theferrett: (Meazel)

Look, Bernie supporters: you’re not only losing, but you sound terrifyingly like Republicans arguing not to pull out of Iraq.

You’re ignoring the math to leap to a conclusion you want to be true instead of looking at what’s actually happening.

You’re yelling about the unfair process of getting nominated as though the establishment somehow sprung these complicated rules upon Bernie midway through the process, as opposed the path to nomination being mostly known when he started his campaign.

You’re claiming “The media was against us!” exactly like the Republicans did with Iraq, as if the newspapers owed you popularity.  The media always has a storyline it’s spinning; your challenge is to come up with a better story that they buy into, not to yell and froth.

And worst of all, too many of you are pulling the sad Republican bullshit that anyone who doesn’t support you in this endeavor are not real Americans, or at the very least to be side-eyed thoroughly because somehow they hate real change.  You’re pulling the sad Republican bullshit that if people don’t support Bernie, it’s because they’re idiots who don’t know any better.

Look, guys. I’m a Bernie fan, and judging from this season’s political donations, I’m at least $240 more for Bernie ($20 a month for a year) than I am for Hillary (an ice-cold zero).  If you want to change the process?  That’s awesome.

But the Democratic party should be the alternative to the Republican party’s math-blinkered nature, and you do that by acknowledging facts.  Black voters didn’t go for Bernie?  Rather than yelling at them that HEY BERNIE’S GREAT at random POC, why not investigate their fears and work to counteract them?  Or learn from the ways that Bernie bobbled the black vote this year (as was my fear he’d do way back in July of last year) and figure out how to build better grass roots the next time?

And y’all terrify me when you’re like, “Bernie’s the better candidate!”   Well, he’s gotten less votes almost everywhere that counts- though unlike Hillary, he’s improved in his results as time’s gone on.  In terms of sheer numbers, it’s Hillary by a landslide.

Y’all terrify me when you say, “Hillary’s been so mean to Bernie!”  God, have you ever watched one fucking Republican attack ad?  Hillary’s gone after Bernie with lily-white gloves on.  She has not exposed one knuckle.  Wanna see what the nastiness will look like?  Here, read the nasty stuff that nobody’s unloaded on him yet because the Republicans have been secretly hoping he’ll be the candidate.

That’s what a hatchet job would look like.

And in that sense, sure Bernie’s beating Trump.  Because nobody’s gone after Bernie yet.  Maybe he can pull it off, maybe he can’t, but read that set of attack ads ready to go and see whether Bernie’s popularity has been truly tested; it hasn’t.

Be honest with yourselves and stop buying into your own goddamned hype.

And if you want to say, “Electing Trump would send a lesson to the Democratic party that they need to shape up!”, well, I want you to ask yourself a vital question first:

In 2000, Gore moved to the right to pick up votes, then Nader split the vote, and Bush got elected instead of Gore.  (Full disclosure: I voted for Nader, and I blame Gore for alienating voters.)

A lot of you are unhappy with Obama.  But Obama was literally the lesson that the Democrats learned from losing massively in 2000.

So do you honestly think electing Trump, someone massively unstable, is going to create someone notably better than Obama?

Bonus question, but not one you should ignore: Do you think “creating the better Democratic party” was worth the economic collapse and wars we got from eight years of George Bush?  Because that’s really your argument, isn’t it?  If we fuck over America, we’ll create a better and more resilient party!  And maybe you conclude that’s true.  But you should also ask yourselves whether that triumphant party will have to spend eight years picking up debris.

And if you’re frustrated by Bernie over Hillary, well… I am too.  Welcome to the long and stories Democratic tradition of “Picking the person they think is electable” over “The person who people actually like,” which leads to horrific fiascoes of Dukakis, Gore, and Kerry.  I too wish the Democrats would learn the lesson that they should nominate the person who gets folks the most riled up, as opposed to choosing the person who is least objectionable.

But they do.  Maybe you can change that.  Please.  Try.

That said, you Hillary supporters?

First off, if you’re saying “The Republicans shouldn’t cave to Trump!” and yelling for Bernie to step down at the same time, you’re hypocrites.  Bernie Sanders isn’t stepping down in part because he feels he’s not being heard in the Democratic party, and he knows darned well that the only way to force policy change is to swing enough power to get a seat at the table.  This is the sort of cold-eyed realism you’d probably cheer if it was Hillary using her leverage to make changes.

If he steps down too soon, he doesn’t get what he wants.  And he wants to be influential.  That’s what politicians do.  If Hillary wants his votes, she’s gonna have to make concessions to Bernie.

And the people who are all outraged that Bernie Sanders wanted to debate with Trump?  Every time I hear them speaking, they sound as though Bernie and Trump’s debate will be them getting together over beers and bitching affably about Hillary.  “Women, amiright?”

No.  Bernie and Trump are both outsider candidates, but Trump and Bernie are wildly at odds on all sorts of issues, particularly those of economic hardship.  The reason some Bernie bros can believe there’s no real difference between Bernie and Trump is because Bernie and Trump haven’t battled.  And Donald Trump is a big windy bag of lies, but I’m pretty sure when Bernie goes “We need to raise taxes on people like you,” Trump is not going to shrug and say, “Well, yeah, I need to have 90% of my income taken away, like all millionaires!”

Trump won’t debate Bernie because he knows he benefits from Bernie Bros conflating their policies.  (He also knows that being snide to Bernie, as he always is during debates, will alienate potential crossover votes from Bernie.)  If it did happen, suddenly it’d put the stark differences for the candidates into place and people wouldn’t be able to switch votes as easily.

It’d be a massive win for the Democratic party if it happened, which is why I’m 90% sure it won’t.  (Though this election season, I’m loathe to put firm bets on anything.)

Eventually, Bernie’s going to have to side with someone.  When he does, he’s going to bring voters with him.  And that guy, unless I’m radically misreading Bernie, is not going to be Trump.

(But again, hey, this election season, amiright?)

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

So this weekend, a gorilla had to be shot because a four-year-old kid found its way into the gorilla’s enclosure.  (If you want details on “Why didn’t they tranquilize the gorilla instead of murdering it?”, read this Facebook note from a zookeeper; the upshot was that shooting darts into a gorilla is not an insta-knockout, and would probably piss off the kid-holding gorilla majorly before it passed out.)

And I have two thoughts on that one:

First off, there’s a lot of people calling for the parents’ heads on a stick – which I probably would have before I had kids.  I used to hear these tales of parents losing their kids at malls and sniff, “God, how did they lose track of their own children?”

Now I go, “My God, how do we not lose more kids?”

Kids have zero survival instincts.  They run away and don’t look back.  And in a vacuum, you could be a perfect guard to jail this irrational critter inside a cage of pure protection, but when you’re out and about you have to pay for the clothes you just bought or hold the elevator door for someone or even adjust your other kid’s diapers.

When you go to do that, sometimes the kid darts off into traffic because they saw a bug and Christ that is scary.

And I’m not saying that the parents weren’t negligent, because I don’t know all the facts about this, but it’s also possible the kid vanished and the parents were looking frantically for him while all this happened.

Maybe it is a case of stupid parents.  It could also equally easily be a case of “accidents happen with kids.”  And it sucks, but that’s the way the universe currently works: some parents have their kids squirm away into an elevator and are lucky enough to have a friendly face guiding the kid back to safety, other parents have their kids squirm away and fall into an open elevator shaft.

It’s possible these were slacker parents who raised an ill-disciplined kid; it’s equally possible the parents just had the worst possible outcome for the tragically common situation of Runaway Kid.

In the absence of better knowledge – and I’m sure news stories will fill in more details over the oncoming weeks – I’ll try to opt for kindness.

That said, an online friend of mine said, “I’m sorry, but I value the life of a four-year-old more than I do a gorilla.”

I’m sorry, but I don’t.

Look, man.  These gorillas are endangered.   As the zookeeper in the Facebook says, you put these gorillas out into the wild and they get poached.  I’m told there’s not enough of these gorillas left to fill a 747, and the zoo’s one of the few places left that can hold them safely.

Either way this went down, kid or gorilla, it was going to be a tragedy where a living creature who didn’t understand what was happening got killed for reasons that weren’t its fault.  And even though I am a human, I’m cold-eyed enough to say, “While I spent the weekend with an adorable almost-four-year-old girl who I adore, there are literally millions of four-year-old humans – while we’re down to a handful of gorillas because, as a race, we’d rather strangle an entire species than risk one human.

“And while I love children, if it’s down to one kid against a dwindling species, I choose the species.”

I suspect that’s a really unpopular thing for me to say, but this is a Kobayashi Maru of dilemmas: you have to 100% kill an endangered gorilla, or risk killing a child (as the gorilla might have gotten bored dragging the kid around and let the child go).  It’s gonna be horrid either way.  And I’m not saying we shouldn’t kill mountain lions running lose in human territories, or let our daughters be dragged off by rabid dogs.  Human lives matter.

I’m just of the opinion that at this point, if some human gets into the enclosure with all the endangered animals, the priority should be saving the endangered animal.  Because it’s not the animal’s fault, either.  And what they need to protected from are dumbasses like us.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

A few weeks ago, I asked people who host kink parties how they’d deal with one guest claiming that another guest was under investigation by the police for sexual crimes.* And I’d say about 75% of the respondents said some variant on:

“Well, I’d talk to both sides and see who sounded more reasonable to me.”

Now, let’s set some opening criteria here by invoking the nerdiest possibly comparison: The Kobayashi Maru.

In Star Trek, there’s a training mission called the Kobayashi Maru, which puts Starfleet cadets into an unwinnable situation to see how they deal with defeat. (Kirk won, but only by reprogramming the computer to allow a victory.)

People do not like unwinnable scenarios. People like to think that their tactics have no down sides, and once they’ve decided on a course of action, they have this funny habit of shrugging aside the costs of doing business as somehow not being harmful.

My point in these writings on public spaces is that no matter what you choose, your choice carries the risk of harming someone innocent.

Ban people based entirely on hearsay accusation? Well, false reports do exist, and even if you act discreetly – because remember, you don’t have to tell someone why you’ve banned them from a private event – you still risk ostracizing an innocent who’s been targeted by a malicious person.

Ban people based entirely on whether the law has taken action? That’s got two problems: first, the sexual offender registry is notable for sweeping up teenagers who’ve accidentally had sex with someone a year too young, and second, have you noticed the humiliation that rape victims have to go through on the stand in order to get a 7% conviction rate? The court system is designed, as I’ve noted in the past, to make it very hard to convict – and for good reason! – but “not being convicted in court” does not mean that someone is harmless.

And you know what I feel the result of “We’ll just talk to them and see” is?

That you should stop fucking being surprised when yet another charming predator turns out to be a serial offender.

“I’ll determine who’s guilty based on who feels right to me” is as decent a method as any other, but you give up your right to go “HOW COULD THIS HAPPEN?” when hey, the person who’s very convincing turns out to merely be a great liar.

Because what you do in situations like that is to send a clear message: If you want to get away with abuse, make sure you’re likable. And the top-tier predators are smart. They figure out really quickly that “doing favors for other people” is a great way of incurring likeability, and they learn how to spin stories to gaslight other people, and they’re smart enough not to victimize every person but to only target a precious few.

And that’s not even counting the charming folks who’ve gone all rock star and have come, quietly, to believe that they’re such studs in the community that every person desires them. These folks can do serious damage – not because they’re trying to be evil, but because they’re like “Hey, if I’ve got her tied up, the last five people liked it when I stuck my fingers inside of them without warning, so this is sure to please!”

When you ask them? They’ll be confident, poised, sure that this was just a misunderstanding. They’ll be Very Concerned, just enough to ensure that you get the impression they’re a good person –

– and then the flip side of the “Who feels right to me?” test comes in, because not only are you disproportionately rewarding people who are charming, but you’re disproportionately punishing people who are traumatized in ways you think are unseemly.

Because not everyone’s a convincing victim. There’s a scene in the movie Spotlight, where reporters find a guy who’s on a crusade against molesting priests – and this guy is stuttering, and alternately brutally nasty and then cringingly apologetic to the reporters. He’s literally got folders full of sketchy evidence that he hands out to anyone who asks.

He looks like a complete nut case. The problem is, he is a complete nut case – but that’s because the abuse made him unhinged. He didn’t react well to being betrayed by an authority figure he idolized, and as a result he’s not together enough to present himself as being convincing.

And like him, lots of legitimate victims are angry, and appear vindictive, because shit, if someone hurt you or someone you loved, wouldn’t you want them not to get away with it?

Being violated is like grief: there’s a script you’re supposed to follow when someone you love dies, complete with weeping at the coffin and clutching loved ones for support, but everyone reacts in different ways. Some people go for isolation. Some people get nasty. Some people run away to drugs or sex.

That doesn’t mean they’re not in pain. It just means they’re not following the script.

So what happens when you adopt the “Who feels right?” means that you reward socially adept people and punish those who don’t follow the “good victim” script. And as such, when another superstar turns out to have a rotting underbelly, you shouldn’t really be too shocked.

Our community, largely, rewards these behaviors.

Now, at this point I anticipate a lot of rage and people shouting, “Well, I’m not a trained investigator! Yet you’re telling me not to necessarily trust the court system, and you’re telling me not to automatically believe the victim, so what do you want me to do?”

I want you to acknowledge the path you’ve chosen has drawbacks.

I want you to be aware of the failure modes of your choice, and to be prepared to walk things back when something hits those failure states.

I want you to admit fallibility.

Look. When I say, “My preference is to believe the victim, in the absence of better evidence,” I do so knowing full well that some percentage of victims make false accusations. And were I running an event, I’d be prepared for the eventuality of uncovering a false accuser, and ready to potentially undo a ban based on new evidence.

If you talk to people to see whether they feel right to you, I’m asking you to recognize that you’re not trained at this, and that manipulators can abuse your system just as off-the-script victims can fuzz your senses, and to be ready to try as best you can to correct for that liability.

If you only ban court-convincted people, acknowledge that the court is not a perfect method of safety – it’s the best way we have to administer justice, but “justice” and “safety” are not always linked.

This is the Con-Bayashi Maru. There’s no perfect solution. And what you do in a time of imperfect solution is to acknowledge the failure modes and try your best to apply workarounds whenever you can.

That’s all.
* – The actual investigation was for possession of child pornography, and there was some discussion of whether having child porn was a bannable offense or whether even “being an active child molester” was reason to bar someone from a party, but most people seemed to take this specific instance as a more general “What do we do when someone comes to us with serious hearsay?” Some may have altered their answers if it had been a case of, say, rape, which is a failure state *I* heartily acknowledge.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

Do I have to give a spoiler alert for something that was broadcast across headlines yesterday?  Well, in case you were sleeping, Marvel made a big change to Captain America yesterday, and in case you don’t know I’m giving you until the end of this sentence to get out.

 

 

All right.  So the latest issue of Captain America: Steve Rogers #1 retcons events so that Steve Rogers has been a Hydra agent all along.  That’s right: Captain America is, and has always been, Hydra’s greatest asset.

I told my wife Gini about that and she said, flatly, “No.”  And left the room.

Which was pretty much the Internet’s reaction.  Never before have I seen so much hatred heaped on a comic book’s decision.  But the #1 response to the hatred from turning, you know, one of Marvel’s greatest sources of moral certainty into a secret supervillain was this:

“Hey, we don’t know where this is going, wait for the whole story to come out before criticizing.”

Except there’s two reasons why that reasoning of “Why you should wait” is blatantly wrong.

First off, we probably do know where it’s going.  Long-time comics fans have seen a lot of stunning changes to major characters – The Spidey we love is a clone! Superman’s two zappy twins! Batman’s been crippled, and Azrael’s taken over!  Charles Xavier’s turned evil, Magneto’s turned good! – and we know ultimately there’s one of three options here:

Option #1: This becomes the new status quo, now and forever, which means we’re absolutely right to hate it as much as our initial gut reaction tells us to, or:

Option #2: As is more likely, this will be the new status quo for about three to five years, as long as editorial stubbornness holds out against the fans’ desires, and eventually we’ll see an awkward year-long storyline where this is all undone and this becomes That Awkward Storyline That Most People Would Like To Forget About Except That Hipster Writers Keep Reverting To This When They’re Out Of Ideas.

Option #3: As is even more likely, the plan is that this is all a dream!  Cap has had hidden memories implanted by Hydra!  It’s an alternate-universe introduction to the Evil Captain America that the real Cap will ultimately fight to show him what he could have become if he wasn’t so awesome!  It’s the Cosmic Cube warping history!  But whatever happens, it’s not real, it’s a bubble universe that passes at some point and hey, okay, sure, thanks for playing.

(And if it is #3, then fuck the Marvel Editorial Team for getting out there in TIME Magazine and USA Today and convincing the fans by saying, “Oh, no, this is really how it is.”  Lying to mislead us didn’t work out for JJ Abrams in Star Trek II, and it would be similarly icky here.)

So it’s possible that the team has some new trick up their sleeve, one we’ve never seen before in eighty years of comics stunts, but it’s highly unlikely.  Chances are very good that what we’re reacting to is entirely valid.  Because turning Marvel’s paragon of moral certainty into a compromised spy is either a really ham-handed insult to Kirby and Simon and Schuster’s legacy (remember,  two Jews literally created Captain America because they wanted to have the strength to punch out twenty-five Nazis), or it’s the exact sort of shoddy linkbait PR technique that was done largely for shock effect.  (We’ll get to “What if I’m wrong?” in a moment.)

But let’s be honest: Anti-heroes are lazy fucking writing.

Anyone can write a character who is morally compromised.  The storylines come quick and easy when you have a hero who does the wrong thing periodically – when they get backed into a moral corner, fuck it, they murder somebody and mourn!  Oh, it’s easy!  They get to do whatever they want!

The reason Captain America and Superman are hard to write is because creating adventures for a hero who must a) retain the high moral ground, b) be challenged, and c) win is, as Tailsteak once said, like writing a haiku.  Yes, it’s hard to do that and make it interesting.  That’s the point.  That’s why Captain America is iconic when thousands of other similar heroes have failed – he’s one of the most heroic heroes ever.

Compromising his moral identity makes it a lot easier to tell stories about him, in the same sense that playing football gets a lot easier when a player carries a submachine gun onto the field.  Maybe there’s still some strategy, but it’s not football any more.   Writing a Captain America story involves finding the real tensions that tempt even a paragon to shave a few moral corners, putting enough pressure on that you can’t possibly see how he’ll get out of it, and then watching him do it.

The reason Marvel did this is because they know this isn’t how Captain America isn’t supposed to be, and yet either they see “Taking the thing away that made Captain America interesting” as a positive achievement – which is bad – or they’re willing to burn fans’ good will towards Captain America to generate cheap publicity over an event they know they’ll have to erase, which is even worse.

But!  My own personal objections aside, let’s say that the team has found some way to thread the needle, and this new Captain America will become utterly amazing down the line.  It’s happened.  I was violently against bringing Barry Allen back in the Flash, back when Barry Allen had died to make a noble sacrifice for the world and Wally West had taken over for eight years – but damn if Mark Waid didn’t turn that into one of the greatest Flash storylines ever.

So let’s say it’s going to get good.  Really good.

Should people judge the story by this first issue?

Fuck yes we should.

Look, part of art is knowing where the reader’s going to pause, and manipulating that expectation to be satisfying.  One of the reasons the world is glued to Game of Thrones is because yes, it’s good for binge-watching – but the creators know that for many, the experience of GoT is tuning in once a week and waiting in anticipation for what happens next.

They set up their cliffhangers very carefully, because they know that most of their viewers’ expectations are shaped by when this chapter ends.

Narrative is governed by tempo.  If a dear friend came up to you and told you, “I have a cancer problem,” and then disappeared for a week, leaving you to stew and wonder what had gone wrong, you’d be furious when they came back and said, “I was born in July!  I hate my astrological sign! Ha ha!”  But that joke, cheap and stupid as it is, might work if you gave them a second’s pause before dropping the punchline.

Writing is about rhythm.  It’s about satisfying all the audiences that might watch this – LOST and X-Files were very satisfying to people who watched it chapter by chapter, but in the end they couldn’t pull together a coherent storyline, and that’s the opposite failure, and it’s just as bad.

So it’s not wrong to judge a story by how it’s satisfying in the short term.  This is how it’s initially told.  Marvel knows that at some point, this first issue of Captain America would stop and then people would have reactions to it that determined whether they bought the next issue.  That’s how the biz works.

And they chose to go for shock value.

Which is, I should mention, fine.  I don’t agree with this artistic decision, but they have the right to go for shlocky shock, just as DC had the right to turn Batman vs Superman into a grit-fest.  But they set the tone for a storyline that people appear to be roundly rejecting, and you know what?

If I write a shitty first chapter to my next novel (coming out in September, I remind you!), it is not wrong for you to conclude, “Wow, I won’t like the rest of this book.”

Your conclusion might be wrong.  Plenty of stories start out slow and build to brilliant endings.  (I infamously had to make five running starts at Dune before I got hooked.)

But if you fail to read the rest of the book with the shitty opening chapter, that’s not a failure on the reader’s part.  That’s a failure on the author’s part in drawing you in.  Or it’s a marketing failure on the publisher’s part by giving you a cover promising shiny space unicorns and giving you an opening chapter with gritty military violence.  Or it’s just a generic failure that’s really nobody’s fault because hey, the greatest epic poetry ever written won’t appeal to someone who hates poems.

But it’s not a failure on your part, because reading should not be an experience in “Who can chew this tin foil the longest.”

If you don’t like it, leave when you’ve had your fill.

Maybe this storyline is going somewhere unexpected and wondrous.  But by presenting that first issue as they did, Marvel and crew set up an expectation that either a) this is pretty damn disrespectful to Kirby’s legacy, or b) this is the kind of tawdry stunt-PR crap that’s destroying comics.

Would I know how to fix this error in the first comic?  No.  That would depend on knowing where they are going with this.  And even then, it’d be hella-tricky.  But as I said, it’s not the reader’s job to make it easy on the writer.

And Marvel knew this would cause a shitstorm.  It’s why they had stories ready to go in major media outlets.  I don’t feel all that sorry for the hatred they’re enduring, because they had to know this was part of the cost of doing business.  They’re not surprised, they’re braced, and they’re hoping this generates new sales.  I can’t feel all that bad for someone who purposely triggered a barrage of social media.  (Especially when the writer of this storyline seems to be sniggering at the rage trollishly on Twitter, but Twitter’s a remarkably hard place to read strangers’ state of mind.)

And in my heart of hearts, I hope that I’m as wrong as I was when Mark Waid brought back the Flash. I stopped reading after that first “Barry Allen is back!” issue, and later picked up the back issues when someone told me that wow, this was way better than he’d thought, and even if it was ultimately option #3 on the Menu Of Grand Comics History Changes, it was perhaps the best Option #3 that anyone ever did.

So I’ll hope this is a good story, in time.

But I’ll also argue that when they’ve only given you this issue to ponder for the next month, it’s not wrong to base your decision to dislike it upon literally everything they’ve presented to you.

Oh, and one last thing about the guy who wrote this storyline:

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

Here’s the thing nobody denies: speaking out helps other people. Every time a gay person comes out, they help normalize “being gay” for other people. Every time a depressed person speaks openly about their struggle, they help to reduce the stigma of a crippling condition they didn’t ask to have. Every time someone smacks down racist or sexist talk in public, they help send the message that that kind of talk is not cool.

What few people mention is that those discussions help other people but may harm you.

We’ve all heard about the kid who came out as gay and his family disowned him. Someone openly admitting their mental health struggles can be passed over for promotions at work because, well, they’re crazy. Yelling at your friends for racist or sexist language can cost you friends – and it’s all well to go “Well, those aren’t the kinds of friends you should have!”, but that’s scant consolation when you’re lonely.

Speaking out hurts.

And yet there’s often this liberal narrative that good people burst out of the closet, muscles rippling, while these sad poisoned Gollum-like people stay within. If your game store is full of homophobic assholes, a good person would charge in there like a bull, call them on all their shit, face them down mano a mano until they bent underneath your herculean will!

What kind of weak asshole would just choose not to play at that store?

But here’s the truth: Speaking out helps other people, but protecting yourself is also a priority.

This does not make you a bad person.

Look: I’m openly polyamorous… now. But my wife and I were poly for several years before we acknowledged it on the Internets, and I’m not ashamed to say that we kept that shiz under wraps because we had two teenaged daughters who lived with their biological father. Maybe he’d be cool with our open marriage, or maybe he’d decide this was time to go to court to get the kids out of the hands of those perverts.

We had to weigh our desire to speak out against the very real cost of maybe not getting summer visits with our kids.

I don’t regret that choice one fucking bit. I regret not speaking out, of course. But in the end, it’s nice to do good by giving poly workshops and helping other poly couples feel represented and sharing my experiences… but I wouldn’t be able to do any of that anyway if I wasn’t able to talk to my kids, as I’d be too miserable to function.

Likewise, not everyone has the energy to fight grand battles at their schools or family meals or game stores – or even if they do, they don’t have the energy to fight every battle that comes along, because shit, you can grind yourself to dust grappling with every microaggression, and is it really worth the progress you’ll make if you destroy yourself along the way?

It’s not wrong to pick your battles. It’s not wrong to prioritize your own survival over forging paths for other people’s future benefits. You should fight wherever you can, of course, and don’t make the closeted gay Republican mistake of trashing your own people to fit in, but…

In the end, any good movement is about finding compassion. And we should celebrate the people who fight the good battles, because they make headway. But those stories all too often end like Christ Himself did, with some poor schmuck dying horribly and a weeping family and a legacy that only kicks into play years after the pain and the survivors have faded.

And your movement should be understanding enough to not view you as a soldier to be shot up in the front lines, but as a human with needs who deserves as much love and support as anyone else.

Your activism can be part-time, when you have the strength to do it. Not every combatant can be a warrior on the front lines; there should be room for guerrilla tactics, and spies, and even noncombatants who occasionally lend hugs to the people who need them.

You have to protect yourself so you can fight whenever you can, in whatever way you can. You might not be up for every battle. You might, in fact, be totally unable to fight some battles because you know that losing your kids or your parents or your social group is not something you can afford to do right now.

That’s okay. Protecting yourself does not make you a bad person.  Find the places where you can afford to make change, but don’t beat yourself up for not being able to be as “bold” as other people, because part of this journey is in finding your own strengths and learning how you can contribute even with the very real compromises that everyone has to make.

Just don’t give up.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

So I’m looking to do another book tour in the fall to promote the final book in the ‘Mancer series, Fix. Last year, I hit Cleveland, New York, Boston, San Francisco, San Diego, Seattle, and Portland: this year, I’m hoping to add a couple more stops, because apparently I dislike this whole “rest” thing.

That said, I had people saying, “Come sign at my town!” – and while I love showin’ up places, remember that this book tour is on my dime. It’s not really a book tour, where publishers pay for my hotel and plane fare – it’s more like a book vacation, where hey, I have a few weeks to go new places and visit friends, so why not anchor a big swingy trip with bookstore appearances?

So if you’d like me to show up in your town this September/October, it involves some mild legwork:

1) Find me a contact at a bookstore who wants me to come there.
Simply saying, “Oh, $BOOKSTORE exists!” is not enough, sadly. When I planned my first book tour, about half the stores I called rejected me. And even now that I have people at Angry Robot to do the legwork for me (thanks, Mike Underwood, whose Kickstarter is running even as we speak!), I’d prefer not to ask them to do all the gruntwork of cold-calling a bookstore to have them go, “Who? Oh, fuck, no.”

So if you’d like me to come, give me a name of someone who’s happy to have an author there.

2) Unless that bookstore is willing to pay for me to go out there, said bookstore should be within a night’s driving distance of Cleveland, Ohio.
Hey. If you want to pay me to come to Australia? I will go, man. For any reason. “Ferrett, come to Europe and don’t sell books, just do that funny little dance you do.” I’ll be putting on my tap shoes before you finish that sentence.

That said, as noted, this is a vacation, and while I’d love to fly to Austin or Las Vegas, I’ve got a limited budget. I’ll literally go anywhere if you’re willing to pay my travel expenses, but otherwise I can reasonably drive six to eight hours before I collapse.

(This also applies for convention appearances. People ask if I’ll give polyamory talks at their convention. I absolutely will! But I need to not lose money getting out there and back, so if you can fly me somewhere, email me at theferrett@theferrett.com and we’ll talk details.)

3) Uh, Actually, That’s It.
So if you can do those things, lemme know, we’ll talk it over. Otherwise, maybe some day I’ll hit your town – I’d love to! I like doing signings and visiting new cities and meeting people and buying too many books at indie shops! This shiz is fun for me!

And, you know, I hope you enjoy the book, too. Which I am putting the final edits on this week. Wish me luck!

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

There’s a lot of blog entries I call “load-bearing entries.”  Those are the ones where, if I write one wrong paragraph, I’ll risk the wrath of the Internet falling upon me for something I didn’t mean to say.  I write maybe two of those a month, even though I get ideas for them pretty much daily.  But those sorts of essays require a lot of forethought and the willingness to deal with asshole responses for the rest of the week, so I don’t write ’em all.

There’s a lot of blog entries inspired by questionable things that other people I know are doing, and writing about that now would have those people feeling personally attacked.  And even if I didn’t mind hurting people’s feelings, the problem with personal attacks is that it transforms the experience of the essay from “This is bad behavior that has these negative consequences” to “YOU JUST DON’T LIKE THIS PERSON,” and the message is lost.  So I make a mental note, wait a few months, file off the serial numbers, and write an essay on the exact same behavior when everyone’s forgotten who it is.  Sometimes those people who inspired it by being buttheads thank me for writing such an insightful essay.  It’s weird.

There’s a lot of blog entries on topics that are really dear to my heart, and I want to get the emotions on them right, but I’m just not finding the right entry point.  And rather than knocking out a quick essay on this really emotionally-critical topic that misses the mark, I stash it and hope one day I’ll find the way to write it as well as this not-often-discussed topic deserves.

There’s a lot of blog entries where someone else said it, and I think I have something new to add, but whoops, I don’t.  Deleted.

There’s a lot of blog entries where something important is happening, and while I have Very Severe Feelings, I don’t feel like pretending that reading two essays and a Wikipedia article makes me an expert on the topic.  Deleted.

There’s a lot of blog entries where I can say what I need to on Twitter, and while in the old days maybe I would have coalesced a couple of other thoughts around that single idea to make a blog post, Twitter is now where I get my little thoughts out of the way.

There’s a lot of blog entries where I’ve been talking about the same topic for days in a row, and because I’m responding to people’s responses, the general interpretation is that “Man, Ferrett is really mad about the way people are reacting to him.”  But I’m not.  Ferocious debate interests me, particularly when people are wrong.  But after three days of response essays I find that, much like the “personal attack” essay, the lesson people start taking away is “Wow, is he thin-skinned,” so I stop responding after a bit because my points become increasingly lost.

There’s a lot of blog entries where it’s inspired by a relationship question I’m pondering, but if time has taught me one thing, it’s that opening your relationship to Internet debate hardly ever settles the question even if you’re telling people that you’re probably on the wrong side of this debate.  So I’ll wait a few months on that one, too.   Until it’s no longer a question, but an answer.

There’s a lot of blog entries where I’ve said that before.  So I don’t again.

There’s a lot of blog entries I forget, particular when I’ve laid ’em fallow for a few months.

There’s a lot of blog entries.  But man.  If you could see all the topics I consider, you’d realize how easy blogging is for me, and how hard.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

So someone on FetLife wrote this about popular bloggers, referencing me in particular:

“These people don’t need my encouragement or my praise. They swim in a sea of it. They get more responses in a single day than I do all year long… my praise doesn’t help them through a bad day or give them courage to face the next challenge. ”

Funny story: At one point, Neil Gaiman – you know, one of the most popular writers of this generation – wrote a Doctor Who episode. And I Tweeted something along the line that “Someone of Neil Gaiman’s caliber doesn’t need to know that I loved his Doctor Who episode, but I fucking loved his Doctor Who episode.”

He wrote back with something like, “Actually, I’m really relieved to know you like it.”

There’s this perception that people who are sufficiently “big” don’t need positive feedback, but lemme tell you – that “My praise doesn’t give them the courage to face the next challenge” is a ball of purest lies.

You think it’s easy writing about my depression? It costs me, man. And there are days when I’m like, “I can’t do this, I’m just making a fool out of myself, highlighting my mental illness is costing me friends, it’s costing me my career…”

And someone will send me an email that says, “Thank you for speaking up. I don’t feel like I’m alone any more.”

And I remember: Right. That’s why I do this.

Or I’m looking at another clusterfuck of an essay, the kind of hot-button topic where I know I’ll be dealing with nasty, angry commenters dropping by all fucking week to make personal insults, and I’ll be like, “Wait, why would I want to subject myself to abuse again?”

And someone writes me to tell me to thank me for speaking up, and that helps me keep going as a blogger. It really does.

Or I had a massive rejection that day, and someone pings me on Twitter to thank me for my fiction. All this helps.

Which isn’t to say that you shouldn’t support the smaller writers that this blogger also supports! (It’s why I read Twitter a lot, finding weird essays and retweeting them when I can.) It’s wonderful to lift up new voices, encouraging them to get in there.

But this idea that “Oh, they’re big, they don’t really hear you” is not true 99% of the time. I’m sure Neil Gaiman gets more fan mail than he can read, so there’s a certain point at which you vanish – but Kameron Hurley wrote an essay recently on how “fame” used to come with a certain dollar value, and doesn’t any more, and how “famous” authors with 20,000 followers on Twitter still have to work their damn day job, and deal with the abuse that someone who has 20,000 fans on Twitter endures.

In other words, 99% of the “famous” authors you know most likely get paid mostly in pleasantries. And as someone close to the industry, I see talented writers walking away every day because their novels don’t pay their rent and they’re struggling on this manuscript that as of now no publisher wants and it feels like they’re shoveling their heart into the void.

One fan mail can still make their whole goddamned day.

The right fan mail can keep even an “established” author going.

So sure. Praise the up-and-comers, highlight the newbies, seek out new voices. That’s wonderful. Do it. But don’t write off the “successes” as “Well, they don’t care any more,” because chances are you’re probably overinflating the number of nice things they hear a day – and even if you are, they get pummelled by critics in ways that lesser writers don’t, and the nice things don’t happen as often as you’d think.

Drop ’em a nice comment, if you like what they do.  For anyone, high or low.

It helps.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

I got my royalty check the other day, and I learned several very nice things about my debut book Flex:

I Earned Out.  
This is a very happy deal, because when publishers buy your novel, they pay you an advance fee.

That up-front cash is all many authors ever see.

What happens after that is a bit like a loan – the publishers have paid you thousands of dollars when they bought the book, and every sale after that goes to paying off your advance.  Once you’ve sold enough books to pay it down, you’ve “earned out,” and after that every book sold puts new money in your pocket.

Earning out is a rite of passage among authors, and I wasn’t expecting to do it on Flex, and yet yesterday I got a check for $221 – not a big royalty, to be sure, but definitely enough to pay the light bill.  And that means every book I sell from today on for Flex will eventually generate another check.

So, you know, thanks for buying it, talking about it, recommending it.  This is a very happy day for me.

I’ve Sold Nearly Double My “Fuck You, Ferrett” Number Of Copies.  
As you’ll recall, I am a relentless neurotic.  You can give me any triumph, no matter how cataclysmic, and within days I’ll pull it apart.

So when I sold Flex, I made a secret bargain with myself.  I chose a number of copies sold – a number that, according to nebulous sources, was the number of copies the average book sold in its lifetime – and added a thousand copies on top of that.

If I sold that many copies, I could never ever complain again about Flex’s sales.  I had beaten my goal.  I could only say good things about how Flex was doing.  That was my “Fuck You, Ferrett,” number, the number I could use to bludgeon my brainweasels into oblivion.

As of yesterday’s royalty statement, I had sold nearly double that “Fuck You, Ferrett” number.  (Well, 178%, but close enough among friends, say I.)

So: Yay!

…And That’s Only Through December 31st, 2015.
I was cheering all day yesterday, and then looked at the statement again, and realized that my “Fuck You, Ferrett” number was only tallying books sold in 2015.

…I’d somehow achieved 178% of my “Fuck You, Ferrett” number in only nine months.

The last five months of book sales hadn’t even been counted.

So, you know, this doesn’t make me a bestseller or anything – a $221 royalty check means I can buy you a beer, but not champagne – but it’s a happy personal triumph.  I’ll probably sell more copies of Flex when Fix, the third and final book in the ‘Mancer series, arrives this September – and I just got my preliminary editorial notes on that, which look good.  (He said “Book 3 is very good, better than Book 2, which was better than Book 1.”  So hey, prepare to have hearts broken.)

So this is just a happydance.  My debut book did way better than I expected.  Is that an objective triumph?  I don’t know.  Solid mid-tier book sales numbers are hard to come by, as the public data usually reveals either Harry Potter smash bestseller numbers or nothing.  I honestly don’t know whether my “Fuck You, Ferrett” number was chosen accurately.

We’ll see when I discuss exactly how many copies I made in a future post!  But today?  We celebrate.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

 

So you lend Phil $20. Months go by. They don’t pay you back.

Another friend tells you he’s thinking about lending Phil $500 to tide him over until his next paycheck. And you say, “Well, I lent him $20, and I’m still waiting.”

Your friend looks you dead in the eye and goes, “Come on, man. You know I can’t accept that information. It hasn’t been proven in a court of law.”

And you go, “Oh, shit, right. I forgot. Phil’s innocent until proven guilty by law! I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have brought it up.”

You finish your lunch, a little embarrassed. And you know, you’d thought of having Phil’s untrustworthiness put on the record – taking the day off from work to go to small claims court, paying the court fee, putting your word against his on the judge’s docket and hoping the judge sides with you – because it’d be nice to have your loss of a $20 be, you know, a fact. That you could discuss with people. And have them take it seriously.

But your lunch buddy’s right: unless the law has acknowledged this was true, it’s not actionable data. And there’s no sense discussing it, because you have a date later this evening. Rumor is she’s monogamously dating an angry boyfriend with a shotgun, but that hasn’t been proven in court either, so what are you going to do?

Obviously, that’s a crazy fucking example, but it proves my point: Whenever anyone discusses consent, people often cite variants on “A person is innocent until proven guilty by law.”

Which is true, when you’re facing the penalties of law. It’s really good to have the highest possible standard when you’re dealing with an entity that can strip you of your money and force you to live in prison for the rest of your life.

In fact, the dangers of innocents being hurt by malicious or incomplete testimony are so high that the noble principle of the court is, “We’d rather let multiple guilty men go free than mistakenly convict one innocent person.”

As happens all the time. We’ve all heard of mobsters who’ve gotten off because the testimony wasn’t enough to put them away, but that doesn’t mean that in real life these Goodfellas weren’t putting bullets in heads. We’ve all heard of incompetent corporations/doctors/cops/contractors who made massive, sometimes fatal, mistakes, where the court could not find enough evidence to put them to the full penalties of law.

This is a wonderful system. It means that corrupt cops can’t just manufacture evidence to toss people into jail at will.

But you start making foolish, foolish mistakes when you believe that the lofty, purposely-difficult standards the court has set to acknowledge something as true before they are willing to jail a person for life are the same as “This is what actually happened in real life.”

Most people, when confronted with “This doctor has been sued seventeen times by different patients for fatal malpractice, but never successfully,” would not go, “Oh, well, I’m psyched he’s doing my appendectomy tomorrow!” even though by every standard of court, he is completely innocent.

Why? Because the stakes for your personal safety are now higher. Now that your life is on the line, you might want to explore using alternative standards of “I’d rather penalize an innocent doctor than risk being harmed” instead using of the court’s standard of “I’d rather let a guilty person continue to operate than convict an innocent doctor.”

It’s all about what standards you hold yourself to – and as I demonstrated in the opening discussion, the court’s standards are pretty damn high for real life. In fact, they’re supposed to be high, as I’ll mention for the third time, because if the court gets it wrong, we’re talking the full force of the government being brought to bear upon you.

Which is entirely different than the standard of evidence you might want to apply if the penalty is, say, “Phil doesn’t get the $20 he wants to borrow.”

The standards for court are high, because the penalties are high. But literally any lawyer will acknowledge that what you can prove in court is not the same as “What actually happened.” There’s always a distinction. And idiots who conflate “A person is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law” without adding the “because the penalties inflicted are very high” is either thoroughly foolish or purposely omitting stuff to try to fool you.

Which is not to say that Phil is always wrong. Maybe Phil needs the $500 because his wife died and he can’t pay the rent without her income. Okay, fine, in that case the penalty for Phil is pretty stiff. Maybe Phil paid you back and you forgot. Maybe you have a grudge against Phil, which is why you’re mentioning this $20 when you’ve never mentioned all the other loans that have never been paid back. All sorts of shit happens, because life is complex.

And all the complexity comes to a boil when we’re discussing how to handle missing stairs in a community – potentially dangerous people who have gossip swirling about them, but no definitive proof. (Because most consent violators are smart enough not to do terrible stuff in public with witnesses.) And what do you do to keep your parties free of dangerous players when the only proof you have is the equivalent of “She said Phil didn’t pay her back”? Do you ban people on someone’s word?

Maybe you think the court’s standards are worthy for any institution, which is a noble goal. There is a strong case to be made for “I will hold the people who would spread rumors to the highest of standards,” because yeah, the ugly truth is that there are corrupt cops and there are people who’ll trash folks they don’t like. Having standards for evidence is good, and though there’s no single True goal, having high standards when the penalty is “Banning someone from a party” is not necessarily a bad thing.

But stop extending that to the idiotic argument of “If something someone says has not been proven in a court of law, it is automatically untrue.” No. If that happens, you are adopting the court’s standard of, “We would rather have someone guilty attending our parties than risk ejecting an innocent person.”

And because nobody’s devised a 100% safe method of keeping rapists, molesters, and otherwise people-hurting people from parties with an arbitrary number of attendees, that’s a legitimate call to make. But stop pretending that “unless someone can prove it in a court of law, it’s not true,” which carries the heavy implication that that every rumor is malicious and that your parties are safe.

No. It means your parties are as safe as the real world, which is to say occasionally you’ll have malpracticing doctors and mobsters – doctors and mobsters who exist in part because the people they’ve hurt know how much effort it takes to prove someone wrong in court may be more than they have the energy to expend right now.

(Before you start complaining, by the way, I had my wife the bankruptcy lawyer vet this for factual accuracy. She said “Yup. Why would this statement be controversial at all?”, though mentioned I was utilizing the standards of a criminal case.)

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

There was a writing on FetLife recently that lamented the loss of the love letters men wrote to their wives in the Civil War. Oh, the instant message has all but destroyed romance! she cried.  And I felt that writing overly romanticized the past and disabused the future; there are thousands of passionate love texts and emails being written daily.

You just don’t see them.

The world is still full of romance, but it hasn’t been boiled down neatly into a selection of the finest texts for your enjoyment. You think the Civil War is a florid selection of romance because historians sifted through the thousands of surviving letters and picked the most heart-wrenching for your enjoyment; they didn’t leave in the curt letters to “take care of my estate properly,” and they probably fixed the spelling, and the old-timey language makes it seem more beautiful to you because, well, what once was common speech now seems formal and elegaic.

But I guarantee you: I write beautiful texts of love, as do my lovers. There are always soldiers, and when they send emails home, some of them are writing beauty. The world still snaps and hums with romance, and if I could boil them all down to a selection of the finest texts, you’d walk away with the impression that the 2010s weren’t dick pics ‘n’ Tinder, but a great woven romance to put Shakespeare to shame.

And what worries me is not that we’ve somehow become less romantic as a society, but that we are losing that record of modern romance.

All those beautiful texts to my partners will be lost to AT&T when this is all done. There are long-distance lovers writing passionate emails to each other, but unless Gmail’s records are thrown open at the end of the day then those too will disappear.

I don’t think texts have made us worse, as a whole; they’ve exposed more portions of who we are, now that communication is so trivial. Yet 150 years from now, what will we have to remember of this? Authors used to exchange letters, which were scooped off their desks and archived into the complete correspondences of so we could see friendships develop, stories be built, the artist’s struggle.

Now it’s all done via text and Gchat. That’s almost gone as soon as it’s done. And the reason we remember these great romantic Civil War letters is because they were stored in someone’s attic to be pulled down, but now all these glorious emotions will dissolve into meaningless electrons once someone pulls the plug.

There is magic in the world, still, great beauty that deserves to be collected. So it was; so it will always be. But now that we’ve shifted everything onto electronics, what happens when the file formats change and the [http://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2014/04/26/307041846/stopping-link-rot-aiming-to-end-a-virtual-epidemic][link-rot] sets in?

And I write this, knowing fully that it’s not as permanent as a letter. Once I die, my site will go dark. Eventually LiveJournal and Dreamwidth and Facebook and Twitter and FetLife will fade. I write this knowing that it is ephemeral, that more of our society is migrating our personal history to platforms that won’t stand the test of time, and what will be left to say about us when 150 years have passed?

This writing is for you. And it will never speak to the future.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

“I get tired dating just one person,” the comments say. “How the hell do you date five women at once? You know, and keep them happy? And also work full-time, and spend two hours an evening writing?”

It’s actually pretty simple:

1. Our Physical Dates Are Few And Far Between.
If you’re dating me, at best you’ll see me every two months or so. And that’s a pretty dense schedule. Usually, it’s more like three or four times a year.

This is because currently, all my partners are long-distance – but even if you live in town, seeing The Wily Ferrett is a comparatively rare sight. As mentioned, I’m working a minimum of 10 hours a day, and usually my workweek is something like 55-60 hours when you factor in writing and exercise.

And I might travel to see you, but I’m a writer – and most of my vacation days are committed to conventions or book tours. (I’ll be doing one for the final ‘Mancer series book Fix this autumn! Mark your calendars, reserve your copies!)

So that’s one filter: If you need regular actual Ferrett, well, I am not the mustelid for you.

2. No Phone Time.
For me, phone or Skype time is like a physical date in that it’s a long block of time I reserve for you, and that’s really tricky with the work hours I’m setting already. One of my “DANGER WILL ROBINSON” signs is when a partner says, “It’s great texting and all, but I’d feel sooooo much better if we could just Skype periodically…”

It’s not wrong to ask for that, but it is wrong to ask for it from me. I fucking hate the phone anyway, generally tossing it away like a grenade whenever it rings, so that’s another filter.

3. But I Will Text You A Lot.
So do I ignore someone when we’re dating? No! I am a writer. I write at you. And generally, that consists of me texting you a couple of times a day to see how you’re doing, and sending you goofy photos of wherever I’m roaming that day, and forwarding on jokes.

I’m not with you physically, but my natural tendency when I’m with someone I love is to say howdy and share what’s going on. I’m there checking in, telling you what I’m up to, sending pictures of butterflies.

Basically, the communication flow is through texts, not phone or physical contact. And that works for me.

4. And I Will Want To See You.
One of my sweeties sent me a text the other day, saying, “Do you know how good it feels to know you WANT to be with me?”

That was the sign I was doing things okay.

The trick to dating a Ferrett is to realize that I always want to be with you – I just have a busy goddamned life, because I have a job to pay the bills and I have a career of writing I’m fanning the flames on and I have a wife, and that’s like twelve hours a day minimum. Seeing you three times a year is not my ideal situation – it’s just the reality on the ground after all the work is done. I mean, even if you were my only girlfriend, that “Let’s visit” time would still be maybe once a month. Maybe.

But I send texts because I think about you, and I wonder how you are. I do little happy-dances when I get the texts and you tell me what’s happening in your life. I mark the day on the calendar and I count down.

But a sad filter is that if you feel inadequate because text is what we have, well, that’s just what I’ve got to work on. Physical time is rare. I’ve always loathed the phone. I can do emails, but text is more immediate.

So… lots of texts.

5. And If You’re Sad, I’m There.
Emotional support’s also on the agenda here, because if you’re having a bad day I’ll be texting the shit out of you to see what I can try to do to help. If someone dumps you or you’ve got family issues, I am on call.

This should be part of the Standard Partner Package for anyone, but it often isn’t, so I found time to say it.

6. They Do Not Need To Date Public Ferrett.
One of my most frequent breakup issues is, “Someone needs me to acknowledge them in blog-space on a regular basis.” I have found, through rather painful trial and error, that the person who needs me to put “In a relationship with” on my Fet page is usually the sort of person who won’t do well with me in the long run.

The reason why is subtle: It’s not that I’m unhappy to mention the thrills of dating you when it’s an interesting post for the day. But generally, whenever someone needs to have me grabbing my bullhorn and shouting, “I AM DATING YOU!” that means they are, on some fundamental level, uncertain about the relationship we do have and needing public proclamations to feel better.

Look. If I can’t make you feel good about dating me through private methods, taking to the rafters does not help. Yes, I get a lot of attention sometimes. Yes, sometimes women flirt with me. (Sometimes they even mean it.)

But in the end, another and vital filter is understanding that “dating other people” does not mean “you are replaceable,” and if that can’t be addressed without blog-public acts of affection, then we’re not going to work out.

What you get is the real me. That has overlap, but it is substantially different from, the persona on my blog. (He’s smarter. He only gets to write about things after time has passed and he’s come to conclusions.)

So In Conclusion….
How I date five people and keep them happy is by finding the kind of partner who is genuinely happy with the kind of attention I have to offer. Which is why I have such a long-term dating process: Lots of people say they’re fine with all of this, which lasts until the NRE runs out. Then they start getting itchy, and that’s when the subtle requests for Skype dates or maybe a public post creep in.

But I think that’s all dating, really: finding someone who’s content with what you can realistically offer. And I think most dating disasters come when you try to become something that you’re not in an attempt to make someone else happy, and discover that you can’t do it.

And I think if you’re reading this and going, “God, I could never be happy like that!” then that’s awesome. I’m not trying to date someone like you. I’m trying to date someone who I mesh with, whose neuroses and needs fit with me, and that’s not you.

The question is, as it ever is, are you finding the people who mesh with what you have to offer?

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

I realized something weird the other day:

I am currently dating five people.

I have been dating each of those five people for more than a year.

And part of that is luck, of course; I’m a tough person to date, honestly. I work eleven hours a day, and can’t often travel to people to visit them. Machete don’t text, Ferrett don’t phone or Skype. I’ve got pretty clear emotional needs, and I’m not shy about ensuring they’re met, and yet I have panic attacks.

But seriously.

Every relationship I’m in right now is stable. Can’t remember a significant fight I’ve had recently – there’s been differences of opinions that needed to be resolved, and crises to work through, but an actual psychic combat situation? Not any time recently.

And I attribute that to me, well, growing the fuck up. I’ve learned that just because there’s a new attraction there doesn’t mean I have to go chasing it. I’ve learned to spend time with potential partners, sometimes as long as two years, before jumping into Relationships with them. I’ve thought about who I date, and about assembling my polyamorous Justice League. I’ve internalized the concept of the comet when it comes to dating, and recognized the value of not trying to wrestle an irregular event into constant connection.

I’m smarter.

And I don’t think a breakup is necessarily a failure mode of polyamory, because relationships are complex interactions of needs and wants mashing together, and sometimes you stop dating just because it’s not working for you. But the way in which I’ve broken up in the past has been these frantic attempts to patch things together, because I chose the wrong partner and was desperately trying to spackle together a building during an earthquake.

These days, it’s a lot smoother. And that’s a milestone for me; on our date yesterday, Gini noted that my love life used to have so much churn she couldn’t really get invested in my partners because the average swoon-time was about six months once the top was popped, but now she felt comfortable getting attached to who I dated.

That was one of the weirdest compliments I’ve ever taken, but by God I’ll take it.

So, you five, you know who you are. Part of the reason you’re with me is that you don’t need to be acknowledged by Blog-Ferrett, and are comfortable just hanging out with the insecure weasel who exists behind these words.

But I wanted to thank y’all for making me better.

I wanted to thank y’all for staying as long as you have.

Let’s hope this keeps working.  And let’s hope I stay smart.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

Like many people, I thought Winter Soldier was the best film in the Marvel Universe, and so the big question everyone’s asking is: Is Civil War better than Winter Soldier?

The answer: Kiiiiiinda.

Civil War has high points that are head and shoulders above Winter Soldier, but it also has some weak points that make it a little draggy.  And the biggest problem with Civil War is this: while they are masterful at introducing literally fourteen likeable characters, each with their own agenda and charm, they forget to give a scene to the most critical character of all:

Bucky.

Now, it’s difficult because Bucky is a formerly brainwashed assassin, and part of his whole schtick is that he wants to be left alone.  But a major problem in Civil War is that while literally every issue in it revolves around Bucky, if Captain America at any point had relented and said, “You know what?  I’m cool if you guys take Bucky,” I would have been okay with that.

I care about Captain America.  I don’t really care what happens to Bucky, mostly because Bucky barely seems to care what happens to Bucky.  Even when he’s fighting for his freedom, he’s got all the concern of a man parallel parking.  So Civil War is like when your best friend calls you up to say, “Man, I am so stoked to see this concert, you’re coming with me, right?” and you’re like, “Well, I don’t really give a crap about this band, but I know it’ll make my friend happy to show up, so sure.”

Now, note that the way movies work is that some people are more inherently sympathetic to certain situations than others – and so you’ll often fill in sympathies that aren’t actually outlined in the movie itself.  (As witness when someone pitched me on John Wick and I said, “They shot his dog!?  Shit, of course he has to kill the guy’s entire family in revenge.”)  Bucky’s one of those odd characters where he’s in a sympathetic situation, so some people in the audience will feel bad for him no matter what, but beyond his situation he’s pretty much a cipher.  If you saw the trailer, you’ve seen literally 50% of the characterization of Bucky beyond “Hi, I fight well and can be controlled.”

Which is, realistically, how a lot of this movie floats by.  The rationale for Tony Stark – the poster boy for wandering amuck – suddenly going, “WE NEED REGULATIONS” is pretty tawdry, and realistically it depends on you understanding all the things that happened to him in Age Of Ultron.  That’s right; the actual emotional weight for Tony’s turnabout was done in another picture entirely.

Actually, everyone’s rationales seem kinda sketchy.  If I have one major beef with Civil War, it’s that anyone could really be on either side of this, and so “Who ends up where” seems fairly random.  I mean, sure, Captain America is for freedom, but there’s also the fact that he’s a soldier and spent his life taking orders.  They don’t even do something like this:

TONY: “You signed up for the army!  You should be used to taking orders!”
CAP: “If I obeyed dumb orders, I’d still be doing fundraisers for War Bonds.”

Bam.  But they don’t really go that far.  So, like, Hawkeye’s on Cap’s side, but he could be on Tony’s side, and there’s a really blatant scene where the Scarlet Witch literally changes her mind twice in a scene.  It’s not a firm Civil War.

The good news is that both sides of the Civil War have really good points.  It’s not like the comic book Civil War, which was basically “TONY STARK IS AN ASSHOLE, CAP IS GREAT.”  The trailer makes it seem like it’s all about Cap’s personal tie to Bucky, which at the heart it is, but there are very good political motivations to want Bucky put away and so I spent my time squirming uncomfortably because honestly, both Cap and Tony had some great points and made some asshole moves.

And lastly, the first half of the movie?  It’s grim and airless.  Hardly anybody’s quipping.  My boss told me, “I couldn’t hear some of the dialogue because everyone in the theater was laughing,” but the trick is that they’re not laughing in the first part.  And that makes this film feel a little long….

And then Spider-Man shows up.

Spider-Man is almost fucking perfect: nerdy, insecure, talking way too much, making quips, and he is by far the best thing in this movie.  (Though I’m biased: Spidey’s my guy.)

And the really clever trick that this movie pulls off is letting you see how powerful these guys are. There is a pitched battle that is perhaps the most comic bookiest fight in the history of comic book movies, where everyone is in the soup and they’re all using their powers in crazy ways (hello Ant-Man!), and it’s this stunning fireworks sequence of Holy crap that happened that out-Avengers the fucking Avengers.

And Spider-Man?  It’s really clear that if he had to, he could take down the Winter Soldier without breaking a sweat.  Hell, he takes down Falcon and The Winter Soldier without breaking a sweat.  Which is not a spoiler, because the joy of this great pitched battle you can clearly see who’s outmatched by who, but Spidey does not get to fight only the Winter Soldier, and whenever Hawkeye gets in over his head – guess what, fighting Iron Man is not your forte, dude – someone’s coming to his rescue.  T’Challa is a goddamned badass who really could outfight just about anyone one-on-one, but he never gets that opportunity because it’s a flurry of heroes.

It is a beautiful scene.

And the end to Civil War, where they strip away all the superfluous heroes for very good reasons to reduce us to the old trio of Cap vs. Tony vs. Bucky, is really fucking gruelling.  The payoff is perfect, because we’ve seen these heroes for years, and we know what’s going to happen the minute the plot-hammer drops, and we all want to avoid it coming, and yet it’s inevitable, and no I’m not telling you what it is because the smartness of that moment comes because it’s not the sort of thing that happens in a vacuum.  It’s been set up, not just by this movie but by the consistent characterization of everyone in all the Marvel films until now, and it is emotionally painful.

Which is wonderful.

So you know, Civil War is a high-water mark of the Marvel movies.  You’ve got Avengers, Civil War, Winter Soldier, and you can fight for yourself to see which is the best.  (Iron Man is also a favorite, but it’s the genesis, not the climax.)  You’re gonna wanna see it.  It’s worth seeing.

In fact, I’m betting you’ve seen it already and have come here to weigh in in the comments, to which I say get commenting.

 

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

Got an email from someone today who asked:

“I’m four chapters deep in my first novel, and I’ve never done this before. I was wondering, if you don’t mind me asking, what do you do when a magazine, or a book publishing company doesn’t accept your work? I mean, I don’t like the idea of spamming it around either, and obviously I’m only going to submit it to companies that seem like a good fit for it, but what if I throw it out in the lake and nobody bites? Do I just set it aside and wait X months? Years? Do I go at it with a broad ax and try to make it more… palatable? Do these companies and magazines ever tell you why a work doesn’t fit with them? Since they receive so many submissions, do they just say ‘no, git gud’?”

This is a pretty common question from new writers, so here’s a big secret in the publishing industry:

You wanna know the main factor that separates Professional Authors from the never-wases?

Professional Authors learn to let rejection roll off their shoulders.

To be a writer is to be rejected. Period. There is no writer you’ve heard of who has never been rejected. They’ve all poured their hearts into a story and seen it come bouncing back, often with an insult tacked onto the end of the rejection.

You’re gonna get rejected by agents. By publishers. And even if you make it past all those hurdles, you’re going to be rejected by readers, some of whom will give you snotty one-star reviews, the vast majority of whom will not even read your book at all. Few people talk about the rejection of “The book didn’t sell,” but hoo boy do tawdry sales feel like a rejection.

Good writers keep writing.

Good writers finish their stories. No excuses. As Elizabeth Bear is so fond of saying, “It’s a draft, it can suck.” Fix it in revisions. That’s where most of the magic happens for most people anyway.

Good writers send it out, as the Viable Paradise workshop‘s motto will tell you, “‘Till hell won’t have it!” Do some minor research to ensure they’re not opposed to your story – don’t send dick stories to Fireside fiction, for example – but since you’re going to rack up all these rejections, why reject yourself?

Send them out as far as you can. Let the editors turn you down, not you.

Sadly, most of them won’t have the time to explain to you why you didn’t fit today. The irony of the publishing business is that by the time a busy editor sends you a note explaining why they didn’t like the story, you were better than 95% of the other submissions. Which is why you seek out criticism from other writers and beta readers.

But here’s what you do with critique, whether that’s from an editor or a beta reader or a bad review:

First, you figure out whether this criticism is trying to rewrite your story to something else that’s not you. Sometimes you’ll get feedback like “Do we really need a lesbian squid romance at the center?” and the whole reason you wrote this story is to explore the world of sapphic squid sexuality, and at that point someone is trying to do violence to your story by turning it into a story you’d actively dislike.

Ignore those people. Your stories are your way of fulfilling your kinks. Take that away and you’ll have a published tale that has your name on the cover and nothing of you in the story.

Everyone else who complains, well, shut up and listen. Don’t tell them what you meant to do, because the way you get better as a writer is to map out the differences between “What you meant them to feel” and “What they actually felt.” Hear where they’re confused, or angry, or bored – they’ll be bored a lot in the beginning – and try to figure out what you can do to make them feel what you want.

(And never forget the deadliest criticism: “It’s okay.” If you hear someone shrug that your story’s good, you have failed. You would by far rather have someone screaming at you How could you write that than the indistinguishable blandness of an okay, because for every person who hates something passionately there is someone who loves it with equal fervor.)

(Though maybe not in the way you intended.)

Anyway. You asked what happens when a publisher rejects your work – which is wise phrasing, because there’s no “if.” They will. Chances are really good that your first book won’t sell, whether you’re selling it to a publisher or putting it into the sea of self-published books on Amazon. Your first book will probably go nowhere. So here’s the most valuable advice, right at the end:

Keep writing.

Maybe your first book sucks, but if you take advice and feedback and learn, your second book will be better. So write a second book. And a third. And a fourth. And – well, I’m infamous for writing seven novels before I finally got my first one published, which is a lot, but that happened because I kept writing all kinds of stuff and didn’t get caught up on any one thing.

If they rejected my first book, I’d make a second. If they rejected my second book, I’d make a third. And I’d get better with every book until someone listened.

As for you? You’ve got a voice.

Keep speaking until people hear you in the way you want to be heard.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

I have a friend who’s always scheduling gang bangs.

Note the precision of that word: she spends more time scheduling them than she does having them.

Now, the popular take is that dudes are fuck-hungry horndogs who’d drop anything to get their dick wet. But in truth, finding a dude who’s willing to get erections in front of other men turns out to be pretty goddamned rare.

Some are homophobic, and worried the mere sight of a peen might poison them into gayness – let alone what happens if they brush up against one. Others aren’t sure whether they’ll be able to perform in front of other men, and God, it’s embarrassing enough to have Little Elvis take a premature curtain call in front of one woman – but a whole crowd?

Others still love the idea of gangbang sex, then get squicked when the day comes – like many fantasies, it’s better kept in the shrinkwrap, never to be opened. Still others fear showing up at a hotel room and being mugged or blackmailed.

Still others get sick at the last minute, or forgot they’d promised to take their kids to see the new Disney pic that afternoon. You know; normal scheduling difficulties.

And all that comes on top of the problems with arranging gangbangs- you need a burly friend you trust to tell the new dudes what’s allowed and how this is going to go down, and you have to find a hotel that’s okay with this, and you have to plan the condoms and lube to bring and worry about latex allergies, and, and, and….

By the time it’s all done, I know of at least three gangbangs that had at least eight dudes RSVPed, and nobody showed.

There’s a lot of empty gangbangs out there.

(Which is the other reason you bring the burly friend. If nobody shows, the burly friend is like the best man – they step in and bang the heck out of you. Which is why smart planners make sure their burly friend is good in bed.)

I’ve spent years soaked in the kink scene’s depravities – and yet these gangbang fizzles are still hysterical to me. I’d never thought of a failed gangbang, but the difference between the popular media portrayal of Fantastically Kinky Sex and the reality of it is vast.

But then I think how much of kinky sex is not kinky. I think of me, getting home from a big convention and sterilizing all my fire cups, airing out the wands, checking the alcohol levels and goddammit, I gotta stop by CVS, I’m almost out.

I think of cleaning up after a big scene, the room strewn with clothes and handcuffs and knives and floggers, and starting the cold and unsexy business of putting them away.

I think of rope aficionados endlessly washing and whipping their rope, forever piling it into coils, debating hard points strong enough to hang a person off of.

I think of all the tarps and sanitary processes that responsible kinksters use to sterilize a scene for bloodplay.

And I think, “Why should gangbangs be any different than the rest of kink?” And the answer is, they aren’t. Kink can come organically – ask anyone who’s undergone a spontaneous scene with my sharp pretty pretty princess nails – but a lot of kink is this bubble of fantastic sensation, arrived at because someone’s done a lot of work to clean off the manacles on that St. Andrews’ Cross.

And even then, there are scenes that don’t happen. Things bomb out. All the fucking time.

So much of kink fizzles because of the same ordinary reasons that other things get cancelled: flat tires. Schedule conflicts. Couldn’t find the time. And everyone’s old friend, “Not in the mood.”

A lot of kink is, weirdly, that tedium of preparation. Making sure everything is set up safely, so the proper implements are at hand and the big decisions have been made in advance.

All so when the time comes, so can you.

And the thing is, I think kink is a reflection of life: there are too many people who seek the experience without wanting to do the preparation, and that costs them.  They’re so eager for the effortless high of the kink that they sneer at gruntwork, seeing it as a buzzkill – they don’t want to think about details, they want to float away on a cloud of sex.

Bad things happen to these people.  They rush into hookups with careless riggers who cause permanent nerve damage with bad knots.  They seek a kink partner, any partner, and they wind up alone in rooms with people who do bad things.

And the problem with chasing the high is that there’s not a perfect correlation between “Skipping the necessaries” and “Paying the consequences.”  You can do a lot of unsafe fireplay before the lack of safety precautions finally sets someone’s hair aflame.  It looks like you can skip the boring stuff to head straight to the excitement, but…

Eventually you discover the quick excitement has a much greater cost.

Smart kinksters understand that the preparation and the enjoyment are two halves of the same whole – you build a solid foundation to leap from safely.  They don’t feel cheated when they spend hours on tedious busywork, because the busywork is not a betrayal of the experience, but a fundamental part of it.

They understand that life is not meant to be a series of exultant explosions, but rather that a good life is finding ways to be fulfilled by the necessary preparations.

So when you walk by some phenomenal rope scene with beautiful people hung from the rafters and spun like Cirque de Soleil performers, you might think that oh my God, that is what I aspire to be.  And maybe you should.

But remember the work that goes into gangbangs.  Realize that rope scene involved years of practice and safety checks and scheduling to coalesce into this transitory beauty that never lasts as long as the run-up.  Recognize how the life-changing experiences are always a little harder to come by than you’d think they should be.

Remember that this effort is not a betrayal of what life should be, but rather a reflection of how life truly is, and be enlightened.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

“You used to enjoy having sex with me,” someone says. “Now you’re seeing your new partner all the time, and we haven’t had sex in a month, and I really need a cuddle date. Can we schedule that?”

At which point CAPTAIN ANARCHY leaps out of the closet like a ninja referee to pass judgment on your relationship: “FOUL! FLAGRANT JEALOUSY! TWO POINTS, PLUS THE IMPLICATION THAT MAYBE YOU’RE NOT CUT OUT TO BE POLY!”

Then Captain Anarchy disappears, leaving behind a bunch of snide leaflets on why No True Relationship Feels Jealous.

But that’s not jealousy. That’s “You are no longer doing a thing that used to make me happy, and I would like to open negotiations as to whether I can get that happy experience back.”

You’re not asking because you’re resentful of this new love – you’re asking because you’re no longer getting all the things you require to be satisfied in a relationship. The new lover is the root cause in this instance, but you don’t have to be jealous of them any more than you have to be “jealous” of someone putting in too many hours volunteering for Burning Man or “jealous” of a 70-hour-a-week work schedule.

You do not have to personally loathe everything that’s getting in the way of getting your needs met to say, “Hey, would it be okay if we did this?”

And what Captain Anarchy is trying to do is this spectacularly toxic assholery that tries to shame people into silence for things that should be healthy to ask for.

Look. Relationship Anarchy is a valid approach. But what it does not mean is that you should be a quivering snail, never requesting anything of someone you’re dating, passively accepting whatever some douche of a date chooses to dole out to you.

Because communication is complex! Sometimes the people you’re dating don’t know that doing more of this thing would make you happy, and they’d be thrilled to do more of it! Sometimes your lovers get distracted, and are happy to be refocused!

Never opening up a discussion on What You Need is not a fucking strength. It is a weakness. It presumes your partners have a secret telepathy that tunes them into a full knowledge of what thrills you, and it passes on the toxic idea that actively requesting things that make you happy is somehow a downer to other people.

No. What’s a downer is getting too attached to the answer. It hurts getting an an honest response of “You know, I’m no longer into you sexually, maybe it’s time to move on” – but it saves time. It means you don’t spend months reserving emotional space for someone, hoping wanly that maaaaybe this NRE will wear off and they’ll get back to you. And it means maybe you get an answer of “I don’t want to pull back on this relationship right now, because this is the way I operate, but past history shows I’ll probably return to our old pattern after another month or two – at least until I find someone else.”

It’s fine for them to say that. It’s fine for you to say “yes” or “no” to that pattern. But none of that happens unless you’re willing to open up a discussion without some idiot drive-bying to say “JEALOUSY IS BAAAAADDDDDDD.”

Look. There is jealousy out there, in the sense of “They are taking you away from me and I deserve you.” And that is bad.

But there’s also, “I used to get this thing that made me excited about being in this relationship with you, and I no longer get that.” And in that case, bringing it up isn’t “jealousy” so much as it is saying “I’m with you because you provide certain experiences, and if those experiences are no longer going to be a part of what happens between us, I deserve to know what’s going on so I can make sane decisions as to whether to stay involved with you.”

And sometimes, those experiences are no longer provided to you because this person has decided to give them to another person. Sometimes that can be rectified by saying, “Hey, you know, I miss that.” Sometimes it can’t.

But generally, I find the people who are most enthusiastic about suppressing discussion of What Makes You Happy are trying to quash this discussion because they don’t care what makes you happy. They care about what makes them happy, and when you bring your tiresome ol’ self into the discussion then you’re bringing them down, and why can’t you just shut up and let me do what I want?

To which I’ll go to one of the other definitions of jealousy: “fiercely vigilant of one’s rights.” That kind of jealousy, I can get behind. And one of your rights in a relationship should be to have the information you need to make informed decisions about what you’re willing to do within a relationship.

Anyone who tells you otherwise, well… they’re probably hoping nobody knows too much about what they actually provide.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

Better Call Saul features two immortal men who can never die.  For the entirety of Better Call Saul’s existence, Slippin’ Jimmy and Mike are completely immune from physical trauma, because we’ve seen them in Breaking Bad and they’re okay.

The show knows that is a prequel, and more importantly, it knows that you know it’s a prequel.  The show has Mike walking into a room full of angry gangsters with guns, and he is wary – but the show, wisely, does not try to fill it with the tension of ZOMG WILL HITMAN MIKE SURVIVE, because we know he will.  Likewise, Slippin’ Jimmy is currently embroiled in legal battles, and millions are on the line, but his opponents are largely noble men who battle it out in courtrooms.  He’s not going to get shanked over an old-age home dispute.

And yet Better Call Saul is one of the tensest shows I have watched.

If you’re a writer, watching Better Call Saul highlights how fucking lazy “death” is as a threat.  What Better Call Saul is about is excruciating compromise – playing on the tension between the man Jimmy wants to be and what he wants now.  He wants to be a good lawyer because he admires his brother – but dammit, the straight and narrow path has not worked out for him.

So Better Call Saul is a master class in subtle pressures.  There is no reward for Jimmy if he follows all the rules – so he bends the rules a little, just to make way, and it gets him a better job as the kind of noble lawyer he wants to be.  But then one of three things happens:

  1. One of his past foibles requires him to do something even scummier to get himself out of it, or:
  2. Something good and wonderful and beautiful he’s gained by these small compromises is endangered, and the only way he can solve it is by falling back on the huckster Slippin’ Jimmy thing that he is so good at, or:
  3. He does something noble, and loses ground.

That’s pretty much the plan, from a writer’s perspective.  But that tight focus really keeps Jimmy where it hurts emotionally.  Everything he gains, he’s gained because he’s born to be a slimy, double-crossing cheat.  Everything he loses, he loses because he has not been slimy enough.

What’s holding him back is his morality, and the show is about watching Jimmy desperately try to hold onto that human streak – to not betray the people he’s loved, even as they betray him.

And that’s what I find more compelling about Better Call Saul than Breaking Bad – Jimmy is redeemable.  Breaking Bad made the very wise decision early on in Season One to give Walter an out, and watch Walter throw it aside because dammit, Walter prioritized “Feeling potent” over “Fixing the actual problems.” Jimmy, though…

Better Call Saul is a complete train wreck, because you’re watching two brothers actually make each other into what they’re accusing them to be.  Jimmy does have a tendency to fall back on his con-man habits, but his brother’s relentless anger just forces him to be slimier.  Chuck wasn’t out to get Jimmy, but thanks to Jimmy’s anger he sure is now.  And if Jimmy just stopped trying to impress Kim, or Kim cared less for Jimmy, then Jimmy might not keep going to such radical lengths to “protect” her, but…

This is an entirely avoidable outcome.  Take one of these factors away and Jimmy might not become Saul Goodman, late night TV huckster, as he is predestined to become.  Yet what’s driving them is not fate but people who are each battling the tension between who they want to be and what they need now – and the show is relentless at showing them who they actually are when the lights go down.

And all of that is without a death.  (Well, not on Mike’s blood-soaked rampages, but it’s as if the show’s all but admitted there’s not much for Mike to do now.)  Too many shows raise the stakes by reaching for the literal jugular  – which is easy.  Some asshole can always come crashing through a door with a gun, and you apply pressure externally because if these characters aren’t saved, they’ll die!

But that’s so easy.

What’s hard here is watching all the characters in Better Call Saul choose to become the people they didn’t want to be. The violence is purely psychological as they realize that what they’re getting isn’t nice and who they’re becoming isn’t nice and what’s holding them back are those thin scraps of loyalty and decency – and yet they know, every last one, that those scraps mean something and they’re going to be truly damned if they just let them go.

They’re circling the drain.  They won’t die – no, not until their eyes have been truly opened.  They make choices that cost them something every time.

And that’s so much harder to write than some asshole with a knife.

Yet so much more satisfying.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

So there’s been a viral post going around, showing women as Magic cards.  It looks like this:

Great Message, Terrible Magic Card

Problem is, you play Magic at all, this card presents some serious worldbuilding challenges.

See those stats in the lower right hand of the card? 85/85? That means this card has 85 power and 85 toughness. These are numbers used to indicate how big and nasty a creature is.

An ordinary human has 1 power and 1 toughness.

A trained warrior can have 2 power and 2 toughness, sometimes.  (Sometimes it’s 2/1.  Even some low-level vampires are 2/1.)  This is good, because a “bear” in Magic terms is 2/2 – in fact, the 2/2 “Grizzly Bear” card is the classic standard for power and toughness.

A top-tier leader of an army is 3/3, who can beat a bear with ease – but at 3/3, you are literally fighting elephants and small werewolves.

At 4/4, you’re getting into the top tiers of Magic creatures, beings so powerful you sometimes don’t get the chance to cast them before you’re overrun by armies of classically 1/1 and 2/2 goblins.  You want an Angel, summoned straight from  heaven?  Here she is.  Hellion elementals are usually in the 4/4ish range as well.  Mid-sized werewolves, too.

By the time you’re getting to 5/5, well, your generic demon is 5/5.  (Don’t worry, Angels often have heavenly protections to even the odds.)  There’s no earthly creature that can hope to defeat a 5/5 on its own – no, by then you’re talking about crazy monster creatures with intimidating names like Nemesis of Mortals and Polukranos, World Eater.

You want a 6/6?

Oh, you want a dragon.  Dragons are classic 6/6s, though smaller fully-grown ones might be 5/4 if they’re clever.

What’s that?  You want the king of the dragons?  The toughest of the tough, born on a world full of dragons who’s clawed his way to the top through nothing but sheer might?

He’s an 8/8.

If you want creatures larger than 8/8, well, they’re pretty thin on the ground. Wizards spend their whole lives trying to cast them, and usually die before they can do it – which is a fancy way of saying “By the time you’ve acquired enough resources to cast this gigantic fatty, the other player’s usually beaten you.”  But they do exist!  They’re 11/11 Colossuses, or 11/11 Elder Gods summoned from beyond the pale, or a 9/9 archdemon who lords over all the other demons.

The scariest monster in all of Magic, the leader of the gang who’s been the Big Bad in two storylines, a card so potent that you’ll shell out $30 for a single copy of this ridiculously overpowered card?

Emrakul, The Aeons Torn is a 15/15 monster.

But wait?  What about lord dread Cthulhu himself?  Well, that’s basically Emrakul.  But if you want literally the largest creature in all of Constructed Magic, you go for the wrath of Marit Lage, a beast so huge it takes thirty mana to summon him.  (For the record, thirty mana is more than most people have in their entire deck.)  And that huge, terrible, flying rage?

It’s 20/20.

There is only one creature larger than that in all Magic – and it’s a joke, created for an “Un-Set,” which was never intended to be played in serious Magic.  It’s called the “Big Furry Monster,” and it’s a 99/99, and to accentuate how silly it is, it’s literally two cards that you have to draw, and cast, together.  Nobody takes it seriously.

To put it plainly:

According to this Magic card that was clearly created by someone who doesn’t play the game, Harriet Tubman is four times as powerful as Cthulhu.

And while I fully support Tubman on the $20, if she was truly this powerful, I feel frankly that Harriet Tubman, Ender of Worlds, should have done more than rescue slaves when she could have faced down the entirety of both sides of the Civil War and brought the world under her reign of freedom, because this Harriet Tubman could have eaten Gettysburg and never burped.

Which is not to say that I dislike the message.  Go women!  Go “Smash the Patriarchy,” even though that’s not a valid keyword in Magic!  Go you and your unfeasible casting cost of WWWWWUUUUU, which no sane person would ever put in a deck!

I fully admit I’m being a big ol’ wet blanket here, because I play the game.  I know it’s a lot to expect people to make Magic cards templated correctly, but to a lot of us who do know the game – it’s a lot like watching a TV show where the technical guy goes, “Yesterday, Snapchatted with my roommate on Twitter and discussed how to hotwire an IP address!”  You may like the show, but you’re like, “That’s not how that works.  That’s not how any of this works!

Harriet Tubman, I salute you. I think you’re awesome. I think women are awesome.

I’m just not sure all women are literally ten times more powerful in hand-to-hand combat than the king of the dragons.  Call me a misogynist.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

My Seasonal Affective Disorder’s got me by the scruff of the neck, which means I am staring at screens for an hour, unable to function. My wife finds me curled up in odd places around the house, trying not to cry loudly enough to be heard.

This time of year sucks.

Yet on Monday, I finished off the final draft of my upcoming book FIX to hand to my editor, and last night I switched back to continuing the work on my spiritual sequel to Sauerkraut Station, SAVOR STATION (105k words in, hope to finish the first draft before the 15th). And people ask, how do I do that?

Lots and lots of bourbon.

No, seriously, functioning during depression is a real thing. Too many people let everything go to hell when they’re down, and when their body stops pummeling them with feel-bad hormones they wake up to discover themselves jobless and friendless. A lot of depressions are chemically induced, but you can get yourself depressed by not maintaining the shit you need to do in your life.

And here’s the trick I use to keep functioning during depression:

I don’t expect to feel joy from what I need to do.

I just do it.

Which sounds really dumb, but a lot of people seem to feel as though everything they do should bring them immediate satisfaction – they pay the bills, and hey! They feel like a grownup, that’s awesome. They mop the floor and ding! They got a chore done, check that off the list!

Which works right up until you’re mired in anhedonia and unable to envision any joy from anything.

Worse, when you’re in depression, envisioning doing Things You Need To Do may make you feel worse – “I’m a shitty writer, I’m going to fuck up this novel.” “I’m a hot mess, everyone at that party’s going to hate me.” So if you’re a joy-driven person, depression makes you a sailboat without wind – you can’t go anywhere because the energy that motivated you has vanished.

And I hate to quote Nike, but ponder the “Just Do It” lifestyle. Grit your teeth and say “This will bring me no satisfaction in any way at all, but I need to do it because this is a maintenance task. If I let this slide, it will make things worse later on.”

I’m not normally a Dark Side guy, but let your hatred flow. Sure, you’re a terrible fucking writer. Sure, you don’t want to mop this floor. Sure, you fucking loathe the idea of going to friendly get-together where your buddies will probably ignore you.

Do it anyway. It’ll probably take you a while – my current run-up to a task is about half an hour of me staring, breathing raggedly, remembering that it doesn’t matter if I feel functional, if I don’t do this then my life will be worse than when I started out the day.

You know you can talk yourself out of shit. Trick is, you can also talk yourself into shit.

Do it crappily, if you have to. Write 200 words and erase them all, go to the party and pretend you’re coming down with an illness after half an hour, mop sloppily.

Get it done when you can.

You won’t, always. Depression means you’re never going to do 100% of what you needed to do – note my “curling up on the bed and crying” times. There will be days you just can’t function, and beating yourself up because of what you’re supposed to do will only make it worse.  But if you make a habit out of separating “satisfaction” from “do it,” you’ll wind up with a fairly rigid habit-structure of Doing The Bare Minimum that’ll get you by until you can actually feel happiness again.

At which point you’ll be in a place to feel happiness. I’ve seen it time and time again where someone emerges from a months-long depressive state where they’ve holed themselves inside a cave and blown off all their deadlines, only to wake up to a post-apocalyptic world that knocks them back into Sadness Villa again. It sucks. If you can avoid it, do so.

And if you’re thinking of using this technique as proof that depression doesn’t really exist, or that willpower can solve every problem, please set your head on fire and shove your face into a pan filled with bacon grease. Some days the black dog wins. Hell, some weeks the black dog wins. That doesn’t mean you don’t fight the dog, but for Christ’s sake don’t peddle that sickening lie that the dog’s just an illusion and if you believed in Tinkerbell hard enough then that rabid Doberman would stop chewing your genitals.

But the thing is, when you’re depressed you cannot rely on “happiness” to make you productive. You can, and should, consider drugs and therapy to help. But you can also get there by removing happiness from the equation.

As clinically as possible, analyze the Shit That’s Gotta Get Done Or Everything Will Get Worse. (Let go of all the stuff you can let go; don’t try to be a superhero now, man.) Then do those things and don’t expect to feel better for doing them or anticipate a burst of joy or even think that you’ll do them well. None of those are necessarily true.

But what is true is that depression lies, and though I’ve written a lot of shitty words during my Seasonal Affective Disorder, I’ve also written some gems. I’ve not enjoyed going to many parties, but my friends were happy to see me and they kept inviting me to more parties which I was thrilled to attend when I wasn’t sad. The house wasn’t filled with cockroaches.

That maintenance helps. The more you do it, the more you manage to accomplish on automatic pilot, and lemme tell you, when you can successfully automate yourself to Just Do Things like Work and Friendship during a catastrophic depression, then you are way ahead of the curve.

I don’t necessarily feel good about submitting FIX to the publisher – right now it’s a hot mess and I took big chances with the characters and you’re all going to hate it and my editor is going to savage it and tell me I have to spend months frantically repairing its manifest flaws.

But I didn’t do it for the happiness.

I did it because if I blew my deadline, I would feel a lot worse when June came and Happy-Ferrett looked at the smoking ruins of the fall launch he’d planned.

And so I staved off much more sadness by not trying to foment happiness in my time. It worked for me. And if you’ve not been getting much done, then maybe try it for you.

It won’t feel good. But what does?

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

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