Happy Hallowe’en!

Happy Hallowe'en!


We were lucky enough here in Annapolis to weather hurricane Sandy with relatively little damage (relative to the poor folks in New York, and Ocean City, and many other places where the weather came down hard.) So in celebration of everyone’s favorite day of eeriness, and for our luck in still being here after Frankenstorm, here’s a Hallowe’en card!

And if you aren’t arbitrarily barred from giving blood (for reasons of sexuality or travel history, etc.), consider taking a look at where you can donate blood in your area!  What’s more eerie and kind-hearted than pumping your blood into a bag to give a stranger, after all? It’s the best kind of tricksy Hallowe’en treat, I say.

Though I hear they appreciate getting dollars, too.


How to: Opt out of Paypal’s shady new policy update

UPDATE: I notice that folks are still checking this post as a source of info! That’s great! I just wanted to add that the nice folks at The Consumerist have put together a template to make opting out easier!
It’s also come to my attention that ebay, which Paypal owns, is implementing a similar policy change. The ebay deadline is November 9th! Get a template and more info on that monkey business here.

Totally un-art related! I was pretty skeeved out by Paypal’s new policy update, which states that

The update to the User Agreement is effective November 1, 2012 and contains several changes, including changes that affect how claims you and PayPal have against each other are resolved. You will, with limited exception, be required to submit claims you have against PayPal to binding and final arbitration, unless you opt out of the Agreement to Arbitrate (Section 14.3) by December 1, 2012. Unless you opt out: (1) you will only be permitted to pursue claims against PayPal on an individual basis, not as a plaintiff or class member in any class or representative action or proceeding and (2) you will only be permitted to seek relief (including monetary, injunctive, and declaratory relief) on an individual basis.

I don’t trust Paypal at the best of times (they’ve screwed over several of my friends) but this is really a red flag for me. I mean Paypal, an almost monopolistic entity on the web that handles tons of peoples’ money every day, is almost entirely unregulated, and has a habit of seizing funds and freezing accounts at whim? Who even reserves the right to do this without explanation in their policies? That Paypal wants to block users from participating in class action lawsuits? No no no.

So I emailed them a number of (initially polite but increasingly irate) requests to be opted out and sent written verification that I was opted out. I took screenshots of these requests, just in case Paypal decided to be extra skeevy and not acknowledge my requests. This morning, I finally got this:

To opt out of the Agreement to Arbitrate, you must mail an Opt-Out Notice to:

PayPal, Inc.
Attn: Litigation Department
2211 North First Street
San Jose, CA 95131

Please note: Your Opt-Out Notice must be postmarked no later than December 1, 2012. The Opt-Out Notice must state that you do not agree to the Agreement to Arbitrate and must include your name, address, phone number, and the email address(es) used to log in to the PayPal account(s) to which the opt-out applies. You must also sign the Opt-Out Notice for it to be effective.

You can view this Policy Update by logging in to your PayPal account. To log in to your account, go to https://www.paypal.com and enter your member log in information. Once you are logged in, look at the Notifications section on the top right side of the page for the latest Policy Updates. We encourage you to review the Policy Update to familiarize yourself with all of the changes that have been made.

Thank you for being a valued member of the PayPal Community! We wish you continued success using our services.

Spreading the word because I want to give as many of Paypal’s users as possible the opportunity to opt out of this sticky mess.

Remember: Opt out of policy update section 14.3, Agreement to Arbitrate, and send out your request well before the December 1st 2012 cut-off. Also probably best to keep a copy of your letter, and request that they give you written verification that you’ve been opted out.

Autumn adventure

So what’s been up with me? I realize I’ve been pretty lax at blogging about myself or my art recently. I (voluntarily) left my job at the patent illustration company, and since then I’ve been loading myself up with freelance contracts and other projects to keep busy. The excellent news is that I have managed to keep busy and load my plate pretty darn full, despite my lack of a morning commute. And then of course this is fall, and for some reason every fall Evan and I get itchy feet and need to get out of town. The past two years it’s been to Seattle, this time it was Canada.

Toronto from the waterfront

We split our week between visiting Evan’s aunt and cousins in Toronto and staying with my sister and her boyfriend in Montréal. Sadly I didn’t get too many photos… I was a little distracted by the scenery and the company. Here’s a Polish restaurant in Old Montréal that my parents used to frequent when they lived there 37 years ago. We checked, it’s still delicious!

Stash Polish Restaurant

I also gobbled down poutine, drank beer on top of Mont-Royal, spent 6 hours wandering the entirety of AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario), several more hours in the incredible Samurai exhibit at Pointe -à-Callière museum of archaeology, and wandered through the Marche Jean-Talon sampling delicious fruit every morning. Also, I played with a kitten named Marley.

Marley the kitten

Already we’re trying to think of excuses to go back for another visit! (For one, we have to use up this Canadian money that’s almost impossible to change here in the States…)

Anyway, that’s one of the reasons I’ve been so silent this past month! Now to get back to work on the others…

Where to Weird

Just one more post like this and then we’re back to our regularly scheduled programming I promise. (Without ruling out the possibility that posts about cool new publications and other goings on in the SFF community will become more of a regularity.)

My last post was, admittedly, a little all over the place. I was trying to give a pretty wide sample of the sort of literary magazines out there, regardless of their exact placement on the spectrum that is the speculative fiction genre. So for this post, I’m going to reign it in and talk about a few places you can go to get your fix of Weird Horror (and maybe send that Weird story you just yanked from Weird Tales‘ submission queue). 

(Regular readers of this blog will be aware of my own devotions along these lines.)

Innsmouth MagazineInnsmouth funding driveThe first is publisher Innsmouth Free Press, and their triannual Innsmouth Magazine. Innsmouth is helmed by the inestimable Silvia Moreno-Garcia*. In addition to being one of the most active review and essay blogs in the genre (think Tor.com but almost exclusively for Weird Horror), it’s also a strong contender for ‘heir to the Weird fiction magazine throne’. A nontrivial cherry on top of that creepy-crawly sundae is their announcement today of a funding drive for their next two anthologies (Sword and Mythos and Jazz Age Cthulhu), with their final push goal being a hike to pro rates for Innsmouth Magazine itself!

Dagan BooksSecondly, I’d like to highlight Dagan Books, the tiny press responsible for Cthulhurotica. Its focus is similar to Crossed Genres in that its publications tend to take a base made of Weird and mix it with a big ol’ dab of Something Else (whether that be Alien archeology or Books within books.) At the moment they’re just about to close submissions for Cthulhurotica 2, so if you have something kicking about your hard drive that might suit, be sure to get it to them before August 30th.

Then there’s Chiaroscuro, which is another small Weird horror press with an occasional zine habit. They publish a little bit of short fiction on their website, but have shifted their main focus in a more bookish direction. ‘Embrace the Odd’ is their well-observed motto. If you’re a longtime connoisseur of Weird, you might recognize a number of their authors.

And if you’re a devotee of the audible, my two favorite podcasts with a consistent Weird emphasis are the unpredictable (and for me, local!) Drabblecast and the the (very Cthulhic, seemingly never safe-for-work) Pseudopod!

I know there are a number of great new anthologies out recently that fit under the Weird umbrella, including one from Ann Vandermeer (the editor of Weird Tales‘ best run) and her husband (author and editor) Jeff Vandermeer**. I’m not going to get into individual novels or anthologies further than that, but if there’s something that I’ve missed or that you just really want to talk about, please do bring it up in the comments!

* (Though I’d heard of IFP before, my first encounter with Moreno-Garcia’s own fiction was through her story “Jaguar Woman” when it came out on Podcastle. I just wanted to share.)

** (I’ve heard that it leads with a portion of illustrator Alred Kubin’s The Other Side, a book very dear to my heart and also very difficult to find. Or at least, difficult to afford. In my estimation, that alone makes it worth looking into.)

And now for something totally… better.

Several very wise people advised me, in the comments on yesterday’s post, to give up and move on. And… after much thought I agree. There is really nothing Marvin Kaye (et al.) can say to me at this point that will restore my faith in Kaye’s capabilities as an editor, or my hopes for Weird Tales’ future as a publication. It had a long, often rocky, often problematic history capped by a few years of shining brilliance… followed by a dive off of a sheer cliff into the sea.

RIP, Weird Tales. I’m sorry you had to go this way.

But, as Silvia Moreno-Garcia reminded me, all is not lost! There is a veritable smorgasbord of delicious, socially conscious speculative fiction in the world right now. So as a unicorn chaser, let’s talk about some!

ShimmerYou might’ve heard about how Mary Robinette Kowal, author and former art director for Weird Tales, stepped up to the plate earlier this week and is using her own pocket money to bump Shimmer up to pro rates for fiction. Shimmer’s known for poignant, thoughtful speculative fiction (that means spanning all genres traditionally thought of as SFF) and general progressive wonderfulness.

GUD MagazineGreatest Uncommon Denominator (GUD) Magazine is another one I’ve mentioned before. They don’t come out often, but when they do they’re a hefty and satisfying tome of both genre and literary fiction chosen with a great deal of skill. Though not the specific focus, they’ve been known to house some of the most interesting monster-centered stories I’ve encountered. They also have terrific taste in art (I’ve published with them.)

FiresideFireside Magazine‘s one of the new kids in town. Its focus is on story-driven specfic with compelling, unsinkable plots. Some of my favorite people on the internet are involved in this one, but even detaching myself from that I have to say it’s one of my favorite magazines already. They’re only on issue 2 so far, which makes catching up easy.

Crossed Genres has an interesting premise. Every issue takes specfic and crosses it with a different, specific theme – “Lies” and “Bildungsroman” are two examples (full disclosure: yes I have done art for them! I choose well). Also a newly pro-rate market, CG makes a particular effort to showcase marginalized groups and sub-groups in their magazine and anthologies. The ones responsible for ‘Science in my Fiction‘.

ApexApex Magazine is another one I know some folks at: and they’re all cool. A magazine of fantasy and horror, Apex is a venue that puts focus on marginalized and non-USian voices. Famously, their extremely adult reaction to a certain prominent SF author’s outspoken Islamophobia was to publish an issue dedicated entirely to Muslim writers and artists. I’ve been subscribed for some time, and have never been disappointed.

Lady Churchill's Rosebud WristletLady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet a collaboration between Kelly Link and Gavin Grant of Small Beer Press. LCRW is strange, amusing, and difficult to categorize – each issue contains everything from specfic to recipes, essays to comics and poetry. Of all of the zines listed here, it has the most zinelike feel to it. It’s even printed on a xerox machine and stapled together like something you’d expect to find in the ‘unclaimed copies’ bin at Office Depot. Consistently one of my favorite magazines out there. Also the only one I know of that offers a subscription plan that includes a chocolate bar with each issue.

If you need some fiction right now, Lightspeed Magazine has got you covered. An amalgamation of fantasy and SF (they recently absorbed Fantasy magazine) Lightspeed hosts a generous portion of its content for free reading on the web. Delia Sherman, Ken Liu, and Linda Nagata are some recent contributors – to give you an idea of their standard of quality. You can also subscribe and toss these awesome folks a few bucks to keep it going.

ClarkesworldClarkesworld is another long-standing and much-loved magazine, with wonderful free content trickling through the website at all times. It’s won more awards than you can shake a book at (the Hugo, Nebula, and Shirley Jackson just to name a few) and even posts audio versions of their stories as an extra bonus.

The Future FireThe Future Fire is another favorite of mine (which.. full disclosure, I’ve made art for) Their entire mission statement is to focus on socially progressive specfic. They’re currently collecting stories for a colonialism-themed anthology of new fiction focusing on the experiences of the colonized called ‘We See a Different Frontier’. Definitely give them a read!

And if you’re a part-time e-reader like myself, it’s always worthwhile to check out the subscriptions section of Weightless books*. Small Beer press, who owns them, is a great source of exciting and reliably conscientious things. Browse around the whole site and see what some other small presses are up to while you’re there.

And if there’s any publication of particular splendor that I’ve missed and you’d like to share in the comments (your own, even) please do! Let’s get the word out: beautiful things do still exist.


Weird Fiction ReviewUPDATE: Oh! And don’t miss this newer endeavor by Ann Vandermeer and friends, the ones who contributed directly to Weird Tales’ former glory. Weird Fiction Review isn’t a literary zine per se, but it’s still a whole lot of strange, neat things all together in one place, curated by people that can be trusted.

*(Note: Weightless books does carry subscriptions to Weird Tales. They’re offering a chance to swap your subscription to a different magazine for free, though, and I suspect that if Kaye continues down this path they won’t be offering it for much longer.)

Are we making any progress yet? (On Weird Tales, Marvin Kaye, and the whole Save the Pearls debacle).

This recent situation just has me seething.

If you’ve managed to make it to August 2012 without ever hearing the title Revealing Eden: Save the Pearls!  before this, or the resultant backlash against Victoria Foyt’s “thoroughly non-racist book” because of the heaps and heaps of racism it contains (and misogyny, but that’s another post), here are a few blog posts about it: from Foz Meadows, from NK Jemisin, from Inverarity, from acrackedmoon.
Note: potentially triggering imagery in the Inverarity post, because one of the major marketing tools for this book were a number of videos portraying a blonde, blue-eyed white woman wearing blackface and talking about how “they” (black people) are trying to kill her. I am not kidding. And this is supposed to be a book for teenagers about racial tolerance.

Now, after the book had been tossed around the internet a bit and thoroughly mocked and disparaged and raged at by nearly everyone who touched it, we all thought we’d heard the last of it. Not so. Just the other day, we got this post on Weird Tales magazine’s blog, from its new editor Marvin Kaye. It talks about Kaye’s commitment to serializing Save the Pearls in Weird Tales (despite it falling well outside the typical genre purview of the magazine) and accuses all detractors of the novel of mean-spiritedness and lacking “sufficient wit, wisdom and depth of literary analysis” to appreciate the racial dynamics presented in the book.

As your can see in the comments on that cached post, the community was not amused. There was backlash.
The publisher of WT, John Harlacher, eventually deleted the original blog post by Kaye and replaced it with this apology and retraction, claiming that the two of them had been ignorant of the offensive marketing materials and were no longer going to be publishing the book. To which the lot of us responded, “you didn’t think the book was racist enough by itself?”.
Jeff Vandermeer also had this to say about the mess, which throws rather a bit of doubt on the competency of the new WT staff or the truth of Harlacher’s statement. For the record, Ann Vandermeer is wonderful and had this never happened I was planning on letting my WT subscription lapse anyway, due to her absence.

In any case, pissed off by the whole debacle and unimpressed by Harlacher’s apology, I wrote this:

Hi there,

About a year and a half ago (I think, for some reason I’m unable to log into my account at wildsidemagazines, the site does not recognize my email address) I paid for a subscription to Weird Tales, as well as a number of its back issues.
At the time, the magazine had won awards for its editorial prowess on the part of Ann Vandermeer, and was publishing some truly daring and mind-bending prose.
Since then, it’s been purchased by Marvin Kaye, who has made some incredibly questionable editorial choices and written some extremely inflammatory things. In short, I do not believe this is the magazine I originally subscribed to in anything but name.
I’m not certain how many more issues are left in my subscription, if any, but I’d really appreciate it if you’d either cancel it or commute my subscription to a different magazine. If canceling it is all that can be done, that’s fine. I don’t really need to get my money back from you. I just don’t want to own anything edited by the man who first published Orson Scott Card’s gallingly homophobic novella “Hamlet’s Father”, or who would go out of his way to stand behind Victoria Foyt’s appalling racist Revealing Eden: Save the Pearls.
(Here’s where I put my address and personal info, in hopes that they could use it to find my account and cancel my subscription).
Please advise me as to my options.
Many thanks,

To which I was expecting a polite email expressing regrets from one of the WT interns or assistant editors, followed by instructions on how to never receive another issue of WT again ever.

Instead, I received this:

Your wishes will be respected; I believe the publisher will handle that, I regret your decision, and can only say that after reading the book, I found it a powerful attack on racism, just the opposite from the charges leveled at it. However, I only recently saw the marketing of this book, and find it in terrible taste; had I seen it, I would not have read the book. As it is, we have decided not to publish the story.

Regarding Scott Card’s story, I did not see any homophobia in it, or I would have objected, but for the record, I did not want to buy anything from him; the publisher, Tor Books, made it clear that if I did not include his story, they would not publish the book at all.


When Harlacher posted his original apology, he insisted that Kaye was currently traveling and therefor unable to apologize for himself. He implied that once Kaye was no longer traveling, he would do so. Kaye has not yet made a public statement.
Kaye has instead opted to email individuals privately in order to state his case. Rather than inviting a respectful open debate in a public forum, he is trying to defend himself piecemeal through our private accounts. This is, in my view and as I’ve said repeatedly, an incredibly slimy and disingenuous tactic.

In addition to his continuing not to see the racism in StP, he also takes a moment to defend unrepentant homophobe (and NOM board member) Orson Scott Card’s novella “Hamlet’s Father” from accusations of homophobia. Again: these things have been discussed at length by members of the minorities concerned as well as their allies. These facts are not in any manner up for debate.

Marvin Kaye, it’s time for you to apologize. And it’s time for you to shut up and listen.

I expect far better from leaders in the SFF community.
Clearly Weird Tales is no longer the leader it once was.

Edit: I wanted to add a link to Debbie Reese’s article about the way in which indigenous peoples are represented as infantile and brutish in StP. Since her excerpts come largely from the latter half of the book, I can only assume this is what Kaye is referring to when he insists that the book redeems itself in its latter chapters.

I also want to mention that this isn’t the first counter-backlash over this book: Victoria Foyt herself has been making some very offensive statements in response to her critics as well.

Almost there

As I write this, there are just 35 hours left on the Village by the Sea kickstarter drive.

We’re at $5,390 of the $4,000 goal, so now Lily’s cooking up tasty, nutritious stretch goals:

Stephen Blackmoore (CITY OF THE LOST, DEAD THINGS (Feb – 2013), KHAN OF MARS (2013) and Will Hindmarch (Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities, The Escapist, Don’t Read This Book) want to join us in the village. And they each want to tell us a story.

If we can hit $5,500, these two stories will appear in an ebook together, for backers only, $5 and up. Blackmoore and Hindmarch are in a class all their own: their stories will help lay the foundation for some of your sweetest nightmares about the Village by the Sea.

Hear that? Just $110 more and we *ALL* get treats. Plus extra monies go toward funding more art and more pages in the guide. So spread the word!

And in case the meaning of the $200 backer prize isn’t clear:

 Founding Family: All Pillar of the Community benefits, plus inclusion in and copy of the Village by the Sea Founding Families Tree.
That’s a place in a family tree that I’m being commissioned to illustrate! :3 Your name. In my art. And I promise it’s going to be elaborate and Victorian and oh so unsettling.Enticed?

Horror games and the Sea

Village of the Sea, city seal

It’s the last week of this incredible Kickstarter drive, and I had to share it. Not just because I’m involved, but because it’s really everything I could ever hope for as the RPG-and-horror-and-mystery-and-non-neurotypical loving geek that I am. Seriously. If there were dragons and a subsection about Pacific Northwest birds this would cover about all of my biggest passions.

Excerpt from the guide:

I like writing about beautiful, horrible things. The Village by the Sea is a beautiful, horrible place. And I want to take you there.

The Guide covers neighborhoods, families and coverups and over a hundred years of history, for a town that exists outside of time and place. This could be the town you stopped in as a child on your way to see family. It might be your hometown. This could even be the town just down the road from yours.

The Village by the Sea was founded on the coast in 1850. Its founding families still exert force on the course of Village history, its borders have crept over devoured nearby settlements, and its piers are washed in blood. The monuments to dead sailors cast shadows in the park. There are always new missing posters outside the market.

There is never a year without a candlelit vigil for the dead.

I’ve got the village in my blood. I may not be nice all the time, and days of cutesie teen detective work are long behind me. I may have issues, but letting people die isn’t usually one of them. I came back here because I didn’t have a choice, and writing the guide is all I have left.

-“The Guide to the Village by the Sea,” Ashley Hart

And watch the video. I think Lillian does a pretty awesome job of saying it all: Coastal small town horror themed tabletop RPG with a mystery subplot involving a synesthetic detective? And Lillian Cohen-Moore is masterminding it? And Lisa Grabenstetter’s doing art for it?

Just about perfect, amiright? I am. You want a copy, and it’s only $5 for the bottom level. Go on!

As of my writing this, they’ve fulfilled their funding goal and are formulating amazing new stretch goals to fulfill. This can only get better and better.

*{I have this new job (as a patent illustrator), so please forgive my reticence on here while I get settled in!}


Back to business

Hey, you may have heard about that derecho storm the eastern half of the US experienced the other night! We were pretty lucky here in Annapolis, in that I don’t believe there were any deaths or major injuries (except to trees). There was a fair bit of property damage (none to mine) and quite a few people lost power (including me). The worst was probably the heat index of 105F+ on Sunday, which didn’t combine well with lack of electricity.

The power just came back on early this morning, after about 76 hours without. Really grateful to have the AC and internet back. Also grateful to not have to look forward to another evening of reading by oil lamp (there are cons as well as pros to oil lamps, and the cons multiply the longer you have to use them).

Evan and I were up late when the storm hit and had the opportunity to watch it arrive. The night was perfectly still and quiet, almost oppressively so, though the lamps in our room had been flickering intermittently. Then a wall of wind abruptly hit the trees with speed and force akin to a massive train, causing them to whip back and forth violently. It brought copious amounts of thunder and almost constant flickerings of white and purple lightning with it, and sheets of rain.

Normally our huge, damaging storms come from the opposite direction and give us a little bit more warning. Time enough to panic and hoard bottled water and city-provided sandbags. Thanks, derecho.

(I think we actually experienced a fair bit more damage than the much-dreaded hurricane Irene produced last year. Though there wasn’t really any flooding this time, which was a nice change of pace).

The freelance mindset

One of the dangers of setting your own schedule: it’s really easy to allow weeks to slip by without noticing. I’ve been pretty loose with scheduling lately, as a follow-up to a contract that had me pretty rigidly locked in for a few weeks, and it has not done good things for my timeliness.

For one, I forgot to blog a mention about my guest post over at Inkpunks, which outlines some basics of website design (applicable even to lazy folks like me who rely upon blogs and premade themes to do the bulk of our work).

Today Evan’s guest post went live on Inkpunks, in which he talks about his struggles in finding a comfortable space he can feel creative in, even in cramped living situations.

And this past weekend, my little brother graduated from JMU! In an outdoor stadium, in the pouring rain! Congrats Warren! I’m so proud of you. I hope your celebratory 3 day, 50-mile canoe and camping trip in the pouring rain still manages to be extremely enjoyable despite everything.

And just for fun, something new from my sketchbook:

Wizard + cat

Happy agenda management, everyone!