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But what happened inside the Starlight Lines employee forum was even stranger than that. Because it was buried one password and six clicks into the site, only a few dedicated people found it, and found each other. And once they were there, they started roleplaying Starlight Lines, and didn’t stop evolving a long and bizarre narrative for the next thirteen years. When TDV died I moved the forum to my own hosting; every so often one of the players will poke me because something’s broken, and I’ll eventually fix it and they can carry on with their adventures. It’s been thirteen years of hosting an accidental community. It’s somewhat like ignoring the vegetable drawer of your fridge for a year, then opening it to find a bunch of very grateful sentient tomatoes busily working on their third opera. It’s one of the most remarkable things I’ve seen on the internet and I’m honoured to have inadvertently helped create it, not least because it got me a few fun speaking gigs.

That’s Yoz Grahame, webhacker for the old Douglas Adams Starship Titanic game, showing up in a massive thread about the game to drop some backstory, of which the above is just an amuse-gueule.

Anent the preceding:

I feel a bit sheepish over how I left the problem of steampunk, for all that this isn’t about steampunk, and won’t be, dammit; a bit glib, to toss off Íkaroi and asymptotes without acknowledging how any one of us worth our salt should take a fence planted and a gauntlet thrown like that: back up for a goddamn running start. —And I never should have linked to Catherynne Valente’s magisterial rant without acknowledging her morning after.

Still, do or do not; there is no try. Tripping over the gauntlet and faceplanting into the fence does nothing but bloody your nose and besides, the fence likes it. —And anyway I’ve got angels of my own to wrestle with. (The themes of seduction and colonization running just under the surface of urban fantasy, say.)


(And I don’t yet know for sure quite what to do with this which is why it’s being stuck over here to one side as a parenthetical—)

There’s this thing Nisi Shawl didn’t say so much as allude to and play with, on a panel at the 2009 World Fantasy Convention:

What I said was that some critics had called cyberpunk a reactionary response to feminist science fiction. This is true. Specifically, I’m pretty sure this is something Jeanne Gomoll, among others, theorized about.
I brought up this point because though I don’t personally believe that cyberpunk was a reactionary response to feminist science fiction a) It’s an interesting premise to examine; b) Examination leads me to think that while cyberpunk and the cyberpunks were not antagonistic to feminist science fiction, part of the media hype surrounding it was an attempt to find something, anything to look at other than feminist science fiction; and c) Parallels can be drawn between the popularity/commodification of cyberpunk and the popularity/commodification of steampunk in relationship to, respectively, feminist science fiction and speculative fiction by POC. Also, I was being somewhat provocative, which I think is kind of my job on a panel: to entertain as well as educate.

This isn’t about steampunk, dammit; I’m not trying to kick it once again. (Here, have some lovely steamy boosterism from Nisi Shawl, a glorious backing-up for a good hard run at the damn thing.) —It is an interesting premise to examine—note the elision to genre-as-marketing-category in the above, which is where marketing dollars pool, instead of fears; but remember that marketing dollars have fears of their own.

But this is about urban fantasy, and while I know for a goddamn fact the way only someone who’s lived through the past forty years can know that history doesn’t progress, not any more than evolution does, that any narrative here is necessarily constructed by a guiding, editing, distorting hand without which you have just a bunch of stuff that happened, and while I’d never presume to call urban fantasy qua urban fantasy in any way a feminist genre—it is more concerned, much more fundamentally concerned with gender and interpersonal relationships than cyberpunk ever was, and while I’d never make the assertion that the leather pants and the elves in sunglasses and the vampire CEOs and etc. and etc. are in any direct or meaningful way an offshoot of or outgrowth from or improvement on cyberpunk—don’t get distracted by the dam’ furniture—

Still. The idea won’t leave me alone, is all I’m saying.

But anyway the urban fantasy crew for whatever bucks it might bring in is still I gather second class in the Beowulf game; fangfuckers, they’re called, and paranormal romance is said too often with a sneer; I know, I’ve felt it on my own lip more than once. —It’s late. I’m digressing. There’s other moves to make. I need some sleep.