dreamer_easy: (snow kate)
White Fragility: Why It's So Hard to Talk to White People About Racism (The Good Men Project, April 2015). If you're white, like me, this spells out some of the assumptions you've absorbed from the surrounding culture. It's US-based, but much of it applies to Australia. Come to think of it, a lot of it applies to feminism as well, with the important difference that racism is taboo and sexism isn't.

The bacterial flagellar motor: brilliant evolution or intelligent design? (ABC Science, July 2015). "A central tenet of this theory [intelligent design] is the notion of 'irreducible complexity'. This asserts that some biological machines — like the flagellar motor — must be the product of design, because if you were to remove one or two components from the motor it would not function properly, or at all. The logic being, this motor was designed as a whole construction — it didn't evolve through a series of steps, so the individual parts of the motor would serve no purpose on their own. So the creationist argument relies on us finding no evidence of individual parts of the motor having a role outside of bacterial flagella. Luckily, individual components of the bacterial flagellar motor have indeed been found elsewhere. And they work. So the motor is 'reducible', and certainly not 'irreducibly complex'." This is one of my favourite things about evolution - the kludgy use of whatever's in the toolbox at the time. It's why some antidepressants give you tummy trouble; the same receptors are present in the brain and gut, being used for different purposes. (Well, I say "favourite"...)

The Evil Has No Name (The Daemons): Phil Sandifer's review of the story, from five years ago, which I've just enjoyed re-reading and bookmarked because of the observation that Doctor Who is about putting things together which shouldn't go together. That's missing from the SF I'm trying to write at the moment, I think.

Is Nature Unnatural? (Quanta Magazine, April 2013). That is, is there some explanation for the constants in physics, or are they the result of a multiversal roll of the dice?

I'm only two decades late in discovering the Planescapes setting for D&D - somehow I stumbled across this page on the Quasi-Elemental Plane of Salt and it's captured my imagination. Takes me back even further to reading Heinlein's "Number of the Breast" in the eighties.

Rare, lonely 'lefty' snail seeks mate for love—and genetic study (phys.org, October 2016) Not only does the sinistral brown snail have a "left-handed anti-clockwise spiralling shell", but its genitals are on the "wrong" side.
dreamer_easy: (*cosmic code authority)
Got cranky yesterday with fans celebrating having bullied some jerk off Tumblr for posting some anti-Moffat bullshit or other. There's so much tedious Moffat is Satan / no he isn't / yes he is bickering on Tumblr that I avoid Who and Sherlock fandom altogether. I've turned into one of those weary old gods that bobs around in the ocean being annoyed by the pointless racket made by the youngsters. Like Tiamat. Which is why I turned on Block Notifications instead of responding to the stupid responses to my posting. Look what happened to her!

ETA: I had forgotten how pointless, toxic, and pants-on-head stupid much of online fandom is. I'm well out of it.
dreamer_easy: (snow kate)
Steven Moffat, in The Guardian, of Doctor Who:
"Young people watching have to know that they have a place in the future. That really matters. You have to care profoundly what children's shows in particular say about where you're going to be. And we've kind of got to tell a lie: we'll go back into history and there will be black people where, historically, there wouldn't have been, and we won't dwell on that. We'll say, 'To hell with it, this is the imaginary, better version of the world. By believing in it, we'll summon it forth.'"
This explains the crowds in The Magician's Apprentice and The Woman Who Lived, which we've recently rewatched; both were as diverse as any scene in modern urban Britain. However, the presence of non-white people in Mediaeval Essex or the Commonwealth of England, and throughout Britain's history, is not a lie; it's just not a well-known fact. Those recent scenes may exaggerate the numbers, but the new show has long made a point of including some non-white characters in historical European settings.

Here's a few thoughts:

White and Black aren't the only colours; how about mixing it up a bit with more South Asian / Desi actors, more Chinese British actors, more actors with a Middle Eastern background, etc.

How about historical settings outside British / European history?

And historical settings in Britain and Europe in which non-white people were prominent; for example, the 1920s, amongst Chinese immigrants in Liverpool or Black Americans in Paris?

I was impressed by the acknowledgement of Black Britons in Shakespeare's time in The Shakespeare Code, but in her essay for "Doctor Who and Race", Fire Fly pointed out that the issue of race is quickly swept under the carpet. It would be really interesting to see a story which tackles racial issues more directly - not just to tut-tut at the past and by implication congratulate ourselves on being more enlightened, but as plot points in an adventure story: there are places you can't go, people you can't talk to, things you can't do, because of who you are and where and when. This could be done by dropping the Doctor into a setting where white people are unusual and/or unwelcome - such as Japan in the time of the Sakoku Edict. Bonus points for comparing historical racism to modern racism.


May. 8th, 2016 08:37 pm
dreamer_easy: (snow kate)
Something that has bugged me slightly forever is the bit in "Four to Doomsday" where Adric and Nyssa are bitching at each other about mathematics. Tegan is irked about having to wait to get home. Adric suggests that, in the meantime, she reads Alfred North Whitehead and Bertrand Russell's Principia Mathematica. Tegan is less than keen. Adric, with astonishing venom, responds: "That's the trouble with women. Mindless, impatient, and bossy. " Nyssa, who's reading Russell's book, retaliates: "You mean this? Mindless!"

I thought of Nyssa's harsh dismissal of the Principia when I was reading Douglas Hofstadter's I Am A Strange Loop. Obviously she's partly just repeating Adric's words back at him, and partly unimpressed with what, to an alien from an advanced civilisation, must seem like a pretty basic text. I'm not an alien from an advanced civilisation, but luckily Hofstadter had explained it in Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, which I read many years ago. Very simply put, Russell and Whitehead were trying to lay out the formal logic that underpins all of mathematics, and Russell discovered what Hofstadter punningly calls "a terrible loophole".

Russell had been using set theory to explain maths. You might imagine "the set of all even numbers" or "the set of all pink elephants" (an "empty set"). But what happens if you define "the set of all sets that don't contain themselves"? If that set contains itself, then it doesn't belong to the set of sets that don't contain themselves, but if it doesn't contain itself, then the set is not the set of all sets that don't contain themselves. If it gives you a headache, imagine what it did to Russell. (The paradox which the Doctor gives BOSS in The Green Death is similar: "If I were to tell you that the next thing I say will be true, but that the last thing I said was a lie, would you believe me?")

Russell "solved" this by banning paradoxes, self-references, or loops, whatever you want to call them, from maths. But Hofstadter challenges this in many ways (he might like the sentence "This sentence was not posted on Livejournal"), and more to the point here, he talks about self-reference as being the basis of consciousness. IIUC, we are literally self-aware. He says that a mosquito probably doesn't know it has a head, that a dog probably has a pretty good idea of "that's my tail", "that's my paw", and that human beings know they have brains and minds. That's why the book's called "I Am A Strange Loop".

If self-reference is what makes a mind, and the Principia Mathematica excludes self-reference, then it is literally "mindless". :)

... good gods, I hope this makes some sort of sense to someone else.
dreamer_easy: (*writing 7)
Feast your ears upon two a half hours of my dulcet tones in the latest Eruditorum Press Podcast! Phil Sandifer and I discuss the Doctor Who novels of the wilderness years, the Faction Paradox anthology Liberating Earth, and the Doctor Who season finale Hell Bent, as well as whatever else pops into our heads. I had a blast recording it, so I hope a few people out there enjoy listening to it. :)

Here's the link:

Eruditorum Press Doctor Who Series 9 Podcast: Hell Bent
dreamer_easy: (*gender)
(From my previous lj, [livejournal.com profile] kateorman, cut-and-pasted here for my convenience. The original context was a 2008 discussion of whether fandom is gendered and whether men and women communicate differently. Well, I say "discussion"...)


Fan-What? "In theory, Fanboy and Fangirl are simply gendered terms to differentiate a male fan and a female fan. In practical use, they have not only a different gender but an entirely different meaning."

When Worlds Collide: Fandom and Male Privilege

Conversation a different art for men and women

Fanboy vs Fangirl / Fanboy vs fangirl: data points (numerous links and notes - should probably unpack here)

Fangenderqueer? If only I'd known the term "gender non-conforming" in 2008.

The When Did the Shippers Take Over Online Who Fandom? panel and the changing demographics of Doctor Who fandom on the Internet.

Doctor Who fandom demographics poll. Slightly screwed up by lj, but the definitions of fangirl and fanboy are still there and still interesting.

Scientific American, 6 July 2007: Do Women Talk More than Men?. (No.)

There are a ton of relevant postings at well-known acafan Henry Jenkins' blog - for example, this dialogue about the significance of gender in fandom. Be sure to look at the comments at the end, in which feminists challenge the claim that it's wrong and sexist to take gender into account.

Here's a 2000 study by Herring on Gender Differences in CMC (that's "Computer Mediated Communication").

Men are from Earth, Women are from Earth: "One of the most regularly recited pieces of popular neuroscience is that women are more likely to use both hemispheres of the brain to process language while men tend only to use one. It turns out, this is a myth - it is simply not supported by the current evidence."

A question for the ages - why aren't more women philosophers?: "[PhD candidate Emily] Margo said she believed some, but not all, women preferred styles of philosophy that were less confrontational. 'Some women are more disposed to mediate or be conciliatory,' she said. 'However, in some situations you put your ideas up and have to be willing for others to try and shoot them down. This is a sign of respect. Personally, I like the blood sport aspect, but the combative way is certainly not the only way.'"

Notes (cites at the end)

Notes from the 1995 book Women, Men, and Politeness by Janet Holmes (1995) - and more notes

Notes from Enterprising Women: Television Fandom and the Creation of Popular Myth by Camille Bacon-Smith (1992)

"As in previous years, the female voters tended to be more inclined to give higher marks than the men. The women particularly enjoyed The Unicorn and the Wasp and Partners in Crime, giving these stories much higher marks than the men did. The Adipose were also popular with the ladies, beating the Daleks as the Best Monster!"
- DWM 403, S4 survey results. There were almost 5000 votes; 71% of voters were male.

A 1996 study by Susan C. Herring, Two Variants of an Electronic Message Schema, on men and women's styles on two academic mailing lists, found differences in the way they communicated, but not the same differences as previous linguists - men primarily exchanging information, women primarily socialising. Rather, in her study, both sexes used emails to exchange opinions more than just information, but in different ways. "Although messages posted by women contain somewhat more interactional features, they are also more informative, in contrast with male messages which most often express (critical) views". For example, she graphed responses which agreed, praised, and called for further discussion: women were all over these, while men barely posted any. The opposite was true for responses which disagreed and called for the subject to be dropped.

Importantly, both sexes tended to adopt the majority style (as I did in Usenet): for example, a man who added "hedges" ("it seems to me", "perhaps") rather than stating his views bluntly. Herring remarks: "Ironically, this male writer is concerned not to offend the women on the list by his differing views... yet he seems unaware that the oppositional structure of his message itself might be viewed as offensive or inappropriate." That's a very challenging observation, because it suggests that in a strongly "feminine" environment, disagreement itself can be rude. Sadly, that's been my experience time and again in the female-dominated environs of fandom, and it can only play into the groupthink problem.

Henry Jenkins, in Textual Poachers: "... I am also a male fan within a predominantly female fan culture. Male media fans are less common than female fans, though certainly not remarkable within this culture; we have learned to play according to the interpretive conventions of that community, even if these subcultural traditions did not originate in response to our particular interests or backgrounds." (p 6-7) "... this style of reading - extrapolation that draws the reader well beyond the information explicitly presented in the text, the intermingling of personal experience and narrative events, the focus on a narrative's 'world' rather than on its plot - reflects a gender-specific approach to narrative comprehension. [Various critics] document the different ways in which men and women respond to literary works... Female readers entered directly into the fictional world, focusing less on the extratextual process of its writing than on the relationships and events. Male reading acknowledged and respected the author's authority, while women saw themselves as engaged in a 'conversation' within which they could participate as active contributors." (p 110) Jenkins goes on to describe similar patterns in from Star Trek and Twin Peaks fandoms. (For more of which, see below.)

Susan J. Clerc (then a doctoral candidate in American Cultural Studies) writing in 1996, in wired_women: "Almost all fan fiction is written by women, which leads to another very important point about off-line fandom: The majority of media fans are women. Women write and read almost all of the fan fiction, make the music videos, create the artwork, organize and attend conventions, run APAs and letterzines and belong to fan groups - they are actively involved, in greater numbers than men, in every facet of media fandom. Media fandom couldn't exist without women because more women than men do the communication work necessary to forge and sustain the community. The public impression that males dominate fan activities is largely the result of outsiders' emphasis on Star Trek fandom, which does seem to consist of more males than females. But this emphasis misses the nature of the fannish subculture as a whole. The misconception that males dominate media fandom is also online-fostered: there are simply more men than women online."

Clerc suggests that fewer fan women are online (keep in mind this is 1996) because they have less time, money, and interest for the necessary technological tinkering, and because, with a thriving offline fandom, there's little incentive. Once online, fangirls publicly contribute less because they've been socialised not to draw attention to themselves and because of direct and indirect hostility from the fanboys. Surveying online fans, Clerc found that "women favour mailing lists while men go for the high-profile Usenet newsgroups". Women were less than a third of the posters on rec.arts.startrek.current, r.a.s.misc, and rec.arts.drwho (and the mailing list, drwho-l). rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5 was "almost exclusively male until very recently, and even now only a handful of women post regularly, compared to the literally scores of men"; alt.tv.red-dwarf almost entirely male. At the time, there was no public mailing list for Quantum Leap, perhaps explaining why r.a.sf.tv.quantum-leap was half or more female.

82% of the women Clerc surveyed and 57% of the men participated in at least one fanac other than net groups. Most popular was cons. "The second most popular - and the one that brings men and women fans into conflict with each other and fandom into conflict with the outside world - is fan fiction... Unlike the vast majority of print fan fiction, a lot of online stories are written by young men, many of whom have no knowledge of the off-line community and the history of fan fiction written by women. Opinions of the quality of thier online fan fiction tend to be very low among women with experience in fandom." She quotes a fan who found the boys' fic "dire and boring", mostly Marty Stu vehicles than stories about Kirk and Spock. Citing Deborah Tannen, Clerc remarks: "Telling stories about themselves seems to be part of a male aesthetic... when asked to tell a story, men talk about themselves and women talk about other people." Further, women disliked the emphasis on "hardware, violence, and convoluted plots that go nowhere", unlike their own fic, which "has always focussed primarily on the characters' relationships." (Clerc makes it clear there are of course exceptions on both sides.) In the other direction, "the worst of the anti-slash posts and the highest level of intolerance do seem to come from young males".

From The Adoring Audience, edited by Lisa A. Lewis. Quick figures: Viewers For Quality Television surveyed its members annually; in 1988, 80% were female; the chapter on filking notes that SF filkers are about equally male and female, contrasting this with Star Trek fanzines, mostly edited by and read by women. "These fan writers rework the primary text in a number of significant ways: they shift attention from action and adventure aspects of the show onto character relationsips, applying conventions characteristic of traditionally feminine genres, such as romance, to the interpretation and continuation of materials drawn from traditionally masculine genres" - for example, focussing on marginalised female characters. Fanfic is "a means of working through social experiences and concerns of particular interest to the female writing community, concerns which were given little or no attention in the original series. Fanzine stories grow out of gender-specific reading strategies and speak to feminist issues [but also] conform to particular generic traditions which originate within the fan community. They foreground meanings which are of interest to other fans; they accept certain common rules about what types of uses of textual materials are desirable or appropriate." (This last bit isn't strictly relevant here but omg it's interesting.)

From Henry Jenkins in Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers: "Media fan writing is almost exclusively feminine response to mass media texts. Men actively participate in a wide range of fan-related activities, notably interactive games and conference-planning committees, roles consistent with patriarchal norms that [relegate combat and authority] to the 'masculine' sphere. Media fan writers and fanzine readers, however, are almost always female... The greatest percentage of male participation is found in the 'letterzines'... and in 'nonfiction' magazines... that publish speculative essays on aspects of the program's 'universe'; men may feel comfortable joining discussions of future technologies or military lifestyle, but not in pondering Vulcan sexuality, McCoy's childhood, or Kirk's love life."

Why these differences? "Research suggests that men and women have been socialized to read for different purposes and in different ways." One analysis found that "men focused primarily on narrative organization and authorial intent, while women devoted more energy to reconstructing the textual world and understanding the characters." Another "found that women were more willing to enjoy free play with the story content, making inferences about character relationships that took them well beyond the information explicitly contained within the text. Such data strongly suggest that [fanfic] draws more heavily upon the types of interpretive strategies common to the 'feminine' than to the 'masculine... To fully enjoy the text, women are often forced to perform a kind of intellectual transvestitism - identifying with male characters... or constructing unwritten countertexts" through daydreaming and talking with other women. (Victorian women accomplished the same through diaries, letters, and "collective writing projects".)

Jenkins contrasts all this with posters on alt.tv.twinpeaks made in 1990. Both groups repeatedly "reread" their texts, discuss it together, and look for ways to fill gaps and fix contradictions, drawing on "ancillary texts, extratextual commentary, and fan speculation" as well as the original shows. "On other levels, the two groups' activities are strikingly different. The female Star Trek fans focus their interest on the elaboration of paradigmatic relationships, reading plot actions as shedding light on character psychology and motivations. The largely male fans in the Twin Peaks computer group essentially reversed this process, focusing on moments of character interaction as clues that might help to resolve plot questions. The male fans' fascination with solving the mystery justified their intense scrutiny and speculation about father-daughter relationships, sexual scandals, psychological and emotional problems, and romantic entanglements..." Similarly, "Trekkers on the net devote attention to discussions of technical problems and plot holes, rather than on the social and emotional lives of the series protagonists." While female Star Trek fans offline used the show to talk about their own lives, male Twin Peaks fans online "hid behind the program... revealing little of themselves". Interestingly, Jenkins remarks that the women seek explanations first from the text, while the men "consistently appealed to knowledge of generic expectations or assumptions about Lynch as author".

More from Rhiannon Bury's Cyberspace of their own: female fandoms online. Something I found personally interesting was that the female X-Files fans she interviewed (this was around 1995) were largely uninterested in the SF content; they were attracted to the show by its lead characters. This is a difference I've often noticed between myself and many other fangirls. I watched the X-Files first and foremost for the SF; and the little fanfic I write tends to be gen.

Also extremely interesting were the DDEBers' responses to ridicule, which was to distance themselves from "fangirlish" behaviour. One member said she called the DDEB a "support group"; another left it out of her .sig so that she would be "taken seriously". Some were horrified by a couple of Leno audience members audibly squeeing at Duchovny.

"Mary Ellen Curtin (2003) did a statistical analysis of zines archived at Temple University and estimated that pre-1967, only 17 percent of zine publishers were female. By 1971, an astonishing 83 percent were female." Het began to appear in 1972, slash in 1974; before that, fanfic was gen. "Given the importance of home- and office-based technology in the (re)production of stories and zines and the number of women with these skills, it is hardly surprising that the rapid increase in the numbers of women with internet access by the late 1990s engendered a veritable slash explosion. Unlike the DDEBs, the spaces that female fanfic writers formed did not need to be explicitly designated 'women only': historical precedent assured that such forums were assumed to be dominated by women... the publishing and accessing of slash is now primarily done online."

"Because many people treat CMC primarily as oral rather than written communication, they may well be able to write accurately and effectively but not feel it necessary to do so." The "informal oral patterns" online included slang, onomatopoeia, expressions like "yep", "nah", and "hmm", actions like , and emoticons; informal written patterns included abbreviations (btw, IMHO, CKR). But as Bury notes, this "should not be confused with a lack of attention to accurate and effective language use", which characterised the female fans' discussions.

"A normative identity such as upper or middle-class-ness, in part, is performed through regular and repeated use of the standard variety. It is also produced through the policing of that standard - in other words, through the practic of verbal hygiene." Some fans complained of being labelled "snobs" or "elitist" for criticising others' grammar ("The implication is that in the market of online media fandom, the stock of linguistic capital is so low as to make a normative identification deviant." lol), while at least one fan suggested that nit-picking grammar in "chatty" email had a chilling effect. Interestingly, the fans policed their own verbal hygiene - commenting on their own typos, etc - but also codeswitched in and out of non-standard English for humorous or self-deprecatory effect.

Bury points out that commentators who characterise flaming as a net.phenomenon neglect to mention that exchanging insults is also a male phenomenon, both online and off. "Typical of all female face-to-face interaction, members of the DDEBRP and MRKS did not flame, and for the most part limited swearing; worked to avoid, minimize or mitigate disagreement; and supported others' turns." OTOH: "One person's honesty or directness can be another's rudeness or adversariality. In her study, Susan Herring found that the majority of male respondents valued candid discussion and debate over attending to positive face needs in contrast to female respondents. Interestingly, I found a similar division within the women-only DDEBRP community." When bald assertions led to bad feelings, work had to be done to restore the community's coherence - not always successfully, with members quietly leaving, or avoiding discussion.

From Theorizing fandom: fans, subculture and identity, edited by Cheryl Harris and Alison Alexander. The early 90s B7 slash apazine Strange Bedfellows had 39 members, 36 of which were female. This contrasts with surveys of comic book collectors, who were overwhelmingly male - 91.5% male in a 1993 survey by DC.

Andrea MacDonald's chapter Uncertain Utopia describes the formation of private mailing lists for Quantum Leap fans - particularly women - after they were effectively forced off rec.arts.tv for being "too silly". Then a secret women-only (and one gay man) list was formed "due to teasing from men [who] did not like the women talking about Scott Bakula's cute butt, or the long discussions of the characters' relationships. The frequent anecdotes and stories that the women drew from their own lives also annoyed many members of the email list." MacDonald remarks, "cultural conversational norms that denigrate women's talk appear to be winning out in cyberspace", which is "fraught with many of our old ways of negotiating social spaces."

A chapter on War of the Worlds fandom by Cinda Gillilan states that although the fandom is not homogenous, with members of all races, classes, and sexualities, and both genders, "a general fan 'type' can be identified: female, white, college-educated, middle-class, hetereosexual, between the ages of 25 and 50."

From Fans by Cornell Sandvoss... while "'pop music, romance novels, comics, Hollywood mass appeal stars' have traditionally attracted a strong female following, "many other areas of fandom appear to constitute explicitly masculine domains." Sandvoss cites studies of comic fans generally, Judge Dredd fans in particular, and sports fandom, all of which were found to be overwhelmingly male. But female fans colonised "male" interests as a form of "opposition" or "pleasurable resistance": "Female fandom drawing on apparently masculine genres of popular culture such as wrestling, soccer or action and horror films can thus be identified as a subversion of existing gender roles and their accompanying power relations. For example, "Slash writing has thus enabled female fans to break into the male domain of science fiction fandom and establish thier own distinct space of reception, productivity and discussion."

Last one (for now): Camille Bacon-Smith's Science Fiction Culture. Star Trek initially attracted the interest of both sexes. "By the mid-1970s, however, Star Trek fandom was drawing a massive following through the endless reruns of the show. While Star Trek fans were likely to be science fiction readers as well, the media fans came to the community through their interest in television, perceived as an inferior source of science fiction. That perception attached as well to fans of the media. But men coming to the community through television had an advantage. Men had always been in the majority. The newcomer males, while annoying because they increased the numbers at the conventions beyond the level of comfortable intimacy, did not stand out as a cause. Women, however, had always been a tiny minority in fandom. By the late '70s the presence of women in numbers approaching parity with the men threatened the sense of the elite that the small numbers in fandom had fostered... media-related activities began to break down into gender-specific and non-gender-specific tasks. Non-gender-specific tasks included convention organizing, filksinging, and costuming. Male-specific tasks included amateur scriptwriting and skit writing... and model building. Of course... male-specific tasks are sometimes performed by women as well, but in far fewer numbers than by men and seldom in leadership roles." Although academics have focussed on women's fiction fanzines, these "differ dramatically from the standard form that continues to exist beside it in the science fiction community at large" which contain reviews, con reports, etc. "One thing you almost never find in a science fiction fanzine is science fiction."

Bacon-Smith reports a backlash against female fans in the 80s. "Women stopped winning prizes, and participants at science fiction conventions used their positions on fan panels to damn the women of media fandom for all the ills that beset the growing sf community." The media zines provided "one safe harbour" for women entering SF fandom at the time. By the 90s, the backlash had faded.


Bacon-Smith, Camille. Science fiction culture. Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000.
Bury, Rhiannon. Cyberspaces of their own: female fandoms online. New York, Peter Lang, 2005.
Clerc, Susan J. "Estrogen Brigades and 'Big Tits' Threads: Media Fandom Online and Off". In Cherney, Lynn and Elizabeth Reba Weise (eds). Wired Women: Gender and New Realities in Cyberspace. Seattle, Seal, 1996.
Harris, Cheryl and Alison Alexander (eds). Theorizing fandom: fans, subculture and identity. Cresskill, NJ, Hampton Press, 1998.
S. C. Herring, "Two Variants of an Electronic Message Schema". In S. Herring (ed). Computer-Mediated Communication: Linguistic, Social and Cross-Cultural Perspectives. John Benjamins, Amsterdam, 1996, pp. 81-106.
Jenkins, Henry. Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers: Exploring Participatory Culture. New York University Press, New York and London, 2006.
Jenkins, Henry. "'Strangers no more, we sing': Filking and the social construction of the science fiction fan community". in Lewis, Lisa A. (ed). The Adoring Audience: fan culture and popular media. Routledge, London and New York, 1992.
Sandvoss, Cornel. Fans : the mirror of consumption. Oxford, Polity, 2005.
dreamer_easy: (*books 3)
A proper review will follow, but I just wanted to quickly recommend Philip Sandifer's brilliant mad book Recursive Occlusion, which will be particularly delicious to Who fans with an interest in magic, Kabbalah, Wicca, etc, if only because you'll get more of the jokes. :)
dreamer_easy: (*gender)
(x-posted from Gallifrey Base)

In lieu of what I'm supposed to be writing, here are ten little-known facts about Gallifreyan biological sex. (The Doctor's gender appears to be masculine - but with an alien, who can be sure?)

1. Gallifreyans are reproductively identical to humans. Therefore, while most are either male or female, 1-2% have characteristics of both biological sexes. The Doctor is one of these intersex Gallifreyans, chromosomally female, but with a recessive gene that makes him phenotypically male.

2. Ordinary Gallifreyans are hermaphrodites. On graduation from the Academy, Time Lords (due to a tradition whose reason is long lost) are required to select a single sex.

3. Gallifreyans have a haplodiploid sex determination system, like ants and bees. Due to this, almost all children are boys. In fact, girls are so rare that they're outnumbered by the female regenerations of male Time Lords.

4. The copy of the Doctor created by the Human-Time Lord Meta-Crisis is female from the waist down.

5. On graduation from the Academy, Time Lords are bestowed with the full reproductive powers of both sexes. Their ambisexuality is not obvious to humans, however, since their reproduction is as different from ours as ours is from that of mushrooms.

6. Time Lords alternate fertile and sterile generations. The Doctor adopted his sister's son, who in turn adopted Susan.

7. Two of the incarnations of the Doctor we've seen so far were female, but (mostly) maintained male disguise. Three companions are aware of this.

8. Both male and female Gallifreyans are capable of lactation. Thus, some of the Time Ladies we've seen are in fact able to both beget and nurse children.

9. Male and female Gallifreyan external genitalia are identical.

10. It requires the full cooperation of five Gallifreyans to produce a child: two fathers, two mothers (only one of whom contributes genetic material), and a qualified scientist.

Any questions?
dreamer_easy: (snow kate)
Just posted this to Gallifrey Base and thought I'd share it here too...

A perennial topic of discussion here on GB is why there are so few women writing scripts for Doctor Who. That has to be seen in the context of women doing less well in TV on the whole. But why?

Sorting out stuff for our house move, I came across the results of some actual research into this which I wanted to pass long. I'm summarising this from page 14 of an Australian book called Shared Visions: Women in Television. It dates from 1999, but I'll bet much of what the survey found is still very relevant.

Asked why there were few women in senior positions, surveyed women answered that men's informal networks are too strong ("They lunch, dine, and play golf together."); by comparison, women's networks are absent or weak. There are too few female mentors and role models. They also answered that women lack confidence, and that they are subject to unconscious discrimination ("Men in senior positions often don't think of women.")

Asked why some women did succeed in moving into senior positions, the surveyed women answered that those women were confident and persistent, with contacts, and strong backgrounds/experience in the industry. They also mentioned that the chance to do a senior job temporarily could help a woman succeed.

Asked what would help women move ahead in TV, three-quarters of the women recommended more informal networking opportunities; over half said a formal mentoring program would help, as would skills development workshops, such as leadership and management; many women mentioned "family-friendly strategies" such as assistance with child care; and case studies of successful women would help others to follow in their footsteps.

To me what stands out here is the mention of contacts and informal networking - I think those are probably far more important to the finding of scriptwriters for Doctor Who than many fans imagine.

Anyway, bookmark this, so the next time the subject comes round you'll have some data to throw in amongst all the speculation. :)
dreamer_easy: (snow kate)
You may recall the opposition's efforts to use an alleged crime to call for "special checks" on all asylum seekers living in Australia. That alleged crime happened in our local area - specifically, in student accommodation at Macquarie University. I am proud to report that Ryde Council soundly defeated a motion to supporting kicking all asylum seekers off campus. The Deputy Mayor reminded the councillor who brought the motion: "Remember, statistically, the chances are that you will be shaking hands with these very people at a Citizenship Ceremony in five years' time." (Perhaps after they have graduated from Macquarie with degrees in medicine and pharmacy, as Zainab Kaabi just has.)

Somehow I doubt you're going to encounter a great deal of intelligent discussion of the book so let me recommend Matthew Sweet's review of JN-T: The Life and Scandalous Times of John Nathan-Turner by Richard Marson in the Guardian. I was moved by his remark that for fans, Doctor Who "can form the unifying principle of their lives". It has done so for mine.

The SMH's headline Young people who get drunk aware of risk of sex attack looks suspiciously like a spot of victim-blaming on the part of a subeditor - you'll have to look hard to find any basis for it in the news item itself.

Another misleading headline tells us that Harassed women 'work harder'. In fact, what researchers found was that women confronted by "workplace incivility" - rudeness, gossip, insults, etc - tend "try to improve their work relationships". Although the study examined behaviours that "stop short of bullying", anyone who has tried to placate a bully will know that this is like running as hard as you can to stay in one place.

Last week's Sexpo (my first, and probably my last) was extraordinarily repetitive and uninteresting. The Helpful Hunks were terribly sweet, and there was an excellent introductory talk on BDSM by Kim from MJ's Toybox (attended by many fidgety eighteen year olds), but there was nary a blip on my radar*. Why then am I telling you this? Because Stop the Traffik had a booth there, at which I picked up a pamphlet from the Salvos' International Social Justice Commission. Its elegantly written explanation of social justice was a heartening reminder, in the face of the daily news, that Christianity can be non-judgmental, inclusive, and compassionate.

Apropos of none of this I leave you with a quote from Isaac Asimov:"One of Mars's two moons is not a moon at all in our sense of the word. I refer to Deimos, the outer of the two, which is nothing but a mountain on the loose."

* Far more entertaining was the juggling, fire-eating, and general shenanigans of the Fantastic Toy outside the Convention Centre. Hell, he was sexier, too.
dreamer_easy: (Default)
... worked much better on the second viewing. What particularly struck me (and this is because I've been reading a bunch of stuff recently about gender and the military) was how that notorious misogynist Steven Moffat presents us repeatedly with images of alternative masculinity - images which undercut exactly the destructive hypermacho insisted on by armies ancient and modern, in which femininity and the domestic are contamination which must be purged or controlled.

The Doctor, Rory, and Strax are all warriors; at the same time, without contradiction, they are all nurturers. Strax and Rory both wear armour and uniforms, but are both nurses, and in the Sontaran's case literally, as he boasts in a very macho way about being able to produce "magnificent quantities" of milk. By now we're all used to the image of a warrior woman fighting for her child - to some extent, just an extension of her "natural" role as nurturer.

Here we have woman+baby, but also the less usual image, man+baby - Rory holding his daughter and crying instead of being "cool", the Doctor's cot, the Doctor speaking baby, Rory's meeting with River at the start. (And Craig with Alfie strapped to his front, as if in his womb.) If RTD's leitmotif was mums, Moffat's is surely (and unsurprisingly) dads.

It's fun how the Doctor and Rory keep serving as each others' dopplegänger (not to be confused with ganger) - they're both Amy's "boys", and we're faked out more than once about which of them she's talking about, as in her speech to baby Melody here, or in the overheard stuff in "Day of the Moon". Talk about having your cake and eating it too, Pond!
dreamer_easy: (*doctor who)
A spot of filing cabinet tidying up has exploded into a full-blown dead-tree spring-clean. I've been rummaging through old issues of Data Extract from the late 80s / early 90s*. Much pleasant nostalgia to be found in the lively letters column, "Think Tank", including debates about the NAs, the Sixth Doctor, "Elite Fan Groups", etc etc. How young we all were.

dreamer_easy: (doctor who)
Impossible Astronaut prequel. (Viewable from Oz, so I presume, anywhere.) Could I just take this opportunity to remark,

dreamer_easy: (sky)
Haggard after a busy week and not enough sleep. Spent far too much time this afternoon trying to work out what the heck Pip and Jane Baker had got hold of when they wrote the Rani's PowerPoint presentation in the climactic final episode of Time and the Rani. Briefly, her goal is to create a lightweight substitute for strange matter to detonate a strange matter asteroid in order to produce Leptonic Era temperatures to recreate Helium 2.

After which it turns into magick and dinosaurs, but the thing is, up until that point the individual pieces of the plan are drawn from real science - probably from New Scientist. Strange matter is scientifically credible, it would be incredibly dense and therefore massive, ramming a chunk of it into a larger one would create a hell of a bang. If there is any lying around, it would've been cooked up in the early, hot universe.

So you can see where they're getting all of that from. But where the hell does Helium 2 come into it? I assume P&J have the extremely short-lived isotope, aka the diproton, in mind, and not the superfluid from that Larry Niven story. It was thought at one point that, if the strong force was a fraction, erm, stronger, and therefore Helium 2 nuclei were stable, they'd have greedied up all the protons in the early universe and Life As We Know It would not have been possible. (Apparently this proves not to be the case, which is a poke in the eye for the anthropic principle.) So there's a Big Bang link, but the point is that Helium 2 isn't stable.

Once you have your Cavorite, of course, you can do with it whatever your story requires. My best guess is that there was scientific speculation about the production of, or existence of, Helium 2 in the Big Bang. So the Rani's trying to do what a particle accelerator does - recreate the enormous temperatures of those early fractions of a second and thus the elusive substance itself. (Either that, or it's an error for something else that was cooked up in the Bang - Hydrogen 2? Helium 4?)

Seems like a waste of time wondering about a throwaway line in a rather silly story. OTOH, it was Time And Yer Aunty, Logopolis, and Castrovalva, and their borrowing of real scientific terminology if not actual science, which interested me in cosmology in the first place.

To bed!
dreamer_easy: (doctor who 2)
Jimmy McGovern pinpoints why Season 17 makes me fidget uncomfortably - it's that "We all know this is nonsense, don't we?" wink at the audience. Which said, new Who has plenty of postmodern punch, but it's attached to real heart. There was no winking during the climaxes of End of Time, that's fer sher.

Now away to write insane The Lakes/The Horns of Nimon crossover porn.
dreamer_easy: (magenta 1)
I knew it! I knew I'd pinched the Caxtarids from somewhere!

"She remembered other worlds, other battles. The Sontaran whose head had deflated like a balloon when she blew his probic vent open on Titan. The Caxtarid who had kept her prisoner for hours in the dense swamplands of one of their moons, and who had let her escape only when it was obvious that the tanks were raging through the front lines, destroying everything. She remembered the Caxtarid every time she looked in the mirror. Preserved human eyes were highly valued trophies for them. It had been Cassie's price for her life."

- Daniel Blythe, Infinite Requiem


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