kameron hurley

/Tag: kameron hurley

Learned the hard way.

But what those folks didn’t consider is that I was also born a woman, and I learned the hard way that even though everyone said I was equal, and that I had the same opportunities, and that I was treated the same, and that the world was built for me, it was all a lie. I learned that the real world wasn’t going to treat me like it did the white male heroes on tv, however much I aspired to be like them. It was going to treat me like a woman, however much I learned to despise all the trappings of femininity from a deeply biased media that said women were emotional, weak, conceited; good only so long as they were wives who picked up after irresponsible husbands or whores with hearts of gold.

The lie I learned about what stories and media taught me about my place in the world also led me to interrogate what I’d been told about race, too. I heard “we’re all equal now” and “You can be whoever you want” but the reality was that none of us could outrun history. We all started where we were because of the systems that came before us. And we were continually reminded of our place in the hierarchy of things by stories, by media, by laws that will believe a man over a woman, and a white person over a black one.

–Kameron Hurley on interrogation.

2016-05-14T10:09:16+10:0011th November, 2014|Tags: culture, kameron hurley|

Publishing is a business.

[I]t’s easy to forget that publishing is a business when you’re just thankful somebody bought your work. A lot of newer writers get terrified that if they push at the contract in any way, that the offer will be rescinded.

But here’s a secret, folks: publishers buy your work because they think they can make money on it. If they don’t think they can make money on it, they’re not going to offer you a contract at all.

–Kameron Hurley tells a secret.

2014-09-23T08:07:32+10:007th November, 2014|Tags: kameron hurley, publishing|

Unseeing.

My fear of being unpublished, pushed out, ignored, because of who or what I write about is fading.

This is changing not because the people themselves are there any more or less than they (we!) used to be. The world has always been a diverse and interesting place. But with the rise of social media and instant communication platforms, it’s easier to organize and speak out. It’s easier to come together. It’s easier to insist on being seen. It’s harder to forget or wipe away the history that brought us all to the places we started this life within, the cultural constructs that bound us. The constructs we are working so hard to unmake, refute, challenge.

So if you find yourself wondering why so many of us ask to be included now, and put ourselves and others into stories we’ve been written out of, perhaps, first ask why that inclusion is considered political, but the erasure was not: the laws, the asylums, the housing policies, the repression, the abuse.

There is nothing more political than erasure. Than unseeing.

–Kameron Hurley on what we don’t see.

2014-09-01T07:49:16+10:0015th October, 2014|Tags: culture, kameron hurley, sff|

A grim heirarchy.

We live in a culture that controls people through a grim hierarchy. Anyone who’s ever been bullied in school knows exactly what it looks like, and how it seeks to keep us in our places; the folks at the top work to establish dominance and power. They are the ones who succeed, because the game is rigged in their favor. When you add onto that hierarchy the place of women in it, where it was only about fifty years ago when women couldn’t buy a house or get a credit card without their husband’s permission, it makes sense for women to make alliances with men who are bullies. Men who are bullies can protect women from other men who target them. The bully who is known to you if far less scary than the one who is not. Fetishizing that behavior when your choices are limited is not surprising.

–Kameron Hurley on why we keep writing “alpha males”.

Hurley also makes the point here about rewatching an old 80s movie and being startled by how, well, progressive it seems compared to today’s media. To which I say: yes.

We’re so used, I think, to imagining progress as “inevitable” that, as a culture, we’ve failed to notice mainstream media–particularly visual media like movies, TV, and videogames–are so much more conservative now than they were twenty or thirty years ago. This hit me the other week when I watched the old Hellraiser films for the first time. While they’re still problematic, they were quite startlingly progressive in the way they depicted female friendships and sexuality (in this latter case; yes, she’s the antagonist/villain, but her “start of darkness” is portrayed way more sympathetically that I think you’d get nowadays).

So… yeah. Something happened in there. Something we didn’t notice. Push back, I say! Push back!

2017-11-16T11:17:02+10:0012th October, 2014|Tags: culture, kameron hurley, pop culture|

Even the reference is dated…

I’ve been telling SFF to adapt or die for some time. Many of us have. We don’t want to see science fiction and fantasy die. But it had become a monolithic dinosaur, always looking back and back and back, full of nostalgia. There is a place for nostalgia, I know. But nostalgia does not bring in new readers. It doesn’t get people excited. It doesn’t build a future to anywhere.

–Kameron Hurley on building the future.

2017-08-23T10:03:39+10:007th October, 2014|Tags: kameron hurley, sff|

Words matter.

I’m told blog posts don’t matter. I’m told words don’t matter.

I’m told this by storytellers who know that the only thing that matters is words – and the ideas we convey with them. I’m told this by storytellers with a deep fear of people ranting on the internet.

Fans and pros write for all sorts of reasons, chief among them being love. I write for free online out of love, passion, and often – rage. Rage that the very stories I love punch me in the face. Rage that storytellers, many of them my colleagues, grind to dust my most fervent hopes and desires for a future that includes me and others like me.

–Kameron Hurley’s Hugo acceptance speech.

If you’re not reading Hurley, both her blog and her books, then you should be.

2017-08-23T10:03:28+10:005th October, 2014|Tags: kameron hurley|

Time versus money.

I got an invoice [from my lawyer] yesterday for $72, a charge for the time it took them to read and respond to an email of mine about a particular matter. I was not at all outraged or whatever by this – merely bemused. All we have on this earth is time, really, and when you take up people’s time, there’s a charge for it. What I found amusing is how many of us, as writers, don’t value our time at all. The value of our words themselves, words we spent hours and hours and weeks and weeks and months and months and years and years worth of time on, are, we feel, often worth nothing. Very few writers would charge you $70 for a blog post, let alone $70 for responding to your email.

–Kameron Hurley on valuing time.

I just did some rough maths and worked out that, if I was getting an hourly rate for my fiction work equivalent to my hourly day job rate, I’d be getting book advances approximately thirty times what they are currently. Meanwhile, what I’m actually getting for books works out somewhere below $2 an hour.

Or, to put it another way, debut genre fiction is the white collar equivalent of being a waitress in an area where almost no one tips. (“Tips” in this admittedly somewhat classist metaphor being equivalent to royalties and… yeah. This is where I stop. Ahem. Moving on.)

Fiction writing is an odd beast like that. Particularly since, as Hurley alludes to, as a writer you’re not “supposed” to complain about any of this. Because, I guess, most of us are writers because it’s a compulsion, something we’ve always known we’ve had to do. We have day jobs and drawers filled with manuscripts, and everyone’s dream is to quit one and live off the other. Hence the current race-to-the-bottom situation wherein publishers and platforms alike can take their pick from the desperate masses.

Hurley also laments the lack of a true author’s union, similar to the one that exists for screenwriters in Hollywood. I’d second this but, admittedly, I’d do so because I have skin in the game (no matter how small that skin is). I have a kind of… interesting relationship with unions, because while I support unionisation in theory, I also work (day job again) in a heavily unionised, yet still white collar, environment. Which means I also see some of the downsides. In a nutshell, this tends to be providing tenure for people well-past their prime/usefulness, which can inhibits the ability for the young and talented to be properly recognised and remunerated for their work.

Actually, now that I put it that way, this does sound exactly like the criticisms levelled against organisation’s like the Author’s Guild and, closer to home, the SFWA.

So… yeah. I don’t really have an answer to any of this. I don’t really know that there is an answer, other than hope maybe I win the lottery (the actual state lottery, not the horrible metaphor lottery), invest the winnings wisely, live off the dividends, and write full-time.

Short of that happening?

Well. I guess I won’t quit the day job.

2018-09-05T13:06:26+10:0029th September, 2014|Tags: kameron hurley, writing|

The economics of change.

It was in this moment that I realized the true economics of what’s going to drive the storytelling change. See, it used to be the only media you could consume was the racist, sexist, homophobic sort. That was simply all there was. So you either ate it, grimacing the whole while, or you opted out of it (I opted out of comics. I read pretty much no comics until the last six or seven years, as finding things that weren’t punching me in the face was hard).  But these days? Well, there’s a LOT of media out there, a lot of entertainment, and there are, increasingly, more diverse stories and choices we can make.

–Kameron Hurley on the poor economics of problematic stories.

This is one of those ones where I agree with Hurley’s premise but then wince when she goes into apologetics a few paragraphs down over things like True Detective and Guardians of the Galaxy.

It’s been occurring to me more and more recently–in no small part prompted by writers like Hurley herself–that we seem to be in a sort of… pop culture transitional period. That is, the point where more and more people seem to be realising that so much of the media we consume is tainted–by sexism, by racism, by slut-shaming and rape culture and transphobia and homophobia and heteronormativity and ableism and the works, you name it–and more and more people are pointing that out…

… but then not doing anything about it.

And, like, this is a tough thing to hear–I know, because I like problematic things too–but the reality is none of the financiers who churn out the Guardians of the Galaxys and True Detectives and Bioshock: Infinites of the world give one single crap about articles suggesting they should maybe tone down the sexism or the racism just a teensy bit next time, so long as people keep buying their shit.1

That’s the reality of it. If you are buying the film/book/show/game, if you are participating in its fandom, if you are writing essays about it–no matter how critical or meta or transformative you’re being–then you are participating in the problem.

No one likes to hear that. I don’t even like saying it, but… but I’m starting to, more and more, think it’s true.

As Hurley herself has said in the past, over a different issue: burn it all down.

It’s not easy. I’m not good at it either. Sure, I avoided GotG and haven’t watched Doctor Who for years… but I also do, sometimes, in moments of weakness, play World of Warcraft. And, in a painful irony, it was writing and reading posts critical of the sexism in WoW that got me playing it again.

Yeah. Just think about that for a second. Do you think Blizzard really cares that I wince every time I get to one of its toe-curlingly embarrassing all-male cutscenes, so long as they’re getting their subscription dollars?

There are better games, ones from companies who do try and that I don’t feel guilty for playing; Guild Wars 2 comes immediately to mind.2 What excuses do I have, then, for continuing to send my dollars to things that, at best, deny my existence?

It’s not just games. There are better books (cough like Hurley’s cough). Better comics. Better films. Better podcasts. Better media.

They’re smaller, for the most part. They don’t have the zillions of marketing dollars, don’t have the hype, don’t have the fandoms.

One of those things can be changed. You can change one of those things. And have done; Ms. Marvel was, after all, for a bright, brief time, Marvel’s leading digital title.

Think about that: a rebooted superhero comic about an unknown teenage Muslim girl was the most popular title from one of the Big 2 in comics publishing. Who did that? Tumblr, basically. Fans, more broadly.

This is the power of opting-in. It’s also why I have, recently, started thinking more seriously about opting-out.

Because media can do better. It has done better and it does do better. But where is this generation’s Alien? How did we get to the place where the rebooted Star Trek is less progressive than the series it’s based on? Not even on any kind of relative then-versus-now scale, either; just flat-out, straight-up less progressive.

And yet Star Trek Into Darkness, which took an iconic character of colour and re-cast him as a white man, still made something like $70 million on its opening weekend.

So maybe you wrote a blog post about the gross, racist whitewashing of Butawhiteguy Cantbekhan. Okay, great. But was it a seventy million dollar blog post?

Opting-out is a choice. And, sometimes, it’s a choice that sucks, particularly when you’re the only critical voice in a room full of your friends’ squee. But…

But.

Things won’t change when, say, endemic slut-shaming3 still rakes in billions. Or when the prevailing narrative about that is “yeah, it was gross… but I’m gonna buy the DVD anyway”.

Because that one single purchase? That one single purchase means more than a thousand articles on TOR.com. Let’s not pretend it doesn’t.

So this is what I’m saying: if a piece of media is problematic, then opt-out. With money. Maybe not everything, all the time, and everyone’s gonna have a different standard; my Guild Wars 2 is going to be someone else’s TERA (and I’d totally understand why that would be the case). But, at minimum, look critically at where you’re spending your money and your time and ask yourself–really, truly ask yourself–if you’re supporting the things you want to support. Develop strategies to diversify; a month of no TV shows with white male protagonists, perhaps. Or a year of no movies that fail Bechdel. Reblogged a photoset from something problematic? Reblog something else from something, probably a less-known something, that isn’t.4 Spend all those freed up dollars and hours diversifying your media and your fandoms. Spread it to your friends.

This is how change happens.5 There are other options. We just need to do better at finding them.

I’m trying. Are you?

  1. The devs/writers/actors/whatever? Yes, sometimes. But the people with the money? Not so much. They invest in what sells. And if “what sells” is toxic bigotry? Well then. []
  2. Despite some, um, early flubs, particularly with character models, ArenaNet have been awesome at supporting diversity in GW2. Also, the game’s just fun to play. And, okay. Now I’m making myself want to pick it up again. See what I mean? []
  3. And racialized slut-shaming at that. Yes, Zoe Saldana was covered head-to-toe in green paint, but let’s not be using that as an excuse to forget the ugly history of the white sexual violence towards women of colour, hey. []
  4. Or is less so. I’m not convinced than “100% unproblematic to 100% of people 100% of the time” is even A Thing. []
  5. I’m hardly the first person to think of something like this: noted tech journalist and blogger Anil Dash did something similar on Twitter. []
2018-07-27T14:18:38+10:0026th September, 2014|Tags: culture, kameron hurley, pop culture|

Taking up space.

The only time I’ve ever been praised for my weight repeatedly was when I was dying of a chronic illness, which winnowed me down to a (still considered “overweight”!) 170lbs. I’ll never forget my mother on the phone with my dad, having just gotten me out of the ICU, telling him how great I looked because I was so skinny (!!!).

Something broke in me after that comment, I think. When I pulled on my size 12 pants and they were loose, something I’d not experienced since the 5th grade, all the feels washed over me – how fake this all was, how our success was measured in the width of our asses, how my worth went up only as I lay dying.

–Kameron Hurley on beng fat.

2017-08-23T10:02:04+10:0031st August, 2014|Tags: culture, kameron hurley|

“You don’t have to be evil to sell things”.

It’s actually been proven  again and again that sex and sexism doesn’t sell products (especially cheap ones to women). Sex gets people’s attention, yes – but unlike ads which play on deeper emotion, people don’t actually connect that desire with the product.

What does that mean? It means that all of these ads – these sexist stereotypes, the race to the bottom, are not actually done to sell products, in the longrun, but to perpetuate a certain point of view. These ads exist to tell women their place in the world, in the home, in relation to men.

–Kameron Hurley writes ad copy (in addition to awesome books).

2019-04-29T12:03:15+10:001st August, 2014|Tags: advertising, culture, kameron hurley|