“Looking at the make up of the cable and it’s diameter, I’d say a half dozen swings maybe less, provided they’re accurately placed and the cable is held securely on a sturdy surface. The toughest part of the cable would most likely be the polycarbonate sleeve, everything else I think would succumb to the axe fairly readily.”—
“True, some plots happen in Westeros, and some happen in London. Some plots are plausible and some plots are not. But that is not, ultimately, the point. Tyrion Lannister isn’t real, but then again neither is Mrs. Dalloway. Stories are stories, and their relative proximity to reality is not germane. What’s germane are the ideas and emotions that those stories create in those who read them. Fiction is never real, but feelings always are.”—
I will be at Wiscon this year! I have been at Wiscon every year since 2005, so this is perhaps not surprising news, but still, I am going, and I am super excited. I am extra-excited because Matt Williamson of Unstuck will be there too, so I get to introduce him to one of my favorite genre havens.
I am doing three things!
1. Reading with Malinda Lo, Katherine Beutner, and my lady Jen Volant at 4:15 on Saturday at Michaelangelo’s. Malinda will be reading from her new novel, Adaptation, and we’ll be reading work which also relates to that theme. I’m planning on reading from my novel-in-progress.
2. Throwing a dance party! Genderfloomp is happening again after last year’s wild success. Same time, same place: Sunday starting at 10PM in Assembly 1. Andrea Hairston is going to guest DJ! So is Charlie Jane Anders! And I am compiling the floompiest playlist as we speak.
“Six Flags” by Meghan McCarron – my second favorite story in the whole collection – astonished me. Part ghost story, part zombie story, part wickedly funny tale of the apocalypse and its anti-hero, it was an absolute page-turner and worth the price of the issue alone.”—
“You don’t necessarily have to do anything once you acknowledge your privilege. You don’t have to apologize for it. You don’t need to diminish your privilege or your accomplishments because of that privilege. You need to understand the extent of your privilege, the consequences of your privilege, and remain aware that people who are different from you move through and experience the world in ways you might never know anything about. They might endure situations you can never know anything about. You could, however, use that privilege for the greater good–to try to level the playing field for everyone, to work for social justice, to bring attention to how those without certain privileges are disenfranchised. While you don’t have to do anything with your privilege, perhaps it should be an imperative of privilege to share the benefits of that privilege rather than hoard your good fortune. We’ve seen what the hoarding of privilege has done and the results are shameful.”—
Imagine life here in the US — or indeed, pretty much anywhere in the Western world — is a massive role playing game, like World of Warcraft except appallingly mundane, where most quests involve the acquisition of money, cell phones and donuts, although not always at the same time. Let’s call it The Real World. You have installed The Real World on your computer and are about to start playing, but first you go to the settings tab to bind your keys, fiddle with your defaults, and choose the difficulty setting for the game. Got it?
Okay: In the role playing game known as The Real World, “Straight White Male” is the lowest difficulty setting there is.
The science fiction/geek community has its own special issues with acknowledging privilege, so this post is powerful not just because the “easy setting” metaphor is so apt, but because Scalzi is speaking directly to our community. It’s refreshing to see a member of a highly privileged group take on the 101 duties and the backlash that results, and Scalzi is perfectly position to bring the Truth to folks who have trouble listening. But actually, his post does not take the metaphor far enough.
As the game progresses, your goal is to gain points, apportion them wisely, and level up. If you start with fewer points and fewer of them in critical stat categories, or choose poorly regarding the skills you decide to level up on, then the game will still be difficult for you. But because you’re playing on the “Straight White Male” setting, gaining points and leveling up will still by default be easier, all other things being equal, than for another player using a higher difficulty setting…
You can lose playing on the lowest difficulty setting. The lowest difficulty setting is still the easiest setting to win on. The player who plays on the “Gay Minority Female” setting? Hardcore.
On one hand, most of us view life as a game with “points” and “levels” more often than we’d like to admit. But Scalzi’s post fails to discuss that what counts as “points,” and how one “levels up,” is defined by, and to benefit, Straight White Males. Straight White Dudes don’t just “accidentally” end up on the “easy” setting - the game is designed around that setting, and its levels are created and maintained by those who play on “easy.” People on other settings may might not even see the value of the game’s definition of “winning,” or they might want to play a different game completely, but they exist in a world that prioritizes competing for points and levels on terms created to benefit those for whom it is easiest.
Furthermore, the “game” metaphor obscures the fact that points/resources are limited. Straight White Men get more of them, and then share them more often with other Straight White Men. So not only is it harder for other players to get to another level not even created to admit them to begin with - once they get there, most of the resources have already been claimed by the dudes who helped each other bound easily over the last boss.
Finally, at the end of the post, Scalzi points out that one doesn’t “choose” one’s own setting - it’s chosen by the computer, and that receiving the easy setting is a stroke of luck. That’s a powerful message - that we did nothing to deserve our privilege, and the fact that we have it is in fact meaningless - but ending there strikes me as a missed opportunity to explore an essential aspect of privilege: its invisibility to those who have it.
All too often, Straight White Men do not see that their setting is easier, and they assume that those struggling against bigger challenges are simply poorer players. At first this is innocent - the Straight White Men are focused on surviving the game themselves, after all. They didn’t design it. But the “easy” setting’s invisibility breeds arrogance, not the humility necessary to acknowledge that you’re “winning” the game because a. the game is easier for you and b. the game itself is designed to benefit you most. The fact that privilege robs us of empathy and humility is nearly as poisonous as the advantages it brings, because humble, empathetic people would not gleefully skip through difficulty while leaving others to suffer.
Scalzi points out, rightly, that players can’t undo their settings. But even if we can’t get rid of our white/male/straight/etc privilege, we can work on dropping our arrogance and ignorance. Any discussion of privilege without that call to action strikes me as incomplete.
I have to start off by saying it was a tough decision to make. I’ve never left my my friends and family to embark on a journey to a place where I knew no one. But my world as I knew it was too tiny and there’s so much out there I didn’t know of.