Archive for May, 2014


I’m at Wiscon, the world’s leading feminist SF convention, in Madison, Wisconsin this weekend. Here’s where you can find me:

  • Friday 4:00–5:15 pm, Michelangelos: A Reading Group is Like a Box of Chocolates with Greg Bechtel, David D. Levine, James P. Roberts, LaShawn M. Wanak. …because you never know what you’ll get. But we do promise interesting readings, and actual chocolate for those who show up.
  • Saturday 1:00–2:15 pm, Assembly: How To Apologize Like A Feminist with Debbie Notkin, Eileen Gunn, David D. Levine, Betsy Lundsten, JP Fairfield. This year a handful of scandals rocked the feminist world. Prominent self-identified feminists were implicated in reproducing the very language and behaviors they were expected to fight against. Many of them apologized, but not all those apologies were satisfying to their fans, colleagues, and offended parties. Meanwhile some not-at-all feminist people stumbled with their own appeasement of fans, losing many in the process. What makes a good apology? How can someone communicate empathy in a way that is both satisfying and redeeming? Is it appropriate to demand apologies for errors that only become clear years later? Should artists be held to the same standards public intellectuals, politicians, and activists are? And is a good apology ever enough?
  • Saturday 7:30–11:00 pm, Capitol/Wisconsin: Tiptree Auction. I will be one of several guest auctioneers attempting to fill the shoes of the great Ellen Klages, who cannot attend. Do feminists have a sense of humor? Come to the Tiptree Auction and find out! You might come away with a first edition signed by LeGuin, a glow-in-the-dark squid, a statue of Space Babe, or a book from Alice Sheldon’s library. You might see Ellen Klages in a chicken suit, selling the shirt off her back, or shaving her head on stage. It’s never the same show twice, and whatever happens, there are always lots of laughs, all for a good cause. Every bit of the money you spend is donated to the James Tiptree, Jr., Award.
  • Sunday 1:00–2:15 pm, Conference 4: SFWA: Is It Relevant? Is It Useful? with Ann Leckie, Wesley Chu, Gary Kloster, David D. Levine, Grá Linnaea. Many accomplished sf/f writers don’t qualify for full membership in SFWA. Other organizations, such as RWA do a lot more for writers at every level. With the latest election, the SFWA Bulletin problems, and the attack on one of our Guests of Honor by one member of SFWA and its results, do we as feminists and writers want to be part of that organization? Can working from within to change it have real results?
  • Sunday 4:00–5:15 pm, Conference 4: The Queer Alphabet with Tanya D., David Edison, David D. Levine, Mo Ranyart, Julia Schroeder. Gay, lesbian and gay, LGB, LGBT, LGBTQIA, QUILTBAG, GSM, GRSM, queer, trans*, etc. Sexual orientation, romantic orientation, sex, gender, gender expression, preferences, kinks, and relationship models. Who gets included or excluded in the various queer alphabet games? What are the most inclusive and comprehensive terms to use? Should every identity related to sexuality, gender, and relationships be lumped together? If not, why not? And who gets to decide?

Announcing the release of “AWK Essential Training” at

Last year fellow Portland writer and Analog Mafia member Mark Niemann-Ross asked me to write and record a course for his employer, video training company, on the AWK programming language. I recorded it in April, and the finished course, AWK Essential Training, is now available to all members. If you aren’t a member, you can watch the first six videos in the course for free at

Awk2Topics covered in the course include:

  • What is AWK?
  • Writing an AWK program
  • Working with records, fields, patterns, and actions
  • Specifying field and record separators with variables
  • Using built-in and user-defined variables
  • Building control structures
  • Formatting output
  • Manipulating string data with functions
  • Scripting with AWK

“So what is this AWK thing,” you might ask, “and why on Earth should I care about it?” AWK is a tool and programming language for manipulating text files. For example, if you have a file of names and addresses and want to find out how many of them are from each US state, you can do that with just a few lines of AWK code.

AWK is older and more limited than similar but more modern tools like PERL and PYTHON, but its simplicity makes it easier to learn. Also, AWK is preinstalled on most UNIX-based systems, including Linux and Mac OS X, so if you use any of these machines AWK is right there whenever you need it. It’s also available for Windows.

I actually love AWK and use it just about every day, so I’m very pleased to have this opportunity to help people learn about its capabilities. AWK Essential Training went live yesterday and has already been seen by 303 viewers in 47 countries.

My experience with so far has been both fun and profitable, and I look forward to recording more courses for them in the future. If you are interested in doing something like this yourself, please contact Mark Niemann-Ross at He is especially interested in finding authors who are women or people of color. If you have expertise in any technical or business field, have good English writing and speaking skills, and enjoy helping people learn how to do things, I encourage you to give it a try.