theferrett: (Meazel)

Okay. This ridiculous book tour/vacation is now finalized, so many of you people on both West and East coasts can meet a Ferrett.

And what a strong ending!  Two of the best science fiction bookstores, one I thought I’d never get to sign in!  San Diego and San Francisco!

In any case, I should stress that this is a book vacation, not a book tour per se – in a book tour, the publisher pays to put you up in a hotel, whereas Gini and I are treating this like “Let’s drive up and down the West Coast and see friends and oh yeah, do some signings.”  So if there’s anyone in the Seattle or San Diego area who would be willing to let us crash at their space for a couple of days (and be okay with us getting in late as we see other people), then please let me know.  (We have Portland and San Francisco covered, thankfully.)

(Which also should answer your next question of “When are you coming to my town?” When you pay my plane fare and a hotel, I’ll cheerfully go anywhere.  Alas, this is on my dime, and more for fun than profit, so I’m surprised I have this many dates.)

(And extra-special thanks to fellow writer and Angry Robot PR man Michael Underwood, who did most of the legwork for this tour.  He is the official fairy godfather of Flex, and you should buy his books.)

Saturday, March 28th: Mysterious Galaxy, in San Diego
5943 Balboa Avenue, Suite #100, San Diego, CA 92111
2:00-3:30 p.m.

Saturday, April 4th: Borderlands Books, in San Francisco
866 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110
3:00-4:30 p.m.

And in case you’re going “Aw, man, I wanted to hang out Ferrett!” and you live in New York, Boston, Seattle, Portland, or – strangely – Cleveland – then remember these dates:

Friday, March 6th: Loganberry Books, in Cleveland (register at the Facebook event here!)
13015 Larchmere Blvd., Shaker Heights, Ohio 44120
7 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

Friday, March 13th: WORD Bookstore Brooklyn (register at the Facebook event here!)
126 Franklin St, Brooklyn, NY 11222
7 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

Saturday, March 14th: Annie’s Book Stop Of Worcester (register at the Facebook event here!)
65 James Street, Worcester MA 01603
5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

Friday, March 20th: University Book Store, in Seattle
4326 University Way NE Seattle WA 981105
7 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

Saturday, March 21st: In Other Words, in Portland, Oregon
14 NE Killingsworth Street, Portland, OR 97211
4p.m. – 6p.m.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

Stephen King once demonstrated the mastery of his craft by killing seven people in short succession.

That makes it sound like Stephen King is a serial murderer, a statement I’m not backing off of.  What he did in Under the Dome – which wasn’t even one of his better books – was to do the impossible for most writers.  Which is to say that Stephen would create a fully-fledged character in under 800 words, a grungy and real and believable and likeable hitchhiker with a backstory and a need to get out of this damned town that had blackened his eye and got the local police chief on his case.  The ideal lead for a book because even knowing them for this little time you wanted to follow him through the next 1,000 pages to see what happened to him –

– and WHAM, he got killed by the eponymous Dome.

So you got to the next character, a pilot who’s trying to wind up a messy love affair but dealing with the complexity of still being in love, and WHAM, killed by the Dome.

And the next character, what a lovely person, and WHAM, killed by the Dome.

It was like watching a masterwork artist flip through his sketchpad, scribbling in heartbreaking portraits in loving detail in less time than it took you to swig your coffee, and then he’d rip them up and toss them aside.  And it was all to good effect, ultimately – after watching that many people killed by what was an admittedly-ludicrous plot device (an alien Dome dropped over a small town!), it felt like a tragedy.  And that callousness made you jumpy for everyone else throughout the rest of the books when the true lead characters finally survived long enough for you to say “Howdy.”

But if you’re a writer, you know how damned hard it is to create someone who feels real, and is sympathetic enough that you want to see what happens to them.  Some people spend decades trying to pull that off, and never achieve it once.  And there’s Stephen King, creating people so utterly believable that he might well have crushed them personally in a car wreck, and he’s doing it so effortlessly that he can just do it at will.  As a toss-off.

I never thought I’d see anyone else do something comparable until I read Ken Liu’s The Grace of Kings.

Which is not to say The Grace of Kings is like Stephen King at all – it isn’t.  It’s been compared to an Asian Game of Thrones, which is a marketing shorthand I crawl at, because Game of Thrones feels like a purposely shitty world, whereas Ken’s world has moments of genuine hope and love, it’s just ruled by increasingly dysfunctional people.

And Ken does not create characters in the way that Unca Stevie does.  Stephen King creates his characters in the moment – a blackened eye, a rustling pocket with only a crumpled dollar bill, a hopeless wave at a passing car.  Whereas Ken repeatedly stops the story and says, “Have a flashback to this character’s entire life history, from A to Z.”

Which sounds stupid and clumsy and amateurish.  According to every writing manual in existence on this planet, it shouldn’t work.  But Ken is a master writer, having won literally every science-fiction award possible for his short stories, and when he sets out to break a rule he shatters it like cordwood.

Because Ken has mastered the essentials of story.  In a few sentences, he can tell you about a character who has experienced something where you go Yes, I understand this person, I would do the same thing, and so when you hear about the second-best philosopher at the school, the one who’s studied so hard to be the best and yet is repeatedly outdone by the shining student who never works for anything and yet is just genius, you feel that tug.  And then Ken deepens this sketch by outlining the awkward ways in which people try to compliment this poor second-best schmuck, complimenting his fine form without once ever expressing any enthusiasm for the work he’s spent years creating, then suggesting he study the golden child of the school for inspiration, and you understand yes, okay, I get why this man would be seethingly obsessed.

Then you hear about how he mastered politics because philosophy wasn’t working for him, and rose high in the bureaucracy to be the second-hand man of the King himself, and when he got the opportunity he undermined his old golden boy, disfavored him in the palace, got that stupid jerk thrown into jail – and yet the Golden Boy never blamed this second-rate philosopher, in fact seemed to adore his old friend, welcomed him into his cesspit of a prison, never suspecting who was causing him all this trouble at all…

Then the second-rate philosopher gets his head chopped off by an invading barbarian force, and you find out the story is about what happens to the Golden Boy.

At least until something bad happens to the Golden Boy.

Grace of Kings is an epic fantasy saga, but I tend to think of it as “Poor management techniques backed up with swords.”  With so many characters, time and time again we see rulers distracted from the details that actually allow empires and armies to function – focusing on revenge instead of politics, focusing on politics instead of provisions for the army, focusing on provisions instead of strategy, focusing on strategy instead of discipline.  Running an empire is a hugely complex task in the world of Grace of Kings, and while there are a lot of idiots in the mix – as you’d expect – the challenge of the characters is getting everything right, and you can’t quite blame people for not realizing what’s important until the blade is about to fall.

More importantly, people’s mistakes and their triumphs are deeply rooted in character.  Yes, the vicious warlord may be causing problems for himself by burning the cities he conquers, thus creating greater resistance, but on the other hand if he didn’t have that ruthless willingness to drive his army into the teeth of unspeakable violence, he’d never have won any battles.  It’s a complex balance of people creating politics, and Ken pulls it off with – *cough* – grace.

Now, for me, this story was new, because it’s based on an Asian saga I am not familiar with – much like Western stories tend to be based around King Arthur.  But I’m told by people who know the original that it’s still a worthy and unique take on it.  And I enjoyed the heck out of it, because yes, like Under the Dome, there are characters who do survive – but like Game of Thrones, you’re never entirely certain which ones will make it.

It’s out in a few weeks, and I might contemplate reserving my copy now, if I were you.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

So Leonard Nimoy died, and I almost called in sick and took the afternoon off.

And I worry about other people.

Me, I’ll be fine, though losing Leonard was a great loss to me.  I remember being ten and going to my first Star Trek convention – a shameful thing back then, to be held in back rooms of Shriners’ clubs, things only children and stunted adults would desire.  And my Uncle Tommy, ever fearless, went with me, and I bought Spock ears because Spock, like all of us, seemed baffled by these huge desires that swept through him.  Spock wanted to be calm and logical, but he wasn’t – and yet somehow, he was the most capable of all of the crew for that.

Now he’s gone, and that part of my childhood goes with him.

Yet I know too many people who attended those conventions, and never bothered to find anything else to love.  I have a good friend who only sees remakes of things she already knows, stuck in the past, endlessly buying deluxe versions of 1970s and 1980s movies and not acquiring anything new.

For her, Leonard Nimoy’s passing is a great loss because all her beloved heroes are so old, they can do almost nothing but die.

For me?  I’ve had lots of new and wonderful fandoms.  The Flash is a delight.  I adore Better Call Saul.  I’m still flying high on Avatar: the Last Airbender.  I am so ridiculously enamored of new shows and movies that yes, Leonard Nimoy’s passing is a great loss but I still look to the future, confident that there are still things as wondrous as Star Trek yet to be created.

For my friend?  Spock is a grave in a yard that will fill with nothing but more holes.  As she ages, the bottom will drop out for her – Shatner and Takei will pass, and she’ll complain bitterly that there’s nothing like the old days, and it’ll be like the world is crumbling around her.  Because it is.  Because she’s mired in a past where the only good shows where the ones she knows, and that sad land will only grow stonier over time.

But I think Leonard was delightful at embracing new things as he got older – he certainly seemed to love his time on Fringe – and me?  I’d rather be like Leonard.  It’s a huge world, full of wonderful things.  There are new characters to to fall in love with – maybe not filled with the same history of childhood nostalgia as Spock, but delightful nonetheless. And no one can replace Leonard, but I have far more fictional worlds to hold fast in my heart, some of them new and blossoming, all of them exciting.

When I think of Star Trek, I think to the future, and the future is one glorious now.

Don’t get me wrong: His loss is profound to me.  I haven’t stopped crying for half an hour.  But there is still such beauty in the world.

Thank God I have the eyes to see it.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

I promised I’d remind you when that podcast dropped, so here it is:

In this episode of Rocket Talk, Justin is joined by authors Ferrett Steinmetz and Monica Byrne. They talk about their experience at the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop in 2008, how genre classifications worry them as writers, and about how alt-sex influences their writing.

I make a lot of really awful jokes, and Monica is obviously fascinating to listen to or else she wouldn’t be my friend. So check it out, if you like hearing me say “I mean” every fifteen seconds.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

My book Flex is coming out next Tuesday, and I’m getting asked the same question a lot:

“Where do I buy your book?  I mean, so you get the most benefit out of it?”

Now, I am no special snowflake among authors.  So let me tell you how it works for pretty much all authors, and give you an answer you can use to benefit any author who you deem worthy of earning a living.  And the answer to your question is this:

It’s not where you buy the book, but when

The sad truth of this industry is that pre-orders drive sales, and most sales of a book come in the first three months of a book’s release.  Buying a book before it comes out is a stamp of approval that can actually boost sales across the board, because it leads to conversations like this:

Representative to bookstore buyer: “You sure you want to lowball this one?  {$OTHER_BOOKSTORE} has 250 copies reserved against advance orders.  You might be missing out.”

Bookstore buyer: “All right, I’ll buy some more just to hedge my bets.”

(NOTE: Before you tell me this doesn’t happen, kindly recall I worked as a book buyer for Borders and Waldenbooks for half a decade.  This trick doesn’t always work, but it can make someone reanalyze a new book, sometimes favorably.)

And “having more copies in” can lead to better shelf visibility (customers are far more likely to buy a book from a stack of books “faced out” than a singleton spined), better promotion (hey, we bought in deep on this, we should do something to ensure it sells), better awareness (that book got advance buzz, I should check in on that one to see how it’s doing, oh, it’s out of stock!).

Basically, pre-orders are golden for any author.

If you can’t buy in advance, then if you want to benefit the author, buy as close to the release date as possible.  As noted, that first swell of sales is critical.  One of the reason classic “backlist” books are so treasured is because you don’t need a new Harper Lee book to boost sales on To Kill A Mockingbird – that book sold steadily, without a scrap of promotion, for decades.

Most books, however, are in and out, which is to say the author pretty much gets one initial flush of success and then the book slowly dwindles and isn’t reordered – so making the most of that initial boost means the author maximizes sales for the bookstore, which ensures the bookstore thinks more kindly of this author come their next book.  If you buy a copy ten months later, odds are decent that the bookstore is not thinking “Joy! A sale!” but rather “Lucky me, that’s one less book I have to return.”

So.  Order early, order often.

But then I get asked: “Should I buy it in ebook or physical copy?”  And there’s one overriding answer to that:

If you’re going to see the author at a book store – like, for example, some insane schmuck like me who’s doing a book tour – then buy the book at the store, if possible.  That ensures the book store goes, “Oh, this guy sells books!” and then they like us.

If not, well, let’s discuss ebooks vs. paper.  (NOTE: This is what I understand to be the case; if I’m wrong, I’ll correct in edits.  This is my first book sold, so I’m going off many publisher discussions here, not personal experience, and I could well be misguided.)

Like a lot of authors, I make more money on ebooks.  My royalties per book are way better, so on paper (heh) ebook would be the way to go…

…BUT.

Ebooks have two issues for authors.  The first is that when physical books get discounted, I get a royalty off the full price.  See that $29.95 Stephen King hardcover you bought at 40% off?  Unca Steven gets paid off that $29.95 price, no matter how much the store knocks off the front end.  (Unless it’s a bargain book, but those play by frighteningly different rules.)

But ebooks, I get a royalty off of whatever the bookseller decides to sell it for.  If Amazon decides to make Flex the Daily Deal and sell it for $0.99 (HINT: they won’t soon), I get the royalty off of that.  Hopefully the Daily Deal sells enough copies that I make up in volume what I’m losing on a per-book basis, which it usually does (I’m told), but there’s no guarantee.

Then there’s the fact that “counting eBook sales” is something of a dark art, because there’s no centralized reporting to track eBook sales.  So what can happen to an author – and it’s an edge case, but I’ve heard some rumors – is that they sell so many copies via eBook that it actually becomes difficult to sell their next book to another publisher, since they sold a lot of books but in a place that other publishers can’t verify the numbers.  On the other hand, “selling a lot of copies of eBooks” can be seen as a plus, because that means you’re appealing to a younger demographic and may have longer legs as an author.

So.  After that flurry of facts, do you know which is better?  eBook or paper?

Neither do we, so just buy it in whatever format makes you happy.  Seriously.  That’s the answer of almost every author I know.  We’re just happy you’ve opted to buy our book, man, so we appreciate the concern, but whatever is convenient for you.  And thanks.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

So this happened yesterday:

If you’ll recall, it took me decades to write a novel good enough to sell.  I literally wrote seven terrible novels before finally uncorking this good one.  And so to have it in my hands, was…

Like touching a dream.

A box of me.

So this box sits on the counter, and Gini, who is usually Not A Fan of clutter, has said not a word about it, as she is as proud as I am.  Eventually it’ll go in a closet somewhere.  I have books to sign (and I plan to number the books I sign, a little personalized hashtag, just to see how many I do), and I know Gini gets my first signed book, and then I gotta figure out who gets the rest.

And yes, I know I’m being slightly ridiculous about all this, but it’s my first novel.  My absurdity extends to feeling a strange kinship with Brenda K, who so kindly packed these books for me. But I only get this opportunity once, so I’ll run wild through the fields of the Lord and I promise you when The Flux comes out in October, I’ll be more subdued.

Probably.

Then there’s the dedication page:

It's here. In my hands. My debut novel FLEX, turned to paper.

Those of you new here probably know about Rebecca, my goddaughter.  But it occurs to me that most of you don’t know my Uncle Tommy, who passed on in 2005.  Which is a shame.  He was my best friend and savior when I was a troubled teen.  He had a basement full of books he let me read.  He was a frail hemophiliac who taught me how to be fearless.  He gave me Stephen King, and Dune, and the Belgariad, and Stephen R. Donaldson, and all the worlds within Flex would never exist if it were not for him.

I know Gini gets signed book #1.  But I think Uncle Tommy gets signed book #2.  I’ll keep it for him. On my bookshelf.

I really think he’d be proud of me.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

“I thought you’d be mad at me.”

“Why?”

“Because you’re a depressive.”

I wasn’t mad.

My friend had gone through a bit of a breakdown; after dealing with the stress of trying to resuscitate a severely depressed buddy, she’d bottomed out.  Couldn’t take supporting this person any more.  And so she’d retreated for a good long time, freaking out because she was a terrible friend.

Thing is, you have to protect yourself, too.

A lot of the posts and cartoons about supporting the depressed treat the caretakers like they’re some sort of Love ATM: Just get in my pillow fort with me.  Don’t question me when I’m too sad to do anything.  Support me unquestioningly. 

That’s lovely, but if you are the caretaker, then even just being in the pillow fort takes its toll.  You really want to leave this pillow fort to go out dancing, see a movie, fuck, just get out of the apartment… but the depressive needs you to stay with them, in quiet solitude.  You don’t want to exacerbate the depressed person’s problem by telling them to get over it, but sitting by while they cry in front of the television for twelve hours straight can be devastating to watch.  Spending weeks convincing them *No, you really need to get some therapy, please call a doctor* can be a low-grade tidal strain that can suck all the joy out of your life.

I am a depressive, and the ugly truth is that I can be really hard on the people I love.

This isn’t to say that I’m undeserving of that love, of course: this is a disease I can’t help, and I have other features on top of my depression that make me worth loving.

But it is true that when I’m mired in my worst moments, I can burn out my loved ones frighteningly fast.  Some people poured all their love into me, convinced they could fix me with the application of enough caring, and then left me when they discovered that no, I have an endlessly leaky bucket that cannot be patched.

And in truth, it’s better for me if my loved ones learn the times when they can leave me to stew for a bit so that they can recover.  Because they can’t be strong all the time.  And even if they could be, I love them, and I don’t want them to wreck themselves in some endless effort to lift me up; that just makes for two effectively depressed people.

Some days, I need to cry alone in my pillow fort while they go dancing, so they can take care of me far better in the long run.

So no, I don’t get mad when caretakers need to attend to their own well-being.  They matter to me, too.  And yeah, my life will be worse without them for a while, but it’s way worse for me if they spend years devoid of pleasure tending to me in my pillow fort prison, then eventually stage an escape because they can’t freaking take it any more.

When you’re the caretaker, you matter, too.  Take your breaks where you can.  It’ll actually make it better for everyone, even though it might not feel that way at the time.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

The thing is, viewed through the lens of the humorless Social Justice Warrior credentials that conservatives say I am unable to shake off, Kingsman: The Secret Service is an awful movie. It’s about the intense supremacy of white people shooting evil not-white people, with the ultimate goal of becoming an upper-crust Gentleman Spy.

It’s also hellishly fun.

Part of the great enjoyment of Kingsman is that depending on how you look at it, Kingsman is either an affectionate parody of James Bond films, or an updated take on James Bond films.  So I expect the sexism and racism baked in, because frankly, that’s part and parcel of the whole schtick.

Part of it is that Kingsman exudes style.  Colin Firth is the perfect choice to be our young lead’s mentor: he carries an umbrella, dresses in impeccable suits, and lectures people on the propriety of their actions before, reluctantly, kicking ass seven ways to Sunday.  And when he kicks ass, he does so in audacious fight sequences that somehow manage to straddle that line between “videogame cut-scene” and “genuine heroism.”

Part of it is that Kingsman is, in the end, a pretty welcoming message.  Anyone can be a gentleman, even a lower-class lout, if they truly want to better themselves.  And part of the joy is, of course, watching Our Hero show all the other recruits up as his instincts help him do what is truly right.

And part of it is the sheer thrills of watching all the gadgets. It’s like Matthew Vaughan said, “Hey, James Bond has gotten so grim and hateful and left all these cool toys on the ground in an attempt to be realistic. Can we pick up all the best toys and run around in circles with them?”  And so they did.

Kingsman is flawed, of course. I’m not entirely sold on Samuel Jackson’s portrayal of a lisping, hand-flailing multimillionaire (even as I know that Jackson based that lisp on his own former speech problem).  All the good guys are sterling-white, while the major bad guys are handicapped or flawed.  The women are semi-heroic in that weird modern action hero way where they do some kick-ass things, but are relegated in the end to support roles and a sex joke.  (A pretty damned good sex joke, which I loved, but… a sex joke.)  And strangely, despite there being a squad of Kingsmen waiting in the wings, not a one of them shows up to help anyone in the final chapter.

Yet I still loved the hell out of it.

I can, despite the spluttering complaints of conservatives, enjoy the fuck out of a movie and still acknowledge it’s problematic.  I can even recommend it to my buddies, as I do Kingsman – I just give them warnings so they can know what bits about it may annoy them past the point of enjoyment.  (Just as I give warnings for movies that take a while to get moving, or movies with disappointing endings.)

I can see flaws and still be thrilled.  My joy is not dependent upon a movie being perfect, merely having strong enough qualities to supercede those flaws.  And Kingsman, despite the litany of dings I could give it, was still cool enough that I cheered at one particularly audacious sequence set to “Pomp and Circumstance.”

Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a line of suits in the Kingsman mold. I have to go price them out, for I covet them.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

If you live in New York or Boston, you are no doubt aware that I am coming to town to do a book signing in just over two weeks!

I will wear my fine Italian suit! And bring donuts! And critique your choice of donuts, as happens far too much in my book! (One reviewer said she will always remember Flex as “The doughnut book,” which actually seems about right.)

And I will do a very dramatic reading from Flex, and be absolutely terrified that maybe nobody will show up to this thing. And perhaps they won’t!  But right now, the book stores who have kindly offered to host my novice-writer self don’t know how many people will be attending this shindig!

So.  If you are planning on showing up at either of my book signings, and you’re not averse to this Facebook thing, could you possibly click through on the appropriate links and tell all the social medias that you might placate a weasel in a cold and foreign land?

New York: Friday, March 13th, Word Bookstore in Brooklyn.

Boston(ish): Saturday, March 14th, Annie’s Book Stop In Worcester.

That would be awesome.  Thank you.

 

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

So there’s only one thing you need to see from last night’s Oscars, and it is this musical number that blew the goddamned roof off:

(EDIT: Fuck. LJ doesn’t appear to want to embed the video – why am I on LiveJournal again? – so you have to be annoyed and go look at it here.  It’s worth it, though.)

(I correctly picked, and enjoyed, the “Selma” track as the Oscar winner, but some things don’t win Oscars and are still fucking timeless. This would be one of them.)


For the first time in eight years, I did not win my Oscar betting pool. Jim Nauer now has the championship. I am shamed, but I accept my loss with dignity; I should have trusted that Birdman was a better movie than the awful, awful Boyhood instead of hedging my bets.


Neil Patrick-Harris was a good host – he kept things moving, and I loved when he took shots at the things we all knew should have been nominated. (Saying “Oh, now you like him” when David Oyelowo got a round of applause made me cheer.)  And he got the greatest one-liner of the night when he said Edward Snowden couldn’t be here “for some treason.”  The Birdman riff was classic.

Yet still, NPH was good but not great. A lot of his jokes fell flat, and NPH isn’t particularly good at letting a joke fail gracefully. You need that Carsonesque charm of being able to shrug it off and look gratifyingly embarrassed, and NPH just looked embarrassed.  The “locked suitcase” was too much buildup for too little payoff.  And the opening number – despite Jack Black’s awesome unforeseen interruption – was pretty tuneless.  So a solid B, but hey, what do I know? I thought Chris Rock was the best host in years.


Seriously, what kind of douche is Sean Penn?  Hey, let’s remind America the dude’s a fuckin’ Mexican just as he’s winning! I mean, Iñárritu took it in stride and may have even been amused (seriously, what’s he going to say if he doesn’t feel like trashing Sean in the press?), but I’m a little tired of presenters deciding to go “Oh, yes, and remember – this winner is a minority!” as opposed to, you know, “This person is a winner.”  Let the labels fall, you dumb motherfuckers.


My second-favorite Oscar moment was when the Polish director totally FOUGHT THE POWER by giving a lengthy acceptance speech through the sendoff music, and beyond.  Thus breaking their power. Note how the rest of the small-fry Oscar winners exhibited no fear of the music for the rest of that evening, now having proven that the Oscars had no control over them.


Jim Nauer – the man who finally bested me in the Oscars – says that the Ig Nobel awards handle overlong speeches by having a nine-year-old girl walk out on stage and yell, loudly, “I’M BORED.  IS THIS OVER YET? I AM SO, SO BORED.”  I would like to see this feature at all future Oscars, thanks.


Please. Please, let John Travolta’s mushy face and creepy wax-person demeanor fade from the Oscars stage.  I loved him as a movie star, but now his face-touching mauling is a liability.


Lady Gaga doing serious musical numbers strikes me as a way for Lady Gaga transitioning from “celebrity freak-pop-star” to “actual singer.”  And God. She can sing.  She sung so well that Julie must have been as proud as she looked.


In conclusion, Whiplash is the best movie of 2014 and you should all see it.  It was a tiny box office thing, so it had no real chance, but it’s coming out on DVD tomorrow and you should all own it.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

Yesterday, author Kameron Hurley wrote about why she thought Neil Gaiman was unwise to name his short story collection “Trigger Warning.” Predictably, commentstorms ensued.

Now, before we proceed any further, let me be honest: I am largely agnostic on the “trigger warning” debate. I consider a trigger warning to be in the same class as spoiler warnings: nothing I would compel a stranger to do, but “not having them” is a perfectly valid reason to unfriend someone.  If there’s a low-cost way to avoid fucking up someone’s day by accident, then I think it’s nice for you to do so – even if there’s some legitimate debate in psychological circles over whether trigger warnings are actually conducive to long-term healing.

As such, I don’t have a strong opinion on whether Neil was right or wrong to name his book “Trigger Warning.”

Yet the point I’m making here is not whether “trigger warnings” are good or bad: as stated, I don’t have strong opinions on the topic, and I will remind you that it’s a perfectly legitimate choice to not have a strong stance on something you feel you don’t have enough personal experience to say.

My point is that a lot of the comments boiled down to “How dare a nobody like Kameron Hurley challenge the great Neil Gaiman?  She’s clearly out for the publicity.  She wants to ride Neil Gaiman’s name to stardom!  What an attention whore!”

And I thought, why is it so damned hard to believe that someone might be honestly offended by what Neil Gaiman did?

This construct of “You must be seeking out offense!” is one that I find baffling. I’ve written hundreds of essays, and not once have I ever sat down and said, “Hrm, what titan of the industry can I topple today?  Let me go scrutinize Neil Gaiman’s decisions to find something to generate mock-outrage about.  No, that’s too nice; nobody will care about that; that bad decision doesn’t have enough market share – ah ha!  The name of his book!  I’ll challenge that!”

No.  You know what happens?  A big author does something we hear about, and our first reaction is a flinch.  That squirmy moment of Oh, I don’t know about that.  And then, if this splinter sticks in our eye for long enough, we write about why it bothers us.

There’s no quest for fame: we are simply trying to explain why having this splinter in our goddamned eye hurts.

Mind you, I feel bad for Neil, because he is a titan, and every decision he makes influences millions of people, so he’s far more likely to accidentally jab a splinter into some schmuck’s eye without even meaning to.  His every off-hand comment gets broadcast far and wide, and that has to be a constant pressure upon Neil – who is a legitimately nice man.  If Jill Nobody had decided to call her short story collection “Trigger Warning,” then Kameron wouldn’t have written about it – because she wouldn’t have heard about it, and even if it did come to her attention, then it would be by someone whose unwise decisions didn’t make much of an impact.  So Neil winds up having some ridiculously tiny decisions dissected in the public eye – in some cases for not saying anything when people think he should have.

But it’s possible to legitimately disagree with Neil.  It’s even possible to disagree with Neil politely, as Kameron herself notes.  Neil does not have to be a demon for us to say, quietly, “Er, I don’t think that was your best decision.”

Yet I’ve gotten some flashes of that ugly behavior in other comments.  I write about polyamory a lot, and my writings are very popular with some subsets of the alt-sex crowds.  And some people have read an essay of mine and went, “Here’s why what Ferrett said will hurt your loved ones and destroy your relationship!”

I’ve caught some so-called “fans” of mine interrogating these dissenter’s rationale: Hey, why are you trying to tear down Ferrett, huh?  Aren’t you just trying to stir up trouble?  Ferrett’s such a good man, why are you trying to do to him?

And the proper answer is, This isn’t about me.  It’s about what I said, and whether what I said was justified.  My detractors aren’t not trying to vilify me, they’re not trying to crawl on my shoulders to try to capture this sad quasi-fame I possess – they are questioning a decision I made, and that questioning is entirely legitimate.

As noted, I don’t have a strong take on whether Neil Gaiman should have named his book “Trigger Warning.” Should the comments here degenerate into a civil war on The Legitimacy Of Trigger Warnings and Whether Neil Has Hurt Rape Victims, then I will start pulling the ban-trigger.  You can have that discussion over at Kameron’s column. Or go write your own rebuttal-rebuttal essay.

But what I am saying is that Kameron can write about something unwise she feels that Neil did, and do it without an underlying urge to raise her own visibility.

She’s writing about Neil Gaiman because she thinks that Neil made a poor choice.  That doesn’t make her right; it doesn’t make her wrong.  It makes her one more person with a strong opinion, and she has every right to express that opinion, just as Neil has every right to name his damn book what he wants.

He just has to live with someone disagreeing with him, is all.  Same as Kameron Hurley.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

My wife didn’t know a thing about the DC Universe beyond the obligatory pop-culture references.  She knew the Flash existed, but didn’t really have any knowledge about him beyond “he moves fast.”  She knew Green Lantern had a ring, but had zero idea that there were multiple ring-bearers, like James Bond, each with their own fan base.

Zatanna or Gorilla Grodd?  Clueless.

But then we watched the animated Justice League show together, which she loved.  And why not?  It’s one of the best animated kids’ shows ever, with some surprisingly deft plotting.  And slowly she warmed to the Flash’s naive charm, fell in love with the Martian Manhunter, discovered that Jon Stewart was her huckleberry and my God why aren’t he and Hawkgirl together 4eva.

Then we watched Young Justice, which isn’t quite the animated DCU – it’s clearly a different timeline from Justice League, but it’s kind of like Justice League.  Enough to crib off of.

And we were watching, and Amazo the Adaptive Robot showed up, and she clenched my arm and whispered, “Oh, shit.”

Now: Amazo had yet to do anything.  But Gini had watched all of the Justice League, and she had learned: whenever Amazo showed up, shit got serious.  Curb-stompings happened.  Amazo is perhaps the most terrifying opponent in all the animated JLA…

…and she now knew enough of the mythology to tremble at the mere appearance of Amazo.

And that’s a secret joy we comics fans don’t talk about a lot.  As I’m watching The Flash with my daughter and my wife, someone pops on-screen and I lose my fucking mind.  “That guy!” I yell, arms waving.  “It’s… that guy!”  And I don’t want to give spoilers, but That Guy is a very significant name in the DCU and I know some of where this is going, and I can’t wait to find out how they do it.  Likewise, there’s a Very Significant flirtation going on in this show between Barry and one other character, and on one level I’m totally BARRY AND HER FOREVER, but on another level I know that her name is the secret identity of another superperson, and as such this cannot work out.

That’s a secret joy of watching adaptations.  Yeah, the endless retreats get tiring sometimes.  But when a show gets it right, and fires on all gears like The Flash does, then I have that anticipation of going, “Professor Ronnie Raymond?” and having a brief window into knowing what sorts of stories are going to be told about this guy.

It’s not spoiler territory.  Not quite.  I don’t know if this universe will go that route, or if in fact Barry’s sorta-smoochy friend is going to become who she is in the comics.  They’re not obligated to.  Sometimes they don’t.

But that single name-drop generates excitement.  It’s a mythology.  And it’s so exciting to watch how this show unfolds around that legacy.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

Gini and I emerge from every movie theater with the opinion that this movie could have profitably edited fifteen minutes out.  We get easily bored with the long tracking shots which mean to establish mood but actually just make it boring.  We’re not a fan of just sticking a camera on a character just to watch his expressions.

Except we love Better Call Saul, and Better Call Saul is practically nothing but watching the endless repetitions of Jimmy McGill.

Why do we love such sweet tedium when it’s Saul and hate it in other movies?

The answer is simple: Better Call Saul is a show about anguish. Reluctance.  Lament.  The truth is that Jimmy McGill would be much better off if he chucked his morality into the dumpster and embraced his role as Saul Goodman, but… Jimmy has a conscience.  A nagging, tickle-in-the-throat conscience.  One that, if he could only leave behind, would make him the man he really needs to be.

Watching him squirm on the hook is the show.

You didn’t get a lot of that in Breaking Bad, because Walter wanted to be the bad guy.  He had flecks of conscience, but the truth was, he’d decided to make meth by the end of the second act of the debut episode.  Whereas Jimmy doesn’t want trouble, but he’s in a world where trouble presents him with such opportunities, and such quandaries.

There is a bravado scene where Jimmy is negotiating a drug-crazed lunatic down from murdering a victim to simply beating him into unconsciousness.  It is an excruciating scene.  It takes forever.  But watching Jimmy ratchet down the impending bloodshed, a man who’ll say anything to keep the peace yet still makes a crazy kind of sense, is watching a man cobble together the best morality he can out of an ugly situation.  It’d be a lot easier for him, fewer witnesses, if he could just walk away and let the kid get stabbed to death.  But he’s not.  That twinge.  And so he puts his own life on the line to negotiate, even though he hates these fucking kids, because dammit he can’t do this.

And so in a sense, I’m finding it better than Breaking Bad.  We knew Walter was going to go bad.  He had that in his eyes. But while we know that Jimmy will become Saul Goodman, we also know that on some level he deeply regrets that choice.  And we never really got a chance to see who he has when Walter wasn’t dropping massive upheaval on his doorstep.

It’s hard to say after three episodes whether Better Call Saul will be a successful spinoff.  It all depends on where it’s going.  But as fan service, it’s perfect: as Breaking Bad fans, we know who that guy who just dragged Jimmy into the house is, we know who that guy at the ticket booth is, we know where some of these plotlines are headed.

And yet there are so many slow sequences where Jimmy paces and drinks, not wanting to put skin in the game.  Not yet.  He’s a lawyer, not a criminal.

But oh.  He could be such a good criminal.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

My upcoming urban fantasy novel Flex contains one of the wildest magic systems ever put to paper.  And so when SFSignal kindly asked for a sample chapter from the book, I thought giving something that would highlight just how odd the magic could get would be a good thing.

So here. Read Chapter 5: “Sexing Chickens.” 

Also, if you’d like some to read reviews that highlighted stuff about the book I was trying to shoot for:

I, Fat Robot: “I loved Flex.  All the thumbs up and all the stars checked.  It was really an easy book to love, for many reasons, one of which I tweeted somewhat incredulously: “This book has a female character who gets to be described as pudgy AND pretty with no BUT in between the two?!”

Michael Patrick Hicks: “It helps, too, that Steinmetz casts his characters are real people, first and foremost. These aren’t part-time models who strut around on the catwalk and then fight crime at night. Paul’s a paper-pusher for an insurance company. An ex-cop, he lost a foot in the line of duty and has a robotic prosthetic that can be a bit ungainly. Valentine is a wonderfully natural heroine, a bit chubby, a bit geeky, a bit sarcastic, and she adopts Paul’s mission as her own out of sincere compassion. They make for a dynamic team, and their relationship shows wonderful growth.”

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

So my car’s battery had died two-tenths of a mile away from my house. Why had I stopped to get that sandwich before heading out on my date?

The car was the concern.  Me, I could walk home.  But leaving an unattended vehicle in the mall parking lot overnight meant that it would be towed.

I turned the key again: rrr rrr rrr.  Dead battery.  Chilled to submission from the subarctic temperatures, no doubt.  A jump would get me on my way.

I called American Express, thinking I was still on their automated car-service plan; I was not. It would cost me $100 to have a car come out and jump-start my battery.

Or I could do it for free by asking people in the parking lot.

No I couldn’t.  The idea of asking a random stranger for assistance chilled me more than any battery.  I watched the people going by for a good fifteen minutes, mouthed conversations silently to myself, trying to figure out what to say to them.  Sometimes I even put my hand on the car door handle, ready to fling open the door and just talk to them…

But that hand sat on the door, paralyzed.  Like me.  My words died in my throat.

I called Gini, seeing if she might call a friend to come help me.  Gini gave me the numbers of three people on this side of town I could call.  These were long friends of mine; we’d chatted at parties, gone to movies, attended weddings together.

But calling them up?  Solo?  To ask for a favor?

Another twenty minutes passed as I tried to dial up.  I thought about calling American Express again.  $100 isn’t so much.  Even if it was a three-hour wait.  And the shops would be closed by then.  And I was already starting to shiver as the car lost heat.

That $100 seemed so easy.  It was so worth a hundred bucks and three hours not to have to call someone and feel that terror of fumbling my way through a phone call.

And I thought: This is just because you’re middle class now, right?  You have a decent job as a programmer.  You can afford $100.

But no; I remembered back when I’d just moved to Detroit for a new job. I was living in an apartment that cost way too much because I didn’t understand money, and my credit card debts were sky-high because I couldn’t afford groceries consistently, and the only people I knew were a handful of work acquaintances.

My car battery died in the parking lot where literally everyone at work parked, I could have walked in and asked any number of people in the cubicles next to me, asked my trainer at the job.

I put it on my credit card.

And I would have paid that $100 again, too, except for the pressure of my wife.  She knew she’d given me the numbers.  She’d think I was incredibly stupid for wasting $100 when I had friends to call.

I contemplated lying, saying I’d called and no one was home.

I contemplated how foolish that thought was: lying about talking to three friends of mine so I could pay $100 and freeze in my car in isolation.

I still wanted to pay $100.

And I’m lying to you, actually.  Gini gave me four numbers.  But one of the friends was notably grouchy, hated being pulled out of bed specifically because she had a hard time turning down requests for help, and she’d bitched to me any number of times of how damned needy all her friends were, and even though I knew she was home I could not call her because I trembled at the idea of her secretly loathing me for it.

I wanted to pay $100.

I thought about asking Gini to call for me, but that would be even worse – I imagined conversations where Gini would be saying, “Why am I calling you and not Ferrett?  I don’t know.  He’s… timid, or something.  Anyway, can you go rescue my rabbit of a husband?  Yeah, I know he’s weird.  He’s always weird.”  And that was even worse, knowing she might actually do that for me.

Eventually – too long – I did call around. Mostly because I was pretty sure that I couldn’t get away with lying to Gini.  And the irony was that I did get some good friends to come out (thanks, Karla and Anil!) and it turns out the battery was so dead that no friend could save it, and in the end we just phoned the mall and told them we’d get our mechanic on it in the morning.

Now, all that is pitable, and pathetic, and this is me having improved at this after twenty-five years of practice and therapy.  Ten years ago I probably couldn’t even have called my friends.  I’m getting better, even if I know the problem will never go away.

But when I think of the cost of social anxiety, I think of $100.  I would be willing to pay $100 not to talk to people, when I feel scared.  I probably could be negotiated up to $150, under the right circumstances.

Money is so much easier to deal with than people, sometimes, and I wish it was otherwise.  But there you have it.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

“So, uh,” Angry Robot’s PR department said to me.  “What sort of push are you willing to give this book?”

“The full Kameron Hurley,” said I.  “I’ll go all-out. Throw it all at me, I’ll do it.  I’m ready, coach, put me in.”

Silence.

“You do realize,” they said, “That Kameron wrote over forty blog posts to support her book.  Did like seven podcasts.  By the time she was done, she could literally put together a book of her essays touting The Mirror Empire.”

“…have you seen my blog?”

“Point.  Okay, fine.  You get the Full Hurley.”

And immediately after hanging up on that phone call, I thought: Am I in over my head?

And then I thought: That’s Future-Ferrett’s problem.

But as my paper-baby impends, I’m finding that indeed, this promotion stuff is a lot of work.  Just this weekend, I wrote five essays for other sites on  various aspects of Flex, and I had to write the new book I’m first-drafting now, and change my website around to reflect the book tour, and by the time I sat down on Sunday night to write my usual Monday-morning-perk-me-up, I was out of juice.

So I apologize, dear readers: y’all knew this blog would become a first-novel repository at some point, just as I went bee-crazy at one point and straight-razor-shaving-crazy and webcomic-crazy.  I’ve always been a man who blogs about his passions.  (Don’t ask about the bees. I’ll tell you if they survive this bitter winter, alas.)

But what I did not anticipate is that doing all this work for other sites would leave me dry on the main blog, thus robbing you of non-book-related entries and making this even more of a promo shill than I intended it to be.   And I’m not quite apologetic, because hey, my first book is coming out and y’all knew that was The Dream, but I do feel bad because were things not so flummoxy I’d probably be poking affectionate fun at Jupiter Rising or raving about The Flash or how Better Call Saul is awesome fan-service, but…

Instead, I’m just gonna refresh my GoodReads rating numbly and say that I won’t go totally dim, but it’ll be less than I’d like.  Which is a mild sadness for me; I enjoy the blog, I enjoy the feedback, and it’s sad when I don’t have time to nourish this lovely connection that you and I share.

So I’ll be a little marketroidy for a while. I promise that when I visit Seattle and Portland and (hopefully!) San Francisco and LA on my book tour, I will talk about my impressions of those cities.

In the meantime, here!  If you feel like going over to FetLife, I’m discussing how a Men’s Rights Advocate is harming male culture, but that’s not an essay I feel I could port over here without significant rewriting to give it out-of-Fet context.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

I was recording a podcast with the fabulous Monica Byrne last night – and as I always do when I’m talking with a woman, I worry about percentages.

Because if you put a woman in a conversation with a dude, studies show she’ll get less time talking.  Like, way less time.  Because men are far more likely to interrupt a woman (often specifically to assert dominance) – and according to some unsourced studies that jine up with my personal experience, women are perceived to dominate a conversation when they occupy as little as 25% of it.

So whenever I listen to a panel or a podcast composed of mixed genders, I want to keep a very elaborate shot-clock that tracks the amount of time each person speaks.  Take Writing Excuses, for instance – one of my favorite podcasts on writing, fifteen minutes long and addictive as popcorn.  The sole female host of the show is Mary Robinette Kowal, one of four hosts – and even accounting for the fact that Brandon Sanderson does the intros and outros, I’m pretty sure that were I do to a lot of annoying record-keeping, I’d find that Mary doesn’t get 25% of the air time.

The problem is that this is not actually a problem.  Howard, Brandon, and Dan are all fascinating hosts.  Everyone on that show has something interesting to say.  Even if Mary is, say, 19% of the conversation, her 19% is still pure gold, and a little less Mary is balanced out in some way because Brandon’s got some relevant insights.

And there are always good excuses as to why a given woman may not speak up as much on a panel.  Some people are quiet.  Some people don’t have much to say on this particular take on the topic.  Some people are more introverted, and may cede ground quicker when someone interrupts to take the floor.

That’s some people, not women – all of these factors apply to men as well.   I’ve done tons of panels and seen laconic dudes, confused dudes, and easily-spooked dudes.

Yet at the end of the day, I’m pretty sure that as a percentage, the guys have managed to outspeak the women once again.

And I like Monica.  I want to hear what Monica has to say.  I’m excited by Monica’s big ol’ brain, because when she drops her mad wisdom she inspires all these other cool thoughts in me, and if I’m on a podcast with her I want to tell her what just occurred to me.  And I have stories I want to unveil, and insights I came up with….

…and if I’m not careful, I’m like a big ol’ overexcited puppy.  I won’t mean to dominate the conversation, but it’s like trying to talk when a Golden Retriever wants your attention.  You’ll be in the middle of outlining some exotic thought, and I’ll just roll over and show my furry belly and whoops, I’ve derailed you out of sheer playfulness.

That innocent intent does not, however, make it cool.

So when I talk, I try to be aware of time.  I try to be an enabler for the women’s conversation – if I know their books, I will take the anecdote I’m telling and end it with a question for them that’s custom-designed for them to tee off of.  I set a little mental confirmation window before I interrupt – “ARE YOU SURE YOU WANT TO LESSEN HER TIME? Y/N.”  I wait a little longer at the end of their stories, just to see if that two seconds’ of silence draws out anything more.  If I’m on a panel and some other dude interrupts, I will allow him to finish and then say, pointedly, “But getting back to what Virginia was saying…”

There are all these techniques you can do to ensure that you do not dominate the conversation.  And I am not doing this because I believe I am uninteresting!  Hell, I think I’m fascinating.  If I didn’t have that confidence, I wouldn’t go on a podcast.  But I also think that my fellow guests are fascinating, and if I’m being mindful of the circumstances then I make room for them.

That’s just a courtesy on panels and podcasts in general.  But in specific, given that women are frequently curb-stomped when it comes to getting their percentage of the conversation, me learning to mute and enable feels like justice.

(TWO NOTES: One, if you wanna hear this talk it’ll be live in about two weeks.  I’ll letcha know.  Monica and I may giggle a lot.

(Two, if you’d like me on your podcast, I am in Severe Book-Flogging Mode, as the Book Of Doom is due out in three weeks, and I’ll cheerfully yammer away for your entertainment.  I do not promise to be good.  But hoo boy, I can be enthusiastic.)

 

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

So Angry Robot posted this photo today:

Me! On a god damned book!

I do not as yet have copies of my book. This merely means it has been printed, and is currently wending its way from the printers to the warehouses to the bookstores to the shelves.  (As someone who used to buy books for Borders, I can tell you that shipping logistics is a major factor most people don’t consider.)  It won’t come out until 3/3, and even then some stores may take their time unpacking it for your purchasing power.

But.

There is a book out there. Several thousand of them, in fact.

With me on it.

After thirty years of trying to get there, I got there, and wow am I proud.

In other news, if you’d like to celebrate my book release with me – my “book birthday,” as they say in the trade, is on March 3rd, a date I share with Catherynne Valente’s new Fairyland book  – then on Friday, March 6th, I’ll be doing a signing in Cleveland.  With cake. And donuts.  And me, smiling like a goon and desperately wanting a drink afterwards.

So if you’re thinking about going, maybe you can say Yea or Nay at this Facebook event, so we have some idea of how many people are coming out to Loganberry books. I will totally hug you!  And say hello! And critique your donuts.

(And my fantastic coordinator Mike Underwood is figuring out the last of the West Coast dates, so look for that soon!)

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

Yesterday, I wrote an essay about how I’m bringing my wife along to conventions even though it’s a little inconvenient for me.  And while the response is lovely, I had a lot of people saying, “Wow, reading through, I was worried you were going to do the wrong thing!”

Well, of course you were worried.  I wrote that essay to throw up a tornado of red flags.

If I’d wanted to justify the decision to not bring Gini along, I never would have started with the conversation about how I didn’t want her to go.  A good essay is about leading you down to my conclusion.

No, if I’d wanted to convince you that what I’d done was a good thing, I’d have started much harder with the stress of grief, and how me dealing with Gini’s fear of crowds was holding me back from going out to the people I needed to see.  I’d present a scene of sitting in the house with just her for the fourteenth night in a row, her wanting nothing more than to curl up and watch Star Wars again, me feeling itchy and isolated and not knowing what to do because she needed my help but I was dying inside.  I would have talked about how I wasn’t able to comfort her because my emotional batteries were also drained, and we just kept bumping up against each other, unable to recharge the other because there was nothing left for me to give.

And I’d have emphasized the reluctance I felt about going out to GKNE alone, how uncertain I was, so when it turned out that GKNE was awesome for me you would have been there in my triumph.

Then I would have mentioned the other arguments I’d had to get Gini to go out with me, the ones where I’d failed, to show what a good guy I was.  And I wouldn’t have just talked abstractly about what GKE did for me – I would have given you a scene where I showed you just how that first BDSM scene blew the doors off of what I knew, made you understand just how this was what I’d been seeking all along.

Then I would have talked about how Winter Wickedness gave me the strength to come back home and be better for her, that it was an oasis of healing for me to give Gini more comfort in her hour of need…

…And it wouldn’t have been quite as heart-meltingly nice but damn, I woulda sold some of y’all.  Probably a lot.

And I’m sure some of you would have gone “Um, not sure about that” if I’d written about how I needed to go out to cons alone.  Some of you are perceptive, and call me on my shit.  But a good writer can bury his red flags, and manipulate emotions so you see what we want you to see.  We’re like magicians.

Which is not to say that I don’t believe what I told you yesterday.  I do.  Thoroughly.  And I think some of that belief saturates my work and makes me a better writer.  But I also know just how I’d tweak my tale to tell you the exact opposite thing I said, and make it sound goddamned good.

That’s why I tell you not to trust me.  Or anyone.

Because predators also know this trick.  They know how to shift the mirrors to lead you deeper into the funhouse.  And they’re very good at knowing what emotional dials to tweak, which moments to amplify, to lead you to the conclusion they desire.

I do believe in what I say.  I do.  But if I didn’t, it’d be really hard for some of y’all to spot that, because I know how to shift things around to mask my intentions and make good things seem like bad ones.

A lot of people do that.  Hell, I could be doing it right now.  So read closely.  Question.  Interrogate the text.  Because there are people out there trying to mash your heart-warmed button so hard that it occludes your logic, and if you’re not careful they can lead you to some very wrong places.

So watch.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

“I’m going to be presenting at Winter Wickedness down in Columbus,” I told my wife.  “It’s another kink convention.  It would be easier for me if you didn’t go.”

This was a conversation we had to have, but I wasn’t looking forward to having it.

See, kink conventions are a new thing in our lives, and my wife’s never been to one.  The first time I’d been asked to talk on polyamory was at the Geeky Kink Event: New England two years ago, and that marked the start of our long nightmare with our goddaughter.  I’d asked Gini along to co-present with me – and why not? if I’m talking about poly, she’s smarter than I am – and she’d happily agreed.

Literally two hours out from the convention, we got the call that our goddaughter had gone into convulsions and was being medivaced out to Philadelphia.  We cancelled.  And spent the next nine months watching brain cancer take this precious girl we loved from us.

Not a good time for sexy convention fun.

But the Geeky Kink Event asked me back the next year, and I decided that for me, a vital step in my recovery was getting out again.  Yet in the wake of our goddaughter’s death, Gini had acquired an anxiety about crowds.  So she told me to go alone, and I did…

…and I had a great time.  The kink actually led to some breakthroughs in my grief; there were moments where I was forcibly restrained so I could let loose with the huge sorrow I felt, and not feel like I could be torn apart by this infinite sadness.

But it was also fun.  I was effectively single poly at these conventions, free to do whatever I liked, not having to coordinate with anyone’s schedule.  If I wanted to do fireplay or take someone back to my room for cuddles and conversations, I could do that.  I did a lot of smooching.  I lost myself for a bit.

It was so much fun that I went and did it again at the next Geeky Kink Event, where Gini was still worried about being among hundreds of people in a noisy, potentially panicky environment.  And that event was another time for Slutty Weasel to come out and play, a safe space where I could flirt and feel unabashedly good about life, which helped my recovery process.

And as I drove back from GKE cheerfully marked up by friends, I pondered how things were getting awkward on the convention front.

It would be harder and harder to integrate Gini into this convention life I had, the longer I did it.  And that wasn’t the kinkiness of these cons that was going to be an issue, though that was a contributing factor: it was that I was creating a parallel social life that my wife was not at all involved in.

See, if you’re doing conventions right, you accrete friends as you go.  You have a great conversation in a hallway, you friend each other on Twitter, and the next thing you know you have someone you really want to catch up with the next time you see them!  The first con is usually a little lonely, but by the second con you have people greeting you in the lobby, and by the third time you hit a con you get to what I call “critical mass” – i.e., so many fun people you want to talk to that you can’t possibly schedule them all in.

This had happened at my writing-conventions before, too.  I had so many people to catch up with that I was booked solid with my friends.

And by the time Gini came along to our first big writer-con, she felt a little isolated.  I was always catching up with people I was so stoked to see, and while I introduced her as best I could, the fact was that I was at a con where I had tons of people who I had a past history with, and she was starting fresh.  She felt a bit like a third wheel, even though so many people were psyched to meet my wife (who I don’t ever stop talking about, for the record).
So she felt lonely at the first couple of cons.  Eventually, with a bunch of dinners and talks at parties, she started to form her own connections.  Now she has her own friends she sees at the sci-fi cons – and there’s a bunch of overlap with the people I know, but she has her own bonds with folks now.

It was a hurdle.

But at a kink con, well, things can get awkward.  The default mode of interaction at a sci-fi con is the group chat, where anyone can hop on-board.  And that’s present at kink conventions, too!  There’s a lot of great conversations to be had in the lobby, just like any other convention.

But the prevalent mode at a con is the scene – you and someone else doing something one-on-one.  And so at a kink con, if I just did what I’d been doing before, I’d leave Gini alone for half the day while I went off and did fireplay.

Considering she’s still working through her anxiety of crowds, that would be a spectacularly shitty experience for her.

So I sat her down for a talk.  “Look,” I said.  “When I go to a kink convention, I spend a lot of time alone with people.  And I really, really like this freedom of just being able to go off with whoever and do whatever.  It would be a lot easier, and actually more fun for me in a lot of ways, if you didn’t show up…

“…but I don’t want that.”

Because yeah, it’s fun to go to a convention and stay up until 4:00 in the morning curled up talking with a girl I just met.  It’s fun to do five straight hours of fireplay and not have to think about anyone else.  It’s fun to be super-selfish.

But the danger of that is that I build a parallel social life, one where my wife isn’t welcome to visit.

And there’s nothing wrong with building parallel lives that my wife doesn’t *want* to visit.  When I had a Magic group, my wife wanted nothing to do with that because she dislikes the complexity of Magic, and that was fine.  If Gini wants to go to quilting seminars or something, I don’t care, enjoy yourself.  If you have activities you like pursuing, you shouldn’t lop them off to fit neatly within a partner’s comfort-box.

But Gini likes conventions, and she likes sexy things – she listens avidly when I tell her of my grand adventures at these cons, amused by all the nuttiness that happens there.  And as convenient as it might be to leave her behind because she’s still processing the several great losses she had in 2014, that would create a slow schism between us.

That schism wouldn’t be her resentment.

It would be me, evolving in the absence of my wife.

Part of the reason our marriage works so fucking well is that Gini and I are on the same page.  Marriages break apart often not because people were bad for each other, but because people were great for each other when they started and then drifted apart.  If you could somehow reset them to the people they were when they made their vows, then they’d still be together.

And kink conventions are potentially life-changing situations.  It’s where you discover new forms of sexuality that you want to pursue, see other ways of approaching relationships, uncover sides of yourself that you’d never recognized before.  Going into the Kinky Geek Event I didn’t realize how cathartic being held down could be, but a rope scene helped drain some toxic grief from my wounds…

…and Gini wasn’t there for that.  She wasn’t with me in the hours afterwards to help me process that.  She wasn’t seeing all the forms my grief could take.

When something big changes in my life, I want Gini there to see it.  Because she’s a part of me, and goddammit, even if she’s not holding the rope she holds my heart.

“Yeah,” I said.  “I won’t get to fool around as much at the conventions, if you come.  And I’ll have to shepherd you around for a while until you can find your own friends there, and hopefully your own scenes.  And I’m not trying to force you – if you don’t want to go, then we’ll find some other way to work this out.  But if you’re just scared to go because crowds still flip you out, then I will find some way to bring you there, and if you have to spend the whole goddamned weekend attached to me at the hip, then I will do that.

“Because I need you to walk next to me, even if that’s not always convenient.”

She didn’t go to Winter Wickedness.  Her mother passed on in November, and she’s still grieving, and it was too soon.

But she’s coming to the next convention.  And that means I get less fireplay, I get less just running off for snuggles, I have more maintenance and concern at these cons as I ensure my wife is comfortable in this new place.

I cannot fucking wait.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

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March 2015

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