Comment Policy

So. Comments.

Currently any first-time commenters at annleckie.com are automatically sent to moderation. Once I’ve approved your comment, you’ll skip the moderation queue.

I reserve the right to delete any comment posted to this blog (this LiveJournal, this Dreamwidth journal). I reserve the right to place comments in a moderation queue, and I reserve the right to determine who does and who does not comment on my posts.

Free speech? Yeah, I’m a fan. But the thing is, anyone asserting that I have some obligation to host speech I don’t want to host is actually advocating a violation of my free speech. This is my space, and I will manage it to suit myself. This does no damage to your ability to speak freely–there are several free blogging platforms available. Sign up for one or more and speak, speak, speak to your heart’s content. Manage comments there how you wish–I support your right to do so.

But here, in my space, I get to say what goes. And what doesn’t.

No, I’m not worried about suppressing debate–see the note above about the availability of free blogging platforms. And, frankly, some things are just not up for debate. And no, I don’t care if you think I’m wrong about that. Or that you think I’m being a meanie pants. Or that you’ll never buy my books. Honestly, if you end up getting a comment deleted off my blog, chances are you weren’t going to be a fan of my writing anyway, so, you know. And I was never under the illusion that everyone, everywhere, would love my work. I fully expect some number of people not to like it and not to buy it, and I have no problem with that. I, myself, don’t buy or read things by authors whose work I don’t much like. That’s life.

Morning Walk

Scene: The bridge in the Japanese Garden at the Missouri Botanical Garden. The weather is warm and sunny. There are some HUMANS on the bridge throwing food pellets to an assortment of VERY LARGE CARP. Some DUCKS are competing for pellets. A TINY FUZZY DUCKLING swims into view.

VERY LARGE CARP: Gape, gape. Perhaps the humans on the bridge will continue to shower me with food pellets!

TINY FUZZY DUCKLING: Is this leaf good to eat? It is not. Is this small twig good to eat? It is not.

VERY LARGE CARP: Gape, gape.

TINY FUZZY DUCKLING: Perhaps this very large carp is good to eat!

HUMANS: Tiny fuzzy duckling! Your towering ambition delights and amazes us, but we fear for your safety!

VERY LARGE CARP: I am not good to eat, tiny fuzzy duckling. I may even bite you.

TINY FUZZY DUCKLING: Well, that was rude! I was only asking.

VERY LARGE CARP: Gape, gape.

TINY FUZZY DUCKLING: (sticks its head ALL THE WAY INTO THE CARP’S GAPING MAW) Perhaps something in here is good to eat!

HUMANS: Tiny Fuzzy Duckling! No!

TINY FUZZY DUCKLING: (examines the interior of the VERY LARGE CARP some more)

HUMANS: …

TINY FUZZY DUCKLING: No, nothing good to eat in there. Perhaps I will swim under the bridge.

HUMANS: Oh, Tiny Fuzzy Duckling, why did we not get out our cameras the moment you came on the scene? We’d have been heroes of youtube.

So, I recently read this book, that I saw someone mention either on LJ or on one of the blogs I read. I read the title and the description and I said to myself, “Self, I think it would be beneficial if you would read that book.”

So, you know, I got myself a copy. The book is Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts and it was absorbing reading and I recommend it.

So the “hidden transcripts” this book is talking about are the things groups of people don’t say in public. In the case of the powerful, these are things that, acknowledged openly, would undermine their claims to power and authority. And in the case of the less powerful, they’re things that can be downright dangerous to say in the hearing of the powerful. Sometimes the hidden transcripts of the less powerful become visible, for various reasons, but mostly they don’t make it into histories, they don’t get officially acknowledged. Because that’s kind of the point.

So, very little of what the author presents is particularly new to me–I’ve had varying amounts of power, relative to various other folks in my life, and I’ve seen the hidden transcript thing in operation. None of the examples surprised me at all. Mostly what I liked about this book was the way it connected things together–like, I already knew this and this and this–did it occur to you that these were connected in this way? And gosh, it should have because that makes so much sense.

For instance, the author points out a thing that of course I’d noticed–that (relatively) more powerful groups often consider less powerful groups to be unreliable, shifty liars. It almost doesn’t matter what less powerful groups you pick, right? The author here suggests that it’s due to the fact that the more powerful can see that the “public transcript” isn’t all there is–usually when a hidden transcript pops into view, it’s veiled or deniable, but sometimes it’s obvious there’s more to what someone is saying or doing, no matter how veiled, no matter how plausibly or strenuously denied. But they don’t actually have any access to the subordinate group’s hidden transcript. And for various reasons there’s no percentage in admitting the existence of that hidden transcript (see above, undermining legitimacy). How to resolve this problem? Easy! That class of people are just naturally dishonest.

“I should totally have thought of that myself,” says I. Because I should have. But I didn’t.

So, another thing the author points out–or at least that I came away with–is that when you ignore the hidden transcript of a subordinate group, those moments when that transcript becomes suddenly, plainly visible–someone finally snaps and tells off someone more powerful, or a whole group of the less powerful up and revolt–those times when that happens quite literally make no sense if you don’t know about or acknowledge the existence of the hidden transcript. Now, because of who writes history, those hidden transcripts just don’t show up. So you get stuff like theories about how crowds can be whipped into a hysteria or whatever. Without acknowledging the existence of that entire back-channel, there’s no way to acknowledge the agency of the people in that crowd. So you get theories of how these things happen that do not attribute agency to the people who are acting. It’s mass hysteria, it’s the madness of crowds, it’s people being whipped up. *

And I thought to myself, “Self, that’s like Wossname you used to know, who had married three or four times and every single time, after however many months or years of wedded bliss, his wife would just all of a sudden inexplicably lose her mind. Completely out of the blue!”

And then I said to myself, “Self, this is making me think of all the “witch hunt” and “lynch mob” comments I’ve seen lately.”

It used to be all this stuff was back-channel. If you were a cis, white, straight guy, you could go your whole life and never see that hidden transcript out in the open. You never had to, and like as not the non-cis, non-white, non-straight, non-guys around you never really let on, because it wasn’t safe. I mean, like, physically safe. But things are changing a bit, and some of those groups who would never say anything aloud before? Are now saying things aloud. And since you (cis, white, straight guy that you are) don’t know of or admit the existence of those hidden transcripts, what could it possibly be except agitators, mass hysteria, the madness of crowds whipped into a killing frenzy by…uh…somebody?

There’s more to dig into, there–like, actual witch hunts and lynch mobs weren’t actually something the less powerful ever did to the more powerful, and like, there’s something about a member of a relatively powerful group framing the deliberate actions of one relatively powerful group against a less powerful group as being without agency (hit publish instead of preview by mistake. Edited to add–framing it as without agency so you can compare it to the powerless defending themselves from the more powerful) that’s just messed up. But that’s beyond what I’m up for right now.

No, what I’m intrigued by is the idea of the invisibility of the hidden transcript. The fact that this anger has been there for ages, I’ve been seeing it plainly all this time, and seeing hints of it from groups I’m not a member of, but it’s only ever been behind scenes–whispers to avoid this or that guy, complaints and commiseration in more or less safely private places, just seething in furious silence because you just can’t safely speak. We’ve been soaking in it all our lives, some of us, women and PoC and folks who are LGBTQ, or some or all of the above. So it’s genuinely baffling when someone’s response to actually seeing that anger is “Wait, this must be mass hysteria! This is a mob and you know how mobs work!” Because we know it’s really just the obvious outcome of the anger we’ve been living with all our lives–but they’ve never seen it and apparently don’t really believe it exists. *

This is something I’ve felt for a while, whenever I run up against that “but this is just a lynch mob!” thing. I just couldn’t articulate it, why it was so baffling and wrong, why the people saying it couldn’t even begin to imagine that all these people are angry because they’ve got a good reason to be and it’s been there all this time and just got too much for people to contain, or people have found themselves in a place where maybe they won’t be hurt too catastrophically if they express it. The people crying “witch hunt!” can’t even imagine any other way to process it except to dismiss it. Because to acknowledge the hidden transcripts is to begin to undermine exactly what keeps them in the position they’re in.

Not a world-shattering insight, I guess. But that’s kind of what I got out of this book–nothing in it was exactly mind-blowing, but when I was done reading, some things just made a lot more sense.

____

*Note to self–this same set of assumptions is perhaps inseparable from the ever popular “What these people need is a honky” plot.

**This works, of course, wherever you’ve got groups with relative power differences, so even though women have their own hidden transcripts with regard to men, when white women catch sight of WoC’s hidden transcripts, the reaction is often much like when men catch sight of women’s. Or, you know, any other set of groups with an obvious power imbalance between them. “So,” I say to myself, “Self, don’t go feeling smug because you know all about it cause you’re a woman but when they do it, they’re just a mob.”

Despicable Despicable Me 2

So, back in the day, I took my then-ten-year-old to see Despicable Me. We both had a good time–my only reservations were the couple of fat jokes, and wait, why does Gru have that accent again? But the fat jokes were minor, and Gru was really quite a charming character. The girls, of course, were wonderful, and who doesn’t love the Minions? I am still somewhat shocked that toy stores were not filled with plush Minions, I’d have gotten half a dozen. The next week we rounded up Mr Leckie and the then-thirteen-year-old and took them to the theater to see it. We bought the disc pretty much as soon as it came out on DVD.

Among the things I really liked about Despicable Me was the way the happy ending (oh, spoiler!) didn’t force the characters into a standard family structure. It’s Gru and the girls and the Minions and Grandma is proud and they love each other and it’s all good.

So when Despicable Me 2 came out, going to see it was kind of a no-brainer. The couple of reviews I’d seen said it wasn’t as good as the first movie, but then how many movies are?

Those reviews did not prepare me for what I saw. Honestly. People could watch that and say “Well, it’s not quite as good as the first one, but it’ll do”? Seriously?

Avoiding spoilers makes it hard to be specific about some things–but sweet, merciful Unconquered Sun, the ethnic stereotypes. The return of the fat jokes.

And the misogyny. No, seriously. In a movie with three built-in awesome girls, and with a female lead that was intended to be awesome and cool, pretty much every single other woman was hated on. Sickeningly so, in the case of the woman Gru goes on a date with because his nosy, annoying (female, natch!) neighbor insists on setting him up. I’m not going to describe how that date concluded, but I’ll tell you I sat there in the theater wishing I’d spent my rare movie ticket money elsewhere.

Then of course there’s the whole “but of course Agnes wants a mommy!” thing. For serious, that’s just lazy. I mean, you could take that direction and do something interesting with it*–but no, that wasn’t on the menu. We’re just going to assume that children without Mommies wish they had them and families must have Mommies to be complete. Because…um…look, we gotta turn this thing in before we can go to the bar. People love mommies! It’s just a kids movie, who the hell cares?

The whole thing was just freaking lazy. And a great way to totally ignore the elements that made the first one successful! I wondered briefly if they’d had different writers for 2, but no. Same writers. Kind of baffling. Something (or someone) must have held them to a higher standard for that first movie. Not to mention forced them to edit out the racism and the misogyny.

Anyway. My advice–don’t waste your money on Despicable Me 2. I wish I hadn’t.
___

*Yes, even in “just” a kids movie. Please don’t make me write that rant, too.

Ancillary Justice ARC Goodreads Giveaway

So, as I said not long ago, I got a box of Ancillary Justice ARCs in the mail! And I’m going to give some away.

Just for starters, I’m giving three away via Goodreads.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

Ancillary Justice

by Ann Leckie

Giveaway ends July 14, 2013.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

If that widget doesn’t show up, try clicking here to see and/or enter the giveaway.

You may notice there’s a cover image! I have not yet received word that I can post my cover, but there it is, on Goodreads. I’m quite pleased with it, myself!

Folks who are interested in scoring a copy but don’t have a Goodreads account, or really don’t want to sign up, or who aren’t in the US, Canada, UK, or Australia, never fear. I’m planning to do a small giveaway later just through the blog here.

Ancillary ARCs!

Well, look what came in the mail today!

ARC of Ancillary Justice

So, I’m going to be giving some away. I’m not sure just how yet–maybe just something as simple as a random drawing. I haven’t decided yet.

But look at it! It’s a real, physical book that really exists!!!

Penumbra

So yesterday I posted about some problems with Penumbra Ezine–namely, that although their guidelines say they pay five cents a word, until recently they published one “Rising Talent” story on their website a month–and those Rising Talent stories were unpaid. What’s more, there was no indication that those stories would be unpaid anywhere on their website. Writers “honored” with the Rising Talent designation discovered it when they opened their acceptance email.

This morning I had an email in my inbox from Celina Summers, editor of Penumbra. The email is kind of baffling–it says I’ve wrongly accused Penumbra of being a non-paying market when in fact they have paid at least five cents a word for every story they’ve published! Oh, and also the Rising Talent authors all totally knew they weren’t getting paid for their stories before they signed the contract.

Yeah. I don’t know either. You’d think the contradiction here would be obvious. And pretty much the whole email was like that, refuting things I hadn’t actually said, and then attempting to refute things I actually had said by basically confirming the facts I’d posted. The whole thing was either astonishingly disingenuous or astonishingly foolish.

It has also come to my attention, from a different source, that I am “an out and out lone wolf” with an “agenda at Penumbra.” And apparently just pointing out the plain fact that Rising Talent stories were not paid for, and that this fact was not apparent on the website but rather something writers discovered when they were granted this dubious honor, means I’m part of a “crusade to force [Penumbra and/or its parent company Musa] to close.”

First things first. I kinda like “out and out lone wolf.” Granted, it’s not as awesome as Gamma Rabbit, and doesn’t really even touch the gibbering incoherence of THE….Sodomite, but, you know, you take what you can get. And that “out and out” does add a pleasant touch of weirdness, so.

It’s also a trifle tin-eared. I mean, the image of the lone wolf is kind of romantic. I could totally see it being a superhero identity.

My only “agenda at Penumbra” (really?) is to inform writers. The best outcome of this, from my angle, would be for Ms Summers to begin to actually run Penumbra as the professional magazine she claims she wants it to be. This would include being completely honest and up front about pay rates, continuing to pay all authors (instead of, as with the extremely badly conceived “Rising Talent” business, paying most authors but not paying the one a month that should just be grateful to have their story posted on the website), and responding to all authors in a professional, non abusive way.

If Penumbra can’t be run on those terms, then yes, it should close. But note, Penumbra closing is not actually a goal of mine. Informing writers is my goal.

In her email Ms Summers claimed that my “accusation” could destroy Penumbra. I am flattered she thinks the Out and Out Lone Wolf holds so much power. I’ll say here what I told her– the only thing that could destroy Penumbra would be Penumbra itself. My pointing out a problem did not cause that problem, and my having said nothing, or retracting my (entirely factual) blog post would not solve that problem. Penumbra’s future is all on her.

I’d like to note, by the way, that Ms Summers offered to let me see Penumbra’s books and learn all about their finances and how they run things behind scenes. How this was supposed to prove to me that really the whole Rising Talent thing was fine and dandy, and the truly appalling emails I’d seen from her to at least one writer were totally and completely all right, I have no idea. I refused, because really that was irrelevant to the problems I was talking about, and to be honest the invitation just convinced me that either Ms Summers truly has no idea what the actual problem is, or else she thinks I’m stupid. Neither one speaks well of her.

I’m done blogging about this, because I’ve done what I wanted–gotten the information out there. Y’all can do what you want with it. I’d be more than happy to see Penumbra straighten up and fly right and go on to Ezine Greatness. If not, it’ll be because of their own actions, not one writer’s blog post.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have an overpowering urge to go outside and out and out howl at the moon.

People Die of Exposure.

So, I’m speaking here as my personal self, and not as Secretary of SFWA.

First off. Writers. Any editor who tells you that they’re doing you a favor by giving you exposure? Not worth submitting to.

Because they’re not doing you any favors. If they’re just publishing your story for free on the web, you could get exactly the same “exposure” by publishing that story on your own blog.

Now, I’m not saying all non-paying venues are crap, or not worth subbing to. For one thing, your goals in submitting might not have much to do with being a professional writer–writing and submitting might be all about the fun for you, and that’s awesome and wonderful and have a great time! And there are, actually, or at least have been, a few places that pay nothing but have really good critical reputations. But those few non-paying venues that appearing in actually might do something for your career? Are edited by people with standing and reputation in the field such that yes, others pay attention to the stories they select. Those editors will never say they’re doing you a favor publishing you, because they know that in the end, you’re doing them just as much of a favor by giving them your story. Their reputation is based in part on their consistently publishing good work. That reputation doesn’t exist without you and writers like you. And they know that, and aren’t going to try to tell you that they’re somehow doing you a favor and trying to give you a leg-up.

Seriously, I’ve got no problem with non-paying venues, so long as they’re up front about not paying, and don’t try to act like they’re granting favors from on high by publishing you.

I do have a problem with zines that conceal the fact that they don’t pay. And I’ve got an even bigger problem with zines that pay some writers, but keep a slot for “promising” writers, you know, to give them a leg up. Without, you know, also giving them a check.

Now. A bit more than a year ago, the ezine Penumbra opened its doors. Their guidelines said they paid pro-rates–five cents a word. They also had a slot in each issue for “Rising Talent,” a story from an up and coming, new writer they felt deserved the spotlight.

What the guidelines, and the description of the Rising Talent thing, didn’t say was that the writers so-spotlighted would not be paid for their stories.

It appears this is no longer the case–the Rising Talent page on the website now only lists the existing Rising Talent stories and the description of it has been deleted.

So, this is where my personal desire to inform new writers intersects with my role as Secretary of SFWA. Because it’s become clear over the last year that some number of writers have been assuming that Penumbra was a SFWA-qualifying market, or at the very least would be in the fullness of time, that once their year was up, they’d be found to have met all qualifications and the writers who had sold to them in that last year would have a qualifying credit to their names.

Sadly, because they didn’t pay for the Rising Talent stories, and SFWA requires qualifying markets to pay SFWA minimum for all new fiction acquired, that isn’t going to happen. Not for this year, anyway. And when I say “sadly” I mean that–it’s to the advantage of writers to have lots of interesting, well-run, thriving venues for fiction around. The more there are, the better it is for us. When I see a zine obviously trying to get SFWA status–whether because they’ve announced they are, or whether it’s clear from their policies and guidelines–it gives me a warm, happy feeling. I wish them success. When I’m sitting in my Secretary Seat, it makes me happy to send an email telling someone that yes, they are a SFWA qualifying market!

So, I genuinely want Penumbra, and other zines trying to get that status, to succeed.

I want to say again, btw, that I am not at this moment sitting in my Secretary Seat. I won’t even be able to in a few weeks–on July 1, Susan Forrest pulls up with the SFWA Trailer and hauls that baby away. But it’s still here for now, and I am not sitting in it. I’m speaking only for myself at this point.

There’s been some back-channel chatter about the Penumbra situation, with some surprise and dismay at not only the lack of payment for Rising Talent stories, but also for the way Penumbra didn’t mention that lack of payment up front in its guidelines. From one angle, it looks pretty exploitative–let’s say you’re a new writer, hoping for a good home for your fiction and (oh please oh please) a SFWA qualifying sale. You get the dreamed-of acceptance–but wait, it’s for the Rising Talent slot! Isn’t that great!

Except you don’t get paid. You’re asked to write a nonfiction article to go along with the story, and you’ll get a free full page ad in the magazine! And they’ll pay for the nonfic!*

Now, if you’re a new writer who’s been paying attention, you know that there’s something off here. The guidelines said nothing about not getting paid for Rising Talent. You’ve been reading blogs and you know about the debates over whether it’s ever worth letting anyone publish your fiction for free. But damn it, you’ve been submitting and submitting and hardly getting any love, and this is almost the next thing to a SFWA pro market and if you pull out, will that leave you with a bad reputation? After all, SF&F is small. Everyone knows each other, what if you get blacklisted because you’ve acted like some kind of spoiled special snowflake over this?

These are very real feelings, and very real fears. And the way the Rising Talent thing was set up, it was almost custom-made to play on these feelings.

Now, in the various conversations I’ve heard about this, it’s been suggested that Penumbra just made an honest mistake. They didn’t mean any harm and didn’t know any better.

On the one hand, I really hope that was the case, because the alternative is something I’d prefer not to be true. On the other hand, if that is the case, it displays a pretty astonishing lack of knowledge of standard practices in SF&F. A complete ignorance of the conversations surrounding writing and selling science fiction and fantasy. And given that they’ve been aiming at SFWA qualification, it’s a bit puzzling how they could have failed to notice the mismatch between the “at least five cents a word for all new fiction” requirement and the whole “who needs money when we can give you valuable exposure” Rising Talent thing. Heck, once you know Rising Talent wasn’t Paid Talent, even the language of the Rising Talent description is dicey, given the common advice to new writers about the value (or more properly the lack thereof) of “exposure” as payment. That text is gone now, but this was the last sentence:

This is just our way of bringing a talented writer into the spotlight, in the hopes that exposure will lead them to bigger and better things.

And in fact, this isn’t their only problem. While I know a number of writers who have had a great experience selling their work to Penumbra, I also know of a number who have had decidedly negative experiences. I’ve seen emails, and let me tell you, I raised an eyebrow while reading them. And I admit I’m kind of raising an eyebrow over the response to “You shouldn’t be only paying for some stories and not others” being to delete the Rising Talent, not, you know, start paying for it.

Now, maybe the editor had a bad day. Or a bad week. Or has a bad week every couple of months or something. That happens–but it doesn’t excuse the sort of treatment of writers that I’ve seen. Let me say again, it’s not like someone told me what happened and they blew it out of proportion or twisted it around. I read the emails themselves. There is no excuse for what I read.

But let’s say it was a bad day, and most of the time they’re not like that, and all of it–the badly-written (and poorly understood) contract, the surprise non-payment for Rising Talent stories, the sporadically unprofessional emails–it’s all just them learning, just honest mistakes, and they’ll do better in the future.

I sincerely hope that’s the case, I really, truly hope they do better in the future. But as far as I’m concerned–me, personally, not anyone else–they’ve got a very, very long way to go before I’m going to tell a new writer that it’s a good place to submit. And I’m not happy to say that, I’d really much rather say, “Hooray for Penumbra, they’re a qualifying market now!” But I can’t say that, and it makes me sad.
___

*I’ve seen the correspondence and the contract of one of the Rising Talent authors. It was a whole ten bucks for the article. Or, actually, the contract appears to say the ten bucks was for the story–the only work named in the contract–while the correspondence insists that the article is also somehow covered in the contract that nowhere mentions it.

**Incidentally. There seem to be several widespread misapprehensions about SFWA qualifying status. One is that it’s some sort of mark of quality–that publishers that put out well-regarded work that wins awards but don’t pay minimum or meet circulation minimums ought still be able to be on the list. Sorry, no. There’s a list of requirements right here and they all need to be met. SFWA qualification makes no statement whatever about the quality of any market, or of the fiction it publishes.

There also seems to be a misapprehension that just paying five cents a word is sufficient. It is not. Please read that link above.

Please do not tell me about the requirements being outdated. I know they are. There’s a distinct possibility the Board will be looking at maybe changing those requirements in the nearish future. Please do email a Board member (any Board member! Seriously!) with your thoughts on the matter, if you’re having serious thinky thoughts or concerns you’d like them to know about. Be polite when you do, whoever you contact is a volunteer who’s working hard on any number of things right now.

***New writers, no one reputable is going to blacklist you for asking questions about a contract, asking to negotiate things that seem dicey to you, or just refusing to accept an acceptance that doesn’t seem right. An editor who tries to tell you that pros never question, negotiate, or pull out of bad deals, or who tells you that you’ll be blacklisted for doing those things, is not reputable and doesn’t actually have the ability to blacklist you that way. That editor might refuse to work with you again (no big loss!), but there’s no industry-wide blacklist they can put you on.

****Whether you’re a SFWA member or not, if you have an experience with a SFWA qualifying market that suggests that market might no longer qualify, please by all means email the Secretary of SFWA at secretary@sfwa.org and let whoever that is (it won’t be me after June 30!) know what went down.

June Fiction

I’ve gotten behind on announcing when stories go up at GNS. Sorry about that! Life, you know?

This month, A House, Drifting Sideways, by Rahul Kanakia.

On the morning of my fund day, our pilot landed the house with a particularly gentle touch. I was probably the only family-member who felt the house kiss our Philadelphia docking station. I abandoned my desk and went to the window. A crowd of grubby locals from the adjacent Suareztown had already gathered around the marble pediment of the docking station. It might be hours before we began recruiting, but they had no better use for their time than jostling for a place near the house’s entrance. Although Father refused to indulge their pretensions to serfdom by directly sharing our family’s arrival times with the Suareztowners, some groundskeeper had probably told them, days ago, that we were coming.

The leading edge of the crowd was just fifty feet below me. The mass of dirty limbs and garishly clothed torsos swayed, and arms were raised up. I waved, and the carpet of humanity rippled in time to my movements. I presumed they were cheering.