Deirdre Saoirse Moen

Sounds Like Weird

Too Many Things, Must Bail on Some

18 June 2014

When I agreed to be co-head of programming for Westercon 67 in Salt Lake City, it was before a book decided to bonk me over the head and say in no uncertain terms:

Deirdre, remember that careful timeline you had of all your writing projects? Eff that. I’m the book you should write NOW NOW NOW.

And yes, this book swears at me.
So I carefully figured out what it would all do to my projects, and re-worked everything. You know, like it was my actual day job. (Which it is.)
It looked like I’d have time to do Westercon programming.
However, the book is harder to write than I expected and it’s been fighting me (and I it), and I don’t have the mental space to do that and Westercon programming.
Then there was the heartwrenching trip to Canada to list my mother’s property for sale. (Now sold.)
While I was still fighting that valiantly, the MZB/Breen stuff landed in my space. Do I need to tell you that’s been time consuming and heartbreaking? Moira’s courage to speak has given me a renewed sense of vigor about my own projects. Thank you so much.
On top of that, a few days ago, I got quotes that my book was going to take longer to edit than I’d planned for. It’s not what I wanted to hear, and it was at a time where there was nowhere to cut — except Westercon.
So, even though Michael, Alison, and I have programmed conventions on short notice — I’m slammed, he’s been even more slammed than I am, and Alison’s got her own things going on. None of us can do it alone, so we spent last night, and we’ll spend tonight doing what we can, then the rest will be up to Westercon’s concom.

It’s Not Kate’s Fault

None of this is anyone else’s fault, okay?
I want to be clear that, of all the Westercon concom, Kate Hatcher has been the most amazing. She has kept in communication with people when I haven’t had spoons to, she’s a great person, and I sincerely want to see the best for her in life. I’ve enjoyed Skype chatting with her, and am looking forward to meeting her in person at con.
She came in wanting to do one thing and has taken on far more than that.
Also, my singling her out for praise shouldn’t be taken as criticism of anyone else; it’s not.
I had two immovable objects where, when getting closer to them, I needed to move one of them out of my space to tackle the other. That’s all.
Arguably, I should have been smarter sooner. I just know that I happen to work best under pressure, just sometimes I grossly misestimate how much pressure I’m under (and what the consequences of that are for me, yay fibromyalgia).

In Other News

Various factions have brought up the Samuel Delany/NAMBLA comments. They are googleable, and I don’t want to start a comment thread about that here, okay?
So here are my general statements.

  1. I consider the aims of NAMBLA abhorrent.
  2. That said, I’ve seen no evidence (doesn’t mean it’s not out there; I’m not trying to be willfully ignorant here) that Delany’s position was anything other than intellectual.
  3. He was responding to the contents of their newsletter, which may have been interesting and/or thought-provoking intellectual discussion for all I know.

I am perfectly fine with people discussing abhorrent things. Hell, crime writers do it all the time. Some people have abhorrent desires they don’t act on.
I feel quite differently about crossing the line into child rape.
This is a really horrible analogy, but I haven’t thought of anything better for it in the last week.

  1. I love chocolate cake. My preciousssss. I especially love the fluffy kind with gluten. Mostly I don’t like gluten-free chocolate cake because it mostly fails.
  2. It is bad for me. (celiac)
  3. My thoughts and longings about chocolate cake are not, in and of themselves a problem for my body or society as a whole.
  4. Eating chocolate cake, however, crosses the line.
  5. I had chocolate pudding earlier. It’s not the same thing, but I find it more satisfying than the kind of chocolate cake I can eat and better for me than the kind I can’t.

On Delany/NAMBLA, someone else is going to have to do the research on this because I just don’t have the bandwidth. [Edit: Will Shetterly did.]

Bonus Track: Vibrapshere, Forever Imaginary

This is cheering me up right now.

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Robert Heinlein on the Breendoggle

18 June 2014

From William H. Patterson’s book Robert A. Heinlein, Vol 2: In Dialogue with His Century Volume 2: The Man Who Learned Better, p. 263.
At just that moment, in fact, science-fiction fandom was tearing itself apart over the preemptive cancellation of the membership of a suspected pedophile by PacifiCon, the most recent world science-fiction convention, in September 1964. This conflict might have passed the Heinleins by, except that the suspected pedophile was the husband of one of Heinlein’s more intimate correspondents, Marion Zimmer Bradley. Heinlein never commented on the “Breen Boondoggle” publicly, but to Bradley Heinlein wrote:

The fan nuisance we were subjected to was nothing like as nasty as the horrible things that were done to you two but it was bad enough that we could get nothing else done during the weeks it went on and utterly spoiled what should have been a pleasant, happy winter. But it resulted in a decision which has made our life much pleasanter already and which I expect to have increasingly good effects throughout all the years ahead. We have cut off all contact with organized fandom….I regret that we will miss meeting some worthwhile people in the future as a result of this decision. But the percentage of poisonous jerks in the ranks of fans makes the price too high; we’ll find our friends elsewhere.

Fortunately, not all their fan contacts were so unpleasant.
(end excerpt)
You know, I’ve never been a Heinlein fan either, but this takes my non-fandom to new depths. Guess they never cared how pleasant the winter of the kids would be. Patterson’s a piece of work, too.
For context, Mark D. Eddy adds:

For context, though, Heinlein had already had a series of negative experiences with fans and conventions (including a fan who was harassing friends and family to try to write an unauthorized biography for a publisher Heinlein wouldn’t write for), and was already distancing himself from the “poisonous jerks” — so all he apparently knew about the situation was filtered through MZB, who was hardly an uninterested party.

Which is a fair point. While it’s always good to get as much of both sides of the story as possible, there’s a real human failing believing the predator’s side of the story. (See also: STK’s comment on the deirdre.net version of this entry.)
Hat tip: RPG.net commenter The Scribbler.
Note: I’m also tagging all of the posts with the breendoggle tag to make it easier to find in the future.
Also: When asked, Can this be true? The MZB click thrus are upsetting., Deborah J. Ross, author of many books set in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover universe, replied, Only half the story is being told. Please be careful about believing sensationalist rumors online.
Note: I’ve edited out a couple of paragraphs from the original post as Deborah has apologized for her ill-considered tweet.
In light of that apology, I’ve deleted my unnecessarily harsh snark but am leaving the context above intact.

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When Jon Atack Wrote an Anti-Scientology Book

17 June 2014

From a paper he gave in 1995:

At the end of 1992, scientologists started to arrive uninvited on my doorstep. They always came in pairs, a new pair each time. The visits happened about once a week, but not on the same night. The timing of the visits varied, with the latest being after 11 o’clock. The first couple accused me of “persecuting” their religion. When I asked for details, one of them said that I had told a newspaper that Scientology “brainwashed” its members. I explained that the journalist had given his own opinion. I tend to avoid the emotive term “brainwashing” and speak instead of “coercive psychology”. Having failed in the particular, they moved on to the general. I was accused of being a liar. Unable to give any example of a lie I had told, one began chanting hysterically “you tell lies”.

…and…

The phobic attitude towards critics and the refusal of dialogue characterize totalist groups or destructive cults. Scientologists are taught that anyone who seeks to dissuade them from Scientology is “suppressive”. If the criticism cannot be silenced, then the scientologist should cease all communication with the critic, or “disconnect”. Any criticism of Scientology is held to stem from undisclosed “overts” or moral transgressions. The critic is asked “what are your crimes?” This can be upsetting to the mystified parent of a raging scientologist.
If a scientologist hears any criticism of Scientology or its creator, that criticism must be relayed to Scientology’s “Ethics” department in a written “knowledge report”. Further, Scientologists are forbidden discussion of the techniques of Scientology (called “verbal technology”), the penalty for which is being “declared” a “Suppressive Person”, and being ostracised by other scientologists, under the policy of “disconnection”. Scientologists are also enjoined not to talk about any of their problems except to their appointed Scientology “auditor”. They pay up to $1,000 per hour to discuss such problems. While Hubbard insisted that Scientology’s main focus is enhancing communication, he actually spent a great deal of time restricting it.

…and, most chillingly…

Hackers have shown that virtually no data held in a computer database is truly private. Scientologists have demonstrated great technical proficiency in their attempts to close down the computer Internet alt.religion.scientology newsgroup. With former scientologists, documentary evidence and testimony demonstrate beyond a shadow of a doubt that Hubbard and his wife both ordered the use of scientologists’ supposedly confidential confessional folders. During a Scientology session, the “auditor” keeps a written record of the subject’s utterances. Anything scandalous should be reported to the Ethics Section and from there it would find its way to the Intelligence section. Nowadays, prospective employees are asked to fill in a 110 question “Life history”. This is not held to be confidential by Scientology management. It includes the demand: “Make a chronological list of the names of all persons with whom you have had sexual relationships and what you engaged in. Approximate the number of times you carried on any kind of activity, and note any perversions you engaged in. Be as complete as you can.” It is understandable that very few former members dare to speak out.

Atack’s book is “A Piece of Blue Sky.” Worth reading if you’re interested in the subject.

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New Design: Your Book Needs You to Finish It

16 June 2014

Your-Book-700
Available from Redbubble in posters, prints, t-shirts and hoodies, greeting cards, and stickers.
I’ve had this saying around on my hard drive since grad school in 2003, when Seton Hill University professor Michael Arnzen said this. Neither of us can remember the precise context, though.
He is a horror writer, and I can totally hear that evil horror writer cackle at the end, so I went with a red theme, leaving it open to interpretation if that’s actual writerly blood running down the left side.
Oh, hey, there’s coffee rings in the lower right.
100% detail:
100-percent-detail

Credits

This time, I decided to use my favorite packager of graphic elements I love, Design Cuts. Every one of these came from one of their bundles; they run a single bundle every other week.

  1. Font: Castor and Castor Catchwords from Albatross.
  2. Font: Thirsty Rough from Yellow Design Studio. This is the script font. The detail shows the regular font plus the outline font, which is a really neat look.
  3. Two textures from 2 Lil Owls. One on the very bottom and one on the very top. The bottom one has some subtle text that you can kind of see hints of. As I write this, these are out of the current Design Cuts bundle. One’s from the Grandeur pack, and one from the Relic pack.
  4. The yellow swath is from Robyn Gough, who also did a few other brush textures used very lightly in the background.
  5. The red on the top and left is a vector element from Offset’s Vector Texture kit.
  6. The coffee rings are a set of Photoshop brushes from FanExtra.

Apart from that, I used one linear gradient and one radial gradient.
That’s it!

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Breendoggle Documentation Now On a Wiki

15 June 2014

Trigger Warning: child rape
Just when I thought I was done with this….
One thing that’s come out of shining light into dark corners is that the original “Breendoggle” from 1963 has now been posted online. If it was online before, Google couldn’t find it, only documented references to it.
Bill Donaho wrote the original piece in 1963.
What this gives is contemporary accounts, some second- and third-hand, of recent events as of that time.
You know, the year before Marion Zimmer Bradley married Walter Breen.

So I really want you to think that she married him the year after this report about what happened between Breen and a three-year-old in public view of others.

The second cause was Walter’s sex play with 3-year old P———– —————-. He had her trained up to the point where she would take off her clothes the minute she saw him. He would then “rub her down” and all that. I recall one occasion — a fairly large gathering at the Nelsons — in which he also used a pencil, rubbing the eraser back and forth in the general area of the vagina, not quite masturbating her. (Walter is incredible.) Many people were somewhat displeased by this — most particularly her parents. No one thought he was actually psychologically damaging P——— (she being so young) — obviously —– and —- would have interfered if they thought he had been — but the spectacle was not thought to be aesthetically pleasing. Years later Walter found out about the reaction and said, “But why didn’t somebody say something! I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing it if I’d thought someone objected.

I seriously wonder what I’d say to proposal of marriage from someone who’d been thusly accused, because “Are you fucking kidding me?” fails the adequacy test.
I do want to say that there are some changes in understanding about psychological harm that have come since then. The survivor stories weren’t being widely told back then.
Also, given what’s in the Breendoggle, if that’s true, I think 150 is probably a low victim count for Breen.

In Which I Take an Important Slight Turn

Related link: The Adverse Child Experiences Study
Dr. Vincent Felitti is talking about people who defied his predictions about how people became obese:

The turning point in Felitti’s quest came by accident. The physician was running through yet another series of questions with yet another obesity program patient: How much did you weigh when you were born? How much did you weigh when you started first grade? How much did you weigh when you entered high school? How old were you when you became sexually active? How old were you when you married?
“I misspoke,” he recalls, probably out of discomfort in asking about when she became sexually active – although physicians are given plenty of training in examining body parts without hesitation, they’re given little support in talking about what patients do with some of those body parts. “Instead of asking, “How old were you when you were first sexually active,” I asked, “How much did you weigh when you were first sexually active?’ The patient, a woman, answered, ‘Forty pounds.’”
He didn’t understand what he was hearing. He misspoke the question again. She gave the same answer, burst into tears and added, “It was when I was four years old, with my father.”
He suddenly realized what he had asked.
“I remembered thinking, ‘This is only the second incest case I’ve had in 23 years of practice’,” Felitti recalls. “I didn’t know what to do with the information. About 10 days later, I ran into the same thing. It was very disturbing. Every other person was providing information about childhood sexual abuse. I thought, ‘This can’t be true. People would know if that were true. Someone would have told me in medical school.’ ”

…and…

Of the 286 people whom Felitti and his colleagues interviewed, most had been sexually abused as children. As startling as this was, it turned out to be less significant than another piece of the puzzle that dropped into place during an interview with a woman who had been raped when she was 23 years old. In the year after the attack, she told Felitti that she’d gained 105 pounds.
“As she was thanking me for asking the question,” says Felitti, “she looks down at the carpet, and mutters, ‘Overweight is overlooked, and that’s the way I need to be.’”

…and…

The other way it helped was that, for many people, just being obese solved a problem. In the case of the woman who’d been raped, she felt as if she were invisible to men. In the case of a man who’d been beaten up when he was a skinny kid, being fat kept him safe, because when he gained a lot of weight, nobody bothered him.

That last? I very much relate to. I stopped being harassed on the street when I gained weight.
Next time you see someone morbidly obese, consider what the hell kind of problem is that big. Then look at the obesity problem in a new way and prepare to be stunned.
Side note: The MZB Literary Works Trust, in its bio of Ms. Bradley, has expunged Walter Breen.
Side note: Corey Feldman video: Pedophilia is Hollywood’s biggest problem. Hat tip: Matt Wallace.

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My Bag of Fuckall: Now for Real

13 June 2014

A week ago, I made and posted this bag mockup.
A couple of people have expressed interest in actually buying one. Sadly, that specific kind of bag is only available for printing in $BIGNUM quantities at $BIGNUM++ prices, which isn’t going to happen.
Zazzle bagThe Zazzle version is a white poly market tote, but has the design front and back.
redbubble-fckall-bagThe Redbubble version is an over-the-shoulder tote. (Yes, it also shows as a pillow, which makes no sense, especially with that layout, but they’re the same “product” as far as graphic uploads go.)
Society6 BagThe Society6 version is my personal favorite. It’s a shoulder bag available in three sizes. The small size is the same as the Redbubble, but it’s also available in two larger sizes. The small size is one penny different in price than Redbubble, but I’ll say this: the artwork is much higher resolution. I think the strap placement is probably better. I can’t speak to any quality differences between the two, though.
I happened to make it in one of my favorite colors, but I’m open to making it in different colors if you’d like.

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The Importance of Books and the MZB Timeline

12 June 2014

Responding to this comment about the timeline on the MetaFilter thread about MZB’s abuse and Breen’s case.
More correct timeline:

  1. Tor.com publishes their tribute piece on MZB’s birthday. (Now removed, see #3)
  2. I write my response piece and post a link to it on the Tor.com piece’s comments.
  3. When looking at my own comments, I notice a lot of hits coming from this File 770 piece that says Tor.com took down the MZB article.
  4. I’m not proud of this, but here it is. I post a childish gloat. I’d rather the original piece at least mentioned the bad stuff. Even a cursory sentence and we probably wouldn’t be here right now.
  5. A commenter on my original piece calls me out about my motivations, and, for the first time in 3 years, I re-read MZB’s depositions. Twice. Note that at this point, I haven’t yet read Lisa’s deposition. I thought I had three years ago, but no.
  6. I respond to my commenter with items out of MZB’s deposition. No further comments from them. (Given the family history there? I truly hope they’re okay. My heart goes out to them.)
  7. I write to both Moira and Stephen Goldin. I receive a response from Moira, which I asked for permission to post, and received that permission. I received no response from Stephen. (Update: he was offline at the time and has since commented.)
  8. I posted the followup piece with Moira’s emails.
  9. Only after I read the MeFi thread did I read Elisabeth Water’s deposition, unaware that I’d missed possibly even more significant content. Ugh.

I’ll promote a paragraph from one of my comments into this post:
Many of us have been through some really dark times, and we have the pieces that spoke to our hearts that got us through those times. It genuinely gives me no joy to know that, for those whom MZB’s works were those pieces, I’ve dislodged that for them.
And I’ll add:
In addition to the lives she harmed, MZB’s works saved the lives of other people by speaking to them when other works and other people would not and/or did not.
Truly.
Rachel E. Holmen, who worked as an editor for Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine said about Marion:

When she visited cons, ten or twenty young women an hour would stop by with stories along the lines of “Your books saved my life.”

There are other writers being published now who may speak to those same hearts, but if MZB is still the author that would help them, then I think it’s important that her work be available to do so. This doesn’t diminish her very real (and very severe) failings.
Rachel’s quote points out why we need diverse books by diverse writers that speak to diverse audiences.
Additionally, MZB gave a start to a lot of women writers—a higher percentage than anyone else in the genre at the time. Those writers helped pave the way for even more female voices in the genre.
Including me.
“A Sword Called Rhonda” was in fact a parody of Mercedes Lackey’s works (specifically, Rhonda was a parody of Need), and Lackey was first published by MZB.
I think the Carl Sagan quote about books is a great way to end this.
0z6lz-carl-sagan-quote-on-books
See also: Paul St John Mackintosh’s article, “More on Marion Zimmer Bradley and the ethics of artists”, which takes a more intellectual approach.
Janni Lee Simner discusses what she and her husband did with the royalties they’d earned from sales to Marion’s anthologies. Thoughtful.

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Marion Zimmer Bradley: It's Worse Than I Knew

10 June 2014

Moira Greyland (Marion Zimmer Bradley and Walter Breen’s daughter) has agreed to let me share her email.
This is really hard stuff to read, and I’ve just thrown up my lunch. I knew about none of this part of things until a few minutes ago.

Hello Deirdre.
It is a lot worse than that.
The first time she molested me, I was three. The last time, I was twelve, and able to walk away.
I put Walter in jail for molesting one boy. I had tried to intervene when I was 13 by telling Mother and Lisa, and they just moved him into his own apartment.
I had been living partially on couches since I was ten years old because of the out of control drugs, orgies, and constant flow of people in and out of our family “home.”
None of this should be news. Walter was a serial rapist with many, many, many victims (I named 22 to the cops) but Marion was far, far worse. She was cruel and violent, as well as completely out of her mind sexually. I am not her only victim, nor were her only victims girls.
I wish I had better news.
Moira Greyland.

Followed up with:

It should also be noted that Walter was convicted on 13 counts of PC 288 A, B, C, and D.
Oral sex was the least of anyone’s worries.

Link to the California Penal Code for context.
No. Words.

Mother’s Hands

I’ve updated this post to add two pieces by Moira Greyland with her permission. This is the first.
Reprinted with permission.
Mother’s Hands
© 2000 Moira Stern (Moira Greyland) in “honor” of my mother, Marion Zimmer Bradley
I lost my mother late last year
Her epitaph I’m writing here
Of all the things I should hold dear
Remember Mother’s hands
Hands to strangle, hands to crush
Hands to make her children blush
Hands to batter, hands to choke
Make me scared of other folk
But ashes for me, and dust to dust
If I can’t even trust
Mother’s hands.
They sent me sprawling across a room
The bathtub nearly spelled my doom
Explaining my persistent gloom
Remember Mother’s hands.
And hands that touched me way down there
I still pretend that I don’t care
Hands that ripped my soul apart
My healing goes in stop and start
Never a mark did she leave on me
No concrete proof of cruelty
But a cross-shaped scar I can barely see
The knife in Mother’s hands.
So Mother’s day it comes and goes
No Hallmark pretense, deep red rose
Except blood-red with her actions goes
It drips off Mother’s hands.
The worst of all my mother did
Was evil to a little kid
The mother cat she stoned to death
She told to me with even breath
And no remorse was ever seen
Reality was in between
Her books, her world, that was her life
The rest of us a source of strife.
She told me that I was not real
So how could she think I would feel
But how could she look in my eyes
And not feel anguish at my cries?
And so I give you Mother’s hands
Two evil, base, corrupted hands
And lest her memory forget
I’m still afraid of getting wet.
The bathtub scene makes me see red
With water closing over my head
No little girl should fear to die
Her mother’s fury in her eye!
But both her hands were choking me
And underwater again I’d be
I think she liked her little game
But I will never be the same
I’m still the girl who quakes within
And tries to rip off all her skin
I’m scared of water, scared of the dark
My mother’s vicious, brutal mark.
In self-admiring tones she told
Of self restraint in a story old.
For twice near death she’d beaten me,
And now she wants my sympathy.
I’ve gone along for quite awhile,
Never meant to make you smile
But here and now I make my stand
I really hate my mother’s hands.

They Did Their Best

By Moira Greyland
The cry of our day is to smile as we say
Something pat that sounds like understanding
And those of us left who still cry when bereft
Risk guilt trips upon our heads landing
Something pat that sounds like understanding
So the ones of us left Who still cry when bereft
Risk guilt trips upon our heads landing
For the party line now Is to claim that somehow
Everybody somehow did their best
So the ones who did wrong Goes the new New Age song
Aren’t to blame, we should lay this to rest.
But it’s lies, there are villains who are still out there killing
Or else for our courts there’s no need
Our jails are not filled With innocents willed
By a system corrupted with greed.
My mother did her best, yes she really did her best
To drown me for not being her willing lover
My daddy did his best, oh he really did his best
And forced his preteen boyfriends to bend over.
Some people are sick, like to make people suffer
Some people just turn a blind eye
But pretending a monster is ribbons and lace
May condemn a small child to die.
My husband was a cop and much child abuse had stopped
Like the mom who put her baby on the stove
She threw him out of sight but the smell she couldn’t hide
And she didn’t come out smelling like a rose.
Did that mommy do her best? Would you tell that little one
“Forgive her dear, she must have been insane”
Would you tell that to those burns, To that lie will you return
And hurt those shining eyes so full of pain?
A victim does his best, a victim does her best
To love and live and give up grief and malice
But when we had no love, but what came down from Above
It’s surprising we have not become more callous.
And how to learn to cope And not give up all my hope
Is painful far enough without your lies
But if you had seen me then With blood pouring off my skin
Would you have turned a deaf ear to my cries??
And told me “Mommy did her best, yes, she really did her best
So stop crying and stop bleeding and forgive her
To cut you she’s the right, and to throw you out of sight
And not love you till you sexually deliver!!

The Guardian Covers this Story

The Guardian has covered this story here.

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