully the entire month of April is Autism Awareness month. So, I’m going to “light it up blue” just a bit longer and hopefully keep that conversation going.

I’m going to list some reasons why Autism Awareness needs to be raised and how it’s affected me personally, and I know, most importantly, I’m not alone.


* 1 in 68 adults lives on the Autism Spectrum Disorder. Amazing as this statistic is, I am constantly explaining to people what Autism is. Of course, I didn’t know what it was fully until medical providers starting saying that my son had Asperger Syndrome [a type of Autism, which isn’t in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – aka the book that doctors use to make diagnosis) any longer]. So, perhaps it’s understandable that people wouldn’t care until it touches them directly. But with a statistic like that, millions of people are living every day with this disorder, this condition. You’re going to eventually run into someone who has it, or life is deeply affected by it. The other amazing thing about this statistic is the absolute lack of services for the children, young adults, and aging adults dealing with this disorder. Yet, 1 in 68 people has this diagnosis. “You do the math,” as Bean likes to say (but he means it literally).

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*If you’ve met one person with Autism, you’ve met one person with Autism. It is a spectrum disorder – no two people with Autism are alike. Autism can be used as an umbrella term for many presenting disorders. This likely is why there seems to be great services for my fellow parents’ kids on the Autism Spectrum, but not mine – and vice versa. Some ASD people are verbal. Some are not. Some arm or hand flap. Some pace. Some chew their clothes. Some chew their hands. Some will look you in the eye. Some won’t. Some have a wicked sense of humor. Some don’t. Some are great writers. Others prefer photos to express themselves. In short, ASD people are all different, just like their neurotypical counterparts. Like any human being, being a human being with Autism is complicated. It’s not a cookie-cutter diagnosis – it’s a Spectrum. Look up the word spectrum if you’re not getting it. Please. The key part of this is that they are people. People first. Treat them with respect, not because of their disorder, but because they are a human being.


*It’s Not the Parent’s Fault (or the child’s fault).  If I hear one more time about how my son just needs discipline, or that I’m too permissive, or too cold, or didn’t bond with him, or that I have Munchhausen by Proxy (yes, I had a pediatrician when Bean was five years old  suggest that may be the issue), or – fill in the freaking blank, I just might scream. Also, if you think that raising a neurotypical child – or worse, teenager – is tough. Try adding ASD to the mix. I want to give every parent of a child with Autism a medal. Although, all of us parents dealing with a child with Autism know we’ll never get one – we don’t expect one. But, we’re not superheroes, either. We are human, just like our children. There are some days when we will scream, “F@#* Autism!” It’s like a monster with its teeth and claws in our child’s brain stem. It’s not easy to live in this neurotypical world, when the entire of society is set up to deal with only Windows, Mac, or Linux and you’re running Blanco y Negro OS. I give it that name because many folks (not all!) with ASD think very black and white. There’s no gray. You should laugh at this point because Grey is my son’s middle name. Thanks for the joke on me, universe. Also, I want to let you know that parents with children with Autism have some of the best self-deprecating senses of humor. It’s a coping skill, but also makes us some of the most fun people I know.


*Won’t and Can’t mean different things when you’re dealing with Autism. This probably is the hardest thing to deal with as a parent of a child with Autism. One day he’ll eat off of the regular dishes, the next he absolutely has to have his favorite plastic ones, because it feels different, painfully different. When he’s in sensory overload there is nothing malicious in his meltdown, truly. Until you have experienced a sensory overload meltdown and your child has gone into complete fight or flight mode, you will not understand. So, until then, can you take it from me? It’s not that he’s willfully creating chaos. He can’t not at that moment. Trust me, many individuals with ASD who have such chaotic meltdowns, go through a period of remorse afterwards, when that illusive switch in their brain switches back to calm. It’s terrible for their self-confidence, which doesn’t help any social interaction issues they may have. It’s not that she won’t do her homework, dear teacher, but at this particular moment, she can’t. Won’t means that someone is choosing not to; Can’t means that they are unable to. A person with Autism many times just can’t. They aren’t capable. It doesn’t mean they will forever be incapable. Just at that particular time, perhaps. They may very well WANT to, but they cannot. Autism is a beast that we try every day to tame – whether we’re part of the person with Autism’s support network, or the individual themselves. Whomever you’re dealing with that endures ASD, you will likely have to understand that Can’t is more central to their everyday living as opposed to Won’t.


That means every day you may run into some difficult situation. Some days, things seem so calm and pleasant you think Autism took a hike. Trust me, it’s there still. There’s no cure or changing the person with Autism. You can provide partial participation or conditioned experience to help them, but their different operating system is still in charge. Some days they can’t shower because the water just overwhelms their senses. Going along with this, focusing on what the person can do at any particular moment, versus what they can’t do, is so much more pleasant and prevents the aforementioned meltdowns. So, if your friend of a daughter with Autism is smiling because her child is happily wearing clothes today, as opposed to streaking down the family home’s hallway, celebrate that victory with her. If your co worker is solving a problem for your department and working almost obsessively on it, but not able to attend the employee luncheon because the social interaction is over stimulating, celebrate that victory that while you’re eating burgers and fries, they are putting out the flames of business troubles. Celebrate the cans, please.


*Having an Autistic Meltdown (sensory overload) is not a Crime. Dear Law Enforcement, and First Responders, please get with the program and get Crisis Intervention Teams implemented for all your units. Although, I truly believe every police officer, emergency medical tech, and fire fighter should have such mental-health crisis response training, at least having a CIT in place would be a great start. Dear General Public, please agree that tax dollars should be used for this. Dear Court Officers:  If a defendant tells you they have Autism, listen. When a young adult with Autism is yelling at himself at the bus stop, he is not committing a crime. When a young child with Autism is throwing pencils in a classroom, they should not be arrested. The incidents of people with Autism unjustly disciplined or detained because of their disorder needs to stop now.


It’s time to get serious. It’s time to help. Please help. Autism is not being taken seriously. Approximately 4 million people in the United States are on the Spectrum. In 2008, the CDC estimated that 1 in 88 people were considered on the Spectrum. Today, that number has increased a near 25 percent. Like I wrote above, 1 in 68 people (children, teens, adults) are living on the Spectrum. We know it’s genetic. We don’t know what causes it. There is no cure. What we do know is that the people and their families suffering with this disorder are getting little to no help. If you think there are programs out there, I’m here to tell you:  THERE IS NOT. Research dollars are nearly non-existent, education dollars are non-existent, and programs for activities for daily life, independent living, and employment are nearly non-existent. Those programs that do exist have been spearheaded by parents and have a very positive, yet limited reach. If anything, be an educated person about this disorder. Don’t add fuel to the fire of bittersweetness Autism families live every day. Don’t call my child retarded, when he clearly is not (in fact, many on the spectrum are gifted). Better yet, don’t call anyone retarded. The respect with which someone is treated should not be determined by their intelligence.

2014-09-02-92015huffpoSPECTRUM2Don’t be the law enforcement officer that handcuffs and abuses a person with Autism, because you think they WON’T comply with your commands (remember, they likely can’t). Don’t be that teacher that tells the parent that they need to be more disciplined with their child (or sometimes worse). Don’t be the neighbor – or worse passerby – that calls the police, without first asking if the parents need help (we all have family crisis plans, trust me). If you’re an extended family member of a person with Autism, maybe offer to provide respite for the caregivers. Even a dinner out for mom and dad can mean the difference between a good weekend and a bad. If you don’t know anyone with Autism, call your legislators and make sure they’re doing all they can for the education, employment, and future independent living of the soon-to-be four million adults with Autism in our country. Be the helper, not the hurter, as my son used to say when he was six. For a young kid with Autism, that’s pretty freaking wise. How wise are you about Autism? Hopefully this post helped you a bit. If you have questions, feel free to ask me in the comments below. Or check out Autism Speaks, or other really great blogs of people living every day in the Autism trenches:  Autism Hippie, Autism with a Side of Fries, Effin Autism, or ASD Dad. Even better, read from the person with Autism’s perspective, like Drive Mom Crazy (love that blog title!), Reports from a Resident Alien (and on Livejournal <3) , or The Autistic Me. As well, #LifewithAutism will now become a regular feature here at Casz’s Fiction Farm – but trust me, it’s not fiction. I move to do this now, because I can no longer keep this in the background of my public persona – as it is so central to my everyday life. If my experiences can help educate, or help someone – both with Autism or without, then I am happy to share.


Come share in our cloud of blue, even if it’s just for a day, or the month of April. Then you can go back to your Windows, Mac, or Linux world.


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To Support or Not Support GenCon2015, that is the ?

11088391_851802394909796_8216926951410208988_nEver since the passing of Indiana’s new “Religious Freedom Reformation Act” law allowing for discrimination based on religious belief (e.g. I won’t sell you a cake because you are homosexual and that goes against my religion), I’ve watched many a friend, fellow author, and my gaming-world favorites in the GenCon (the largest tabletop gaming convention in North America) world struggle with the decision about whether or not to continue to attend this year’s festivities , whether they are patron, vendor, or panelist. Peruse the hashtags #GenCon2015 or #BoycottIndiana and you’ll see the discussion clearly, passionately, back and forth. Indiana is known as the Crossroads state. GenCon and the larger gaming community is at a crossroads now. Are you going to sign with the demon and make things less painful for yourself? Or are you going to do the right thing?

GenCon is not alone in its membership struggling over supporting such a law by simply doing business in Indiana. In fact, other organizations have already canceled their events or investments in Indiana because of the passage of this law. This all after GenCon threatened to end its existence in Indiana if the law went into effect. Governor Pence signed the law. GenCon 2015 is still on.

Obviously, empty threats change nothing.

Even though I would consider myself a gamer, I’ve never been to this particular convention, but I can see both sides of the argument – an entire population of gamers, GenCon supporters, is being oppressed by this law, because let’s be fair, this new law by Indiana is straight up Jim Crow-esque and puts the state back 200 years. But do you hurt the good people, the non-discriminatory ones, in Indiana over this by not economically os socially supporting them? It’s a clear choice in my mind. But, let’s explore all of it first.

For some it was a seeming simple and swift decision: they won’t participate in GenCon. Personally, I can see this as a very clear decision. In our modern democracy (cough*oligarchy*cough), money talks. Money votes. Money makes painful change happen. If you think money isn’t behind getting this law passed, you need to look deeper. Even if I’d bought plane tickets, etc. I would firmly state, now 118 days from the convention itself, that I would not participate. What little influence I have as a resident of another state, to influence the politics, or as I see it, the humanity, of Indiana, is that I can say, “I won’t travel there,” as many other entities have done already. I can say to the world – since GenCon hosts participants from 40 different countries – that human rights are important to me. I will vote with my hard-earned convention-going dollars and not support an event in an oppressive environment.

Do I wish the whole issue was not framed around economics and money? Yes, I do. I’d like people to be more human-focused, but… baby steps. However, I needed to put that thought out there. This law shouldn’t have passed, and the only way the bigots that support it are going to listen is by milking their wallets because of it.

That makes it painful for the GenCon organization, sure. It’s not their fault. Sure. It makes it painful for the reasonable people of Indiana who will be economically blackballed by this new law. However, the law is more so painful to those it discriminates against.

Some GenCon supporters have publicly discussed their quandary with attending, because they don’t want to hurt the reasonable people who are not being represented by this bill. They don’t’ want to hurt the organization of GenCon, or by default its supporters, and the gaming community. I can see this, but I go back to the change is painful facts.

GenCon has countered saying that it is fighting the RFRA. That they are working with the Indianapolis leaders, especially its mayor, who by executive order has denounced the RFRA and deemed the city as anti-disciminatory. In GenCon style, perhaps we could just get Indiana’s Governor Pence and Indianapolis’ Mayor Ballard in a ring and have them duke it out? But, seriously, having a haven among the Thunderdome of discrimination is a good first step, but it seems impotent, in my opinion, at this point. Could Indiana’s government move quickly enough to retract the law before the Con goes? Who knows? Knowing that government is a freighter turning in the water and not a jet ski, it is unlikely.

There’s been talk of folks attending GenCon2015 all rainbowed-clad and wearing t-shirts in rainbow tie-die that say “The Cake is a Lie and so is RFRA.” Again, if you did that before the law was signed, sure. Now that it’s in effect, it seems pointless and very slackivist. You’re still giving them your money. You’re still supporting them.

This is where I call tough love. I love gamers and the games we play. It’s an important life skill and the creativity that abounds in that community is unending and inspiring. But, we as a community that should profess progression and inclusion (yes, yes, we have our sexism and racism, which is why this stand is so important). We can’t afford not to take this stand. We need to vote with the influence we have – our dollars, despite the pain it causes. In 2015 to allow this to stand is untenable, and does not bode well for the gaming community, in my opinion.

Change is painful. Humans are very “my backyard.” Their backyard has to be threatened before they do something. You can’t use your privilege to go have a great convention because you don’t want to hurt the reasonable people – the participants, the vendors, the panelists. It has to hurt everyone for change to occur. That’s just a fact of life. #BoyCotIndiana is just getting started. We’re going to have to gut the pig of discrimination via its slop subsistence – money in this case – to get it overturned.

So how do things proceed? I’d love to see GenCon kill the con in Indiana for 2015. There’s still time to scramble and reorganize. Will there be resources lost? Will people’s hard work be for naught? In the beginning, perhaps this will be so. But in the end, I think not. I think that the community could come back even stronger. Let me tell you why I think that. It’s all about framing. Instead of the participants, vendors, and panelists feeling as if they just “lost out,” a reframing about what they put their resources to is needed. You need to look at the energy and monies around GenCon 2015 as a campaign to support anti-discrimination. They could easily ask their participants to “donate” their memberships as a vote towards overturning RFRA. That way those resources wouldn’t be lost. I think the community would be very agreeable to that. Sure, sure, you tell me, that’s easy for me to say. I haven’t spent two years planning, or saving, or anything. But, I put myself in the mindset, of if this was happening in my state, to the cons I’m attending this year.

It’s also possible that another convention center – say maybe even in neighboring Chicago or elsewhere (Denver, California, Minnesota have all said, “come here!”) might provide agreeable change of venue to help the con move forward as planned (save location) as another strong statement. Anything is possible if people deem it to be so, I believe that.

As a community, we need to take a tough stand on this. We’ve been lax for too long given things like #gamergate and general con harassments or even the ridiculousness of PAX’s new slippery-slope rules regarding booth babes policy. Today we have an opportunity to not support discrimination and the reversal of so much progress in our country. One bad apple spoils the bunch is a true adage here. Right on the heels of Indiana’s RFRA passing, Arkansas did the same. South Carolina and Texas already have similar laws. GenCon2015 can help make a statement and boost the gaming community’s credibility with its members, all its members, as well as the rest of the world.

I’m proud of those taking the stand not to support Indiana’s discrimination by not supporting events, activities, and companies in Indiana. I’m hoping GenCon2015 joins those brave equality warriors. Change is painful. Let’s make the pain not last so long?

#BoyCotIndiana #GenCon2015 #EndBigotry



Posted in And Sometimes There Is Politics, Gaming, Social Action Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Free-Range Fiction: Random Cocktail Challenge

downloadHerr Wendig is at it again This week’s flash-fiction challenge revolves around adult beverages randomly generated. The one I got is Bondage’s No Problem. Yes that’s a real cocktail. It has vodka in it, for which I’m allergic, so I’ll never taste it unless you maybe sub some whiskey instead. Below is where the title Bondage’s No Problem took me — in 999 words. It’s easy to believe that maybe this might be a much longer story, clearly I could continue it. But, I think it works as it is, as well. Read it. Comment below. Much appreciated.


by Casondra Brewster

They call it the Golden Handcuffs. You have no idea. It really is a life of slavery and bondage. But it’s not a problem, really. What else are we going to do with our time? At least we’re not getting shot at? No one is going to die in this nine to five.

I wrote that to my old Army buddy ten years ago after we’d both hung up our boots and put on civilian ties. Now I could think of lots of things to do with my time other than put in time in this seven-by-nine-foot cubicle. I called it my civilian foxhole. Was it still true we weren’t getting shot at? Sure– well at least until one of my coworkers has had enough. Maybe his wife leaves him. His kid turns into a drug addict. His balloon payment on his mortgage is due and he can’t manage it. Instead of coping, dealing, turning his life around, he blows us all away here sitting near these pale blue, fabric walls lulling us into security, when nothing is secure. It’s all impermanent. No one is going to die. I said it. But I was dying. My soul was a sucking chest wound.

Here it was another Wednesday. The hallway sentiments about hump day fell flat at my feet.  Stacks of work – reports to analyze or create – to my left and right and a pile of email to answer, flag, or archive lurked inside the screen in front of me. I had zero motivation for it. I wanted to runaway. Scream. Hide. End it all. I spent ten years in war. For this?

“Hey, Phil,” I looked up. It was Roger, the guy from development. He lived in the same apartment complex I did. We sometimes had lunch together in the cafeteria. You know, one of those convenience friendships, but the two of you didn’t really dig deep. “Are you going to the after-work shindig to say goodbye to Josie?”

I shook my head. Josie was one of the communication team leads. She was always saying in company-wide meetings that her job was to “herd the cats of all the different departments.” I wasn’t a cat, but I did sometimes want to scratch the smile off her face.

“Oh, bummer; I was hoping to grab a ride home from you.”

“Sorry, pal.”

“Well, if you change your mind, let me know,” he said and moped away.

I started just mass deleting all the emails. If it was really important, they’d send me another one before lunch. I put my headphones on, but there was no music in them. They were a detractor from would-be interrupters who would wreck my work flow by darkening my cubicle opening. I went to work on the report analysis. This part of my work I didn’t dread completely. There was an art to it, although for the most part it was black and white. It didn’t talk back. It didn’t expect me to smile, be grateful, and all that other Zen crap. It just was.

Before the afternoon coffee break, I start to feel bad for squashing Roger’s hopes.

I send Roger an email saying, I’m going to the pub for Josie’s thing and I’ll drive him home. He’s at my desk at 4:59 with the stupidest grin on his face and carrying a brown-paper sack.

On the walk over to the pub Roger tells me he’s had a hard-on for Josie for years. But, he has a don’t-date-coworkers policy. I don’t tell him I think Josie likely has a don’t-date-dweebs policy.

The pub smells like old peanuts, stale beer, and too much cologne and perfume. My eyes start to water. I’m wishing I had my balaclava to throw up over my nose. Not kosher in this environment, however. Roger gladly buys the first round, “Thanks again, buddy for having my back.” I shrug and nod. The beer actually tastes pretty good. Better than the Rainer I’ve been stocking my fridge with; that’s another slow kind of death.

I watch as people give farewell gifts to Josie, including Roger. I hadn’t his little brown-paper was a gift. I thought it was a snack. Everyone quiets around Josie as she takes out two tickets.

“What they to?” some douche bag from sales hollers.

Roger beams a wide, toothy smile and says, “The Blindfolds & Cuffs Burlesque Show.”

Josie flinches and flushes. Then, always the PR professional, swallows, and says, “Thanks, Roger. You’re sweet.” He whispers something in her ear and she feigns distraction by yelling back at the sales douche, “You’re just jealous, Keith.” She then promptly picks up another little gift baggy, leaving Roger to slip back into oblivion. He ends up next to me.

“She left you OTF, buddy,” I say, taking another swallow of beer.

Roger doesn’t respond.

We watch in silence for a few more minutes while people make toasts to Josie, some dude passes out her new business cards to everyone, and coworkers and friends alike wish her well in her new job, some sort of consulting gig. I only half listen. Roger goes to the bar again, but comes back with nothing.

I watch as the bartender brings Josie a drink. She raises the glass and nods to Roger.

“Ready whenever you are,” Roger says his voice even meeker than normal. We walk in silence back to my pick-up.

“Why did you buy her a drink after she left you out there hanging, dude?” I ask Roger.

He shrugs, “I felt like it.”

I shake my head.


The next morning at work, I decide to check on Roger at his desk. He’s not there. Before lunch word gets around he was found blindfolded and cuffed to his bed, an apparent autoerotic asphyxiation casualty. The police are looking for Josie. Her business card was found in his hands, with the words “Bondage is No Problem” scrawled on the back.

Yeah, nobody’s getting shot. But somebody just might die.



Posted in Free-Range Fiction, Writing Exercise | Tagged , , , , , , , | 8 Comments