Fun With Drafting Film

Since I am more or less bedridden at the moment—which in this case means getting up every ten minutes to bang around the studio and demand to know who hid the scissors and the spray fixative—I am experimenting with drawing on matte drafting film.

It’s kinda neat.

It’s a thingy. What? Fine, it’s a ring-tailed thingy.

Smudges like whoa, so you have to work very carefully, but the pencil just slithers across it and it holds even the tiniest little marks. It’s also semi-transparent, sort of frosted—this is layered over gray paper. My mother’s been doing a layering thing with multiple sheets and drawings of tree roots that is so horrifyingly brilliant that it causes me mental anguish, but it being me, I draw ringtailed thingies. When I have a trifle more energy, I will attempt to use some of these layering effects myself—might make for neat collage.

This brand is called Herculene, and you have to buy it in huge sheets, which I’m not so keen on. (I’ve got some Dura-lar on order, but apparently it doesn’t erase as cleanly. Does come in a pad, though. We’ll see if easier handling is worth smudges.

It has a really interesting quality in person that’s hard to explain. And it’s fun to draw on, which is worth a lot. You absolutely positively have to seal it with fixative or it will smear if you so much as glance at it, but fortunately a quick hit of Krylon fixes it hard.

And for some reason there’s a package of smoked salmon on my desk. Hmm.

I should probably go back to bed.

Mythopoeic Award

So, uh, Digger won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature.

There’s a press release and everything, here

I’m…well, a little blown away, honestly. I was up against people like R.A. Macavoy and Tim Powers, and while I haven’t read the books they were nominated for, when I saw the names, my brain went “Tea With The Black Dragon! The Anubis Gates! Good lord!” and I mentally filed it under “An incredible honor to be nominated,” and thought no more about it. It’s not that I’m not proud of Digger, but we’re talking about people that I read in high school and they melted my brain.

The Mythopoeic Awards are for works that exemplify “the spirit of the Inklings” which was the writing group C.S. Lewis and Tolkien belonged to. You all know me well enough to know that I frequently have some grumpy things to say about C.S. Lewis these days—but I’m honest enough to admit that I wouldn’t care so much if his books hadn’t mattered so deeply to me when I was a kid. It’s the books that live in your heart that kill you when you pick them up later. If I didn’t still care so much about Talking Beasts, I wouldn’t want to scream “Why do you need a Son of Adam to rule you? One Beast, one vote! Trumpkin for President!”

Well. As I was not there in person to accept, I opted for a rather shorter and less fiery speech—I’m reasonably confident that I could call for revolution in Narnia in person, because either I’d carry the audience or at least I’d be the the one to get pelted with tomatoes, but that’s not a thing you can do by proxy. (And I really didn’t want it to be taken of criticism of the Mythopoeic Society, both because you don’t bite the hand that just handed you a statuette of Aslan* and because I absolutely approve of their mission—Narnia and Middle-Earth matter and no matter what the details, a society to keep alive worlds that matter is a marvelous thing.)

I wouldn’t write fan-fic about Susan for just anybody. And I will still hear no evil said of Marsh-wiggles.

So here it is, for anyone who is interested but wasn’t there to hear it:

I want to thank the Mythopoeic Society for having been so kind as to nominate Digger, my extremely patient publisher Sofawolf for having provided copies, and the judges for having made what was, for me, a wildly unexpected decision! I am sorry that I can’t be here to thank you all personally, but please know just how surprised and grateful I am.

When I was quite young, my mother got me a boxed set of the Narnia books by C.S. Lewis. I couldn’t pronounce “Narnia” but that didn’t stop me from reading the series until the bindings came unglued. These books were not like anything else I’d read, and they mattered in a way that most of the books in the school library didn’t. They made me want to write books with Talking Beasts in them. (My mother tried to explain copyright and plagiarism and that I couldn’t actually call them Talking Beasts. She suggested “Verbal Varmints” as an alternate. I recall being unamused.)

When I re-read the series as an adult, I remember being astonished at how short the books really are. When I was a child they were so much longer. There were whole scenes and histories in there that I’d only imagined or dreamed or invented inside my own head and attributed to Narnia.

The very best fantasy, I think, has this ability, to be larger on the inside, to be bigger than the sum of the words on the page. We look through the gaps between the sentences and we see a completely different landscape.

As with so many things we love as kids, my feelings about Narnia now are sometimes mixed, but you know, many years later, I did wind up writing a story about a Talking Beast–Digger the wombat–and to have it be so honored, by a society that knows all about books that are larger on the inside, is truly extraordinary. Thank you all, so very much.


*Seriously, this is a cool-looking award. I will post a photo when it arrives. I hear you can’t put on lipstick in front of it, though, or trains start derailing near your house and there’s been way too much of that going on lately already.

Home Again

I am home again, thank the grim green gardening gods, and should remain home until sometime in late August. Nearly two months of being in my usual routine, and lord, do I need it. All that travel was awesome and I hung out with wonderful people and saw glorious sights and had a great deal of fun—but at the end of the day, I need a lot of time to recharge and garden and also to finish 160+ Dragonbreath illustrations, which will not draw themselves.

I’m tired. I’m…humbled, honestly. I know that sounds weird and cliche, but at Anthrocon, people kept coming up to me and saying “Congratulations!” (on the wedding, on the Hugo, on the Kickstarter) and I kept thinking “Good lord! How did I get to know all these cool people? How is it that they know I exist and care what becomes of me? Why do they keep giving me bottles of wine and painted plates and naughty stained glass? What did I do to deserve so many friends?”

(Very little, of course, beyond babbling about wombats and lawn crayfish.  But as I am slowly learning, the glorious thing about life is how often we do get things we don’t deserve.)

(Honestly, it’s not low self-esteem, I swear, it’s just that I keep thinking that I haven’t spent nearly enough time with these people for them to give a rat’s ass about me. I forget that the internet sometimes means that people spend time with you even if you’re not in the room.)

Anyway. I’m sounding like a maudlin drunk here, and I’m not even a half-inch into my Limoncello. So, onward! It was a pretty good con, better than last year—prints kept selling, which was surprising, and jumbo prints kept selling, which is quite unusual. (I was this close to just phasing them out at cons.) Old art, too, which is unusual—stuff that’s been there for two or three years and suddenly I was selling out of it. Art show was generally slow, but I did pretty well for having not-very-many medium sized pieces (those tend to be where the bulk of money is) and the stuff I brought home, I wanted for the October gallery show anyway.

Kevin has been thoroughly assimilated by Security and is now being Mostly Patient Bald Man for them, meaning that I relied very heavily on Taliabear at the table. (And if you come next year, let me know and I shall draft you as my dealer’s assistant and pay for your membership!)

It was good to see all my artist friends again, all of whom seem to be still themselves, only moreso. I got some very snazzy art, including two masks sculpted by Missmonster and painted up by Sigilgoat.

No significant table weirdos. Did get one guy who began flipping through the print book and telling me how the goal of the environmental movement was to kill all us pissants and leave the world for the elite. Did I know that at least one English lord was an environmentalist? It wasn’t because he cared about the planet, no sir, he just wanted his ancient prerogatives back!

Partway through this screed I became very interested in the sketchbook I was working on. (I did briefly consider saying “Actually, I’m planning to be one of the elite survivors, thanks,” but that seemed like it would prolong the situation.)

I also—I will now shamefully confess—for the very first time, used the Hugo thing to win an argument. I am somewhat ashamed, as this is frankly a dick move, but I still feel a sneaking justification.

So I was at the table and a guy comes up in his…mid-to-late twenties? Hard to tell with some people. Dude studies the Biting Pear intently for a minute.

DUDE: So how does it feel to know that’s the most famous thing you’ll ever do?

ME: Uh….

DUDE: Like, no matter what you do, that piece will be seen by more people than anything else, ever?

ME: Err….

DUDE: For the rest of your life!

ME: Well….

DUDE: To know that that pear is what you’ll be remembered by, forever?

ME: Actually, my comic won a Hugo.

(Strangely, that ended the conversation.)

It was a dick move. I acknowledge that. Doubtless I shall regret it later. But I confess, I’m having a hard time summoning up much remorse.

Anyway, it was great to see everybody, I love you all, and now my Limoncello and I are going to take a hot bath and then perhaps I shall play a little Civ 5 and contemplate that life is sometimes glorious and sometimes strange and very much worth sticking around for.

Tomorrow, I tackle the weeds.

Anthrocon ho!

I will be at Anthrocon in Pittsburgh this weekend, and hitting the road tomorrow.

(If you come over to steal stuff because of this post and the petsitter isn’t home, please have the decency to take the beagle along with my valuables. He will require six Benadryl and an anti-fungal a day, and you have to sing “BEEEEEAAGLE-CHEEEEESE!” to get him to come take the pills, even though he’ll only eat them in a hot dog. Also, you have to massage his ear twice a day to keep the swelling down. Enjoy your new beagle. He will love you and pee often.)

You have all been awesome beyond measure in the last thread and I’m honored to have such a damn decent bunch of readers. I will not have as much time to police the threads and it’s hard to freeze them all without deleting comments, so keep being awesome and if any trolls show up, somebody ping me on Twitter rather than engaging, please? (@UrsulaV)

There will be art and resin sheep heads from Wool-Tribe at the AC art show.

…and yes, Wombat will come with us. (I really must post his travelogue here at some point.)

Also, we’re nearly at 100K on the omnibus Kickstarter, and I am probably going to have to design a tribal wombat tattoo…

On Con Sexual Harassment – Being An Ally Is Freaky As Hell

So, let’s get the nitty-gritty out of the way first. This post will not name names, nor will we get into the details of Bad Things That Happened. Those things are not mine to reveal. I will tell you my story as clearly as I can, because it’s my story, but I will be doing my damndest not to tell you someone else’s.

The Con will also not be named at the moment, however, they A) are pretty darn obvious if you watch my Twitter feed and B) they did things right. I firmly believe that needs to be praised, but as having your name in a post about sexual harassment is crappy search-engine publicity which they don’t deserve, I’ll avoid it for now. I have very mixed feelings about this, but a lot of this story is about the right not to have your name on things.

(If they want to own up to doing a good job on one of life’s unpleasant situations, they are more than welcome to do so, and again, I feel ambivalent about this, but I do not wish them to get dragged into a shitstorm for doing good and the internet is full of assholes.)

This is mostly a story about witnessing harassment and trying to do the right thing and being scared off my ass.

We have been flooded lately with stories of con harassment because this has been going on for a very long time and now the floodgates are opened and many of us have realized we do not need to live like this. This is not cool. They are mostly first-person accounts.

This is a story about being the third person. It is not a story of me doing everything right, because I didn’t, but it’s a true story and I give it to you because silence is too often taken as assent.

I spent this weekend at a Con as their Guest of Honor.  While not germane to the contents of this post, it’s a fun little con, there are some very nice people there that I know in passing from other cons, and it was nice to see them all again and to spend a few minutes with them. The staff is friendly, and while there were mad computer woes plaguing the con at various points that resulted in occasional missed communication, whenever I’d have a problem, whatever staffer I grabbed would say “I don’t know, but I will find out,” and they would find out and tell me. This is a good thing.

Among the things offered to me as GoH was a dealer’s table, which I was at when not on panels.

Saturday, one of the other dealers was harassed by [Creeper.] It was a fairly clearcut case of someone’s assistant being harassed—[Creeper] actually went behind the dealer’s table to proposition and apparently resisted attempts at eviction.

(Incidentally, don’t do this. If you want to flirt with a dealer or assistant—and seriously, I wholeheartedly endorse your right to flirting at cons with willing people—even if you think it’s going well, unless you are give absolutely explicit permission, stay on the other side of the table. You do not sit down with them unless they have actually patted the chair and said “Why don’t you come sit down?” or some variation thereof. That is not your chair. That is not your space. You may be there by direct invitation only. I do not think people who don’t deal at cons realize how much that table is the Great Wall of Sanity. For three days, that is personal space. Do not invite yourself to sit behind their table. Even if there is absolutely nothing sexual on your mind and you’re just a well-meaning fan, unless they have collared you and said “I need you behind the table!” unless you know them really well and you have a sleep-on-their-couch relationship, do not go behind the table.)

The first I heard of this (since you can hear very little in the rooms at full volume) was a frantic dealer grabbing me going in effect “Have you seen my assistant? There was a really creepy guy here and he wouldn’t leave and now I don’t know where she is!”

I said “Whoa, no, but we can go to Security right now! Do you want to report this?”

The notion of going to Security was clearly unsettling. “Well–no–no–but have you seen her? He’s been [wildly inappropriate behavior.]

“Oh my god,” I said, “that is so not cool. We can go right now—I’ll come with you!”

The assistant came into view at that point, which thankfully ended that panic. I still urged her to go to Security and reiterated seriously-not-okay! but she chose not to.

(We will not be second-guessing these reasons in the comments. There are a lot of reasons people don’t want to make complaints, from “I want this not to be happening any more” on up to “I am hellishly busy and have no spoons and cannot deal with one more thing” to “I have reason to fear retaliation.” Anyone can probably sing you a list in three part harmony, scored for women’s voices. We are all going to respect that these people were having a very bad time with this guy and they did not want to deal with official complaints. Yes, it’s frustrating—do you think I don’t know that? I would have cried for joy if they’d taken me up on my offer!—but they get to make that call.

This will be a malletable offense. If it goes on too long, it will be a banning offense. Let us all be clear.)

At this point, we offered the only help we could, and with dealer’s permission and gratitude deployed Angry Bald Man (i.e. Kevin.)

ABM is a depressingly effective weapon. I wish he wasn’t, because it says a lot about society. Nevertheless, he sat down behind the table in the spot [Creeper] had been taking. When the dealer’s assistant showed up, she had a chair, but [Creeper] no longer did. (I went over and introduced myself and him, in hopes of heading off the feeling that she’d gotten out of the frying pan into the fire.)

I tell you true, internet, I watched that man stand there, giving Kevin a blank stare, for a good ten minutes. He actually stood a few feet from my table and simply stared over at the other one. For quite awhile.

Yes, I sat there thinking variations on “There’s an empty chair behind my table. Try to take it. See if they ever find your teeth again.” I am human.

(But I get to think this because I am really damn lucky, frankly. I am older than half the kids wandering around the con, I’ve being doing cons for years and years without having internalized “this is just what happens in fandom” and I was also pretty fucking mad. And Angry Bald Man was fifteen feet away and whatever my flaws, I’m also pretty damn convinced that I have something to contribute to fandom and that it will damn well listen to me if I yell.)

I said nothing and did not make eye contact.

[Creeper] began circling the dealer’s room, coming back every few minutes, seeing Angry Bald Man and moving on again. (As Kevin said later, “He looked stunned there was another man sitting there. Dude, am I just supposed to pee in a circle around the booth to claim it?”) Eventually, when both dealers were able to be there, Kevin came back over to my table, with the usual caveats that this had not been acceptable and if they wanted to report it, we’d go with them, and if they needed more creeper repellant, Angry Bald Man was at their disposal.

And now, O readers, I sat and stewed for the rest of the time, thinking what the hell do I do now?

And here we get to the meat of the post, because here I was, no more than a third-party bystander married to Instant Bodyguard, Just Add Reason. I had minimal direct witnessing I could go and report with my own name on it. And I wanted to do something, because the Con needs to know about this stuff, but I could not, with any kind of conscience, pass these women’s names along if they didn’t want them passed. Removal of agency is what we’re trying to prevent.

This is a situation that I expect lots and lots of us find ourselves in. For many incidents, there are witnesses trying to figure out how to help and having damn little context in which to do it in.

Now, I had the guy’s name off the badge. I could have gone to Security myself and filed an anonymous report.

And…I did nothing.

The room closed without incident, dude was nowhere to be seen, we reiterated our support if they needed it tomorrow…and then we got food and went home.

This was a failure on my part, and I’m pretty pissed at myself for it, because what if something had happened overnight? I should have known better.

But I didn’t.

For this failure of judgment, I spent about four hours staring at the ceiling in the dark, running through scenarios of what I would do in the morning. If this were my con—Anthrocon—I would know who to talk to. I would have grabbed a redshirt by the earlobe and said “YOU WILL FIX THIS NOW.” (In a couple of cases, I can even add “OR I WILL CALL YOUR MOTHER.”) I would have known exactly who to call to say “We require tact and delicacy and someone is freaked out and I don’t want their name to get out but we need to give them a security presence and a sympathetic ear.” I could have done all of that, because those are my people and I know them and I know they will listen to me.

Dear god, friends, I spent a sleepless night thinking “What if they won’t listen to me?” and “What if he’s a friend of theirs?” and “What if I get in trouble?” and “Maybe I should shut up and not rock the boat,” and running through horrible nightmare scenarios in my head, and I was only a bystander trying to do the right thing. (I was a freakin’ GoH! They gave me a fruit basket as big as your torso!*)

I will never judge another person for not reporting harassment directed at them. I wanted someone to tell me what to do and to hold my hand while I did it. Instead I was in scary uncharted waters, and I was mostly just worried that it would all come out who had been harassed and they’d blame me and it would be my fault when a busload of Men’s Right’s advocates started sending them death threats.

And I realized that I was expecting the con staff to fail me. Not because there was any reason to believe this—they had been nothing but delightful, some of them were friends—but because the reality is that we expect failure. We expect everyone to do the wrong thing, the wrong way, and for it to be horrible, because it has been so often and so long.

This is why we don’t speak out.

To hell with that.

I got up. And I asked Kevin if he had my back and told him my intentions, and he said “Of course. 100%.”

And I went in in the morning, and the first staffer I saw, I said “Tell me where I find Security,” and he said “I am Security!” and I told him the story. And I included the phrase that I read in Elise Matheson’s blog post the other day, which is “Who do I follow up with about this?”

And he was horrified. In the right way. And he didn’t ask for the names I said would prefer not to get involved, and he kicked it up to the Security head, who located me within the hour, and told me to follow up with him and/or with said head.

There was a bad minute there, when the Security head found me and said “What? [Creeper?] Are you sure? I was just talking to him!” And I felt myself starting to panic (oh god oh god I knew it I knew it this is what happens) and Kevin said firmly “Yes.” And gave a physical description.

“Then we’ll have to talk to the ConCom,” said Security.

(And I thought I might be bereft and have to find them myself, and I was getting a sinking feeling—and the con chair came himself and said “Talk to me!”)

And I reported the incident as best I could, with what information I had, left out the names of victims (and he knew exactly why people don’t report and was very sympathetic) and he listened and thanked me repeatedly, and said—as probably every con chair on earth has said for the last year—

“Nobody wants to be Readerscon. We have to make this a safe place.”

And guys, they did things right. Without formal reports, there are limits to what one can achieve—and in all practicality, we were midway through Sunday, and there’s not long left to institute change—but they let me know that they were very glad of the report, put rovers in the dealer’s room to keep an eye out and check in with all the dealers to see if any of them had had any problems with anything (and they were tactful!) The dealer in question spent the rest of the con unbothered (that I could see.)

And they made it clear that my third-party word was enough to make them pay attention, and that if nobody talks, they don’t know and can’t fix it.

Now, it’s twelve hours later. I’ve got no idea what impact, if any, this might have—honestly, without a first-person account, I’m not sure what action should be taken. Stormtroopers descending and hauling somebody off in chains would be an overreaction, however emotionally satisfying it might be in the moment. It is still certainly possible they could drop the ball—other people can and have. Most likely we will publicly never hear anything more about it, and that’s fine. Hopefully there will never be a need to hear anything more about it.

But there’s a report so if it ever happens again, it becomes a pattern of behavior, which is the thing I was trying to achieve.

(And the con chair hung around the table and talked about normal things for quite awhile, which is frankly kind of nice when you’ve had your brain consumed with angst for most of a day. He and Kevin geeked out about…I don’t know, whatever obscure tech things. They seemed to be enjoying themselves.)

I cannot swear this will work for everyone. I cannot swear that you will not encounter bad things. There are horrible tales of the old boy’s network out there. But I can tell you that this con handled a nasty situation as well as they possibly could on the spot, once informed.

I give them mad credit for that.

If you see something, speak up. Even if you can’t name names, tell the con so they know stuff has been going down. They can’t fix what they can’t see. People are going to suck, and the only way to stop them is to push back and say “This is really happening. I expect this to be fixed.”

We have been silent and furious for far, far too long.

NOTE: Comments can go badly. We all know they can go badly. You may second guess me all you like, but if other people post their experiences, you will leave them alone unless they ask specifically for feedback on what to have done differently. And anybody who gets on my nerves or gets rude gets banned so hard it’ll sprain their shift key.


ETA: You’ve all been awesome in the comments so far. Thank you.


*Incidentally, and without minimizing any of the horror here, they totally gave me a fruit basket as big as your torso. It even had Pixy Sticks. I won’t speculate on the contribution to my mental state there.