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Sidetracks is a collaborative project featuring various essays, videos, reviews, or other Internet content that we want to share with each other. All past and current links for the Sidetracks project can be found in our Sidetracks tag.





text that says Renay's Section

➝ The big news is that The Hugo Awards ceremony was Sunday and there were winners! I may have some thoughts later. This in-depth breakdown was handy.

Clockwork Heart comes out September 15! I want everyone to read this book, because I have such affection for it. STEAMPUNK ROMANCE.

Strange Horizons is having a fund drive!

This quote made me think about my past as a reader. I did read a lot of romance as a teenager, but it's very true that until fandom, most of the romance I was reading didn't really explore sexuality in the same way, if at all — it was very heternormative and less exploratory. Fandom broke down all those walls for me in a time where erotica was way beyond my ability to find, much less read without getting it ripped out of my hands and thrown in the trash.

How to act when someone tells you their preferred name, or Twin Peaks, an Ode to Denise.




text that says Jodie's Section

After talking about shifting the location of the Sochi Games because of Russia's new laws relating to homosexuality, Stephen Fry calls for athletes to adopt a supportive sign at the Winter Olympics. This has already been tested by an athlete at the recent World Championships and was shot down as a breach of that competition's regulations.

I've been trying to work out how to talk about various call for international boycotts, in the face of new Russian laws against homosexuality, without sounding defeatist about the effect international pressure could have on Russian laws. Athletes have been called on to boycott the games, Fry asked for the games to be moved to a different country, and I've seen people talk about boycotting the sponsors. I've signed a petition calling on sponsors of the Olympics to exert pressure on the Russian government even though I don't hold out much hope that it would work — it takes two seconds to sign a petition and stand with LGBT people who think it might work. And, when all your other powers are gone, standing in resistance is important.

Realistically, I think it's too late to talk about international forces using the Winter Olympics to exert pressure on Putin to revoke these laws and look into persecution. Any of the proposed measures I mentioned above disrupt the games for the athletes, or causing a major international conflict, and we can take it as given that the people able to make these decisions, or exert pressure on the decision makers, do not want either of those things to happen. As for encouraging sponsors of the Games to drop out through public pressure… well, Coca Cola for one already has 179 human right violations listed against it; it's a global company and it is ridiculously rich. It does not have to bow to public pressure unless the levels are extreme, or bowing suits its own ends. Which is not to say that people outside of Russia shouldn't stand and ask them to put pressure on Russia's government just that I think it is unlikely to work.

Also, the Olympics isn't the only major sporting event Russia has been awarded: the World Championships took place just a few weeks ago and Russia has been awarded the 2018 World Cup. Well that's great, right? FIFA can threaten to take that away now these new laws are in place, right? Except that Qatar, a country where being gay is illegal, is holding that event in 2022 and no one is talking about taking that event away from them. Boycotting one event, or boycotting the sponsors for one event, just isn't going to be enough when Russia has had so many sporting events handed to it.

Perhaps most importantly, Putin doesn't care about international opinions. Pussy Riot are still in jail after all.

The only international action I think might work is a long run game — sporting bodies like FIFA, the IOC and the IAAF need to decide that a country's policies and laws have to inform whether they can be awarded sporting events. And, if there aren't already, it seems like there should be cultural criteria laid down which have to be met as part of the bid process. Not meeting these criteria should cost countries a lot of points when it comes to the bid marking process. If countries that are awarded events change their laws in a way which negatively contradicts what they said during the original bid process, or if there are state organised violations of these laws, then those sporting bodies would have to ban countries from bidding for future events. I'm not an expert though, obviously, and I'd love to hear from people who know more about the inner workings of sport. Do you think there's a kind of international action related to sport which could realistically happen and help to change Russia's prejudicial laws?

As for the Winter Olympics, I hope athletes and spectators can find a way to show their support because there are activists, citizens and athletes within Russia who could probably do with a sign that they're not alone right now. A visible podium sign, which could then be reflected back by audiences, sounds like a good way to show that people outside their country care.

➝ Moving on, Asking the Wrong Questions has an interesting piece about two pieces of historical fiction about the York Lancaster divide — the recent TV program "The White Queen" and Sharon Penman's novel "The Sunne in Splendour". I enjoyed "The White Queen" and have some thoughts about it coming up so I was considering reading "The Sunne in Splendour" but the writing samples included in this post have put me right off.

➝ Related — here is a gifset that partly demonstrates why I was all over "The White Queen". Damn, boy!

➝ It's time to fall in love with some intricate, miniature sculptures. I always think tiny, detailed sculptures are sort of like stories in their own way.

A comic about cats and Halloween.

"Our Science Fiction Stories Hate Science Fiction" returns us to an argument that never seems to die. Why is SF so often about how technology will destroy us?

'While The Terminator films aren't technically serious SF, they are emblematic of the general problem with an anti-technology knee-jerk tendency in nearly all Hollywood SF. (The third film is moronically subtitled "Rise of the Machines.") This subtitle could be attached to nearly every major science fiction film ever: most big-league SF leans heavily on dystopia.


There's a rebuttal in the comments which I think nicely sums up the opposite side (which I generally agree with):

riotnrd: 'Nice essay, but I think you're misunderstanding (or misrepresenting) many of the science fiction films you claim pose technology as the "bad guy." In 2001, for example, technology is depicted in almost completely positive terms, it's humans (specifically, lying and secrecy) that are the villains. HAL feels compelled to kill the crew of the Discovery because he can't reconcile his morality (to discover and share knowledge) with his orders (keep the true mission secret from Bowman, et al). Similarly, Jurassic Park's villains are human hubris and greed, not the cloning technology. Equilibrium makes no comments on technology; it is the suppression of emotion that is the "bad guy." And so on.'


"I, Robot" would be my go to example. What's yours?

But the article does make a good point that human failings are the real problem in SFF films, technology is often the means of their villainy. It might be nice to see a different configuration (also applicable to the way so much SF praises nature over technology and city living I'd say). And, hey, this year we get one:

The most unlikely science fiction film this summer to actually use technology, instead of just fight it, is Pacific Rim. Here, linking your brain with your brother, father, friend or girlfriend makes you a better person and allows you to control a giant robot which saves people’s lives. As silly as it sounds, Pacific Rim is a SF movie that actually likes science fiction. It doesn't take itself too seriously—or, for that matter, make much sense—but it’s never cynical. And though it’s mostly action, the film is not violent in the horrific way Elysium is. Pacific Rim gets to have its alien lunch and smack it with robots too.


Yeah I'm still a sucker for people who say nice things about "Pacific Rim".

➝ Which leads me nicely to "Pacific Rim: post Movie Musings". My heart!

Date: 2013-09-03 03:19 pm (UTC)
pretty_panther: (tennis: andy despair)
From: [personal profile] pretty_panther
Loved Renay's tumblr link about how to respond when someone tells you their preferred name. Straight to the point!

Plus some great points from Jodie on the Olympics. A lot of international events have been awarded to countries with horrific track records when it comes to basic human rights, homophobia and religious turmoil.

Date: 2013-09-03 06:46 pm (UTC)
bookgazing: (Default)
From: [personal profile] bookgazing
I can't keep all the books with Clockwork in their title straight but don't think I've seen this one before. It looks really interesting.

Date: 2013-09-04 02:21 am (UTC)
chaila: by me (pacific rim - big damn hero)
From: [personal profile] chaila
I keep thinking that maybe I am over Pacific Rim, or that it wasn't as good as the flush of fannishness has made it in my memory? But then people say nice things about it and I have all the nice feelings. My heart!

Terminator 3 is an abomination against the name of Sarah Connor and should not be used as an example of anything, ever. Its existence should be erased! On a serious--and yet still Pacific Rim--note, I did really appreciate that neither human greed nor technology was the bad guy in Pacific Rim. Not that human greed ISN'T likely to be the downfall of the world, but I do get tired of that configuration. Though, thinking about it, I suppose what I get tired of is SFF films borrowing social justice themes or language, about greed or capitalism or whatever, and then not dealing with them properly, in favor of showing a white dude or group of white dudes saving everyone. I haven't seen Elysium so I don't know if it did better. And perhaps I've just seen too many superhero type movies, and not enough of what the article calls "serious" science fiction? Even stuff like Children of Men, it has all these themes of injustice and resistance, but the whole thing still has to hinge on the white dude. It makes the themes lose a little credibility with me, I guess. This has been a weird rant!

Date: 2013-09-04 10:01 pm (UTC)
bookgazing: (Default)
From: [personal profile] bookgazing
I also keep thinking I'm over Pacific Rim but it seems to be sticking!

And that's a really good point about media borrowing narratives they then don't explore fully. I feel similarly about supernatural stuff that goes 'supernatural creatures = social metaphor' but then their plot developments where they use these creatures end up saying really sketchy things. And when I read Earth Girl I thought that ended up really poorly handling disability even though its central message was about ableism being bad.

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