If you’re going to GeekGirlCon this year, you can find me moderating Crowdfunding Without Losing Your Mind on Saturday, October 19th, in LL2 from 6:00-6:50 p.m. I’ll be joined by Julie Haehn, Nicole Lindroos, and Shanna Germain. If you’re interested in using IndieGoGo, Kickstarter or GoFundMe to get a creative project off the ground, we’ll be there sharing our experiences from our own crowd funding campaigns.
I recently watched the 2012 Sam Raimi movie The Possession. The basic plot is that a young girl comes into ownership of a curious carved box via a yardsale, and is quickly besieged by a terrible spirit unleashed from the box, which is bent on her destruction. Why’d I force myself to watch the movie? Because years ago, I tried to bid on a strange box on eBay. While my boyfriend at the time began to argue against doing this, our power went out. I don’t ascribe anything supernatural to that (we lived in a house with terrible wiring) but it did make the box stick in my mind. Great story to get a free drink, but I had no idea what had happened to the box once the auction ended.
Fast forward. In 2011, Truman State University Press publishes a book by a man named Jason Haxton, called The Dibbuk Box. A museum curator, Haxton is the newest owner of the strange box: the dybbuk box. In the book’s opener he tells the reader it’s up to them to decide if they feel the events surrounding the box are true, or fake, or some mixture in between. Haxton isn’t a writer by trade, so the book was rough going at times.
But he does his best to chronicle life with a strange, purportedly Jewish artifact in his house. It’s an outsider’s tale of dealing with an insider’s problem, an artifact created by a people he doesn’t belong to, but one he must learn to deal with. Though the film, based loosely on his books, plays merry Hell with the details and circumstances in the book, that basic theme is retained. There are, however, events and details that remain identifiable as being from the book, which are a nice nod to the movie’s source material.
- The stroke suffered by a woman who comes into contact with the box triggers one of the sales of the box, putting it into a new owner’s hands.
- Health problems plague people surrounding the box, particularly the victim of its malevolent attentions.
- The father in The Possession takes on Haxton’s role as researcher, trying desperately to learn how to keep the box and the entity it contains in check.
- The box has a Hebrew inscription. In the movie it’s a warning about the dybbuk within, and a caution to not open the box. In real life, the inscription is the opening words of the Sh’ma. There are deliberate changes in the spelling and rendering of Adonai and Eloheinu, which take the box from something that would require a great deal of care and respect due to the holiness of the words carved into it, to a less holy object. This is important, because that ‘loophole’ could be used as an ‘out’ for anyone who had to destroy or bury the box. Had the names of G-d been spelled correctly, such an artifact would be far more difficult to dispose of in a holy and respectful manner.
- The box’s purpose is to contain something far more frightening and powerful than any human being should attempt to trifle with.
- The box used during filming is a replica of the box currently in Haxton’s possession.
At the climax of the film, Hannah, the daughter possessed by the spirit within the box, undergoes an exorcism at the hands of an Orthodox Jew willing to help the family, named Tzadok. The name pops up in the Tanakh, and it springs from its root, Tzedek, which you can express in English as justice. That root underpins some interesting concepts within other words, like tzedakah and the Tzadikim.
I think the movie was less scary for me as a Jew because it’s set so firmly in an outsider worldview. Visually I found it a bit similiar to Unborn, and The Ring; very bleached out colours, tight scene shooting, an almost claustrophobic sense of being confined in a small space with the plot and no escape of the characters or viewer. Unlike The Unborn, this is not a Jewish film disguised as a horror movie.
The Unborn, which also revolves around a young women who is possessed, did scare me some. But that was primarily because of its insider themes surrounding faith and the dangers that can come for us when our faith is gone. The Possession was ridiculously weak in scares for me, but that helped make it more of an eye rolling, palatable slog than an untenable chore to watch.
I only have three conventions left in 2013.
- Big Bad Con: Oakland, CA (Attending)
- GeekGirlCon, Seattle, WA (Panelist)
October 31st-November 3rd
- Metatopia: Morristown, NJ (Industry Guest)
I’ll be doing interviews for the Makers, Schemers and Dreamers oral history archive during Metatopia around panels, and I’m seeing what I can do about making time available to take interviews for the archive during my time in Oakland. I’m also looking into the possibility of scrounging recording space to facilitate interviews with women in games who are in Seattle from out of town during GeekGirlCon. If you’re interested in being interviewed during any of those conventions, get in touch via my contact form, and I’ll see what I can do about getting you set up with a time slot. If you’re attending any of those cons, I look forward to meeting you!
This is a great Kickstarter of fiction from local (Seattle) small press Broken Eye Books. It’s closing in on its final day to fund, and some amazing books will hit publication if it does.
- Crooked, by Richard Pett
- A second printing for The Hole Behind Midnight (and an audiobook!), by Clinton Boomer
- By Faerie Light, an anthology that includes fiction from Jennifer Brozek, James L. Sutter, Elaine Cunningham, Erin Hoffman, Shanna Germain, Cat Rambo, Jeffrey Scott Petersen, Christie Yant, Lillian Cohen-Moore, Torah Cottrill, Erik Scott de Bie, Andrew Romine, Ed Greenwood, Amber E. Scott, Jaym Gates, Nathan Crowder, Julia Ellingboe, Minerva Zimmerman, and Dave Gross.
- Soapscum Unlimited, by Clinton Boomer
- Questions, by Clinton Boomer and Stephen Norton
These books cover Victorian horror, wicked faerie tales, cyberpunk, mysteries, superhero noir, and a whole lot of weird in between. Check it out if you like some creepy fun with your early mornings (or late nights).
2013 was my third PAX. And it’s going to be my last, unless things drastically change for the better.
I’ve given PAX multiple chances to stop being an unwelcoming and hostile space to women. I’ve volunteered at PAX, and spent countless hours offline and online discussing how to make the space welcome the actual diverse array of gamers and fans present in the real world. But I cannot in good conscience go to PAX any longer. The visible leadership of PAX doesn’t want to change the status quo, and refuses to learn the decency and empathy required to help PAX change.
The “change from within” movement I’ve encountered from multiple attendees is admirable. But the battle they’re fighting is and will be long, uphill, and slow. PAX is home to a great deal of institutionalized sexism, much like our shared and overarching culture. And I am tired of fighting that battle at PAX, because I don’t think that battle will ever triumph there.
PAX will never change unless it unseats its leadership, or its leadership changes at the very top. And changes does not mean “stops saying horrible things.” It means that the leadership has to listen and change in response to what people say to them.
Am I hurt and angry that people will continue to give money, energy and airtime to PAX?
Because so many people ‘know better.’ They’re voices for social change and often staunch supporters of women and minorities of all kinds in other spaces and their daily lives. But when it comes to PAX, they fall down on the job. When you support social change, you have one job: to resist the status quo that oppresses and attacks so many people. Making an exception for PAX is sending a message that you will only go so far for change, that you will only care so much about those who are oppressed and demeaned among you. That your fun or career trajectory will come at a cost to others that reinforces the cycles of oppression.
My energy, time, money and airtime will go to other cons. It will be invested in other spaces. My struggle to fight institutionalized sexism and prejudice will continue, within larger culture and the multitudes of co-cultures contained within it. But all of what I am or could ever offer will no longer go to PAX. I will no longer be a part of a space where I have been viciously sexually harassed, challenged to prove my “geek cred.” I will not give more of myself to a space that shouts women down, online and offline, when we have asked to be treated with basic decency and respect in PAX space.
It is time for me to stop being part of the problem.
It is time I stop falling down on the job.
The first in-the-field trip for Makers, Schemers, and Dreamers is done. Last weekend (August 14-19) I was in Indianapolis for Gen Con, interviewing women who work with, play, and make games happen. My initial number of women who contacted me for the Gen Con interviews numbered somewhere in the higher 30s. Of those, 16 responded to follow up emails. 8 confirmed their interviews.
Of those, 5 interviews were completed.
- One was canceled by me, after recording for roughly 4 1/2 hour straight. I didn’t feel I could perform an adequate interview, and didn’t want to record a low quality session.
- One was missed because the event was programmed into their phone in a different time zone. Since a number of interviews in the future will likely have people from multiple time zones, I’m going to add a reminder to the interview emails to list the event in calendars in the time zone where the interview is taking place. If I hadn’t been reminded of this the night before con, I’d have likely missed all of my interviews.
- One was canceled by the interviewee, who had become double booked.
Things I Learned On Site
- I’d originally intended to record audio inside the convention hall. This was eventually abandoned as a possibility on day one; I recorded all of the interviews in the hotel room I was sharing. The room still presented challenges to keeping the environmental sounds at a minimum, but wasn’t nearly as high a hurdle as recording in the convention center represented. From now on, I’ll likely do all recording from my room. After briefing room mates and hanging a Do Not Disturb sign on the door. (One session was interrupted by Housekeeping.)
- Recorder location: I haven’t sorted through all the audio yet, but it seemed like the audio recorder was in an okay place on the table between us. Not amazing, but okay. Next time I think I’ll want to use a tripod or stand, in part to prevent any noise from the flat surface being as easily picked up (water bottles being set down, people drumming their fingers).
- I’ll collect a more detailed sense of biography before the interview, to better customize my questions. Most people do better than they’d expect at being interviewed, but the interviews would have been more sharply focused if I’d been more detailed in my pre-interview research.
- Two hours was a good recording slot. It gave people a chance to be late, and it gave me a chance to help them warm up before hitting record.
- Providing water bottles was a hit. Spendy, but worth it.
- I really need to buy more SD disks so I can start archiving full ones as well as their audio content.
- Freezing up happens, and I need to account for that. Both on my part and theirs! The farther I got into the interviews, the more on the ball I was about hitting pause when one of us would struggle with what to say (or ask) next. That seemed to reduce anxiety for all involved, and allowed for long silences to gather and organize thoughts when needed. Also necessary when emotional content came up; the pause gave a safe space to experience and deal with intense moments.
- Scheduling back to back interviews was frankly a mistake on my part. I need to codify breaks between recordings, both for my mental/physical health, and to ensure the interviews I conduct are of acceptable quality.
- Eat/drink more. I lived off power bars, coffee, and solid meals at dinner. This was not my smartest dietary gambit. I managed to drink a bottle of water every interview, but I didn’t stay as on top of hydration outside interviews. Sleeping more would have been helpful as well.
- Bring things to help with sore throat. It still hurts, and I haven’t recorded since Saturday.
- I had enough batteries, but I’ll be bringing way more than a spare set next time.
- Find time to emotionally debrief. There was some debriefing post interview, but I tried to keep that focused on the women I was interviewing. Which is fine, but I didn’t do much to debrief myself after they’d left. I also need to not beat myself up for something so normal in terms of an emotional need.
It’s all stuff I’ll be thinking about a lot before the next rip, because interviewing only gets better when you consider and constantly refine your process. Audio will be up once I listen to all the files and determine which ones can or can’t be used, have done cleanup on the audio, etc. Transcripts are going to take me longer, because most of my wrist time needs to go to my various freelance jobs/wrapping projects.
In the end: the trip was work. This project is more than worth it. And I look forward to the work to come.
I’ll be at Gen Con this week for the Makers, Schemers and Dreamers archive, interviewing women in gaming. If you’d like to catch up with me, there are a few things on my schedule where you can do that!
Friday, August 16th 5:00 P.M – Religious Representation In Role-Playing Games – Crown Plaza Victoria Station A/B
Shoshanna Kessock, Jaym Gates and I will be doing a panel on how religions are represented in role-playing games. Case examples, both positive and negative, will be part of our talk about the treatment of real world religions in the fictitious worlds we call home at a gaming table.
Sunday, August 18th 10 A.M.-12:00 P.M., 2:00 P.M.-4:00 P.M. Games on Demand - Convention Center, on the second floor overlooking the Exhibitor Hall in room 237.
I’ll be in Games on Demand this year for two shifts, so come by to play games and say hi! Even if you don’t have time to swing by on my shifts, Games on Demand has great hours to come by and enjoy games! They’re open ten a.m. to midnight Thu-Sat, and ten a.m. to four p.m. on Sunday.
Outside of those two days, I’m booked pretty solid with archives work, but feel free to say hi if you see me. I’m looking forward to seeing folks this week. Hope you have an awesome con!
19 days, multiple countries, a missed delivery and two post offices later, history has come to live with me. The contents of this package cannot be understood until I explain why they exist. There have only been two Level Seven Events on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale in nuclear history. The first occurred on April 26, 1986, during a systems test of the Unit 4 reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant.
The experimental test led to a catastrophic surge in power, which ended in an explosion. Upward and sideways, the chemical explosion would hurl debris, both nuclear and structural. The pieces that landed on the roof of the turbine hall started a fire. Nuclear material was everywhere, and the massive amount remaining in the reactor vault would spur the creation of a crater, reminiscent of a volcano.
Aerial emergency personnel poured sand and boron down into the fiery debris; sand to strangle the fires, boron to stop any further nuclear reactions. Anatoli Zakharov, one of the fire fighters at Chernobyl, said “If we’d followed regulations, we would never have gone near the reactor. But it was a moral obligation – our duty.”
Lieutenant Volodymyr Pravik, who commanded the fire fighters who would arrive first on the scene, would die on May 9th, 1986, of acute radiation sickness. He was only one of many deaths in the wake of the reactor explosion. Two personnel had died in the explosion. Twenty-seven emergency personnel (fire fighters and clean up) would die within three months, all of them from Acute Radiation Syndrome.
They weren’t the only people exposed that night. The town of Pripyat is only three kilometers from Chernobyl. It was the night after the explosion, that the buses for evacuation would arrive. 36 hours after the explosion, Pripyat’s population was told to pack for a three day evacuation. Over one thousand buses from Kiev would remove them from the area, bus after bus taking them away for what would be far longer than three days. They were deposited six kilometers outside the 30 km safety zone. Inside the exclusion zone, their houses, apartments, and abandoned belongings remain.
The dangerous work to subdue Chernobyl’s explosion continued at the reactor site, during and after the evacuations. Alexei Ananenko, Valeri Bezpalov, and Boris Baranov would enter radioactive water to avert a steam explosion risk in the bubbler pools. When they emerged, they were greeted with cheers. They had managed to open the sluice valves. The three of them would later die of radiation sickness.
In the wake of the explosion, more than 240,000 cleanup workers would play a part in the post-explosion cleanup, averting the unthinkable risks of further explosions or continued spread of radioactive material. In English, they are known as the Liquidators. They were medical personnel, pilots, engineers, scientists, emergency response teams, police, military personnel, janitors, construction professionals, transportation personnel, even coal miners who applied their pump expertise to the contaminated water pumping.
Many of the Liquidators were also part of the construction of the “sarcophagus,” a massive cover that was placed over the ruined reactor. Many of them would go on to bear the “Chernobyl necklace,” a scar at the base of the neck, one that marks them for their missing thyroid, which had turned malignant after their radiation poisoning.
It is a scar that takes a very long time to fade.
The death toll of the Liquidators fluctuates across documents and agencies, a complicated picture to decipher in the wake of the fall of the Soviet Union. The death toll is still in motion, as the long term consequences of their radiation exposure come to surface in their bodies. Those who live are accorded something akin to a veteran status, eligible for government benefits, but this support has been complicated by bureaucratic steps and court appeals for many.
Inside my package from Belarus, is a badge. I opened the envelop in the post office parking lot on Saturday, carefully unwrapping it and pouring it into my hand. Illustrations of alpha, beta and gamma rays dance across turquoise medal, surrounding a single drop of blood. Someone who contributed to saving Europe—and the world—from nuclear catastrophe, was awarded this badge.
I have no way of knowing who they are.
Chernobyl happened when I was two. But I’ve known the story of Chernobyl since I was a child. I would press my head against my father’s arm when he would come home from work, and I would play the dosimeters attached to his badge as he ate dinner, and I asked him to tell me about science I wouldn’t understand till I was much older. As a teenager, I would wipe his face with a wet wash cloth, listening to his shallow breathing as he retold the story of Chernobyl to me, a horrifying event that happened a world away from us, while my father was working at a reactor considered far safer.
I don’t know if the person who once held this badge in their hand had children, or if they’re even alive. But for them, and my scientist father, for history and past sacrifice, the badge now lives in my home. So someone who can remember, will remember. Always.
It is almost August. That’s more than a little mind boggling, but 2013 has been a sprint of a year. Things you might not have seen:
The Hermit Collective had me over to their blog this week. Monday they posted a very kind introduction about me. Today, they ran a short piece from me about one of my favorite books: Feed, by Mira Grant.
I’m still raising money to attend Gen Con for the history preservation trip. I’m short $475 right now, which is what I need to raise if I’m going to pay for my hotel room!
My short story “Goblin Fruit” will appear later this year in the anthology By Faerie Light, from Broken Eye Books.
My essay “A Wonderful Thing Happened on the Way to a Fiasco” will appear in Chicks Dig Gaming this fall, from Mad Norwegian Press.
If you missed it when the news broke, my short story “Red in Winter” will be hitting print when the Beast Within 4: Gears & Growls anthology is released from Graveside Tales.
Peter Adkison has a Kickstarter campaign that started today, to bring the story of the Salem Witch Trials into short film form. The roots for the film lie in the Fiasco playset Logan Bonner and I co-wrote, and you can learn more about how these things relate from the film’s Kickstarter page.
There’s some large projects I’m working on getting out the door right now, and I look forward to telling you more about them soon!
The dice have been cast!
Winner of the Signal Boost giveaway for the Oral History of Women in Gaming GoFundMe : Elsa S. Henry. Since I’m having a pretty damn awesome time doing this, come back for giveaways in the future! Till then, I’ll see you wonderful folks on Twitter and here at the blog.