04 August 2015

The question pro-life advocates don't care about: Why should I bring an unwanted child into the world?

I don't often make a big deal out of this, but I'm personally pro-life.

Politically, I hasten to add, I'm pro-choice.

If somehow it were to be a situation where I was personally involved and my opinion was asked, I'd try to find a way to be pro-life... but I'd also acknowledge that the decision is not mine to make. I mentioned this before in "Pro-Choice and Anti-Abortion".

Unfortunately, the problem I mention there and in "On Any Given (Pro-Life) Sunday" still plagues us:

The pro-life movement isn't actually pro-life. It's only pro-birth.

I wrote the essay below back around the turn of the century, when I was still a practicing member of the Church (hence the change in tone after the break below). It's sad that it's still true today.

It's sad that after more than a decade of people pointing this out, the "pro-life" movement is still more concerned with abortion than with life.

And it's not just me saying it either:

It is a common "pro-choice" argument; at some point we've all heard it, thought it, or maybe even said it. 

"Why should I bring an unwanted child into the world?"

I thought about it before my first son was born, but not in the way it's usually meant. This question can lead quickly into arguments about adoptions and orphanages, but that's wasn't it. His mother and I discussed abortion just long enough for us to agree we were both strongly against it, and it was settled.

What kept bothering me was the implied question, the one behind the common argument. Why expose a child to all of... this?

Why bring another child into poverty? Why bring another child into a world torn with war and violence, where pollution is increasing, where children labor for pennies to produce disposable products for our leisure? With all the negative things in the world today - crime, racism, bad schools, the list goes on - why would anyone want to subject another innocent to any of these things?

I am lucky. Most of these don't personally affect my family. But what about those who aren't such fortunate sons, no matter where they live? How can I tell those parents-to-be that thier concerns don't matter? How can I tell them that they should bring thier child into this world? How can I convince them to bear, love, and care for a child who may suffer as much as they have, or worse?

That is when I realized something I didn't want to admit. The "pro-choice" people were right.

We all - on both sides of this divisive issue - want the best possible for our children. We don't want children, innocents, to suffer. I have hope and and faith in God's plan. For those who do not share that faith, though, that isn't enough. 

The pro-life movement doesn't - and cannot - offer a universal, convincing argument that thier children won't needlessly suffer. I could think of no rational reason why those already facing the horrors of the world should allow that to happen to thier unborn children.

The next step then became obvious: the "pro-choice" argument must be proved wrong. Proved wrong not by rhetoric, but by our actions.

"Pro-life" cannot simply be synonymous with "anti-abortion", even if that's what it is now. We can't just be "anti-abortion" - not if we wish to be honest to ourselves, not if we want to have others to share the hope for all children. The pro-life movement must fully live up to its name to counter the "culture of death" in all forms.

Protesting at clinics, harrassing doctors and nurses, and other actions to stop people aren't answering the very real problems in our world. We need to give all people - and thier unborn children - hope.

We must work to end the causes of abortion, the things that make abortion a desirable option, the horrors that plague our world. This is no simple task. 

Sweatshops, war, terror, poverty, starvation, illness, racism, injustice - all these things are intertwined with the cause to which we are committed.

"Pro-choice" advocates rightly point out that abortions happened before Roe vs. Wade. Outlawing abortion will not make it suddenly cease. Simply denying abortion - even though justified - promotes despair rather than promoting life. The pro-life movement should not - cannot - be concerned only with whether someone is alive, but also with the quality of that life. We must make it so that no one would ever want to have an abortion. Rather than the tired tactics of fear and hatred, we must instead offer hope.

It may take decades to reduce - let alone remove - these causes of abortion. We may not ever be able to remove them all. Still, we must try.

After all, it's for the children.

30 July 2015

Backer Rewards and Retail Sales: Funding Through Kickstarter In the Future

Kickstarter has really allowed me to be able to make the last several books happen, because the backers allowed me to pay authors a professional rate up front. I - like most people - don't have enough cash laying around to finance these books on my own.
But together, we do.

And that's really what crowdfunding - and Kickstarter in particular - is about. 

But that's also the problem.

Even though Kickstarter has gone to great lengths to ensure that people know that it is not pre-ordering and that Kickstarter is not a store, lots of people don't get that. Kickstarter is something different; as the Verge put it: "Kickstarter is a fourth type of payment, where backers contribute out of an affinity for an idea and a desire to see it exist, that sits somewhere between philanthropy, patronage, and consumption."

And that's nice and good, but I have to deal with the way things are, even if they're nowhere near what they're supposed to be.

Although unfounded and flat-out wrong, there seems to be a large number of people who view Kickstarter more like a store than a PBS pledge drive. And could cause me a big problem when the next anthology goes up.

Because we're trying to fund a concept, the backer levels don't correspond directly to the eventual retail price. When I back a project, I'm okay with seeing it cost less when it eventually goes on sale... because if I didn't back the project originally, it would never go on sale for anyone. I'm more invested in helping the thing become real than just shopping.

But if people are just looking at Kickstarter as pre-ordering, they'll be super ticked if they later see the same product for a lower price.

And with that as the case, it'll be harder (and require more backers) in order to reach the same funding goals.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do in order to work with this changing perception. Make the retail copies more expensive than the backer rewards? Just try harder to get more backers? Assume that less expensive backer levels will attract more backers?

What do you think? How do you look at Kickstarter? What do you think about the price points for the backer rewards?

28 July 2015

If the Panel Is Not Diverse, Get Up And Leave

Obvious (to me) disclaimers: I am not claiming personal discrimination here; I am assuming  structural discrimination and unconscious bias. I am also less interested here in an individual's beliefs than the behaviors involved. Thanks.

I am tired of writing about panels - especially panels on diversity - that are not diverse themselves.

GenCon had a panel on diversity in gaming with an all male panel back in 2011(screenshot). Denver Comic Con had an all male "Women in Comics" panel in May of this year. And now GenCon's Writer's Symposium had (past tense) an "Writing Women Friendly Comics" with all male panelists.

Yes, had. When The Mary Sue wrote the article about the Symposium, it got attention, and "female speakers have reached out to the WS, and now are set to join the panel". When you look at the Symposium's blog, the organizer, Marc Tassin1 said:
To ensure that the women we hoped to involve knew how much we wanted them there, I've re-extended a number of invitations. I want them to know how much I personally would have liked to have them join us. It's unrealistic that at this late stage they can join us, but if not this year, perhaps we can try again in 2016.

I'm also talking to the women who volunteered to join us this year. I'm not going to make any final decisions until Monday, but I'll let you know then what we've decided. As I said, some really cool people reached out to us. There is no way I'm going to say no to that generosity. We may even be able to add a few cool panels thanks to there offers.

Thankfully, there are now quite a few women on this panel (and in the comic writing track in total); you can read that announcement from Monday on the Symposium's blog. That's an important change, and one I'm glad to see. So kudos to the Symposium for fixing the problem when it was pointed out.

I'm glad that the attention that The Mary Sue brought effected real and speedy change. But The Mary Sue (or a high profile blog) can't be at every convention... and the reasons given for the lack of diversity are still sadly the same.

The reasons for the lack of diversity usually boil down to one of two things (or a combination of both):

1. There was a schedule conflict/we couldn't get anyone to attend
2. It's about "quality" above all else

Let's ignore the insulting nature of the "quality" argument (which is just a variant of the "I don't see race/gender/etc" argument)2 and address the actual issue.

I've organized programming for a convention before. My first time out of the gate, 42% of the panelists were female. 79.6% of the panels had both men and women, and all the panels that were about a specific gender had that gender well represented.

And unlike some cons I've heard of that use one or two women or people of color on many multiple panels to technically have some representation, most of my panelists had only three panels.

From the feedback about the convention's programming, the quality of programming was as good or better than it had been in prior years. And that was a small convention, with a regional draw and a very limited budget.

But that wasn't good enough, and had I the chance to do programming again, I'd be even more deliberate in ensuring equity.

But for FSM's sake, we aren't even talking about the overall panels at these conventions, but just panels specifically about diversity and a particular gender.

PROTIP: If you can't get people of the impacted group to be on your panel about that impacted group, either look harder or cancel the panel.

Look, I am not saying that anybody's being deliberately sexist or racist. I'm not saying that these exclusions are conscious decisions.

I am saying that we must expend conscious effort to overcome our unconscious biases to reach out to and include people of all types.

Those unconscious biases are, well, unconscious. (Again, see Liz Bourke's essay over on Tor.com.) These biases are only able to be overcome through deliberate and conscious effort.

Or to put it another way, if you rely on reaching out to "the best people you can", you cannot assume that you will get a diverse and representative mix, because your unconscious judgement of "the best" will be skewed.

Last year I pointed at plzdiversifyyourpanel and pointed out that ensuring diversity in our panels is "something that those of us who are running conventions must be aware of... and it's a standard that we must be held accountable to."

But who, exactly, should be holding programming types accountable?

The Mary Sue (or other journalist types) can't be the only ones who are holding us3 accountable. Even the panelists (as exemplified by plzdiversifyyourpanel) can't be the only ones who effect change.

There's only one group of people who can really make a difference.

It's you. 

The people who attend conventions.

One of my friends said "As long as there are butts in the seats, nobody will do anything. So all the people attending would have to walk out of panels without women on them."

That's what we all need to start doing.

We need to stop showing up. We need to leave. Politely, but loudly.

We need to let the organizers know why we are leaving. Let the other people there know why we are leaving.

Because our community is inclusive, and all voices should be heard.

And that's worth standing up for.

1 Full disclosure: I've known Marc for many years; he's invited me to the Symposium in the past. This isn't about him; this example is just the latest in a long line of examples.
2 If you don't understand why "I don't see X" is an insulting and racist/sexist/etc statement, let me point you to https://medium.com/@kurafire/why-saying-i-dont-see-race-gender-etc-is-offensive-f84b94d75a51 and http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jan/26/do-not-see-race-ignoring-racism-not-helping for a quick primer.
3 Yes, us. The people in charge of selecting panelists, guests, authors, editors, and the like. Please see the opening paragraphs of this post.