theferrett: (Meazel)

After spending three weeks in a heart monitor for a running test, the results are in:

I’m a whiner.

No, the awesome news is that I have all of these random chest pains and big thumpy heart-moments, and they’re my heart working normally as far as they can tell.  What I suspect has happened is that after you’ve had triple-bypass surgery and almost died, you start paying a lot more attention to every bodily tick involving your heart rhythm.  But they say it’s fine.  So let’s hope it’s fine.

I also had advanced genetic testing that shows that my body was destined to have a heart attack.  My diet was sucktacular, which didn’t help, but my body is a factory of churning out top-of-the-charts particles that are pretty much guaranteed to clog the arteries.  Even if I had a perfectly healthy diet, I’d need to be on suppressant drugs in order to not seize up and die.  Thank you, modern medicine.

So yeah.  Being a carnetarian didn’t help, but my body has some genetic quirks that makes a heart attack all but a certainty. I’d be more upset about this if we didn’t live in an age that’s designed to compensate for this fairly easily.  We are, and that’s good.

 

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

So yesterday, I sat down with Jason Hager to do a tattoo portrait of my beloved goddaughter Rebecca, who passed away of brain cancer on her sixth birthday.  And I was nervous.  Because I’d never had a tattoo before, and this was a significant one.

What would the pain be like?

I have a weird relationship to pain.  When I bruised myself as a young child, I went shrieking to my Gramma, who scolded me and said, “Stop fussing!  We Lucases have high pain tolerances.”  Which struck me as being a really jerky thing to say for years, not at all comforting, until I walked around for four days with a burst appendix.

Well, no.  “Walking around” might have been an understatement.  “Moshing in the Rise Against pit with a burst appendix” might be more accurate.

So after I almost died because, well, I actually do have such a high pain tolerance that it almost killed me (cue ten days in the hospital after they pressure-washed my insides), I’ve been a little weirder about that.  Because I didn’t have a realistic clue of how I’d do with stabby-needles.

And my artist told me, “Yeah, some people pass out.  Usually in the first fifteen minutes.  They don’t go all the way down, they just kinda swoon.”  And since I’d been doing it for forty-five minutes at that point, I joked, “Well, I guess I’m a badass.”

The needle was actually not bad at all.  It hurt, but it was a manageable hurt.  As a beekeeper who gets stung two or three times a season, I’d liken the pain to about 5% of a bee sting.  Or, if I was to be more accurate, like rubbing scratchy sand up against a moderately-bad sunburn; I wouldn’t seek it out, but it’s tolerable.  I sat in the chair, pleased I was tolerating things so well.

But this was a long portrait – about six hours of sitting.  And around hour five, my body started to reject it.  Which was bizarre, because it wasn’t actually painful per se.  I wouldn’t have thought it, but the cumulative effect of the needle had triggered my body’s defenses, and now it was reacting like a swarm of insects coming to the defense.  People said it was the endorphins wearing off, but I never felt any endorphins; the pain didn’t shock me with adrenaline or anything.  It’s just that this constant irritation had heaped up, and my body was jerking in response to the stimulation against my will.  I’ve had far worse pain – ask me about projectile-vomiting twelve hours after the major abdominal surgery of having my appendix out – but my body had become hypersensitized, and every mild tweak in my left arm pulled focus, zooming my body’s attention in on that, going, “SEE THAT?!?? IT HAPPENED AGAIN!”

Fortunately, by the time my body started shivering – it didn’t help that the studio was cold – Jason said, “Hang on, just getting to the white highlights.”  And twenty minutes later, we were done.

I spent the evening incoherent.  We ran out and got scarfed some food, but I’m told this was akin to subspace, a BDSM phenomenon where after a beating the body drops into a pleasant floating sensation – but for me, I could not concentrate on anything, my attention jittering about.  I wandered around twitching from text to text, drunk on air, chemically unhindered but still jolted so that I said weird things to just about everybody.

(God help you if I had a crush on you and you texted me last night.  God. Help. You.)

I should have requested aftercare – another classic technique in the BDSM zones consisting of the careful application of chocolate, warmth, and cuddles – but a) my brain was an anthill, and b) thanks to bad scheduling issues, Gini had to drive down an hour to pick me up and then sit on an uncomfortable chair in the tattoo studio for two hours, so I was loathe to call in favors, and c) my arm was aching and I didn’t feel like I needed touch, even though when I sunk into her arms this morning it was like drinking water.  So things got worse.

It wasn’t bad – certainly less troublesome than a bad drunk night.  I’m mostly chronicling it because I haven’t experienced this before, and I don’t know if I’ll get another tattoo.  This was $550, an affordable artwork – but right now, Rebecca will be with me until the end of the days, and that’s good.

I’ll post pictures when it’s more healed.  And when I am, honestly.  But a part of her is with me now, and that’s good.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

As someone who is quite thoroughly Not A Sports Guy, I always figured it would take me about two years’ worth of effort to properly appreciate any given sport.

The reason I say this is because one day, I was watching the Magic: the Gathering Pro Tour on streaming TV with my daughter Erin.  The Pro Tour is where professional Magic players – yes, such creatures exist – get together to shuffle up decks of collectible fantasy cards and play a strategy game against each other for a prize pool of $250,000.  And it’s a big enough thing now that there’s professional coverage, with commentary.

And the Pro Tour is an especially fun time for Magic players, because they have just released a new set of about 300 cards, all of which do different things, and so there are new strategies that nobody but the pros have foreseen.

I was watching with Erin, who was perplexed – she’s played games of Magic with her Dad, but never been to a tournament – and so I went, “Oooh!  This is exciting because this guy’s trying to make a Maze’s End deck work.”

“…what’s that?”

“If you get all ten lands of a certain type into play, you win.  It’s a pretty dubious strategy, honestly.  Getting ten lands is a big hurdle.  So his whole strategy is going to revolve around trying to gum up the ground, drawing out the game for as long as possible.”

“But you’ve never seen this deck.”

“But I know that’s how it has to work.  And the other guy, well, he has to apply more pressure, because the longer the game goes, the worse it gets for him.  So he has to commit lots to the board in order to try to kill the other guy before he ‘goes off’ and wins.”

“Okay.  That makes sense.  So he just goes all-in and tries to kill the guy?”

“No.  That’s first-level thinking.  If he commits too much to the board, and this guy plays with board-sweepers that destroys all of his guys, then he loses on the spot!  And this Maze’s End guy almost certainly plays with board-sweepers because of that – well, he might not, his mana base is stretched thin as it is.  But so this other guy has to attack as quickly as possible, without putting down so much that he can’t recover if this Maze’s End deck – which we don’t know what cards are in it for sure – wipes out everything on the field.”

Erin looked at me admiringly.

“Well!” she said.  “I think we know where all your sports knowledge went!”

And the truth is, when I watch Magic, I’m watching with probably 70% of the skill of a professional Magic player.  I’m not nearly good enough to play in PTQs – because the skill level of a Magic pro player is incredibly high – but I have edited what’s widely acknowledged as the best book on Magic strategy ever written, and was thanked by the author for fact-checking him and suggesting improvements.  So when I watch Magic, I do so as though I am playing – what card would I play next?  What’s my line of attack here?  Oh, he did something different, he’s better than me, what am I missing?

And I assumed that sports fandom was the same thing.

I’d played football videogames, and was immediately baffled by the massive number of plays I could select from.  There were 150 options, each presumably for a different situation to favor different player strengths, and I didn’t understand them.  I knew the basic rules, but what I needed to know to properly savor the game was to know which huddle was correct based on the game state, and which strategy was most likely to achieve the immediate objective.

If I knew all those strategies, then I could enjoy the game the way that others did.  I’d be able to anticipate the next play, to take full appreciation of just how difficult making that pass work was, and….

…well, that was a lot of work.  Magic, I’ve picked up incidentally over seventeen years or so.  I didn’t play football, or baseball, so my ability to understand its nuts and bolts had been accidentally hampered.  If I had, then I’d know when you needed to use the ol’ knuckleball and the infield squeeze.  And then I’d enjoy the game the way it was meant to be played.

Imagine my surprise when my friends Nathan and Ian told me that probably 60% of the baseball fans had practically no more knowledge than I did right now.

They just liked going out on a sunny day and watching their team win.

…dafuq.

But, they assured me, it was true.  Most fans don’t get the fine bits of football they way I do Magic.  They have a couple of people they root for, and maybe some guys on their fantasy league they’re hoping get in the yards, and of course GO OUR TEAM.  But do most people understand the reasons for the 150 plays that can be made?  Do they watch the field as though they were the coach, determining what the next play should be?

No.  They’re just happy to watch muscular men smashing into each other, and cheering when someone makes a great catch.

I’m still a little weirded by this, actually.  I assumed that football fandom was akin to an apprenticeship, where one packed in the knowledge so one got the payoff.  But no, Nathan referenced XKCD’s story generation cartoon, where people go to games to see narratives played out (even as they don’t understand all of the factors that go into those narratives), or to enjoy the weather, or to BEAT THOSE GUYS.

I have no reason to think he’s wrong, but man.  That’s weird to me.  And Ian said, “No, you could learn everything you need to know to enjoy sports in maybe a month.”

And my answer, which makes me feel even more freakish, was “No.  I couldn’t learn everything I needed to know to enjoy sports in a month.  But I’ve just learned how I enjoy things is totally at odds with the normal crowd.”

Once again, Ferrett is a freak.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

I am, apparently, a very flirty guy.  I’m told by women that I have a habit of sending playful signals that tell them that I am, if not actively interested, at least amenable to smooching.

I don’t necessarily mind this, but there are days I would like to know exactly what the hell I’m doing.

For I rarely intend to flirt.  It’s just sort of this radio signal I emit, occasionally broadcasting at women I didn’t actually have any interest in, which makes things awkward on occasion.  I suspect it’s even more awkward for the women who have negative interest in me, who I don’t necessarily intend to smother in flirt-pollen… but as noted, I have zero idea how to turn it off if I’m comfortable around you.  So, you know, sorry about that.

Yet the truth remains I am not cloistered in my usual straight-jacket of social anxiety, then I am probably exuding some flirtiness.  At least according to the women I deal with.

I’ve tried to break it down, but the interesting thing about being naturally flirty is that it also makes one remarkably oblivious to being flirted at.  The only flirt-receptors I completely, 100% get are the moves that I don’t do – if someone repeatedly touches my arm, I know that it is on like Donkey Kong.  Or they’re Southern.  I’ve been repeatedly convinced a Southern Girl totally wants this Ferrett-bod, and have prepared to make my excuses as to why this coupling would be unwise at this moment in time, and then saw them interact with someone else and had that deflating realization of Oh, okay.

(Because it’s nice to be attractive to someone, even if they’re not your type.  I’m always baffled when dudes are all like, “WHAT IF THAT GAY GUY LIKES ME?!??” as if merely being the target of someone’s affection will corrode your sexuality.  I’ve been flattered by some attentions, expressed respectfully, even as I did not reciprocate.)

But anyway, like many people, women will flirt with me and I’ll just be obliviously happy.  “How friendly they are!” I think.  “What lovely people, to compliment me so effusively!  What a brotherly gesture, to kiss me on the cheek!  What wondrous companionship, that she’s touching my… oh, wait.”

Which, again, is often compounded by the fact that they’re getting my flirtatious signals, and now we are caught in an inadvertent feedback loop.  Thankfully, I like people on the whole, so I’ve rarely inadvertently stumbled into smooching with people I’m opposed to – but it’s sort of like being caught in a warm summer storm: pleasant, a little moist, but this might have been enjoyable if I’d known it was incoming.

Then again, I know flirt-blindness is a chronic thing.  I like Neil Gaiman’s idea of inviting someone to a seduction. “Wear the kind of clothes you would like to be seduced in.”

But my point is, it’s disconcerting to be exuding an aura that you have no idea where the kill-switch is located.  I’m doing something.  I don’t know what the mechanics of it are, I can’t give you advice on it, it’s just… there.  Whether I want it or not.  And it’s a positive thing on the whole, but there are days I wish I at least knew how this process worked so I could excuse or refine it.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

I’ve mentioned before that polyamory should start with a series of a genteel negotiations, but more often begins with a dramasplosion of cheating and boundary violations that settles down into “Well, actually, I’m… more okay with you fucking them than I thought I was.”

That isn’t fun.  It isn’t fair.  But quite often, the need for polyamory just sort of surges out and surprises everyone.  It happens so often it’s a pretty identifiable pattern.

Yet it gets worse when they’re not really okay with what happened, and you still need whatever triggered the cheating.

The central problem with polyamory is that yes, it’s about loving all your partners.  But self-love counts, too: you can’t keep yourself trapped in a relationship that’s destroying your soul just because it makes someone else happy.

And so though it’s severely counterintuitive, sometimes the best way to show love in a poly relationship is by an abrupt breakup.  You love them.  You love them so much that you realize that the relationship you’re able to have right now cannot possibly make both of you happy.  And when you have talked enough to realize that this is indeed the inevitable conclusion, the kindest thing you can possibly do for everyone involved is to end that relationship as quickly as possible.

What frequently happens in the beginnings of “polyamory” is that the partner cheats because they have a need – often it’s D/s, finding that online master who they have hot email exchanges with.  (And yes, an emotional/sexual commitment without a physical component is cheating in most monogamous relationships.  It’s still giving a part of your heart to someone else.)

The relationship is uncovered.  Hearts are broken.  The cheated-upon partner feels shattered, because here is their husband/wife exchanging intimacies with another person – intimacies they cannot fathom, because they don’t get this whole BDSM thing, they feel icky about hitting their partner, they have an actual negative interest in going to any kind of club.

Yet as it turns out, once uncorked, it turns out their husband/wife really fucking needs this shit.  They have for years.  They’ve been quietly starving for this experience all along, and now that they’ve had a taste of what fulfills them, they realize how shitty their life is going to be without it.

And that’s the toughest thing of all.  To say, “Yes, I cheated on you to get this thing.  That’s inexcusable, and condemnable, and I owe it to you to do better.  I want you in my life more than anything… Yet for all of that, I still need this thing.”

Because yeah.  Here’s one partner, tattered and shamed, hungering for two things: BDSM, and their vanilla partner.  And here’s the cuckolded partner, stung seriously because BDSM has come to symbolize everything that’s wrong with their marriage, and yet their partner is telling them that they can’t live without the thing that just shattered their heart.

Sometimes they bridge that gap.  Sometimes, the cheated-upon partner is extremely fucking brave and manages to transition to a working polyamory where they get their needs met too, and a healthy newer relationship blossoms.

But more often, it falls apart, because the BDSM is now this hot-button, where the partner says “NO.  You had BDSM once, and that was what made you cheat on me.  We’re never having BDSM because I don’t want it, and it made you crazy, and this isn’t anything we’re discussing.” And the cheater becomes a penitent monk, having glimpsed the promised lands just long enough to ache to the end of their days.

Or relationship shambles along a different power dynamic, with the new partner saying “I’m getting this BDSM or I’m leaving you,” and so the cheated-upon partner’s ego implodes and they stay at home, feeling like shit that they can’t give their lovers the thing they need so badly, sacrificing their self-esteem on the altar of keeping their loved one in their lives.  Just endless lonely nights at the apartment, imagining what they’re doing that you can’t give.

It’s actually a mercy if they break up.  But they often don’t.  Sometimes, they shamble to the grave hand-in-hand, one of them having given up something vital to keep the other.

That’s understandable.  And it’s sad.  Because the saddest thing in not just poly, but relationships everywhere, is where one partner has to lop off the best parts of their lives in order to stay with the person they love.

And when it starts with the sin of cheating, it’s so much harder to compromise.  So much harder.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

When I wrote about how The Fish In The Pond Are Not For You To Eat, I argued that it wasn’t wrong to put filters in place to screen people out of your dating pool because you don’t think they’ll make you happy.

And it isn’t wrong.  You don’t have to date everyone.

The problem is that some of your filters can get weaponized.

Which is to say that if someone said, “Sorry, I don’t date people who won’t meet me at a munch first,” the potential dater might see that as a silly hurdle to jump, and refuse to do so- but it probably wouldn’t get their hackles up.

But if someone said, “Sorry, I don’t date trans women,” the hackles would start to rise.

And if someone said, “Sorry, I don’t date fat women,” the hackles would be up and teeth firmly bared.

Thing is, under the right circumstances, all of these can be valid filtering criteria.  Yes, some are behaviors, while some are inherent traits, but all of them can be things that someone would not want in a partner.

I’m a straight dude.+  Very few rational people would expect me to date a gay man, because they acknowledge that’s not where my kinks lie.

Likewise, it’s entirely legitimate if someone isn’t attracted to fat people!  (And mind you, I speak as one.  Check my pics; you’ll find an abundance of adipose.)  Nobody is obligated to find anyone else desirable; “attraction” is an ephemeral thing that’s not fully under most people’s control.  If someone doesn’t get turned on by fat people, it’s as unfair to them to demand that they must date you as it would be for a gay guy to demand to date me.

But.

The desire for skinny people frequently gets weaponized into insults at fat people.  And that shit is *trouble*.

You can see some of that in the FetLife comments to my fish in the pond post.

RIGHT: “If someone doesn’t want to meet me at a munch, they are likely to lack the characteristics I want in a partner.”

WRONG: “If someone doesn’t want to meet me at a munch, they’re probably some furtive creeper.  Something’s wrong with a dude like that.”

Aaaaaaand weaponization is complete.  We have now taken a desire on our part, and turned its absence into a character flaw that should be corrected.

The thing I didn’t mention in my previous essay is, “Would I meet up with a first date at a munch?”  And the answer’s no.  I’m not particularly good at meeting strangers.  And I’d have some valid concerns about going to a munch to get to know a potential date, and finding that she didn’t have the time to talk to me.

The fact that I would not go does not indicate an objective flaw in me.  It means that I have certain priorities and desires of my own, and they don’t mesh with yours.

But that’s how you weaponize a filter: you make it into something objectively wrong with everyone who has that trait.  It’s not that you don’t find fat people attractive: it’s that fat is evidence of some slovenly laziness, and walking around with all that weight is an offense they’re perpetrating upon the world.  (This fat dude is a workaholic who spends fourteen-hour days writing and programming.  Lazy, I ain’t.  And my wife, who is fifty pounds overweight, did three triathalons this summer.)

And so some of those filters get really tricky.  Because many people do use them as legitimate filters – as in, “I’m not usually attracted to super-skinny women, so I generally refuse dates from them because I know that doesn’t do it for me personally.  But I think they’re fine people, and they don’t need to ‘eat a sammich’.”

Yet many more people do use those filters as weapons.  They don’t like skinny, so shit, why aren’t those women fattening up?  They find trans people unsettling, so shit, why don’t those people give it up?  They don’t find brats appealing, so what the fuck is wrong with brats?++

The core trait of all of these weaponizations is “I have a preference, and the hubris to demand that the world must bend to my desires.”

So it gets really hard to put up some sorts of filters, because you try to say “Sorry, fat people aren’t my thing,” and what people hear is that hurricane roar of condemnation that fat people are bad, fat people are wrong, fat people are all horrible failures at life who should be shunned by every righteous person that every idiot with a weaponized filter spews, and they assume you’re just another hater.  When you’re not a hater, you’re just someone who finds that trait not to be a turnon.

(This would be a good time to reference @Manic_pixie’s excellent essay Don’t Tell People Why You’re Rejecting Them.  Often, it’s kinder not to get into specifics.  Also, despite what either side may say, nobody owes anyone any explanation as to why you don’t want to date them.)

How do you fix this?  Well, you can go to lengths not to weaponize your own filters.  Just because you want something doesn’t mean that other people are somehow deficient in lacking that quality.

More importantly, when you speak, speak with the knowledge that the default is often to assume that this lack is a character defect, and specifically correct that.  Seinfeld made a running gag out of “Not that there’s anything wrong with that,” but that sort of caveat is often necessary.  When you say “I don’t like old men,” you may well mean it in the sense that this is a personal preference, but the weaponized elderly-haters around you are taking this as agreement that yeah, all those old dudes are just wastes of flesh.  Putting that disagreement in there helps stop the spread, even as it often feels ludicrous.

And then apply that filter thoughtfully.  One of the problems with dislikes is that you’ve settled upon them long ago, and they’ve crystallized.  After a while, you start snap-dismissing people because they don’t fit a very elaborate set of criteria, and that snap-dismissal often leads to irritation – goddammit, yet another person who failed to fulfill my needs!

Yet just as you’re not here to fulfill their desires, they’re not here to fulfill yours.  Them failing to live up to your standards doesn’t make your standards objectively good, it just means that they’re not compatible with what you need.  That doesn’t make them failures at life, it just makes them not good dating material for you – and the minute you start conflating “Not good for me” with “Bad at life,” you have written your preferences into the fabric of the universe.

And that’s always a sin.

+ – This isn’t strictly true, but it might as well be. I’ve written about the difficulties I have in finding dudes to date in a fairly explicit post over on Fet, making me effectively straight if not actually so, and one of the problem is that I’m not attracted to men who look like me.  I see all the me I can get in the mirrors, man.  If I’m gonna be dating a guy and taking some radically new genitalia for a spin, my partner’s body needs to be radically different from what I’m actually toting around.

++ – It gets super-tricky when you do actually believe it’s a character flaw and it’s a character flaw that someone’s chosen to believe – what the hell do you do when you think that believing in MRA/feminism/Republican/Democrat/libertarian/Christian/atheist/brat/flying Spaghetti Monster issues is, in fact, something that’s perpetrating injustice upon the world and needs to be corrected?  What happens when a group is in fact carrying out subtle wrongs upon the world thanks to their philosophy?  But that’s an essay for another time, kids.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

“Hi.  I’m poly.  And since I’m poly, you can expect at least five essays on my profile detailing how I do polyamory.”

We poly folks are kind of infamous, like vegans and hipsters and the much-feared vegan hipsters, because we talk about being polyamorous.  A lot.  We talk about how we do poly, and we talk about bad ways other people do poly, and we discuss poly in the media, and I have heard some befuddled monogamous folks wondering why we’re so damn self-centered that we can’t shut up about this relationship choice that we’ve made.

Alas, we are not discussing polyamory because we wish to be walking billboards for the lifestyle.

We’re discussing it because we haven’t had this conversation before.

Look, by the time you were eighteen, you’d seen at least a hundred movies showing you how monogamous people met and fell in love.  They were simplified and often stupid versions of monogamous love, usually leaning heavily on the trope of “the moment you fall in love is the most critical part of the relationship,” but you got taught how to do this.

And if you watched enough television shows, you saw all the ways that monogamous love could go wrong: all the events that triggered fights, all the personality conflicts that caused breakups, all the neglects that caused love to die.  Again, most of ‘em were simplified… but oversimplification is often a necessary tool when you’re setting out.

Add that to the fact that you probably had a ton of personal experiences in high school and college, watching how couples formed and spun apart, and by the time you were twenty, well, you had a good solid idea of what made for a good relationship and what didn’t.

Whether you know it or not, you’ve benefited from a decades-spanning discussion on how monogamy works, and what the best practices are for healthy monogamous relationships, and who’s good to date monogamously and who isn’t.

Polyamorous people have not had this discussion.

We’re starting from scratch here, because polyamory in a Western culture is pretty much unheard of.  Not that it hasn’t happened, but it’s a lot like homosexuality in that our records tend to get smeared muddy or just outright washed away.  (There were, I’m told, a lot of gay cowboys, but hoo boy you wouldn’t know that from listening to any of the traditional historical narratives.)

We literally don’t know how to do this.  The Ethical Slut, the bible for many people, was written less than twenty years ago.  You won’t find polyamorous relationships in blockbuster movies.  If you see three people in a love triangle on the WB, that triangle is going to end in disaster because damn, people, monogamy!

So we lack examples.

As a result, we have to become our own examples, sharing our stories so that we can understand what works for us and what doesn’t.  (Polyamory is also far more complex than monogamy, because “traditional” monogamy has a clear line of succession – date, fall in love, move in, get engaged, get married – and polyamory has a lot of “Well, we’re dating, and we’re happy, but how can we tell whether this is healthy stasis or just mashing the ‘pause’ button on all the problems we’re not addressing?”)

Sometimes we get sick of rehashing our issues, too.  But the truth is that we talk about polyamory means to us because we have to.  We need to figure out what it means to us, because there’s no largely accepted definition that we can start with and then pare away details or add them to.

We’re trying to figure out what our own narratives are.  And sometimes that sounds a lot like boasting, or needless head-up-our-ass meanderings, or even attention-seeking behavior – but often, the core is just that question of “How do we do this?  Bueller?  Bueller?”  And realizing that Ferris Bueller isn’t going to appear in this class, he nipped off to steal a car and will not be providing the answers today, so we’re gonna have to sit down and have our own discussion before we figure out how this is gonna make us all happy.

It’s fine.  But we’re gonna have to be a little loud about it sometimes.  And you don’t think of your rom-coms as yammering on about monogamy, but really, they kinda are.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

As usual, I think things are a little more complex than that.

The Noble Starving Artist is certainly used by those who profit from creative exploitation – and for that, I’ll point you towards Yog’s Law, which is “Money flows towards the writer.”

But the people I’ve known most who hammered on the Noble Starving Artists were, sadly, unsuccessful artists. Note that I do not say failed artists; were you to ask me at any time between 1987 and say, 2010, I would have characterized myself as unsuccessful. Most artists have a period where they’re unsuccessful, which is usually a good sign: it means they have taste, and they’re not living up to their own taste. In time, with effort, hopefully you’ll get closer to your own values. And usually, “Getting closer to your own values” has a strong(ish) correlation with “getting people to hand you cash for your efforts.”

Unfortunately, a lot of those guys who were traversing the wastelands felt really embarrassed by that lack of success. You can’t not be successful in America, man; that’s the main sin. And so rather than go “Yeah, I’m not doing well, I wish I was better off,” they wrapped that lack of success around their shoulders.  People who were successful had sold out.  They must have wanted to make money.  In fact, people who optimized their artistic transactions to make money were sellouts, too!

You could only really do art if you were suffering for it financially.  Like, purely by coincidence, the art they were making now was doing.

And look, that’s bullshit.  There’s nothing wrong with trying to earn cash for your art.  That gives you more time to make art, more cash to pay doctors’ bills so you can stay healthy, better equipment for you to make art with.  If you can make some cash for doing what you love, then do it.

Unfortunately, I don’t often see the content purchasers making claims about the wonderfulness of starving.  (They usually talk about how it’s about exposure, as if this free shit you give away so they can make money off of you will somehow chain into money pouring through your windows.)  For me, at least, it’s other artists who tell me about the nobility of starving.  Usually because it’s a lot easier on their egos, saying this is what they were aiming for.

Honestly, though, I don’t care who does it.  Shit needs to stop regardless of sourcing.  If you’re an artist, make buck.  Don’t compromise your vision – but when you find someone who likes whatever the fuck it is you do, negotiate like a fiend, and value yourself.

Art’s all about personality.  Nobody else can make the art you do.

Value that.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

I got asked recently how I felt about women only agreeing to meet new dates at BDSM munches.  It’s problematic, they said, because some people in the community don’t want to risk being outed by being at a public place with a bunch of openly-kinky people.

The thing is, on one level that’s an entirely legitimate question:  What happens if the people you want to date are only willing to meet you in ways that you’re uncomfortable with?  And the answer is, “Then you shouldn’t date those people.”

Which is sad.  It’s always sad when you can’t date someone because they have criteria in place that filter you out.  I have a huge crush on a porn star who never dates outside of the business, and that makes for Sad Ferretts.  I have a huge crush on a femdom who can only date submissive men; that makes for Sad Ferretts.  I have at least two women who I’ve had wonderful scenes with at conventions who don’t do long-distance relationships, and that makes for Sad Ferretts.

But there was something about the question that rubbed me the wrong way.  I’ve read that question over five times (and I’m specifically not pointing you at it because I don’t feel like having this poor dude’s words dissected by a potentially-hostile crowd). But…

…I felt a certain outrage buried in that question.

I felt like there was an entitlement lurking within his words. As though women?  Existed to date him.  And like they were committing some sort of crime by filtering him out before they even gave him a shot.

And even if I’m misreading him (which I could be), I know a fair amount of guys who do actually believe that.  The older dudes being upset that they can’t circulate at the young people’s munches.  The guys seriously upset that nobody at the swingers’ clubs are interested in meeting up with unknowns.  The MRAs who are furious at the model-quality bitches who aren’t interested in talking to them.

Again: That sucks.  I’ve been in shallow dating pools.  I’ve been the guy who can’t get a date because nobody wanted to date the pudgy weirdo.  I’ve experienced your pain.   And still….

Women do not exist for you to date.

A person does not exist to maximize your shot at fucking them.  Treating them as though they’re committing some sort of violation by refusing to give you *your* shot reduces them to an object; they exist as some sort of sexy wrench to unstick your pipes, and by failing to carry out that function they have invalidated themselves.

No.  What people exist for is to maximize their happiness.

The way they do that is by filtering out things that are unlikely to make them happy.

When I go to the movies, I don’t watch foreign dramas because past experience has shown I find them boring; I go to Guardians of the Galaxy instead.  When I go out to a restaurant, I don’t go to fast food places because I find them greasy and uncomfortable.

Which isn’t to say that I’m correct!  There’s definitely some foreign dramas I might enjoy!  (Try Oldboy.  Those Korean directors are magnificently fucked up.)  And maybe somewhere there’s an awesome McDonald’s with comfortable chairs and waiters and a menu with hamburgers that don’t taste like old cardboard.

Yet the question is not, “Would I enjoy some foreign dramas?”

The question is, “If I am spending my time watching movies, what movie category is most likely to deliver me a movie I enjoy?”

I can watch a hundred hours of French drama and like maybe one movie.  But I can watch a hundred hours of guys in skin-tight suits punching aliens and love thirty of them.

Call me shallow.

Yet based on those preferences, it’s an entirely sane move for me to go, “Yeah, I’m not watching French drama.  It’s just not productive for me.”  Which is unfair to the makers of French dramas, who rely to some extent on my paycheck, and may never be able to make a drama again if I can’t rally my friends to buy tickets to see *Le Frottage: The Master Of Rubby-Orlais.*

But you know what?

I am not obligated to make anyone happy but me.

And it is not wrong for me to say, “I don’t want to bother giving your French drama two hours of my life.  It might be as awesome as you claim.  But I have better leads, and an awful lot of French dramatists battering at my door telling me how different they are.

“Furthermore, you telling me, ‘But you owe me this shot!’ tells me that you don’t think of me as a person – you think of me as a medium to fulfill your desires.”

Likewise, women in the dating pool?  They do not exist for you to empty your semen into, or onto.  They exist because they’re trying to make themselves happy, and what makes them happy may be Not You.  Furthermore, they may have tried a lot of men who are like you, and found your kind to be not the most efficient method of finding happiness.

Them screening you out is not a crime.  For it to be a crime, they would have had some natural obligation to date anyone who felt like they had a shot at them – which they don’t, any more than you are obligated to go on a tedious date with every person, male or female, who finds you desirable.  You can both say “No.”  That’s the glory of this system: you get to choose where to put your best efforts.

(Even if, as I noted, those efforts may be wrong.  People make dumbass mistakes.  Considering they’re usually the ones who bear the brunt of the punishment for it, that’s their right as well.)

And yeah.  Sometimes that means you get screened by lots of people, and go home lonelier more of the time than you’d like.  As a guy pushing his late forties, I feel that pressure: looking at OKC, there’s precious few women I find attractive who want to date someone in their fifties, and soon I’ll cross that barrier.  It’ll be lonelier.  It’ll be a little less fulfilling, being me.

I’ll have to accept that reality.  And, if I wish to keep dating, find new ways to make myself a compelling person.  Because believing that “all women owe me a shot!” often comes with a healthy dosage of “I don’t have to do anything interesting to be worthy of attention!” and oh, my friend, you’d be far better served finding ways to make yourself more desirable than you are by seething with injustice over the fact that they wouldn’t even look at you.

But life?  Is not always fair.  And the best you can do personally is to try to find ways to mitigate that unfairness.  Don’t complain that women have filtered you out; find some way to widen your personal pool of interest, so other women will find you intriguing.

Maybe by directing a French drama?  No, no, a terrible idea: direct a superhero film instead.

(Cross-posted from an essay at FetLife.)

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

As I’ve evolved as a writer, it’s taking me longer and longer to write books.  The reason for that is simple:

I can fix shitty scenes.

That sounds awesome, but it’s actually a huge problem.  Because… well, let me show you a real-life example.

The book I am currently writing now is about a poor kid who stumbles into a job working at the greatest restaurant in the universe.  (Yes, a classic variant on that ol “Willy Wonka” plot, but with more gay sex and molecular gastronomy.)  And after he got the job, I had this great scene:

He would be sitting in front of five glasses of olive oil that the owner of the restaurant had given him to taste, as a preliminary test of how refined his palate is.  (Hint: it isn’t.)  He’d be worried about his future at the restaurant – but then a crazy cook would yank him aside, try to sucker him into looking after her hard-to-maintain starter dough while she went off to get drugs.  She would succeed, and while she was off doing her drugs, our hero would meet his love interest.

Except that scene wasn’t working.

The problem was that there was no forward momentum – not only was there no tension to string us along through this (note that the hero does absolutely nothing in this scene – he’s a balloon, a patsy, the recipient of decisions as opposed to the maker of them), but it has no emotional rise and fall.  What does Our Hero learn during this chapter?  Our Hero needs to learn something in every chapter, so we can propel him forward in this boy-to-man storyline!

So after some analysis, I decided what he would learn would be the value of an Inevitable Philosophy.  Our Hero is, as of yet, not particularly focused – but the crazy cook is.  So the scene becomes about Our Hero learning that the crazy cook is incredibly devoted to her craft, and how he is inspired by her.

Wait.  Then why is the crazy cook sneaking off to buy drugs?

Okay, so we change the crazy cook’s motivations.  She is not just crazy for cuisine – she’s a cook because she’s obsessed with the concept of novelty, needing to try everything in the world!  What better place to try every rare ingredient than in a wildly experimental kitchen like this?  And while she loves cooking there’s a crazy new experience in some other part of the space station that she can only experience right now, and she needs Our Hero to watch her starter dough while she nips off to do this incredibly dangerous thing.

But why would Our Hero be inspired by that?

Okay, so we insert a flashback while he is pondering tasting the five glasses of olive oil – Our Hero’s stern parents have been established as religious zealots, but now we see the exact shape of their zealotry.  They have an Inevitable Philosophy – a guiding goal that consumes them, has them take great risks to restore the fallen state of a once-great empire.  (This is why Our Hero is poor – they’ve been dragging him from starship freighter to starship freighter, living in squalor because they will sacrifice anything to help their lost people.)

But Our Hero?  Does not have an Inevitable Philosophy.  This is a great disappointment to his parents.

And in meeting the crazy cook, Our Hero comes to realize that Inevitable Philosophies come in more variations than he knew.  The crazy cook is absolutely devoted to the pursuit of new things.  And if the crazy cook can have that kind of dedication, then maybe Our Hero can have an Inevitable Philosophy that’s different from what his parents can provide….

But even then, it makes the kitchen look a little dickish, if some random cook can sucker Our Hero in.  We want the restaurant to be a place that Our Hero wants to stay, not some place where the unwary are preyed upon.  So I tweak crazy cook’s approach – she’s not trying to rip him off per se, she’s just so consumed with her own need to get to this New Thing that she doesn’t quite think about what it would do to Our Hero.

So I fix that.  And in the end, what now happens is that Our Hero and the crazy cook get into a furious debate about how selfish crazy cook is, and Our Hero realizes that her pursuit of new things is what gives her an unstoppable drive that Our Hero lacks.  He is shamed, because she’s running off to risk her life to try some new and dangerous adventure, and he is so scared he’s unable to taste the glasses of olive oil, lest he discover he’s a failure.  Crazy cook tells him that he’s not a failure, helps him try the newness of the olive oil.

Scene.

Not a bad scene.  Could use some more tweaking.  But it’s good enough to plop down and move ahead in this first draft.

The problem?

This chapter is supposed to be about the joy of discovering what it’s like to work in the most glorious restaurant in the world.

For the overall story to work, this chapter needs to actually be that first electric jolt of being escorted into Willy Wonka’s factory, because the kid needs to absolutely fall in love with this lifestyle.  And what I have provided, in a chapter that I worked on for two weeks, is a maudlin scene about the kid’s sense of reluctance, and what a failure the kid is.

And the reason I kept scratching my head and going “No, no, this isn’t good enough” was because the scene was completely the wrong scene.  What I need is a scene that plays to Our Hero’s strengths, one where he uses the kitchen to discover something really wonderful about himself, so we can go “Oh, yes, God, I want to be at this restaurant, look at how good it is for Our Hero!”

But because I’m a “good” writer, I kept fixing the scene, adding all the little mechanical beats to it that would make it work.  As it stands, it’s a pretty good chapter.  Maybe one of the best I’ve written.  It’s got some of the best detail work I’ve ever done, some of the finest characterization, some of the best prose.  But in the end, what we have here is an extremely good scene that shows a kid coming to a painful realization that he’s flawed – and what the book needs is a happy discovery of what he does well.

When they say “Kill your darlings,” this is what that means, my friends.  All things serve the beam.  And because I’m good enough to polish turds with extremely fine-grained paper, I wasted two weeks adding structural fixes to a scene that was never going to do what it should have.

That chapter’s in the kill file now.  And God willing, I’ll learn the lesson that before I start tweaking, I should ask whether this scene would do what I wanted if and when I repaired it.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

“Disney’s character actors are required to stay in character at all times. When asked about anything outside of Disney, like current events or characters from non-Disney movies, they’re supposed to act like they don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Dammit. I so wanted to hear Goofy’s take on Guantanamo Bay.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

So my mad manicurist Ashley has moved down to Posh in Strongsville, if you want to have some ridiculously painted nails.  But this time, I took my friend Jen down for a Saturday Nail Date – which, as it turns out, was precisely the kind of relaxation I needed.

(Yes, I spent Saturday getting my nails done and beating Dragon Age.  Pretty sure that’s not #GamerGate-approved-behavior, but there it is.)

Jen got her nails done first, with a Christmas-themed version thereof.

Christmas nails!

Which led to me being really super-happy when I discovered what happened when she texted with these nails:

I, on the other hand, literally, had decided on cool blue snowflake-nails. But as we were flipping through Jen’s Pinterest account (seriously, now I’m tempted to get a Pinterest account, if only to keep track of cool nails to try), I got distracted by a nebula technique that Ashley emulated:

Christmas nails!

This turned out to be not quite what was in the Pinterest, but still cool. Ashley tried her best to do a “flick” pattern for tiny stars spread across the spectrum, but her first four attempts weren’t working with her materials at hand. So she stippled with a spread-out paintbrush, making them still very pretty but not quite a nebula, in my opinion. But I love ‘em anyway, because they’re super-pretty.

Christmas nails!

Yay for Christmas nails!

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

If the new Dragon Age were an Elder Scrolls game, I’d crown it the best Elder Scrolls ever.  Alas, this one feels more like Dragon Age Lite than Skyrim Plus to me.  And while I finished it this weekend after sinking 75+ hours into the game, I feel vaguely sick, as though I’d binge-eaten Pringles potato chips for two weeks’ running: not high cuisine, but a greasy fast-food experience that was satisfying but somehow never filling.

The reason why is that past Dragon Ages were all about the story.  The first Dragon Age was so amazingly rooted in character that it gave us six – six! – different opening sequences to get through, depending if you were a Dalish Elf or a Dwarf Noble or a Magi.  There was an elaborate story that really rooted us into the events of the day.

And story is, for me, the most critical element of every game.  Because every videogame is fundamentally, depressingly, repetitive.  If I play Borderlands or Halo, I will be shooting infinite men in the face.  If I play a Mario game, I will jumping on infinite Koopas in the face.  If I play Skyrim or Dragon Age, I will be fireballing infinite men in the face.  Videogames are an endless grind of doing the same task over and over again.

I had a friend, once, who told me that he couldn’t get into Arkham Asylum because of “All the cut-scenes.”  He wanted to focus on the mechanics of the game, which is why Halo was so perfect for him: there was just enough story to justify him moving to a new map where he could shoot aliens in the face with increasing precision.  And there’s nothing wrong with that.

But for me, story provides the reason for the repetition.  Yes, I’m going to fireball twenty thousand Darkspawn to the face over the course of this game.  I am going to run across the map and fetch a foozle five hundred times.  But why?  I am an actor.  I need motivation.  If I know that I am fireballing this hundred Darkspawn to save the village of Trenzlor, then for me, I’ll do it – not because I like endlessly mashing the X button, but because I want to be the hero of goddamned Trenzlor.  The more you can make me worry about the safety of Trenzlor, the more you give me a reward that feels like saving Trenzlor had an effect upon the game-world I live in, the more I will feel rewarded.

The previous two Dragon Ages had repetition, but they also had a story intertwined heavily with their quests.  And when I finally collected the ten nug statues, I was frequently given more story – a sense that I’d helped push this Dwarf into a different career, the idea that the Grey Wardens now thought better of me, more conversational dialogues and cut-scenes.  There was a reward system that was heavily intertwined with narrative.

Whereas this new Dragon Age, well… it has some of that.  But the balance has shifted away from story rewards and towards game rewards.  This is why a lot of essays have accused Dragon Age of having a filler problem – now I’d say about 65% of the quests have zero story reward at all.

Like the Rifts, one of the main story processes.  There are about 125 Rifts you’re expected to close, and every damn one is the same: fight a wave of monsters that comes through the Rift, fight a second wave of monsters that comes through the Rift, close the Rift.  In return for this, you gain +1 Power.  “Power” is supposedly a measure of how potent your kingdom is – kind of a story thing, right? – but there’s no story reward aside from unlocking new missions.  Nobody ever says, “Wow, thanks for saving me from all these Rifts!”  Nothing ever happens to advance the plot: you can literally close all 125 rifts and still be in Act One of the game.  The rifts never mutate in response to anything you do.

It feels really static.

And add that to the fact that you can have a story-based quest and then forget entirely what you were supposed to be doing because you got lost on the fucking terrible map, thus stripping away the story reward to leave you with a bare-bones “find the yellow dot” experience, and you wind up with a tale that feels very thin.  Even some of the “ally” quests are reduced to foozle-finders – oh, Dorian!  I’m supposed to win your love by killing these three groups of Venatori mages!  And my reward for that is… +1 approval for each group killed.  No new intimacy, no new cut-scenes, just +1 approval.

Dullness ensues.

Maybe if the central tale was as rich as Dragon Age Origins or Dragon Age 2, both of which had super-strong narratives, this could be balanced out.  But the central narrative is weirdly unbalanced.  Inquisition actually starts out with a tabula rasa character – you have no idea who your dude is beyond a paragraph of boilerplate text – and then you’re given no opportunity to make meaningful choices until ten hours in.  So you’re following a guy around who literally has no personality beyond what you choose from the Noble/Snarky/Greedy conversational wheel.  (Trusting DA, I thought this purposeful emptiness was leading up to a Big Spoiler that would show me that my dude was Not What He Thought He Was, but – mild spoiler – no, it’s just narrative laziness.)  So I didn’t care about my guy until the end of the first Act, and thanks to wandering around endlessly in the Hinterlands, that was 20 hours in.

…but while the first act is one of the best Dragon Age moments ever, with you facing down the Big Bad in a truly cinematic spectacle, the story dribbles to a close.  Events are poorly explained.  Promises are not kept.  There is much talk of the Big Bad’s plans, which sound really magnificent, but he never gets close to doing that – and more importantly, after much blathering on about the nature of the Gods, you don’t get close to seeing any of the questions he raised answered.  (First rule of writing: if you tell someone about a place extensively, the reader kind of expects to go there at some point.)  The biggest and most interesting choice that gets made in the game has much more of an effect upon [CHARACTER REDACTED], who was my favorite character in a past game, than it does upon you – which just serves to make you wonder who the hero of this game actually was.

(Though I loved the post-credits ending.  I did.  And I loved seeing what happened with [CHARACTER REDACTED], who I hope is the hero of the next Dragon Age.  I just wanted more answers.)

Don’t get me wrong; what they do, they do magnificently. I loved my romance quest so hard.  And some of the others are great – in particular, the way they handle BDSM dynamics with Iron Bull’s romance is nuanced and expressive.  Varric’s characterization is brilliant.  The politics at Orlais were wonderful.  What Bioware gets right, they get right better than anyone.  But that rightness is like having the occasional act of Shakespeare buried in a massive tome of 50-Shades-of-Grey-fanfic – for every great moment I treasured, there were five fetchquests that I just killed time doing.

Which leads us to the weirdest action of Dragon Age: the War Council.  Which I have such mixed feelings about.

At first, I thought the War Council was just an absolute waste of time.  You have three agents, who you can assign to various tasks, which are completed by… waiting.  If you hang around and do nothing for a small War Council quest of 12 minutes, the quest will complete and you’ll get a small reward.  Or you can assign your agent to a big quest that takes five hours and get a big reward!

I thought “Christ, they’re just acknowledging that this game is to kill time.”

But as the game went on, I started to feel rewarded.  I was going to spend four hours in the Exalted Plains anyway!  It was nice to come home to something after grinding!  It felt less like busywork and more like another layer of gratification, so I began to warm to it.

Then the weird thing happened.  I was romancing [CHARACTER], and our story had progressed far enough that more options were appearing.  And a new quest quietly appeared on the War Council: Get her family crest.

And I realized that I had people working for me now.  The War Council wasn’t killing time; it was a way of setting the priorities of my new organization, which was pretty damn sweet.  And so I could use it to do all sorts of favors for people I liked, having my assistants work on their needs, and that felt like a strange empowerment.  As the all-powerful Inquisitor I was, strangely, lacking the power to call people in to talk to me – no, I had to spend five minutes manually running out to the edge of the damn parapets every time I wanted to talk to Cullen – but I could have my agents out doing my bidding while I was slaughtering Templars.  So good!  And I felt like it was a very potent tool that I wanted more of.

But then I had one story-based mission where I was investigating the weakness in a Big Bad’s armor.  And I had to use the War Council to ferret that out.  Except I’d assigned all my agents to super-long quests for max rewards, so I had no free agents.  So I had to do meaningless filler quests for two hours until someone freed up – for no apparent reason, I couldn’t say “Wait, this is more important, come back.”  (Which made even less sense since I could talk to my agents in independent conversations at the castle.)  And then I finally got the agent free, and waited for half an hour – again, doing filler quests, though all I wanted to do was face down that Big Bad – and discovered that I had to do two more War Council missions, waiting around for another hour total before I finally got to unlock the Big Bad’s weakness.

….Which did, I admit, help considerably in that battle.  But I’d gone from “Oh, I’m doing optional quests for my friends, how lovely!” to “Jesus, why do I have to wait another 12 minutes for Cullen to unlock this thing?”  And so, in the end, I was totally weirded on the War Council.  It’s a good idea.  But it’s also a chokepoint.  And that chokepoint got very frustrating at other times.

In the end, I’m harsher on DA than I could be.  It was a good game – not Game of the Year Game, maybe, but good enough.  But Dragon Age comes from a heritage of games that had strong story, which is why we played them, and what we got here was a good story interlaced with a lot of stuff that’s not story at all.  It’s watered down. And putting the Dragon Age name on a game gives us expectations, and what I expect of DA is a narrative that locks me in.

The narrative didn’t.  I gave it until the end.  It had some nice moments.  I’ll always remember you fondly, Act I.  But I did what the game wanted me to and min/maxed with a Knight-Enchanter (thanks, Michael R. Underwood, for clueing me into how massively overpowered that class is), and took down the villain without ever even drinking a potion.  And I got one nice moment of mystery and miracle at the absolute end – which, in the style of this game, nobody ever bothered to ask me how I felt about it.

I like it when they ask. I do.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

The time has come for my Annual Greed List – the large (and, yes, uncut) list of things I desire for Christmas in 2014. Why do I do this? If you’re really interested, here’s a brief history of the Greed List.

The briefer version, however, is that I think “What you want” is a reflection of “Who you are” at this moment – your music, your hobbies, your fandoms, who you are as a person.  I find it fascinating as a history, watching how what I’ve desired has mutated (the shifts away from physical objects is so bizarre – I don’t want DVDs any more, as I get most of that through Netflix streaming, and CDs have disappeared into the Spotify void), and remembering what I thought I wanted so badly but turned out to be too much effort to turn into a hobby (*cough cough* fire poi), and the things I did want that became habit (*cut cut* straight razor), and the stuff that sort of straddled the void (*cut cut* woodworking).

And while I guess I could just toss all this on an Amazon Wishlist and send you over, that doesn’t tell you why I want things, which is at least as interesting as my desires.

So here it is.  Here’s who I am this year, expressed in what I want, in descending order of most-lust to least-lust.

Flex: A Novel, by Ferrett SteinmetzBuy My Bok: Flex, by Ferrett Steinmetz ($7.99)
So I’m pretty goddamned sure you’ve heard that I sold a book this year.  And if for some bizarre reason you’re all like, “I’d like to buy Ferrett a gift!” and you have yet to advance-purchase a copy of my book, well, that’ll help me more than anything else.

Books are, sadly, heavily driven by advance sales.  Most of the sales a book will ever get come in the first six weeks of release, I’m told – which is a goddamned terrifying thought.  But based on my old job buyin’ books for Waldenbooks, that’s probably true.  So if you feel like doin’ a brother a favor, and you haven’t sunk your cash into this quagmire of a book, well, you can help me earn out the lovely advance the folks at Angry Robot paid me.  (And if you have, hey, thanks!)

(As a side note, later in the year I will be posting an essay on What To Do If You Like Ferrett And Thought His Book Was Bleah, along with a side helping of What To Do If You Like Ferrett And Have Not Read His Book.  The short answer: It’s cool.  I have authors I love personally, and whose books leave me cold.  I will never get mad if you have not read me.  Or if you have and were filled with ennui.  That ain’t how I work.)

Dewalt Table Saw ($577.99)
So my woodworking career has been going pretty suboptimally.  Gini bought me a ton of woodworking equipment back in, I think, 2010, which sat in my garage in boxes for three years.  Then Erin and I went out and unboxed and set up everything, which was awesome, and we set to working making cabinets.

…and we failed abysmally.

The problem is that Gini bought me a very tiny table saw.  It’s got a 10″ rip fence.  Which is miniscule.  That basically means if there’s any piece of wood I need to saw that’s over 10″, I… can’t cut it.

Okay, I can.  Kind of.  But doing so means about seven to nine measurements and calculations to set up all sorts of manual rip fences, then hope like hell none of our clamps shift, and then hope my arms don’t shake as I use the circular saw.  And I thought it was just that I was bad with envisoning measurements – which I very much am – until I spent two weekends building an inset bookcase with my friend Eric, who is a goddamned savant when it comes to visualizing spaces.  And Eric would spend about forty minutes setting up a perfect cut, making all sorts of pencil marks along the sides and muttering under his breath as he did all the math, and then the clamp slipped and I watched Eric give the Glare of Death at the now-angled board.

But this truly expensive table saw has a gigantic rip capacity!  Thirty-two inches!  And if I need something bigger than thirty-two inches, hell, I don’t need to cut it!

Gini looked at me when I suggested this.  She said, “You realize that’d be the only gift you’re getting this Christmas.  Everyone would have to donate.”  And if so, that’s cool!  I’m full up on books to read.  The things I’m going to play, I’ve pretty much got.  So if this was my only gift, well, okay.  Because it means I could make all sorts of bookcases come Spring.

Superman vs. Muhammad Ali: The Deluxe Version, by Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams ($13.99)
If you were to ask me about the comic that had the most influence upon me, well, I might say it was Alan Moore’s critically-acclaimed run on Swamp Thing.  Or maybe some of the early runs (heh) of the Barry Allen Flash.  Or perhaps the complete revamp of Batman that Frank Miller engendered with The Dark Knight Returns.

But really? It’s fucking Superman versus Muhammad Ali.  That’s it.  Some of my best scenes in fiction come from trying to emulate this.

I will not have you judging me.

The thing is, this comic hits all my high points: two men, stripped of all hope, making a valiant stand against insurmountable forces?  (There is one point where Muhammad Ali calls out the nine-foot-tall alien genetically-engineered warlord he’s about to fight, knowing if he fails that Earth will be destroyed – and he fucking is unstoppable.)  Vast scope?  Shit, look at that cover, where every celebrity of the 1970s shows up.  A situation I’ve never seen before?  Oh God, say what you will about how silly the concept is, but O’Neil and Adams fucking sell it, devising a solid reason where, yes, Superman has to fight Ali under a red sun – and guess what?  You take out the super-strength, and Superman is not equipped to deal with the heavyweight champion of the world.

And okay, I have my battered original version, bought at the Corner Store in Norwalk in the days before there were comic stores, but this crisp version has behind-the-scenes versions of it.  And I gotta tell you:

Muhammad Ali will destroy Hun’ya.

What Makes This Book So Great, by Jo Walton ($22.99)
Jo Walton is one of my favorite writers – seriously, try Tooth and Claw, which is a flawless melding of Jane Austen and cannibalistic dragons – and she made me feel tremendously underread with her book Among Others, which was about an obsessive reader of books in the 1970s.  I did not read nearly as much science fiction as I should have back then, and as a result I feel like I know practically no good books.

Fortunately, she wrote several essays discussing her favorite book and dissecting them with all of her wisdom!  And yes!  They’re available for free online!  I don’t care!  I want to hand Jo Walton some money directly!  So Buy Her Bok and send her words straight to me!

inFamous: Second Son (Playstation 4, $35)
As part of my reward for selling my first novel, I got a Playstation 4. But the two games I got for it?  Disappointing.  Shadows of Mordor and The Last Of Us were both sneak-fests… and I don’t want to creep around a map, trying to optimize my approach so I can strike from the shadows with one of my three remaining bullets – I’m here to destroy things!  And inFamous: Second Son is pretty much superhero power-plays – you fly around a sandboxed town and destroy things with your overpowered laser-beams.

I like destroying things.  Let’s hope it’s better than frickin’ Mordor.

Miscellaneous Old James Bond Movies On Blu-Ray ($5)
Talk with Gini about this one, but….

I don’t know old James Bond at all. I watched ‘em as a kid, but I had no idea what was going on, and I didn’t remember them.  So Connery? Moore? They’re foreign lands to me.

Yet when Best Buy had a sale where you could pick up all sorts of old Bond movies for cheap, we picked up a lot of them – and it has been a hoot watching them with Amy and Gini and them explaining to me why this is Very James Bond, and me spluttering that this is a moronic plot, things don’t work that way, and it’s still kinda fun watching all the sexual harassment lawsuits pile up. Having more of these around would be a lot of fun.

Ancillary Sword, by Ann Leckie ($13)
My small claim to fame is that I remember when Ann Leckie told me she sold her trilogy.  We were at a con, and she’d published a story of mine, and I met her at the con and discovered she was a great human being.  We hung.  We laughed.  We cried.  We exchanged gift baskets.

And so when her book came out, I read it.

And it was fucking awesome.

Seriously, Ancillary Justice was one of my favorite books of last year, a space opera told from the perspective of a warship who doesn’t understand gender all that well. It was both groundbreakingly new and familiar – a dangerous combination.  And then I didn’t buy the sequel – or, rather, I did, but I was boycotting Amazon at the time because of the dickishness they were doing with Hachette, and Books-A-Million across the street didn’t have it, and now I still don’t have it.

So I want it.  Because I am truly excited about this, but now it’s a Christmas gift.

Eraserhead: The Criterion Collection ($27)
I have such a love/hate relationship with Eraserhead.  The first time I watched it, I hated it.  The second time I watched it at a film festival, I hated it.  The third time I watched it at my house during a film marathon, I despised it.

Yet there’s something weirdly sticky about it.  I think about this film.  Occasionally I want to take it out.  It’s a nightmare of a film – a literal nightmare, with only a vague plot that keeps shifting underfoot, and lurking fears in black-and-white, and God, that baby, that hideous baby who the titular Eraserhead has to take care of.  Nobody is really sure what it’s about – you float Jungian theories, but it doesn’t make any sense on a scene-to-scene level.

And Criterion is the best guardian of film love in America – their DVD extras are always over-the-top in terms of providing usefulness.  So I want to shoo Gini out of the house and watch this again, with all of the extras, and see what happens.

Wolfenstein: The New Order (Playstation 4, $39.99)
This is a videogame that is what I consider to be a dispensable videogame.  It got decent reviews when it came out.  It is a first-person shooter.  I will enjoy shooting my way through it, racking up achievements, burning up a week or so in murderous meditation, and then I will probably forget it until the sequel comes out.

But it involves shooting Nazis.  In the face.

You can’t beat shooting Nazis in the face.

The Chaplain’s War, Brad Torgersen ($13)
Brad is an author who I often find myself on the opposite political ends of the spectrum, but he is a talented writer.  And I’m curious to see how this book actually functions: from what I’m told, it’s a heavy Ender’s Game riff on a spacefaring war-chaplain dealing with some PTSD, and I suspect his religious background will tinge this in all the right ways for me.  I definitely wouldn’t mind having this in my pocket.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

“Wanna pick me up at my house?” I ask my first-time date, who I met on The Internets.

“Can we meet at a restaurant instead?” she types back.  “I don’t know you.”

Thing is, I know that no assault is likely to happen at my house.  Even were I the kind of guy who was likely to sexually assault a random stranger on the first date, which I am distinctly not, I am polyamorous – and my wife lives with me.  She will most likely be in the living room, working when you arrive.  She is strong on consent, and would be severely – nay, violently – Not Okay if anything happened here.

Plus, my daughter’s currently living with us while she hunts for a new job, which means that any sort of sexy fun-times at La Casa McJuddMetz are Distinctly Out right now.  (She’s old enough where she has been dating on her own for years – but she’s been courteous not to bring her dates back to go face-suckin’ in her room while Gini and I sit awkwardly on the living room couch, and I feel I should equitably return that favor.)

So there are no dangers in picking me up at my house.  None.  Zero.  Worst that’ll happen is that Shasta will bark at you.  (Okay, that’s a guarantee.  Our dog is a frickin’ barkstorm.)

But.

You don’t know that.

So that’s totally cool that you’re wary of me until you know me better.

That’s not a personal insult; how could it be?  You don’t fucking know me.  And while yeah, #notallmen are rapists and abusers, #notalleBaysellers rip me off.  But I’ve been burned enough times to check the user’s feedback rating before committing my money to that auction.  You’re committing your bodily safety to showing up alone at my house.  And given that there’s no particular feedback on me for you to scour, it’s your right to be a little cautious until you’re convinced that I am what my OKCupid profile says I am.

And what the fuck does that say about me if I get pissy when you don’t want to walk alone into a stranger’s house?  Yes, La Casa McJuddMetz is a nice comfortable suburban 1400 square-foot place – but for all you know it’s the brick-pit from Silence of the Lambs.

If I get mad, what that says about me is that I have so little fucking empathy for anyone else’s situation that you should not fucking date me under any circumstances.  Because if I can’t understand how dangerous this might be for you, getting bent out of joint because hey, I’m better than that, then I’m gonna be crappy about a hundred other things that any boyfriend should just parse immediately.

(That’s also being kind.  I could be the kind of manipulative sociopath who’s trying to lure you to his house with guilt and social pressure.  Guess what?  You don’t know that’s true, either.)

Look, if you date me for six months and still don’t trust me, we have an issue.  But we’ve never met face-to-face.  You have only seen my words, and some pictures I assure you are me.  And many of the women I’ve dated have come over to my house on the first date, because they made some judgment call that I was trustworthy – but some haven’t.

Good for them.

Good that they protected their safety in the way that they saw fit.

(Inspired by this knocks-it-out-of-the-park Robot Hugs cartoon.)

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

One of my less-defensible pleasures is a show called Dude, You’re Screwed, a show so insignificant it doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry.  But the pitch is this: a group of hardcore survivalists drop each other in various hostile environments – deserts, ice fields, mountains – with no survival tools.  They have 100 hours to survive, and find other people.

The trick is, the hardcore survivalists know how other hardcore survivalists think, and they’re out to screw their friends.  So they pick the trickiest locations.

The classic screw is this: “I dropped him off high on a mountain so he can see the river.  Most experienced survivalists will head towards the water, knowing rivers lead to civilization.  Except this river goes thirty miles in the wrong direction!  Then it drops into an underground cave at the base of an impassable mountain!  He’ll waste days!”

This is what it’s like playing Dragon Age Inquisition.

Many people have noted that Dragon Age has stolen some techniques from Skyrim.  Unfortunately, they’ve stolen Skyrim’s utterly-useless map system, which consists of a constant stream of “Great, the quest target point is over here, and… oh, wait, no.  There’s a chasm blocking the way.  So how do you get there from here?  I guess I’ll have to wander around in random directions until I find the pass that leads there.”

All the mini-map gives us is a blinking dot and a compass point.  Which would be useful if “Traveling in a straight line” was a viable strategy at any point.  But it isn’t.  They’ve gone very far out of their way to make it an unviable strategy.  The map folds in and over on itself, creating eddies and alcoves.

I understand why they do that: they only have so much space they can pack into a given rectangle.  They want to make it rewarding for people who explore.  And I support that!

But can you give us poor lost bastards, who don’t enjoy exploring, some tools to find the next fucking quest point?

I’ve played Dragon Age for about 50 hours at this point, and I would say roughly 5 of those hours have consisted of “Fuck, I know the wolf camp is around here somewhere, but… oh, god, another mountain in the way.  Let’s backtrack and try again.”  Which means for me, roughly 10% of my time spent on this game has been tedium verging on frustration.  It’s like the fucking designers don’t want me to find all the cool things I’m supposed to do, and instead desire me to go on combat-free, quest-free journeys through the same goddamned valleys I’ve cleared out before.

Now, I’m a special case, as I have no head for directions.  I have lived in the same house for fifteen years, and I literally cannot tell you the names of our cross-streets.  I get lost going everywhere.  So the game is particularly punishing for me, because I’m not going to pick up on their visual cues.

But I’ve talked with others, and they too would like to spend less time fighting mountains and more time fighting monsters.

The reason we want to spend less time wandering is because it kills the story.  All your quests are variations on “Go here and kill a monster / get a foozle / kill a monster and get its foozle.”  The only thing that stops this from being repetitive is the tale behind it!  It’s not a foozle – there’s a grieving widower who wants to leave flowers on his wife’s grave!  And Bioware, you’re great at constructing moving mini-stories that capture my attention.

But those stories evaporate after twenty minutes of wandering around, yelling, “Goddammit, I have to get to the yellow dot, how the fuck do I get to the yellow dot?”  The widower gets forgotten.  The reasons I’m supposed to do this get forgotten.

You have reduced all this emotional impact to a yellow dot and pressing X when I get to the dot, and that does your narrative a disservice.

Look, there has to be a balance.  It wouldn’t be that hard to have an option that puts more details into the mini-map, so we can see that this straight-line travel actually needs to veer west.  Hell, make it a character option that I have to pay XP for!  You already do that with an Inquisition Perk that reveals more locations on the map.  I would give up so much fighting power to have a glowing yellow arrow that points me towards the major battles.  (And hell, I’d even understand if you said you could provide no arrows to optional gotta-catch-’em-all quests like the shards and the Red Lyrium.)

As it is, what I hope I’ll remember about Dragon Age is the sweeping storyline you’ve constructed.  What I fear I’ll remember is wandering around another fucking hillock in the Hinterlands, having long forgotten what I was supposed to do at the glowing dot, endlessly backtracking because it’s here somewhere, I just don’t know how to find it.

Help me find your cool shit.  I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

Long-time commenter Bunny42 had this to say:

It feels like a crappy way to live, to anticipate negativity everywhere. That seems to encourage a victim mentality. I’ve always believed there’s a kind of aura around people who live in fear, and baddies can home in on that state of mind. A strong, confident woman is much less likely to be accosted than a retiring little mousy woman.

To which I replied:

Seems like a crappy way not to live.

I have many good friends. The reason I have many good friends is that I constantly have a filter up of, “Are these people taking advantage of me? Are they involving me in unwise decisions? Are they hurting people unnecessarily?”

You’re all like, “But you must be a mousy woman!” No. I’m actually the strong, confident person who’s much less likely to be accosted by drama-freaks – and I am that way because I continually check. I’d be mousy if I did as you suggested and didn’t actually interrogate reality on a regular basis, and then got abused at what seemed like random intervals because I didn’t bother to look. I’d feel uncertain because life would feel out of control, thinking why are some of my friends so crazy? and feeling like drama was like thunder, just appearing sporadically with no warning at all. I’d be afraid, because bad shit would happen and I’d have no incoming radar at all to see it coming.

I don’t live in fear. I live in honesty. And yes, I’m watchful, but I think it’s the sheerest foolhardiness to abandon safety just so you can relax.

There is a distinct difference.

I am constantly on-guard for some things.  But that doesn’t make me a negative person, because one can be on-guard for relevant questions such as, say, “Am I about to be fired from work?” without letting that become a fearful future.  I can acknowledge that yeah, being fired is a possibility, and as such keep checking in with my bosses to make sure I’m doing my job to their liking.

That’s not living in fear of an uncertain future: that’s gathering feedback, and reacting appropriately.  Because there have been a couple of times I’ve displeased by bosses mightily by not doing the work they expected of me.  Staying aware let me get back in the groove.

I think that one of the keys to good relationships is to always keep in mind that your friends can fuck you over, whether they mean to or not, and patrolling that boundary to ensure that things don’t get out of hand.  That’s not a negative thing.  I don’t expect them to do it, because they’re my friends.  But if something makes me go “Hrm,” then I follow up on that.

It doesn’t make me continually afraid.  It makes me one of those confident people.  I’m confident if something starts to slide south, I’m ready for it.  Which makes me enjoy the good times – which are the bulk of my time with my friends – all the more.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

The other day, I wrote about an incident with my goddaughter, wherein we were at a restaurant when a strange dude asked “Aren’t you the cutest girl?”, patted her belly, and moved on.  And a fair number of people asked:

“Why didn’t you yell at the dude for touching the kid?”

Good question.

The strict answer is, “I totally should have” – and before anyone attempts to frame this essay otherwise, let me be crystal clear: going, “Hey, dude, don’t touch her without asking first!” would have been the right thing to do.  It’s a failure on my part that I didn’t.  I screwed up by not setting a good example of how to police appropriate boundaries.

Yet the question I’m going to field here is, “Why did I screw up?”  And the answer is simple:

Because I was shocked, and the incident was quick.

Had I been braced for incoming belly-patters, I would have absolutely done the right thing here.  But like a lot of incidents of harassment, this arrived when I was waiting in line to get breakfast, prepping for a nice day with a kid I loved, having a nice conversation.  If you’d asked me, “So is a random person going to invade your private space?” I probably would have been so surprised by the question that I would have asked you to repeat yourself.

So when this happened, I acted suboptimally.  By the time my brain had processed Wait a minute, this is pretty crazy, this shouldn’t be happening, dude was already out the door.

And so it was that I fucked up.

Problem is, “Fucking up when presented with surprising new situations” is actually a chronic human behavior.  It’s why purse snatchers are so effective – by the time someone registers Wait, did somebody just yank my purse off my shoulder?, the snatcher is long gone.  It’s why you don’t have a good retort when a stranger says something nasty to you in public.  It’s why, despite machismo gun-owners telling everyone how they’d drop a gunman if they saw one, in fact most people (gun-owners included) don’t react heroically to a public shooting; they’re still shocked by all of this new and horrifying input.

We’re all awesome quarterbacks come Monday morning.  But when you experience something weird for the first time, your brain is often locked up trying to figure out what’s happening – and by the time the brain gets around to determining how you should react, the moment has passed.

Now, there are people who are really good at handling purse snatchers, and really excellent at snarking back to mean strangers.  Sadly, most of them are good at it because of  experience.  They’re not gifted with natural instincts; they have, instead, been abused enough times that a) this is not new to them, and b) they have developed coping mechanisms.  This is why we train soldiers – you can get a guy to be a very good shot at a gun range, but that’s very different from maintaining accuracy when the target is shooting back.  We put people through combat training because we need them to have that adrenaline rush not be a surprise.

And again, I’ll repeat: I should have called the dude out.  I had good excuses, but my goal in life is not to provide good excuses – it’s to emulate the kind of change I wanna see in the world.  In that, I failed.

Yet there are people – mostly women – who would have called this dude out instantly.  This is likely because they have lots of experience in handling creeper dudes, and are continually braced for moments like this, never relaxing no matter how joyous the day.  In other words, they’ve developed a healthy defense mechanism because they’re continually being assaulted.  Which is, you know, not awesome.

The danger is wandering into the trap of “should have done.”

In a lot of cases, “Should have done” provides a healthy way of modelling future behavior.  People saying, “You should have called the dude out!” helps me to create a mental model for the next time this happens, so if I encounter Creeper 2: Electric Boogaloo, I’ll have societal expectations backing me to go “Yeah, this what you should do in response to an abnormal situation, get ready to mix it up.”  Which means that next time, I’ll (hopefully) be prepared with a more helpful reaction.

Yet the danger is in conflating a substandard response with substandard intent.

I’m hip-deep in science-fiction conventions, where harassment charges are sadly routine.  And one of the most common reactions when someone says “This person harassed me at a party” is “Well, they didn’t say anything at the time – so they weren’t really offended!  They’re just making a fuss in retrospect!”

The problem is that when you are presented with a shocking situation, you often don’t do what you “should”.  You react in weird ways – and the more shocking the situation, the more time it may take you to figure out emotionally how to process this.

(This is why I tell people “There’s no right way to grieve for a death” – you’ve just run into a situation that few people encounter often enough to get used to, and you may react in super-odd ways.  All those people telling you how you should be sad is not helpful when you’re numb, or angry, or needing to get out and party.)

If someone ruins a party for you with some unexpected sexual pressure that comes out of nowhere, you might deal with that in ways that you’re unhappy with in retrospect – ways that seem bizarre to others, who “know” how they’d react if they were in that situation.

Except they don’t know how they’d react.  They know how they think they’d react when presented with a situation they read about in an essay, but that’s often very different from how they do react if and when it happens.  How they’d react when presented with Surprise Harassment is often very different from how they’d react if they had time to contemplate it in advance.  (Which is why harassers often use a lot of pressure to get what they want – they know that sometimes, the Surprise Harassment response that springs from politeness and not wanting to offend is much more positive than the studied negative reaction they’d get later.)

Now, in my case, I’ll state for the third time that there was a clear best-case scenario here, and I failed to achieve it.  I don’t excuse that failure.  Best I can do is take that lesson and be braced for future impact.  That’s the way I process failure, and I don’t claim that’s the best way for everyone, just me.

But all too often I see people conflating reaction with intent: “Well, they didn’t reject it violently at the time, so they clearly were okay with X happening!”  And no.  My point here is that people often react weirdly to weird situations.  How they react in that moment doesn’t necessarily reflect who they are or what they really believe, but rather reflects a brain that’s rapidly trying to piece together a big batch of WTF.

And by the time they are really good at handling the exceptional cases, they often forget that they live in a world that’s different from what other people experience.  I’m lucky enough not to live in a world where people routinely invade the personal space of people I love.  Others don’t get that.  That’s a thing we call “privilege.”

One downside of privilege is being potentially blind to the hazards that others routinely encounter.  Another is that we’re shocked when we step outside the bubble.

I stepped outside.  I got surprised.  And I’m not overly shamed by my reaction, because I wasn’t prepped for it – to be shamed by that is to agree that I did something shameful, when in reality it’s belly-rubbin’ dude who did the shameful thing.  I feel pretty thoroughly that the shame falls upon the shoulders of the jerks.

But the responsibility for fixing it?  That’s something I feel personally.  I can recognize I did something suboptimal that allowed that shameful behavior to continue, and vow to try to do better next time.  I don’t blame myself – but I do recognize an opportunity to model better behavior in the future, so that shameful jerks like that don’t walk away from other stunned people, thinking what they did was fine.

That’s not necessarily what everyone wants to do.  Nor would I expect it of them.

But I expect it of me.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

Chris Rock is one of the more incisive people in America when it comes to nudging out the truth.  And his interview in Vulture Magazine is solid gold from start to finish, making several cogent observations about American culture and Obama’s success and the nature of comedy.

But he fucking slam-dunks it with this thought:

Here’s the thing. When we talk about race relations in America or racial progress, it’s all nonsense. There are no race relations. White people were crazy. Now they’re not as crazy. To say that black people have made progress would be to say they deserve what happened to them before.

So, to say Obama is progress is saying that he’s the first black person that is qualified to be president. That’s not black progress. That’s white progress. There’s been black people qualified to be president for hundreds of years. If you saw Tina Turner and Ike having a lovely breakfast over there, would you say their relationship’s improved? Some people would. But a smart person would go, “Oh, he stopped punching her in the face.” It’s not up to her. Ike and Tina Turner’s relationship has nothing to do with Tina Turner. Nothing. It just doesn’t. The question is, you know, my kids are smart, educated, beautiful, polite children. There have been smart, educated, beautiful, polite black children for hundreds of years. The advantage that my children have is that my children are encountering the nicest white people that America has ever produced. Let’s hope America keeps producing nicer white people.

Aaaaaaand nailed it.

In case you’re a right-winger foaming at the mouth now, Mr. Rock also goes on to make some observations about college campuses that I think you’d agree with.  But whatever.  Read the interview.  It’s awesome.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

All right, well, I tried to funnel you over to SFSignal to get a sneak preview of the cover for my upcoming book Flex, because they’ve got some of the best damn sci-fi book blogging in the business, and I think your life will be embiggened should you read them.  (Seriously. They’ve won multiple Hugo awards for their coverage.  They are unadulterated awesome.)  But I’ve already plugged this damn contest on my blog, and several times on Twitter, and I’m pretty sure if you haven’t clicked the link to go see my cover, it’s possible you are eternally resistant to clicking foreign links.

So here.  Look at my cover!

Flex: A Novel, by Ferrett Steinmetz

But! You can still win one of five electronic free copies of this sucker, merely by entering one of the easiest-to-enter contests I can imagine!  (It consists of sending an email.)  This contest is only open through Wednesday, and a lot of y’all have been “When can I read this?”  The answer: Earlier than March, if you’re lucky.  But to do that, you’ll need to go over to SFSignal (like, you know, sane people do) and read the contest rules.

*Kermitflail*  What are you waiting for?  Go now!

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

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