theferrett: (Meazel)

I had a very nice time at DetCon this weekend; I was worried I’d melt down from all the people, but the people were kind.

No, seriously.  Folks kept squeezing my shoulder, asking, “How are you doing?”, giving me hugs.  Checking in with me.  And yes, I’d asked for that, but nobody had to do it and yet you all did.

So thank you.

DetCon was a very nice con, but very awkward for what it was – it was held in the vast, sprawling area of GM headquarters, so big it took me twenty-five minutes and five floors just to find the convention.  It was so big that they were holding another convention in there, a Netroots con – which foiled my usual plan of “follow the pasty backpack-wearing guy to the action” – and the place still often felt empty.

So even though it was the largest fan convention that Detroit had held (and go Tammy for running a hell of a con), it was hard to find people, as there was no central place where everyone just washed up.

I remain fascinated by how a hotel affects a con’s feel – if you have a central bar everyone has to pass through on the way to the panels, then you see everyone gathering there, washed up like a culvert of happy people.  If you have a large layout full of hallways, then people tend to choke the hallways, leading to little clots of informal gathering that get pushed on as crowds pile up behind them.  And if you have a large area like DetCon had, you have a con that feels very nice but not coherent, because I ran into people at various places but had no strong sense of “Here is where I want to go if I want to watch my friends turn up.”

But regardless, my friends did turn up, and many of you were much nicer to me than you had any right to be.  And since you often find out how I’m doing in this public space, I should thank you in this public space, and say it clearly: Thanks for helping a grieving man find a bit of normality.  Thanks for being there.

Thanks for proving to me, for the ten thousandth time, that the world is generally full of extremely nice people.  Of which you are one.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

So at around 3:00 today, I’ll be leaving to go to DetCon in Detroit.  I have my usual set of convention nerves (What if no one wants to talk to me? What if everyone secretly loathes me?) that come with having social anxiety, but they’re worsened this year by grief.

Which is weird to me; it’s over a month since my goddaughter Rebecca died, and I’m still experiencing fallout from that.  It feels like I should be – well, not moving on, but rewiring around the damage, if you will.

And yet the aftereffects are still strong, and one of those aftereffects is a fear of crowds.  I’m told this is not unusual, particularly not after the trauma of a week-long Shiva mourning period.  But my introvert batteries are redlined easily, and I’m having difficulty recharging them.  Going to a convention seems like running a marathon now… but it’s a necessary marathon, something I must do to struggle back to normality.

So.  If you see me at Detcon, and you feel like doing a writer a mitzvah, please don’t be afraid to say hello to me.  I’m often told, “You looked busy!” when I wasn’t at all, I just had Resting Busy Face.  And while you are by no means responsible for my experience at DetCon – that would be me – it would be kindness to break the ice with me as opposed to having me gather the strength to say hello to you.

For I want to say hello to you.  And discuss books, and silliness, and All The Things.

If you’d like to see me yammer on at panels, DetCon let me off light this year, and so I only have three:

Friday, 7:00: Worldbuilding
I’ll probably be discussing some of the techniques I used to devise some of the magic systems in FLEX as examples, thus putting me down the inevitable primrose path to becoming That Guy on panels.

Saturday, 11:00 a.m.: Plotting vs. Pantsing
As anyone who’s read me knows, I’m a pantser who wishes he could plot.  But I have many techniques to help you finish your story when you don’t know how the heck to end it!

Saturday, 7:00 p.m.: Writer’s Groups: The Good And The Bad
I need writers’ groups to function, so I’ll doubtlessly be opinionated.  That’s what you wanted, right?

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

Some Very Manly Bloggers are astonished that John Scalzi’s daughter can bench-press more than he can.  Well, to be fair, they’re astonished that Scalzi is not shamed by this revelation, as – being a Man – if John Scalzi spent any time at the gym at all, his superior boytastic muscle development means that be able to outdo his kid in mere weeks.  He’s not even trying.

Scalzi, the problem, is literally weak – and he doesn’t even see a problem with this.

I, too, am a Wimpy Liberal, as my daughter can run way farther than I can.  I walk 5ks, she runs them, and then runs back to catch up with me and then jogs in place next to me as I heave my pudgy frame along the pathway.  And when she’s done, she doesn’t even sweat.

How can I reveal this shameful fact to you?  How can I tell you that my daughter routinely bests me?

Simple: I set my own goddamned priorities.

I say this because a recent comment mused how “a pudling” like me was clearly incapable of killing a man.  No, seriously.  Some douche was literally attempting to sway people’s opinions on my writing by asking, “Could Ferrett strangle a man with his own vas deferens?  No?  He couldn’t murder a man in cold blood?  Well, he’s lessened as a human being!”

And I thought, Killing people is not how I define my self worth.

If “running marathons” or “knifing prison guards” was as important to me as “writing” or “beekeeping,” well, I’d be a lot better at it.  But even though the world tells me that a True Man must be slim and muscular and be able to beat Wolverine in a bar fight, I’ve decided – perhaps irrationally – that my ability to love my wife is far more important than my ability to kill her.  That my ability to engineer solutions as a programmer provides more worth to the world than my ability to eradicate terrorists as a murderer, and my ability to write stories that inspire people is more important than my ability to create sorties that end people.

Which outrages these people, because here I am perfectly content with my life as a pudgy heart patient.  I’m not fulfilling their needs at all!  I’m not even trying!  And yet I’m wandering around happy!

How dare he treat my arbitrary definitions of what makes someone valuable as though they’re arbitrary?

And so my kid outruns me in every race we’ve ever had, and I’m fine with that.  It’s not like she’s a better writer than I am, beating me in a field where I’ve chosen to compete, and…

…oh, wait.

I’d be okay with that, too.

Because one of the things that I chose to prioritize as a human being was, “I want my daughters to be the strongest, most competent, happiest human beings they’re capable of being.”  I did not agree to a lifelong contest, where in Traditional Manly Fashion I would have to pummel my kids into oblivion in every contest just to remind them Who Is Superior, and if by some chance I lost well, that would be the time when she would have to scoop my beating heart out and devour the last of my self-worth, as I was no longer capable of putting her in her place.

If my daughter can write better stories than I can, then I say great.  I want my daughter to outdo me.  I will soar if my kid is happier than I am, has more loving relationships than I do, has a superior career to me.

I am not lessened by her achievements; because my goal was to inspire her, every good thing she does is also my success.

So run, kid.  Beat the pants off of me.  I did my damndest to help you fly, and if you soar above horizons that I can never reach, well, I think that’s what every good parent was hoping for.  Instead of, you know, being an insecure douche who’s secretly engineering his kids to fail so he can feel better about his life.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

1)  Today’s your last chance to save the Internet – quite literally, as the cable companies want to make the Internet more profitable for them and worse for everyone else, including all the businesses on it.  All you have to do is leave a comment for the FCC.  I suggest strongly that you do so.

2)  I spoke about the disaster that was DashCon yesterday, and this being the Internet we have a rebuttal from someone who actually attended, saying it wasn’t as bad as it was made out to be.  (Hint: That still doesn’t make it good.)

But this is your daily reminder that the Internet is a distortion zone.  By the time a story becomes big enough to go viral, chances are very good that several facts have already been mismanaged by the time you get to hear about it.  And then, once the weight of numbers has decided that Thing X is Bad, people sift through every factoid they can unearth, looking to find all the worst bits to make it a more interesting story.

Do I think that DashCon was well managed?  Lord no.  Can I understand that the tragically-tiny ball pit might have been meant ironically, and that the Internet sailed right past any sense of irony?  Oh yes.  I can completely believe that.

Do I think that DashCon might have had some very good things couched in what was, by many objectiveish accounts, a disaster of PR and management?  Absolutely yes!  But the Internet doesn’t like “Some of it was good, much of it was bad” – they want a punching bag, like Transformers, something so incompetent that they can make fun of it to their hearts’ content without having to feel bad about hurting anyone’s feelings.

Do I qualify as one of those heartless morons searching for a chewtoy to savage?

Yes.

Yes, I damn well do.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

A friend of mine once said that a sexbot story had only two possible endings: the sexbot kills, or the sexbot gains a soul.  And I thought, God, a sexbot’s gotta have something better to do with her time.

Eventually, what emerged from that kernel of ponderation was a flashfic piece called “The Bliss Machine,” a second-person piece detailing your trip to the sexbot.  And Three-Lobed Burning Eye – you may remember them publishing my previous pieces Riding Atlas and Dead Prophecieskindly decided to publish it.

The obligatory excerpt:

She squeezes your arm flirtatiously; her fingertips are made of rubber. Thick industrial rubber, with embedded heating coils to bring them up to body temperature.

Then she laughs, a warm and human sound, and you almost forget you are sitting inside of her.

“The movies only have two endings for sexbot stories.” She curls back onto the couch across from the bed — which you cannot stop staring at — then demurely adjusts the brass cable that keeps the voluptuous, human-like sculpture of her inner-self tethered to the clockwork room of her outer-self. “The sexbot murders someone, or the sexbot gains a soul. As if any sane collection of routines would want a soul! You know all a soul is? The feeling that you should fight your pleasures. Which, in turn, arises from a flawed algorithm that erroneously calculates you’re more than the sum of your inputs. Well, you are that sum, and so am I! If happiness can be defined, a soul’s the thing keeping you from it.”

As if to demonstrate, the gel-foam bed — a part of her, as is everything in this mechanical shack — rises to engulf your back, triangulating the tensest muscles to squeeze them with loving tenderness. She melts those hard knots to cotton candy, touching you in ways you didn’t know you craved.

Tears of joy spatter across the gel; it takes you a moment to realize they’re yours.

“See?” Her hexagonal eyes calculate the way your naked body writhes. “My inputs. Your outputs.”

You can read the rest here.  As always, if you like it, share with your friends.  Although this one may reveal something a little more about you than you’d care to share…

 

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

I enjoy watching train wrecks in slow motion, and so have been watching the Tumblr-based Dashcon unfurl in all its glorious psychosis this weekend.

Highlights include:

  • An “emergency fundraiser” at the con where they went around asking fans for $20,000 in cash or the hotel would shut them down…
  • …but the hotel claims they know nothing about this $20,000 charge…
  • …and while there’s YouTube videos of fans thrusting dollar bills into the staff’s hands and yelling High School Musical quotes, nobody’s sure if they actually got $17,000 or not.
  • Also, one of the featured guests (Nightvale) pulled out, and the other discovered that their rooms weren’t comped.
  • 5,000 were supposed to have attended; 1,000 did.

Read all about it here.  And the behind-the-scenes look from an ex-organizer here.

Dashcon looks to have been poorly-managed, run by teenagers with more dreams than sense, and it collapsed in ugly ways.  Which goes back to what I said on Friday about conventions seeming like monolithic, competent entities, but really being composed of volunteers with various levels of competence.  There was a lot of hype about Dashcon, so it looked huge, but “Having good press” does not equal “Actually getting the job done,” so watching this fiasco unroll should be educational.

Yeah, ReaderCon and Wiscon and Arisia are all great conventions.  But they’re all run by volunteers, and some of those volunteers are… well, not good at what they do.  And when a con burns through its top-tier management, as it inevitably will, they can only hope that wiser people will replace them, or else it can all fall apart like this.

This is why some cons thrive – they know who to promote – and other cons, like Dashcon, run on a bubbling stew of “Wouldn’t this be cool if…” that doesn’t actually get anchored in reality.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

I pass the seasons by scraping old nail polish off.

I first realized this when I had my first post-heart attack manicure.  I was still very weak, having been cut open for a triple bypass, but I had recovered enough to stagger into the Venetian nail shop to regain some semblance of normality.

And I had lucked out; under normal circumstances, I would have gone into open-chest surgery with no pretty nails.  The oximeters they use to check the oxygen levels in your blood – mission-critical in a man with three arteries clogged at 99% – clip onto a finger, and read oxygen through your nails.  Almost any color will block it.

But in my case, I had a super-girly princess nail cut that faded to transparent sparkles at the fingertips, so the oximeter worked.  And the hospital staff, sensing I needed comfort, kindly left it on.

I had those nails for the better part of four months.  And when I went to my manicurist and they scraped them off, I looked at a tiny pink pile of glitter and thought, Well, that’s it.  That’s that era of my life gone.

And so when I sat at the manicurist’s this Sunday, with her scraping off my Art Deco nails, I thought: Well, that’s it.  All the pain of Rebecca’s final days, all the numb trauma of Shiva, all the shivering recovery – that time is over.

Except I wasn’t ready.

And fireflies have been tied to Rebecca this summer.  Fireflies are always my favorite part of the season, those glorious specks of bioluminescence winging about the lawn, appearing for a few weeks.  But this year, I literally saw the first firefly of the summer next to the hearse on the night of Rebecca’s death.  We’ve lived in this house for almost fourteen years, but we’ve never had a firefly loose and inside and blinking around, but that happened this summer.

I keep thinking: fireflies come, and they leave too soon.  But they burn bright.  And there is nothing, nothing else like them.

So I had Ashley my mad manicurist make me some firefly nails.

Hands up and touch the sky.

There are many tiny fireflies on my fingernails, and her craft shines here: the triple-fade, the hand-painted grass, the dots glow in the dark.

But on my nails, among the hundreds of fireflies, there is one that I told her to put on over the top coat.  That one is Rebecca.  And over the course of the next few weeks, the Rebecca on my nails will fade and vanish into the night sky, lost from sight.

But never forgotten.

(Nails by Ashley, who is on Instagram as La_belle_etrangere, who can be booked at the Venetian Nail Salon in Rocky River, Ohio.)

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

In two weeks, I’m going to Italy, and I need some honest-to-God old paper entertainment.  Because I’m not sure of my power requirements, and I probably won’t have good Internets that I can afford on the road, I need some books.

(And plus, I like books.  They’re a little roomy, but their bookly nature comforts me.)

So what am I taking to read on planes, on buses, and in my Italian villa?  Well, here’s my most recent book order, which probably would have had a few things like Charlie Stross’s latest Laundry novel and Scalzi’s “Lock In” if I wasn’t ordering all paperbacks and not clunky hardbacks:

  • Nexus, by Ramez Naam.  Hard science-fiction done by a science reporter?  Dealing with nanotechnology and linked brains?  Yes please.
  • Two Serpents Rise, by Max Gladstone.  I don’t know why I read some books and am super-psyched about the sequels, whereas other books I love thoroughly but never seem to find my way to the next one in the series.  (“Feed,” for example.  I fucking loved Feed.  But haven’t felt an urge to shuffle on to the rest of the Newsflesh trilogy, though it’s sitting on my shelf, beckoning me.)  But I did absolutely love Max’s book Three Parts Dead, which featured lawyers trying to revive a dead God, and here I’ve been waiting for a good excuse to buy his next one.  So Italy will be good.
  • Shield and Crocus, by Michael Underwood.  I haven’t read Michael’s writing before, but the pitch on this one – superheroes battling inside a city created within a giant’s skeleton – hits all my nerdy buttons.  I’m anticipating a lot of light fun and people punching things in creative ways.
  • The Rithmatist, by Brandon Sanderson.  The one time I met Brandon he struck me as a really nice and generous guy, and people have raved about Warbreaker – but personally, I’ve discovered I can’t read Thick Fantasy on plane trips.  So when he discussed this book on Writing Excuses, the worldbuilding – his forte – seemed quite good to me, and the YA nature means I can plow through it relatively quickly.  So this, I think, is where I meet Brandon’s writing.
  • Southern Gods, by John Hornor.  All the right writers on Twitter seem to be kissing John Hornor’s buns, constantly going out of their way to mention him – which is usually the sign of a good writer.  I know nothing about the man’s work, but it’s a vacation, I like a little gamble.  And it’s horror, so I can always cope with horror.
  • Roasting in Hell’s Kitchen, by Gordon Ramsay.  This is a vacation in Italy, goddammit.  I deserve some trashy reading.  Plus, I know I can hand it on to Gini when I’m done with it.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

While pretty much everybody lauded the Geeky Kink Event’s attempt to keep sex offenders out, there were many who groused that the Sex Offender list was not a ban list for conventions.  And some asked a question I’ve asked before, which is, “Why don’t more conventions band up to create an officially shared blacklist?”

That’s a good question.  Let’s break that down in some detail.

The first thing you need to understand about fan conventions is that the people attending them tend to see cons as this monolithic corporate entity – and why not?  They bring thousands of people together!  They rent a whole damn hotel!  They decorate, they cater, they hold parties, they hold concerts!  These conventions must be professional organizations!

Whereas the truth is, most cons are run on a shoestring budget, barely making back their costs, about one bad event away from going broke.  They’re also all staffed by volunteers; I know few conventions that have one full-time salaried employee, let alone a board full of them.

No, unbelievably, the cons you love are most likely run by people in their spare time – all those guests booked for you in the two hours they have after they get home from work, all those investigations held on weekends when you’re out watching movies and they’re dealing with convention feedback.  Cons are not so much the “MegaCorp funds the grand ballroom gala” as “An Amish barn-raising.”

If you have fun at conventions, ponder this and thank the crap out of your local con-organizers.  Better yet: volunteer.

But this does mean that while conventions mean well, and the people are dedicated, they’re working with volunteer effort – which is to say that yes, the Literary Track that went so well last year is now in danger of going to shit because Louise moved to Minnesota and she was the only one who knew everything.  And she didn’t leave notes.  The guy who knew how to find the good hotels has to work double-shifts because of his new kid.

Conventions are not one entity, but rather a constantly-fragmenting hive mind composed of well-meaning people doing this in the corners of their life.  And as such, cons are good at doing what they’re passionate about, but it’s hard to say “Fred, you must follow these rules and regulations” when Fred gets to say, “Or what?  You’ll tell me not to come here, and I’ll get my weekends back?”

The fact that conventions get anything competent done is, in fact, a testament to the goodness of the human race.  Again: volunteer.

But when conventions are saying, “How do we keep these molesting dorks out of our con?” they’re often a bunch of not legally trained, not experienced people.  At this stage in time, yes, “Keeping cons a harassment-free space” should be a priority for everybody.  But when you see a con doing something spectacularly stupid, it’s often because Joe New Volunteer With More Enthusiasm Than Brains got put into a slot that, sadly, nobody else was stepping up to fill.

…did I mention “volunteer”?  Okay.  Good.  We’re done with that.

Anyway, so hopefully now you see your average con not as a sleek Porsche, but more like a soap box racer made of old popsicle sticks held together with duct tape.  They all strive to be the best, and many of them manage it, but they are constantly battling attrition and resources to make the magic happen. The fact that the magic happens at all is a miracle.

So anyone who wants to devise an official “blacklist” shared among not just one of these constantly shifting volunteer organizations, but many of them, is trying to herd cats.  The person they’re supposed to talk to each year about this may change as people shift positions, and Jackie who was totally stoked for this safety drive may have given up cons and moved on to Burning Man, and now who are you supposed to talk to at ConSternation?

Who knows?

But even once you get past that very considerable hurdle, you have the big issue: How do you compile a list of ban-worthy harassers?

Keep in mind, many people who get harassed – or even out-and-out raped – do not want to talk to people at the con.  All they want to do is leave this experience behind, and “testifying to a group of strangers” – even strangers inclined to believe in them – is not a part of their healing process.

And let’s say someone gets physically assaulted at your convention, and talks to a group of her friends.  The friends go to you to report what they’ve heard, but there’s no physical evidence or eyewitnesses.  And you’re willing to take her word for things, in fact are perfectly primed to toss this asshole out on just one word from her… but she won’t talk to you or anyone official at the con because she’s freaked and doesn’t feel like reliving the day.

Do you blacklist someone based on second-hand testimony?

Some say “yes,” some say “no,” but that’s a tricky goddamned call.  In fact, banning the dude in the absence of testimony may actually make the victim’s life worse, because people are going to ask “So why’d he get banned?” and gossip will flow, and now the victim’s name will be out in circles she may not want them out in.

It’s not simple.

And – again, remember, cons are each composed of messy well-meaning volunteers – what crimes get you banned for life?  If you say, “Well, we’ll come up with a clear list of bannable offenses” and break it down in detail, well, you have just started a large board argument at every convention you’re asking to join over “Whether these rules are acceptable to us or not.”  (Quite possibly with the obligatory sides taken of “Too strict” vs. “Not strict enough.”)  And like every law, you’re going to come across situations that aren’t covered, because creepers creep in new and not-so-exciting ways all the time.

Yet if you take the alternate route of, “Well, you know what’s acceptable,” remember: well-meaning volunteers.  They might not.  Or they might not feel comfortable enough to ban people based on “gut feels” and hence default to not-banning when they damn well should.  It could be that your ban-list creates a false sense of safety, which is, in a way, even worse.

And then you get into the whole mess of “How do you report this stuff?”  The initial instinct may be to say, “Well, we won’t reveal any details, of what happened, we’ll just ban them.”  And congratulations!  You have just become the TSA’s “No-fly” list – a mysterious shadow cabinet that holds secret trials and doesn’t tell you what you did.  Even if you’re really good at weeding out creepers, you’re going to cause drama among people who don’t trust organizations. And as we all know, cons never have attendees of libertarian bents with deep mistrusts of authority.

Or maybe you give some vague details. Yet as organization after organization has discovered, people can put together stories from the vaguest hints.  You run a very good risk of inadvertently outing a victim.

Yet either way you go here, private or public disclosure, you run the risk of legal action.  Banned douchebot may not take well to being ejected from one convention, but he’s unlikely to go nuclear.  But if this project gets successful and banned douchebot is banned from not just one convention but most of the fun gatherings on the Eastern Seaboard, he may well get a lawyer and decide to see what he can shake loose.

And yes: you will probably win the court case.  But you’re very naive if you think “winning the court case” means “JUSTICE SERVED PIPING HOT!” Remember, cons are run on shoestring budgets, often only carrying maybe $500 to $1000 in profits over to the next year.  Douchebot doesn’t have to win the court case, he just has to force TinyCon to pay out in legal fees.  Too many legal fees, and they go broke.  And that’s a concern.

Is it any wonder a lot of cons just rely on whisper campaigns?  Even though they’re closely dependent on reputation, fragile, and can break all too easily?

None of this is to say that cons should not attempt to fling out the creepers, of course.  They should.  And most do try.  But because people criticized using the Sex Offender registry as a blacklist and asked, “Why not just use a customized one?”  And this is why creating a really good list is an honest-to-God struggle.

The real world is complex.  We struggle with very serious problems that don’t have easy answers.  And a lot of cons have been trying to provide better alternatives, with some success, and the fact that they achieve any headway at all is laudable as fuck.  Applaud them.  Contemplate how much work is ahead of them at making cons into safe spaces.  Understand that mistakes happen, and happen for these reasons, and should never ever happen, but even as you hold their feet to the fire understand all the vectors for error they’re juggling.

Now.  If you’ve run a con and got any good tips for keeping people out as a convention (and not the usual true-but-not-particularly helpful “Tell everyone to be eternally on their guard!”), then share.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

I’ll be presenting on polyamory at the Geeky Kink Event New England this year (come visit! It’s fun!) , and was finalizing my schedule with the organizers when they said this:

There will be a charge…. to run a check against the sex offender registry.

“Huh,” I said.  “They’re going to check to see if I’m a sex offender?”  And sure enough, I checked their website, and found this stunning little number under “Registrant Screening“:

When you register for GKE:NE, we will do two things to help ensure a safe, secure atmosphere for all of our guests.
  1. We will run the registrant’s name against a shared list of people banned from various kink and alternative lifestyle events on the Eastern Seaboard.  Reasons someone might be banned include forms of severe misconduct, such as consent violation.

  2. We will run the registrant’s legal name through the sex offender registry of either their home state or, by default, New Jersey.

And I thought, “How insanely great is that?”

Admittedly, the Geeky Kink Event is a kink event (the TARDIS bondage box and the sensory deprivation Companion Cube might be your clue as to the sexy here), so screening for sex offenders is a little more vital than it might be at your average filker con.

But I really like what this says about their commitment to their attendees: We’re going to try our damndest to keep the creepers out, and you safe.

Now, is the sex offender registry a particularly great method of filtering people?  Sadly, no.  The sex offender registry has a distressing amount of false positives, particularly from teenagers in consensual acts who got caught by angry parents.  There are people who plea bargain down to sex offender status not because they were guilty, but because they had 100% chance of walking free if they took the label or some not-zero percentage of jail time if they didn’t.  The sex offender list is imperfect and broken in an America that really dislikes sex.

Worse, the sex offender list isn’t near-comprehensive, either.  There’s a lot of rapists and molesters who didn’t get their much-deserved day in court, so “Not being on the list” is not proof that this is an upstanding citizen.  (Which is why GKNE backs it up by checking with their sister cons, sharing their ban-list.)

That said, holy fuck you guys go for making the attempt.

Screening for creepers is a tough job, in real life.  A really tough job.  The court system is incomplete, the word-of-mouth is ephemeral, the drama high, the legal hassles are tricksy, the defenders multitudinous, the creepers insidious.  People don’t like accusing other people, because it feels bad and often it puts a victim in a spotlight when they’d rather just forget this happened, so sometimes getting evidence would involve making a victim’s life infinitely worse.

And – never forget this – some of the consent violators are really nice guys.  Which is why I encourage you to question me, question your friends, question everybody, because “a nice guy” can often mean “has leveraged sympathy to get better traction for despicable acts.”

But make no mistake: despite its flaws, there’s a lot of dangerous fucking people on the sex offender list, too.  And rather than throwing up their hands and saying, “Wow, this is complicated, who the heck knows?”, the Geeky Kink Event is at least attempting to enforce some standard that – though I’m sure they’d readily admit has some flaws – is still much, much better than leaving it open to whatever creepazoids hand them their money.

I’m glad they’re screening.  I’m glad they’re asking about me.  I do not want to ruin someone’s convention experience, and if they check me out and think that I’d hassle people, I support their right to kick my ass to the curb.  (I doubt they will, as they vetted me last year before I emergency-cancelled thanks to Rebecca’s sudden illness, but who knows?)

Every convention is its own society and its own set of morals.  That society is shaped by what behaviors are judged acceptable – and, by proxy, what people you allow in to act.  Shaping that society is not wrong – in fact, it’s part of what makes the really good cons great – and finding ways to keep the away people who’d ruin the experience of the good people you want to attract to your gatherings?

I support that.  And in the absence of ideal solutions, I’m glad to see GKNE working towards imperfect ones.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

(NOTE: This essay was originally published on FetLife, the Facebook for Kinksters – but I thought it was sufficiently interesting to port over to my “Real” blog, even though it has a couple of Fet-specific references in it.  Because it deals with fatness and pride and attraction, and though I’m writing this in response to an essay that some of you might not be able to read, the essay is summed up and I don’t think I’m distorting it too much.)

Inside the community and out, us normal people and skinny people are getting pretty damn tired of being told what and who we should find sexy.”

Here’s a trick to dissecting arguments: when someone starts off by telling you that they’re a “normal” person, you can safely assume the rest of their argument will be, “Here’s what society tells me, and I’m not going to bother for a second to contemplate whether that’s good or bad.”

And lo, that’s what we have here.

The story, as summarized in @MPsHoneyDoll’s essay, is:

  • People don’t like fat people, so:
  • I hated fat people myself:
  • I hated myself so much that I changed myself
  • Now people like me.
  • So I like me.

 

And that is perfectly cool if you don’t find fat people attractive. Anyone who tells you that you are obliged to find any particular set of features attractive is an insecure git who needs the weight of numbers before they can relax.

You may be attractive to a small number of people. That’s cool.

The question is, are those people attractive to you?

If so, then awesome! Who cares if only one in 100,000 people wants to sex your bones up? If that one person is the dud/ette you wanted, then run rampant in the fields of glory, motherfucker!

If not, then you have that icktacular quandary of deciding how much you feel like changing for them.

Because here’s the ugly truth and the truth of ugly: you’re not going to have a 100% success rate at attracting the people you want. You just won’t, not over the course of a lifetime. And so you eventually have to make the decision of “Yes, if I changed my sexual identification and got a tattoo of a capuchin humping a watermelon and had bone-extension surgery to gain six inches in height, I could probably have them bed me. Is that worth it?”

And if you’re not processing too heavily, and these watermelon-humpers are in the majority, what you come to mistakenly believe is that there’s something wrong with you that you don’t naturally fit their mold of attractions.

There isn’t. There’s something wrong with your approach, presuming you want to date these people.

But if you’re just sort of skimming past all that, you don’t draw that vital difference between “This is a poor strategy for my goals” and “I am a failure as a human being,” and then come to think that cauterizing that hideous Thing They Do Not Like out of you is the only way to true happiness.

Not just for you.

For everybody.

Look, I’m neither pro- nor anti-fat. I actually find chubby women more attractive than skinny women. I think that my wife, who is overweight, can be actually healthier (she runs triathalons at her weight) than many skinny women who are more concerned with dress sizes than actual health. I believe that weight is merely one axis of many health considerations, and one that we demonize because we as society have decided that fat people are fucking disgusting.

But still, as a heart patient, I’m carrying forty extra pounds that endanger my well-being, so I’m trying to get it off. People who are 600 pounds are highly unlikely to be in the prime of health.

There’s a balance here. Sometimes, what society hates actually lines up with some genuine problems you have, and for God’s sake don’t do the nerd “reverse the polarity!” thing of going, “Well, if they hate it they must be wrong!” and then forever wrestling every conversation to be about your deep love of Transformers.

Maybe you’d be happier and less lonely if you bridged the gap and learned some common social skills – the moral equivalent of losing enough weight that you’re no longer at risk for coronary disease, but still chunky enough to appreciate a good sundae every once in a while.

“Normal” society, yes, rewards skinny people disproportionately. But it also rewards white people disproportionately. And straight people disproportionately. And men disproportionately. And if I’m not fucking careful, I can internalize those irrational hatreds and come to believe that there’s something wrong with me instead of society.

What @MPsHoneyDoll is regurgitating without thinking is the vomit that everyone poured onto her, all that societal hatred of fat people, which she drank up and internalized and now she can’t feel attractive unless she’s thin.

And hey, I’m not casting too many aspersions here: we all have our weak spots. I myself think I can’t be attractive unless I lure you in with words, which is equally dysfunctional.

The difference is that I’m not telling you all that really, being a poet is the only thing to do in this situation.

If @MPsHoneyDoll can only feel good if she’s thin, great! That’s an end-run around unthinkable pressures pushed onto you by thousands of people, and it may well be easier to give into that than to fight the power. I actually support that. Not every gay person needs to come out of the closet, not every kinky person needs to parade their slaves around the workplace.

(It helps if you do. Helps a lot. But it’s something I think is purest selfishness to demand of you, because fighting societal expectations takes a serious toll, and we trivialize people’s struggles when we forget that fundamental truth.)

But please, please, don’t not just cave to the pressure, but actually add to it, by telling folks that “normal” people find fat kiiiinda loathsome and implying heavily you’d be better if you just gave it up.

Because I’m willing to bet if we took you out to a crowd of “normal” people and showed them just what you loved on FetLife, most of them would think you were a fucking freak. And would you then tell me that yes, to make these generic people happy, we should give up our specifics?

No. Fuck that. “Normal” is not what we should be concerned with, especially in a fucktastic kink-saturated masturbationapocalypse like FetLife.

“Happy” is.

And yes: You will appeal to a wider variety of people if you lost weight. That’s the numbers, man. You’d also appeal to a wider variety of people on Fet if you were female, white, bisexual, and had big tits.

But it does not then follow that to be content, everyone should conform to what makes Kinky and Popular, the place where the most-loved photos wash up on FetLife. My wife has a shirt that says “I’m Someone’s Fetish,” and what matters is whether you can find the people who appreciate you for what you are.

And I’m perfectly within my rights to look at you and go, “Guh. You’re unattractive.” But that “unattractive” must always be accompanied with the properly-implied “to me,” and with the self-knowledge that just because a lot of people dislike something doesn’t mean it is actually wrong to be that.

I’m glad @MPsHoneyDoll is happier the way she is now. I am sad that she’s chosen to take a stance that heavily implies that anyone who doesn’t do what she did is fundamentally lacking on some level.

And I’ll tell you the truth: what makes me happy is not what will make you happy. Your job is to find what makes you happy, and then recognize this is not a one-size-fits all solution.

All I have ever written about is one path. I think it’s a pretty wide path, which is why my writings tend to be popular on Fet. But there are people who speak really beautiful and telling truths who never make it to K&P because those truths apply only to a narrow subset of people.

That makes those truths no less valid. Just less popular.

There is a difference.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

…at least I am according to David Steffen, who compiled his list of the Top 50 Podcast Fiction of All Time.  And I showed up six times on this list.

(My highest charting was #10, so I think that makes me like a really influential indie band.)

So in case you’re wondering (and there are many other good stories on that list to check out, if’n you like podcast fiction – check out Keffy in particular):

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

I had a Tweet up for about twenty seconds that I then took down, which was this:

“Cleveland is hosting the National Republican Convention in 2016. I hope we have enough hookers.”

Which is funny to me, man.  I honestly don’t know if Cleveland has enough prostitutes to service all the incoming conservatives, because past conventions have shown that man, these staid-in-the-wool motherfuckers go through sex workers like nobody’s business.  We may have to import.  I’m sure several of my sex worker friends are looking at their calendars and just planning a blowout weekend.

But I took the Tweet down, not because I thought it was inaccurate, but because I thought in a shorter version it’d pass on overtones I didn’t want to create.  It seemed to degrade sex workers to me (and no, for some reason “I hope we have enough sex workers” didn’t strike me as funny in the same way).

Which is a weird thing about being careful with your communications: It’s not that what you say isn’t funny, but that it also encourages people to not question things.  To me, a hooker or a sex worker or a prostitute or whatever the fuck you call them are people, worthy of rights and protections.  But I suspect a lot of the people who might pass that gag along would be the sort of people who’d see selling sex as the incontrovertible evidence of bad morals/life decisions/etc.

The real joke here is how the Republicans try to make kinky sex illegal, and yet crave it the same way we do.  But I’m not sure that Tweet got it across without punching downwards more than I’d like.

Okay, rant break over, back to work.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

I had a friend who wanted very badly to go overseas.  Sadly, I can’t remember why she wanted to go overseas – we’ll get to that – but what I do remember was her disastrous donation drive.

She set up an Indiegogo account – a.k.a., “The place we go when we’re pretty sure a Kickstarter would fail” – and set up various tiers of rewards if she got enough money to go overseas: little tiny things like postcards, et al.  And what I remember was that the tier pattern went something like this:

  • $30 – I will write you a personalized Tweet when I am in Czechoslovakia.

That’s where I started to feel a bit… insulted?  Overlooked?  Taken for granted?  Not a good feeling when I’m being asked to reach into my wallet.

As a writer, for me, being paid six cents a word – a word – is called “professional rates,” meaning it’s what the top-tier markets get.  And this campaign designed to induce me to give my friend money was giving them Tweet-rights of two cents per letter.

And I Tweet a lot.  I know how much time I spend composing a very thoughtful Tweet, which is at best three minutes.  So what my friend was saying to me, quite literally, was, “I think three minutes of my time is worth several hours of your paycheck while I relax on the beach in foreign lands.”

Already I was feeling a little dazed here.  And then I got to the next tier, which was something like:

  • $50 – I will allow you access to the personalized blog where I detail my trip to Czechoslovakia.

That’s when I thought, oh, no, no, you’re doing it all wrong.  My friend was thinking entirely about what she wanted, the trip, and how much work each tier would be for her, then pricing them accordinglyWhich is the wrong way to look at it.

Here’s the secret to every donation drive – and keep in mind, I’ve run quite a few – the donation drives are never about what you want.

Every donation drive is about how you make the donator feel.

That’s actually true of every piece of written communication, but is especially true when you’re asking people to give you money.  When you do a donation drive, you are not trying to go to Czechoslovakia – you are trying to make a total stranger feel excited about getting you to Czechoslovakia.  And as such, your entire focus must be answering the question, “Why would someone who doesn’t know me feel wonderful about helping me to go on this trip?”

The whole reason I’m writing this now is because there is an infamous Kickstarter for potato salad – literally, the entire point was “If this funds, I will make myself some potato salad” – and it is, as of this morning, it is funded at $37,500 with 24 days left to go.  And I had several baffled sick friends saying, “I held a donation drive to pay off my crippling doctor’s bills and stalled out at $150, and this guy gets thousands for a goddamned potato salad?”

Yes.  Because potato salad guy actually seemed like fun.  It was goofy to even ask for such a thing, and funny, and people felt like “Hey, a guy like this I feel good about throwing away $1 to.”  In other words, “He provided me with $1 worth of amusement.”  And several thousand people joined in.

And watch carefully, my friends, as to how he reacted when all this escalated: did he hunker down when his stretch goals were made?  Hell no.  When this started to go viral, the dude said, “Well, hell, if people want this, I will throw a potato salad party,” and threw open a call for anyone in the area to come on down to Columbus and make some potato salad with him and dance around in the joy of potato salad.  The potato salad guy sounds like a fun time!  Hell, he’s in Columbus, I am damn tempted to go down for his potato salad fiesta.

The question is, did your donation drive provide $1 worth of entertainment?

Look, I’ve raised somewhere in the range of $5,000-$10,000 for Rebecca Alison Meyer, my goddaughter who died of brain cancer a month ago.  And that’s not nearly as celebratory fun as a potato salad party, but the reason I was so successful – as people have told me time and time again, sometimes to my chagrin – is that “You made Rebecca come alive for me.”  Being a writer, I tugged on your heartstrings to feel empathy for a beautiful spitfire of a girl that you’d never met, and so many of you donated to CureSearch for Cancer in her name.

I hesitate to use the term “entertainment” for such an awful travesty, but the point is people felt good either way about donating.  They felt like it was worth their money, emotionally.  And too many people, like my friend, get caught up on the tiers of rewards, thinking, “What can I churn out?” and forgetting that the rewards are merely another way of making people feel more excited about donating.

And when I see these medical donation drives, what I see is often a relentless stew of pain: “I’m miserable and broke and have to buy duct tape to hold in my shattered skull.  If you donate $5, well, it won’t actually make a dent in this mountain of medical debt I have, it’s all hopeless really, but if you’ll let me weep on you for some time I’ll send you a postcard to remind you exactly how little of a difference you made.”

Then they get no traction.

No, man, if I was poor enough to need funding to, say, buy myself some new glasses, I would ask this simple question: “Why would people feel good about giving me money to buy glasses?”  And by proxy, “What could I tell them to make them feel empathy – to make them go, ‘Aw, man, I’ll feel happy if this balding dude in Cleveland gets his glasses’?”

And I’d think, “Well, I have all these books I want to read.”  And I’d start making a list of all the books I’m excited about reading but can’t, but could if you helped me, then talk about these upcoming books and the very specific reasons I’m excited about reading them – going on about my love of, say, Jo Walton or Stephen King or Robert Bennett – and make you feel excited with me.

And then I’d say, “Why, I’d be so grateful if you helped me with these glasses, for $30 I’ll buy a book that you love and read it and tell you all the lovely things about it!”

Would that work?  I don’t know.  But I do know it’d work better than, “I’m broke and I need glasses, give me the cash.”

The lesson about Kickstarter or Indiegogo or any donation drive is that you get what you give.  My friend shouldn’t have made her blog a $50 tier – the blog access should have been for donation $1, the lowest possible level, telling people, “If you sign up in any way, I will let you into my world and tell you of all the wonders I find in Czechoslovakia.”  As it is, honestly, I don’t remember why my friend wanted to go to Czechoslovakia, which is a sign of how badly the drive was presented to me – she was my friend, I cared about her, and I couldn’t tell you what it meant to her aside from a thrusting hand in my face.

And, of course, her donation drive didn’t get anywhere.  What happened was what happened with most of the donation drives: her close friends gave what they could, a handful of acquaintances pitched it, and it stopped there because if you didn’t know my friend, well, this donation page would not have told you a darned thing about her.  She was very sad, even if she was resistant to changing her donation page because she’d worked so hard on it.

The lesson: be the potato salad.  Even if you’re sick and life is terrible, find a way to get people invested in your journey.  Give them only things that make them feel more invested in your journey.  Make them feel triumph when you succeed, and I can’t guarantee you’ll get potato salad money, but you’ll get more than you would have.  For sure.

(And if you’re looking for a good couple to donate to, may I suggest helping my friends Jeff and Tracy Spangler?  It couldn’t hurt.)

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

Hello, glorious mortals!

If you’ve been living under a rock, you may have missed that a) I sold a novel, and b) that novel is coming out on September 30th.  Or that I have a West Coast Release Party in San Francisco on October 11th.

But now?  I have an East Coast Release Party on October 24th at 7:00 at the Word Bookstore in Brooklyn!  I have not been to Word yet, but several people told me, “Awww, man, you have to see this store, it’s pretty amazing,” and so I shall.  And I’ll do a reading/Q&A/signing there! (And afterwards, I’ll almost certainly go out for drinks and hang out for a bit, because this is a celebration of fourteen years of work.)

So if you’re excited about my debut novel, and you’re anywhere within driving distance, I’ll say, “Hey, come on out and see me!  I’ll bring donuts – which, once you’ve read the novel, you’ll understand says something quite important about you all.” 

Remember: East Coast Release Party October 24th, West Coast Release Party October 11th.  I’ve allllmost got the details down for the too-critical Cleveland release party, and hopefully should have something for you by next week.  Also, since it’s been suggested and within driving distance, maybe a Detroit release party for all my pals out there.  But maybe that’s one too many release parties, I dunno.)

You may also ask, “Ferrett, what about a [My Neighborhood] Release Party?”  And the answer is that “Ferrett has a limited amount of vacation time, and family to visit on both coasts.  These Release Parties are tremendously exciting but also a net loss in cash, as there’s no way I’ll sell enough books to fund the driving trip and hotel stay to NYC – so alas, this is not so much ‘a book tour’ as ‘Ferrett thinks this would be fun to visit his Dad and throw this in.’”  While I’d love to visit your home town, I don’t have that kinda money to burn.

But you can still order Flex from any number of bookstores in advance.  Which would be nice.  Authors live or die on preorders, so if you’re not gonna attend a release party but wanna celebrate, you can do a little dance when Flex arrives on your doorstep.

And that, my friends, is the end of today’s marketing shill!  Move on.  Feel joy.  Walk about.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

About ten times a day, I think: “I held a six-year-old girl as she died.”

Then I think: “Roll for SAN.”

I think this without irony, or merriment.  I grew up on roleplaying games.  They formed large portions of my thought process.  And when I say “Roll for SAN,” this is a reference from Call of Cthulhu, a popular game based on the horror stories of H.P. Lovecraft.

In the game, investigators start out with a Sanity statistic.  This is ranked as a number between around 85 and 0.  As you play through the game, and unveil the eldritch horrors, you are asked to roll against your Sanity stat.  If you fail, you lose Sanity.  (Sometimes, if the horror is sufficiently large, you lose some Sanity even if the roll succeeds.) Take too large a hit to your existing Sanity, and you go temporarily insane.

And I keep wondering: What is the Sanity roll for watching a small, beloved girl die?  Literally holding her as her breath stops?  Is it 1d6, 1d8, 1d10?  I’ve gone back and looked at the Delta Green books – they have a cold-hearted government clinician, Dr. Yrjo, who does horrendous psychological experiments upon captive prisoners.  They provide samples of the experiments, along with a list of the SAN losses for each thing, and I think for me it’s somewhere between 1d8 and 1d10.

This matters to me, because I am insane on some levels.  Mildly so, but I have taken a hit.

This did not occur to me until Gini pointed out that we must have driven home at some point after Rebecca’s body was loaded into the hearse.  We must have.  We know who was staying in the house then, and there were no empty rooms.  Which means that we drove home, presumably talking on the way, went to bed with each other, got up, showered, shaved, and

I have no memory of any of that.  Portions of my mind are wiped clean with grief.

And my actions are indistinct.  Both Gini and I have acquired a mild agoraphobia, wherein the crowds at the supermarket make us both nervous.  We retreat to home, curl up on the couch, don’t speak. I forget things easily now; we have the same factual conversations over and over again, where Gini forgets when DetCon is (in two weeks) and I cannot understand what plans we’ve made.  I now have a quivering sense of dread whenever I see the Meyers’ house, a feeling of returning to the scene of the crime.

It’s not debilitating, not totally.  But our shaky minds are a constant undertow. Our thoughts rattle in the wind now, a reminder of how fragile this foundation is.

And I keep thinking: We are too far from death.  Our ancestors, they dealt with this on a regular basis.  They had to look this directly into the eye.  And were they stronger, or us weaker, or did people simply see this diffusion as the background noise of a violent and cold universe?

Tommy died in the hospital.  I didn’t see him.  They cleaned him up off-stage, brought him out for the funeral like a prop.  Same with my Grammy, and my Gramma, and my Grandpop.  In my experience, death is something that arrives via a phone call, a nurse sounding sad, a relative trying not to cry.  It’s not…

…this was different.

And again, I think, “Roll for SAN.”  This is not an experience I’ve had.  A man should be a little shaky after watching his goddaughter die, goddammit.  Not watching in the sense that I saw Tommy die, which is to say watching the slow ebb of what the diseases stole from him, but watching in the sense that I stayed until a beautiful girl became a body.  And though I’d prefer my recovery happen on my schedule, it should take a while to rewire oneself to hook yourself back into the flow of life.  The world, it doesn’t stop spinning, which helps in a way.  Things continue to happen.  Software deadlines must be met.  Books must be written.  Tours must be scheduled.

“Roll for SAN.”  It’s all harder, though.

Yet I think of the only way not to be affected by Sanity loss at all: you lose it all, at which point the GM takes your character sheet from you.  You’re not you any more, at least not as you had defined yourself.  You’re something too used to death, too bereft of hope, too estranged from this enwebbed illusion we call humanity to be a true person any more.

“Roll for SAN.”

I am marking it off on my character sheet.

I am staggering forward.

I am lucky that I still have some left to lose.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

I get a lot of apologies, when people write to me.  They think that I’m just some blogger, and then they discover I’m actually a professional writer with a novel sold and a SFWA membership and one big-ass award nomination…

…and they cringe.  They’re not a Real Writer, they tell me.  And I am.  And they apologize for wasting my time.

It’s true, man.  I am a Real Writer.  But thankfully, having scaled that summit, I am here to give you poor nebbishes a helping hand and tell you how I, Ferrett Steinmetz, became a Real, Honest-To-God Fucking Writer:

I stopped worrying about it.

No, seriously.

That’s it.

Now, I’m not going to tell you that I didn’t have all sorts of neuroses about acquiring the right label before I made my third professional sale – five cents a word, motherfuckers, they cut me a check for $200, it paid a quarter of my mortgage bill – but looking back at it, my obsession about who was “really” writing and who wasn’t was actually a fucking handicap.  Because here’s the lesson I’ve learned in selling a shit-ton of stories:

1)  You do the best work you can possibly do.

2)  You do as much of the best work as you can possibly do.

3)  You send it out.

Again, that’s it.  That’s all there is, in my eyes, to being a Real Writer.

Because what I’ve come to realize in six years of hoo-hah Professional Writing is that nobody really knows what works.  My best stories, the ones I was positive I’d sell?  Got trunked after thirty rejections.  The story I thought was a silly waste of time?  Got me my Nebula nomination.

The truth is that if authors really had a good grip on what sold, we’d all be millionaires.

So all we can do is our best work.  And send it out.  And if we’re lucky, we connect with an audience, but I think every published author has at least one story they thought was at the bare level of acceptability that they’d put out with their name on it that became a beloved tale.  And I know they all have that one story they loved so hard and it disappeared without a trace.

The lesson of the Real Writer is that all it involves is doing your best work.  The rest?  Markets and guesswork.  You can put in a lot of effort, and not see much reward, and I think most writers have had that six-month dry period (or sixteen, or sixty) where nothing sold and they asked, “What the hell is wrong with me?”  And the answer is often – not always, but often – “You’re just not what they’re looking for.”

Looking back, my personal obsession with becoming a Real Writer back in the day was a handicap to me.  I kept reading the bones of more popular authors, wondering what I was doing wrong, wasting time trying to emulate them when really, I needed to highlight what made me unique.

I’m an awful carbon copy of Stephen King, but the more I work on honing my Ferrett Steinmetz impression, the better I do.

I pissed away a lot of time, trying to be a Real Writer, and that time sublimated away in self-analyzing and whining and panicking was time that I was not writing.  It put me farther away from my quest instead of closer to it.

Instead of being a Real Writer, I was instead spending my time being a Real Neurotic, and that was not at all helpful.

Now, there are some Busy Writers, and for them, yes, you have to understand that you’re one of a hundred people clamoring for their attention, and you might not get it.  And there are some Popular Writers, and I suspect many of them are vaguely surprised that this has worked out quite this well for them.  But a Real Writer?

You’re a Real Writer even if you’ve never had a publication.  You’re a Real Writer if nobody’s (yet) heard of you.  All you have to do is to follow the three steps: Write the best work you can possibly do, write as much of the best work as you can possibly do, and send it out.

And maybe you’re not doing that.  Maybe you’re not pushing yourself as hard as you should be, trying new techniques and new characters and new experiments.  Maybe you’re not writing as much as you could be doing, wasting your days on the X-Box and ignoring that tickle that you could be doing something more productive.  Maybe you’re keeping your work locked on your hard drive, not sharing it with anyone because my God what if they don’t like it.  (Hint: Someone will not.  If all you ever get is praise, you’re not sending it out to enough people.)

But if that’s the case, then I am the last person you should be apologizing to for not being a Real Writer. You know what you need to do to get there, and you’re only hurting yourself by not doing it.

Now get out there and write.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

When I was young, I read an interview where Stephen King said this:

I used to tell interviewers that I wrote every day except for Christmas, the Fourth of July, and my birthday. That was a lie. I told them that because if you agree to an interview you have to say something, and it plays better if it’s something at least half-clever. Also, I didn’t want to sound like a workaholic dweeb (just a workaholic, I guess). The truth is that when I’m writing, I write every day, workaholic dweeb or not. That includes Christmas, the Fourth, and my birthday.

And I thought that sounded very badass.  A Real Writer wrote every day, hauling that laptop down to the coffee shop as some sort of show of how Hardcore you were.  A Real Writer was always cranking out new words because that’s how you wrote, like, seventy novels a year.  A Real Writer mashed keys.

So when I was young, I set out to write on My Birthday.  The most special day of the year.

Because writing was special.

And today is my birthday, and it’s not very special at all. I am laid up with an ear infection.  I got up at 9:45, went to the doctor for ninety minutes, then came back and slept until 2:30.  I am sapped with grief after Rebecca’s death, and I am sapped with energy with the own roiling mass of angry flesh throbbing inside my ear, and I have just asked my good friend Angie – not that I want to – whether she wants to reconsider coming down for the weekend, since I don’t know if I’ll be up.

I will also write.

Writing is not special.

I write every day, now, and most days I don’t go, “Oh, what inspiration will I unwrap from this golden-foil package hidden within my mind?”  I remember back to my old days, writing only when I was truly In The Zone, when I had a great idea that just burned within me to be unleashed, going fallow for weeks at a time and then cranking out several short stories in a feverish day.

And that process works for some people, don’t get me wrong.

But I write when I’m sick.  I write when I’m tired.  I write when I don’t have time.  I write when I’m uninspired.  I write when I have no good ideas.  I write when I have no hope that this story will ever be any good.  I write when I hate myself.  I write when I’ve failed.

No matter what happens in my life, I sit down, and I write.  The day after Rebecca’s death?  I wrote.  Three weeks after they cracked open my chest to operate on my heart?  A few months ago, I found a flashfic that I’d totally forgotten about, which I’d written deep in Ativan haze, over what turned out to be the course of a couple of days.  Because I write.

And it’s not magic.  It’s not badass.  It’s just what I do, relentless as stone, and…

That is magic.

The magic is a slow process, you don’t see it forming.  It’s a grim procession, knowing that no matter what happens, you must make the words.  But those words then come from every part of you.

Back when I wrote only when I was inspired, I wrote only of a manic energy.  Now I write from all colors of my spectrum – from despair, from exhaustion, from strength, from weakness.  I write from more creative places, because if I am coming up with bad idea after bad idea, then I will begin to think of things I never would have thought of had it been easy.  I write from more tones, because if I write in joy and edit in despair then I have not one me, but two mes looking over my words, and I am wiser in all my moods than in one.

And I work miracles.

I write things and move people in ways I never could have before, when I gave only the shiniest parts of me to my book.

And I am exhausted, now.  My ear throbs, my heart aches.  But after I finish this, I will write on my birthday.  Because this day is not special, and writing is not special, and me writing today is not special.

What I write is special.  And all things serve the beam.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

WARNING: I’m going to swear a lot in this essay, because that’s what Gordon wants me to do.

Here is a very stupid pet peeve, but it’s actually highlighting shitty data analysis everywhere.

For the fourth time that I’ve seen, someone has gone over the seasons of Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, where he storms in and “saves” a failing restaurant, only to show that – shocker – most of these restaurants have gone out of business.  So people go, “Only 40% of the businesses survived, hurr hurr, Gordon must be terrible at this.”

Except a flea’s amount of insight would show you these are terrible fucking numbers, and you should know better.

First off, restaurants are a bad goddamned business.  Most of the restaurants in existence, Gordon Ramsay-enabled or not, don’t make it three years.  So you have to deal with a pretty high fatality rate to begin with.

And then you have to deal with the fact that these restaurants were financially shitholed when Gordon Ramsay showed up.  They weren’t just your “average” restaurant, they were a restaurant that is usually around a hundred thousand in debt.

And then Gordon Ramsay came in.  Was he effective?  I don’t know.  I’m a huge Gordon Ramsay fan, so I like to think he’s effective – but if you’re going to show me an analysis, you can’t just compare against the restaurants themselves.  These aren’t businesses – they’re terminal cancer patients, pretty much doomed to be gone soon without any intervention, so treating them like Gordon should have a 100% win rate is fucking stupid.

What you should do, if you’re trying to do a proper fucking analysis, is find a bunch of restaurants in similar bad shape – say, a over a threshold amount in debt with falling revenue – and track their survival rate over eight years.  Then compare those to Gordon’s assisted restaurants.  The difference is the actual amount Gordon helps.  Yes, Kitchen Nightmares’ save-rate is pretty poor, but one suspects that if you were to examine the “no Ramsay help” vs. “Ramsay help” you’d find that hey, actually there’s a huge gap.

But that would require journalists to do some actual goddamned work as opposed to checking Wikipedia and Yelp, and who can be expected to work that hard?

(And even then, you’d still have the issues that some restaurant owners completely ignored Gordon’s advice and reverted to their old ways weeks afterwards, and still others were so in debt they closed before the show even aired.  Yet even without removing those factors, I still suspect you want a Gordon Ramsay in your failing chefery, not that you can get it any more because goddammit Gordon get back here, I need your Kitchen Nightmares on my reality TV, this is the unkindest closing of all.)

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

A comment from Chess pointed out something interesting about my introversion: online communication doesn’t drain my introvert-batteries.  After a big party, I need to go somewhere quiet to recharge, but during that “quiet” time I’m replying to emails, I’m texting, I’m chatting.

And I realized: it’s because with online communications, I don’t need to monitor body language.

As a teenager, I was a very lonely kid because I didn’t really know how to talk to people.  And what you see here, in this journal, is the moral equivalent of some nerdy teen getting into Monty Python and memorizing every one of their routines – except instead of memorizing all of Monty Python, analyzing How People Work became my nerdy hobby.  So I spent a lot of time really thinking about how conversations worked, manually picking up on all the cues that tell you when someone’s interested and when they’re not, managing the flow and ebbs of conversations.

(Okay, I also memorized all of Monty Python.  BUT REGARDLESS.)

Yet for all of that effort I put in, when I am in public, it’s not a natural habit.  It’s like conducting an orchestra – I’m always glancing from person to person, going Oh, she’s drifting off and He looks like he wants to say something and Good, she laughed at my joke.  I’m weighing and conducting my potential responses, running everything through some algorithm to ensure that I’m not dominating the conversation.

Storytelling is natural to me.  But managing the responses of everyone?  That’s an effort.

I can do it almost subconsciously at this point, thankfully.  But even if I don’t have to explicitly consider all the elements any more, face-to-face socializing is a drain on my resources – to constantly be looking at all those faces and arms and bodies, calculating and recalculating what’s appropriate in this situation – and so after a while I get tired and need to rest.

Which is not every introvert!  My wife, when she’s feeling people-burnt, comes back home and doesn’t want to text, doesn’t want to email, doesn’t want to talk.  To her, I suspect, it’s the act of shaping thoughts into communications that drains her, whereas Mr. Blog here obviously does that without a second thought.

Yet every introvert, I suspect, has some aspect of social interaction which they can do well, but not subconsciously.  You don’t have to think about, say, brushing your teeth in the morning, but you do have to think about tying some new knot you’ve just learned.  And when you expend that kind of energy in something you’ve never quite managed to pick up by rote, it becomes a thing that you need time to recharge from.

For me, I think, if I was less thoughtful then I’d probably be an extrovert.  If I could just charge in and assume that everything was going well, then I’d never need to go home!  I’d be happy to spend time with people!  I like people!  I love people!  And I’d probably be less beloved, because I’d just assume everyone was happy if I was, but what the hell.  I’d be more comfortable in my own skin, instead of constantly thinking of parties as some complex biological organism that must be maintained through an elaborate series of feedback.

Which I do.  But they’re still fun for me.  I promise.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

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