Happy Watermaidens Day

Today is, by decree fee, the day of the watermaidens – and this year, the watermaidens intend to invite a unicorn or two to their celebrations.

Such invitations are rare events – sometimes happening only once a century, if then.  It is not that the watermaidens dislike unicorns, precisely – indeed, some have even opened their springs and ponds and lakes to the delicate yet wild creatures from time to time, when the unicorns need to refresh themselves in cold water.  A few watermaidens have even entered into long friendships with unicorns, guarding the creatures with their magics, or beckoning young people to come closer, and place their chests against a unicorn’s horn.

But watermaidens, like unicorns, tend to be solitary creatures, and when not solitary, tend to enjoy certain activities not entirely approved of by the more proper unicorns. Not that all unicorns demand chastity – far from it – but many of the older and more traditional unicorns do feel that it is their duty to uphold the standards associated with them. And although few watermaidens continue to practice their ancient art of dragging mortals down into the water depths – in part because many of them have no depths to drag mortals into – the very existence of that tradition causes even the most frivolous, unconventional unicorns to shudder. Nor do watermaidens, for the most part, care to venture into the deepest parts of the forests and meadows where unicorns hide or dance – they are not comfortable leaving their waters for long.

(Indeed, even on this day, many watermaidens will remain under their frozen lakes, or hide in seafoam – they prefer their comforts, those watermaidens.)

This, of course, makes it rather hard to invite the unicorns to their celebrations.  Without knowing precisely where the unicorns live – and with no safe way to travel there – messages must be sent instead. And the watermaidens, of course, have never been overly fond of paper and pen – paper tends to disintegrate, if in their hands for too long. A few of them do have cell phones – but those phones rarely survive long in their watery grasps. Most birds cannot be trusted to send messages.


The watermaidens have their ways of leaving messages on starlight and the wind, on moonlight and clouds.

And they know how to sing to the unicorns.

So as you travel today, keep an eye out. That white flash – that gleam of light – it might be nothing more than a reflection of sunlight, or some creation of mortals, or an optical illusion.

Or it might just be a watermaiden dancing with a unicorn.

Ok, now I’m worried about Amazon

The following paragraph is taken verbatim from Amazon Web Services legal page:

The Lumberyard Materials are not intended for use with life-critical or safety-critical systems, such as use in operation of medical equipment, automated transportation systems, autonomous vehicles, aircraft or air traffic control, nuclear facilities, manned spacecraft, or military use in connection with live combat. However, this restriction will not apply in the event of the occurrence (certified by the United States Centers for Disease Control or successor body) of a widespread viral infection transmitted via bites or contact with bodily fluids that causes human corpses to reanimate and seek to consume living human flesh, blood, brain or nerve tissue and is likely to result in the fall of organized civilization.

Thanks to @DianePatterson on Twitter for the alert.

World Fantasy Con 2016, Update

Good news:

The 2016 World Fantasy Con has updated its website with a disability and accessibility policy, found here. In other good news, the convention has arranged for ASL interpreters for some events, which is a great step forward and something I applaud.

Bad news:

1. There’s no indication of whether or not WFC will be offering the pre-Feb 1st prices for those of us who were waiting to find out if the convention would be accessible before registering. That’s a problem for me. As I said in my earlier post, I don’t think it’s fair that, after several years of accessibility problems, I should have to pay more than other members because I had to wait to find out if the con would be accessible.

2. This sentence:

“We have reserved the ADA ramp for the Sunday Banquet.”

That’s good, but doesn’t mention the panels. Will they be on elevated stages (making it easier for hearing impaired members to lip read), and if so, will access ramps be provided to those stages?

3. The accessibility policy stresses that the hotel is ADA compliant. That’s great, but I cannot stress this strongly enough:

ADA compliance does not always mean accessible.

Which was absolutely true when I stayed at the Columbus Hyatt hotel for World Fantasy back in 2010. The hotel was (mostly) ADA compliant, except, oddly, in the mobility accessible rooms, which did not meet ADA standards despite supposedly being mobility accessible. But the rest of the hotel was technically compliant: I could, for instance, get into the hotel bar, all that ADA compliance requires.

However, the hotel bar had only one bar, at a height too high for wheelchair users. The bartenders couldn’t see me, so I had to ask other people to order drinks for me. Far worse, however: the rest of the bar was mostly equipped with high tables and chairs. Nobody could see me, and I couldn’t join in. I was effectively cut out from conversations.

That’s leaving out some other fun stuff – the way, for instance, that the floors with suites, where the parties were, had no disabled bathrooms whatsoever, or the inexplicable placing of the handbars in the second floor public bathroom – far from the toilet and largely useless for wheelchair users.

Now, can World Fantasy do anything about this sort of thing? Probably not. And to be fair here, the issues I’m mentioning are not really that unusual in U.S. hotels, and these are minor issues compared to the problems I’ve encountered with other World Fantasy cons. And apart from the weirdness with the bathroom doors and the shower heads in the mobility accessible rooms, most of these issues could be worked around. But I mention them in the hopes of explaining why the words “ADA compliance” are not always going to be enough – and, I guess, to explain why I’m going on and on about this. Because I haven’t just encountered issues at previous World Fantasy cons, I’ve encountered issues at this hotel.

4. My emails to info at worldfantasy2106.org have still not been answered.

Still, this counts as progress, and I’m very grateful and encouraged to see at least some response to this.

And in the meantime, for proof that I am still writing about other things, my discussion of The Lion King, with bonus snarky comparison to Hamlet, is now up at Tor.com.


World Fantasy 2016, and choices

First, a bit of background. The World Fantasy Convention is a gathering of writers, artists, editors, other pros and fans that I try to get to every year. It moves from city to city, which means that although it has an overall board running things, it’s run by a different group each year.

One thing, however, stays the same: World Fantasy offers tiered registration prices, depending upon when you register. This year, those who registered up until January 31st, 2016, paid $150.00. Between February 1 and April 14, 2016, the price is $225.00 – an increase of $75. After April 14, 2016, the price jumps again to $275.00. The price at the door is $300. World Fantasy also caps attendance, so those who wait to register may not be able to attend. Membership is non refundable although memberships can be transferred.

I’ve always registered early, partly to take advantage of the price, I’ll admit, but also to ensure I’ll even be able to attend – past World Fantasy cons have sold out early.

I’ve also had major accessibility issues at three out of the last five World Fantasy conventions. I was not even able to attend the fourth WFC, after I was informed – by the hotel – that I would not be able to get to parts of that convention. Including – and I’m not making this up – Registration. The fifth was fine, leading me to hope that yes, WFC was finally committed to having accessible cons.

Unfortunately, the very next year, more problems.

This led to my new policy of only attending conventions with accessibility policies.

As I type, the 2016 World Fantasy Convention does not have an accessibility policy on its website.

Prices went up yesterday.

On Sunday, January 31st, I commented on this on Twitter, and got the usual “Wow that sucks” retweets and so on. I sent yet another email out to WFC.

And on Sunday, the convention spoke to a few people in a locked Facebook group. Screencaps were obtained. Jason Sanford has the screencaps, along with his comments, here.

I went on an epic Twitter rant about this, which was Storified here, along with some other links discussing this.

I don’t want to repeat everything I said on Twitter – it’s exhausting – except to add one more thing: I do appreciate that the World Fantasy Con volunteers are short on time. I appreciate it, because I’ve spent so much time on this stuff that could have been spent on other things.

But I did want to respond to a comment that I did not see until after my Twitter rant, from Morgan Feldstein, not to pick on this person in particular (I don’t think we’ve met) but because the comment encapsulates so many things I’ve heard about accessibility.

Quoting two sentences:

“It’s certainly not a moral wrong for a conference to accept reservation payments before posting harassment and accessibility policies. You are not obliged to make your reservation until they are, but you are not entitled to block other persons who wish to do so from registering prior to the policies being posted.”

Let’s start here.

First, I am not in any way, shape or form attempting to block other people from registering for World Fantasy Con. I am not organizing a boycott. I have not asked other people not to go. I have not asked World Fantasy to close its registration system.

What I HAVE asked for, repeatedly, is some form of public statement from World Fantasy Con about their accessibility policy. And I have done this because of repeatedly running into accessibility concerns at previous World Fantasy Cons.

And because last year, I paid the same price as other members, and didn’t get the same access to the convention. I had to stay on ground level while my fellow panelists got to go up on the stage.

That’s they moral wrong: I’m paying the same, but I’m not getting the same access.

(And a small note, from what I can tell, no one in the original Facebook discussion group was attempting to block anyone from registering either – they just wanted to know if the early bird price would be extended, especially for wheelchair users who were waiting for find out if the event was even accessible before registering.)

Moving on, we have this:

“You chose to sign the pledges and adhere to their terms….. If you choose to register late for the World Fantasy Convention in order to keep a promise to the pledge organizers, any associated financial burdens are yours to bear and yours alone.”

This statement, of course, is in response to Jason Sanford, but it’s also in response to others who have not registered yet for World Fantasy because of a lack of accessibility and/or harassment policies.

1. First, not everyone talking about this signed the pledges.

I didn’t.

2. I didn’t choose to register late for the World Fantasy Convention in order to keep a promise to the pledge organizers. I haven’t promised John Scalzi and Mary Robinette Kowal anything at all.

3. I haven’t registered yet for World Fantasy Con because I use a wheelchair and I don’t know if the convention will be accessible. “Held in an ADA facility” isn’t enough; I’ve had accessibility issues in ADA facilities.

Others have reported harassment issues at previous WFCs. Hopefully, this won’t be happening at this year’s WFC (fingers crossed) but I can understand why those who have felt harassed at previous WFCs want to know what this year’s harassment policy will be.

4. Absolutely, the associated financial burdens are mine to bear and mine alone. THAT IS PRECISELY THE PROBLEM. After causing me various accessibility issues over the past five years, World Fantasy Con is now going to charge me at least another $75 because SOMEONE ELSE failed to a) answer my emails or b) put a note up on the webpage stating that the con organizers are and will be addressing accessibility concerns.

5. I don’t think it’s particularly unreasonable to want to make sure you can do an event before paying for it.

6. The words “choose” and “chose” and “choice” are interesting here.

Because I didn’t choose to get sick or need a wheelchair.

Cat Play

Just in time for some weekend reading, new magazine Metaphorosis has launched, with my short story, Cat Play.

It’s fantasy, but set in a very real place here in Winter Garden. (The coffee shop is also real – it’s the Starbucks down at the Winter Garden Village.) Partly, this was sheer laziness – using real places means I don’t have to think up imaginary ones. But I rather like the idea of a touch of magic hanging out in ordinary apartment complexes.