Worldcon 2019 Schedule

If any of you are coming to Worldcon in Dublin next month, here’s where I’ll definitely be:

Academic track: Decolonising
15 Aug 2019, Thursday 15:30 – 16:20, Odeon 6 (Academic) (Point Square Dublin)

1. Natalie Ingram – ‘History Through Fantasy’s Western Window’
2. Professor Fiona Moore – ‘Comparing Colonialisms in The Terror’
3. BE Allatt – ‘Questioning Mononormativity: Love, Sex, and Relationships on McDonald’s Luna’

So you want to write a SFF stage play

Format: Panel
16 Aug 2019, Friday 13:30 – 14:20, Alhambra (Point Square Dublin)

Writing for the stage uses a particular set of skills. What does it take to create a solid script? How does it differ from any other writing process? What special considerations are needed when including science fiction and fantasy elements? Our panellists will share tips and tricks on adapting between mediums for the stage, how to create believable characters, and how to write great dialogue.

Grappling with the post-colonial in SFF

Format: Panel
16 Aug 2019, Friday 17:00 – 17:50, Wicklow Room-1 (CCD)

Over the last 500 years, cultures and histories have been forever altered by colonial expansion. Although many former colonies have gained independence, their peoples still grapple with the effects of colonisation. Can post-colonial SFF help to heal the past? How do post-colonial SFF authors reconcile the many facets of their identities in their work, and what do they want their audiences to know?

Audio dramas and radio plays

Format: Panel
17 Aug 2019, Saturday 19:00 – 19:50, Liffey Room-1 (CCD)

With the rise of paying markets like Big Finish Productions and Audible Theater, a new era in professional audio theatre has dawned. But how do you go about writing or recording an SFF audio drama or radio play – and are they even the same thing? In this suddenly booming industry, where do you start? And what is the demand for this type of work?

Autographs: Sunday at 12:00

Format: Autographing
18 Aug 2019, Sunday 12:00 – 12:50, Level 4 Foyer (CCD)

Carrie Vaughn, Amal El-Mohtar, Dr Anna Smith Spark , Professor Fiona Moore, Gareth Powell, Paul Anthony Shortt

I’ll also be at the NewCon Press book launch on Saturday, 17 Aug 17:30-18:30, room TBA.

Leadership Lessons from Game Of Thrones: Index

iu-4For your convenience, here’s a handy index to the Leadership Lessons from Game of Thrones posts, in chronological order.

Introduction

Charismatic leadership: Daenarys Targaryen

Transformational leadership: Jon Snow

Transactional leadership: Tyrion Lannister

Behavioural leadership theories: Robert Baratheon

Contingency-based leadership theories: the High Sparrow

Power-based leadership theories: Sansa Stark

Traditional pathways to promotion: Robb Stark and the Baratheon brothers

Alternative pathways to promotion: Ramsay Bolton

The Battle of Winterfell, or How Not To Lead

Toxic leadership: Joffrey Baratheon and Daenarys Targaryen (again)

Gender and ethnic diversity in leadership: the Greyjoy siblings

Conclusions

 

Exciting writing news

I just sold a story to Mad Scientist Journal!

Even more exciting news if you liked my novel “Driving Ambition”:

It’s the direct prequel story that I’ve mentioned a few times, covering Liz’s backstory and the unexpected role she plays in the development of sentience among Things.

Not saying any more– but you’ll be able to read it yourself towards the end of the year.

Gender and leadership: the Greyjoy Siblings

iu-3We’ve already discussed gender and leadership in this series to some extent, but largely in the context of femaleness as a barrier to leadership (and fertile maleness as a prerequisite for it). However, in this case I’m going to frame it in terms of cultural variation.

My own particular academic interest in leadership is in the context of cross-cultural management. Specifically, the fact that what makes an acceptable leader varies from place to place, as we can see with the issue of gender in Westeros. While most places seem to follow the practice identified earlier– oldest male offspring inherits, followed by his sons and brothers, followed by daughters and sisters in cases where there are no male heirs, plus female regents if the male heir is underage or incapacitated– there are variations, for instance Dorne which practices primogeniture regardless of the gender of the child (a fact which was largely not discussed on the TV programme, but never mind)– and, of course, the Iron Islands, where women are not allowed to rule, full stop.

Which is also interesting because women are clearly allowed other forms of leadership role: nobody seems to have much of a problem with Yara commanding a pirate ship, for instance.

But the case of Yara also raises another issue with regard to gender and leadership. In some societies with strongly differentiated gender roles, the problem of what to do when you have too many children of one gender and not enough of the other, is solved by raising some of the children as “socially” of the other gender. Examples include traditional Inuit society, and the “sworn virgins” of Albania. Please note that this is not, as a practice, analogous to being transgender: the sworn virgins are not seen as being “male,” but as women taking a male role.

Yara, in Game of Thrones, seems tacitly like the Westerosi equivalent. She’s acknowledged to be female, but she dresses like a man; she commands a ship like a man; and she grew up in a situation where one of her brothers was dead and the other being raised by the Starks as a hostage. Needing, if not a male heir, at least someone who could take on the duties associated with one, it’s no surprise that Balon Greyjoy turned to his daughter to fulfil this role.

Furthermore, the thing which bars her surviving brother, Theon, from challenging her bid for leadership is that he’s a eunuch. Eunuchs on Westeros are in a similarly ambivalent gender position: socially male in many ways, they are also denied traditional male pathways to leadership, though they can wield a lot of of “soft power” in part because they are inherently infertile and thus do not have a stake in the inheritance system.

All of which is a lengthy and analogous way of saying that not only is gender and leadership viewed differently in different societies (again calling into question the idea that there are fixed sets of leadership traits which are always identifiable and always the best way of choosing or training a leader), but also that the gender binary which is taken for granted in a lot of the business literature (remember that management studies as a discipline first arose in the USA in the mid-twentieth century) is far from universal. Something worth remembering when choosing who will represent your business interests in other countries… or if you want to open a branch office in Westeros.

Next time: a farewell to Westeros, a consideration of what the series finale says about governance, and a little summary of all we have learned about leadership so far.

Toxic leadership: Joffrey Baratheon, and Daenarys Targaryen (again)

This is a rather appropriate time to get to toxic leadership, since today is the day people in the UK vote in the European elections, and also because of the controversy currently raging among Game of Thrones fans about Daenarys’ story arc and how it ended.

The source text I’m relying on is Dennis Tourish’s excellent bproxy.duckduckgo.comook The Dark Side of Transformational Leadership. In it, Tourish argues that the traits which management studies types celebrate and valorize in leaders aren’t actually positive in and of themselves; charismatic and visionary leaders can be massively narcissistic and selfish, transformational leaders can be emotionally manipulative; transactional leaders can refuse to admit they’re wrong. Indeed, one of the real dangers of behavioural theories in particular is a reluctance to consider the negative aspects of the behaviours identified as “leadership qualities”, and the valorization of leaders over all, in management studies, has, Tourish argued, led to such disasters as the 2008 global recession.

In Westeros, arguably even more leader-focused than management, the negative results are plain to see, playing out over eight seasons. However, a useful example is provided by Joffrey Baratheon, precisely because he’s such an obvious hate figure. He’s clearly selfish, nasty, power-obsessed, bullying, sadistic and casually homicidal. However, to take the point, none of that in and of itself actually detracts from his leadership ability. It makes decent political sense to have Ned Stark executed, and also to marry Stark’s daughter off as fast as possible to Tyrion, cementing the Lannister claim to the North while leaving Joffrey himself free to make an even more politically useful marriage to Margaery Tyrell– showing he has more sense in that regard than Robb Stark. None of this is to say that Joffrey is at all someone you’d want in charge of anything, let alone the Seven Kingdoms; but it’s to point out that the same skills and traits that can make a good leader, can also manifest in less positive ways.

To take a more recent example: Daenarys Targaryen firebombing Kings’ Landing from dragonback surprised many viewers, but it’s not at all out of keeping with what we discussed in the earlier entry on her leadership style. Indeed, it’s positively logical that a charismatic leader would be more inclined to a display of power to intimidate the opposition, even if it also alienates potential allies, than in thinking about long-term relationships (which are rather more the province of the transformational leader). The traits which gave her the strength to claw her way up from a pawn in the marriage game to conquer a continent, left unchecked, are the same ones that lead to her murdering innocent civilians simply because they had the misfortune to be born under Lannister rule.

The lesson to take from all of this is not only to keep a sharp eye on the leadership, wherever you are. It’s to ensure there are checks and balances in place. Both Joffrey and Daenarys’ homicidal tendencies could have been held in check by a system holding the ruler to account, and might even have survived the series had there been some system for removing them that doesn’t resort to out-and-out assassination.

Next week: gender and ethnic diversity with the Greyjoy siblings.