Ep. 2 of MRAH Out Now

Ep. 2 of MRAH is out now! In this podcast episode Benjamin Rosenbaum and I start out arguing about genre definitions, and end up talking about marriage and polyamory, and I swear, it all connects eventually? Sort of kind of? It made sense to us at the time, anyway….

(Side note — we’re slowing down release a little bit, because we realized we were being over-ambitious re: editing time. So expect the podcast to drop on Mondays, with occasional Thursday bonus episodes.)

https://speculativeliterature.org/episodes/

Benjamin Rosenbaum and I Made a Podcast!

It’s a little surreal, somehow, seeing our podcast on my phone. Benjamin Rosenbaum and I made a podcast! How bizarre. I think it will be of interest to writers and editors and teachers and anyone who is trying to make positive change in their community, but we won’t really know for a while whether anyone will actually listen to it. 🙂

I do wonder how many people will check it out, see the first episode is 1 hr and 42 minutes, and scroll right past. It was tempting to try and do something quick, in keeping with this age of short attention spans; we had a lot of discussion of length in the early days of recording.

But I’m afraid the essence of what we were trying to do would be lost if we’d aimed for a terse format — we wanted to offer a long, rambling conversation, with time for exploring nuance. (Although I admit, I’m tempted to ask Darius Vinesar if he wants to make a ‘short take’ version of the episode for those who just want a taste of it. I’m not sure it’s really possible to do that in any kind of coherent way, though.)

I’m listening to the first episode now, and it’s even more surreal, somehow, listening to something we recorded early last summer. We’re trying to introduce ourselves, and it’s kind of amazing how much we wander in that process. After all the strict 2-minute candidate introductions of the last several election forums, this is almost a shocking contrast.

Jed Hartman’s show notes do offer a sort-of-highlights reel, I suppose. This is what he has for the first episode, which at least makes it easier to skip around to the parts that interest you? Online magazines, and science fiction and racism and the time I said the n-word on a panel (GAH), and forgiveness and Dr. Who / Star Trek….

Contents:

0:10: Introduction to the podcast.

0:30: Starting to introduce Ben: Youth and Clarion West.

2:30: How Mary Anne and Ben met, in Seattle.

3:50: Strange Horizons, and staff not getting paid.

5:15: Identities, and gendered differences in how people identify themselves.

6:45: Parenthood, Switzerland, parenting paradigms.

9:55: Religion and community.

14:55: Starting to introduce Mary Anne. “This is not going to be a long intro.”

31:05: Mary Anne’s role and voice in the community, including Strange Horizons.

33:20: One area where Mary Anne and Ben overlap: a strong interest in community.

34:20: “When I see a problem, … my immediate impulse is to fix it.”

39:05: More differences in Mary Anne’s and Ben’s approaches, such as their different reactions to MoonFail.

46:45: Forgiveness and recovery and redemption after failures and mistakes. Also racism in sf and horror.

52:35: Brief intermission, featuring an ad for the Speculative Literature Foundation.

53:15: Continuing the discussion of forgiveness and redemption.

1:08:00: What you’re likely to hear in episodes of this podcast, and some possible titles for the podcast. (This episode was recorded before the podcast had a title.)

1:13:50: Approaches to science fiction vs literary fiction, and plausibility, and Dr. Who.

1:23:20: Star Trek: Picard: realistic characterization and fantastical plots.

1:27:30: Ben’s rule of thumb about things persisting into the future; also cognitive estrangement and operationalizing strangeness.

1:40:20: Wrapup and credits.

Full show notes are here: https://speculativeliterature.org/episodes/

Listen wherever you like to listen to podcasts (and if it’s not there, please let us know, so we can fix that!) — Mohanraj and Rosenbaum Are Humans.

If you’d like to support the podcast directly, you can join us on Patreon here (there are even some little rewards, so check them out!) — https://www.patreon.com/mrahpodcast

Brainstorming for a SLF Workshop

Hey, SF/F writer folks. Workshop brainstorming help?

So, one thing we’ve been talking about is setting up a SLF workshop in the Chicago area. It might eventually evolve to something like Clarion, 6 weeks in length, but for now, we’re figuring we’ll start smaller. We’re hoping all American adults who want to be vaccinated will be by end of May, so tentatively looking at July for holding this. We’ve done a long weekend workshop before, and are considering a 10-day option.

I’d love some early feedback — does this sound appealing to you, what format would you be looking for, etc. Consider this early brainstorming / survey of community needs — all thoughts welcome. Some questions:

a) FORMAT: Are you interested in a short fiction workshop, novel workshop, or both?

b) LENGTH: Are you interested in a long weekend (Fri – Mon) or a 10-day workshop (Fri to following Sunday), or both?

c) RETREAT: Would you like the option of attending as a retreat, rather than participating in the workshop? (Retreat option would cost less; you’d join us for meals and socializing, but otherwise be on your own with a quiet room to work in.)

d) INSTRUCTION: I’m planning to facilitate, possibly with Jed Hartman as co-facilitator. Would you like guest agents and/or guest editors and/or guest pro writers flown in from New York, etc., or have us stick to what Chicago has available? (Note, each one of those we add will bump the cost.) Chicago has lots of great writing teachers and editors, but they’re less likely to specialize in SF/F, so factor that in.

e) LOCATION: We’d actually be hosting the workshop in Oak Park, just outside Chicago. Easy walk to the train (or we can run you over if needed) and a 20-minute train ride to get into the city to visit the Art Institute, etc., and lots of local attractions too, especially if you’re into architecture, like the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio. Fabulous food options in the city, if that’s your jam.

f) HOUSING: There’s a hotel nearby, numerous bed-and-breakfast, and AirBnb options. My inclination is to let people sort that out on their own, with us providing a list of options, as I don’t think there’s a great option for putting you all up together, and expecting that most people will spend most of their time hanging out at Serendib House (where we have lots of options for creative space). We may be able to provide some financial aid re: housing for people in need, and/or crash space from local hosts. Any thoughts on housing welcome.

g) FOOD: We’d provide continental breakfast, simple sandwich fixings for lunch, and communal dinner (cooked by me) during the workshop at Serendib House. Happy to support people’s food needs, but the kitchen is not celiac-or-other-serious-allergen-safe, so we’d have to plan appropriately on that front — we can probably do safe takeout if needed, but I’d have to research more. If people wanted to go out and grab lunch at a local restaurant, there are lots of great options, and we’d provide a list. Thoughts welcome on meal planning.

h) SIZE: We’re thinking we’ll cap workshop size somewhere in the 12-15 person range. Thoughts welcome on that.

i) ACCESS: The house is an old Victorian, with several steps to the front door. We can get a ramp if needed, I think (have to research), but the first floor bathroom doorway is too narrow to be wheelchair accessible. We want SLF events to be accessible generally, so our thought is that if we have a potential attendee who wouldn’t find the house accessible, we’ll switch locations (probably to Pleasant Home nearby), which would also entail changing meal planning (probably still breakfast and lunch on-site, with dinners out). There’d be a significant charge for that, but the SLF can cover it as part of our commitment to access (thank you to our generous donors!), so we wouldn’t pass that on to workshop participants. Thoughts on access welcome.

j) LEVEL: Are you interested in a beginner, intermediate, or advanced workshop? (Beginner is for true beginners — no experience necessary. Intermediate, you’ve been writing and maybe sending out and possibly even publishing a few stories, and want to develop your skills further. Advanced, you’re publishing at a pro level, and want to really dig in with a group of peers.)

Okay, that’s a lot of brainstorming thoughts. Chime in, please!

This is a link to the 2017 workshop, if you’d like to look at how that was set up: https://maryannemohanraj.com/slf-writing-workshop…/

 

Launching in Theory

Getting closer to podcast launch, eep. In theory, TOMORROW, although in truth, we may take a few more days, as we’re finalizing various edits, and there’s really no need to make ourselves super-harried, since the ‘launch date’ is entirely self-imposed.

But we’ll see. Maybe we’ll have a podcast dropping tomorrow? That would be rather exciting. Mohanraj and Rosenbaum are Humans! Or so we claim. 🙂

Thanks to Stephanie Bailey for the lovely podcast cover art! I adore it.

Like Game of Thrones, But Light and More Peppy

This is very fun — we’ve been working with a local musician, Thor Bremer, to add some original music to our little 9 second intro video (animation by Brandon Hadnot) for the podcast / Youtube series (Mohanraj and Rosenbaum Are Humans, hopefully launching March 15th, my god, that’s soon, argh….).

I really like what he’s done here, and so does Jed Hartman (whom I think I’ve persuaded into being a consulting editor on the project, exerting all of my wiles (which mostly means I keep bringing him curry)), so I think we’ll probably be going with this for the first season at least, if Benjamin Rosenbaum and Darius Vinesar sign off on it.

I particularly want to note that Thor managed to get something usable out of my babbling about what kind of music we were looking for. I think I said something like “Sort of like Game of Thrones, but lighter and more peppy.” Props to Thor for translating that into something that works.

Woot!

An Update on My Spacecats

Various readers here refer to my #spacecats, so I feel like I ought to do an update. Sripati is to the best of my knowledge safe and well cared for; he’s also no longer part of our household.

My cats were indoor-outdoor cats; they’re former ferals, and it felt cruel to keep them indoors. (No time or interest in a debate on that topic here; any comments to that effect will be deleted. This is a very hard and personal topic for me; you’ll see why below.)

When Sripati didn’t come home one day, I called around, posted flyers, walked local streets for many hours for many nights calling for him, etc. No sign of him, but I had had unpleasant encounters before with a couple of people in the community who were very anti the concept of outdoor cats; two of them had bitterly harangued me on the subject. I had a suspicion that perhaps Sri had been taken by one of them.

That turns out to be the case, it looks like. Recently, I got a notification from Sripati’s chip, that he’d ‘been found’. I called, and it turned out from talking to the vet that someone had had Sri for months, had finally brought him in (looking well-groomed and well-fed, the vet assured me), the chip was discovered, of course, and so I was contacted.

The vet was in a difficult position — I didn’t want to push him to give me the contact information for the person who had stolen my cat. I sadly asked him to please pass my phone number and e-mail on to that person, and to tell them that if they didn’t want to return him, I was willing to sign over ownership of Sripati to them so that they would be able to keep taking care of him properly — taking him to the vet, keeping up his village licensing, etc.

They never called; presumably they’re worried that I’ll demand my cat back, despite my assurances to the vet. The upshot of all of this is that I’m frustrated that I can’t do this last thing for Sripati, but I do think he’s with someone who likely adores him and treats him well. Maybe they’ll be able to keep bringing him to that vet who will know to turn a blind eye to the chip in Sri’s ear.

Hopefully he’s adapted to becoming a solely indoor cat — it’s hard for me to imagine given how adventurous Sripati was previously — he was forever climbing to the top of our garage, leaping from there to the shed roof and then the fence. But he was an adolescent then, and now he’s older, so I hope he’s settled down to a quieter adult life. He already made a big transition from being a feral cat found in Puerto Rico by the astronomers at Arecibo Observatory; he’s adaptable.

I take a little comfort in the fact that he and Arya (brothers) had started scrapping at each other a bit around the time Sri was taken, as I gather adolescent boy cats are often wont to do, so perhaps he’s enjoying a more peaceful life now. Arya can be a bit of a bully, I think.

So we’re now a one dog (Ellie) and one cat (Aryabhata) family. It’s sad, but I think Sri is probably doing fine, which is the important thing.

The Winner of the SLF 2021 Working-Class Writers Grant

Congratulations to Jackie Fallis (they/them), who has won the SLF’s 2021 Working-Class Writers Grant ($1000) for their submission ‘A is for Amiable.’

Jackie Fallis is from Ontario, California. They write speculative literature as well as essays on disability and scifi. Recently they’ve had a short-short published by Doug Weller, and they have an essay in ATB Publishing’s upcoming book on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Their favorite (but most stressful) writing experience is the 48 Hour Film Festival which they’ve developed scripts for the last eight years in a row. Jackie has a BA in Creative Writing from the University of Central Florida.

*****

To learn more about SLF grants (which are free to apply), visit: https://speculativeliterature.org/grants/

The SLF is a 501(c)3 non-profit, and our grants are supported by your donations. To become a member ($2 / month), visit https://speculativeliterature.org/membership/. We also welcome one-time donations, including stock gifts — details here: https://speculativeliterature.org/donate/

Narratopias

From Plurality University: “We are extremely happy to launch our next collective project, Narratopias. Narratopias is a collective, open project that wishes to organize, on a global scale, a collective response to the recurring call for “new narratives.” (https://corpora.latelier-des-chercheurs.fr/narratopia/)

It is a project for all of you who wish to work with alternative narratives and transform them in seeds of concrete change!

The project launches with a first objective:

• To collect +300 narratives from all over the world before april 2021!

Then, we wish to connect, facilitate, and support initiatives that both enrich the diversity of narratives, and use them to empower individuals and communities to think up or effect transformations.

Find out how you can participate! (https://www.plurality-university.org/projects/narratopias)

· Save The Date: On March 18th, from 2:30-4:30 PM (CET time), to start off the project, U+ will organize an open workshop where we will share tools and methods on how you can organize your own activity around narratives and work from them. Register for free: https://plurality-university.us19.list-manage.com/…/cli…

NOTE: The workshop registration page is in French, but if you click on ‘S’inscrire,’ you’ll be taking to register and can choose your language from there.

I *think* it starts at 8:30 a.m. in Chicago time, if I got the conversion right. Plurality U+ is based in France.

Getting Ready for Our SLF Discord Hangout

We’re getting ready to open up a Discord hangout space for writers, through the SLF (so members-only, at least to start). In my experience, all such spaces must be moderated with a pretty firm hand to be effective; we have one moderator so far, but could use a few more. I don’t want to throw Emmanuel Henderson in at the deep end on this.

If you’re interested in helping us out with this, we’d be happy to give a free two-year membership in thanks for signing up to serve as a moderator (for at least three months). Membership doesn’t actually get you THAT much yet (access to the co-writing sessions), but we’re starting to build it out more, so I expect it’ll get you more and more as time goes on. 🙂

Comment below or DM me if interested. If you already have moderation experience, that’d be a big plus, so please note below.