Editing speculative fiction and diversity panel – part 2

To reiterate, next week I’m giving a talk to Editors Toronto, the largest branch of Editors Canada (also known as the Editors’ Association of Canada) on a panel entitled “Editing Worlds: Speculative Fiction and the Editorial Process”. Tickets are available here on their website (free for members). Part 1 of post is here.

The Trump: Utopia or Dystopia book slush pile wasn’t that big, about 100 submissions. However, we still had to sort through all stories to pick ones we thought had potential of being great stories after some polishing. Our pay rates were token rates, which meant the editors would have to spend more time with writers as experienced writers would more likely submit to higher paying publishers.

While thinking about how to present the slushpile, I came across Neil Clark’s slushpile bingo blog post. He presents why Clarkesworld, his sci-fi magazine would reject a story.

Given we are speculative fiction publisher and not solely sci-fi, our version of why we would reject a story is slightly different. However, it gives writers an idea of why a story didn’t make it through the slushpile at Dark Helix Press.

Out of 100 stories here are the stats:

  • 100 submissions received (17 females, 83 males, 6 visible minority)
  • published 32 stories (8 females, 24 males, 4 visible minority)
  • percentage published/submission (47% women, 29% men, 67% visible minorities)

As a female and visible minority, with a mandate to publish as many diverse writers as possible, special attention was paid to stories from females or visible minorities.

However, at the end of the day, publishing good quality stories is the basic principle. If the story is horribly written, it doesn’t matter if you are from a diverse group or not, we just don’t have the time to rewrite entire manuscripts.

To make the odds of publishing diverse writers higher, they also have to send in more submissions. Looking at just our Trump book, by far, the highest number of submissions were from male, white writers.  I’m not sure what the stats are with other book projects, but I’m willing to bet they are similar, unless there were exclusion guidelines in place (eg. female only or LGBT only, etc).

Overall my co-editor Jen Frankel and I have been very happy with the authors selected and feel proud of this book even when people look at us in disgust that the main subject is Trump!

Now I have to go rehearse my talking points! Practice makes perfect!

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Editing speculative fiction and diversity panel – part 1

Next week I’m giving a talk at the “Editing Worlds: Speculative Fiction and the Editorial Process” panel to Editors Toronto, the largest branch of Editors Canada (also known as the Editors’ Association of Canada). Tickets are available here on their website (free for members). Here is a link to short quirky interviews with all panelists: Jen Frankel, JF Garrard, Dominik Parisien and Drew Hayden Taylor.

Jen Frankel, my co-editor for Trump: Utopia or Dystopia will be joining me in talking about the process we went through on editing this anthology along with the issue of diversity in speculative fiction. We’ll be touching on:

  • the realities of indie publishing, crowdfunding, editing, and world building (Jen Frankel and JF Garrard);
  • the lessons learned from panels on writing and pop culture about the need for diverse stories in literature, film, and media (Jen Frankel and JF Garrard); and
  • strategies for supporting authors of different backgrounds and identities while keeping their voices intact throughout the editing process (Jen Frankel).

For my portion I’ll be using PowerPoint and thought I would share some of my more interesting talking points.

To kick off the diversity issue, I’m going to present the findings from Lee and Low book’s 2015 Diversity Baseline Survey. This independent publisher conducted a survey with 40 publishers and review journals. They sent out over 13K surveys with a response rate of 26%, a bit over 3K responses.

The categories they surveyed included executives, sales, marketing, pr and book reviewers. The results found that nearly 80% of those surveyed identified as white.

Source: https://blog.leeandlow.com/2016/01/26/where-is-the-diversity-in-publishing-the-2015-diversity-baseline-survey-results/

It shouldn’t be a surprise that the majority of the gatekeepers in traditional publishing are white. Going forward, if change is to happen, it’s going to take all of us, white and not-white to make the effort to change if diversity is truly an issue we all care about as a society.  However, it has to be done in a way to prevent “diversity branding” which is backlash with the illusion that things are fair and leads to bias against certain groups. Sometimes diversity programs lead to more negativity and it’s something that we all have to be aware of.

Similarly, I’ve been having a debate with another indie publisher about Dark Helix broadening it’s subject matters from only multicultural subjects. At the end of the day I want to be known as a publisher who provides great stories to readers and be inclusive, regardless of race or gender. To brand my company as solely for diverse authors is excluding other populations. This touches on the diversity branding mentioned earlier.

As a business, by being too niche, it’s very difficult to sell to the general population. In being more inclusive about writers and broadening subject matters, I hope to attract new readers to my publishing house who will then take a chance on the multicultural titles I have to offer as well.

But to publish more diverse writers, they also have to send in more submissions. In Part 2 I’ll talk about the slush pile for the Trump book and stats gathered from the making of this book.

Ghost In The Shell Movie is like a Sub-Par Hamburger

This is an excerpt from a talk I’m preparing for Anime North about the Ghost in the Shell Controversy on May 28/17.

Last week I had a debate about the Ghost In The Shell Movie with a friend who was born in Asia. I’m born in North America, so I knew from the start that our views would be very different. She said that she didn’t see any problems with casting in the movie because once an American company buys the rights to a Japanese product, it becomes American. Since the majority of the population is Caucasian, why wouldn’t they cast a Caucasian person? I told her that it really bothered the fans who expected the studio to make better choices with casting Asian actors and keeping the story close to the source material. The debate went no where so we agreed to disagree.

It got me thinking as well, how do I explain this controversy to people?

The best way I decided, was to talk about food. An American restaurant owner goes to Japan and tries the best teppenyaki dish in a restaurant. He falls in love and decides to buy the recipe to bring back to America. Teppenyaki fans in America are super excited that this dish is coming! Chefs who specialized in teppenyaki in school want to cook this dish, but never have because the restaurant owner never had it on the menu. There is a lot of hype and the marketing people go nuts.

On opening night, critics come to the restaurant to discover that they are being served a hamburger with teppenyaki sauce. The owner didn’t employ the chefs that knew how to cook teppenyaki to help because he didn’t think the dish would be suitable for Americans. Instead, he called in the hamburger chefs who decided to just take the teppenyaki sauce and cover a hamburger with it. After all, hamburgers always sell, right?! Teppenyaki fans refuse to go to this restaurant because they know that they are only going to be served the sauce and not the actual dish. The critics shake their head at this missed opportunity at being served a real teppenyaki dish in America and that regular hamburgers tasted better without the sauce. Teppenyaki chefs are disappointed that their skills are being wasted. The owner defends himself by saying that teppenyaki can be cooked by anyone and they made a good choice by selling the sauce on a hamburger which always sells.

There are many sides to this story and at the end of the day, the owner missed a chance to distinguish his restaurant from other restaurants by serving a dish people were craving for. Of course, the teppenyaki in America was not going to be the same as the one served in Japan. It was going taste different and new. People in Japan would never see the teppenyaki in America as being “real” teppenyaki…ever…so why should they care that it be done properly or not?

Ghost in the Shell is a product just like teppenyaki which Americans tried to import from Japan. As Asian people continue to grow up outside Asia, this debate will happen again and again. The new generations of Asians want to contribute to the society they are living in currently, not the one in Asia which their ancestors left behind. They want to see themselves represented in the media they consume and believe in the fair, just society that they supposedly live in.

Avatar, Dr. Strange and Death Note all had opportunities for studios to touch base with audiences, but they blew their chances. The only thing for certain is that dollars matter. If more money can be made with changing casting choices and hiring writers that understand the original material, I’m sure things will happen. Until then, the internet will just keep exploding with disbelief!

 

Thinking My Way Out of Depression

“I don’t understand why you are like this. He’s dead, life goes on. Why are you wasting your time?”

It’s great that the rest of the family can move on with life while I sit around and lament about the death of my father, the lost future with him as a grandpa and how life just sucks. I always thought I was adaptive to change, but obviously it’s not true when it comes to life changing events. The docs tell me I have PTSD due to my looping of the last day before his death over and over again, along with major depression which makes it hard to do anything. Even calling up a friend feels like the energy will drain out of me and I’ll collapse.

Many pushed anti-depressants on me, but given I get stoned on allergy meds, I decided I’m not sure if I want something that could rewire my brain. Instead, I am trying something called “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy” (CBT). Basically I’m trying to think my way out of depression by going to counselling and doing lots of thinking homework every week. The idea is that CBT will help you stop the thoughts which are spiraling you into depression.

In my case, one thought that comes back over and over again is that “I could have saved my father.” This consists of all the would/could/should have scenarios which contains millions of possibilities and endings. Then guilt and sadness enters into the equation and I end up lying in bed, being very depressed and not being to do much as I fall into this deep well of horrible thoughts.

This is a classic case of complicated grief in which the brain is rewarded with feeling closer to the deceased while suffering and in pain. A Neuroimaging study done by the University of California shows how complicated grief rewards the brain which makes adapting to the reality of the loss more difficult.

This week, by filling in worksheets with my situation (similar to ones found here) I find evidence for/against if the thought is true and what is the cost of the thought. For the “I could have saved father” thought, the scenarios could have or not have worked out and by doing this looping, it has a high cost of neglecting my family/work but at the same time I am rewarded by feeling like my father is still alive (glimpse of hope). Taking a step back, the situation is the same – father is dead, so no matter what I think I could do, it is useless since he is gone.

Ideally,every time the looping about saving him starts, I need to be mindful and respond to myself by thinking “Yes, I could have done more, but it’s too late. Father would want me to take care of the rest of the family now and carry on his legacy.”

George Micheal’s “Praying For Time” lyrics come to mind:

Hanging on to hope
When there is no hope to speak of
And the wounded skies above say it’s much too late
Well maybe we should all be praying for time

A lot of this mindfulness stuff is based on Buddhism, but with the religious component stripped out and scientific methods applied. Asians are such practical people, sometimes I wonder what is wrong with me. I am such a failed Asian…

In a way I’m starting to do what the rest of the family has done by forging ahead into the present/future. Instead of forgetting the past though, I think it`s valuable to learn from it. I’ve written an article on how to handle healthcare crisis in the family (sent off to magazine publisher but no response yet) and thinking about writing a book which may help others.

These quotes struck a chord with me and I find them comforting:

“The deeper that sorrow carves into your being the more joy you can contain. Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?”
~ Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931)

I know I can’t wallow too long in depression or else I’ll drown in the puddle. CBT has helped me quite a bit, but I know the road for recovery still has a while to go for me…

Seoul Part 2 – Food!

I can not eat spicy things, which made eating in Seoul rather difficult for me. We did eat many Korean meals of course and they all came with red spicy sauce,  kim chee as well as pickled vegetables. However, there was no shortage of French bakeries in Gangnam, along with European, American, Japanese, Chinese and Malaysian restaurants. There was a huge coffee culture, so my Viking husband was happy that he could obtain his expensive but available coffee anywhere. Admittedly I have not had so much fatty pork on a daily basis for dinner in my life along with cabbage, but when in Korea, do as the Koreans do…for a while anyways and then pizza started looking really good!

Breakfast

For breakfast we usually had tea or coffee with French pastries. We went out a few times and had a pretty god omelette at a French bakery restaurant. Prices were about $5-9 per coffee, lattes or tea, pastries about $2-5 and big breakfast (omelette, eggs benedict) about $15.

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Lunch

We had many lunches of noodles and sometimes had sandwiches, generally it was whatever we could find as we were travelling all over the place.

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Dinner

Lots and lots of Korean BBQ for dinner along with kim chee, pickled vegetables, tofu and spicy soups. We had pizza and chicken wings delivered one night as well, came in 20 min! Pizza in a fancy New York Pizza place was surprisingly pricey at $40-50 for a medium but it was full of people on dates.

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Snacks

Lots of vending machines in the subway, convenient stores on every street corner and my favorite are the French bakeries!

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Toilets

Yes, I am obsessed with toilets. The Korean toilets were similar to sit-up ones in North America, but they had a few heated ones like in Japan with bum washes. There was also squatting ones as well.

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Seoul Part 1 – Surviving!

The reason for our visit to Korea was for my brother-in-law’s wedding. The latest addition to the Garrard clan at this point was a new sister-in-law who is Korean. Prior to leaving, I asked my Korean friends what to expect at this wedding and they didn’t really know how to answer my questions. “Oh, we are just like any other culture!” they told me. I had been to Seoul once for a few days with a Hong Kong tour group and the tour guide told us to not be offended if people slam into us in the street as this is what happens if it is crowded.

I find Korean people very tall and they generally remind me of Northern Chinese people. So I was surprised when everyone started speaking Korean to me. Even the Garrard clan I was with half expected me to suddenly speak Korean on their behalf. Having never taken an Korean lessons, I started to learn a few words…which made the situation worse because people thought I was joking that I didn’t know any Korean.

We did similar things on this trip compared to our Tokyo trip, such as renting a wi-fi hotspot to guide us. With my brother-in-law’s help, we also rented cell phones as this trip consisted of a large group that would split up occasionally.

Instead of staying in a hotel, we rented a house from the AirBNB website in Gangnam (yes, like the song). Gangnam is the richest neighborhood in Seoul and there are tons of young people, a thriving night market along with lots of foreign restaurants (Starbucks, TGI Friday, Baskin Robbins, McDonalds, French bakeries, etc). The house had four bedrooms, kitchen, living room and washer/dryer combo machine. The floors were heated which felt strange and the entire bathroom was a shower! Pictures at end of blog post (scroll down).

1) Wi Fi hotspot, Google Maps & Cell phones

We made arrangements as soon as we landed to rent a wi-fi hot spot. You can rent and return at any airport, which made this very handy. As well, the stand next to the wi-fi hot spot had cell phone rentals & returns. We weren’t smart enough to rent the cell phone in the beginning so we visited a store instead and then returned it at the airport prior to leaving. Again, Google Maps helped us navigate the areas as we walked through them.

Cost of Wif Fi hotspot – about $7/day
Cost of cell phone rental – about $5/day

2) Cash

We used a lot more cash in Korea than Tokyo. There are certain banks that have ATMs with “Global” on them – these are the only ones that allow international bank cards to be used. When we travelled there, it was about $1 US to 1000 Won. Although it sounds like a lot to have 10,000 Won, it’s actually just $100

3) Plugs

You will need adaptors when you travel, their plugs are different from North American ones.

4) Buy a subway card

The subway cards in Korea are similar to Japan, you “beep” as you enter and then “beep” as you leave. So you pay by distance. Putting money onto card was amazing as they have some wireless no touch technology going on. You put the card in the large slot in the machine and money “beams” into the card. The subway line will announce stops in English and the maps have English/Korean.

5) Prepare for price shock

I found that the prices of things in Seoul were the same price as visiting a large North American city (NY) or Europe (London) which surprised me. Things were cheaper in Tokyo! Also, street market vendors don’t like to bargain, especially with foreigners. I usually hate bargaining too, but if I’m buying 10 souvenirs, getting a bit of a break would be nice!

6) Basic Manners – These are some of the things I picked up:

  • Walk around people – Unlike Japan, even if there are arrows in the subways, people don’t follow them. So you just walk around people.
  • Subway exits & gas masks – Perhaps due to continuous threats from the North, every subway has maps in English and Korean detailing exits. As well, there are cabinets of gas masks and other emergency supplies.
  • No eating in subways – the subways are quite clean due to lack of food. People do talk or they are watching tv on their tablets.
  • Being pushed – In crowded places, there is less “private space”. So don’t be surprised if you are pushed/shoved around as people just need to get past you. Or alternatively, if they don’t like you and the subway is empty, they will push you anyways as it seems to be a form of communication (they saw me as a Korean girl with a foreigner spouse).
  • No tipping – restaurants do not require tipping.
  • Daiso – Daiso is a 100 yen store in Japan (dollar store) and they are also in Korea. If you need to pick up a few things, this is a great place to go.

8) What else to expect:

  • Beer, lots of it! – Seoul has a more robust drinking culture than any other Asian city I’ve visited. We even visited a self-serve bar in which you grab your bottles from the fridge and then the cashier counts the empties. There was beer ranging from Korea to New Zealand to Estonia!
  • Steep hills – We stayed in a house on a hill at a 45 degree incline. I think I lost a few inches from gravity pressing down on me!
  • Cold/Snow in Dec – yes, it was -10 degrees Celsius and snowing.
  • Coffee everywhere – if you need a daily jolt of caffeine, no fear – there were tons of cafes all over the place with delicious French pastries. However, European (Nescafe), Korean/European (Paris Croissant) and American cafes (Starbucks) have higher priced drinks at about $5/6 and pastries $3-5. The local coffee is about $2. My Viking husband observed that the $2 coffee places tend to be street stands and the foreign coffee places have tables, so the drinks are more expensive as you are almost “renting space.”
  • Amazingly cute things – Like everywhere in Asia, cute sells. So pastries will have little animal icing decorations, anything and everything will have teddy bears or other cute looking creatures on them. If you are not immune to cute things, it may be sensory overload! The best cute thing I saw was a baby seal ice cream cake at the Korean Baskin Robbins!
  • Limited English – we didn’t stay at a hotel this time, but in a AirBNB house rental. The owner left us some guidebooks which was nice. You will see that the street signs, subway maps and stores will have English…but not many people speak English. I was told that people learn English in high school, like how we learn French in Canada…then people just forget it as they don’t use it!
  • Vending machines – less than in Tokyo, but they are common in subways
  • Interactive subway displays – for people waiting for the train, they can play games or look up places where to eat next. Great if you know Korean…
  • Selfie pics – in Gangnam there is a large interactive display for you to take pictures of yourself. I’m not sure if you can email it out or not, but there was some voting contest of which selfie was the best. Lots of drunk pics of people have a good time!

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Tokyo Part 2 – Food & Lodging

Eating in any Asian city is superb since there are so many people and it is super competitive for businesses. Many restaurants have signs or “plastic food” on display to attract patrons and sometimes a mall will have giant displays to let you know of the many restaurants on each floor.  All the food I had in Tokyo was excellent, in particular, the Family Mart sushi was better than in the restaurants we visited!

If you have dietary restrictions, I would recommend using Google Translator to list out all the items you can’t eat ahead of time and show the service people to avoid getting killed by allergic reactions, etc.

The hotel we stayed in (Prince Park Tokyo Tower) had a lot of Western guests, so the staff spoke English.  My favorite thing about the room was the toilet, it was amazing and I am sad that I could not bring it back!

Pictures below are separated into general food, breakfast, lunch, dinner and lodging.  Each pic has some notes to let you know what the heck is going on…

General food – pics of menus, advertisements and plastic food

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Breakfast food

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Lunch food

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Dinner & Dessert food

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Lodging – hotel and my beloved hotel room toilet!

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