theferrett: (Meazel)
2017-06-23 10:23 am

“Polyamory Doesn’t Have Limits.”

I was told the other day how true polyamory didn’t have rules. You just got to fuck whoever you wanted, and nobody could stop you or it wasn’t polyamory.

Okay.

Let’s break that down.

Because people forget rules weren’t inflicted on people wholesale by malicious bureaucrats. Rules are like pearls, which are beautiful to us but an irritant to an oyster. Oysters create pearls because they can’t get a piece of sand out of their tendermeats and layer it in nacre until they have a ball of Stuff stuck in their craw. That’s not great for the oyster, but it’s better than having sand ripping up their insides.

And like a pearl, every rule started with some Problem that was causing distress, and people decided to wrap a Rule around it – because as annoying as that Rule was, it was better than the initial Problem.

Now rules, as I’ve noted, are the failure state of polyamory. You’d be better served by utilizing expectations, which aren’t quite as brittle and lead to better understanding. But rules and expectations both are solutions to the same ultimate problem:

You’re hurting someone you love.

They feel abandoned when you don’t text them at the end of the night. They feel threatened when you cancel dates on them to go out with New Person. They feel exasperated when they’re spending their dates with you as a pseudo-relationship counsellor, picking apart the reasons you’re fighting with your other partner all the time.

But hey. You have no limits. So even if your partner’s cat just died and they’re desperate to not be alone tonight, fuck that! You had a date. And you’re not cancelling that because NO LIMITS!

What’s that?

That’d be cruel? You wouldn’t leave your partner alone during a time of need?

Well, I guess you have limits.

“That’s different!” you cry. “That’s what I wanted to do! I chose to do that of my own volition, not because of some stupid rules!”

Here’s the secret to rules, my friend:

Everyone chooses them.

There’s no legal contract for any poly relationship saying, “I have to stay with this person.” There may be consequences, divorce laws being punitive and all, but there’s consequences for any bad decision. You treat them badly enough that they refuse to talk to you, you don’t get the hot sex or the emotional support. If you’re really a shithead, you may lose friends over the breakup. There is no consequence-free decision.

As such, people may bitch about rules, but ultimately they chose to stay with the person who enacted them. Why? Because the irritant of the rules is better than losing that person entirely – or better than the less-critical problem of “I love them, so I don’t want to make them feel bad.”

You’re not better because you made a decision on the fly to alter your behavior to be with someone. That’s how relationships work. You negotiate, you compromise, you figure out where your elbow hits someone’s eye.

And in a lot of cases, you don’t do something that would bring you magnificent satisfaction because you know it would hurt someone. Unsafe sex. Taking someone else to the concert you promised you’d take them to. Disappearing for a two-week vacation with a new sweetie without letting them know where you’re going.

All those are limits.

“They’re self-imposed limits!” you cry – but now you’re changing the argument. Because polyamory was supposed to have no limits, man. Total and utter William Wallace-style FREEEEEEDOM!

…except that compassionate human beings, when given the choice to do whatever they want, will often choose not to do things that injure the people they love.

True freedom involves the ability to self-limit.

And so “Polyamory has no limits” often is a synonym for “I am a sociopath who is only out for my own satisfaction, and anyone who inconveniences me in any way will be shunted aside. I don’t give a fuck about you as long as I get mine.” It’s not so much an ethos as a warning sign that this person is not someone you want to date unless your Venn diagram of what you desire overlaps theirs perfectly.

And yes. It’s perfectly logical to stop dating someone whose feelings are so sensitive you can’t avoid bruising them; I’ve done it myself. But that’s not “I have no limits” so much as “Our limits were irreconcilable.” There’s nothing wrong with a hedonistic relationship based on pleasure, either, so long as everyone involved chose it honestly. It’s possible to have a relationship with such low limits that you never brush against them.

But I generally find that the people who bristle at any idea of limitations are the people who bristle at the idea of other people having needs. They want no limitations because really, anything that obstructs their satisfaction is an enemy to be destroyed.

Date these people at your peril.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)
2017-06-20 10:21 am

Looking For Pro Bono Web Design Work To Help Protest The GOP’s Health Care Bill

Hey guys, I’ve got a quick-turnaround website to protest the AHCA – but while I’ve written the words and done the research, my web design looks like 2003 hot garbage.

If someone out there can commit to a professional, bare-bones web design to help me get out a three-page website this week, please email me at theferrett@gmail.com stat, along with a page or two that you’ve designed so I can verify you’re better than I am.  (It’s not hard, trust me.) And I’ll happily share details if you’re a professional who knows design and/or political protest and wanna email me at theferrett@gmail.com, because, well, it’s a last-ditch shot in the dark against the AHCA before it passes next week.

If you’re feeling volunteery, please email.  Thanks.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)
2017-06-14 10:26 am

My Grandfather’s Bookcase, And Mine

In my basement sits a bookcase that, I am told, was built by my grandfather.  I don’t know; I never met him.  He died three months before I was born.

My grandfather's bookcase, I think.The bookcase has a huge, multilayered wad of gum on the side from when I was a teenager, and had no idea what the bookcase was – it was just in my room, and I owned my room, and besides the gum wasn’t where my Mom could see it.  It was my little act of dickish rebellion that, like a thousand other things I did as a teenager, I regret.

And that’s all it was for several years: my grandfather’s bookcase. My teenaged gum.

Now that I’ve taken up woodworking, I can now see the choices he made in making it: fixed shelves, because drilling in the holes for adjustable shelves is a pain in the ass.  He chose a little hand-carved decoration along the top to hide the boxlike construction – not exactly beautiful, but a step beyond everyday bookcase making.  It sits on a base for greater stability, which is something we haven’t done yet.

Now that I build things, it’s not a bookcase but a language my grandfather spoke.  Were he alive today, I could grunt in a manly way and ask what tools he used back in 1960 to make this thing, and discuss where he kept his workshop, and ask about the staining.

And he would, in the way of all woodworkers, be able to point out every tiny flaw he could not correct.  Every craftsman knows about them, because you cannot avoid them: that joint that isn’t perfectly snug, that router that drifted from the fence, that board that’s 1/16″ too short.  Experienced woodworkers – and me and my crew are getting there – know how to hide those errors with wood putty and on-the-fly plan alterations, but we keep them tight to our chest.  They are the secrets of furniture, an encrypted thieves’ cant of sorrow only told to others in the hobby.

Last night I made my own contribution to the house: a dye shelf I made for Gini in the basement.  It’s made of pine, my first natural wood project – not that you’d know that because at the last minute Gini insisted on switching from a dark stain to a bright purple paint.

I can list all its flaws: the squaring is off by an eighth of an inch because the pine was slightly warped.   There’s a gouge underneath the right third shelf where – you guessed it – the router drifted from the fence.  The paint was the wrong kind for woodworking, latex, too sticky to sand the brush strokes off, so there’s dribbles everywhere.

Gini loves it.

And soon, it will earn its place in the basement, just another fixture in the house, a useful engine.  And my garage workshop is filling other houses; we have two bookcases meant for Eric’s attic, and two customized shelves meant to fit in the gaps on either side of Jim’s fireplace.

And in a sense, I feel like I’m firing a flare into the future.  I will die, like my grandfather before me.  But my friends and family will know that Ferrett did woodworking – here, here’s the shelf he built for Gini, we didn’t have the heart to throw it out, can you use it?

Maybe some day there will be someone who never got to know me but can rest his hand on some shelf I built.  And they too will speak this language of craftsmanship.  And they’ll look at the speckly paint job and the uneven shelves and judge me, and they will look at the love it took to spend a few hours building something because your wife asked you to and adjust their thinking, and they’ll cock their head and look at this stolid thing as if trying to unravel what sort of man I am from the things I left behind.

I wish I could tell them.  But I won’t last.

My shelves might.

Let them talk for me when I’m gone.

"Project Gini"

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)
2017-06-13 09:05 am

Call To Save Your Employer-Covered Health Care, Or Congress Might Take It Away.

Repealing Obamacare’s protections would be bad enough. But the new Trumpcare will most likely make your health care worse than before Obamacare was enacted – and if you lived through those days, you’ll remember they weren’t exactly fantastic for sick people.

You may say, “Well, I have health insurance through my employer, so I’m safe!”  Unfortunately, it’s rumored the Senate is planning to allow employer-provided insurers to just stop covering you once they spend enough on you.  Did your kid need an expensive operation?  Well, your insurer’s paid enough as far as the Republicans are concerned.  Now your employer’s Aetna coverage has run out, and you’ll have to find another job with another insurer if you want your kids (and you!) to be protected.

I say this is “rumored” because this is bill is so goddamned awful that the Senate refuses to publish a draft of the bill that the public can see.  As it is planned by Republicans, there will be no public debates, no hearings, no explanations – just a simple vote before July 4th.  Republicans bitch that Obama “rammed” the ACA through quickly, but that took 270 days and numerous town halls and hearings.  The Republicans are literally not even letting the American people know what’s in this shitty bill because, as an aide said, “We aren’t stupid.”

Your only hope to knock this off the rails is to call your Senators.  Now.  You need to call today, because several of the Senators in charge of the bill are meeting to finalize their plans.

And unfortunately, while people were furious enough to flood their Senators’ offices with calls right after Trump got elected, sources say we’re back to the usual silence.  People have given up.

I’m asking my fellow Americans: make two calls, one to each of your Senators.  If they’re Republican, tell them how this shit will hurt you.  If they’re Democratic,  tell them to bring Congress to a stop until this is at least debated in public.

Here’s how you do it:

CALL, DO NOT EMAIL, THE AIDE IN CHARGE OF HEALTH CARE.
Politicians can ignore emails the way you do. They can’t ignore calls. Their staffers have to take the calls, which means their staff doesn’t get anything done while they’re handling calls, which means the Senator is far more likely to hear about how the office is slowing to a crawl because the ACA issue is jamming the lines.

In addition, most Senators don’t get that many calls; under normal circumstances, 15 people calling a day is huge. For an entire state. If you can get 50, that’s usually off the charts. So even one call can make a significant difference.

You want to call the aide in charge of health care to be sure you get heard.  Fortunately, here is a list of all the staffers tasked with working on health care.

SAY YOU’RE A VOTER FROM YOUR TOWN.
Let them know you’re local up-front. Calling Senators when you’re not a potential voter generally does diddly. You do not have to give your name, though you can if you want; they may ask you for your zip code.  If you have to leave a message, tell them you want a call back to confirm the message got through and leave your number.

HAVE A SCRIPT READY, IF YOU’RE SOCIALLY AWKWARD LIKE ME.
A good script is something like:

1) Protecting preexisting conditions is vital to keeping America strong;
2) Please do not repeal the ACA without a strong replacement that protects sick people (they’re going to repeal it, the idea is just to keep the parts that keep people alive), and the bill that passed the House is an abomination that will hurt sick people.
3) I will not vote for any Senator who helps repeal the ACA without a strong replacement, either in the primary or the general election.

You’re free to go on, if you like, but be polite. They kind of have to listen. In my experience, they’ll generally say they’ll pass the message onto the Senator, and hang up. But if you want to be that person who the office groans when they have to handle them – that polite-but-firm person who will be heard – then hey! You can contribute to the office gossip that people are really concerned about this ACA issue, which is good in politics.

CALL YOUR SENATORS, NOT YOUR REPRESENTATIVES.
That means you have to make a maximum of two calls, which will take ten minutes max. (Unless your Senator’s line is already clogged, in which case, keep calling.)

You can generally look up your senator by using Who Is My Representative, then use the staffer guide to see who you should call.

And here’s the trick: If you’re a conservative who’s opposed to mandating that insurers must be able to insure people with preexisting conditions (for some reason), flip the script and call as well. This is a republic, and you deserve to have your voice heard, even if I utterly cannot see why you’d support this particular bill except that you’re the sort of doof who’d punch a puppy if it made a liberal cry.

That said, I said back in January that “I fully expect the ACA will be repealed without a valid replacement.” If you don’t like that very real fact, then call now.  I’m sick of calling.  You’re sick of calling.  The Republicans are making us sick… of calling.

Still.  Call now.  I hate to keep giving last chances, but man, we’re closer than ever to losing everything.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)
2017-06-09 09:55 am

Real Talk, Straight Guys.

Dating is fucking rough on straight men, and anyone who denies that isn’t paying attention. Men are culturally expected to make the first move, which means they’re putting themselves up to be rejected before a date even happens, which means that even trying to land a date – let alone the potential heartbreak of a bad date – starts to feel like a series of job interviews that nobody much wants you for.

(And yes, women get that too to some extent, but it’s not nearly as prevalent as it is with guys. If you’re a woman and you’re contacting dudes first to ask them out on dates instead of patiently waiting to be courted, thank you.)

So let me give you straight guys a piece of advice that it’s best to internalize right now, because it’ll make your life so much easier if you can genuinely come to realize this:

Nobody owes you a woman.

That is, honestly, not a message you’ve seen a lot of in the media. Because if you look at almost every action movie starring A Guy, if he’s really good at saving people he’ll get A Girl at the end of the film. If you look at comedies, there’s a schlubby guy with a good heart and nine times out of ten he’ll be rewarded with a really hot girl if he just learns the right lesson. Guys on sitcoms have hot wives, and their single friends are usually pathetically dysfunctional.

Your narratives have covertly conditioned you that if you do your job right, you’ll get a girl.

Which quietly trains you to believe that if you don’t have a girl, you haven’t done your job right.

And that conditioning creates a lot of side effects that actually make it harder for you to get the intimacy that you need. Because:

Some Guys Get Desperate To Prove Themselves.
Some men will be so determined to get the girl they think they should have – which is not the girl they actually like, but rather the prettiest one that proves their status in society. And they’ll hang around this woman who they have nothing in common with, feigning friendship because they’ve been trained that if they’re just “nice” the woman will eventually fall in love with them, pretending to like all sorts of things they hate like shopping and chick flicks and the wrong sports team…

And then that woman will frequently reject them because they’re not that interesting. Hey, all you do is nod and bob your head, why’s that compelling?

And when these guys are rejected after selling their soul to sniff the perfume, they get furious. I did so much for her!, they say.

Here’s the truth, my friend: If you’re hanging around anyone swallowing your pride in some desperate attempt to get laid, you are doing it wrong. Maybe you’re just so milquetoast that she doesn’t like you. Maybe she senses how you’re faking friendship to get into her pants. Maybe, hell, she really does like complete assholes.

Why are you hanging around someone you loathe? Why don’t you just find someone you do like? And the answer is often a subliminal “Because I was promised I’d get the woman of my dreams if I didn’t screw up too badly.”

Look. The woman of your dreams should be someone who you actually like, and likes you back. Shaving off pieces of your personality to achieve the Manly Aspiration of Getting The Right Girl is a mug’s game. Nobody’s worth that whether you’re a guy or a girl (and women who feign love in all the manly things to land the right guy are equally deluded).

But what you’re doing is this:

  • I like that girl
  • She’s supposed to be mine if I like her
  • So if I don’t get her, I’m failing – not just personally, but failing in my role as a dude.

Give that up, my man.  Try this:

  • I am physically attracted to this girl
  • Let’s see whether there’s a mutual interest
  • If I don’t get her, why would I want to pretend to be someone I wasn’t to land someone who didn’t like me?

Contemplate all the compromises you’d have to make to become what she wants – and if that bill is too much, you’re smarter to walk away.

Some Guys Get Lazy.
Here’s the truth, man: you dress for the job you want.

There’s nothing wrong with going for the hottest girl in the room, but you gotta be honest about what you’re bringing to the table. If you’re going for some model-quality blonde and you’re Mr. Balding Paunchy, then you have to ask, “If I’m not going to woo her through sheer physical spectacle, what do I have to offer?”

Smart men will say, “Okay, I’ll work on my personality.” Or they’ll develop a unique talent – hey, Meatloaf got laid as a rock star, you can too. Or they’ll hit the gym and work those abs.

Dumb guys will, sadly, look at the hot girl and think, “Man, what a stuck-up bitch, she won’t even give me the time of day.” Well, you were walking over there to try to slide into her panties, so let’s not pretend you’re Gandhi in offering your magnificent friendship.

Alas, this “I shouldn’t have to offer anything” plan even applies to guys who are just casually dating. They inherit this List Of Things Women Want – a list made by equally inept guys – and blindly follow it, then get furious when women don’t actually desire the things on their imaginary list.

Truth: there are men with ten-inch dicks who can’t get laid because they come off as fakers, or stalkers, or both.

That “I am owed a woman” comes out very subtly, but it’s there in men thinking that women should flock to their feet by virtue of them, well, existing. And women who aren’t attracted to your immutable (and debatable) charm are just dumb, they can’t see your appeal, they’re stupid and insane and ingrateful….

And again, why the fuck do you want to date these women you hate so much?

Why are you spending energy to chase women you despise?

My advice is dress nice and learn a joke or two. But if you’re not gonna do that, why buy into the idea that women are something you have to have? You could just buy sex from a sex worker – except no, that’s pathetic, a real man should get a woman he loathes because again, you’re owed a woman.

You’re not. And when you stop thinking of women as something you should just have and start thinking of intimacy as something you have to cultivate, then you start actually paying attention to actual individual women, and see what they’re into, and decide whether you want to spruce up those aspects of yourself.

You may have to perform a bit.  That’s okay. Most women wear makeup, too.

Some Guys Settle.
Some guys, unfortunately, do find a woman who’ll sleep with them. She’s not a woman they have anything in common with – note the theme? – but she is willing to sporadically put his penis in their vagina, and hey, she’s not actively offensive.

And then these guys get committed, marrying women who might as well be alien creatures for all they understand and/or empathize with them, and they wind up in a relationship that’s equal parts frustration and working around the existence of their partner.

Dudes. Again. You can say no. Just because someone’s willing to sleep with you doesn’t mean they’re compatible with you. Hell, you might even want to turn down some sex because it comes with strings you’re not comfortable with.

Yet guys are, once again, conditioned to be less of a man if they reject sex. Sex is what all men want all the time, and if they don’t feast upon the sex whenever it’s offered they’re not real men.

Do not buy into this.

I tell women all the time that they’re right to reject men if they don’t want them. Remember that you also have the right to turn women down. Don’t be cruel, but you can break off any relationship that makes you antsy, you can refuse sex even if someone’s throwing themselves at you, you can make your own choices.

Don’t buy into this model of scarcity.

Some Guys Enter The Oppositional Stage And Never Exit It.
The larger truth is this:

Women aren’t all that mysterious. They have different priorities, but that’s often because they have different experiences (and, yes, different cultural conditioning, which is why you see an unfortunate number of women patiently waiting for their prince to arrive).

It’s not that women don’t want casual sex – it’s that they’re not convinced your casual sex will be any good (look up the number of women who come from first-time hookups and realize women have roughly a 50/50 shot of having it be good for them), and they don’t know that you’re not the guy who’s going to imprint on them like a duckling and waddle around after them for the next seven months.

Women often don’t give an emphatic “no,” instead leading you on – but that’s because while dating is psychologically dangerous to you, the danger of some asshole physically assaulting a woman if she comes off as too bitchy is real for them.   They may give you a quiet brush-off because they can’t be sure that you’re not the guy with the oversized ego and the roid rage.

There’s all sorts of distinctions like that.  If you can understand those differences, and account for them, your path to intimacy will be a lot easier. And you’ll also not be sleeping with people you secretly resent because HOW DARE THEY NOT SLEEP WITH ME I’M A NICE GUY AND AS A NICE GUY PUSSY IS MY BIRTHRIGHT.

Truth is, you’re not owed a woman, and you’re not less if you don’t manage to find one. Sometimes you’re not finding A Woman because you are, quite sanely, holding out for someone who’s actually compatible with you.  Sometimes you’re alone because you have standards, and that’s a good thing.

And ironically, giving up the resentment usually clears the path for more intimacy. Drop the rose-tinted goggles to see what women actually desire, and what you actually desire, and it’s much better when you work to make that happen.  (Plus, when you stop seeing women as some trophy to be had, you can approach the concept of genuine platonic friendships with women – and as a dating tip, there’s no better way to be introduced to women than by having enthusiastic female friends who’ll vouch for you.  You may not get that woman, but you get a friend and the potential connection with all her friends.)

Or you could unthinkingly approach dating like it’s  The Great Prophecy Of A Woman Will Arrive If I’m Not Particularly Bad At My Job.  In which case you may eventually find a woman but by the time you get there you’ll be enraged, desperate, and not particularly good for each other.

Not gonna lie. It’s tough out there.

But you can do better.

Good luck.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)
2017-06-07 09:57 am

Rebecca Was Born Nine Years Ago Today, And She Died Three Years Ago Today

Today’s normally a quiet day in our house: it’s the anniversary of Rebecca Alison Meyer, who died of brain cancer on her sixth birthday.  We were with her in her final moments.

I’m still not quite over it.

Anyway, new readers may not know about Rebecca, because, well, there hasn’t been much new to say.  I wrote about what it was like, loving a girl with brain cancer.  Even three years on, Rebecca is with me always, quite literally: she’s tattooed on my arm.

I said it at the time, and I mean it today:

“Rebecca is a miracle.  Even if this was all we got, she is a fucking miracle, and I want you to know that.

“I just want more.

“I want so much more.”

And normally, I’d just huddle down and grieve and let it pass.   I can’t share every old ache.

But you’ll understand why this news story, released yesterday, might hit me pretty hard today.

I could rage. I could mention all the ways this isn’t fake news, or how it’s scumbaggery of the highest levels, or barrage you with a new essay on what it’s like to watch someone so young die and know there is literally nothing you can do to help her and then ask you to imagine what it’s like to raise money in the name of preventing that and then steal it.

But I won’t.

Instead, I’ll ask quietly:

If you have the spare money, and feel like donating to charities that will use your hard-won earnings to actually help children in need, please ponder donating to CureSearch for Children’s Cancer.  They help.

(And if you have any money left over, please ponder donating to Rebecca’s Gift, a charity founded in Rebecca’s name by Rebecca’s family, which helps families who have endured the death of a child to heal.)

Anyway.  I don’t know how I’ll respond today.  I might withdraw, I might engage, I’m not sure.

But if you’ve got the spare cash, use a few bucks to heal.  It’ll help everyone.

Promise.

Peace.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)
2017-06-05 10:08 am

You Don’t Have To Break Up With Them: One Of The Hardest Decisions In Polyamory

It was the third time I’d sent her a text: “Hey, I’m free this weekend. Did you wanna get together?” And it was the third time she’d said, “Lemme see,” and then never got back to me.

Her unresponsiveness was not, in her defense, entirely malicious. She lived three hours away, had an erratic work schedule, and was thrashing overtime to make her rent money. She found herself exhausted and frequently collapsed at the end of the day. Still, I didn’t have a lot of free weekends either. And if I found myself with a free weekend, I gave her first option at seeing me, and kept it open until she got back to me… Which meant that sometimes, I got to the weekend and found myself with no plans.

But I hadn’t seen her in six months. I’d complained, and gotten apologies but no real change. And I faced an ugly question that really only polyamorous relationships face:

Do I break up with her, or do I downgrade the relationship?

Because that’s one of the strengths of polyamory: unlike monogamy, you don’t have to go all-in. If I’d relied on her for all my emotional and sexual needs, that lack of physical contact would be a detail, but poly relationships don’t have to be as load-bearing.

So I could stop thinking of her as “a core relationship” and instead quietly downgrade the relationship to a comet – the sort of thing that happens when our schedules happen to line up, but I don’t actively seek out.

Comet relationships are fabulous, by the way. I have several of them – people I talk to regularly, and am absolutely thrilled to cuddle when I’m in their neighborhood, but can go merrily dormant with for years at a time. (I once went seven years without seeing one of my comet-relationships in the flesh, and picked up that physicality effortlessly when we reconnected.)

But change is painful. Particularly change that’s seen to be going as backwards. And people would often prefer to just break it off entirely than try to live with an unfulfilling change.

But you don’t have to break up. You can just…. adjust.

That’s tricky, though, because you have to do it without resentment – and if you can’t, you might as well break up. Because stiffly telling someone, “Well, you’ve been insufficient for my needs, so I’m going to ignore you in the way that you have ignored me and see how you like it!” will rarely go well. Nor will downgrading someone because you’re afraid to vent your complaints, sniffling as you avoid confrontation without giving someone an option to change their behavior.

But…. life happens. Sometimes someone gets sick, or entangled in a more intense primary relationship than they’d like, or the intensity you once wanted each other with fades. You may not transition all the way down to a comet – but maybe you go from two dates a week to two dates a month. Or it’s an emotional downgrade where you realize that you love them dearly, but asking them to talk you out of a panic attack will get you snarled in an argument.

In any case, you quietly decide that this relationship can’t do everything you thought it would when you met. You quietly take certain elements off the table because you can’t have them with this person.

And that sucks, particularly if you still feel that longing, but then you have to weigh whether what you currently have left is still good enough on its own, or whether the ache for what you’ve lost will obliterate the joy out of anything that you could have today.

Worse, there’s no right or wrong on this. It all depends on your comfort – whether you can deal with getting less than you thought you were going to get (even if what’s left is still good). Whether you’re certain this is a one-time downgrade that will be stable, or if you’re setting yourself up for an endless string of recalibrations. Whether you perceive their inability to provide what you’d wanted as being maliciously abusive, or whether it’s just you misreading their commitment and talent.

Yet recalibrating is an option, and a valid one. There’s many relationships that started hot and full of promises and then got reduced down to comfortably blanket-warm, with two partners wiser about what comforts they can actually provide to each other without breaking down.

As it is, I wound up seeing her about once every ten months. We still loved each other, and when our schedules coincided, we had a wonderful weekend. But she didn’t have first choice of my schedule any more. She’d become a comet.

It was less than I thought I’d have when we started dating. But it was still pretty good. Good enough to bring joy to my life.

That was really all I needed.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)
2017-06-01 10:29 am

In Case You Were Too Busy To Click The Link Last Week: Here’s The Cover Of My Book!

Last week I told people, hey, the cover of my new and awesome book THE UPLOADED is up at Barnes and Noble!  You can read the first two chapters of my story about the dark side digital immortality, and genetically-engineered superponies, and coral architecture!  Go click, I said!

And many of you did, and went, “Yeah, buddy, that book looks great.”  And then you presumably pre-ordered it and also bought me a pony.

But for those of you who didn’t click a link to see a beautiful cover…. hey, I get it.  Life’s busy.  The Internet scrolls on by like a rushing river, and maybe you meant to click but your finger broke or your dog did something cute or maybe you just, I dunno, had a life.  And now it’s a week later and Donald Trump did something else crazy that sucked all the air from the room, and you’ve entirely forgotten the magnificence that this upcoming book has to offer.

Well, just for you, here’s the cover, because I am so proud of the work Angry Robot does:

The Uploaded: Ferrett Steinmetz's new cyberpunk book

And as noted, this story is about what happens five hundred years after when humanity learns to upload our consciousnesses into effectively unkillable servers. Because once the dead can own property, and vote, and be treated like citizens – which, you know, they are, just ones with slightly digitized neurons – then eventually the money’s gonna pile up. You think the AARP has an undue influence upon politics now? Wait until they never die.

And that doesn’t take into account the culture changes. Because who’s gonna want to live, with your ugly meat diseases and your aging and your forgetfulness? Who wouldn’t want to transfer their brains into the greatest MMORPG that’s ever existed, a place that’s better than the real world?

What happens when living becomes unfashionable?

If this sounds like your cup of tea, well, you can preorder it – Barnes and Noble was kind enough to debut the cover, so giving them money is tech, but if you must use other online bookstores, it is available for preorder at That Other Place. It comes out in September. And, you know, I hope it’s worth your shekels.

Now go click on something else.  I hear there’s cute puppies out there.  Go find ’em.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)
2017-05-25 09:42 am

There’s A Difference Between Satisfying And Stable.

Marriages used to be about property and politics. Your families decided who’d benefit the most from this family merger, and then you were committed – not because you were happy, nobody really expected happiness, but because betrothal was a glorified business contract. Breaking it brought troubles for everyone. Best to tough it out.

The cultural legacy of that can be seen in the way we overvalue long-term relationships. Watch the way performers work a crowd: they’ll always ask a couple how long they’ve been married, and if the answer is sufficiently long, they’ll always relate that number breathlessly to the crowd: “Twenty-five years!” And the crowd will cheerfully applaud because these two people have been together a long time and long is good.

But stability comes in all forms, and only some of them include love.

Some twenty-five year relationships are the sort where they don’t really like each other, but they’ve learned to sort of slide past each other as much as possible. And if you watch, you’ll see the survival mechanisms for that: the half-listened to conversations, the eye-rolling shrug whenever someone notes something annoying about their partner, the weary willingness to do all of the chores their partner’s too incompetent or disinclined to do.

Some stability involves living almost separate lives, with two different friends groups because these two people want entirely different things. Some stability involves hanging out with each other because they don’t have any other friends, and going to a movie you hate with someone you don’t care for is still theoretically better than being alone.

Some stability involves great gaps in communication, the arguments you never have because if you open up that seal then this relationship is over. So you don’t discuss the kids you wanted, or the sex you wanted, or the life you wanted, because that would destroy this stability. Some stability involves constantly bickering about those unachievable goals, tossing the blame back and forth like a hot potato, a never-ending state of trench warfare.

Some stability involves shaping yourself to the role: breadwinner. Dutiful housewife. Business partner. Maybe you discovered at some point you didn’t want that role, but it’s better to carve off the parts of yourself that don’t fit than potentially rock the boat.

And a lot of stability involves confusing fondness for love. Human beings are hard-wired to form attachments to the things they rely on: soldiers have been known to sentimentally risk their lives in battle to rescue a bomb-defusing robot whose whole function was, literally, to stop them from risking their lives.

If you hang around someone for long enough, you often grow fond of them – maybe their quirks are irritating, but they are known quantities and you have discovered the workarounds. You’d miss them if they left, not necessarily because you like them, but because you’ve come to expect them – kind of like the way your new phone looks weird if you’ve lived with a phone with a crack in the screen for long enough.

But fondness isn’t love. It isn’t an active quantity. Fondness is just something that accretes like a tarnish on a penny, often arriving whether you’ve worked to get it or not. Love is a happy expectation, something that puts a spring in your step – fondness is just sinking back into the couch and realizing it hurts your back in the way that it’s always hurt your back, and the part of you that craves routine is happy for the hurt.

And you’ll see people in long-term relationships going, “I love them.” And while I’m not quite willing to write off fondness as not a form of love, I will say it’s one of the lower grades thereof. They don’t have a lot of love in these kinds of relationships.

What they have is stability. They know what’s going to happen today, and tomorrow, and the day after. It’s not great, but they’ve learned how to bear it. It’s going to stay this way for as long as they’re willing to stay, and leaving it might mean they get something worse.

And they get applause. People cheer. People are thrilled to meet people who’ve been together for so long because length is good, you’re supposed to stay together, it’s like being thin in that sometimes being thin is because you’re so goddamned sick you can’t eat but hey we all want thinness and we don’t care how we get it.

These people have stability.

They long for happiness.

Unfortunately, for them, in this circumstance, the one is the enemy of the other.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)
2017-05-22 10:29 am

“How Do I Express My Feelings To My Partner?”

There’s a lot of advice swirling around out there on “How to talk to your partner” – a thousand techniques to chip past their defensiveness, speak loudly enough to be heard, be nice enough to encourage niceness.

And it all falls short if your partner sucks.

Truth is, there’s basically two types of partners: The ones that care about how you’re feeling, and the ones who don’t. And sometimes the partners who care about how you’re feeling do need to be approached in the right way to maximize their compassion, but…

There’s a lot of deluded people who have partners who legitimately do not give a shit. And those people are endlessly convinced that their partner is a bank vault, just packed with love if only they can find the right tutorial to pick the locks, and they are endlessly blaming themselves because they somehow didn’t unlatch the great wellspring of tenderness that lies within them.

There’s not an approach that’ll help there.

And these people will point to their partner’s sporadic kindnesses as though these isolated incidents are a treasure map leading to the great stockpile of sympathy. But the truth is, almost everybody’s nice occasionally, if only by coincidence. Sometimes these unreachable partners want to make love when you do, but that’s not proof that they’re good to you, it’s proof that occasionally disparate agendas can line up like an optical illusion of kindness.

So the first part of establishing any real communication is ensuring that your partner actually gives a shit about you personally. Do they react with concern or exasperation the first time you raise an issue? Do they look for ways to write you off as a nut because it’s more convenient to them? Do they have a history of dropping partners whenever they prove troublesome?

Because yeah, you can – and should – work on presenting your problems in a kind, nonconfrontational way. But chefs work on great food presentation, and even they realize it won’t make a full man hungry.

First rule: Make sure they care about you.

Everything you do after they fail the first rule is, unfortunately, doomed to fail as well.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)
2017-05-19 09:14 am

Guest Post: It’s The End Of The Internet As We Know It (But You Can Help Save It)

You folks have probably heard a lot about “Net Neutrality” lately, but you may not be clear on what it is, how it’ll change your Internet life, or what you can do to keep it in place. And to be honest, I’m not qualified to speak about it.

But my friend Paul is.

Paul Goodman (@PaulOverbite) is Senior Legal Counsel on the Telecommunications and Technology Team at The Greenlining Institute – which is to say he’s been on the front lines battling the telecommunications industries for years, and he knows exactly what companies like AT&T would do if people like him weren’t there to stop him.  (Some of the things he’s told me about have been horrifying.)

So I’m gonna ask him to explain Net Neutrality to you through a phenomenal historical metaphor, and have him tell you why all isn’t lost yet even though yesterday’s headlines were indeed bad.

Paul?


Ferrett was kind enough to offer me the opportunity to write a blog post about the importance of net neutrality—the principle that your internet service provider (ISP) can’t control what content you access or devices you use on your broadband connection. As you may have read, on Thursday the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) initiated the process of eliminating the current net neutrality rules. Unfortunately, there was a fair amount of misreporting on the issue, leading to headlines like “Net Neutrality Rules Eliminated” and “FCC Kills Net Neutrality” and “Masked Man Throws Net Neutrality into Vat of Acid, Creating Green-Haired, White-Skinned Madman.”

However, net neutrality isn’t dead yet—but today’s vote was a clear sign that it’s in the Trump administration’s crosshairs.

To really understand the importance of net neutrality, you first need to understand Green Books. Green Books, common in the 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s, were travel guides for African American travelers. These books listed locations where food and lodging were available to African Americans, and, more importantly, listed places where African Americans would be refused service, falsely arrested, or murdered. The Green Books listed huge swaths of the country where there were no services available and where, accordingly, African Americans couldn’t go.

Think about that for a minute. Specifically, consider the enormous amount of power that white people had over black peoples’ lives. If you were black, white people could stop you from travelling to, or through, large parts of the country. So if you were more than a day’s drive away from friendly territory, you couldn’t visit your family. If you were a travelling salesman, there were large parts of your sales territory that you couldn’t visit. If you wanted to go to your state capitol to ask your elected representative for help, you might not be able to—not because you didn’t have the ability or resources, but because white people actively worked to keep you from doing so.

One group of people had control of a vital part of our nation’s infrastructure, and used that control to prevent African Americans from accessing economic, social, and political opportunities.*

Today, we’re facing the same scenario. A small group of broadband providers controls a vital part of our nation’s infrastructure — the national (and international) telecommunications network. That control gives ISPs an enormous amount of power. The Internet is the way that we communicate with our friends and loved ones, find jobs, contact government services, and get information. Net neutrality protections ensure that you, not your ISP, decide how to access the network, what content you view, who you communicate with, and which viewpoints you can express and support.

Under the current net neutrality rules, your broadband provider can’t discriminate against particular Internet content. For example, Comcast owns NBC-Universal. Comcast would prefer that you watch NBC shows, rather than shows from other content providers like HBO, or ABC, or Netflix. Comcast is also an ISP, and has the ability to deliver Internet traffic at different speeds and service quality, so Comcast could deliver NBC content in high-definition, while making videos from HBO look terrible. Net neutrality rules make sure that doesn’t happen.

In 2015, the FCC, which regulates what I call “communications services” and you call “telephone, cable TV, and broadband service,” imposed the most robust net neutrality protections in U.S. history. If you haven’t noticed, since then, we’ve had a few changes in our government. Under new leadership the FCC wants to roll back all of the robust net neutrality protections we’ve come to rely on. In anticipation, ISPs and conservative groups have been sending out a deluge of misinformation and dropping off huge sacks of money at policymakers’ offices.

There’s only one group that can really push back, and that group is us.

I know we’ve all got a lot on our plates lately, and we’re all battling on multiple fronts, but I would really like you to understand that the fight to save net neutrality is critical. Many marginalized groups—people of color, LGBT folks, Muslims, to name just a few—don’t have access to traditional outlets for getting their voices heard. The Internet is often the only tool that we have to communicate, give and receive support, and organize. Without a free and open Internet, we will lose our ability to make our voices heard, share our positions and strategies, and work for real change. We cannot let that happen.

The FCC is currently taking comments on its plan to eliminate net neutrality, so please go here and tell the FCC to keep the existing net neutrality protections in place. Additionally, please reach out to your elected representatives and ask them to keep the Internet open and free—a five-minute phone call might just convince your rep to vote against the repeal.

* –  Incidentally, that discrimination continues today in our telecommunications networks.  Years of business decisions by telecommunications providers about where to build or upgrade their networks have resulted in a disparate impact on communities of color—on the whole, communities of color disproportionately lack access to broadband services, and where those services are available, they are unaffordable and the service quality is terrible.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)
2017-05-15 10:48 am

In Which I Debate Whether I Can Recommend Persona 5 To Mishell Baker

So I play videogames for the story, and Persona 5 is the best story I’ve seen in… well, maybe ever.  I used to say that Planescape: Torment was, hands-down, the strongest narrative in videogames – and after playing through ninety hours of Persona, which had almost no slow spots, I may have to replay Torment just to see which is best.

Yet I’m debating recommending Persona to my friend Mishell Baker.

Now, Mishell is obsessed with Dragon Age and Mass Effect – she’s played the games through multiple times so she can hear every line of dialogue.  And we’ve nerded out about videogames on Twitter before, having long conversations about ZOMG THIS CHARACTER and WHAT ABOUT THIS PLOT TWIST – and I want her to play Persona so I can hear her reaction.

And yet Persona’s a little face-punchy.

Which is to say that Persona is, unabashedly, the story of a straight guy.  Which I have zero problem with – I think every type of character deserves a storyline, including straight cis dudes.

But that straightness permeates the game; literally every female character but one is romanceable.  There are a sum total of three LGBT characters in the game, and two of them are joke characters who show up twice to sexually harass one of the straightest guys in the game.  The third is a bartender of fluid but undefined gender, who is presented as a sympathetic, competent character…

But none of the Confidants you interact with – i.e., the people who have storylines – are gay or bisexual, or do they even appear to be aware of the concept.  (One of the main characters clearly has something going on with their sexuality, but nobody mentions this or ever follows up on it.)  Everyone is paired off into M/F boxes, and are all expected to act likewise.

And the game is literally about how society chains you into misery by forcing expectations upon you.  Thematically, you’d almost expect a discussion of someone’s sexuality.  Yet the game itself is overwhelmingly straight to the point where, if aliens learned about humanity from this ninety-hour game, they would not even know that gayness existed.

Here’s the issue:

Persona 5 was so good in everything else it did that you could go for hours before being reminded that oh, yeah, this game has weird issues with LGBT erasure and mockery.  I’d be into it, into it, into it, and oh.  There we are again.

And Mishell writes magnificent books – seriously, try Borderline – that do deal with gay and bisexual characters because that reflects her life.  Like me, she can’t write a book without LGBT characters because LGBT people are her friends and why would she write a book that casually negates their existence?

How would she react to a game that, in a hundred hours filled with deep characters, has gay characters that occupy less than ten minutes of the game?

That’s a syndrome Ann Leckie once likened to going to a great restaurant with awesome food and occasionally the waiters punch LGBT people and women in the face.  The straight guys, who don’t get punched, are like, “What, don’t you care about the quality of food?” and can’t understand why people might want to eat at a restaurant where they’re not tensed for elbow blows.

And Persona 5 is punchy as hell.  It’s a quality storyline that requires some punch-dodging, if you’re gay, because there’s a difference between “A straight guy is the lead character in this story” (which is great) and “A straight viewpoint has nearly eradicated any concept of homosexuality in an otherwise-complex storyline that has beautiful things to say about love and being true to yourself and the costs of standing up to do the right thing” (which isn’t).

Persona 5’s story is beautiful, and glorious, and meticulously thought out.  But to Mishell, who does speak out on LBGT issues a lot?

I don’t know how much it would punch her in the gay rights.  I think it’d hit her a lot harder than it did me.  It might change the game from “A beautiful story” to “A weird alt-history where people like her friends don’t exist.”

And it wouldn’t have been that difficult to alter Persona 5.  One gay friend might have done it – hell, fandom’s pretty much decided he’s gay anyway, might as well have made a statement within the game.  One conversation about someone investigating their sexuality.  One acknowledgement that all male teenagers might have other urges than to go after the hot blonde with the killer body (or maybe that one female character also wants that hot blonde).

It would not have changed the central story one whit, and yet it would have avoided throwing punches.

Which is a shame.  Because that small omission is the difference between me thrusting Persona 5 out to everyone I know, going, “HERE PLAY THIS OH MY GOD” and “I really loved this, and I think with some qualifiers, you might too.”  It’s that difference between mindless, squeeing fanboying and a work I have to ponder whether I can recommend.

As it is, I think Mishell might very well like it regardless.  If she reads this article, she’s at least braced for it.  She might be able to boot up Persona 5 and go, “Okay, yeah, I know we’re not getting that, but I can compensate for the rest.”  Or she might decide not to play the game because, sometimes, getting that disappointed when the rest is that good is somehow worse.

And I think, again, that it wouldn’t have taken much to be inclusive.  I don’t think a talking to a few gay or bi characters in-depth would have ruined it for straight guys, or at least straight guys who aren’t ragingly homophobic.   I don’t think you would have had to change much of the dialogue, even.

But there it is: Persona 5 is a great game.  So much that I can froth out a thousand words on it.  I recommend it highly.  I think it’s brilliant.

I just wish I could say “It’s brilliant” instead of “It’s brilliant, but.”

 

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)
2017-05-11 12:08 pm

You Can’t Talk About It. Not Really.

I’m at the peak of my Seasonal Affective Disorder, and I’m mired in suicidal depression. Texts from people I love are going unanswered, my work output is pathetic, and I’m damaging the relationships I have.

I wish I had the skill to express what it’s like to you, living through this time of year. But then again I don’t.

See, if I was better, I could write a flourishing emotional essay describing What It’s Like To Be Mentally Ill, with the same detail that sometimes I describe What It’s Like To Be In Love, and give people a taste of what it’s like to realize that your brain sometimes just gives out on you like a bum knee. If I was healthier, I could write it up in a way that you got it.

And it’d probably get me hospitalized.

I get bitter. I do. Because whenever someone says, “You can talk to me,” I know that’s not true. That’s what my illness takes away from me. Thirty years of talking has taught me that I can’t be honest with anyone, sometimes not even my own therapists. Because if I reveal the suicidal ideation I’ve dealt with for decades, that can land me in a stint in the hospital, which could cost me my job, which would, not surprisingly, not make me better mental healthwise.

People say “You can talk to me.” Yet the profound truth about chemical depression is that it’s boring, and talking doesn’t necessarily cure it. Sometimes talking accentuates all the worst parts of your life, revealing this sagging weakness in your foundations makes you seem more pathetic with every word, and you come out of it feeling worse.

And that’s bad, because when people say “You can talk to me,” what they often mean is “I want to be your hero.” They don’t mean to, but they’re often looking for that shot of pride at having Helped A Sad Person Overcome Their Trauma, to be the star of their own movie, and when they talk to you for two hours and you’re actually worse off then they quietly think you’re no fun to be around and they start quietly distancing themselves.

The number of people who can sit in a dark hole with you and simply hold your hand are rare. Most people want to see you improve in real time, or they’re going to step away.

You may say you’re the exception. Most people say they’re the exception. But there are terminally ill people in hospitals who are terribly lonely because people tell themselves they’re the exception but quietly find excuses not to be with a dying person who needs them but isn’t going to get better.

There’s a lot of exceptions to those exceptions.

And if you do find someone who can sit in a dark hole with you, your thoughts are corrosive and insulting. Because you question everything they do. Your self-loathing is secretly attacking their reasons for being here, every time you tell them how worthless you feel you’re also informing them that really, they either are stupid for showing up or deluded or both, and enduring that subtle abuse is its own skill, and a debatable one.

And then, as noted, uncorking someone’s depression can be fucking terrifying if they’ve seen you as a mostly functional human being. Talking is walking them backstage, saying, “I know you thought this was a beautiful show, but the truth is this furniture is fake and this wall collapses if you push hard and the makeup looks cheap close up.”

They rarely say, “Oh, wow, you did a good job with what you had.”

They just see the gaps, and decide this show has to be fixed. Because if you tell someone, “Yeah, I’ve considered killing myself two or three times a week my entire life,” and explain that there are days you don’t drive because of your concern that you’ll yank the wheel to one side and destroy yourself, their reaction is not to go “That’s how life is for this person, they’ve fought this for decades” but rather “JESUS THAT WOULD TERRIFY ME LET’S CHANGE THIS PERSON NOW” and again, if you tell the wrong person about these continual sadnesses, you wind up being flagged a danger to yourself and hauled away.

There are a few people I do talk to about things, when I get really depressed. But I don’t talk to them about it often. Because I know that sharing this unending wail of torment I’m in will corrode friendships, and I need friendships, and the issue with being as mentally ill as I am is that the survival technique is to conceal portions of myself to protect the people I love from my madness.

Because I don’t want my mental illness. And I don’t want to inflict it upon others unless I have to.

So I conserve discussing my depression until I really need to, because otherwise I won’t have anyone to discuss it with. And whenever I say that, people are like, “Oh, if you had real friends…” and my response is, “Maybe you have a nice, happy disorder that you can open up to your friends about, and that’s a lovely fucking place for you to live, but don’t you dare dismiss my friendships because your disorder is people-friendly.”

Mine isn’t. Mine is toxic. And even talking about my mental illness this much – this is the light version, people – inspires people to come out of the woodwork and tell me that I need to cheer up, that I don’t understand how friendship works, I just need to find the right people and all will be well.

And what I’m asking you to examine is your need for the Hollywood friendship – the one where you have a chat with your buddies and they get better and you get to be the hero.

Maybe that’s a disorder of its own.

Maybe that’s not helping.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)
2017-05-10 09:47 am

Want Me To Teach A Workshop? Here’s How You Do It!

People kept asking me what classes I taught, so I made a list and put it on my website.  If you want me to come to your town and run some sort of poly workshop, that list summarizes what I got for ya.  (And if I have the class notes public, they’re listed there too.)

I should note that I have a vague recollection of someone from Fet emailing me to ask if I would teach for them, but I cannot find it in my mail.  It may have been spam-trapped.  If you haven’t heard from me lately, please ask again.

If you don’t want me to teach a workshop in your town, then keep on doing what you’re doing. Chances are good I won’t show up spontaneously to teach in your living room.  But I can’t promise anything.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)
2017-05-05 10:28 am

“Why Do We Need Unisex Bathrooms?”

A guy asked this about a convention where several boy/girl bathrooms were temporarily repurposed into unisex bathrooms. (Not all of them – you could still find your standard male/female pooping places if you were uncomfortable.)

And I’ve been thinking about that question. “Why do we need unisex bathrooms?”

Because the answer is blazingly simple if you’ve attended Penguicon: look around that convention’s room parties, and you’ll see a fair number of genderqueer and trans and cross-dressing attendees. Some of them go to conventions specifically to have a weekend where they can relax and present as whatever gender they choose and not get hassled about it.

Going to the bathroom and deciding which box to check is, presumably, a buzzkill for these people on an otherwise-supportive weekend. Hence the unisex bathrooms.

But that’s not the question the guy was asking.

He used “we,” but he meant “he.” As in, “Why do I need a unisex bathroom?” And being a cis dude who dresses like a dude, he didn’t see any need for them. As such, he concluded the convention was doing stupid things for stupid reasons.

Which was a stupid conclusion, alas.

Because this addled man’s affected with a sad disease that can strike at anyone, but tends to afflict straight cis men: They have forgotten the difference between “we” and “me.”

I personally don’t need unisex bathrooms either. But when I ask the question, “Why do we need unisex bathrooms?”, I am capable of looking around to more than my experience and doing the elementary deduction work required to uncover why. Sometimes I even ask other people than myself and the people who look like me.

Why do we need unisex bathrooms? Because not everyone’s you, dude. I have never once attended a panel discussing gun safety or libertarian philosophy, but if someone asked me the question, “Why do we need those panels?” you bet your bippie I’d pull my head out of my neon-rimmed ass and look around to other people before answering the question.

Solipsism’s a helluva drug.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)
2017-04-28 09:30 am

How Not To Fight The Murder Zombies.

So the murder zombies are in your town again, ripping limbs from torsos. Everyone knows the best way to survive the murder zombie onslaught is to hide in a closet.

But humans react to murder zombies in funny ways, even when they’re not being personally devoured by the zombies’ hoof-hard teeth.

See, because “hiding in a closet” is the best way of riding it out when the murder zombie herd comes ravaging through town, you’ll have people who get really good at hiding in closets.

With each Culling they survive, these people will become increasingly cocky about their closet-hiding techniques.

Eventually, they’ll start making fun of people who don’t know how to hide in a closet properly. Complaints about the way the murder-zombies ate your child will be met with a sneering, “I guess somebody didn’t have their closet ready.”

And the end result will be, unbelievably, people who have more scorn for zombie victims than they do a hatred for the murder-zombies who want to tear them to shreds.

Yet that’s not the weirdest thing. The *weirdest* thing is that these expert closet-hiders genuinely come to think they’re fighting the murder-zombies by teaching these hiding techniques. “See, if you starve them, maybe they won’t murder so much,” the closet-hiders say.

But that’s not actually fighting the murder-zombies. That’s just surviving the murder-zombies. At best, the murder-zombies might slaughter the people in the next town over – but the expert closet-hiders think that’s just great, because at this point anyone who gets eaten by the murder-zombies is so stupid they deserve to die.

They think they’re fighting the murder-zombies, but in a way they’re actually very much aligned with the murder-zombies.

Whereas the truth is this: hiding in a closet is a useful skill to learn, and you probably need to learn it. But reducing the murder-zombie hordes to mere nuisances will take more than one person. You need an entire town to rise up, grab guns from the burning houses of those who have fallen, the mobilization of thousands of people so their response is not “Shit, murder-zombies, better prep my hiding-from-murder-zombie camouflage techniques” but “Sound the alarms, get the pitchforks, let’s make sure these murder-zombies don’t hurt another person!”

You need an organization to fight the horde, man. One man (or woman) can’t stop the undead stampede. One man (or woman) might as well just hide in the closet.

But the problem is this: that expert closet-hider is mocking the people who want to go out and fight (“What, don’t you have a closet?”), and telling everyone that the people who died deserved their deaths. And yes, maybe some of the people who died were unwise in some of their decisions. We might need a couple of staunch closets until we can recoup enough resources to take the fight to the murder-zombie larvae in their terrifying butchernest, and if you want to lead a respectful class on “Closet Hiding 101” then okay, sure, it can help.

Yet when you spend more energy denigrating the victims than you do saying, “*Of course* the murder-zombies are an evil necrotic horde who deserve no sympathy,” then you’re sapping the town’s efforts to rise up, man. We need to get out and shine sunlight on the necromancer’s cursed butchernest jewel and dissolve this murder-zombie horde after all – and your reliance on “BUILD A STURDIER CLOSET” just makes us all live in increasingly smaller closets.

So, you know, survive the zombies. Nothing wrong with that.

Just don’t forget that survival is very different from changing the landscape so zombie-survival is no longer necessary.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)
2017-04-27 09:56 am

For Fuck’s Sake, They’re At It Again. Call Now.

So I’d hoped the Republicans would grow up after being trounced in their first attempt at repealing/replacing Obamacare.  I’d legitimately love it if Republicans said, “People are being bankrupted by out-of-control health costs, and health care is complicated – why don’t we take some time to get the law right and come up with something America doesn’t hate?”

Instead, natch, they’re trying to ram through a hasty bill that’s even worse than the last one.  They may vote as early tomorrow.

Which is why you have to call your Representatives now.  And here’s how you stop do that:

CALL, DO NOT EMAIL.
Politicians can ignore emails the way you do. They can’t ignore calls. Their staffers have to take the calls, which means their staff doesn’t get anything done while they’re handling calls, which means the Senator is far more likely to hear about how the office is slowing to a crawl because the ACA issue is jamming the lines.

Last time, my super-conservative rep changed his mind on the repeal/replace from “YEAH LET’S DO IT” to “Uh, maybe?” because the calls were literally running 20 to 1 in favor of keeping Obamacare around.

SAY YOU’RE A VOTER FROM YOUR TOWN.
Let them know you’re local. Don’t bother calling if you’re not a potential voter. You do not have to give your name, though you can if you want; they may ask you for your zip code.  You may wish to force them to take your name to ensure they got your message.

HAVE A SCRIPT READY, IF YOU’RE SOCIALLY AWKWARD LIKE ME.
A good script is something like:

1) I’m disappointed that there’s a rush to shove through even worse health care legislation;
2) Please do not repeal the ACA without a strong replacement;
3) If you have a preexisting condition or the ACA has helped your life in some way, talk about that and make it personal how your life (or the life of someone you love) depends on this;
4) I will not vote for any Representative who helps repeal the ACA without a strong replacement, either in the primary or the general election.

You’re free to go on, if you like, but be polite. They kind of have to listen. In my experience, they’ll generally say they’ll pass the message onto the Representative, and hang up. But if you want to be that person who the office groans when they have to handle them – that polite-but-firm person who will be heard – then hey! You can contribute to the office gossip that people are really concerned about this ACA issue, which is good in politics.

CALL YOUR REPRESENTATIVE, NOT YOUR SENATOR.
That means you have to make a maximum of one call, which will take ten minutes max. (Unless your Representative’s line is already clogged, in which case, keep calling.)

You can generally look up your senator by using Who Is My Representative, but if not you’ll find a phone number on their website. Calling the local number is generally viewed to be slightly better.

And here’s the trick: If you’re a conservative who’s opposed to mandating that insurers must be able to insure people with preexisting conditions (for some weird reason), flip the script and call as well. This is a republic, and you deserve to have your voice heard.

That said, there was a ridiculous idea last time that the ACA repeal only failed because it wasn’t conservative enough.  That wasn’t true.  The reason it failed was most because tacking to the right to appeal to the hard-core conservatives cost them more votes in the center, and trying to appeal to everyone made their base splinter.

So calling to register your complaint actually does work.  We’re not guaranteed, of course; the Republicans are desperate, trying to shove through a law they wrote in less than a month that nobody’s even fully read (as opposed to the ACA, which was introduced in July 2009 and voted on in March 2010 after heavy debate).  They may manage it.

But if they do manage to replace the ACA with something that literally punishes those with preexisting conditions (and that could easily be you, even if you’re healthy now!), let it not be because you didn’t try.  Make the call today.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)
2017-04-26 10:18 am

Needed: Beta Reader For Maintenancepunk Novel.

Last night,  I finished the first draft of my maintenancepunk novel – which is like cyberpunk, except you spend way more time troubleshooting device conflicts and field-stripping your cyberlimbs.

I’m looking for about seven to ten people to beta-read for me and give me feedback. (Why seven to ten?  Because I’d like four to five people, and generally I find that you hit about 60% on getting beta readers to get back to you in time.)

I’m giving special preference this time to military folks and gun nuts, because this is a novel written by a pansy-ass civilian about a veteran in future combat, and I am positive I’ve gotten the details laughably wrong.

Now.  If you’re saying “Let me do it, I’m really good at proofreading,” alas, I shall pass.  Assuming I sell it to a publisher, we’ll have professional copyeditors and proofreaders sniffing this sucker like a hound dog.  Flagging misspelled words and grammatical errors is a distraction from the overall point of “Did this book deliver an emotional cyberpunch?”

No, what I want are the sorts of people who can explain four separate things, each cogently:

•         The things that confuse you (“Why would $character do that?” or “Wait, cyberlimbs shouldn’t be able to do that?”)
•         The things that throw you out of the story (“Character wouldn’t do THAT!” or “Factually, that’s so wrong!”)
•         The things that give you ass-creep (“I got bored here”)
•         All the things that make you pump the fist (“This moment was truly awesome, and unless I tell you how awesome it is, you might cut this part out in edits”)

So if you think you can do all that in five weeks, do me a favor and email me at theferrett@theferrett.com with the header “FERRETT, I WOULD LIKE TO BETA-READ YOUR MAINTENANCEPUNK.”  This service comes with the great reward of being name-checked in the acknowledgements, if this eventually sells.  I may get filled up on people, but if I do, I’ll put you on the list for the next revision, if there is one – I’ll need to give this one two more drafts in the next four months.

(And if you have beta-read for me before and are asking, “Ferrett, why didn’t you ask me directly?”, kindly remember that I am shy and dislike bothering people.  If you’ve got the time and want to volunteer for another go-round, pitch in!)

(Also note: I’ve not been blogging much on my main blog because, well, I’m still deciding what to do about LiveJournal’s recent TOS change, and moving away from LJ involves some technical preparation I hain’t had time for.  If you’re on LJ, well, consider bookmarking my main site.)

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)
2017-04-11 09:50 am

How Mass Effect Transforms Repetition Into Emotion Through Storytelling.

From a gameplay perspective, every one of Mass Effect’s missions is cut-and-copied:

  • You travel to a location where:
  • You fight a group of alien beings, OR:
  • You search for a place where you can press a button.

If you’re super-lucky, sometimes you combine the two!  You press a button, and then fight people!  Or when the fighting is done, you get to look for a button!

The excitement never ends in Mass Effect.

The only thing that stops Mass Effect from being endlessly repetitive is the narrative wrapper.  Quite literally, “story” is the sole difference between missions – and, largely, it works.   Because let’s say the three missions are:

  • An innocent girl has wandered out into the desert and been kidnapped by slavers.
  • An evil scientist is formulating a new plague, and you must track him down to his lab to stop him.
  • Mysterious monsters have awakened and are threatening a small frontier town.

All three of those missions are perfectly identical gamewise – you go to a set location and kill alien beings.  Yet the feel for each of them is subtly different solely because of who you talked to in order to get the mission!

Furthermore, your emotional reward is often skewed by the mission.  Let’s say that you chose “an innocent girl has been kidnapped by slavers” mission.  You find out when you get there that the slavers have turned her into a monstrous techno-beast, and you must kill her.  From a gameplay perspective, hey, you fought another monster and got your XP for finishing the mission.  It’s the exact same procedure as every other mission.  But chances are you now feel bad.  Maybe you’re more willing to take on missions destroying these slavers.

What fascinates me is that how these games become pure storytelling.  They are literally the most inexpensive way of making the game better!  I mean, BioWare could have spent money on setpiece battles – places where you’re battling on a plummeting airbase, or the rain makes visibility dim and the ground slippery, or created unique enemies for each location.

Yet instead, they resorted to a trick literally as old as cavemen.  We used to sit around fires and, with nothing more than a voice, tell crazy stories about the gods.  Story is the cheapest entertainment we have, because our imaginations will fill in so many details.

And BioWare, in a cost-saving mechanism, uses story to make the same “go here, kill things” quest into a hundred different emotional shades.  Because sometimes you’re going there to kill things because your friend is in trouble.  Sometimes you’re going there to kill things to get to the treasure.  Sometimes you’re going there to kill things for revenge against those evil slavers.

Without that story, nobody would play Mass Effect.  Other games that focus more on gameplay do the actual gaming better – I’m told that Overwatch has practically no story, but Blizzard has focused on making the game deep and rewarding for those who invest hours into it.  Not so with Mass Effect, alas; I’m now a 57th-level tech, and I’ve been using the same three powers to sleepwalk my way through battles for at least 30 levels.  (Overload, Incinerate, Remnant VI.)  There is zero need to change up my tactics, or indeed, to learn any new ones.

And let’s be honest: Mass Effect Andromeda is one of the weakest BioWare games because you don’t even get to make any choices that matter to the story.  In previous Dragon Age and Mass Effect games, you could make decisions that alienated your teammates to the point where some of them would no longer work with you.  Your decisions determined who among your companions lived or died, and who ruled which empire, and which species survived.  ME:A, alas, has minimized that influence to the point where literally everything you say to your companions will make them love you more – if you’re snarky, they love snark!  If you’re a romantic adventurer, they love adventuring!  There’s now no decisions that will lead to you being unloved by all (which is, I think, why Mass Effect 2 is BioWare’s high point).

But even stripped of choice within the larger story setting, I play these repetitive missions because, well, BioWare’s always got a new story twist to make me go, “Okay, what happens?”  As does Bethesda.  I think the reason I’m drawn to these games is because essentially, you take away the story and there is no game worth playing.

Every mission has me as a writer going, “Oh.  That’s another spin you can put on an identical set of events.”  Mass Effect is all about shading, all about nuance, all about that wrapper we put on the same old grind to liven it up.

Stripped bare, Mass Effect: Andromeda might not be a good game.  But it’s a good example of the power of storytelling.  And while I wish we had a new BioWare game that combined the two effectively, it’s proof that tons of people will prioritize storytelling over game play any day.

 

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)
2017-04-10 11:03 am

My Class Notes From The Jealousy Class I Teach, And Also My Breakups Class

After I presented at Kinky Kollege a weekend ago, I had some people asking for my class notes on my presentations.  I’m a little leery on that, because my notes are sketchy – they’re not detailed notes, more like waypoints to remind me to hit all the topics I wanted to cover.

However, a lot of these cryptic class notes are referencing essays I’ve written in the past – and so I went through and linked to those essays, so you can read more in-depth if you’d like.  This isn’t quite the in-depth seminar experience I give when I’m yammering before a crowd – but if you’re looking for a cluster of Ferrett-thoughts on a topic, well, here they are.

Jealousy Is Not A Crime: Troubleshooting Broken Polyamory
If you’re dating multiple people, bumps will occur, sure as death and taxes. The question is, how do you figure out what’s wrong… and how do you repair the faults so that you emerge stronger and saner? Kinktastic writer Ferrett Steinmetz will lead a discussion about how to fight fairly, how to be respectful to all the people in your poly web, and tout the merits of a solid set of dealbreakers.

Class Notes for Jealousy Is Not A Crime

You Don’t Perform Surgery With A Butter Knife: Holding Safe, Sane Breakups
One thing’s guaranteed in every poly community: eventually, you’re going to run into your exes. And as such, learning how to break up responsibly becomes of paramount importance – you don’t have to adore them any more, but you should be able to at least function in the same spaces. So how do you call it off with a minimum of drama, even when people are trashing you in public?

Class Notes for Safe, Sane Breakups

As a reminder, in addition to these I also teach the following classes:

  • How to Fight Fairly
  • Ten Perilous Poly Patterns
  • Wet With Words: Writing Erotica
  • Burninating the Peasants: Fireplay 101

If you’d like me to teach at your event, feel free to contact me at theferrett@theferrett.com – I usually ask for travel/hotel fees, and a small stipend.  But if my schedule’s free, I’m happy to come teach wherever I’m wanted.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.