Deirdre Saoirse Moen

Sounds Like Weird

Clarion Write-a-Thon

19 June 2013

Every year, the Clarion workshop at UCSD has a fundraiser where they encourage alumni (and, well, anyone) to participate in the annual write-a-thon as a fundraiser. The dates of the write-a-thon overlap the workshop itself, reminding us how crazy we were to do nothing but write, edit, and critique for six weeks.
I’ll be participating, thought it’s going to be interesting to see how much writing I’ll actually get done given that I’ll have an epic case of jetlag most of the time the workshop is running. In other words, it’ll be just like 2002 all over again!
Because the write-a-thon formally ends before my return, it won’t literally be an around-the-world write-a-thon trip.
You can sponsor me here.
Keffy also has a great post and is totally worth sponsoring too.
Of this year’s faculty, I went to grad school with Nalo Hopkinson, and she taught a couple of workshops I was in. Karen Joy Fowler was one of my Clarion instructors.
Write-a-Thon

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How Will They Know?

13 June 2013

Some years ago, Rick and I sat listening to a panel of some TV writers talking about their experiences in Hollywood. Neither of us remember the writer in question or the name of the proposed show, but we both remembered the punch line, and I think it’s an important one.
It’s one of those that’ll stick with you.
Before Buffy, the proposed TV show (never produced) about vampires was going to feature a major character who was a Moor, centuries old, educated at Oxford. Or maybe Cambridge.
One of the network execs giving notes said, “He doesn’t sound black.”
Writer explains character’s background and education.
Network exec says, “How will they know he’s black?”

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On Lady Professionals

08 June 2013

Once upon a time, when I was talking casually with a guy about bringing me in for an interview, he asked, me, “So how do you feel about working in a group that’s almost all men?”

Until that point, I hadn’t really thought about it. The reality of my job as a software engineer has been that I’ve been surrounded by men in my professional life. Fortunately, I like men. Bunches.

What I very rarely say, though, is how male dominated it has been. For the first sixteen years I worked as a software engineer, I worked with no female software engineer peers.

Zero.

Just imagine what it would be like to work in your field, whatever it happens to be, with every one of your same-sex peers erased. For sixteen years.

What’s perhaps odder in retrospect was that it didn’t seem the least bit strange until this guy lampshaded it quite a few years later. I wrote down everyone I’d worked with at every company and what they did. Surely I’d missed some woman somewhere.

Nope.

Part of this was the type of programming I was doing: I started out in scientific programming. I didn’t work (as I do now) for a large company in a large team that has a large percentage of women (less than half, but the highest percentage of women I’ve ever worked with). Even when I previously worked as a consultant for a large company on a team of almost 40 people, there were two other women, but neither were software engineers. Thirty-odd of us software engineers, and I was the odd.

So I guess part of how I feel in the whole SF/F thing is: I feel no less welcome than I have in my day job career. Which is: it basically hasn’t been an issue for me.

Oh sure, there was the one boss who was trying to overthrow all women of power. He, uh, Got Resigned. And there was his replacement, who was worse. I could tell you stories, but they’re frankly the kind of thing you wouldn’t believe in a novel, much less in reality. But I can say that he didn’t act sexist toward me. Flying his “admin” back and forth every week, though, that was another story. That’s two bad apples, and there were many good ones.

I was never treated as though I was there simply because I was female. Nor was I treated like I was unique because I was female. I was just another person, there to do a job.

I’ve worked with quite a few non-white software engineers (and managers) over the years, but in my entire career, I’ve only worked with two who were black: one was an African immigrant, and the other was an African-American man who was just beginning the transition from support staff to engineering. I’ve also worked with a number of LGBT* folks, too, though I suspect I’ve worked with more than I’ve known about.

So, coming from my professional background, the field of SF/F has felt to me like it’s stuffed to the rafters with talented and diverse people, except for the relative paucity of Indian SF/F writers relative to the numbers I’ve known professionally.

No one ever called me a “lady software engineer,” nor would they have been able to do so twice. So I sure as hell am not a “lady writer ”or “lady editor,” either.

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Hotel Program Points Expiration

07 June 2013

I logged into Award Wallet the other day and noticed my Hyatt points were about to expire. Because I’ve been pushing to re-qualify for Hilton Diamond, my hotel stays have lacked diversity.

This post from Million Mile Secrets has links to a bunch of hotel affinity program expiration policies and how to keep your hard-earned points from expiring.

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The Outrage Machine Is on Vacation

04 June 2013

I was hoping to make some salient points on the whole SFWA matter, especially given that (as with many of us) Resnick’s been one of my editors.
However, I’ve spent the last few days in the Second World, and I’m rather overwhelmed by some of the following:
1. Crossing the battlefields of Balaclava, Ukraine (of The Thin Red Line and Charge of the Light Brigade fame).
2. Visiting Novorossiysk, a city with a population of 24,000, bombed so severely that the only surviving residents were a mother, her two children, and their grandmother.
3. Seeing the famed Potemkin steps in Odessa.
4. Spending time in Romania, where Rick last was during the time of Ceausescu (he visited many of the same sites in 1978), and hearing about then vs. now.
5. What may have hit me the hardest: going to a long-secret Soviet submarine base in Balaclava and walking behind several layers of super-thick blast doors where 1000 people regularly lived — all developed because they were afraid of us. (The USA)
Additionally, we just landed in Istanbul (where there’s been a lot of rioting), a person I know has been raped and another person I respect has died, and I just can’t work up the energy on an issue that doesn’t involve issues as severe as any of the above.
However, I can insert my generic short form internet blow-up thoughts here:
1. There’s a reason my license plate is XKCD 386.
2. People are complex, and too often on this issue, I see parties from both/several sides reducing the other to one dimension that is unjust. This doesn’t mean there aren’t real issues, mind, just that I’m tired of rhetorical bullshit.
3. People feel obligated to be on the “right” side when the cards land, sometimes pressuring other people to shun someone. This is evil. I’ve been in a cult with shunning and I don’t do that. Sure, I may choose not to speak to someone, but it may just be I’m tired of completely different shit. Maybe they talk too much about Ohio. Or Cancun.
4. I’m not the kind of person who holds a grudge. I do think people need to be called on their bullshit, and if you call me on mine respectfully, I will appreciate you more for doing so. Some people will refuse to learn, and some will try to learn but fail. What matters more to me than one blow-up is how people deal with issues in the longer term.
5. I love the Internet and all the weird places it has, even the ones that make me shudder. Maybe even especially those. See #1.

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Romance Covers

03 June 2013

As a side note to the whole SFWA bulletin issue, I wanted to specifically comment on the assertions that romance novel covers are all about beefcake covers. (I’m traveling, so really can’t get into the larger issue without context I currently lack due to poor Internet at sea.)
Here are the covers of the last 25 erotic romance novels I’ve read, in order (most recent to least). As an interesting point, the Maya Banks series has been re-covered since I read the first book in the series 3 or 4 years ago. Then, they had a woman in lingerie on the cover, but now have a black cover with inoffensive fruit. Which, really, is a WTF? for me, but I’m guessing it sells better. Yay for e-readers not showing the cover on the back of the device.
image

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Pounding Abalone

24 May 2013

When I was in college, I took a memoir writing class, and one of the in-class writing exercises we were to do was to write about “our mother’s cooking.” Or, if not our mother, who did the substantive cooking (which turned out to be a non-mother for a couple of people in the class).
There was a sameness to the stories: long, white kitchens, large meals of poultry, rather a blandness of cuisine that my family never shared.
Me? I wrote about the trimaran we built when I was a kid and the smell of the butane stove, the fun when people would go diving and bring back abalone. Then I got into an extended description of cutting abalone into pieces and having it still crawl across the cutting board, even while I was whaling on it with a meat tenderizer.
Abalone’s tough, you know. Really have to pound the everloving crap out of it for it to be tender enough.
Oh, and the island we were at (San Clemente) was being shelled by the military in training exercises at the time. From five miles out. Whoosh, boom!
Bonus.
Naturally, we had to read our little pieces aloud. As I read mine, I pounded the conference room table at the appropriate points.
At the end, everyone was a bit stunned, and the teacher said, “Okay then.”
It was not until that moment that I realized there was anything the least bit unusual about my upbringing. Truly.

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Best Practices

24 May 2013

A letter I have to send far too often….
Dear people who add folks to email lists without confirmation.
Someone thinks it’s hilarious to use my email address to sign me up for things I am far from interested in. This was not requested by me. You should, as a best practice, require confirmation for ANY subscribe request for this kind of reason. Please ensure my address is removed from all your databases promptly.
If any reservations have been made in my name, cancel those as well.

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The Culling

19 May 2013

We’ve accumulated a ton of books through various conventions and have run out of shelf space. So here’s what a quick read of page 1 and page 119 helped cull.
For books with prologues, I use the first page of the first chapter as my page 1. If page 119 isn’t a full page, I use the closest full page.
You shouldn’t assume that a book is bad or good because of my answers. This was merely a “do I think I’d enjoy spending the time with this book?” test. I read almost exclusively in e-book these days anyway, so I’d probably get the samples of the e-books to see if I wanted to finish reading the book.

Yes to both

Gabaldon, Diana: Outlander, but print’s too small, so I’d read it in an e-book
Scholes, Ken: Lamentation
Lima, Maria: Matters of the Blood
Hanover, M.L.N: Unclean Spirits
Lindskold, Jane: The Buried Pyramid (good thing since my copy is signed)
Gross, Dave: Prince of Wolves. However, the title implies wolves, and I don’t like wolves, so I’m passing anyway.
Evans, Chris: A Darkness Forged in Fire
Marquardt, Michelle: Blue Silence
Cadnum, Michael: Can’t Catch Me
Higgins, Peter: Wolfhound Century
Knight, Francis: Fade to Black
Kadrey, Richard: Sandman Slim (Her voice is like honey and heroin.)
Devoti, Lori: Amazon Ink
Habel, Lia: Dearly, Departed (but: it’s a zombie novel, and I don’t like it enough to overcome my dislike of zombie novels)
Shea, Michael: The Extra
Lackey, Mercedes and Mallory, James: The Phoenix Endangered
Cooper, Brenda: Mayan December
McKinley, Robin: The Door in the Hedge
Williams, Sean: Cenotaxis
Kimberling, Nicole: Turnskin
Ogawa, Issui: The Lord of the Sands of Time

Yes to page 1 but not 119

Abraham, Daniel: A Betrayal in Winter
Goodman, Alison: Eon
Myklusch, Matt: The Accidental Hero (lots of leading, but why not larger type and less leading?)
Parker, K.J.: The Hammer
Bennett, Robert Jackson: Mr. Shivers
Greenwood, Ed: Falconfar
Tryon, Thomas: The Other
Hill, Laurel Ann: Heroes Arise

No to page 1

Cunningham, Elaine: Winter Witch. Paragraph 1 was a non-starter for me
Abraham, Daniel: An Autumn War
Teppo, Mark: Lightbreaker
Sutter, James L: Death’s Heretic
Adrian, Lara: Kiss of Midnight
Downum, Amanda: The Drowning City
Weis & Hickman: Secret of the Dragon
Farland, David: Chaosbound
Williams, Tad: Shadowmarch
Pierce, Meredith Ann: Birth of the Firebringer
Langan, Sarah: Audrey’s Door (partly the annoying typography)
Destefano, Merrie: Feast
China, Cinda Williams: The Gray Wolf Throne
Duncan, Hal: Escape from Hell! (annoying layout doesn’t help)
Saunders, Charles: Imaro
Anderson, James G. and Sebanc, Mark: The Stoneholding
Keck, David: In the Eye of Heaven
Hodgell, P.C.: The God Stalker Chronicles

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Conrad Puerto Rico: WTF?

15 May 2013

Dear Mr. Nassetta,

This email’s mostly about my recent stay at the Conrad San Juan Condado Plaza, but also somewhat about my Embassy Suites Dorado del Mar stay last December.

First, I want to say that, as a result of my stay at the Conrad Hong Kong last June, the Conrad Brussels last fall, and the subsequent stays I’ve had in 2013 at the Conrad hotels in Bangkok, Singapore (twice), Tokyo, and Maldives Rangali Island, I’d decided that Conrads were “my” hotel, by which I mean that, for me, they were the sweet spot of value and luxury. (Well, okay, maybe not value in the case of the last, but it was worth it.)

Until this stay.

So there I was, at 6:30 in the morning on Sunday, April 28th, arriving at the Conrad San Juan Condado Plaza.

I got out of my car, and a porter opened the door. By the time I opened the trunk of my car, the porter was nowhere to be seen, so I brought my bags in with me.

And then I was told by the front desk staffer that my room wasn’t ready, and that check-in time was 4 p.m. And, at that point, basically written off by the lady in question until that time.

Look. I get that arriving at 6:30 in the morning one is not always able to get a room. It has happened, but I don’t expect it. What I do expect is to be treated well in the interim.

At 6:42 am, I posted that to Twitter because I was so gobsmacked.

Then I was told I could take my bags over to the other counter to leave them until my room was ready.

A few minutes later, I realized I was hungry, and I asked a different front desk staffer if I could have breakfasts for today and tomorrow (Sunday & Monday) rather than the usual Monday and Tuesday. She asked if I meant I wanted breakfast now, and I said, “I’m a hungry Diamond, so yes.”

It’s funny how one word, Diamond, can make someone’s perspective change.

From that point, Kendra tried to take care of me. She tried as a trainee with a full hotel and people checking out late. But she at least tried to keep me updated even though the lobby was becoming crazy busy.

And, more importantly, no one but Kendra tried.

So I was given breakfast coupons ($7 voucher for breakfast for Golds and Diamonds? Seriously?) and water vouchers (that could only be redeemed from 12-5 at one particular place in the hotel) and a $15 credit for food in the hotel, and I thought — I got better service than this in the Best Western in St. Thomas. Except there was a bad word in between Best and Western.

When I looked at the vouchers for water (see attached photo), the censored version of my thoughts:

Whiskey? Tango? Foxtrot?

So check-in time’s at 4, and I’d been originally abandoned until that time. And the vouchers are good from noon to 5 p.m., and Hilton Golds and Diamonds can check in from 4 (as the first woman told me) and then have an hour to get their water because, you know, they have absolutely nothing else to do in Puerto Rico but that. Everyone else can suck it and buy the $7 waters from their hotel mini bar — that is, if they have a room and actually have a hotel mini bar. The rest of us are simply screwed.

I don’t know what problem the vouchers, which I’d previously encountered at the Embassy Suites Dorado del Mar last December, were trying to solve, but I can tell you one problem they do not solve:

Treating a luxury guest who is also a Hilton Gold or Diamond member as a valued guest. One whose time might actually be important. One who might be checking in after 5 pm and out before noon the next day, for example.

A friend says that he’s stayed at the Caribe, the Conrad, both Embassy Suites, the Hampton Inn and the Caribe. Per his recollection, all but the Hampton Inn used the certificate for water. How odd that I’d have felt better treated had I stayed there.

When I worked for Classic Vacations, one of your wholesalers, one of the things I learned was that luxury customers consider their vacation begins when they’re checked into their room. And, even though it’s been about ten years since I last worked there, I have to admit that I never truly understood this sentiment.

Until this stay.

You see, I couldn’t get out my computer and work comfortably because the business center required a hotel key. Pretty much anything I wanted to do really required some relaxing and a nap first, and I didn’t really have a place for it.

But now, now I get it. Your time really isn’t your own until you’re checked in, have your stuff, and can get on with what you want to do.

This time, though, I felt like I was just treated awfully and it seriously made me question why this hotel was a Conrad when I’ve had better treatment at the lowest tier of Hilton brands. And that’s not even getting into the fact that one of the restaurants you could sign your room charges to is a Denny’s. While that offends my sensibilities, they were 24/7 and the service was better than what I got in the lobby from anyone but Kendra.

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