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quarantine life, year 1

kat kourbeti
kat kourbeti
welcome back to honest to blog (working title), a newsletter with thoughts about writing, movies, music, science fiction and fantasy, and general creative process blah. if you were forwarded this email, you can subscribe (and read the full archive) here.

one year ago today, i went to work for the last time.
the summer before last, i bought an anime mystery goody bag that included an ‘uwu’ face mask/covering, which i found adorable and hilarious, and i put it away for maybe the flu season, or hayfever season, or just the next con where i could be the most uwu with the least amount of effort. little did i know, that mask would come in pretty handy in the days before the first lockdown in 2020.
via my instagram, march 2020
via my instagram, march 2020
flash forward, a year later: i’m washing several three-layer masks (and double-layer ones with filter pockets) with antibacterial laundry cleanser in my kitchen sink. i have a mask storage system, a double-mask routine, and i’ve figured out exactly what my favourite kinds of masks are and made sure i got plenty of them for when they don’t sell them en masse anymore (because you bet come flu season i’ll be busting these out for a long time).
we sure have come a long way in 365 days.
it’s been hard, but it’s not all bad; vaccination is underway all over the world, and while this ordeal is far from over, there’s a light of normality on the horizon. we’ll get there, folks. we’ll get there.
here’s to march 18th, 2022 finding us at a better place in our collective lives.
what’s cookin’, good lookin’?
i’ve been hard at work with marketing on flights of foundry, which you should totally register for if you’re a writer/artist/podcaster/creative working on anything remotely speculative. it’s going to be SUCH a good time, and if you don’t believe me, you can see for yourself on the schedule. tickets are free, with an optional donation, and there’s also super cute merch with our gryphon mascots (who all have names, by the way, and are adorable af) if you want to support the con.
NB: if you’re based in the UK, there’s programming from 2pm GMT on the 16th april, and until the wee hours of the morning on the 19th. plenty of cool stuff to do over 3 days and change, so don’t miss it!
Spectrum’s special event on March 27th at 2pm GMT has shaped up to be a star-studded panel of queer/LGBT authors (and the best indie bookseller!), and i’m absolutely over the moon. many many thanks to phil at super relaxed fantasy club for helping make this happen.
if you’re a Spectrum member, you can RSVP and buy a ticket via our MeetUp page. if you are not, but would still like to attend this Zoom panel, you can get a ticket via Eventbrite. we do have a limit of 100 tickets in total as per the paid Zoom account limits, so act fast if you’re interested! and if you have writer friends in your life who might like this, please forward them this newsletter or either of the links above :)
when the elephant is the room: substack’s shady shenanigans
most of you probably haven’t heard, but there’s been a lot of discussion recently about substack as a platform giving known bigots a place to air their hate-filled garbage. the trouble got worse when it emerged that substack launched a scheme in secret, where they paid selected writers the equivalent of a year’s salary to leave their day jobs or freelance gigs and publish exclusively here. they called it ‘substack pro’, and they explicitly refused to name the people on their payroll, in the guise of protecting their privacy. basically, some of those bigots are being paid to be here by the platform itself.
here’s the thing. substack themselves argue that they are not a publication, but a place where anyone can start a publication, á la blogger or wordpress or medium, and get paid for it if they have a large enough audience. except when they pay people to move over here, or allow them to propagate speech and content that is explicitly breaking their own terms of service without repercussions, they effectively curate the kind of content that they actively want on this platform. people like graham linehan and jesse singal use this platform; it makes me sick to even type their names on here, much less share breathing space with them.
So Substack has an editorial policy, but no accountability. And they have terms of service, but no enforcement. If you listen to Hamish, they don’t even hire writers! They just give money to people who write things that happen to be on Substack.  It’s the usual Silicon Valley sleight-of-hand move, very similar to Uber reps claiming drivers aren’t “core” to their business. I’m sure Substack is paying a writer right now to come up with a catchy way of saying that Substack doesn’t pay writers. Substack’s business is a scam. They claim to offer writers a level playing field for making a living, and instead they pay an elite, secret group of writers to be on the platform and make newsletter writing appear to be more lucrative than it is. They claim to be an app when they are a publication with an editorial policy. They claim in their terms of service that they will protect writers from abuse, but they don’t. 
legit, i feel kinda dirty for being on here now, and i’m definitely not alone. i had applied for a grant in substack’s first round of funding independent newsletter writers, and was looking forward to applying for a menteeship spot on their second round of matching established writers with emerging ones, but when all is said and done, i’m kind of glad i didn’t get more involved with the deeper infrastructure of the website than i have. it makes my decision a lot easier to make.
so now what?
i’m looking into moving this newsletter elsewhere. i’m gonna miss the beautiful interface (it’s what drew me here in the first place), but i’ll manage. i can’t stand by a venture that supports anti-trans and anti-feminist agendas—or an Uber-style model or business, frankly—so that’s that on that. pretty editor and cute fonts be damned, ya know?
i’m researching alternatives and will find a new home and move us all over safely—if you’re subscribed, you don’t have to do anything further. you’ll just hear from me via a different service at some point, and aside from maybe the fonts or colour scheme, you won’t really notice the difference.
it’s really saddening to see this kind of behaviour from a platform that purportedly aimed to amplify marginalised voices, at least in their early days. i held out for a while, hoping they would handle the unfolding situation with more grace, but as per the posts i’ve linked above, that didn’t happen.
so on we go, to better (or at least, not as bad) pastures. to quote sarah gailey, and their latest (and last) post on here, “we are a snail, our home moves with us”:
[…] care for yourself and the people around you. Believe that the world can be better than it is now. Never give up.
stay safe and be kind to others,
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kat kourbeti
kat kourbeti @darthjuno

writing, media and arts commentary from a queer g(r)eek writer of science fiction and fantasy works.

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