I was pacing around the parking lot of the dayjob I was about to quit with my cell phone to my ear. The voice coming through the speaker was a managing editor trying to sign me to a full-time-equivalent freelance contract.
Permalance, in industry parlance: a job’s worth of work for a job’s worth of pay, with no actual employment promised or implied.
“So far only one writer has managed to become an employee with benefits. So I’m not going to say it’s likely,” he told me. “But if you come in and kick ass for us, it is possible.”
It was October 2012, just three years and 10 months after I’d started an indie blog from nothing. I’d built an audience, leveraged that audience into small freelance gigs, and those small opportunities into this big one. I’d hustled, I’d grinded, I’d bet on myself again and again—and every single bet had come up Schalter.
I said yes.
I kicked ass.
I did not become a full-time employee with benefits.
The company got sold. The vision changed. My twice-a-month paycheck got diverted through a Byzantine invoicing system that could take anywhere from one day to seven weeks to hit my account, with everyone involved insisting they were powerless to do anything about it. It made it impossible to plan, budget, manage emergencies, keep up with the growing costs my growing kids were incurring.
I rattled cages. I ruffled feathers. Even as I refused to take “it just works like that” for an answer, waves of part- and full-time permalancers were being not-offered contract renewals, i.e. laid off. I wrote as well and fast as anybody, which made me hard to get rid of. But eventually, I rattled one too many cages one too many times.
Officially, my role was replaced with Snapchat memes. Unofficially, nobody I talked to could believe any explanation besides the higher-ups deciding my refusal to accept irregular payment of my regular paycheck made me more trouble than I was worth.
This week, the Gizmodo Media Group Union went on strike.
The writers, reporters, artists, podcasters, social media specialists, videographers, and editors of Gizmodo, Jalopnik, Jezebel, Kotaku, Lifehacker, and The Root, organized under the Writers Guild of America, East, all went AFK to protest G/O Media’s refusal to negotiate in good faith.
Their demands are no more outrageous than mine was: That management not remove guarantees their current health care and benefits will continue, more than just the lowest pay band of employees will get raises amidst the significant inflation of our lifetimes, the work-from-home flexibility that’s becoming standard for office work everywhere, funding for formal DEI efforts, and protection against forced relocations.
With the power of collective action, GMG Union can insist on these baseline-level demands. And they don’t have to be afraid of ruffling feathers in the process of getting them:
It’s been amazing to watch outlet after outlet band together and fight against the corporate consolidation and private-equity vulturization of the digital-media industry. It’s the only way the information and entertainment we depend on can be made by a diverse group of committed professionals (as opposed to hobbyist trust-fund kids).
Even though I haven’t been able to be a part of this movement, I know exactly how critical it is that writers and editors, journalists and analysts, A/V techs and community managers be able to create the content we all love and need with the safety and security every worker deserves.
So please don’t cross the picket line by visiting any of their sites (Gizmodo, Jalopnik, Jezebel, Kotaku, Lifehacker, and The Root), and please consider chipping into their strike fund.
Fans of Pawn Stars will immediately recognize Romney, the book expert who was Rick’s go-to for authenticating and valuating rare and old volumes. I’ve been following Romney on Twitter for years, but I didn’t know just how close SFF was to her heart until reading this wonderful essay.
She hooks you with the opening paragraph’s brilliant last line—"It was a rebellion simply to be who I am"—and then pulls you hard through her foundational experiences as a reader, fan, and collector of genre fiction.
If you’ve spent any amount of time in any kind of story-world fandom, you’ve experienced the false-binary “debates” of diversity-versus-fun, or diversity-versus-historical-accuracy. These “debates” mostly consist of straight white guys insisting that stories shouldn’t put characters of marginalized backgrounds Where They Don’t Belong, e.g. at the center of the story. Romney was repeatedly told not only that she doesn’t belong, but that people like her don’t exist.
The thing guys who say stuff like that don’t realize? They’re justifying their attempt to erase marginalized people by pointing at the same erasure done in the past. They think science fiction was historically by and for men because many of those Great Historical Men worked hard to exclude the women who were writing and reading alongside them. The reason they think there were no brown or Black people in the medieval Europe on which much fantasy is modeled? Yeah, literal white supremacists pushed that idea into our culture. The men who decades ago told girls like Romney that feminist SF doesn’t exist raised a generation of boys to believe feminist SF shouldn’t exist.
As Romney discovered through the act of collection, tales of science fiction and fantasy have always been authored and enjoyed by everyone—and through collection and curation, that truth can be preserved for future generations to use as a powerful weapon against those who’d seek to erase it.
As a U.S. Soccer-certified official, I know the rules for awarding penalty kicks are imperfect and, often, imperfectly applied. But when I saw Muller’s promotional Tweet declaring penalties “the worst rule in sports,” I rage-clicked.
Which was probably the idea.
What I suspected I might find on the other side of the link, but couldn’t believe I actually did, was a heartfelt call for the bizarre penalty-kick variant innovated by the late-1970s North American Soccer League:
Muller‘s case isn’t just a cri du coeur for something more exciting, dramatic, or TV-friendly, though, it’s a data-driven case that penalties are in fact broken—and this obscure artifact of American soccer would fix it.
As a Liverpool fan who just watched his team win a trophy by playing 120 minutes of goal-less soccer before a shootout where both teams made 21 of 22 penalty kicks? Yeah, it’s hard to argue that an unfairly denied scoring opportunity should be rewarded with a scoring near-certainty.
I try not to double-dip on recommendations between Gimme Schalter and Twitter, but this one was just too good. It invokes, deploys, and subverts all the classic hard-boiled detective tropes—and it’s as compelling as it is hilarious.
Shiv’s a friend, and a fellow nerdjock/sportsgeek, but believe me when I say as I said on Twitter: Do not read or listen to this one in public unless you are prepared to look like a weirdo who cannot stop laughing for no reason. It’s surprising yet satisfying, familiar yet fresh, and clever at every turn.
This short’s apparently a prequel to his upcoming novel, and table he’s set here indicates that one will be an absolute feast.
ESPN’s vertical focused on Black sports and culture has changed its name to “Andscape,” and Kelley (its editor-in-chief) gave us a short-but-sparkling essay on the hows and whys:
Implied, but unsaid: This site thrived for years under the weight of a name it outgrew before it launched. I love the change, love the execution, and will continue to be a big fan of everything Kelley, her excellent staff, and all the contributors there are doing.
Sadly, I did not get any time to work on fiction stuff this week.
Between dayjob busy-ness and some Life Events, I’ve just not been able to touch either of my novel projects. I have also, for weeks and weeks, owed a couple of friends some critique notes on their actual writing they’ve actually been doing! So I’m going to prioritize that first, before I jump back in to my own projects.