theferrett: (Meazel)

I asked folks what polyamory seminars they’d like me to teach – because I do teach seminars – and got a lot of good suggestions.

Mostly for classes I’m unqualified to teach.

I’m putting this list out here, because I think these are great topics that I’d like to see covered in-depth some day. If these topics are in your wheelhouse, please consider pitching this topic to your local conventions/training sources! And if you do teach them, feel free to leave comments (with dates/locations of your upcoming classes) to spread your wisdom around!

Raising Kids While You’re Polyamorous.
There was an excellent seminar on that at Beyond the Love a couple of years ago, but it was focused on raising kids in a poly commune. Never having raised kids while poly, I’d love to hear more tips and tricks about balancing privacy, childrens’ safety, and potential legal concerns.

Effective Polyamorous Communes.
I’ve seen a lot of poly groups move in together. Most of ’em fell apart shortly thereafter. I’d love to see a discussion of best practices on how to handle finances, romances, etc in a close-contact environment. Bonus if you’re not an extrovert and can tell us introverts how to survive.

Polyamorous Legal Concerns.
Wills and living arrangements and marriages, wow! I’m totally not a lawyer, but this would be a fascinating topic for a professional who’s specialized in these topics.  (I suspect this would only be useful on a state level, but hey.)

Scheduling.
You’d think I’d be good at scheduling, with my many partners, but the truth is that they’re good enough at scheduling to cover for my manifest weaknesses. I’d love to see someone(s) discuss how to schedule time effectively, how to handle conflict in events, how to reserve enough time for each partner who needs it (including you), etc.

Forging Better Bonds With Metamours.
Some of the most stressful situations in poly involve your partner’s partners – and all too often they’re seen as either your BEST FRIENDS EVER or alien beasts you beam communications through a third party to. I’d love to see a class from someone with a long history of effectively communicating with people on the other side of their lovers.

Now, if any of those classes seem like something you could cohere a 50-minute talk on, I’ll note that The Geeky Kink Event is taking applications for November, and though Beyond The Love’s presentation window has just closed, they do have lunchtime pop-up seminars and maybe you might wanna talk to them.

And if you have any questions on teaching, ask me! It’s both simpler and more complex than you think. But not enough qualified people do it.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

One of the worst moments in polyamory is the first date.

Not yours.

Theirs.

Your first poly date is usually this exciting squiggle of “Where is this going?” and flirtatious arm-touches and effervescent ZOMG I LIKE THEM and maybe even some hot smooching. And it’s great, ‘cuz it’s you.

But their first poly date, where you’re the one at home cooling your heels while you’re imagining their flirtatious arm-touches and trying not to break down in jealousy?

That can be a long night.

And I get asked, “How do you cope when your partner starts dating?” And the answer is threefold:

I Trust They’d Tell Me If Things Were Bad.
Sometimes I worry that they’re dating because I’m fucking up in some way. Then I remember how honest they’ve been with me. They’ve told me about any issues between us as soon as they figured out what it was.

I trust my partners to come to me when something is going wrong.

So I trust that if there was a problem, I’d know.

A lot of the jealousies swirling around new poly tend to be, “Is there something wrong with me? Is this a prelude to a breakup?” And honestly, if you’re going for the “Hail Mary” of “We’re not getting along but maybe fucking other people will bring us closer together,” it might well be.

But if this has been a studied expansion, where you’ve talked about dating other people and are now exploring it, hopefully you trust that your partner would tell you if they were seeking other lovers because you were failing them. But they’re not. Healthy polyamory’s not an attempt to replace a broken system, but to expand it to include others.

They’re not dating me because I’m failing them, but because we believe a) that having other emotionally-fulfilling relationships is good, and b) those relationships can include sex. (And often, c) we’re both a little slutty.)

It shouldn’t be a threat if my partner has good friends they talk to. Their desire to see a movie with someone else isn’t a refutal of who we are.

This is just an extension of that logic. And nothing has to be wrong with me, or us, for them to desire someone else.

(I mean, I desire other people and it doesn’t lessen my affection for my existing partners. But that’s easy to remember when I’m in the driver’s seat.)

I Trust In My Own Uniqueness.
The media frames a lot of sex as a competition – whoever’s got the bigger dick wins. And if your partner’s girlfriend is hotter than you are, girl, she will steal your man.

That’s not necessarily true, though.

An odd fact about polyamory is that your partners are often drawn to people totally unlike you. That’s often a source of friction – you’re organized and reliable, why are they dating this sloppy hedonist?

The answer is, dating you provides all the you they need. They’re stocked up on “neat” and “reliable” simply because you’re doing a great job! Now they’re unconsciously seeking people who have other traits they find desirable.

And if you’re not careful, you dismiss your own talents and focus on the things you don’t have. Oh, she’s really good at talking dirty, I can’t do that. She loves that country music I can’t stand. She’s a better cook.

When you do that, you forget the things your lover might say about you if they were forced, somehow, to evaluate you as a direct comparison. They’re a way better cuddler. They know how to make me feel better after a hard day at work. They love the movies I do.

You gotta trust in your own uniqueness. This isn’t a zero-sum game where the person who ticks off the most marks on the checklist walks away with the prize. Yes, your partner’s new lover may be a better kisser, but trust that your sexual skills have something to be desired even if you can’t see it right now.

Trust that there’s also reasons to want you.

I Trust That Some Relationships Need To Be Over.
This is the tough one. Because yeah, sometimes when people fling themselves into polyamory, they do find someone more suitable and they do leave the old partners behind and they don’t communicate their problems until it’s too late to do anything about them.

I trust it’s better to know that we’re not meant for each other.

And you’ll see plenty of couples tapdancing around some fundamental incompatibility – he wants kids/she doesn’t, she wants deep emotional relationships/he doesn’t, he wants to get married/he doesn’t – and rather than look squarely at the irreconcilable difference and walk away, they instead push it off for years, grinding agony the whole time.

And in the end, they often give in to something they never wanted to happen, or they break up after years of intimacy.

That’s a lot harder than acknowledging it early and breaking it off while it’s still nascent.

So I take the attitude with relationships that I do with medical tests: No, I don’t want this, but if I have some terminal condition, it’s better to know right away.

Maybe my lover will discover that they’re polyamorous and I’m not. That’s not great, but it’s good for us both to know who we are – and if that’s not compatible, let’s examine it.

I don’t want to lose anyone, but if there are problems in this relationship, let’s highlight what they are and see whether we can fix it. Or not.

And it’s a weirdly calm trust, because this is the one that brings me back to reality: Yes, I love her. But are we really as good for each other as we think we are? Maybe I’m putting this relationship on a pedestal.

And then the old prayer: It’ll work if it’s meant to be.

And honestly, it mostly has worked out. Dating mature partners who discuss things generally turns out to be stable. They can see other people and come back to me and be just as excited – sometimes more so, because I’m actually enabling them to have wonderful relationships and so they come to associate me as “That person I love who wants me to have so much beauty in my life.” And they date other people, as I do, but in the end the thing I have to offer is “I’m that person who really, demonstrably, wants the best for them.”

That’s a helluva strength to bring to the table.

It can be okay.

You just gotta trust.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

So for my birthday, I got myself an expensive gift I didn’t want:

A personal trainer.

I don’t want a personal trainer because I hate exercise and I hate going someplace else to exercise and I hate paying money to have strangers judge my body.  But I also recognize that my fitness has never been great, and perhaps I don’t know how to push myself properly (which is a real concern when you have both heart problems and a proven inability to recognize fatal pain), and so I signed up for a couple of months with a personal trainer as an experiment.  Just to see whether it would make a difference.

And this trainer seemed nice.  She told me she was not the ooh-rah trainer who says you’re not done until you’re barfing. She was a physical therapist who’d dealt with heart patients before, and could make long-term changes conducive to my benefit.

So as I went to the trainer yesterday, I was nervous.  I’m not a weightlifter.  Would she have me doing laps around the gym?  Would it be the medicine ball?  Would I be completely useless after the session, my every muscle quivering?

As it turned out, my job was to stand there while they critiqued.

I failed at standing.

“See how his hip is turned out?” she asked her fellow trainer, who was called in for a consultation.  “All his weight is on his left foot.”

“Dangerous to let a man like that exercise,” the other trainer agreed, and I was shuttled off to a massage room where she jammed the inside of my hip, telling me to relax as she rammed stiff fingers dangerously close to my crotch, reminding me to breathe.

“You’re very shielded,” she said, wrenching me aside.  “I can’t get this muscle to release.”  And then, five minutes later: “That’ll do.”

She didn’t get it to release, but apparently she’d given up on me.

Then she had me breathe.

I failed breathing.

Apparently, there’s a way you breathe from your diaphragm in a way that makes your crotch tighten, and if that sounds sexy I assure you it was not.  All my breath was in, apparently, my chest.  It’s supposed to be in my diaphragm, which is to say my belly, and I did that wrong.  She had me on my knees, palm on my stomach, urging me to do something with my belly button to bring it against my spine, and eventually she sighed and called out, “We’re putting him on his back.  He can’t do the APT.”

Even on my back, I didn’t breathe properly.  She said, encouragingly, that I’d learn, but it’s hard to feel good about yourself when you’ve just failed standing and breathing. I’m not sure what else there is to fail, but I’m sure I’ll find out.

So I have a sheet of exercises.  When I head towards the bathroom, I am instructed to take a moment in the hall to twist my leg and loosen the hip, or to stand with my back against the wall and press out.  My hip aches from where she pressed hard enough to bruise it.

I thought personal training would be gruelling – and to be fair, I was sweaty and tired at the end of it.  And I’m sure it’ll ramp up over time.

I just thought it would be more “You’re too weak to lift this weight” and less “You’re too incompetent to breathe,” you know?

 

 

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

So I have been absent from blogging for a very long time.  But I have good reasons!

Work has been chewing up large portions of my energy.  
The project I’ve been working on for about two years finally got pushed out the door, which has led to a fascinating complication:

My bugs actually matter.

I’ve gotten used to the comparatively sedate pace of Massive Development, where I had deadlines but they were months down the road and if I had bugs, well, it was just test data.  And after a lovely long vacation I’m launched back into bugs actually costing people money, or inconveniencing customers, and that turns out to be a significant stressor.

So work’s gotten more tense, and that’s almost entirely due to my own overdeveloped sense of responsibility – because my bosses are understanding that bugs will shake out when a hugely complex project rolls live, thankfully.  I am the one who’s like “ZOMG MUST FIX NOW.”

It’s not bad, it’s just a situation I have to reacclimate myself to.  Or get myself into another lovely theoretical project.

I’ve been frantically writing books. 
One of the best pieces of writing advice I ever got was from Seanan McGuire, who warned me that if I was at successful at this novel-writing thing that I’d be forever bouncing between projects, so I’d best get used to writing novels in snippets.

Sure enough, I had the editorial letter for Savor Station, so I was doing final(ish) edits on that, then I returned to my polyamory-in-Narnia novel (if you think you’re jealous of your girlfriend’s boyfriend now, imagine when you find out he’s Prince Caspian) just long enough to finish off Act I, and then I snapped back to writing my maintenance cyberpunk novel where yes there are voluntary amputees charging into combat with hyperfast prosthetic armaments but really the battle was won in the workshop two days ago when you fine-tuned your IFF routines to be better than your opponent.

All that switching headspaces is surprisingly exhausting.  Which means that when it’s time to blog….

I’m doing low-key blogging on other platforms.
I’ve been experimenting with doing more Twitter threads,  which are a lot like short essays here except every line is potentially Retweetable.  They’ve been popular and get me more fans – FOLLOW ME AT @FERRETTHIMSELF, he said – but I’m not ultimately sure I like it.  Twitter threads are easier to write in a way, and the social media environment rewards them disproportionately, but if one hits big then my mentions are chewed to pieces and I can’t interact with people I actually like.

I’m debating what to do on that one.

And then I’m tossing off the occasional essay on FetLife, merely because Fet provides more context.  I’m usually riffing off the topic of the day there (as their Kinky and Popular page, which shows the most-read essays on Fet, ensures regular swirls of debate on various issues), and FetLife’s easier to write for because there’s a certain base layer of “Hey, we’re all kinky here, so we agree on these tenets.”

Writing for the open Internet is a bit harder, because I have to stranger-proof my writings, whether here or on Twitter – something I write could be easily taken out of context and draw a lot of heat, so I have to continually explain myself to strangers.  Whereas writing on kink or consent on Fet is a bit like Harry Potter fanfic – you don’t have to explain to the audience what Hogwarts is, you don’t have to infodump the magic system, let’s go.

So the blog’s been a bit dusty.

But hi!  I have a book coming out in September (which is getting good advance reviews, if scarce ones) on rebellious teenagers fighting against immortal digitized politicians who’ve forgotten what it’s like to be alive.  (Because seriously, if we perfect brain-uploading technology so no one ever dies, that’s gonna fuck up our politics something fierce.) And my first book Flex is on sale for a dollar this week, so it’s an easy in if you’ve been waiting for an opportunity to read me.

And much is happening in my life! My Dad is visiting this weekend!  My wife and I have hired a personal trainer!  I fixed stuff around my own house, and other peoples’ houses!  But I just haven’t had the spare cycles to write about any of that so I’m watching Twin Peaks and drinking bourbon.

If you want a more livestream version of me, I’m at Twitter or Fet. And if history shows anything, I’ll probably be back here more often.  But hallooooo!  I’m a me. It’s good to see a you.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

Dear Lover:

Sometimes, you’ll see me flinch when you say “I love you.” It’s not a bad thing. I’m startled.

I forget you love me a lot.

And the sad thing is, it’s nothing you did. I’m a depressive. That’s my disease. No matter how much adoration has flowed between us, no matter what grand gestures you make to prove your affection to me, I forget. I’m like an emotional amnesiac, my good feelings forever being erased to leave me with shadows of doubt and terror. Sometimes I read old texts of yours to try to remember what it felt like being loved, and all I come away with is cruel reinterpretations of how those kind words didn’t really mean what I thought they did.

I don’t want this. I merely survive with it.

And I know my inability to remember consistently costs me. My past is strewn with exes who exhausted themselves through increasingly grander gestures, convinced that if they kissed me the right way then all this depression would vanish like dew in the summer sun. And when it didn’t, they decided I was being stubborn, and left.

You haven’t. Not yet.

Don’t think I’m not grateful. Don’t think my endless, shivering fear that today you’ve stopped loving me means that I don’t love you – why would I be afraid of you going unless you meant something to me?

And don’t think I’m not trying. Like I said, I reread your old texts, I recall your warm embraces, I recount all the lovely things you’ve done for me, all in an imperfect attempt to transform cold memories into some flickering ember of love to warm myself by. I will flinch sometimes, and be shocked, and yes, sometimes be the pain in the ass who asks “You love me, right?” at the worst times – but I am trying, oh so trying, to retain what emotional memories I can.

Then there are the days when you ask the right question at the right time. A simple text: “Do you know I love you today?”

That “today” makes all the difference.

That “today” lets me know that I might forget tomorrow, and you’ll be here to remind me.

That “today” tells me you understand my illness in all the ways I need you to.

And yes. Yes, I know today. I know today, and it is wonderful because for a brief moment I can feel that love flowing between us like a river, and maybe I’ll forget the warmth of water tomorrow but for right now I know it yes I know it.

I love you.

That’s something I never forget.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

Today is the most important day of the year – it is MY BIRTHDAY!  I was the first grandchild in my family for six years, and I was born on July 3rd, so it took me a while to figure out that the fireworks and the big beach celebration weren’t meant for me.

(I was generous. I magnanimously shared My Fireworks with everyone.  AS I STILL DO.)

Today I shall be celebrating by heading down to Amish country and eat cheese, which is a thing that old people do to celebrate. But if you would like to wish me joy on this occasion, here’s a few things you can do:

1) Call Your Senator To Preserve Health Care!
Looks like Trumpcare is about to pass – while Donald Trump has been making headlines with stupid Twitter-fights, Mitch McConnell has quietly submitted his revised bill to the CBO, indicating that he probably has the votes.  And yes, it’s exhausting and demoralizing because even if we get the Senators to halt this bill, they’ll come back with another bill…

So your birthday gift to me can be rising, grumpy and irritated, from your couch to pick up the phone and call one more time.  (To those of you going, “But my Senators are Democratic!”, call them and say, “GO BALLS TO THE WALL TO STOP THIS FUCKING THING.”)

I’ve written a still-mostly-relevant how-to guide as to how neurotic people like myself can call their Senator, so it’s as easy as possible.  Wanna make a weasel happy?  Act politically.

2) Preorder My Upcoming Book, THE UPLOADED!
People frequently ask me, “Where’s the best place to buy your book so you benefit the most from it?”  And as for all authors, the question is not “Where” but “When.”  As I’ve discussed before, ordering in advance of the release date is the single best thing you can do for an author’s career.

(Unless you’re an editor. Then buying their book and promoting the fuck out of it is the best thing you can do.  But most of you aren’t editors.)

Anyway, The Uploaded is coming out in September, and I’m nervous about its reception because – like every book – it’s hard to get traction when the world is actually falling apart.  So if you were planning on buying it, you can make me happier on my birthday by buying it today! And if you’re not sure whether you wanted to buy a book about what happens five hundred years after humanity perfected immortality, well, Barnes and Noble has the first two chapters available for your perusal.

(And yes, I’ll be doing a book tour of some kind, though there will probably be different cities. I’m gonna try hard to hit Ann Arbor, and Washington DC, and maybe Atlanta and Colorado, as well as other locations people have been bugging me about to go to. Feel free to contact me if you have a local bookstore you think would be amenable to hosting.)

Anyway, The Uploaded is ready for preorder at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and every good bookshop you can name.  If you’re up for it, geddit.

3) Treat Yo Self. 
If you’ve done those first two, well, do something nice for yourself. Go watch the fireworks, if you have them in your country.  My birthday’s awesome, and you’re awesome, so make yourself feel awesome.

Love to you.  Happy birthday to me.  Peace out.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

So if you’re a reviewer and you’ve been thirsting to get my tale of genetically engineered superponies and immortal brain-gods who have made life positively unfashionable, well, The Uploaded is available for download at everyone’s favorite advanced reader review site NetGalley. Get out there and give it however many stars you think it deserves.

If you’re not a reviewer and you’re like, “Say, I want in on this pseudo-cyberpunk family drama!” then let us not forget that Barnes and Noble has two sample chapters available for you, so you can see what happens when your mother and father die and get uploaded into immortal perfection while you’re stuck on this filthy rotting Earth.

And if you like it, well, it’s coming out in September. Feel free to preorder it.  It’s at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and every reputable bookshop. If your local bookdealer of choice doesn’t carry it, explain to them that reputability is critical to their business, and there’s but one way to achieve that, and that is indeed ensuring they carry my book.  Funny, that.  But hey, I didn’t make these rules.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

I doubt he even remembers enraging me. But I almost screamed at him.

I’m still not sure whether it was his fault.

But let’s rewind. I have a friend who has pretty severe walking issues – he gets only so many steps in a day before he collapses. Most days he can get to nightfall without needing a walker – and he works hard, very hard, not to be seen as a burden.

More so, he struggles to be seen as a person. If you’ve never friended someone with a disability, you don’t quite understand how a visible handicap can eclipse someone’s personality. People tend to assume that everyone in a wheelchair acts the same – they talk a little louder, a little slower, they’re quicker to dismiss their opinions because really, do they know what they want?

Disabled people struggle to be seen. And my friend, well, he worked really hard to be more than his disability –

– which meant he pushed himself hard at conventions. Lots of covert sweating, casually leaning on bars, sitting down when they could. Because if he displayed weakness, the conversation would shift from all the happy things that made his life worthwhile and would focus on “Are you all right?” – which is a question he asks himself entirely too damn much as it is.

He wanted the con to be a vacation and not an explanation. Which was why his disability was, largely, not quite a secret among friends but something where the extent wasn’t entirely revealed unless you were in the know.

And my friend had held up well during the day but was starting to fade in the evening. He was looking for, well, let’s call him The Guy Ultimately I Wanted To Yell At, or Tguiwtya.

He was looking for Tguiwtya. Because he was good friends with Tguiwtya, and and wanted a few moments to hang with Tguiwtya to hang out before he collapsed. And my friend texted Tguiwtya to say “Hey, I’m on my way,” and Tguiwtya had said “I’m in the back of the ballroom.”

Tguiwtya was not in the back of the ballroom.

I ran into my friend, looking exhausted, who asked me if I’d seen Tguiwtya. I knew he’d walked all the way down from their room to meet Tguiwtya, exhausting the very last of his daily steps, and getting back up to the room would be an effort. I said I hadn’t.

He plopped into a chair, sweaty, miserable, waiting for Tguiwtya to show. I kept him company, brought him water. But Tguiwtya wasn’t responding to texts. And eventually, my friend said, “Well, let’s see if I can find him,” and staggered off, leaning heavily on his cane.

I wondered if he was going to make it.

I left. And lo, a couple of hallways down, there was Tguiwtya! Merrily laughing with a bunch of his friends. I collared him.

“Hey. Our friend’s walking the halls looking for you.”

He looked puzzled, as if unsure why I’d bring such a trivial thing to his attention. “Yeah,” he said. “That’s fine.”

I almost screamed.

What I wanted to yell was, “Do you fucking realize how much effort it takes for my friend to find you? You said your dumb ass would be at the back of the ballroom, and they exerted themselves to get to you because they like you, and now they’re straining themselves to find you again, and your answer should not be some pudding-faced ‘that’s fine’ but ‘Yes, sir, I will get right on that.'”

Then I saw Tguiwtya’s friends, crooking their necks at me.

Did I want to make a scene?

Was it worth looking like a fucking maniac in front of all these people, just to make a point about someone’s condition? Because they didn’t know. They couldn’t understand unless I literally barged into their conversation, twisted it, made it about this, and….

Oh.

Shit, that’s gotta be what it’s like all the time, isn’t it?

Let’s be honest: Tguiwtya should have fucking known how much effort it took my friend to walk all the way down to meet him. I know for a fact that my buddy had talked to Tguiwtya about his illness. He was one of the inner circle, one of the folks who’d pushed a walker for my friend.

But how many times do you want to call some able-bodied person out for not comprehending something that they cannot experience? For Tguiwtya, “walking to the ballroom and back” was such a trivial effort that I doubt he even contemplated it as an effort.

Would I be damaging Tguiwtya’s friendship with my friend by explaining what an accidental asshole they were being?

That was, I realized, a brief window into being disabled. People don’t see your illness, even when you make it clear to them. They can’t comprehend that this background static of their lives could be a deafening uproar to anyone else.

And you always get to choose: make an embarrassing fuss and maybe get accommodated, maybe get rejected – or keep the peace and keep a friendship that means less but at least you get to keep it?

To this day, I’m still not sure if I should have yelled at him. Maybe I should. But he wasn’t my friend, and even if he was, I’m not sure I wanted to dress him down in front of a crowd of people.

What I do know is that I doubt Tguiwtya even ponders that moment. If he does, he thinks of me as the asshole who gave him a vicious side-eye when he didn’t break off his amusing anecdote to rush to meet our friend in the ballroom.

But I remember.

I learned something that day.

I hope I learned to listen.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

I was told the other day how true polyamory didn’t have rules. You just got to fuck whoever you wanted, and nobody could stop you or it wasn’t polyamory.

Okay.

Let’s break that down.

Because people forget rules weren’t inflicted on people wholesale by malicious bureaucrats. Rules are like pearls, which are beautiful to us but an irritant to an oyster. Oysters create pearls because they can’t get a piece of sand out of their tendermeats and layer it in nacre until they have a ball of Stuff stuck in their craw. That’s not great for the oyster, but it’s better than having sand ripping up their insides.

And like a pearl, every rule started with some Problem that was causing distress, and people decided to wrap a Rule around it – because as annoying as that Rule was, it was better than the initial Problem.

Now rules, as I’ve noted, are the failure state of polyamory. You’d be better served by utilizing expectations, which aren’t quite as brittle and lead to better understanding. But rules and expectations both are solutions to the same ultimate problem:

You’re hurting someone you love.

They feel abandoned when you don’t text them at the end of the night. They feel threatened when you cancel dates on them to go out with New Person. They feel exasperated when they’re spending their dates with you as a pseudo-relationship counsellor, picking apart the reasons you’re fighting with your other partner all the time.

But hey. You have no limits. So even if your partner’s cat just died and they’re desperate to not be alone tonight, fuck that! You had a date. And you’re not cancelling that because NO LIMITS!

What’s that?

That’d be cruel? You wouldn’t leave your partner alone during a time of need?

Well, I guess you have limits.

“That’s different!” you cry. “That’s what I wanted to do! I chose to do that of my own volition, not because of some stupid rules!”

Here’s the secret to rules, my friend:

Everyone chooses them.

There’s no legal contract for any poly relationship saying, “I have to stay with this person.” There may be consequences, divorce laws being punitive and all, but there’s consequences for any bad decision. You treat them badly enough that they refuse to talk to you, you don’t get the hot sex or the emotional support. If you’re really a shithead, you may lose friends over the breakup. There is no consequence-free decision.

As such, people may bitch about rules, but ultimately they chose to stay with the person who enacted them. Why? Because the irritant of the rules is better than losing that person entirely – or better than the less-critical problem of “I love them, so I don’t want to make them feel bad.”

You’re not better because you made a decision on the fly to alter your behavior to be with someone. That’s how relationships work. You negotiate, you compromise, you figure out where your elbow hits someone’s eye.

And in a lot of cases, you don’t do something that would bring you magnificent satisfaction because you know it would hurt someone. Unsafe sex. Taking someone else to the concert you promised you’d take them to. Disappearing for a two-week vacation with a new sweetie without letting them know where you’re going.

All those are limits.

“They’re self-imposed limits!” you cry – but now you’re changing the argument. Because polyamory was supposed to have no limits, man. Total and utter William Wallace-style FREEEEEEDOM!

…except that compassionate human beings, when given the choice to do whatever they want, will often choose not to do things that injure the people they love.

True freedom involves the ability to self-limit.

And so “Polyamory has no limits” often is a synonym for “I am a sociopath who is only out for my own satisfaction, and anyone who inconveniences me in any way will be shunted aside. I don’t give a fuck about you as long as I get mine.” It’s not so much an ethos as a warning sign that this person is not someone you want to date unless your Venn diagram of what you desire overlaps theirs perfectly.

And yes. It’s perfectly logical to stop dating someone whose feelings are so sensitive you can’t avoid bruising them; I’ve done it myself. But that’s not “I have no limits” so much as “Our limits were irreconcilable.” There’s nothing wrong with a hedonistic relationship based on pleasure, either, so long as everyone involved chose it honestly. It’s possible to have a relationship with such low limits that you never brush against them.

But I generally find that the people who bristle at any idea of limitations are the people who bristle at the idea of other people having needs. They want no limitations because really, anything that obstructs their satisfaction is an enemy to be destroyed.

Date these people at your peril.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

Hey guys, I’ve got a quick-turnaround website to protest the AHCA – but while I’ve written the words and done the research, my web design looks like 2003 hot garbage.

If someone out there can commit to a professional, bare-bones web design to help me get out a three-page website this week, please email me at theferrett@gmail.com stat, along with a page or two that you’ve designed so I can verify you’re better than I am.  (It’s not hard, trust me.) And I’ll happily share details if you’re a professional who knows design and/or political protest and wanna email me at theferrett@gmail.com, because, well, it’s a last-ditch shot in the dark against the AHCA before it passes next week.

If you’re feeling volunteery, please email.  Thanks.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

In my basement sits a bookcase that, I am told, was built by my grandfather.  I don’t know; I never met him.  He died three months before I was born.

My grandfather's bookcase, I think.The bookcase has a huge, multilayered wad of gum on the side from when I was a teenager, and had no idea what the bookcase was – it was just in my room, and I owned my room, and besides the gum wasn’t where my Mom could see it.  It was my little act of dickish rebellion that, like a thousand other things I did as a teenager, I regret.

And that’s all it was for several years: my grandfather’s bookcase. My teenaged gum.

Now that I’ve taken up woodworking, I can now see the choices he made in making it: fixed shelves, because drilling in the holes for adjustable shelves is a pain in the ass.  He chose a little hand-carved decoration along the top to hide the boxlike construction – not exactly beautiful, but a step beyond everyday bookcase making.  It sits on a base for greater stability, which is something we haven’t done yet.

Now that I build things, it’s not a bookcase but a language my grandfather spoke.  Were he alive today, I could grunt in a manly way and ask what tools he used back in 1960 to make this thing, and discuss where he kept his workshop, and ask about the staining.

And he would, in the way of all woodworkers, be able to point out every tiny flaw he could not correct.  Every craftsman knows about them, because you cannot avoid them: that joint that isn’t perfectly snug, that router that drifted from the fence, that board that’s 1/16″ too short.  Experienced woodworkers – and me and my crew are getting there – know how to hide those errors with wood putty and on-the-fly plan alterations, but we keep them tight to our chest.  They are the secrets of furniture, an encrypted thieves’ cant of sorrow only told to others in the hobby.

Last night I made my own contribution to the house: a dye shelf I made for Gini in the basement.  It’s made of pine, my first natural wood project – not that you’d know that because at the last minute Gini insisted on switching from a dark stain to a bright purple paint.

I can list all its flaws: the squaring is off by an eighth of an inch because the pine was slightly warped.   There’s a gouge underneath the right third shelf where – you guessed it – the router drifted from the fence.  The paint was the wrong kind for woodworking, latex, too sticky to sand the brush strokes off, so there’s dribbles everywhere.

Gini loves it.

And soon, it will earn its place in the basement, just another fixture in the house, a useful engine.  And my garage workshop is filling other houses; we have two bookcases meant for Eric’s attic, and two customized shelves meant to fit in the gaps on either side of Jim’s fireplace.

And in a sense, I feel like I’m firing a flare into the future.  I will die, like my grandfather before me.  But my friends and family will know that Ferrett did woodworking – here, here’s the shelf he built for Gini, we didn’t have the heart to throw it out, can you use it?

Maybe some day there will be someone who never got to know me but can rest his hand on some shelf I built.  And they too will speak this language of craftsmanship.  And they’ll look at the speckly paint job and the uneven shelves and judge me, and they will look at the love it took to spend a few hours building something because your wife asked you to and adjust their thinking, and they’ll cock their head and look at this stolid thing as if trying to unravel what sort of man I am from the things I left behind.

I wish I could tell them.  But I won’t last.

My shelves might.

Let them talk for me when I’m gone.

"Project Gini"

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

Repealing Obamacare’s protections would be bad enough. But the new Trumpcare will most likely make your health care worse than before Obamacare was enacted – and if you lived through those days, you’ll remember they weren’t exactly fantastic for sick people.

You may say, “Well, I have health insurance through my employer, so I’m safe!”  Unfortunately, it’s rumored the Senate is planning to allow employer-provided insurers to just stop covering you once they spend enough on you.  Did your kid need an expensive operation?  Well, your insurer’s paid enough as far as the Republicans are concerned.  Now your employer’s Aetna coverage has run out, and you’ll have to find another job with another insurer if you want your kids (and you!) to be protected.

I say this is “rumored” because this is bill is so goddamned awful that the Senate refuses to publish a draft of the bill that the public can see.  As it is planned by Republicans, there will be no public debates, no hearings, no explanations – just a simple vote before July 4th.  Republicans bitch that Obama “rammed” the ACA through quickly, but that took 270 days and numerous town halls and hearings.  The Republicans are literally not even letting the American people know what’s in this shitty bill because, as an aide said, “We aren’t stupid.”

Your only hope to knock this off the rails is to call your Senators.  Now.  You need to call today, because several of the Senators in charge of the bill are meeting to finalize their plans.

And unfortunately, while people were furious enough to flood their Senators’ offices with calls right after Trump got elected, sources say we’re back to the usual silence.  People have given up.

I’m asking my fellow Americans: make two calls, one to each of your Senators.  If they’re Republican, tell them how this shit will hurt you.  If they’re Democratic,  tell them to bring Congress to a stop until this is at least debated in public.

Here’s how you do it:

CALL, DO NOT EMAIL, THE AIDE IN CHARGE OF HEALTH CARE.
Politicians can ignore emails the way you do. They can’t ignore calls. Their staffers have to take the calls, which means their staff doesn’t get anything done while they’re handling calls, which means the Senator is far more likely to hear about how the office is slowing to a crawl because the ACA issue is jamming the lines.

In addition, most Senators don’t get that many calls; under normal circumstances, 15 people calling a day is huge. For an entire state. If you can get 50, that’s usually off the charts. So even one call can make a significant difference.

You want to call the aide in charge of health care to be sure you get heard.  Fortunately, here is a list of all the staffers tasked with working on health care.

SAY YOU’RE A VOTER FROM YOUR TOWN.
Let them know you’re local up-front. Calling Senators when you’re not a potential voter generally does diddly. You do not have to give your name, though you can if you want; they may ask you for your zip code.  If you have to leave a message, tell them you want a call back to confirm the message got through and leave your number.

HAVE A SCRIPT READY, IF YOU’RE SOCIALLY AWKWARD LIKE ME.
A good script is something like:

1) Protecting preexisting conditions is vital to keeping America strong;
2) Please do not repeal the ACA without a strong replacement that protects sick people (they’re going to repeal it, the idea is just to keep the parts that keep people alive), and the bill that passed the House is an abomination that will hurt sick people.
3) I will not vote for any Senator who helps repeal the ACA without a strong replacement, either in the primary or the general election.

You’re free to go on, if you like, but be polite. They kind of have to listen. In my experience, they’ll generally say they’ll pass the message onto the Senator, and hang up. But if you want to be that person who the office groans when they have to handle them – that polite-but-firm person who will be heard – then hey! You can contribute to the office gossip that people are really concerned about this ACA issue, which is good in politics.

CALL YOUR SENATORS, NOT YOUR REPRESENTATIVES.
That means you have to make a maximum of two calls, which will take ten minutes max. (Unless your Senator’s line is already clogged, in which case, keep calling.)

You can generally look up your senator by using Who Is My Representative, then use the staffer guide to see who you should call.

And here’s the trick: If you’re a conservative who’s opposed to mandating that insurers must be able to insure people with preexisting conditions (for some reason), flip the script and call as well. This is a republic, and you deserve to have your voice heard, even if I utterly cannot see why you’d support this particular bill except that you’re the sort of doof who’d punch a puppy if it made a liberal cry.

That said, I said back in January that “I fully expect the ACA will be repealed without a valid replacement.” If you don’t like that very real fact, then call now.  I’m sick of calling.  You’re sick of calling.  The Republicans are making us sick… of calling.

Still.  Call now.  I hate to keep giving last chances, but man, we’re closer than ever to losing everything.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

Dating is fucking rough on straight men, and anyone who denies that isn’t paying attention. Men are culturally expected to make the first move, which means they’re putting themselves up to be rejected before a date even happens, which means that even trying to land a date – let alone the potential heartbreak of a bad date – starts to feel like a series of job interviews that nobody much wants you for.

(And yes, women get that too to some extent, but it’s not nearly as prevalent as it is with guys. If you’re a woman and you’re contacting dudes first to ask them out on dates instead of patiently waiting to be courted, thank you.)

So let me give you straight guys a piece of advice that it’s best to internalize right now, because it’ll make your life so much easier if you can genuinely come to realize this:

Nobody owes you a woman.

That is, honestly, not a message you’ve seen a lot of in the media. Because if you look at almost every action movie starring A Guy, if he’s really good at saving people he’ll get A Girl at the end of the film. If you look at comedies, there’s a schlubby guy with a good heart and nine times out of ten he’ll be rewarded with a really hot girl if he just learns the right lesson. Guys on sitcoms have hot wives, and their single friends are usually pathetically dysfunctional.

Your narratives have covertly conditioned you that if you do your job right, you’ll get a girl.

Which quietly trains you to believe that if you don’t have a girl, you haven’t done your job right.

And that conditioning creates a lot of side effects that actually make it harder for you to get the intimacy that you need. Because:

Some Guys Get Desperate To Prove Themselves.
Some men will be so determined to get the girl they think they should have – which is not the girl they actually like, but rather the prettiest one that proves their status in society. And they’ll hang around this woman who they have nothing in common with, feigning friendship because they’ve been trained that if they’re just “nice” the woman will eventually fall in love with them, pretending to like all sorts of things they hate like shopping and chick flicks and the wrong sports team…

And then that woman will frequently reject them because they’re not that interesting. Hey, all you do is nod and bob your head, why’s that compelling?

And when these guys are rejected after selling their soul to sniff the perfume, they get furious. I did so much for her!, they say.

Here’s the truth, my friend: If you’re hanging around anyone swallowing your pride in some desperate attempt to get laid, you are doing it wrong. Maybe you’re just so milquetoast that she doesn’t like you. Maybe she senses how you’re faking friendship to get into her pants. Maybe, hell, she really does like complete assholes.

Why are you hanging around someone you loathe? Why don’t you just find someone you do like? And the answer is often a subliminal “Because I was promised I’d get the woman of my dreams if I didn’t screw up too badly.”

Look. The woman of your dreams should be someone who you actually like, and likes you back. Shaving off pieces of your personality to achieve the Manly Aspiration of Getting The Right Girl is a mug’s game. Nobody’s worth that whether you’re a guy or a girl (and women who feign love in all the manly things to land the right guy are equally deluded).

But what you’re doing is this:

  • I like that girl
  • She’s supposed to be mine if I like her
  • So if I don’t get her, I’m failing – not just personally, but failing in my role as a dude.

Give that up, my man.  Try this:

  • I am physically attracted to this girl
  • Let’s see whether there’s a mutual interest
  • If I don’t get her, why would I want to pretend to be someone I wasn’t to land someone who didn’t like me?

Contemplate all the compromises you’d have to make to become what she wants – and if that bill is too much, you’re smarter to walk away.

Some Guys Get Lazy.
Here’s the truth, man: you dress for the job you want.

There’s nothing wrong with going for the hottest girl in the room, but you gotta be honest about what you’re bringing to the table. If you’re going for some model-quality blonde and you’re Mr. Balding Paunchy, then you have to ask, “If I’m not going to woo her through sheer physical spectacle, what do I have to offer?”

Smart men will say, “Okay, I’ll work on my personality.” Or they’ll develop a unique talent – hey, Meatloaf got laid as a rock star, you can too. Or they’ll hit the gym and work those abs.

Dumb guys will, sadly, look at the hot girl and think, “Man, what a stuck-up bitch, she won’t even give me the time of day.” Well, you were walking over there to try to slide into her panties, so let’s not pretend you’re Gandhi in offering your magnificent friendship.

Alas, this “I shouldn’t have to offer anything” plan even applies to guys who are just casually dating. They inherit this List Of Things Women Want – a list made by equally inept guys – and blindly follow it, then get furious when women don’t actually desire the things on their imaginary list.

Truth: there are men with ten-inch dicks who can’t get laid because they come off as fakers, or stalkers, or both.

That “I am owed a woman” comes out very subtly, but it’s there in men thinking that women should flock to their feet by virtue of them, well, existing. And women who aren’t attracted to your immutable (and debatable) charm are just dumb, they can’t see your appeal, they’re stupid and insane and ingrateful….

And again, why the fuck do you want to date these women you hate so much?

Why are you spending energy to chase women you despise?

My advice is dress nice and learn a joke or two. But if you’re not gonna do that, why buy into the idea that women are something you have to have? You could just buy sex from a sex worker – except no, that’s pathetic, a real man should get a woman he loathes because again, you’re owed a woman.

You’re not. And when you stop thinking of women as something you should just have and start thinking of intimacy as something you have to cultivate, then you start actually paying attention to actual individual women, and see what they’re into, and decide whether you want to spruce up those aspects of yourself.

You may have to perform a bit.  That’s okay. Most women wear makeup, too.

Some Guys Settle.
Some guys, unfortunately, do find a woman who’ll sleep with them. She’s not a woman they have anything in common with – note the theme? – but she is willing to sporadically put his penis in their vagina, and hey, she’s not actively offensive.

And then these guys get committed, marrying women who might as well be alien creatures for all they understand and/or empathize with them, and they wind up in a relationship that’s equal parts frustration and working around the existence of their partner.

Dudes. Again. You can say no. Just because someone’s willing to sleep with you doesn’t mean they’re compatible with you. Hell, you might even want to turn down some sex because it comes with strings you’re not comfortable with.

Yet guys are, once again, conditioned to be less of a man if they reject sex. Sex is what all men want all the time, and if they don’t feast upon the sex whenever it’s offered they’re not real men.

Do not buy into this.

I tell women all the time that they’re right to reject men if they don’t want them. Remember that you also have the right to turn women down. Don’t be cruel, but you can break off any relationship that makes you antsy, you can refuse sex even if someone’s throwing themselves at you, you can make your own choices.

Don’t buy into this model of scarcity.

Some Guys Enter The Oppositional Stage And Never Exit It.
The larger truth is this:

Women aren’t all that mysterious. They have different priorities, but that’s often because they have different experiences (and, yes, different cultural conditioning, which is why you see an unfortunate number of women patiently waiting for their prince to arrive).

It’s not that women don’t want casual sex – it’s that they’re not convinced your casual sex will be any good (look up the number of women who come from first-time hookups and realize women have roughly a 50/50 shot of having it be good for them), and they don’t know that you’re not the guy who’s going to imprint on them like a duckling and waddle around after them for the next seven months.

Women often don’t give an emphatic “no,” instead leading you on – but that’s because while dating is psychologically dangerous to you, the danger of some asshole physically assaulting a woman if she comes off as too bitchy is real for them.   They may give you a quiet brush-off because they can’t be sure that you’re not the guy with the oversized ego and the roid rage.

There’s all sorts of distinctions like that.  If you can understand those differences, and account for them, your path to intimacy will be a lot easier. And you’ll also not be sleeping with people you secretly resent because HOW DARE THEY NOT SLEEP WITH ME I’M A NICE GUY AND AS A NICE GUY PUSSY IS MY BIRTHRIGHT.

Truth is, you’re not owed a woman, and you’re not less if you don’t manage to find one. Sometimes you’re not finding A Woman because you are, quite sanely, holding out for someone who’s actually compatible with you.  Sometimes you’re alone because you have standards, and that’s a good thing.

And ironically, giving up the resentment usually clears the path for more intimacy. Drop the rose-tinted goggles to see what women actually desire, and what you actually desire, and it’s much better when you work to make that happen.  (Plus, when you stop seeing women as some trophy to be had, you can approach the concept of genuine platonic friendships with women – and as a dating tip, there’s no better way to be introduced to women than by having enthusiastic female friends who’ll vouch for you.  You may not get that woman, but you get a friend and the potential connection with all her friends.)

Or you could unthinkingly approach dating like it’s  The Great Prophecy Of A Woman Will Arrive If I’m Not Particularly Bad At My Job.  In which case you may eventually find a woman but by the time you get there you’ll be enraged, desperate, and not particularly good for each other.

Not gonna lie. It’s tough out there.

But you can do better.

Good luck.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

Today’s normally a quiet day in our house: it’s the anniversary of Rebecca Alison Meyer, who died of brain cancer on her sixth birthday.  We were with her in her final moments.

I’m still not quite over it.

Anyway, new readers may not know about Rebecca, because, well, there hasn’t been much new to say.  I wrote about what it was like, loving a girl with brain cancer.  Even three years on, Rebecca is with me always, quite literally: she’s tattooed on my arm.

I said it at the time, and I mean it today:

“Rebecca is a miracle.  Even if this was all we got, she is a fucking miracle, and I want you to know that.

“I just want more.

“I want so much more.”

And normally, I’d just huddle down and grieve and let it pass.   I can’t share every old ache.

But you’ll understand why this news story, released yesterday, might hit me pretty hard today.

I could rage. I could mention all the ways this isn’t fake news, or how it’s scumbaggery of the highest levels, or barrage you with a new essay on what it’s like to watch someone so young die and know there is literally nothing you can do to help her and then ask you to imagine what it’s like to raise money in the name of preventing that and then steal it.

But I won’t.

Instead, I’ll ask quietly:

If you have the spare money, and feel like donating to charities that will use your hard-won earnings to actually help children in need, please ponder donating to CureSearch for Children’s Cancer.  They help.

(And if you have any money left over, please ponder donating to Rebecca’s Gift, a charity founded in Rebecca’s name by Rebecca’s family, which helps families who have endured the death of a child to heal.)

Anyway.  I don’t know how I’ll respond today.  I might withdraw, I might engage, I’m not sure.

But if you’ve got the spare cash, use a few bucks to heal.  It’ll help everyone.

Promise.

Peace.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

It was the third time I’d sent her a text: “Hey, I’m free this weekend. Did you wanna get together?” And it was the third time she’d said, “Lemme see,” and then never got back to me.

Her unresponsiveness was not, in her defense, entirely malicious. She lived three hours away, had an erratic work schedule, and was thrashing overtime to make her rent money. She found herself exhausted and frequently collapsed at the end of the day. Still, I didn’t have a lot of free weekends either. And if I found myself with a free weekend, I gave her first option at seeing me, and kept it open until she got back to me… Which meant that sometimes, I got to the weekend and found myself with no plans.

But I hadn’t seen her in six months. I’d complained, and gotten apologies but no real change. And I faced an ugly question that really only polyamorous relationships face:

Do I break up with her, or do I downgrade the relationship?

Because that’s one of the strengths of polyamory: unlike monogamy, you don’t have to go all-in. If I’d relied on her for all my emotional and sexual needs, that lack of physical contact would be a detail, but poly relationships don’t have to be as load-bearing.

So I could stop thinking of her as “a core relationship” and instead quietly downgrade the relationship to a comet – the sort of thing that happens when our schedules happen to line up, but I don’t actively seek out.

Comet relationships are fabulous, by the way. I have several of them – people I talk to regularly, and am absolutely thrilled to cuddle when I’m in their neighborhood, but can go merrily dormant with for years at a time. (I once went seven years without seeing one of my comet-relationships in the flesh, and picked up that physicality effortlessly when we reconnected.)

But change is painful. Particularly change that’s seen to be going as backwards. And people would often prefer to just break it off entirely than try to live with an unfulfilling change.

But you don’t have to break up. You can just…. adjust.

That’s tricky, though, because you have to do it without resentment – and if you can’t, you might as well break up. Because stiffly telling someone, “Well, you’ve been insufficient for my needs, so I’m going to ignore you in the way that you have ignored me and see how you like it!” will rarely go well. Nor will downgrading someone because you’re afraid to vent your complaints, sniffling as you avoid confrontation without giving someone an option to change their behavior.

But…. life happens. Sometimes someone gets sick, or entangled in a more intense primary relationship than they’d like, or the intensity you once wanted each other with fades. You may not transition all the way down to a comet – but maybe you go from two dates a week to two dates a month. Or it’s an emotional downgrade where you realize that you love them dearly, but asking them to talk you out of a panic attack will get you snarled in an argument.

In any case, you quietly decide that this relationship can’t do everything you thought it would when you met. You quietly take certain elements off the table because you can’t have them with this person.

And that sucks, particularly if you still feel that longing, but then you have to weigh whether what you currently have left is still good enough on its own, or whether the ache for what you’ve lost will obliterate the joy out of anything that you could have today.

Worse, there’s no right or wrong on this. It all depends on your comfort – whether you can deal with getting less than you thought you were going to get (even if what’s left is still good). Whether you’re certain this is a one-time downgrade that will be stable, or if you’re setting yourself up for an endless string of recalibrations. Whether you perceive their inability to provide what you’d wanted as being maliciously abusive, or whether it’s just you misreading their commitment and talent.

Yet recalibrating is an option, and a valid one. There’s many relationships that started hot and full of promises and then got reduced down to comfortably blanket-warm, with two partners wiser about what comforts they can actually provide to each other without breaking down.

As it is, I wound up seeing her about once every ten months. We still loved each other, and when our schedules coincided, we had a wonderful weekend. But she didn’t have first choice of my schedule any more. She’d become a comet.

It was less than I thought I’d have when we started dating. But it was still pretty good. Good enough to bring joy to my life.

That was really all I needed.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

Last week I told people, hey, the cover of my new and awesome book THE UPLOADED is up at Barnes and Noble!  You can read the first two chapters of my story about the dark side digital immortality, and genetically-engineered superponies, and coral architecture!  Go click, I said!

And many of you did, and went, “Yeah, buddy, that book looks great.”  And then you presumably pre-ordered it and also bought me a pony.

But for those of you who didn’t click a link to see a beautiful cover…. hey, I get it.  Life’s busy.  The Internet scrolls on by like a rushing river, and maybe you meant to click but your finger broke or your dog did something cute or maybe you just, I dunno, had a life.  And now it’s a week later and Donald Trump did something else crazy that sucked all the air from the room, and you’ve entirely forgotten the magnificence that this upcoming book has to offer.

Well, just for you, here’s the cover, because I am so proud of the work Angry Robot does:

The Uploaded: Ferrett Steinmetz's new cyberpunk book

And as noted, this story is about what happens five hundred years after when humanity learns to upload our consciousnesses into effectively unkillable servers. Because once the dead can own property, and vote, and be treated like citizens – which, you know, they are, just ones with slightly digitized neurons – then eventually the money’s gonna pile up. You think the AARP has an undue influence upon politics now? Wait until they never die.

And that doesn’t take into account the culture changes. Because who’s gonna want to live, with your ugly meat diseases and your aging and your forgetfulness? Who wouldn’t want to transfer their brains into the greatest MMORPG that’s ever existed, a place that’s better than the real world?

What happens when living becomes unfashionable?

If this sounds like your cup of tea, well, you can preorder it – Barnes and Noble was kind enough to debut the cover, so giving them money is tech, but if you must use other online bookstores, it is available for preorder at That Other Place. It comes out in September. And, you know, I hope it’s worth your shekels.

Now go click on something else.  I hear there’s cute puppies out there.  Go find ’em.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

Marriages used to be about property and politics. Your families decided who’d benefit the most from this family merger, and then you were committed – not because you were happy, nobody really expected happiness, but because betrothal was a glorified business contract. Breaking it brought troubles for everyone. Best to tough it out.

The cultural legacy of that can be seen in the way we overvalue long-term relationships. Watch the way performers work a crowd: they’ll always ask a couple how long they’ve been married, and if the answer is sufficiently long, they’ll always relate that number breathlessly to the crowd: “Twenty-five years!” And the crowd will cheerfully applaud because these two people have been together a long time and long is good.

But stability comes in all forms, and only some of them include love.

Some twenty-five year relationships are the sort where they don’t really like each other, but they’ve learned to sort of slide past each other as much as possible. And if you watch, you’ll see the survival mechanisms for that: the half-listened to conversations, the eye-rolling shrug whenever someone notes something annoying about their partner, the weary willingness to do all of the chores their partner’s too incompetent or disinclined to do.

Some stability involves living almost separate lives, with two different friends groups because these two people want entirely different things. Some stability involves hanging out with each other because they don’t have any other friends, and going to a movie you hate with someone you don’t care for is still theoretically better than being alone.

Some stability involves great gaps in communication, the arguments you never have because if you open up that seal then this relationship is over. So you don’t discuss the kids you wanted, or the sex you wanted, or the life you wanted, because that would destroy this stability. Some stability involves constantly bickering about those unachievable goals, tossing the blame back and forth like a hot potato, a never-ending state of trench warfare.

Some stability involves shaping yourself to the role: breadwinner. Dutiful housewife. Business partner. Maybe you discovered at some point you didn’t want that role, but it’s better to carve off the parts of yourself that don’t fit than potentially rock the boat.

And a lot of stability involves confusing fondness for love. Human beings are hard-wired to form attachments to the things they rely on: soldiers have been known to sentimentally risk their lives in battle to rescue a bomb-defusing robot whose whole function was, literally, to stop them from risking their lives.

If you hang around someone for long enough, you often grow fond of them – maybe their quirks are irritating, but they are known quantities and you have discovered the workarounds. You’d miss them if they left, not necessarily because you like them, but because you’ve come to expect them – kind of like the way your new phone looks weird if you’ve lived with a phone with a crack in the screen for long enough.

But fondness isn’t love. It isn’t an active quantity. Fondness is just something that accretes like a tarnish on a penny, often arriving whether you’ve worked to get it or not. Love is a happy expectation, something that puts a spring in your step – fondness is just sinking back into the couch and realizing it hurts your back in the way that it’s always hurt your back, and the part of you that craves routine is happy for the hurt.

And you’ll see people in long-term relationships going, “I love them.” And while I’m not quite willing to write off fondness as not a form of love, I will say it’s one of the lower grades thereof. They don’t have a lot of love in these kinds of relationships.

What they have is stability. They know what’s going to happen today, and tomorrow, and the day after. It’s not great, but they’ve learned how to bear it. It’s going to stay this way for as long as they’re willing to stay, and leaving it might mean they get something worse.

And they get applause. People cheer. People are thrilled to meet people who’ve been together for so long because length is good, you’re supposed to stay together, it’s like being thin in that sometimes being thin is because you’re so goddamned sick you can’t eat but hey we all want thinness and we don’t care how we get it.

These people have stability.

They long for happiness.

Unfortunately, for them, in this circumstance, the one is the enemy of the other.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

There’s a lot of advice swirling around out there on “How to talk to your partner” – a thousand techniques to chip past their defensiveness, speak loudly enough to be heard, be nice enough to encourage niceness.

And it all falls short if your partner sucks.

Truth is, there’s basically two types of partners: The ones that care about how you’re feeling, and the ones who don’t. And sometimes the partners who care about how you’re feeling do need to be approached in the right way to maximize their compassion, but…

There’s a lot of deluded people who have partners who legitimately do not give a shit. And those people are endlessly convinced that their partner is a bank vault, just packed with love if only they can find the right tutorial to pick the locks, and they are endlessly blaming themselves because they somehow didn’t unlatch the great wellspring of tenderness that lies within them.

There’s not an approach that’ll help there.

And these people will point to their partner’s sporadic kindnesses as though these isolated incidents are a treasure map leading to the great stockpile of sympathy. But the truth is, almost everybody’s nice occasionally, if only by coincidence. Sometimes these unreachable partners want to make love when you do, but that’s not proof that they’re good to you, it’s proof that occasionally disparate agendas can line up like an optical illusion of kindness.

So the first part of establishing any real communication is ensuring that your partner actually gives a shit about you personally. Do they react with concern or exasperation the first time you raise an issue? Do they look for ways to write you off as a nut because it’s more convenient to them? Do they have a history of dropping partners whenever they prove troublesome?

Because yeah, you can – and should – work on presenting your problems in a kind, nonconfrontational way. But chefs work on great food presentation, and even they realize it won’t make a full man hungry.

First rule: Make sure they care about you.

Everything you do after they fail the first rule is, unfortunately, doomed to fail as well.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

You folks have probably heard a lot about “Net Neutrality” lately, but you may not be clear on what it is, how it’ll change your Internet life, or what you can do to keep it in place. And to be honest, I’m not qualified to speak about it.

But my friend Paul is.

Paul Goodman (@PaulOverbite) is Senior Legal Counsel on the Telecommunications and Technology Team at The Greenlining Institute – which is to say he’s been on the front lines battling the telecommunications industries for years, and he knows exactly what companies like AT&T would do if people like him weren’t there to stop him.  (Some of the things he’s told me about have been horrifying.)

So I’m gonna ask him to explain Net Neutrality to you through a phenomenal historical metaphor, and have him tell you why all isn’t lost yet even though yesterday’s headlines were indeed bad.

Paul?


Ferrett was kind enough to offer me the opportunity to write a blog post about the importance of net neutrality—the principle that your internet service provider (ISP) can’t control what content you access or devices you use on your broadband connection. As you may have read, on Thursday the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) initiated the process of eliminating the current net neutrality rules. Unfortunately, there was a fair amount of misreporting on the issue, leading to headlines like “Net Neutrality Rules Eliminated” and “FCC Kills Net Neutrality” and “Masked Man Throws Net Neutrality into Vat of Acid, Creating Green-Haired, White-Skinned Madman.”

However, net neutrality isn’t dead yet—but today’s vote was a clear sign that it’s in the Trump administration’s crosshairs.

To really understand the importance of net neutrality, you first need to understand Green Books. Green Books, common in the 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s, were travel guides for African American travelers. These books listed locations where food and lodging were available to African Americans, and, more importantly, listed places where African Americans would be refused service, falsely arrested, or murdered. The Green Books listed huge swaths of the country where there were no services available and where, accordingly, African Americans couldn’t go.

Think about that for a minute. Specifically, consider the enormous amount of power that white people had over black peoples’ lives. If you were black, white people could stop you from travelling to, or through, large parts of the country. So if you were more than a day’s drive away from friendly territory, you couldn’t visit your family. If you were a travelling salesman, there were large parts of your sales territory that you couldn’t visit. If you wanted to go to your state capitol to ask your elected representative for help, you might not be able to—not because you didn’t have the ability or resources, but because white people actively worked to keep you from doing so.

One group of people had control of a vital part of our nation’s infrastructure, and used that control to prevent African Americans from accessing economic, social, and political opportunities.*

Today, we’re facing the same scenario. A small group of broadband providers controls a vital part of our nation’s infrastructure — the national (and international) telecommunications network. That control gives ISPs an enormous amount of power. The Internet is the way that we communicate with our friends and loved ones, find jobs, contact government services, and get information. Net neutrality protections ensure that you, not your ISP, decide how to access the network, what content you view, who you communicate with, and which viewpoints you can express and support.

Under the current net neutrality rules, your broadband provider can’t discriminate against particular Internet content. For example, Comcast owns NBC-Universal. Comcast would prefer that you watch NBC shows, rather than shows from other content providers like HBO, or ABC, or Netflix. Comcast is also an ISP, and has the ability to deliver Internet traffic at different speeds and service quality, so Comcast could deliver NBC content in high-definition, while making videos from HBO look terrible. Net neutrality rules make sure that doesn’t happen.

In 2015, the FCC, which regulates what I call “communications services” and you call “telephone, cable TV, and broadband service,” imposed the most robust net neutrality protections in U.S. history. If you haven’t noticed, since then, we’ve had a few changes in our government. Under new leadership the FCC wants to roll back all of the robust net neutrality protections we’ve come to rely on. In anticipation, ISPs and conservative groups have been sending out a deluge of misinformation and dropping off huge sacks of money at policymakers’ offices.

There’s only one group that can really push back, and that group is us.

I know we’ve all got a lot on our plates lately, and we’re all battling on multiple fronts, but I would really like you to understand that the fight to save net neutrality is critical. Many marginalized groups—people of color, LGBT folks, Muslims, to name just a few—don’t have access to traditional outlets for getting their voices heard. The Internet is often the only tool that we have to communicate, give and receive support, and organize. Without a free and open Internet, we will lose our ability to make our voices heard, share our positions and strategies, and work for real change. We cannot let that happen.

The FCC is currently taking comments on its plan to eliminate net neutrality, so please go here and tell the FCC to keep the existing net neutrality protections in place. Additionally, please reach out to your elected representatives and ask them to keep the Internet open and free—a five-minute phone call might just convince your rep to vote against the repeal.

* –  Incidentally, that discrimination continues today in our telecommunications networks.  Years of business decisions by telecommunications providers about where to build or upgrade their networks have resulted in a disparate impact on communities of color—on the whole, communities of color disproportionately lack access to broadband services, and where those services are available, they are unaffordable and the service quality is terrible.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

So I play videogames for the story, and Persona 5 is the best story I’ve seen in… well, maybe ever.  I used to say that Planescape: Torment was, hands-down, the strongest narrative in videogames – and after playing through ninety hours of Persona, which had almost no slow spots, I may have to replay Torment just to see which is best.

Yet I’m debating recommending Persona to my friend Mishell Baker.

Now, Mishell is obsessed with Dragon Age and Mass Effect – she’s played the games through multiple times so she can hear every line of dialogue.  And we’ve nerded out about videogames on Twitter before, having long conversations about ZOMG THIS CHARACTER and WHAT ABOUT THIS PLOT TWIST – and I want her to play Persona so I can hear her reaction.

And yet Persona’s a little face-punchy.

Which is to say that Persona is, unabashedly, the story of a straight guy.  Which I have zero problem with – I think every type of character deserves a storyline, including straight cis dudes.

But that straightness permeates the game; literally every female character but one is romanceable.  There are a sum total of three LGBT characters in the game, and two of them are joke characters who show up twice to sexually harass one of the straightest guys in the game.  The third is a bartender of fluid but undefined gender, who is presented as a sympathetic, competent character…

But none of the Confidants you interact with – i.e., the people who have storylines – are gay or bisexual, or do they even appear to be aware of the concept.  (One of the main characters clearly has something going on with their sexuality, but nobody mentions this or ever follows up on it.)  Everyone is paired off into M/F boxes, and are all expected to act likewise.

And the game is literally about how society chains you into misery by forcing expectations upon you.  Thematically, you’d almost expect a discussion of someone’s sexuality.  Yet the game itself is overwhelmingly straight to the point where, if aliens learned about humanity from this ninety-hour game, they would not even know that gayness existed.

Here’s the issue:

Persona 5 was so good in everything else it did that you could go for hours before being reminded that oh, yeah, this game has weird issues with LGBT erasure and mockery.  I’d be into it, into it, into it, and oh.  There we are again.

And Mishell writes magnificent books – seriously, try Borderline – that do deal with gay and bisexual characters because that reflects her life.  Like me, she can’t write a book without LGBT characters because LGBT people are her friends and why would she write a book that casually negates their existence?

How would she react to a game that, in a hundred hours filled with deep characters, has gay characters that occupy less than ten minutes of the game?

That’s a syndrome Ann Leckie once likened to going to a great restaurant with awesome food and occasionally the waiters punch LGBT people and women in the face.  The straight guys, who don’t get punched, are like, “What, don’t you care about the quality of food?” and can’t understand why people might want to eat at a restaurant where they’re not tensed for elbow blows.

And Persona 5 is punchy as hell.  It’s a quality storyline that requires some punch-dodging, if you’re gay, because there’s a difference between “A straight guy is the lead character in this story” (which is great) and “A straight viewpoint has nearly eradicated any concept of homosexuality in an otherwise-complex storyline that has beautiful things to say about love and being true to yourself and the costs of standing up to do the right thing” (which isn’t).

Persona 5’s story is beautiful, and glorious, and meticulously thought out.  But to Mishell, who does speak out on LBGT issues a lot?

I don’t know how much it would punch her in the gay rights.  I think it’d hit her a lot harder than it did me.  It might change the game from “A beautiful story” to “A weird alt-history where people like her friends don’t exist.”

And it wouldn’t have been that difficult to alter Persona 5.  One gay friend might have done it – hell, fandom’s pretty much decided he’s gay anyway, might as well have made a statement within the game.  One conversation about someone investigating their sexuality.  One acknowledgement that all male teenagers might have other urges than to go after the hot blonde with the killer body (or maybe that one female character also wants that hot blonde).

It would not have changed the central story one whit, and yet it would have avoided throwing punches.

Which is a shame.  Because that small omission is the difference between me thrusting Persona 5 out to everyone I know, going, “HERE PLAY THIS OH MY GOD” and “I really loved this, and I think with some qualifiers, you might too.”  It’s that difference between mindless, squeeing fanboying and a work I have to ponder whether I can recommend.

As it is, I think Mishell might very well like it regardless.  If she reads this article, she’s at least braced for it.  She might be able to boot up Persona 5 and go, “Okay, yeah, I know we’re not getting that, but I can compensate for the rest.”  Or she might decide not to play the game because, sometimes, getting that disappointed when the rest is that good is somehow worse.

And I think, again, that it wouldn’t have taken much to be inclusive.  I don’t think a talking to a few gay or bi characters in-depth would have ruined it for straight guys, or at least straight guys who aren’t ragingly homophobic.   I don’t think you would have had to change much of the dialogue, even.

But there it is: Persona 5 is a great game.  So much that I can froth out a thousand words on it.  I recommend it highly.  I think it’s brilliant.

I just wish I could say “It’s brilliant” instead of “It’s brilliant, but.”

 

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

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