Like everyone online, I watched Gamergate crash through gaming culture with a look of horror and surprise on my face. In its wake is an industry and community that is still reeling from the vitriolic hatred that hid itself under the guise of an ethical crusade.
After listening to Felicia Day’s memoir, You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) (impressions here), and finding myself intrigued (and once again horrified) by her recounting of abuse during the Gamergate campaign, I wanted to find a more in-depth exploration of the events.
At the centre of Gamergate was a young independent video game developer named Zoë Quinn. Crash Override: How Gamergate (Nearly) Destroyed My Life, and How We Can Win the Fight Against Online Hate is both Quinn’s memoir, and also a handbook for how to understand the culture—both on the Internet and off of it—that led to Gamergate, and continues to shape much of the sociopolitical landscape around the globe.
Where Quinn goes above-and-beyond is the way she’s able to pick the movement apart, piece-by-piece and analyze the way it acted as a canary in a coalmine for the events leading up to and preceding the 2016 US election. I’ve looked back on Gamergate, and also the Sad/Rapid Puppies campaigns that took aim at the Hugo Awards for several years, and often thought to myself that they were a warning of what’s to come. Quinn, in the bullseye, had a clear view of the events, and her analysis is bought thoughtful and well-grounded.
Despite his suspect opinions about art and entertainment, I’m a huge fan of Neil deGrasse Tyson and his brand of science-made-easy. Watching Cosmos with my infant daughter sleeping on me has become one of my core memories (if you’ll allow me to steal an Inside Out reference.) I’ve always been interested in science, especially cosmology (not to be confused with cosmetology, an area I have very little experience in beyond plucking stray eyebrow hairs), but don’t always have the time/brain space/IQ to deeply interact with it.
Lately I’ve been reading more science books. Stuff like Chris Hadfield’s An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, Mary Roach’s Packing for Mars, or, most recently, Sam Kean’s The Disappearing Spoon. The commonality that exists between these books is that they bite of a chunk of science and open it up to readers who didn’t pursue the field past high school. Tyson’s Astrophysics for People in a Hurry fits right in.
It’s a slim volume, but jammed full of information, all of which is delivered in Tyson’s trademark approachable style. Whether It’s learning about the origins of the big bang, dissecting the geeky roots of element names, or understanding how the CMB allows us to understand where we’ve come from and where we’re going, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry makes you feel smart even when you’re not.
I’ve been a big fan of Felicia Day since Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, and admire Geek & Sundry for the effort and energy they put into creating geek culture content, but, I’ll admit, I’ve stopped keeping track of both of them over the past couple of years. Day’s autobiography/memoir, You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost), came out a couple of years ago, and I recently snagged it during an Audible sale. It’s Delightful. With a capital-D (see, not a typo in the previous sentence).
Narrated by Day, it follows her from her small-town, homeschooled roots in Alabama to her place atop geekdom. Admittedly, Alabama is not the first place I think of producing a geek culture icon, but it makes a lot of sense once Day’s story begins to unfold. She does a wonderful job of showing how isolating communities/situations impact children and the way we all use speculative fiction to escape to somewhere more exciting. It’s sort of hard to believe now that she’s an Internet sensation and accomplished businesswoman, but every step of the way was a challenge for Day. Midway through her journey, I’m impressed by her strength, perseverance, and tenacity. And, of course, her, humour. But, I already knew she’s funny!
Memoirs like this, especially ones that aim to entertain, are a fun, relaxing way to realize how little we really know about the celebrities we admire.
For the first time in a long time, I’ve been making excuses to listen to my audiobook (which I almost exclusively do during once-a-week work commutes), and I’m at the point where I’m addicted to the book, but also dreading it being over.
After I finished reading Bo Bolander’s terrifying, terrific, and heartbreaking novella, The Only Harmless Great Thing (seriously, go read it, now), I collected myself, wrung a tear-soaked beach towel into my bathtub, took a lozenge to sooth a throat that was raw with grief, and took to Twitter to rave about it. That led me to finding out about the Radium Girls, which, well… holy shit. That led to the always awesome Wendy Wagner recommending that I check out Sam Kean’s science book, The Disappearing Spoon, which covers the tragedy of the Radium Girls, among many other things.
So, I did!
I don’t read a lot of science books. Or non-fiction these matters. It’s mostly a matter of not having a lot of room to slot in “fun” books between review obligations. But, I digress. I’m very happy Wendy twisted my arm. The Disappearing Spoon is a great entry-level introduction to chemistry, specifically the Table of Elements and the behaviour of atoms. My knowledge of chemistry and quantum physics caps out at “didn’t pay attention in high school science,” but even so I’m finding the book approachable and gentle in the way it introduces readers to its ideas. Kean has an engaging, easy-to-read prose, and he wraps all the science lesson-type stuff around great human-interest stories. (Seriously, it’s amazing how many scientists know for one achievement are also responsible for many other’s that have improved our daily life.) My only complaint: the book needs more diagrams? Kean talks us through the atomic structure of elements, and does a good job describing the behaviour of protons, neutrons, electrons, et al., but it would be even easier to wrap my head around the whole thing if there were a few illustrations and diagrams.
In any case, I’m creeping up to the creation of the hydrogen bomb now, so I’m sure the book is about to take a candy-coated turn toward peace, love, and harmony. Right?