a quick mid-WisCon post

So this morning I was on a 10AM panel at WisCon 42, and it was called The Desire for Killable Bodies in SFF. I’d been very much looking forward to the discussion, even though we’d had little pre-panel discussion about it. It’s a topic that deeply interests me, and that I strive to think deeply about while consuming and creating narratives and characters. The panel was staffed by myself, one other panelist, and a moderator. I was familiar with Molly Aplet, our moderator, who very appropriately made the call to act also a third panelist, because there were just the three of us. Lisa Freitag, my fellow panelist, I knew from one email before the start of the convention, and from a brief conversation in the Dealer’s Room on the Saturday before the panel, when we chatted about texts to bring up. My biggest fear before the panel started was not getting to bring up all the things I wanted to talk about, or not having intelligent responses to the inevitably brilliant audience questions.

Turns out I should be more creative with my fears! As was reported live via Twitter, and then on the WisCon blog, Lisa repeatedly made statements that expressed a desire to sympathize with both individual Nazis (in this context we would be talking about, I believe, Third Reich-era Nazis), and later also individual Confederate soldiers. That this happened once was confusing, surprising, and alarming. That this happened multiple times as the panel went on was flabbergasting, frightening, and finally just damaging.

A lot of people have checked in on me since the panel, making sure I was doing okay, and I appreciate all of you so much. However, I was absolutely not the most affected by what she said, and what she brought into that room. Most saliently, I’m not Jewish. I want to apologize to everyone who was there who was justly rattled, afraid, saddened, or made to feel unsafe. While I gathered myself enough to push back ideologically while on the panel, I didn’t take the step of directly turning to Lisa and saying, in however many words, “That was a fucked up thing to say, and it’s not okay.” The person who did eventually do that was an audience member, who I won’t name here without their permission. (Panelist and moderator names are, of course, public knowledge.) The onus for directly confronting those statements should absolutely not have fallen on the audience, particularly on those most directly and historically affected by the views expressed. That was my failure, and I am extremely sorry for it. So, again, to everyone in the audience who helped to push back, I’m sorry, and thank you.

I want also to expand on something I bought up during the panel, and to make explicit a point that I was too thrown-for-a-loop to really drive home at the time. It was my understanding that Lisa was saying she felt, because her ancestors were Nazis, that she was then obligated to empathize with them. I brought up in counterpoint that my ancestors were slave owners. And I mean this in no distant, impersonal way– my father, a white man, was born in Natchez, Mississippi, a town that still sustains its economy via tourism of the plantation houses and estates where untold thousands of people were enslaved, tortured, raped, killed, their families irrevocably torn apart and traumatized. The fact that I am in part descended from people who enacted these heinous cruelties does not obligate me to empathize with my slaver ancestors. It obligates me to empathize with the people that my ancestors enslaved. That is a serious ethical obligation, and it is non-negotiable.

Thank you also to WisCon and particularly Safety, who I understand received a report shortly after the panel, and took quick and appropriate action. And, finally, if anyone who was at the panel wants to reach out to me for any reason surrounding all this, please feel very free to do so.

an introduction, and initial findings from Spock’s World by Diane Duane

So the other night we’re watching Search for Spock and I get overwhelmed with what a babe Sarek is, but I keep my cool about it for like, a whole night and day. But then the next day he was still so fine, and I say to my roommate something like “good Christ, Spock’s dad is such a babe.” And my roommate says to me “I don’t know, I think he’s hot when he’s Mark Lenard, but…” to which I obviously replied “SPOCK’S DAD IS ALWAYS HOT, GRETCHEN.”

And far be it for me to proclaim as much without sufficient evidence to back it up. Herein follows a natural history of what a babe Spock’s dad is and always has been.

First please enjoy this description of Spock’s dad:

The man paused long enough to slip his dark cloak off and hang it on the hook beside where the door had been. Beneath it his tabard and trousers were dark too, somewhere between brown and black, his family’s sign bound into the fabric in gold at the tabard’s throat. It was diplomatic uniform, made more impressive by his stature, tall but not slender anymore- late maturity had left its mark on his frame. His looks somewhat matched his dress; a man dark-haired, dark-eyed, deep-eyed, a hawk-faced man with no expression . . . at least none that most people here were competent to read. There was energy in the way he held himself, some of those people would have said . . . perhaps too much energy, bound in check by a frightening control.

Christ Almighty, just do me already, Spock’s dad.

A prime example of Spock’s dad being hot is the whole deal with how he met his wife, Amanda. He’s mid-career, formerly a programming nerd assigned to the Vulcan embassy on Earth, then they figured out, jesus, this dude is all up in Terran culture, because he was getting real deep into the World Series and fucking off to France to eat buckets of bouillabaisse, so they made him a diplomat and he was like ok I guess.

Here is a true story about Sarek:

He once reduced the President of the United States- then a ceremonial post, but one much loved by people who lived within the old borders- to tears of laughter at a state dinner, by delivering a learned dissertation on computer data storage technology in a flawless Texan accent. The lady was later heard to propose an amendment to the Constitution to allow off-worlders to hold high public office, so that she could have him for her running mate in the next election.

That is game and a half.

Anyway, then the old ambassador steps down and they name Spock’s dad the new ambassador to Earth and he’s like ooooooh shit ok I guess, and right before he leaves this “you’re the ambassador now” meeting on Vulcan to go back to Earth, the head of his house calls him out on being super single. And he tells her hey, no, I couldn’t ask someone to leave Vulcan and live on Earth with me, I mean, I like it, but it’s not for everyone, and to be honest this whole moment is slightly rude w/r/t Earth, but he’s charming about it so I give it a pass. Plus, bro’s about to get his world rocked, and we know it, so you read this scene while biting your fist and tittering.

So he goes back to Earth right, and now he’s ambassador and he’s like vaguely aware that there’s this linguistics team working on a universal translator, and he first sees Amanda and it’s all

She did not make any particular impression on him when he saw her first-a handsome woman, tall for her people, with wise eyes.

And you know so you’re like whatever, man, don’t even pretend you’re not gonna get married. So then she figures out that he’s a total terraphile nerd-o and starts hanging around him for Linguistic Reasons such as frequent lunch and dinner dates and probably trying to figure out the shape of his butt under all those robes. And they argue about all this shit and he’s like

The quarrels were genteel- he kept them that way, since mostly he was right-

which, holy crap, the nerve on this dude. But anyway they’re hanging out basically every day and night and one night they’re arguing about a mis-translation that got submitted to the universal translator team and I’m just gonna include this whole thing because holy shit okay.

“What’s the problem?”

“This word.” He pointed at ariemnu. “It does not mean elimination of emotion. That is not what we do, by and large.”

“But all the earlier-”

“If you will pay attention to all the earlier translations, you will perpetuate their mistakes! Nor, what is this, down here, nor is it suppression. Control is wrong as well. Mastery, it is mastery. There is a difference!”

She shrugged and sighed. “It’s going to be hard to get it changed now. It’s just one word, we can catch it in the next translation.”

“And leave everyone who hears the word for the next ten years thinking that we have no emotions? Do you think we have no emotions?”

“Do you have emotions?” she said, arching her eyebrows at him. He was being teased, and he knew it.

And instantly he knew something else, as well.

“You will have to judge,” he said . . . and drew her close.

And showed her that he did.

And found that she did, too.

Some time later, a small, soft, lazy voice spoke. It was astonishing how her voice could change, sometimes.

“You know, it’s funny. .  .”

“What is?”

“Well, everybody wants to know if Vulcans are . . .”

“I do not think I shall ask you to complete that. Well? And are we?”

She laughed. “Let them catch their own Vulcans and find out.”

“Catch? That implies that I ran away.”

More laughter. “At least you did it slowly.”

He smiled. “Was that a pun?”

Yooooooooooooooooooo.

Are you kidding me with this, Star Trek?? I thought I was reading a book about high-minded humanism and the importance of compassion in the face of the infinite diversities of existence, but no, I’m here learning the details of Spock’s dad’s stroke style.

I mean, I’m not complaining, but damn.

It’s like, do you ever listen to Drunk in Love and think about the day when Blue Ivy hears and understands it for the first time and just get really protective and uncomfortable about it? I read this, and I have the wild thought that “oh my god I hope Spock never reads this.”

Oh hey and then, get this, they get married and some tabloid leads with the headline I Married a Little Green Man! and Amanda GOES ON SPACE TELEVISION and GIVES AN INTERVIEW where SHE STRAIGHT UP SAYS

“There is nothing little,” she said with great dignity, “about my husband.”

FFFFFFFFF-

And it isn’t even left at that. Spock’s dad doesn’t get the joke at first, and she explains it to him, and he’s like “LOLOLOLOL it’s true tho.” Yeah. That happened, nerds. That’s canon.

Anyway there’s the beginning of Spock’s dad being a babe. Next we will watch Journey to Babel which is not even the peak of Spock’s dad’s babeness but it’s way up there, it’s like goddamn goddamn goddamn.

In the meanwhile, I do recommend reading Diane Duane’s Spock’s World in its entirety. It’s just, it’s off the charts, that book. Okay, bye for now.