theferrett: (Meazel)

Hey, San Diegoites!  I’ll be doing a reading at Mysterious Galaxy tomorrow evening – and as always, when I arrive, I bring donuts.  For donuts represent all that is good and compassionate in my ‘Mancer series.

The question is, “Where are San Diego’s best donuts?”

I asked this when I did my reading at San Francisco last week – and there was even a contest!  Because my friend Flitter said, “No, Ferrett, hipster donuts are just as good as classic donuts!  Here!  Let me bring my hipster donuts to your reading to show you their hipstery goodness!”

And Bob’s Donuts in San Francisco fucking creamed them.

Bob’s Donuts are like my platonic ideal of a donut, except “platonic” isn’t quite accurate, because I would totally have sex with these donuts if San Francisco didn’t have laws against that.  Bob’s Donuts were this perfect mixture of sugary-crinkled dough and thick chocolate layers and a beautiful, creamy, sweet filling.

I will be driving down to San Diego today.  A second stop by Bob’s Donuts would put me ninety minutes out of my way.

I am considering it.

So!  I’ll be in San Diego tomorrow.  I want San Diego’s best donuts.  Tell me of your donuts, and then if you want to see the winner, show up at Mysterious Galaxy, where I will be dispensing fine donuts!

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

As I watch white people struggling with the idea of racism somehow still existing after Martin Luther King solved it, I’ve seen this belligerent battle the commenters have while discussing racism with baffled people of color.

Because the question people always seem to have lurking beneath all their other questions, the head of the octopus with its seeking tentacles, is this:

If Abraham Lincoln ended slavery, and Martin Luther King ended racism (but maybe he didn’t), then who was the guy who started racism?

You laugh, but this is a country of clean origins.  George Washington founded America – that’s what our teachers taught us.  Jefferson wrote the Constitution.  Even Hamilton, the musical, plays right into this line of thinking by saying, at the end, that Alexander Hamilton created America’s financial policy.

If you want to understand much about America, it’s that all our schools points to primary movers.  Particularly in grade school, we are never taught that anything was done by committee, unless it’s a war, and even then it’s probably the general that won the war, not the bodies of the bloodied soldiers who took that ground one heart-shredding step at a time.  Our schools are filled with portraits, and we point eagerly to those portraits to tell us Who Started What – Helen Keller was when deaf people started to be important, and Adolf Hitler killed all the Jews, and Thomas Edison invented the lightbulb.

What we are never taught, unless we are very lucky and get teachers who get written up a lot by their superiors, is that all of these Iconoclastic Achievers had lots of other supporters who helped them get the job done, and in fact that Abraham Lincoln’s main strength was in getting disparate sides to work together.  What we are taught is that a Legendary Man arises from the mists of history, strides to the fore, grasps his time, and bends history to his will.

What shocked me most about reading a biography of Martin Luther King – and I wish I could remember the name of the book – is that it started in the 1920s, talking about brave black preachers every bit as bold as MLK himself who, because America didn’t have television cameras to broadcast shame out from coast to coast, got lynched.  The message was clear: people had been trying to do what MLK did all along, people with similar tactics.

It wasn’t just the man, but the circumstances.

America doesn’t really believe in circumstances.  In the 1930s, John Steinbeck said, “Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat, but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires,” and that’s still true today.  A poor person’s circumstances don’t matter, even to the poor person himself, because America has a mythology that tells us that the Movers and Shakers change who we are. 

There’s no real society.  There’s just these cyclopean men striding forward, forging America like the good iron it is.

And what confuses a lot of white people, even though they’re too confused to understand that this concept is laced through their bodies, is that black writers are claiming that racism exists, and they can’t even point to the rotten bastard who started racism.

Because that’s how America works.  Hitler made people hate Jews.

Where’s the black Hitler?

And they can’t point to the KKK, because the KKK came after slavery, and even white people know that racism was there before that, and what they’re questing for even if they don’t understand it is The Guy who started racism so they can look at him and not be like him, because you either have idols or sleazebags….

And when you say “racism is a thing that millions of white bureaucrats and schoolteachers and neighbors quietly accomplished in hundreds of ways, from realtors who quietly refused to sell to black buyers in good neighborhoods to the zoners who didn’t bother to build highways leading to black neighborhoods to fussy neighbors who are more willing to call the cops if they see a black stranger in their neighborhood because black bodies are always coded as a little more threatening to policemen who have also inhaled that stereotype that black kids are older, stronger, readier to do violence, and so shoot a little faster when the face they’re looking at is black,” they’re baffled because there’s no Guy.

There’s just… people.

What white people are all too often unconsciously seeking is The Guy To Blame For Racism, just like we seek out The Guy Who Founded Our Country and The Guy Who Freed Our Slaves and The Guy Who Stopped Racism.

They want A Guy.  They need A Guy.  They can’t make sense of history without A Guy.

And there’s no guy.  There’s just millions of people who have this pervading, subconscious, unexamined opinion about skin tone and how it affects color, and they made – and make! – quiet decisions because of assumptions they’re not even aware they’re making, and how can that possibly make sense when George Washington woke up one morning and knocked down a cherry tree to yell, “I’MMA FOUND A COUNTRY!”?

Madness.

And I’m always reminded of that Kids in the Hall sketch where they announce they’ve found the Cause of Cancer, and they drag Bruce McCulloch onto stage, and he hems and haws until someone goes, “Tell him, Bruce,” and Bruce sheepishly says, “…I’m sorry I caused all that cancer.”

And we laugh, because we know that one guy didn’t cause all the cancer.

But I think Americans laugh a little harder, because subconsciously they kind of did.  Because they’ve been waiting all their life for a guy to cure cancer, just like Jonas Salk cured polio, and in the back of their minds there’s a guy in a white lab coat who’s so much smarter than all the other scientists – like Edison, who absolutely never ever ripped off anyone’s work, he did it all himself – and That Guy will cure cancer, all the cancer, it doesn’t matter that “cancer” is a catchall term that encompasses thousands of diseases with different etiologies, That Guy will hold up one hypodermic needle with The Cure To Cancer and then he’ll step into the ranks of American history as The Guy Who Cured Cancer.

Lots of Americans actually believe that.  Hell, I believe it – or want to.

Just like I believed, when I was in fourth grade, that Martin Luther King was The Guy Who Cured Racism.

And I don’t know how you argue against that.  Racism is like cancer – it comes from a lot of different angles, not all of it is fatal, some of it is actually more exhausting than deadly, but there’s no single person you can point to and say, “THAT’S THE GUY!” and they want a guy, they want to know who they can yell at like Hitler and go, “YEAH, DON’T BE LIKE THAT GUY,” except The Guy Who Started Racism has to be a guy they don’t like because they need a chewtoy they can rip into, and if they feel even slightly bad about denigrating The Guy then hey, that’s wrong.

Hitler had to kill millions of Jews before he made the canon, man.  And people, I think, were grateful.  Because you could point at Hitler and go, “DO YOU WANT TO BE LIKE HITTTTLER?!?!?” and feel good about not being Hitler and eventually someone made Godwin’s Law because people felt so good about Not Being Hitler that they made anyone who disagreed with them into Hitler at the slightest provocation.

And yeah.  When you’re talking to a lot of white people about racism, you’re stalled because they want A Guy and there’s no Guy, it’s just a messy intertwining set of culture – but paradoxically, our culture is that there is no culture.  There’s only Bold Men shaping America to Its Great Destiny.

They want to know which Bold Man led America astray so they can hate that guy and move on, and man.  I wish we had him.  I wish I could point to someone, just to prove that racism exists and it’s That Guy, but remember That Guy can’t be someone you might like.

What they want is a new Hitler, and I’m terrified we won’t find one until we elect him.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

SUV Smart.

Sep. 15th, 2016 09:26 am
theferrett: (Meazel)

Regular cars don’t do well on Alaskan roads in winter. Fifteen, sometimes twenty inches of snowdrifts are not uncommon. If you’re driving a regular car, sometimes you get stuck by the side of the road and have to wait for a tow truck.

If you have a beefy SUV with the right tires, though, you can go anywhere. You can plow your own path down any damn road you please. So the folks with SUVs charge out into the teeth of howling snow-storms…

And get themselves stuck in even deeper snowdrifts in the middle of nowhere, where even the tow trucks can’t get to them. Back in the days before cell phones, I’m told, people died regularly from driving deep.

A very smart person is like an SUV, in that they can get themselves into big trouble without even recognizing it.

See, a normal person comes up with a dumb idea, and they can’t justify it properly. They make a few spluttering arguments, people haul out the obvious counterarguments, and they’re done. Maybe they’re not entirely convinced, but there’s that nagging “Well, yeah” lurking at the back of their thoughts that they either have to surgically remove, or they walk around with a shadow of well-earned doubt.

Intellectually speaking, they get stuck by the side of the road in a nice residential neighborhood, where they can trudge through the snow to their neighbor who’ll offer them a hot cocoa while they wait for the tow truck to arrive.

Ah, but a smart person can justify any damned fool idea they please! When a friend brings out the obvious counterargument for their silly concept, the smart person takes it as a challenge – “How can I prove this other guy wrong?”

And if they’re really clever, they find some superficial flaw in the counterargument and sink their hooks into that. They’ll absolutely wreck that flaw, convincing themselves that someone’s bad grammar or slightly misstated fact disproves the Death Star-sized mass of common sense behind it, and then move on to increasingly elaborate justifications to prove…

Well, anything you want.

See, when you’re really smart, you can treat the world like science fiction: there’s literally no fact you can’t devise a reasonable-sounding rationale for. Get smart enough, and you can argue the smartest, most correct people to a standstill.

That’s why you see very smart people flinging out thousands of words on how it was Martians that killed JFK, or how the Illuminati cover up the truth of the Hollow Earth. They’re so SUV Smart that nobody can contradict them.

Conspiracy nuts are obvious. Unfortunately, most SUV Smart people start small and stay small – they convince themselves that they’re compassionate people when they’re screwing over all their friends, or they’ve convinced themselves that their lucky breaks are proof that everyone who works hard gets rewarded with success.

And when they are presented with new facts, they don’t even realize it, but they treat the new fact like a game: How can I best defend my thesis? Which turns into a rousing round of “How can I spin this contradictory evidence to support my world view?” when what they should be doing is questioning their central premises.

But they don’t. Because being right is a heroin-like reward for SUV Smart people. They like being smart, and convincing other people is the needle in the vein.

And here’s the thing that SUV Smart people often don’t realize until it’s too late: You can win an argument that the airplane’s methodology for sensing solid terrain is deeply flawed at this height in this weather, but that does not move the mountain in front of you.

That snow is gonna getcha eventually.

And you see SUV Smart people infesting comments threads everywhere. They’re the folks with dazzling arguments bolstering amazingly stupid concepts, hauling out Wikipedia links or logical flourishes to justify their comments.

SUV Smart people often lead pretty wretched lives. Some are staggeringly wealthy, yet have five divorces and no close friends. Yet they hold up their wealth as proof that they’re good at everything they do. Others are staggeringly poor, living in their friends’ basement, yet their crappy circumstances are dismissed because that’s not relevant to this argument.

If you’re catching on by now the SUV Smart person can take anything in their life and spin it, well, you’re seeing the problem. They’re deep in a snowdrift somewhere, about to get mired, and they don’t see it because the mighty engine of their intellect has gotten them far into the woods and it’ll always get them farther.

All they have to do is step on the gas harder.

If you’re not an SUV person, the best defense I can give you is to remember that “Smartness” is not a universal talent – you’re smart in certain areas. I’m a programmer, but you wouldn’t want me doing brain surgery.

Yet SUV Smart people have a habit of claiming their smartness makes them good at everything they want to be good at. You gotta look at their record, then. If a smart writer claims to be good at predicting politics, go back and read their old essays – were they actually good at predicting politics, or did they predict badly and then justify their bad decisions?

And if you’re an SUV Smart person – I used to be, and on my worst days I still am – then you have to realize that convincing other people does not make you right. You can out-argue, outlast, and outwit all comers, but at the end of the day you’re not changing anything but minds.

It doesn’t matter how good you feel about driving into the woods on a snowstormed night, or how many people you have convinced that you can do this.

All that matters is how deep the snow is.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

I’m holding a party this November to commemorate my victory over my wife’s ex-husband. They were married for seventeen years – and on November 22nd, I’ll have been married to her for longer than he was.

And you know why I love my wife?

She doesn’t regret her first marriage.

She regrets a lot of the things that happened in the marriage – she wouldn’t have divorced him if there weren’t issues, natch. But at the time she met her husband, what she needed was stability to counteract the dysfunctionality of her broken family, and someone who matched her work ethic, and someone who was nicer than her family.

He was perfect for her when she was twenty.

But years later, when he wanted a stay-at-home, trophy wife who’d help advance his career and she wanted to be a little goofy and explore life, well, the fights started. And never stopped.

She’d become something different, and he hadn’t. And that divergence was heartbreaking, but it happens.

And when she went to the Catholic Church to have the marriage annulled, they told her that she would have to claim the marriage “was never a valid relationship.” And she refused. She’d had two strong, smart children with him. She’d had a lot of good times. He’d been good for her in a lot of ways.

To this day, she’s still not remarried in the Church. She left that behind rather than telling people her marriage had never been good.

It just… wasn’t good now.

And yeah. There are abusive relationships and dysfunctional mismatches and all sorts of breakups that happened because two people were never meant to be with each other and probably shouldn’t have tried. I don’t deny those.

But there’s also relationships where people were good for each other at the start, nourishing each other to grow. But the problem with growth is that you can’t always control where it goes, and sometimes all that love poured into each other has you discovering different things about each other.

You become transformed into someone else. And that new person – or people – aren’t healthy for each other any more.

Which sounds terrifying, and on some levels it is. People aren’t robots you can program, and sometimes you help someone to take flight and they discover they need more sky than you can offer.

Yet I think you can control that growth to some extent by showing an interest in what your partner does – you don’t have to fling yourself hip-deep into their every new passion, but listen when they talk. Be attentive, keep your insecurities reasonable, and make their new hobby – be that kink, or quilting, or football – something that they can come to you and feel good about sharing at the end of the day.

Too many people shrug off new interests with “I don’t care about that, let them do what they want.” The more you can keep yourself organically entwined in all the aspects of their lives, the more likely it is that that growth will continue to include you even if you’re not a part of the Kinky Quilters’ Football League.

Me? I’ve got lots of ex-girlfriends. Some of them were just bad for me. Yet others, well, it didn’t end well – but like my wife, I can’t say the relationship wasn’t valid. They helped me to become someone newer, and better, and ill-suited for what they could offer then – or I helped them to learn something that made them realize that I couldn’t get them to the next level.

Painful? Yep.

Discouraging? You betcha.

“Never valid”?

Not in a thousand years.

(Inspired by a post by @Brittunculi over on FetLife: Breakups Are Often The Gift We Never Knew We Needed.)

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

Hey, San Franciscoans!  I’ll be doing a reading at Borderlands Books this Saturday  – and as always, when I arrive, I bring donuts.  For donuts represent all that is good and compassionate in my ‘Mancer series.

The question is, “Where are San Francisco’s best donuts?”

And here, my friends, I must speak an unfortunate truth to power:

Keep your hipster donuts in your pockets.

Under most circumstances, I have no quarrel with hipsters.  Hipster ice cream?  The best.  (Try Jeni’s in Columbus, with their Intelligentsia Black Cat Espresso and their Rieseling Poached Pear Sorbet – as hipstery as you can get.)  Hipster booze?  Delicious.   Hipsters have filled my belly full on many delectable occasions.

But hipster donuts, God, what the fuck do you think you’re doing, hipsters?

Every time I’ve been to a city, I hear people going, “Hey, try these donuts, they’re artisanal.”  And I don’t know why artisanal, when translated to donuts, means “Tastes like floor sweepings at the eraser factory,” but fuck that noise.  I had hipster donuts in Boston, and they were dry and had too-bitter chocolate.  I had hipster donuts in Portland – not Voodoo, let us not talk of Voodoo donuts, which are perfection – and I might have well bitten into sawdust-flaked corkboard.

And when people who recommend these donuts to me go, “I don’t normally like donuts, but these donuts are good,” well, I say this with all kindness.  But the most wretched recommendations I’ve ever gotten have been “Well, I don’t generally like horror movies, but I liked this one horror movie” or “I generally don’t like punk, but I love this punk music,” and you know why they liked that punk horror movie?

Because it wasn’t actually punk horror.

Look.  I too have my “generally don’t like The Thing, but I loved this”es.  You know who I recommend those thises to?

Other people who also don’t like The Thing.

If I have a friend who loves The Thing, I assume that I’m not fit to recommend anything to them.  I don’t like romance novels!  So when I stumble upon a romance novel I enjoy, I’m usually better off assuming that it contains none of the things that romance readers love, and that the factors I enjoy about it have nothing to do with why humans love romance novels, and that in fact what I am enjoying is the opposite of a romance novel.

As a rule, if you don’t generally like A Thing but love this one exception, don’t recommend it whole-heartedly to people who do like The Thing.  Because let’s be honest: not all recommendations are equal.

Anyway.  The point is, I’m coming to San Francisco to promote my new novel, which is out, and I love both my novel and donuts.  And I want donuts made by people who make good old-fashioned, gooey, ridiculously nutty donuts made for ordinary joes who love donuts.  I don’t mind fancy flavors, but you can’t try to disguise your crappy donutteration under a sedimentary layer of hickory-smoked bourbon aniseed.

No.  Ya gotta do the basics right, and then build.

So.  San Francisco.  I wanna buy you good donuts, and I’ll be delivering them to Borderlands Books this Saturday.

Where do I go to get my donuts?

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

I’m exhausted, is what it is.

I counted the hours, and I spent 32 hours in a single week putting the finishing touches on my novel Savor Station. (No, it’s not sold.  That was just to see if my agent could get it into shape to sell it quickly.)  I pushed myself hard to get that done by September, and then Angry Robot said, “Hey, I know you had Labor Day weekend planned to relax, but Boston would like you to do a signing, can you go?”

Cue twenty-four hours of driving over a weekend.  And too little sleep as I talked with delightful people.  And then a release party on Tuesday.

Normally I bounce back from these things, but this strain of exhaustion is strangely sticky.  Those of you who know my “write every day” habits will be shocked to learn that I’ve only written about 1,000 words over the last two weeks. And I have a story I want to write!  It’s just that losing myself in Deus Ex seems a lot better.

(Though I’m not sure whether I’m playing Deus Ex properly, as I have 8 surplus Praxis points and I have no idea how to spend them.  Once I’ve maxed out the Invisibility Cloak and the hacking modules, I have yet to find a challenge so big I can’t sneak past it.  Anyway.)

So I need to write a summary of Savor Station, and I need to write essays for the Fix Blog Tour, and I need to get back to various people who have been kind to me, and I need to figure out who wants to do lunch when I’m in San Francisco, and Portland, and Seattle, and San Diego.  I should probably even reserve hotels.  But I am so burnt out right now that decisions are anathema to me, and so I’m checking Twitter too much and trying to force my brainfogged programmer-person to crank out needed code.

So.  If I seem distant lately, it’s that I’m exhausted.  If you feel like it, send pets and cuddles.  Or just keep your distance until I perk up again.  This too shall pass; I have a weekend planned showing Steven Universe to a friend, and hopefully that’ll get me enough recuperation to launch into the four dates of the book tour.

(I am very excited about the book tour.  I get to see you guys.  That’s always awesome.)

But Fix seems to be getting good reviews from the people who liked the series, saying it’s a really solid finale.  Which is a nice reward, given that Fix is the most difficult book I’ve ever written – the ending got torn up and redone not once, but twice.  So to have all of that effort come to fruition is nice; I didn’t want to leave a sour taste in people’s mouths.

But here I am.  Breathing.  Eating.  Not responding to emails.

Doesn’t mean I don’t love you.  Just means I’m turtling.  Bear with me if you can, but you’re not obliged to.

 

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

As you’ll no doubt recall, my favorite review of all time is, was, and will always be from my goddaughter Carolyn, who said:

“I would recommend this book to people ages 15+ because f*** is in the book on almost every page.”

Further investigation turned up that Flex contained the word “fuck” 95 times,  or roughly once every three pages.  (Most of that is from Valentine. She swears a lot.)

People then demanded to know how many fucks were in The Flux (a phrase I still find distinctly satisfying) – and we discovered that it contained 101 fucks.  Which seemed superior, honestly – a 6.3% improvement in fucks! – but The Flux was also a longer book, and so once again we had about one fuck every three pages.

So.  What about Fix, the final book in the series?

Fix has an astonishing 128 fucks!  That’s because things are getting bad enough that Paul and Imani are now swearing, too!

But what about the all-important ratio, you ask?  Have I kept Fix to the quality of Flex and The Flux, delivering a solid “fuck” about once every three pages?

….it’s close.

Because Fix is longer, we now have:

One fuck every 3.625 pages.

Alas, I could do the cowardly thing of rounding down – but honestly?  I’d have to say that Fix has one “fuck” every four pages, approximately, though if you wanna tilt your head it could be three. Ish.

If you were tuning in solely for the illicit thrill of having someone rattle off a “fuck” every three pages, well, I’ve let you down.  But on the other hand, if you were buying the book to see how Unimancy works, or to watch what happens when Aliyah finds her own special magic, or to see what happens as Valentine figures out how to have a stable relationship (or, you know, not), then buy it now!  (People are calling it “the perfect end to the best series of books I’ve ever read.“)

But for the rest of you, there’s still plenty of fucks there.  Just… not as many.

I’m sorry.

 

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

Hey, my novel Fix is out today!  You can all now all begin hating me for the horrible things I do to characters you have come to love!  Here’s all the wonderful places you can buy the final book in the ‘Mancer series:

North American Print & Ebook
Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | BarnesandNoble.com | IndieBound.org

UK Print & Ebook
Amazon.co.uk | Book Depository | Waterstones | WHSmith

Global DRM-Free Epub & Mobi Ebook
The Robot Trading Company

But that’s irrelevant, believe it or not!  I figure if you’re interested in buying the sucker and you read this blog, you already have decided to buy Fix (or not!) by now.  So let’s talk about what you can do to help an author’s book, if you’re so inclined:

1. Talking About The Book To Your Friends Helps.  
One notable couple loved Flex so much, they bought copies of Flex for all their friends at Christmas.  You do not have to go this far.  But still, the fundamental truth of books is that publishers can pour millions of dollars into ads and endcap buys, and every book’s success comes down to one conversation:

“Hey, did you read Ferrett’s book?  It’s pretty good.”

Without that conversation, books die.  Which is why I talk about books I love on Twitter and my blog – partially it’s just that I tend to squee about things I adore, but it’s also that discussing books helps them.

Which leads me to my next point…

2. Mentioning The Book On Social Media Helps.  
I woke this morning to lots of wonderful people who’d mentioned how excited they were that Fix was out.  And thank every one of you who did that.  Mentioning it on your Twitter or Facebook or Instasnap or Kik or Pokemon Go or whatever you crazy kids are using these days to talk?  It helps people be aware the book exists.  And in a cold callous universe packed tight with entertaining books, anything you do to shine the spotlight on a specific book helps.

3. Writing Reviews Of The Book Helps.  
Even if they’re tiny reviews like “I liked it, four stars,” putting information into Big Data’s hopper helps the massive computers feel better about recommending that book to other people.  Amazon’s far more likely to display and/or promote a book if it has lots of reviews behind it.  Publishers notice the number of reviews.

So review a book from an author you’d like to support, even if you don’t like it.  It’s far better for authors to have lots of honest reviews – that allows their recommendation engines to know who not to recommend the book to.  And honestly?  I don’t want people to buy any book they’re unlikely to enjoy.

(Though, you know, I hope you do enjoy it!)

4.  Seeing The Author When They Come To Town Helps.  
Remember, I’m doing another crazy book tour, hitting up Cleveland (obvs), San Francisco, San Diego, Portland, and Seattle.  Showing up at the book store helps pump the book store’s sales, convinces local booksellers I might be worth reading, and helps an author feel like Not A Loser.

Thanks, Boston!

I mean, look at all these wonderful people who showed up in Boston!  THANK YOU, PEOPLE!

And yes.  My book is out today.  But always remember that these steps are comparatively trivial bits you can do to help out any author you’d like to support.  Write reviews, talk about them, see the author when they’re around.  That helps anyone in publishing, and publishing is hard, yo.

Anyway.  I’m going to delve into work today and emerge at my Cleveland release party.  Some of you will be reading what happens to Paul, Valentine, Aliyah, and the rest in Fix.

I hope y’all love the ending as much as I do.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

So I’m doing a signing in Boston this weekend – and when Ferrett does a signing for the ‘Mancer books, Ferrett brings the best donuts in town.*

The question is, “Where are the best donuts in Boston?”

As y’all know, donuts are central to the plot of my books Flex, The Flux, and Fix.  (In Fix, donuts wind up saving a man’s life.)  Donuts are the sign of goodness and humanity, and as such I figure any signing I attend should bring you the best of humanity.

But what is the best?  Gimme the best donuts within a reasonable driving distance of Pandemonium Books, and I’ll bring ’em.  I’ve heard Kane’s is awesome, with some mild debate as to Union Square donuts… but you Bostoners should give me the skinny. Lemme know.

(Also, I’ll be doing signings in San Francisco, San Diego, Portland, and Seattle, so if you wanna tell me the best donuts in those towns, I’ll listen.  Except if you live in Portland.  I’ve been to Portland, and there is only ooey gooey Voodoo Donuts.)

* – Except at his signing in Cleveland, where Ferrett will be bringing the best donut-themed cupcakes in town.  Trust me, Great Scott Bakery is where it’s at.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

So.  Let’s discuss a complex topic here.

Anthony Weiner was sending out dick pics to semi-random women – again – and got caught – again.  And I have  friends tearing their hair out, asking, “WHY WAS HE SENDING OUT DICK PICS AFTER HE GOT CAUGHT THE LAST TIME?  WHAT KIND OF IDIOT IS HE?”

And my take is simple:

It probably worked for him a lot.

Which is a scary thought.  But that’s generally how I look at things: Nine times out of ten, the answer to How could they possibly think they’d get away with it? is a flat-affect Because they were getting away with it.

I suspect that much of the time, he’s sent dick pics to women who he has correctly assessed desire dick pics, and as creepy as you may (or may not) find this, I assume that a significant portion of the time he’s gotten a lively exchange of naughty photos and/or sexts.

Which, I should add, a lot of people do.

I am firmly against the unwanted dick pic. But there are plenty of women who, once they are suitably inclined towards the dick’s owner, like getting dick shots as part of a lively sexual exchange.  There’s nothing wrong with dick pics per se – it’s when they’re blasted out like spam, or offered as an introductory semen-smeared handshake, that things go awry.

(I am also firmly against cheating on your wife – and yes, I do believe that outside cybersex in a monogamous relationship is cheating.  But then we venture into that unknown territory of “What sort of relationship did they really have, based on the fact that having consensual non-monogamous relationships will get you kicked out of public office?” and the answer to that is, “I don’t know, and I sure hope they had some sort of agreement that this was okay as long as he didn’t get caught – but regardless, if his wife wants to stay in politics she’s got to ditch that zero.”)

(And I’m not okay with any women who may have cybersexed with Weiner, knowing he was married and not knowing the state of their relationship.  Uncool, theoretically-existing women.  Uncool.)

But anyway.  People are treating Anthony Weiner like he’s a total moron, whereas I suspect it’s a case of “He’s done this successfully for years, and gotten much of what he wanted until the moment it didn’t work for him.”  As someone who spends a lot of time in kink communities, I can tell you that when you enter voluntarily into a scene, confidentiality is often ensured in a mutual hostage situation – yes, she has your naughty pics, but you also have some compromising photos of her, so let’s both agree to keep this on the down-low.

(In much the same way that I have a lawyer friend who panicked when she ran into one of her town judges at her dungeon.  She was like, “Oh, my God, he saw me!”  And I told her, “Yeah, but you saw him.  He won’t say a thing.”  And lo, he didn’t.)

So I doubt it’s a ratio of one dick-shot, one national exposure – he probably had multiple cases that worked out fine for him until that awkward moment.  Either he assessed who wanted The Pictures correctly…

…Or, yes, had sexually harassed women who just didn’t feel like making headlines as the latest woman to receive the Weiner treatment.  Which, sadly, is probably also defined as “working out fine for him.”  I stress the “for him” aspect because when you’re a Weiner, one suspects that “getting away with stuff” is enough.  This is not the moral behavior I’d espouse, as – as mentioned – you should never ever send any sort of intimate shots to someone who is not an enthusiastic recipient.

I am merely discussing things from a Weinerian risk/reward perspective – that “How could he think he could get away with this?”  I’m not saying it’s a good look no matter how you frame it, because frankly, even if it’s been entirely consensual except for the women we know about, there’s a) still those women we know about, and b) risking your wife’s career to get your rocks off is an, er, dick move .

Yet this all begs the question: were I a national politician who’d be humiliated if I got caught sending dick pics again, would I keep it in my pants?  Oh hell yes.  If I unbuckled said pants, would I send my depictions of Little Elvis to a goddamned Trump supporter?  Oh fuck no.  Would I vet my potential penisees thoroughly to ensure that the photos were desired?  Man, I would vet them like they were potential vice-presidential running mates.

Would I go in the bathroom to take these shots?  Yeah, come on, dude.  Privacy.

I’m not saying this was smart behavior, or laudable behavior.  I’m merely saying that I don’t think it was devoid of reward until now.  I think that like most people in the public eye, he got away with a lot more shit than people dream of.

It’s probably easier to get away with things than you’d think.  That’s not a comforting thought.  But it is what I believe.

(But seriously, man.  If you’re gonna take your dick shot?  Framing.  Leave the pets out of it, clean the house a little, turn off those “Everybody Loves Raymond” reruns in the background.  Let your dick be the centerpiece.  Otherwise, at the very least it’s declasse, and honestly, DON’T CYBER WITH YOUR BABY IN THE GODDAMNED ROOM.  EVER.  EVEEEEER.)

 

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

So here’s some books I’d recommend, along with the thing that’s stuck with me months after reading them:

N.K. Jemesin’s The Fifth Season – Clearly Explaining The Unknown
Here’s a thing I didn’t realize was hard about writing until I saw N.K. Jemesin doing it effortlessly:

Explaining what’s happening without explaining why.

If I tell you “A guy is shooting at us from far away,” well, you understand both what and why.  You understand that a gun is designed to kill people with super-fast projectiles, you understand that it’s fired only when someone’s trying to kill you, you understand that this is deadly force.

That’s the “Why.”

Now surgically remove all of those elements to leave you in the dark about what a gun is, leaving you only the “what.”  You hear loud noises.  People are dying, maybe with little puffs of blood coming out of them, but you don’t know what bullets are and those fuckers are moving too fast for you to see.  You aren’t even aware that bullets come from a set direction unless you’re really good at intuiting on the fly, or maybe you see a flash from that window and connect the dots –

But the sequence of events is much more likely to confuse you.  You get that people are dying.  But explaining exactly what is going on without providing greater context is hard – and it gets harder later on when you have a character who can explain how this “gun” works and your mind snaps into context and goes, “Oh, okay, a gun, now all that made sense.”

You don’t see a lot of magic described in fiction without the why, because without a why lots of mundane things become impossible to describe, let alone crazy magic systems.  A guy’s mowing my lawn as we speak, and I envision writing a scene where a dude with a low-set deathblade machine methodically uses it to truncate certain forms of vegetation, and Jesus that’s going to leave a lot of people confused unless I explain why he’s doing that.

Jemesin is a goddamned expert on writing magic where you understand exactly what is going on, but don’t have the faintest clue why things are working that way.  You’re never more confused than you need to be.  You understand the results but not the reasons, which makes it so incredibly satisfying when the reasons come along later on and they all make sense and you get a sense of this stupendously deep magic system that keeps going, and going, and going.

It won the Hugo.  It deserved to.

Charlie Jane Anders’ All The Birds In The Sky – Endless Possibilities
All the Birds in the Sky can be described as “quirky.”  If you’re looking for a book with a finely-tuned plot, don’t bother – this is a book that meanders, taking long strolls down interesting paths, sometimes hand-waving the parts that aren’t as much fun to delve back into the weird stuff.

I absolutely love that tone.  I love the way this book doesn’t care about anything except what it thinks is cool.

Basically, All the Birds in the Sky follows two kids – one of whom grows up to become a great nature-witch working for a worldwide conspiracy, the other who becomes a techno-savant in a Silicon Valley world-changing tech corp – and both halves of that equation are unpredictable and unlike what you’ve seen in books before.

But it’s the side-trips I like.  Charlie Jane allows us to get snagged on these weird side characters with their own crazy histories, these little asides that flesh out the world.  A lesser book would have zoomed in on these two (compelling!) competing people, but by pulling out and allowing the rest of the world to take center stage from time to time what you get is this feeling of a world with limitless potential.

A lot of books feel like a Disney Park theme ride – everything happens within full view of you, and when you get off the ride you’ve seen all there is to offer.  Whereas All The Birds In The Sky makes me want to hop off that Disney ride because we just passed another ride, and that one looks so interesting too, but oh we only get a glimpse of it before riding into the distance.

I had the exact same feeling that I did when I read Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell in that I would have been perfectly happy if this book had chosen never to end, and just kept following these awesome people around so I could hang with them.  The ending’s disappointing, but largely that’s because I didn’t particularly want it to finish, so I can hardly blame Charlie Jane for that.

Scott Hawkins’ Library At Mount Char – Tender, Loving Brutality
Picture a school like Hogwarts, instead of being run by a loving Dumbledore, it’s run by God.

Like, the guy who is in charge of the universe.  He didn’t create the universe.  You think.  But he is in absolute control of it, and he’s trying to teach you how to be his acolytes with the casually world-bending power that wizards have, and the only way he can do that is by showing you all the terrors of the universe.

You are at his whim.  There is nothing you can do.  He is God.  And yet he is gifting you with such extraordinary powers, even though he killed your mother and father and took you on-board and you strongly suspect he reorganized time in order to ensure you wound up right where he needed you so you were at your most vulnerable.

It’s a hell of a school.  You learn a lot.

But oh, how it costs.

And the thing is, I loved Library at Mount Char because this sounds brutal, and the book is even more brutal than that, with these psychologically scarred kids being put through a wringer and the world being battered at the hands of a guy who actually is more powerful than you’d dream.  (Like, death won’t save you from him – he’ll just go get you back, and he’s teaching you how to do that too.)

But peel away that very thick rind of horror, and underneath is one of the most compassionate books I have ever read.  I’ve never before read a book where buckets of blood is literally tame compared to what the headmaster does, and yet the characters come to such beautiful realizations that reader, I wept.

It’s a gorgeous balance – this book’s tender moments wouldn’t function without the alien coldness of the universe Scott Hawkins created, because the strange kindnesses that form when you’re smashed down that thoroughly become so meaningful.

And that ending.  Oh, I won’t spoil it for you.

But that ending.

 

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

So my book Fix is out precisely seven days from now.  If you love the ‘Mancer family, this will be the most harrowing adventure yet.  Because when my publisher Angry Robot asked me if I could write a trilogy, I knew there’d be three stories you can tell about a family:

  • Flex is about a family coming together – Paul meeting Valentine meeting Aliyah.
  • The Flux was about someone malicious trying to split that family up for their own ends.
  • Fix is about what happens when someone altruistic tries to split the family up for the good of the world.

Y’all wanted to see what’s happening in Europe – and when you see how horribly the world is fragmenting in Bastogne, you’ll understand why the Unimancers are hellbent on brainwashing every ‘mancer they can get their hands on.  A recent review said that “{Fix} has the feeling of a series that is growing up, in much the same way that Lord of the Rings started with birthday parties and fireworks but then led to war, this series started out with fun and references but then took us down the road of consequences.”

And I promise you, there is fun and family and donuts – but there’s also what happens when good people get pushed to their far ends.  For every one of you who wrote to me to say, “Paul is too passive in The Flux!  He needs to get out there and protect his daughter!”, I will say to you:

Be careful what you wish for.

Anyway, it’s for sale in a week.  As always, preorders help authors, so if you wanna order it now, yeah, that’d be great.

And I will be in Boston this weekend, which I will remind you of once more on Friday and then fall silent, because I suspect a lot of people in Boston don’t know I’m coming this Sunday because a) it was a late addition and b) it’s Labor Day Weekend.  But I will be driving many miles to see you all!  I’ll bring donuts!

And of course, there’s always the Cleveland release party.  And the whole West Coast tour.  But regardless, books are out, I’m exhausted after spending thirty hours (yes, thirty goddamned hours) last week polishing up my new book so it can go out on submission before the 2016 holiday rush starts, and I hope y’all like what I did.

Now I’m gonna collapse and send love to all of you.  It’s what I do.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

So there’s been a lot of talk lately about whether Donald Trump is actually crazy – the specific form of mental disorder varies depending on who’s talking, whether it’s narcissism or senility or sociopathy or what-have-you.  But basically, it all comes down to the fact that Donald keeps saying dumb things that torpedo his campaign, and is speaking in increasingly loopy and erratic sentences.

Maybe he’s not fit to be President.

And I have such, such mixed feelings on this.

To start,  I hate armchair diagnoses.  Trying to determine what Trump’s mental health is through the lens of the media is never going to be accurate – and, in fact, seems to be an accumulation of biases.   (Just as the right-wing Hillary armchair diagnoses of bad health is largely an eruption of Hillary hate.)  I despise Trump, and I find him to say monstrously stupid things, but trying to determine his actual state of mind from this obscured distance in the furor of a media campaign is a mug’s game.

Then there’s that ugly conflation going on – many people see Trump as dangerous, and their go-to is “Dangerous people are all mentally ill!”  Which is something you see all the time with shooters – if some mass murderer has been to a psychologist, you betcher ass it’s going to show up as an explanation sometime, because to a frightening number of people, “Dangerous” means “mentally ill.”

Which is partially a lack of distinction.  There are types of mental illness that make people a hazard to other people.  But part of the issue is that we throw any deviation from the norm into one big bucket that says “crazy,” and then label that bucket as “dangerous people.”  I know lots of people who suffer from depression and bipolar diseases who don’t harm anyone but themselves.  In fact, it’s probably more likely that these mentally ill people will be harmed than they’ll harm, as people with severe issues often fall into abusive relationships with people who use their insecurities against them.

So what I feel is going on here is that people can’t possibly imagine Trump doing and saying all these horrible things unless he’s mentally defective on some level.  Which, you know, maybe?  The issue is what you consider to be “mentally ill.”  A frightening number of serial killers are lucid, in-touch and control enough to know how to give answers that manipulate both press and psychologists; the only thing that really separates them from normal people is that they, you know, kill innocent humans.  Maybe that’s insanity.

But that route’s kinda slippery, because I’m not sure “evil” is the same as “insane.”  It feels uncomfortably to me like we’re going the old homosexuality route, where we look at someone who has different preferences than we do and labelling them insane.  Homosexuals and trans folk were – and are, in many circles – considered to be mentally ill just because they don’t want what most people want.  You could say that someone who doesn’t want a single-payer health plan has no empathy and therefore has a mental illness.  Eventually, that definition swells to “anyone whose brain doesn’t come to the conclusions that I have arrived at is insane.”

Which I’m not a fan of.  I’m the guy who’d look at some people and say, “Yeah, they’ve got it all together, except they’ve decided eating human beings is a legit call.”  We can lock away criminals without smearing them all with a loose diagnosis of mental illness – some people have different moralities but aren’t handicapped by mental drawbacks, which means, yes, we need to jail some sane people for doing shitty things.

But not every burglar is insane.  Some people are just dicks.

Yet in this whole “Let’s not tar the mentally ill with Trump” issue, one of the things that I dislike is the way people imply that we can’t ask whether Trump’s potential mental illnesses would interfere with his job.  And some arguments I’ve seen seem based in the idea that mentally ill people are good, functioning people and you shouldn’t ask questions like “Can a mentally ill person be President?” because it hurts the mentally ill.

Which I also dislike, because it seems to erase the idea that a mental illness is actually a drawback.

Look.  I would be a shitty President, because of my mental illness.  I break down under the wrong kinds of stress.  I sometimes retreat for days, not wanting to talk to anyone.  I need drugs to handle my anxiety for events that are out of my control – which, you know, is pretty much what being a President is.

I don’t believe in stigmatizing mental illnesses, but I also dislike the counterpush to imply that all people with mental illnesses function well.   No.  It’s a drawback, and if you can not have a mental illness, I’d highly recommend it.  If I had a way to get rid of this depression, I would.

Which is not to say that every person who has mental illness is unfit to be President.  Abraham Lincoln infamously suffered from severe depression – and that’s an armchair diagnosis I feel can be made fairly in retrospect, as his moods were well-documented – and he was a great President.  He kept it together despite his depression to be what I’d argue is America’s best President ever, a true hero for those of us whose brains betray us.

Yet on the other hand, we have Ronald Reagan.  And people didn’t want to discuss Ronnie’s senility during the election, because you can’t accuse an old man of being senile, that’s rude – yet going back through the history books, you’ll see that Reagan became increasingly forgetful, masking his incompetence with humor, drifting away from the Presidency to leave America as a pitched battle between his three advisors.

Maybe he didn’t have senile dementia back then, but his bad memory was an issue that affected all of us.

So I think it’s relevant to ask whether a Presidential candidate is mentally fit to do the job.  That’s appropriate.  A President has to be smart and alert, and if they can’t perform to the duties of the office, they shouldn’t be elected.

But I wish we could do it without framing it so poorly.  Donald Trump doesn’t have to be mentally ill to be unfit for office – there’s also plenty of people who are sane by all diagnoses whose temperament or work ethic make them a poor choice.

You don’t have to diagnose Donald to find him unfit.  The reasons why he constantly contradicts himself are opaque to us in the churn of the moment- but what matters is that he does contradict himself, and if that worries you, then don’t vote for him.  We don’t have to assign his increasingly meandering and incoherent sentences to a specific attribute – we can simply say, “I don’t want someone who does things like that in office.”   If he constantly hurts people, we don’t have to claim he’s a sociopath, we can just point out that a President shouldn’t have a vast history of stiffing the people who work for him.

And yes, that applies to Hillary too.  You can have valid reasons to believe someone unfit for what is a monumental task; you can also do that without branding them with names that are both inaccurate and unnecessarily target other people who share those illnesses.

And that’s all.

 

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

Because I’d wanted to hit at least one town on the East Coast for the Mighty Fix Book Tour, Angry Robot slotted me in a last-minute signing on Labor Day Weekend.

So if you’d like to see me in New England, well, here’s your chance:

BOSTON!
Sunday, September 4th
Pandemonium Books and Games, , 2:00 pm.
4 Pleasant Street, Cambridge, MA

As usual, I have no idea who lives in Boston – so if you could do me a solid and invite whoever you know is local through the Facebook event, that’d be awesome.  I also don’t know where the hell I’m crashing in Boston on Saturday/Sunday, so if anyone has any free space they can spare that has an actual bed-like thing, that would be Teh Coolness.

And don’t forget the other tour dates, which I am hoping to show up and see your actual faces in!  As usual, I will have donuts, and a Dramatic Reading, and I will go out afterwards to hang out with people ’cause that is how I roll.

CLEVELAND! 
Tuesday, September 6th.
Loganberry Books, 7:00 pm.
13015 Larchmere Blvd, Shaker Heights, OH 44120-1147, United States

SAN FRANCISCO!
Saturday, September 17th.
Borderlands Books, 3 p.m.
866 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110-1739, United States

SAN DIEGO!
Friday, September 23rd.
Mysterious Galaxy, 7:30 p.m.
5943 Balboa Ave Suite 100 San Diego, CA 92111
(With special co-reader J. Patrick Black, author of Ninth City Burning!)

PORTLAND!
Tuesday, September 27th.
Powell’s Books, 7 p.m.
3415 sw cedar hills blvd / beaverton, or 97005
(With special co-reader K.C. Alexander, author of cyberpunk thriller Necrotech!)

SEATTLE!
Thursday, September 29th.
University Of Washington Bookstore, 7 p.m.
4326 University Way NE, Seattle, Washington 98105

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

1) So I had a helluva time at WorldCon, hanging out with tons of people I adore and waving at many many more of them as they passed by in the hallways.  My social anxiety was on low flutter, so mostly I just chatted with people and collected the astoundingly good Pokemon-hunting that Kansas City has to offer.

That said….

2)  While I otherwise loved Pat Cadigan as the host, I cringed every time she (or anyone else) mispronounced – or did not know how to pronounce – someone’s name on stage.  As someone with a funny name, I may be hypersensitive to getting names right.  But in many cases, particularly for people who couldn’t make the convention to attend the George RR Martin afterparty, hearing their name spoken on stage may be the high-water mark of the nomination – that final flash of hope before the winner is announced.

Having that moment be a botch is something that shouldn’t happen.

Yet it did.

Multiple times.

I don’t think it’s too much to ask that the Hugos have phonetic pronunciations of the people’s names printed on the readouts – and if they were, I don’t think it should be too much to ask of the hosts to get them to practice it until they’ve gotten it right.  The Hugo ceremony is usually a fairly informal affair, and I get that, but we should afford the nominees the dignity of getting their name spoken correctly in their moment upon a very large stage.

3)  You might think I’d complain about the Dave Truesdale Dumpster Fire Panel.  (Read the link for details, but the short version is that on a very prestigious panel filled with the best fiction editors SF has to offer, a whacky moderator started with a ten-minute rant on how PC sensitivity was destroying the field – and, ten minutes later, not only had he not introduced his fellow panelists, but he had brought out a box of fake pearl necklaces for people to clutch if they needed to.)

I wouldn’t complain.  That panel was a magnificent icebreaker.  200 people were in attendance, and throughout the night I heard at least twenty of them giving their accounts of the horror.  If you didn’t know what to say to someone, utter the mystic words “Hey, what happened with that panel?” and bam!  Conversation a-go-go.

Dave Truesdale wanted to get people talking.  He did!  Admittedly, it was mostly about what an idiot Dave Truesdale was – but we sure talked!

(Disclaimer: I don’t mind Dave Truesdale going off on his particular brand of wrongness.  I myself have started out moderating panels by starting with an unpopular opinion to get discussions flowing.  But I expressed that opinion in under sixty seconds, and I started by introducing my fellow panelists.  There’s a distinct difference between showing up to start a dialogue and showing up to inflict a monologue – and props like that are part of a monologue designed to alienate.)

4)  Let’s be honest: If I ever got an invite to the Hugo Losers’ Party, I’d go.

But I didn’t, and that party kinda felt like The Room Where It Happens.

I get that the Hugo nominees should have an awesome time afterwards, and I support that!  But though I had a great time barconning and SFWA suite-ing it, I kept seeing people checking their texts – someone had snuck into the Losers’ Party!  Someone said that it had been opened to the general public!  No, wait, that wasn’t it.  Did you know who got in as a plus-one with who?  Someone said…

And I kept seeing people low-grade thinking, “Well, how do I get in there?”  Which felt a bit alienating.  And I wanted to see some of the Hugo nominees and winners to congratulate them, and if they did leave the party they were nowhere to be found.

…which could also be this WorldCon’s weird “room party” issue, which mandated that room parties be held at the convention.  I didn’t hit any.  It was a mile away from the bar. So maybe that’s this WorldCon’s con-space, because the weird thing about conventions is how much the structure of the hotel and the convention space affects who you see at that convention.  (If there’s a bar in the middle of the hotel, then everyone washes up there; if not, a convention tends to be fragmented, with eddies of people catching up with each other in various places.  Do enough cons and you wind up critiquing hotels.)

But the last WorldCon I went to, I saw winners swanning around other parties, and I missed that.  And my (potentially erroneous) impression is that the Sad Puppies have had the unfortunate side effect of elevating the Alfies and the post-Hugo party to a much more exclusive event, and I was sad to not be able to congratulate all my friends and the people I admired in person.

Or maybe that’ll be different at the next WorldCon in Helsinki and I’ll see everyone and be proven wrong.  But for me, the awesomeness of any con is that I can be chatting with some random people, and oh, jeez, hello author of this book I loved, nice to meet you.  And anything that potentially waters down that stewpot experience saddens me.

We’ll see what happens at Helsinki.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

I meant to watch The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore.  I’d always liked him on the Daily Show – not loved him, but he always had some good insights and I respected him.  Then his show switched over, and…

I forgot.

Which happens.  I’m slow to put shows on my DVR.  Jon Oliver was on HBO for a solid year before I finally remembered, “Oh, yeah, I can add him.”  I adored Samantha Bee, having linked to her videos three times in my blog, and I still haven’t put her show on record.

But Larry?

He wasn’t viral.

Which is a weird thing to say, but that’s how it worked.  I’d have forgotten about Jon Oliver except that every other week he did some fifteen-minute segment that blew up my Twitter feed and had me saying to Gini, “Oh, you gotta watch this.”  I keep meaning to put Samantha Bee on my DVR because she keeps popping up from time to time when she goes viral, albeit with less frequency than Jon “One Shot, One Kill” Oliver.

I can’t remember a viral Larry Wilmore clip.

Oh, I can remember a number of Tumblr GIFsets going around wherein Larry said something appropriately snarky, but a GIFset is basically a one-liner – which is a good thing, but there’s a difference between a good one-liner and a full set.

Whenever Jon Oliver went viral, he had a solid eight minutes of show that told me, “Okay, when he’s on, he’s worth watching for eight straight minutes.”  When I saw Larry Wilmore going around, his GIFsets told me “When he’s on, he’s good for fifteen seconds of wry exasperation.”

So I never watched.

And now he’s cancelled.

Yet virally speaking, Larry’s got it way better than Noah Trevor, who is theoretically broadcasting but I’ve never seen a friend link to anything he’s ever done.  (I’m sure one of you has, calm your jets, but compared to Larry Wilmore?  Maybe one in a hundred, if that.)  Noah is like the least viral host I can remember.

I’ve never seen a new Daily Show, either.

Those two things are connected: Virality and me watching.

Now that Larry’s cancelled, I realize the bias of preferencing TV hosts who are good at getting snippets out to Twitter and Facebook.  Not every comedian can sum up things in a pithy five-minute video.  It’s entirely possible that Larry Wilmore was really great, and I didn’t watch simply because he didn’t have mastery of a viral medium; that doesn’t necessarily reflect quality.

(It’s also possible that my Twitter and Facebook are too white-skewed – but I get a lot of RTs from Black Twitter, and I didn’t see Larry popping up all that much.  Still, could be me.  Still, if it is me, that means there’s a good chance Larry wasn’t showing through to my segment of White Twitter.)

And, I think, Larry’s handicapped by being black.  Not in the sense you might think; Larry’s angriest moments that I’ve seen on the Daily Show and in the Twitter GIFsets tended to be more eye-rollingly peevish than actually furious.  And I think of the viral videos from Jon Oliver and Samantha Bee, and they were sputtering – but that anger’s often a white privilege, because white people can get angry and cutting and crude and not be tarred as the angry incoherent black man.  Just like Trump can scream and yell, whereas Obama has to be this cool, calculating man because if he loses his crap he’ll get dragged into a lot of stereotypes that will absolutely destroy his message with white America.

(Cue Key and Peele’s “Obama anger translator” routine.  And I watched Key and Peele because they went viral with clips like that, though Key and Peele could be angry through characters they played, not the news-host personality that theoretically reflected them.)

Yet, I think, anger is a major component of virality when it comes to comedy news.  That fury is something viewers react to. And maybe it’s that Larry and Noah express their rage in a much chiller fashion and that’s their personality, not their tone-shifting – but I try to imagine a black Lewis Black, raging and spluttering and calling people idiots, and I don’t see that guy climbing the ranks at Comedy Central.

But viral videos have become one of the things that determines ratings.  It’s the assurance that says, “Hey, this person’s consistently funny, you keep seeing them all around Twitter, don’t forget they’re still here.”  And I eventually remembered Jon Oliver, and I’m gonna throw Samantha Bee on the DVR after I finish this, but Larry Wilmore?

I won’t get the chance, now. ‘Cause I didn’t see you on Facebook enough.

Sorry, Larry.

(Though honestly, I’m hoping Jessica Williams gets her own show soon.  I wonder what her virality would be.)

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

So you wake up in the morning with a hangover, and a tattoo of Spongebob Squarepants farting on… you’re not sure who he’s farting on, actually. The tattoo is poorly enough done that you’re only certain it’s Spongebob because it says “SPANGBOB” in wavering letters above it.

Scratching the clots off your blood-sticky arm, you stagger off the couch. Your friend Micah’s there, his tattoo kit by the wayside. “What happened?” you ask.

“Wild night,” he grins. “You got hammered.”

“Obviously. Why do I have a tattoo?”

“Ah,” Micah says, shrugging it off like you’re making a joke. “You’ve been talking about getting a tattoo for months.”

“I’ve said I’ve been saving for a tattoo.”

“No need to pay! You know I need the practice. Been telling you that for months. I’ve been wanting to do it for free on that lovely forearm of yours, and last night you said ‘Eh, go ahead.'”

You’re doubtful of that. You don’t recall last night. It could be that maybe you thought that Farting Spangbob was a hoot, or maaaaybe that Micah decided to break out his newfound tattoo skills upon you when you couldn’t say no. You can’t say.

But now you’ve got a tattoo. And Micah hoping to do another later this afternoon.

————–

Now. This is obviously a “should you have sex with drunken people” metaphor, and particularly dim men will say “A tattoo isn’t the same as having sex with someone! Tattoos are permanent!” And before you say that, kindly ponder the fact that there’s people who’ve gotten HSV during drunken escapades, and there’s no laser removal for that.

(Not to mention that little risk called “pregnancy” if you’re of the female persuasion, which guys often forget about as when pondering the permanent consequences of sex. Which is a shame, as an unwanted pregnancy in a sex partner can affect a guy a hell of a lot as well.)

And this essay’s a bit of a mirror. Many people will look at it and conclude the lesson of this narrative is, “Well, the protagonist shouldn’t have gotten that drunk.”

But you know what the other lesson is?

Micah’s kind of a dick.

Micah did things of potentially permanent consequence to his buddy, fully aware that he might regret them come the next morning. Because we all know stories of people who’ve done things when they were hammered that they wouldn’t normally have done sober, and while one lesson that can be extracted is “You shouldn’t drink a lot,” the other lesson that should be extracted is, “If you’re interacting with someone who’s drunk, you shouldn’t take them at their word.”

This is well-known. Legal contracts have been voided because someone was drunk when they signed them. In many states, bartenders are legally obliged to cut customers off after a certain level of drunkenness because drunk people can’t make good decisions. In fact, reputable tattoo parlors won’t take drunk people at all because they don’t want the risk.

By sleeping with someone who’s drunk, you’re a disreputable tattoo parlor, which is to say you’re Micah.

Do you want to be Micah?

Again, this is a reflective lesson, because some folks will double down on the “The Protagonist was drunk, he deserves anything that’s coming to him,” all the while avoiding the independent issue of whether Micah should be doing things to drunk people that he’s well aware they might not want come the morning.

If we’re talking about “personal responsibility” and “the known risks of being drunk,” then at the very least Micah is being unwise by exposing himself to the hazard of taking a drunk person’s word as bond. And at the worst, Micah’s a scumbag predator waiting for someone to get drunk so he can do things he is fully aware they would dislike when sober.

Literally the best thing you can say about Micah is that he’s not quite as dumb as his friend, and that’s being kind.

So I personally feel the lesson should be, “You should avoid doing things to drunk people whenever possible.” Don’t be a Micah.

Ah, but that’s if Micah’s sober. “What if Micah himself is drunk?”, and that’s a trickier question if Micah is himself impaired.

But it’s kinda funny. When The Narrator is drunk, lots of people would say that any dangerous activity he consents to is foolish, and he deserves any consequences he gets.

But when Micah is drunk and doing things to the narrator, those same people would say that the dangerous activity that Micah has consented to – which is to say, exposing yourself to potential accusations of unwanted tattoos – is foolish, Micah shouldn’t be expected to know what’s going on then, and this all becomes the narrator’s fault.

Strange, how the script flips when you’re invested in Micah’s well-being.

Whereas I’m consistent in my beliefs: I believe that whenever possible, you shouldn’t aid drunk people in making potentially unwise decisions, even if the drunk person is really hot.

Because trying to sleep with drunk (or otherwise judgement-impaired) people is a risky goddamned business with potentially permanent side effects. If it’s a decision I know with 100% certainty that they’d be okay with in the morning, I might do it – if my wife, who has slept with me regularly for seventeen years, decides she wants to bang me shitfaced, well, I’ll take that risk.

But it is a risk. And I wouldn’t do anything new or crazy in bed with her, because the next morning she might wake up and be very mad about Spangbob.

Why take that risk, when I can ask her sober the next morning and, assuming she’s as into as she was the night before, potentially Spangbob the shit out of her the next evening with assured consent?

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

Yesterday, Ancillary Justice author Ann Leckie wrote a really great essay on chasing trends in fiction and why writing novels on the “next hot thing” for the sake of fame and fortune alone is a generally unwise idea.  She packs a lot of wisdom into a handful of paragraphs.  You should go read it.

But I wanted to expand on something she said, specifically this:

And if folks in your writers group or message board or whatever are telling you things like “you have to have a POV character that’s like the reader so they can sympathize with them” or “don’t write in first person” or “editors won’t buy stories with queer main characters” well, frankly, no.

One of the best pieces of advice I can give to fledgling writers is to remember you can ignore your fellow writers. And often should.

Look, if you’re serious about writing, you’re eventually going to get feedback from top-class writers.  Those writers are very good at writing their stories.  They may not necessarily be good at writing your stories, and incorporating their advice can leave you with this hamstrung half-hybrid pastiche that lacks both your strengths and theirs.

In workshops, I often write down someone’s feedback along with the notation: NMK.  That stands for “Not My Kink.” Which is to say that yes, this story could be good if I followed this person’s advice and turned the savage were-pterodactyls into genetically engineered cyber-pterodactyls, but then that story wouldn’t be a story I’d be excited to read.

(Who am I kidding? I’d read both of those stories.  But anyway.)

NMK advice is not bad advice.  It’s just advice geared towards writing a story that doesn’t hit my personal hotbuttons.  And for a lot of writers, “refining the hotbuttons” are what sell your craft.  Because a truly unique voice comes from taking all that goofy shiz that you adore and finding ways to make it work.

For example, Quentin Tarantino loves 1970s B-movies.  His work would suck without a heavy dosage of exploitation flicks and hyperaware movie references.  And a lot of writers’ workshops would have looked at early drafts of Pulp Fiction and said, “Okay, Quentin, you need to pull this back, you’re too excessive,” when the actual truth was that Quentin needed to figure out ways to take his love of crappy films, extract the goodness, and refine it until he amplified everything he adored about those films in ways that resonated with people.

And what you’ll often get at the early stages when your talent does not match execution is to pull back.  No.  Try pushing forward.

…but don’t forget that writing is about communication.  You’re trying to build a bridge out to your reader, saying, “I love this, and here’s why you should love it too.”  That takes skill, compromise, an understanding of what people expect so you can subvert and distill it.  You can’t just shout the same old thing through a foghorn and demand that your audience Get It – you have to question people closely to ask, “Okay, they didn’t love the were-pterodactyls, but why?”

Plus, you wanna lay aside that foghorn because you’re not here to regurgitate your source material, but to transform it.   Quentin Tarantino didn’t slavishly imitate the B-movies of his youth – he added his own strengths in terms of razor-sharp dialogue, shaking up the timelines to make thoroughly nonlinear stories.  Shout that love of queer characters, or second-person point of view, or despicable main characters – but do it in ways that are exciting and new!

Figure out what really thumbs that hotbutton, and amplify it.

Also: One of you is sitting there sniffing, “I hate Quentin Tarantino, why is Ferrett talking like Quentin Tarantino is such a great director?”  And that’s the final point: with great love comes great hate.  I adored Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice because it does fascinating things with viewpoint and gender, but it has inspired a tidal wave of hatred from people who are like, “THIS IS TURGID CRAP.”  Yet both Ann Leckie and Quentin Tarantino are fantastically successful at what they do, despite critics who loathe them!

When you receive a critique from a Very Important Author who is telling you that your story Does Not Work, question whether that person would enjoy your story if you’d perfected it.  That guy may be the person who hates Quentin Tarantino movies.  And he’s not wrong to hate them!  Repeat after me: Tastes are subjective.  But if you’re Quentin Tarantino, taking his feedback to heart is going to leave you working in the video rental store, not putting you on the path to World-Famous Director.

The rule of thumb is this: If three people tell you your story has a problem, it’s a problem.  You need to listen when beta readers get bored, or confused, or revolted.  But the way to fix that problem has to come uniquely from you.  Sometimes, the solution is not to cut, but to double down.

And sometimes, the problem is that these writers providing feedback are not an all-knowing Godhead, dispensing objective wisdom from above, but a bunch of nerds stumbling around in a bookstore – loving books you hate, hating books you love.  Sometimes, the bad feedback comes from someone saying, “Hey, George Martin, I love your characters but I’m not down with all this violence and nihilism, you need to get rid of that.”  Except getting rid of that will defang your books from the thing that makes you unique.

You can still get good feedback from those folks.  They can clue you into pacing issues, or enlighten you as to why your love of 1980s horror movies isn’t stirring people who don’t give a dry turd about 80s horror movies, or point out character decisions that make no sense.

But as a professional writer, you have to mark the difference between critiques that point out problems and critiques that are trying to rewrite your book into something you don’t want it to be.

One critique is worth incorporating.

The other needs to be chucked away, fast, and hard and fearlessly.  Because that’s what professional writers do.  And don’t forget the need to protect your own special brand of weirdness.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

So just to keep y’all up on the events in the McJuddMetz Household:

1) I’m Getting Handier.  
Folks on Twitter will recall my Woodworking Wednesday photos, wherein I get together with two friends and build stuff in my garage.

And I’ve hit a tipping point: I can just build stuff.

Which is to say that Gini and I have an informal collection of Blanton’s corkstoppers.  Blanton’s is a (delicious) small-batch bourbon that has eight different bottle tops, one for each letter in their name, each showing a horse at different stages of a race.  And we had six bottles up there, and I thought, Hey, I could build a shelf for the stoppers.

So, this Sunday, I spent about two hours and devised a shelftop to hold the corks:

Woodworking!

Which is weird.  I didn’t wait for my Woodworking Wednesdays crew to help me; it was just a trivial thing I did, like programming a web page.  I can just build minor stuff, which means I’ve acquired a raw level of skill.

And when I was out in the back yard having drinks and a cigar with Gini, I looked at the workshop we’ve built over the last year, and it’s actually looking like a real woodworking shop:

Woodworking!

And I’ve also figured out the way to finish my projects, which was a huge issue.  The first time I stained a bookcase, it looked like a diarrhetic mess.  But thanks to my sweetie C’s father, who is a Master Wood Finisher, I figured out that a spraygun is the way to go when finishing wood, and so the table I’ve built for my friend Heather actually looks pretty decent:

Woodworking!

So yeah.  I’m a guy who can build simple furniture.  Had I a character sheet, this skill would now be listed as a reasonably solid percentage.  It’s a good feeling, but a bit weird – “building things” is not what I consider to be a core talent, and in fact I’ve considered it a literal weakness for three decades, so it’s a pleasant feeling to go, “Oh, yeah, I can do that now.”

2)  I Am Bereft Of Bees. 
I mentioned this on Twitter, but I don’t think I mentioned it here: Shasta got stung, and had a seizure, and almost died.  Turns out she’s allergic to bees.  So we had to get rid of them in the spring, which was probably for the best, as we hadn’t really taken care of them in years – Rebecca’s sickness really took the wind out of our beekeeping, and we never recovered.

We gave them away to a guy on Craigslist, who seemed very happy to have his new bees.  He promised he’d take good care of them.  I hope he does.  I’m a little worried because the last thing he told us before he left was how Big Pharma was causing cancer and we needed all-natural solutions, but he was taking our bees and he seemed friendly so I let it slide.

I think of them periodically.  I’m sure they’re fine.  They were hardy little suckers.

3)  Counting Calories Is Weird.
On Saturday, I said, “Fuck it, I’m going to eat whatever I want this evening, just go berserk on Chinese food and sweets.”

Then, because I’d been eating so much less, I got bloated, and I went for a long Pokewalk with Gini to gear down, and wound up only 200 calories over my limit.  Which would be offset by the day before, where I’d wound up 400 calories under without thinking.

I’ve been doing this for two weeks as of today, and we’ll see how it goes when I get to WorldCon, which is not the home of healthy eating.  But speaking of which….

4)  I Am In Slow, Continual Panic. 
So I’m going to WorldCon this week, arriving on Thursday night, and I’m in my usual pre-convention mode of “This will be a disaster.”  I’m sure it’ll be okay, but my brainweasels are telling me that this will be three days of me wandering through an endless lunchroom, looking fruitlessly for people to sit at a table with.  Which is ridiculous; I’ve had some folks offer to buy me drinks, and I still have to shoot my number to a couple of folks who’ve offered to hang out, but still.

(Also, if you wanna hear a sneak preview of the new ‘Mancer book, show up to my reading on Friday.)

And oh yeah, my book is coming out and I’m having the usual heebie-jeebies about it being a huge failure where, paradoxically, nobody will read it and yet everyone will hate it, which is my broken brain shouting, but it’s hard to tamp it down.

I remember going to my doctor before the book release last March and saying, “I need a large prescription of Ativan to alleviate stress.”

“Well,” said my doctor, “I don’t like prescribing pills like that randomly.  Can you do anything else about your stress?”

“I have made this the best book I am capable of writing.  Everything that has been done can be done, the book is typeset, it’s printed, and now all I can do is wait for the reviews and the sales numbers.  There is literally nothing I can do except stress the fuck out.”

“Maybe you could try…” he said, before discussing various stress-reduction techniques I’d tried.

“Look,” I said politely.  “I’m coming to you because I want someone professional to track my usage of anti-stress medication, because addiction runs in my family. If you don’t prescribe me Ativan, I will go down to the liquor store where I can get all the legal, free stress relief I need, and no one will be tracking that, so I’d really prefer your method.”

“I’ll get you some Ativan,” he said.

So these next few weeks will be an Ativan-frenzy, as the book looms closer and the book tour impends and the conventions loom and the impostor syndrome goes crazy.  I’ll handle it, I always do – but I have this weird dance between “Not revealing my mental health issues,” which makes me look really cool and leaves people who suffer from stress thinking “Nobody else goes through this, I’m a freak,” or putting it out in public and letting other people see how a neurotic, socially-anxious person functions and looking like a freak to some people.

So I repeat: I’ll be fine.  But if you wanna hug me at WorldCon, or say hello, or come to the book tour when I visit Seattle, Portland, San Diego, and San Francisco (or even Cleveland), well, I’m happy to see you.

And I will be so happy when the book is out for a few weeks and I know whether it’s a success or a failure, because god damn, the worst thing about the book industry is uncertainty.  I dislike failure.  But I can at least look that in the eye.  Unknowns are like a strobe light, flickering between GREAT HOPE and DISMAL FEARS that induces seizures.

Anyway.  I’ll be cool.  But yeah, some people have tremendous anxiety and still do this stuff.  Somehow.

I handle it by building shelves.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

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