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Ain’t nobody’s business if you don’t

I know, I know, you’re probably getting bored with Hugo-related content by now. There has indeed been a lot of it, with blog posts back and forth, epic comment threads, and the occasional Sad mastermind or defender popping in to explain himself.

But there are a couple of sentiments that have been cropping up, which I wanted to address, because I think they are a sneaky way of attempting to tell people how to vote this year. And that pertains to Happy Kittens.

The first notion goes something like this: “no matter what, it’s YOUR JOB to read everything on the ballot and seriously consider giving it a Hugo.” Often this assertion has a follow-up similar to: “otherwise you’re doing an injury to the spirit of the award MUCH WORSE than slate voting!”

This might be driven by a sincere evangelical impulse, an earnest conviction that if everyone would only read the work in question, they would be taken with its brilliance and completely see what the Sad Puppies are all about. If so, that’s almost cute. Still wrong, though. But I suspect there is another motivation at work — an attempt to shame non-Sads out of ranking their final ballot against slate works they don’t want to read.

But you are under no more obligation to read a work before voting than they were before nominating. Yes, I’m sure there are Sad apologists who will leap in to claim that of course every single one of them read absolutely everything on the slate before nominating the slate. To which I can only say — HAHAHAHAHAHA. No, really, pull the other one. It’s got catnip bells on it.

But even so, that doesn’t constitute an actual obligation to read before voting. Your own sense of honor or fairness or respect for the award might demand it, of course. But that’s your call. Sads can’t reasonably insist that knee-jerk slate voting is okay but knee-jerk anti-slate voting isn’t. Live by the slate, die by the slate.

Nobody reads literally every SF&F work published in a given year and then makes their Hugo selection from that. We read what we’re inclined to read, and go on from there. The same principle applies to the nominees. I have no reason to read something I don’t want to read just because it was nominated for a Hugo.

In a normal year, being on the ballot at all would constitute a recommendation of quality — something to provide that extra little nudge to get me to actually give it a whirl. This year, meh. I’ve already seen what the Sads consider worth nominating, on last year’s ballot. I was not impressed with their choices.

(On a bit of a tangent, but, I wanted to address one comment left by Brad Torgersen: “Mr. Sandifer, if you truly believe that a book like ANCILLARY JUSTICE or a story like ‘The Water That Falls On You From Nowhere’ did not benefit from a tremendous groundswell of affirmative-action-mindedness, you’re not paying attention.” Well, right back atcha, bub. Do you seriously expect me to believe that last year’s Sad voters nominated a story like “Opera Vita Aeterna” for its merits and not because they were cackling with malicious glee at the thought of irritating a bunch of Social Justice Warriors by honoring the racist, misogynist, and all-around terrible excuse for a human being who wrote it?)

So, this year, I can already tell you that I intend to merrily skip past anything I’m not otherwise inclined to read. And there are a lot of reasons I might not want to read a work. Because it doesn’t seem interesting. Because the first paragraph or so doesn’t grab me. Because I have already tried that writer before and didn’t think they were worth my time. Because the writer is a notorious bigot. Because I’ve seen that name posting in Sad-related comment threads and was not impressed with their logic, writing skill, or personal qualities.

I feel perfectly justified in skipping whole categories, if nothing in that category looks worth reading, and voting for “No Award,” because seriously, if nothing in the whole category even looks worth reading, “No Award” is what ought to win. I also feel perfectly justified in considering Sad nominees that look interesting, and voting “No Award” if I still don’t think the work deserves a Hugo.

In fact, I feel perfectly justified voting in favor of non-Sad work that I wouldn’t otherwise have voted for. (For example: usually I don’t even bother to consider the fan artist category.)

We are all free to read what we want and vote how we want.

Don’t let any Sad Thing tell you any differently.

I don’t know if that’s actually salmon the little cat is eating. I like to imagine it’s salmon. It turned out to be ridiculously hard to find a good image of a kitten eating salmon where both the kitten and the salmon looked appealing, so eventually I settled on a cute kitten rather than appetizing salmon. 

The second issue that has come up — and this seems tied more closely to this year’s exciting new Sad splinter group, the “Rabid Puppies” — is vague threats of some dire retaliation. That if “No Award” wins in any Sad-dominated category, they will ensure that there is NEVER AGAIN a Hugo given in that category. I have even seen the suggestion that we should give them what they want — which appears to be a couple of token Hugo awards, I guess? — and maybe they’ll go away.

Basically, they’re making an attempt to swagger into the joint with a bunch of fedora-wearing toughs who smack their billy clubs in a suggestive manner while saying, “Nice fandom you got here. Be a shame if anything should happen to it.”

This is quite possibly the most toothless excuse for a threat I have ever seen. What exactly would the Rabids do in order to ensure that no Hugo award is ever given again in that category? It’s not like they have magical powers or anything. So I’m pretty sure that the only way they could even attempt to make good on that threat is to do exactly what they’re doing this year — flood the nominees and then the votes. Which I’m pretty sure they’re planning to try again anyway. So where’s the threat?
We don’t even know how successful the second part of that — the voting part — is going to be for them. Worldcon has gotten a torrent of new supporting votes since the announcement of the nominees, and some of the bwuh-huh-huh-ers in comment threads have suggested that this is mostly Rabid sympathizers, but until the votes are counted, we won’t know. And if they do manage to flood the voting, they probably will get a couple of token Hugo awards, so why try to threaten me into doing it?

Plus, making good on that threat requires them to keep it up year after year after year after year after year. Do they really have the patience and dedication for that? I mean, if they do, I guess I would be impressed, sort of, in a way — one rarely sees that level of truly pointless obsession outside of an episode of Hoarders. It has the same jaw-dropping qualities. “Dude, you realize, you’re sleeping on a a PILE OF TRASH?”

Not only that, but keeping it up year after year after year is going to require money. Actual real money. Which makes it a bit different from your usual gamergate-style trolling and harassment campaign — those require only obsessive dedication to a poorly articulated cause, not having much of a life outside of that cause, and a complete lack of empathy or sense of proportion. But gamergating the Hugos requires shelling out money for supporting memberships.

I saw one would-be supervillain claim, in a comment thread, that no amount of money was too great, that he would pay hundreds just for the privilege of pissing off a bunch of nerds.

Seriously? As if pissing off nerds is hard to do? And you’re willing to pay actual money for the privilege? Real honest-to-God money just to revel in the sense that you’re irritating people? That’s… that’s weird, dude. How can you not see that’s weird? And also pathetic. Most people have better things to spend their money on. Also, I’m guessing that you have no trouble at all going about your daily life and irritating people in person for free.

So what was your point, again?

Further, if they really do have the stamina to keep this up year after year, the Worldcon committee probably will tweak the rules in order to ameliorate the power of slate voting. Oh, sure, their threat might be meant to imply that they intend to insert themselves into that process. But doing that would require not only paying a token amount and casting an online ballot, it would require actually showing up at Worldcon business meeting.

Think about it. Paying for an attending membership, traveling to wherever Worldcon is held, and sitting through an actual, real-life, talking-to-people meeting — not anonymous blustering behind an Internet pseudonym. And they would have to do this more than once, as it takes more than one year to push through a rules change. And they would not only have to attend, they would also have to either persuade people to their side, or attend in the same kind of proportionately overwhelming numbers they used to push through the original slate of nominations. And they would have to act like adults the whole time — behave themselves well enough not to get kicked out of the convention for things like harassment, or vandalism, or generally disruptive behavior.

It just doesn’t sound very likely, does it?

Even assuming all that — assuming they have the long-term commitment it would take to actually wreck the Hugos forever — still I would rather never award another Hugo in any category, than vote to award one to something that just plain doesn’t deserve it.

In my opinion, of course. Your opinion too. As always. Happy Kitten happiness is achieved by everyone making up their own minds, and voting accordingly.

Also, by giving them salmon.

Originally published at Goth House: Julie McGalliard lives here. You can comment here or there.

Happy, happy kittens

This post is about the so-called Sad and/or Rabid Puppies, and if you need background on exactly what that is, please refer to this IO9 article. In my own post, whenever I attribute motive or reasoning to Brad Torgersen, Author of Sadness, it is based on this very thorough analysis of Torgerson’s own essays on the topic, from a writer who declined to be included on the Sad slate. (Thanks to Janna Silverstein for the link.)

It’s a happy kitten. I thought you’d like it. 

The short answer is that Torgersen appears to be under the impression that the Hugos used to honor the Sort of Thing Brad Torgersen Likes, but for the past ten years or so, have been honoring more and more examples of Not the Sort of Thing Brad Torgersen Likes. Further, he seems convinced that this is due to some shadowy cabal of atypical fans who vote based on something other than merit, acting in concert to nominate Not the Sort of Thing Brad Torgerson Likes, so that the only way to thwart their influence is collective action in the opposite direction.

The Sort of Thing Brad Torgersen Likes appears to be rousingly populist space adventure tales with no obvious literary pretensions and either no discernable social or political message, or if any message is detectible, it should be a right wing, libertarian, or bigoted message.

His campaign was a devastating success, in part because there WAS no shadowy cabal of atypical fans who vote based on something other than merit until Torgersen and his fellow travelers set about creating one. So, with the Sads all voting more or less in agreement, and everyone else simply voting as usual for whatever they happened to want to vote for, the Sads swept the Hugo nominees this year.

Even without the rumors I heard about the Sads, I would have known something was up when I saw the list of Hugo nominees. Usually, the nomination list is full of  writers, works, and publishers with a bit of “buzz,” things that trigger a vague sense of “oh, my friends were talking about that” or “oh, I’ve been meaning to read that.”

But the 2015 nominees are dominated by boring-looking stuff by guys I’ve never heard of, which seems like a strange accomplishment from a dude whose complaint about the Hugos includes them not being populist enough. I mean, one of those guys I’ve never heard of, John C. Wright, is nominated in every short category, and THREE TIMES in the novella category alone.

It looks fishy, basically. You don’t have to know anything else about it for it to look fishy. If it were MY OWN NAME appearing all those places, I would still be rather appalled and inquire as to whether the votes had been counted properly.

Even if the Sads didn’t technically break any rules, they obviously broke something — and I fear that what’s broken is the Hugos themselves, which might in turn break Worldcon.

Torgersen, by assuming (falsely) that the Hugos had somehow become deliberately politicized in a way he didn’t like, and in striking out against this imaginary foe, has very possibly created exactly that foe. Because with the Sads voting as a block, anybody who seriously opposes the aim of the Sads — a transparent attempt to elevate work based on right wing political identity rather than artistic merit — will have a strong motivation toward forming a voting block of their own — the Happy Kittens, perhaps.

And so, it might be that every year from now on is going to be Sad Puppies vs. Happy Kittens and suddenly Hugo voting becomes as nasty and dysfunctional as our US national politics. But in politics, we keep on in spite of that, because we don’t have much of a choice. The Hugos are purely optional — we do them because they are supposed to be fun, a celebration of science fiction and fantasy art and fandom. If the whole thing gets too icky and contentious and disturbing and unpleasant, a lot of people — the nicer people, the people who care more about art than about “winning” — might end up staying home, deciding it’s not worth it.

At that point, the Hugos and Worldcon might limp along for a while primarily as a haven for a certain kind of ultra-reactionary fan, but with no sense of larger-world prestige behind them. When people in the future talk about Hugo winners, they’ll have to preface it: was that one of the Real Hugos, or the Sad Hugos?

Then they’ll die out, because a philosophy based on exclusion is inherently doomed. No more Hugos. No more Worldcon. Fandom will move on to less literary conventions, like Emerald City Comic-Con, which already have the greater numbers, or more literary conventions, like World Fantasy.

The end.

Now, that’s an “if this goes on” dystopian scenario, which any SF fan ought to understand is largely a thought experiment — and also which any SF fan ought to know has been a central part of SF for a very long time. (Does the title 1984 ring a bell? )

The phenomenon of SF getting “taken over” by a bunch of highfalutin’ literary types, and also by politicized left-leaning “social justice warriors,” is hardly new, no matter what Mr. Torgersen and his cabal of Sads seem to think. I was raised on Original Series Star Trek, for heaven’s sake. It doesn’t get more central to traditional SF fandom than that, does it? TOS is nearly fifty years old, old enough that there are now fans of longstanding who grew up with Star Trek: The Next Generation as their default Trek. And TOS was noticeably anti-war, anti-racism, and chock full of metaphors about progressive 60s politics — usually flattering to the progressive side of things. (Although they seemed a little ambivalent about hippies, and nobody seemed to have told them about feminism.)

Further, Star Trek happened only after a movement in SF known as the New Wave had started, in which writers such as J.G. Ballard and Ursula K. LeGuin brought a new spirit of literary and social experimentation to the field.

It leads me to wonder not only what Torgersen and his Sads think they are going to gain from all this, but what their actual grievances could possibly be. Obviously he’s responding to something he thinks has changed in SF since he first got interested in the field, but everything he complains about was already a well-established part of SF when I started reading it as a kid in the 70s. Brad Torgersen was born in 1974. He’s younger than I am. He can’t play the “original fandom” card on me — if anything, the dude should be getting off MY lawn.

However, when I think about Hugo-related changes that might have come about in the last 10 years, compared to the changes that started 50 years ago, it comes down to greater diversity — more non-US Worldcons and more nominated writers who are not straight, white, cisgendered men.

That doesn’t speak well of the Sads’ true motives.

Of course Beale/VD with his own related “rabid puppies” slate, doesn’t even pretend that it’s about ethics in journalism, I mean, about the actual merit of the work. Mr. VD is very open about having decided that he derives perverse pleasure from the choice to be evil on purpose. But the real supervillains would laugh him out of the club for his stunted imagination and mediocre intellect. (“That’s your big, evil plan? You want to make a bunch of nerdy science fiction fans cry? Dude, are you twelve?”)

Last year, I knew that some of the nominees were Sads, and gave them a go anyway. (Morbid curiosity and a perhaps misguided sense of fairness drove me to it.) It turned out the stories that won (no Sads) were excellent (“The Water that Falls on You From Nowhere,” “The Lady Astronaut of Mars”) or fun (“Equoid”) and the Sads were either professional but dull, or actively horrible. (VD makes Stephanie Meyer look like a prose genius, and I am not kidding. Or exaggerating. Except that it might be doing a disservice to Meyer.)

This year, most people who think deeply about such things — John Scalzi, for example — are recommending that everyone vote and make liberal use of the “No Award” option in categories where nothing that has been nominated really seems worthy of the honor.

Next year?

Well, after some consideration, I think Happy Kittens should be a thing, for real. But it shouldn’t be a single recommended slate where I, or Scalzi, or whoever, tries to wield the power of block voting. The kittens don’t want that. Anyway, they’re kittens. Are you familiar with the expression “herding cats”? It means trying to herd a creature that, by its fundamental nature, resists herding.

No, Happy Kittens is just a campaign to make sure that everyone who wants the Hugo award to remain an award that means something, gets out there and nominates what they want to nominate. We call our movement the Happy Kittens just to remind ourselves of what happens if we don’t participate.

I didn’t nominate this year. I’m betting a lot of the rest of you didn’t either. Maybe, like me, you’re perpetually behind on your reading, and felt it was somewhat improper to nominate stuff you hadn’t read just because your friends wrote it and you already know your friends are awesome writers, or to nominate the “best” when you’d only read one thing that even qualified. Maybe the deadline for Hugo nominations is just the kind of thing you easily lose track of, like political primaries or mid-term elections.

But not participating implicitly means that you trust the people who do participate to represent your interests. In the case of the Hugos, prior to now, that trust had never seriously been violated.

According to the Tor site, the total number of nomination forms was 2122

We can beat that.

Originally published at Goth House: Julie McGalliard lives here. You can comment here or there.

Happy, happy kittens

This post is about the so-called Sad and/or Rabid Puppies, and if you need background on exactly what that is, please refer to this IO9 article. In my own post, whenever I attribute motive or reasoning to Brad Torgersen, Author of Sadness, it is based on this very thorough analysis of Torgerson’s own essays on the topic, from a writer who declined to be included on the Sad slate. (Thanks to Janna Silverstein for the link.)

It’s a happy kitten. I thought you’d like it. 

The short answer is that Torgersen appears to be under the impression that the Hugos used to honor the Sort of Thing Brad Torgersen Likes, but for the past ten years or so, have been honoring more and more examples of Not the Sort of Thing Brad Torgersen Likes. Further, he seems convinced that this is due to some shadowy cabal of atypical fans who vote based on something other than merit, acting in concert to nominate Not the Sort of Thing Brad Torgerson Likes, so that the only way to thwart their influence is collective action in the opposite direction.

The Sort of Thing Brad Torgersen Likes appears to be rousingly populist space adventure tales with no obvious literary pretensions and either no discernable social or political message, or if any message is detectible, it should be a right wing, libertarian, or bigoted message.

His campaign was a devastating success, in part because there WAS no shadowy cabal of atypical fans who vote based on something other than merit until Torgersen and his fellow travelers set about creating one. So, with the Sads all voting more or less in agreement, and everyone else simply voting as usual for whatever they happened to want to vote for, the Sads swept the Hugo nominees this year.

Even without the rumors I heard about the Sads, I would have known something was up when I saw the list of Hugo nominees. Usually, the nomination list is full of  writers, works, and publishers with a bit of “buzz,” things that trigger a vague sense of “oh, my friends were talking about that” or “oh, I’ve been meaning to read that.”

But the 2015 nominees are dominated by boring-looking stuff by guys I’ve never heard of, which seems like a strange accomplishment from a dude whose complaint about the Hugos includes them not being populist enough. I mean, one of those guys I’ve never heard of, John C. Wright, is nominated in every short category, and THREE TIMES in the novella category alone.

It looks fishy, basically. You don’t have to know anything else about it for it to look fishy. If it were MY OWN NAME appearing all those places, I would still be rather appalled and inquire as to whether the votes had been counted properly.

Even if the Sads didn’t technically break any rules, they obviously broke something — and I fear that what’s broken is the Hugos themselves, which might in turn break Worldcon.

Torgersen, by assuming (falsely) that the Hugos had somehow become deliberately politicized in a way he didn’t like, and in striking out against this imaginary foe, has very possibly created exactly that foe. Because with the Sads voting as a block, anybody who seriously opposes the aim of the Sads — a transparent attempt to elevate work based on right wing political identity rather than artistic merit — will have a strong motivation toward forming a voting block of their own — the Happy Kittens, perhaps.

And so, it might be that every year from now on is going to be Sad Puppies vs. Happy Kittens and suddenly Hugo voting becomes as nasty and dysfunctional as our US national politics. But in politics, we keep on in spite of that, because we don’t have much of a choice. The Hugos are purely optional — we do them because they are supposed to be fun, a celebration of science fiction and fantasy art and fandom. If the whole thing gets too icky and contentious and disturbing and unpleasant, a lot of people — the nicer people, the people who care more about art than about “winning” — might end up staying home, deciding it’s not worth it.

At that point, the Hugos and Worldcon might limp along for a while primarily as a haven for a certain kind of ultra-reactionary fan, but with no sense of larger-world prestige behind them. When people in the future talk about Hugo winners, they’ll have to preface it: was that one of the Real Hugos, or the Sad Hugos?

Then they’ll die out, because a philosophy based on exclusion is inherently doomed. No more Hugos. No more Worldcon. Fandom will move on to less literary conventions, like Emerald City Comic-Con, which already have the greater numbers, or more literary conventions, like World Fantasy.

The end.

Now, that’s an “if this goes on” dystopian scenario, which any SF fan ought to understand is largely a thought experiment — and also which any SF fan ought to know has been a central part of SF for a very long time. (Does the title 1984 ring a bell? )

The phenomenon of SF getting “taken over” by a bunch of highfalutin’ literary types, and also by politicized left-leaning “social justice warriors,” is hardly new, no matter what Mr. Torgerson and his cabal of Sads seem to think. I was raised on Original Series Star Trek, for heaven’s sake. It doesn’t get more central to traditional SF fandom than that, does it? TOS is nearly fifty years old, old enough that there are now fans of longstanding who grew up with Star Trek: The Next Generation as their default Trek. And TOS was noticeably anti-war, anti-racism, and chock full of metaphors about progressive 60s politics — usually flattering to the progressive side of things. (Although they seemed a little ambivalent about hippies, and nobody seemed to have told them about feminism.)

Further, Star Trek happened only after a movement in SF known as the New Wave had started, in which writers such as J.G. Ballard and Ursula K. LeGuin brought a new spirit of literary and social experimentation to the field.

It leads me to wonder not only what Torgersen and his Sads think they are going to gain from all this, but what their actual grievances could possibly be. Obviously he’s responding to something he thinks has changed in SF since he first got interested in the field, but everything he complains about was already a well-established part of SF when I started reading it as a kid in the 70s. Brad Torgersen was born in 1974. He’s younger than I am. He can’t play the “original fandom” card on me — if anything, the dude should be getting off MY lawn.

However, when I think about Hugo-related changes that might have come about in the last 10 years, compared to the changes that started 50 years ago, it comes down to greater diversity — more non-US Worldcons and more nominated writers who are not straight, white, cisgendered men.

That doesn’t speak well of the Sads’ true motives.

Of course Beale/VD with his own related “rabid puppies” slate, doesn’t even pretend that it’s about ethics in journalism, I mean, about the actual merit of the work. Mr. VD is very open about having decided that he derives perverse pleasure from the choice to be evil on purpose. But the real supervillains would laugh him out of the club for his stunted imagination and mediocre intellect. (“That’s your big, evil plan? You want to make a bunch of nerdy science fiction fans cry? Dude, are you twelve?”)

Last year, I knew that some of the nominees were Sads, and gave them a go anyway. (Morbid curiosity and a perhaps misguided sense of fairness drove me to it.) It turned out the stories that won (no Sads) were excellent (“The Water that Falls on You From Nowhere,” “The Lady Astronaut of Mars”) or fun (“Equoid”) and the Sads were either professional but dull, or actively horrible. (VD makes Stephanie Meyer look like a prose genius, and I am not kidding. Or exaggerating. Except that it might be doing a disservice to Meyer.)

This year, most people who think deeply about such things — John Scalzi, for example — are recommending that everyone vote and make liberal use of the “No Award” option in categories where nothing that has been nominated really seems worthy of the honor.

Next year?

Well, after some consideration, I think Happy Kittens should be a thing, for real. But it shouldn’t be a single recommended slate where I, or Scalzi, or whoever, tries to wield the power of block voting. The kittens don’t want that. Anyway, they’re kittens. Are you familiar with the expression “herding cats”? It means trying to herd a creature that, by its fundamental nature, resists herding.

No, Happy Kittens is just a campaign to make sure that everyone who wants the Hugo award to remain an award that means something, gets out there and nominates what they want to nominate. We call our movement the Happy Kittens just to remind ourselves of what happens if we don’t participate.

I didn’t nominate this year. I’m betting a lot of the rest of you didn’t either. Maybe, like me, you’re perpetually behind on your reading, and felt it was somewhat improper to nominate stuff you hadn’t read just because your friends wrote it and you already know your friends are awesome writers, or to nominate the “best” when you’d only read one thing that even qualified. Maybe the deadline for Hugo nominations is just the kind of thing you easily lose track of, like political primaries or mid-term elections.

But not participating implicitly means that you trust the people who do participate to represent your interests. In the case of the Hugos, prior to now, that trust had never seriously been violated.

According to the Tor site, the total number of nomination forms was 2122

We can beat that.

Originally published at Goth House: Julie McGalliard lives here. You can comment here or there.

>Evernote Camera Roll 20150227 193041

Hey everyone! Waking up Naked in Strange Places, my first novel, is officially released April 2 — that’s tomorrow! I’ve been working hard trying to brainstorm ways to promote the book. If you are interested in helping me do that, I think you’ll find the methods below easy and fun.

  1. Buy an extra copy of the trade paperback. Gut the interior pages, leaving you with just the cover. Whenever you are reading in public, no matter what you are reading — a different book, an e-book, a bus schedule — wrap the WUNISP cover around it, so that it appears you are reading my book…
    …forever.
  2. Get a friend to read the book aloud to you and live-tweet the experience, but be sure to avoid spoilers. So your tweets will be things like “OMG the most amazing thing just happened! Never saw that coming! #ReadingWUNISP” or “When that one character did that thing with the thing? AWESOME. #ReadingWUNISP”
  3. Buy a bunch of extra copies of the book. Hang around outside evangelical churches when the services let out, and try to give them copies of the book, explaining how it changed your life.
    1. Get a handful of friends to help you do this. Bonus points if one of you plays the guitar and you all sing werewolf hymns.
    2. No, I don’t know what werewolf hymns would sound like. A lot of AROOOOOO noises, probably.
  4. Walk around naked carrying a copy of the book. Make sure it is prominently displayed in any photographs taken at your arrest.
    1. Bonus! When the police interrogate you, at first, claim that you read my book and it somehow hypnotized you into thinking you were a werewolf, and that’s why you were naked in public.
    2. Give at least three days for the controversy over “people who really think they’re werewolves” to get totally out of hand and my book proclaimed a menace, then admit you were just kidding.
  5. Interpretive dance.
  6. Everywhere you go, whenever you see somebody taking a picture, photo-bomb them with a copy of my book. Weddings! Funerals! Christenings! Ribbon-cutting ceremonies! Press conferences! Awards shows! Mug shots! International peace summits!
    Really, there’s no bad place and no possible way this could go wrong.

Originally published at Goth House: Julie McGalliard lives here. You can comment here or there.

Hey everyone! Waking up Naked in Strange Places, my first novel, is officially released April 2 — that’s tomorrow! I’ve been working hard trying to brainstorm ways to promote the book. If you are interested in helping me do that, I think you’ll find the methods below easy and fun.

  1. Buy an extra copy of the trade paperback. Gut the interior pages, leaving you with just the cover. Whenever you are reading in public, no matter what you are reading — a different book, an e-book, a bus schedule — wrap the WUNISP cover around it, so that it appears you are reading my book…
    …forever.
  2. Get a friend to read the book aloud to you and live-tweet the experience, but be sure to avoid spoilers. So your tweets will be things like “OMG the most amazing thing just happened! Never saw that coming! #ReadingWUNISP” or “When that one character did that thing with the thing? AWESOME. #ReadingWUNISP”
  3. Buy a bunch of extra copies of the book. Hang around outside evangelical churches when the services let out, and try to give them copies of the book, explaining how it changed your life.
    1. Get a handful of friends to help you do this. Bonus points if one of you plays the guitar and you all sing werewolf hymns.
    2. No, I don’t know what werewolf hymns would sound like. A lot of AROOOOOO noises, probably.
  4. Walk around naked carrying a copy of the book. Make sure it is prominently displayed in any photographs taken at your arrest.
    1. Bonus! When the police interrogate you, at first, claim that you read my book and it somehow hypnotized you into thinking you were a werewolf, and that’s why you were naked in public.
    2. Give at least three days for the controversy over “people who really think they’re werewolves” to get totally out of hand and my book proclaimed a menace, then admit you were just kidding.
  5. Interpretive dance.
  6. Everywhere you go, whenever you see somebody taking a picture, photo-bomb them with a copy of my book. Weddings! Funerals! Christenings! Ribbon-cutting ceremonies! Press conferences! Awards shows! Mug shots! International peace summits!
    Really, there’s no bad place and no possible way this could go wrong.

Originally published at Goth House: Julie McGalliard lives here. You can comment here or there.

By special request — an essay ranting about Christian Rock!

I first encountered Christian Rock when I was 12 years old, right in the middle of a very chaotic thirteenth year. (Yes, I just now realized that the year you are twelve is your thirteenth year. Oooooooooo! Superstitiousness!)

My thirteenth year went kinda like this: junior high; menstruation; zits; hair turning into some kind of extruded strawlike substance about which nothing could be done and which my fellow seventh graders seemed to find the most hilarious and mockable thing they had ever seen; moving a thousand miles away; a different junior high; living with friends of the family and being subjected to an inconsistent patchwork of rules and expectations from two sets of parents right when my adolescent brain was starting to chafe under the notion of adult authority of any kind; a third junior high; my mother’s father diagnosed with lung cancer.

All that, and I was twelve. So, you know, I didn’t really know how to deal with any of it.

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Originally published at Goth House. You can comment here or there.

And even Octavia Butler

I’ve been struggling to articulate anything useful about the recent events that started with the Grand Jury decision not to charge Ferguson, Mo. police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting of Michael Brown. Silence might make it appear that I have no opinion, and I do. In my opinion, it is not a good thing that American police seem to behave increasingly like an occupying force subduing a hostile foreign population, and that there is such an obvious racist component both to the original police misconduct, and to our collective societal reaction to it.

I do believe most police officers are basically decent people trying to do their best at a tough and dangerous job. The problem is that, when something goes wrong with law enforcement — when cops turn out to be trigger-happy racists, or abusers, or rapists, or even just make a deadly serious mistake — nothing happens. No accountability, no effort to fix anything, no acknowledgment that there’s even a problem.

So, we have cops who get in the habit of looking at all the ordinary citizens walking around out there, and see everyone as a potential criminal, and treat them accordingly. And you have the ordinary citizens looking back at the cops and seeing the exact same thing — a potential criminal. Except, what the citizens see is a potential criminal who is heavily armed and almost certain to get away with it.

So, the hostility and fear escalate on both sides.

In 1990, I flew to London for the first time, and ended up sitting next to a very nice English couple who gave me pointers about their homeland. One of the things they told me: “British cops aren’t like American cops, dear. British cops are your friends. You can go to them for help if you get into trouble.”

Think about that for a minute. Everybody’s white. Everybody’s wealthy enough to be on a plane. I’m female. And still, they expected that as an American, I would not see be inclined to see police officers as friendly and trustworthy people who would help me if I needed it. And they were correct.

Nowhere is the role of American police as a hostile occupying force more apparent than their response to protests. From Ferguson, to Occupy, to the WTO protests in Seattle, to Kent State, to the Civil Rights marches, we see a pattern of repression and brutality on the part of law enforcement in response to citizens attempting to exercise their Constitutional rights to freely assemble and petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Further, this pattern is highly partisan. Agitators for progressive causes get put down aggressively, injured and even killed, while teapartiers, frenzied bargain-hunters, or people getting a little out of hand celebrating a sports victory are tolerated. The police might be there as a presence, but nobody gets pepper-sprayed.

The message this sends to the American people is clear: we, the cops, will beat you down with impunity, and if you make a fuss or object in any obvious way, we’ll bet you down some more. Everybody should be outraged by that. Everybody should be joining in the call for greater police accountability. The police especially should be in favor of this — all that mutual hostility makes their job a lot harder.

But in the past couple of weeks I’ve seen a lot of pushback on the idea that there’s even a problem that needs fixing. Some of this is plain old-fashioned racism — people who more or less openly admit that they consider black Americans to be less human than other Americans, so as long as the cops are only killing black people or hippies, they’re okay with it. But there’s also a fair bit of “I just want to get on with my Christmas shopping” apathy, ignorance, and denial.

It can be hard to face full-on the injustices of the world — not only do they make us feel vulnerable, but if we have any conscience at all, we might start to feel burdened to actually do something about them. So people take refuge in the just-world fallacy: There’s nothing wrong here, and if anything bad happened to anybody, it was because they brought it on themselves through unwise behavior that I would never engage in, in fact, that no reasonable person would ever engage in, and if I just keep on the way I’ve been doing, surely I, and all the people I care about, will remain completely safe and prosperous in this best of all possible worlds where everything always works out for the best.

The just-world refuge isn’t available to everyone equally. You have to be able to convince yourself that the injustice doesn’t touch you, that the people it happens to are “other,” over there, not like you, not a part of your life, your tribe. And if you think racism doesn’t enhance people’s ability to do that — to convince themselves that black Americans are “other” — well. I have some Internet startup stock to sell you.

I know that some of you out there spouting egregiously racist nonsense are just attempting to put a thin veneer of “logical” justification on top of your sneering racism, and there’s probably no point arguing with you. But some of you probably fall into the ignorance/denial category, the just-world-fallacy category, and for your benefit I’m going to tell you a story about Octavia Butler.

(Apologies in advance for any details I might get wrong. Human memory, as you may know, is highly untrustworthy. Which is a good reason for things like lapel cameras.)

Octavia Butler was the guest of honor at the first Foolscap science fiction convention in 1999. I knew her as a highly respected name in science fiction literature before the convention, and at the convention met a person who was delightful in every possible way — wise, dignified, kind, funny, and smart. Her guest of honor speech remains one of my favorite things I’ve ever seen at a convention.

During that speech she told a story about attempting to spend a hundred dollar bill, a birthday present from her mother, at a Pasadena grocery store. But instead of accepting this cash as legal tender for all debts public and private, giving her change and moving on to the next customer, this grocery store reacted as if she were a thief or a drug dealer. They called out security to hustle her off to a back room where she was detained for hours. I believe she was never physically injured, although the threat of that hung over the detention. I think they might have kept the money, though. They certainly didn’t apologize.

One of the audience members, outraged on her behalf, spoke up about how they would never put up with such treatment. And Ms. Butler responded — with gentleness and patience, but also with a look of exasperated weariness in her eyes — “That’s because you’re white.”

She didn’t use the word “privilege,” but when I did encounter that word later, I already knew exactly what it meant. Some people resist the idea that there is such a thing as privilege, often because they think of it as extra cool stuff that you get, and not as a lack of having to put up with ridiculous and horrible stuff that nobody should ever in a million years have to put up with. They don’t think of the ability to stand up for your rights without fear of getting killed as a privilege, because it shouldn’t be. Everyone should be able to do that.

But they can’t. And that is a problem we need to deal with.

I’ve thought about her story a lot over the years, every time I read about a black Harvard Professor who gets thrown in jail for no obvious reason, or the many stories about law-abiding black citizens who get arrested, hurt, and even killed for doing innocuous things like driving a car or asking for help after a car accident.

The pattern is clear: security, law enforcement, and many ordinary white citizens see a black face and assume first that you’re a dangerous criminal. End of story.

Octavia Butler was, in any objective sense, the least likely criminal you could ask for. She was more like your favorite High School English teacher. There was no reason other than systematic racism that would cause a Pasadena grocery store to assume that she was a criminal who had obtained that hundred dollar bill through unlawful means.

The next time you’re inclined to think that the police must have had a good reason to assume that a particular young black man was a dangerous criminal who, though unarmed, posed such a serious threat that it was quite reasonable for the police to have subdued him with lethal force — think about how they treated Octavia Butler.

It shouldn’t look reasonable anymore. It should look like the actions of a deeply flawed, deeply racist system that needs serious reform.

Originally published at Goth House. You can comment here or there.

A ritual sacrifice, with pie

For the first time in my life, nobody invited me to a traditional family Thanksgiving dinner. My parents went to Los Angeles to spend it with my brothers’ families, which has been their habit ever since the adorable nieces were born. Paul and I thought that surely, somebody in Paul’s family would host — because they always have before. We’ve been dating since 1988, and until now, every year has brought us to some branch of his family for the annual ritual sacrifice with pie.

So I woke up this morning with no idea at all what to do with myself. I had morning insomnia, which is that thing where you wake up ridiculously early for no reason? And it pretty much never used to happen to me until I was on the north side of forty, so it makes me grumpy both as an irritating thing to happen, and as a reminder of the inexorable press of mortality.

Then I watched The Fault in Our Stars (rented from Scarecrow) because I just finished the book. I still can’t decide if a gut-wrenching three-hankie movie about the inevitability of death was the best or the worst possible way to deal with my emotional funk. (The Fault in Our Stars is about attractive young people who fall in love and then die of cancer. Happy Thanksgiving!) The scene when doomed Augustus pre-hosts his funeral so that he can attend was so hauntingly like Jay Lake throwing his own wake so he could enjoy the party, even if nothing else in the movie resonated, that bit would have gone through me like a Chumash knife.

After my eyeballs recovered from the weeping, I spent some time looking at Facebook and other social media, but the steady stream of Thanksgiving-related messages started to seem not cheery, but overwhelming and vaguely depressing. Did I have to “like” every “Happy Thanksgiving” post? Did I have to “like” anything? Would people feel neglected if I stopped giving them electronic ego validation? I mean, clicking “like” is just about the easiest thing you could possibly do, and yet it started to feel weirdly burdensome. There was just too much, too much everything. I couldn’t sort it out. I wasn’t feeling thankful. I wasn’t sure what I was feeling.

Still at a loss, I engaged in a bona-fide Thanksgiving ritual for me: watching “Pangs,” the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Thanksgiving episode. This year, for obvious reasons, the thing that really resonated was Buffy’s slightly irrational determination to gather around all the family she could manage, and have a proper Thanksgiving feast. In a way, it’s an important marker on the road to adulthood — the first time you have to make a holiday for yourself. It forces you to decide how you feel about it. Do you care if you celebrate or not? Which rituals mean something to you? Maybe it’s a little weird that I could get so late in my life without it ever coming up.

During the BTVS episode after “Pangs,” I fell asleep on the couch. I woke up about forty minutes later, certain deep in my heart that what I really needed was cranberry sauce — the kind you make from fresh whole cranberries, not the canned kind you can slice. (Although it always amused me that my brothers called the canned variety “dog food.”) I grabbed a shopping bag and headed out to the QFC to irritate the clerks working on Thanksgiving.

Once outside, I realized how awful and grumpy and sorry for myself I had been. I’m not at the true center of any tragedy just at the moment, yet still have a sense of overpowering gloom as tragedies accumulate within my radar: friends and family with medical and other worries, the people who keep leaving us, the events in Ferguson. Any sense of thankfulness on my part — it would have seemed almost — selfish, in a way. You know, it’s easy to tell the universe “thanks” when your life is going all right, isn’t it? But what about everyone else? There is suffering out there, real hardcore suffering, and the big tragedy in my life is that nobody else invited me over for dinner. As if I don’t know how to cook.

I determined that I was going to do more than make cranberry sauce. I was going to get all the necessary Thanksgiving items. Potatoes for mashing. Sweet potatoes for cooking in any manner that does not involve marshmallows. Dinner rolls. Eggnog. I was even going to get a TURKEY, damn it! I was going to get the smallest turkey they had and I was going to cook it myself! Yes! And if they had a potato ricer, I was going to get that! Yes! A potato ricer!

(Note: I did not see a potato ricer.)

One question at the heart of The Fault in Our Stars is this: are we more correct to be resentful over the inevitability of loss and pain, or grateful for having ever been here at all? Gratitude — thankfulness — is certainly a more pleasant emotion, but it can seem like a lie. We get these perfect little moments of grace, where everything in the universe feels right, and then — that’s it. That’s what you get. Whatever you love, it will be gone someday, and so will you. Does it matter that you loved, or were loved? If it did matter, how would you know?

The oppressive fog of my malaise lifted a bit as I walked through the park near our place — it’s a sad little park, strangely designed, with too much gravel and not enough trees. But it’s still a park. I passed a line of people in dark coats standing outside the Target building and thought, “did they open a soup kitchen for Thanksgiving?” Then I realized they must be people waiting for “Black Friday” deals, which brought the gloom back. What could you possibly get at Target — or Best Buy — or anywhere — that would make it worth standing in line like that? On a holiday? It did make whatever I was going to do with the rest of my day seem better. I might be wasting it on Buffy reruns and ennui, but it could be worse.

QFC was neither empty nor terribly busy, and the employees did not act particularly irritated to be there. They seemed pretty cheerful, actually. I still felt guilty for implicitly being the reason they had to work on a holiday. But maybe, given that they were there anyway, it was better not to be bored. I bought a turkey breast portion, which was half the size of the whole turkeys. I bought all the other things on my mental list, and walked home, frozen turkey carcass swinging in one hand, shopping bag over the other shoulder.

The Internet suggested that I could roast a turkey that was still frozen, so I did that. First, I coated the outside in dry rub from my Memphis Blues Cookbook. I had been so impressed by the results of that same dry rub on chicken grilled over fire, I was convinced that it was a magical substance that would render any poultry thus anointed indescribably delicious.

Cranberry sauce was super easy. Water, sugar, cranberries, and boiling.

Mashed potatoes was also easy, because I bought Yukon Gold potatoes, and it’s hard to go wrong with those. I used a hand masher. I don’t think a ricer would have given me better results.

The turkey roasted for 3 hours at 400 degrees. Most online advice gives 350 as the ideal temperature, but after running it at that temperature for a while it didn’t feel right somehow, so I kicked it up a notch. It was frozen, I was impatient, and I felt like the dry rub would help protect it. It came out very close to exactly how I wanted.

If I do this again, I will probably get a whole free range turkey from the co-op. And a meat thermometer and a bigger pan, and maybe one of those basters with the yellow squeeze bulb purely in honor of my grandfather, who used one of those to fuss over the turkey all morning every Thanksgiving of my childhood.

My grandfather was the first person in my life who I lost to cancer. I was thirteen. I wish I could say that he taught me how to cook a proper turkey, but he didn’t. We kids were never expected to help with dinner except in extremely minor ways: prepping the brown-n-serve rolls; opening a jar of olives; putting out napkins. I can’t tell you any of his secrets for perfect turkey. All I really remember is that baster with the yellow squeeze bulb, and his palpable joy as he tended the roasting bird.

For no reason that makes sense, cooking the official ceremonial foods actually did make me feel better about things. And now I have the most important part of any Thanksgiving feast: leftovers.

Originally published at Goth House. You can comment here or there.

Oh, did you hear? After Tuesday’s vote, the Democrats are, like, over, man.

Just like the Republicans were, like, over two years ago.

But it’s not as if all the people who elected Obama in 2012 changed their minds or ceased to exist in 2014, any more than the people who voted for George W. Bush twice just vanished in 2008. (Some of them changed their minds, sure. But not all of them.)

In this election, as in most other conservative electoral victories, they won because more of them voted, not because more of them exist. So — why is that?

Most structural impediments to voting, such as stricter ID laws and limited poll times, are consciously designed to favor the right by targeting the poor and the young. But that doesn’t seem to explain the whole of it. Age is a huge factor, with older voters more likely to turn out and also more likely to vote Republican. But why ARE older people more likely to vote? Is it generational? Because they’ve got the time on their hands? Because their cohort does it? Because they’ve lived in the same place for twenty years and know where the poll locations are? Because voting — a square, dull, good-citizen kind of thing — is tied to emotional maturity?

I don’t know. But I do know this — I consider any ostensibly liberal, progressive, or otherwise left-leaning person who expresses a sentiment like “oh, don’t bother voting, you’re just supporting a corrupt system” to be either a secret Republican mole or a complete dupe of Republican moles.

Hey, you know your complaints about Obama? That he’s too centrist, too corporate, too willing to attempt cooperation with Republicans? Do you realize that right-leaning voters frequently had exactly the same kind of complaints about George W. Bush? Do you think it ever kept them from voting for the man? Or for any other Republican?

Of course not. Because Republicans might have no idea how reproductive biology works, but they know how political influence works. They know that voting is the start, the minimum, the first thing you’ve got to do.

I understand not being able to vote because your state or community or life circumstances make it too difficult. That’s a totally different issue, and a very important one we need to address.

But simply choosing not to cast a vote? Talking down the act of voting as a futile one for liberals? You’re doing Republicans’ work for them. Republicans love to hear you talk like that. They’re practically cackling like supervillains to hear you talk like that.

It’s a devil whispering in your ear. “Yes, yes, you’re absolutely right, progressive-minded voter. Voting won’t make any difference. Both major parties are exactly the same. A minor party cannot win. The political process is messy, frustrating and corrupt, and that renders it flawed utterly beyond redemption. You’re entirely correct to give up on it. The only possible solution is to burn it to the ground and start all over again. Go on — just keep dreaming of the glorious revolution that will surely come to save us all. Someday.”

Conservative evangelical Protestants actually do believe, literally, that we’re just marking time on this planet until the glorious second coming will redeem us all. It never stops them from voting.

If you can’t bring yourself to suck it up and vote the lesser evil, you’re helping the greater evil win. Is that what you want? No? Then vote, darn it. If nothing else, doesn’t it motivate you to know that right wingers want to keep you from voting? Don’t you want to piss of Karl Rove? I know I do.

The media narrative has, for all of my political memory, skewed heavily Republican. A Democratic win is always treated as some kind of an aberration, as if they just got lucky somehow, and inevitably accompanied with much cautionary hand-wringing about the need for “bipartisanship.” But a Republican win is always treated as straight-up “will of the people.”

Except, it’s only the will of some people — old people, white people, wealthy people, conservative people — but when those are the people who actually vote, well, what can you do? (Vote. Duh.)

The media clearly wants the conversation right now to be “So, why have literally all the voters everywhere now embraced the Republican message? Have they finally forgiven the Republicans for George W. Bush? Is it because people have jobs again after the 2008 economic meltdown which Bush in no way contributed to? How important was it that the Republicans successfully avoided making any obvious ’47%’ or ‘legitimate rape’ gaffes this election cycle? And since obviously literally everyone has decided that Obama sucks and they all really regret voting for him twice, is it true that he should just resign right now for the good of the country, because of course that’s always what presidents do when their party loses power in the mid-terms? I mean, totally. That’s always what happens. Remember when George W. Bush resigned in 2006?”

But the conversation we need to have is, “So, why DON’T young people vote during mid-terms? Why IS US voter participation so low? Why IS the most reliable voting bloc also the most conservative, so that their views and interests are consistently over-represented in US politics, when they don’t reflect the true will of a majority of citizens?”

Sometimes it feels like electing Democrats, and then trying to get any progressive change accomplished, is like rolling the same boulder uphill again and again. Some of this is probably just the second law of thermodynamics at work — positive change is harder than destruction, and both are harder than doing nothing and letting things go to hell on their own.

Does that have something to do with why the people who would vote for Democrats, if they voted, are less likely to actually vote? Is there something in human psychology that favors destruction, and are Republicans the natural beneficiaries of that? Or does the difficulty of positive change, compared to negative change, make progressive voters more likely to get emotionally worn down and give up?

Whatever it is, I think it’s very clear that Democrats and liberals need to do a much better job with lower-profile races — state legislatures, governorships, etc. — and off-year elections. We can get people to vote for charismatic Democrats like Obama and Elizabeth Warren, but we’re never going to have people like that running for all races everywhere. A lot of Democrats are boring wonks, just like Republicans.

What happened to Howard Dean’s “50 state” strategy anyway? Can we get that going again? And expand it? Make it not only a 50 state strategy, but a thousands of counties strategy, an every year strategy, an every race strategy?

I’ve seen it suggested that one problem Democrats faced this year, compared to 2012, was the lack of Obama’s GOTV effort, which involved very direct ways of helping people vote — driving them to the polls, providing babysitting, helping them get whatever ID was required.

Is that what it’s going to take every year?

Then maybe we have to do that every year.

Originally published at Goth House. You can comment here or there.

Let me introduce you to your nightmare

Monday morning my back was kind of sore, and I realized it was probably from going through the Georgetown Morgue the night before with Paul, Ulysses and Carol. I think I spent the whole time in a very tense, crouched position, hence the sore the next day. So it was a little bit like slam-dancing to Schoolyard Heroes at Bumbershoot -- my inner 14-year-old-boy loved it, but the rest of me is probably way too old for this stuff.
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To the beloved departed -- I miss you. We all miss you. Happy Halloween.

(Cross-posted at gothhouse.org but the script file fails randomly on a fairly regular basis. http://www.gothhouse.org/blog/let-me-introduce-you-to-your-nightmare/ sigh.)

Two thousand years, eight million people

A two-week trip to London is almost long enough to start getting blasé about being surrounded by spectacular Victorian buildings, any one of which would be a showpiece in Seattle.

Beatles Tour
For example, here we are waiting for the Beatles tour to start. Ho hum.

Is it long enough to get blasé about the walk from the Tube stop at Tower Hill, where you migrate along with the crush of people stealing glances at a view that includes a massive fragment of the original Roman wall and the hulking medieval menace of the Tower of London in the background?

London - Wall and Tower from Tower Hill
Meh.

Nope. I could probably live in London for years and never truly get blasé about that.

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Originally published at Goth House. You can comment here or there.

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Write-a-thon 2014 wrap-up

The Clarion West 2014 Write-a-thon is over, but it’s not too late to donate to the cause! Sponsor me, sponsor another writer, or learn more about the Write-a-thon

This year, my goals were to 1. Write every day, 2. Stay away from social media except on Sundays and in general spend less time dorking around on the Internet, 3. Try to goof off in the evening less in order to get both a morning and evening writing session going. My unexpressed, super-secret goal #4 was to get a rough draft of the sequel to Waking up Naked in Strange Places finished. I didn’t actually think that was very likely, but I thought it was possible.

A complete draft did not happen. But I did make a lot of progress — I’ve got coherent scenes nearly up to the midpoint. As far as goal #1, I wrote nearly every day (missing a few key days on my birthday and immediately after). Goal #3 — well, kind of. A “spend more time at home” goal during Clarion West is automatically in conflict with a “go to all the Clarion West events” goal. And a “don’t go out so much” goal contains its own undoing, writing-wise, because it necessitates a “more cooking at home” goal. So I’m still figuring out how to make that work.

(Dear universe: I need a robot maid, stat. Thank you.)

Goal #2 was the interesting one, because I think every modern writer feels an inherent tension between the Internet’s dual identities:

1. An important tool for research, promotion, communication, and connection
2. The most gargantuan black hole of pointless time suck ever devised by humankind.

I don’t think I resolved that conflict. But, by deliberately trying to step away from it, I think I got some important insights into how it works in my brain. The pattern is that if I need to walk away mentally from whatever I’m working on — because I can’t figure out how a scene should go, for example — the Internet is a way to do that. And so I think I’m just going to check out a news feed or two, or see what’s new on Facebook, and then BAM! An hour has gone by.

Sometimes it’s the TV Tropes effect (you know, where one thing leads to another thing leads to another thing) but more often it seems like a kind of mental inertia, as if once my brain enters “Internet, take me away!” mode it wants to stay there. Probably because it’s less cognitive effort. Brains are tricky like that.

Anyway, my conclusion is that I need to find some way to tame the devouring Internet blob monster. Timers? Making sure to use something else to distract myself when needed? Small electric shocks? Writing in a yurt with no wifi? I haven’t decided yet. I’ll let you know when I get it figured out.

Originally published at Goth House. You can comment here or there.

Part of the Clarion West 2014 Write-a-thon series.
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My final essay is about the most important and career-changing thing that I learned at Clarion West: how to approach my own work from the meta direction. This lesson is still working for me today. It’s what allowed me to read a book like Save the Cat! and use it to improve the structure of my novel in progress, or how to get a series of really excellent editorial critiques from Anne Mini and improve every sentence I’ve written since then. (Not to mention that I finally figured out how to write a novel synopsis.)

I learned how to learn.

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Originally published at Goth House. You can comment here or there.

Part of the Clarion West 2014 Write-a-thon series.
Sponsor me, sponsor another writer, or learn more about the Write-a-thon

Did you know that the essence of story is conflict?

I mean — I probably knew that, actually, even before Clarion West. I’m sure I’ve (correctly) identified the central conflict in a story on a multiple choice test as “man vs. nature” “man vs. man” or “man vs. himself.” And even before Clarion West I probably had some dim notion that if you get a story idea, like “I want to write about a werewolf in New Orleans,” it’s not really a story idea until you have given that werewolf a problem to solve. “Going around being a werewolf” sounds cool and everything, but it’s not a story.

Before Clarion, the big problem I needed to solve (other than my submitaphobia) was the sophomore novel problem. I had cleared the first important hurdle: I had succeeded in producing a thing of novel length that more or less resembled a novel. (It took four or five years, uncountable hours of typing, and three computers.)

Every piece of advice said pretty much the same thing: while you’re trying to sell the first novel, work on the next novel. I think the idea is that you probably won’t sell the first one, but eventually you’ll have a second one, plus a better idea of how the selling process works, and valuable feedback which will improve the second one, and maybe you’ll sell that second one. (Repeat process as many times as necessary, accumulating “trunk novels” along the way.)

This seemed totally reasonable.

But I couldn’t do it.

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Originally published at Goth House. You can comment here or there.

Part of the Clarion West 2014 Write-a-thon series.
Sponsor me, sponsor another writer, or learn more about the Write-a-thon

(As a side note — I’m not sure my “avoid social media except for Sundays” thing is going to work, when I ended up spending most of my Sunday seeing The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay at Book-It Reperatory Theater, which was awesome, but that’s why you’re not seeing this until today.)

Each week of the Clarion West workshop — well, 5 of 6 weeks — you’re expected to write a fresh story. The expectation is that these will be new stories, written during the workshop, and not something pulled off your hard drive. The workshop is structured so that you typically have quite a bit of time in your schedule for crafting that story.

But if something isn’t coming together, you don’t have a lot of time to get on with your life, let your subconscious do its thing, and get back to the story later. Part of the pressure of the workshop is that you have to confront that story RIGHT NOW. Forget your life. This IS your life. We’re even going to cook your meals for you. ONE HUNDRED PERCENT of your brain power can and should be going to figuring out how to make that story work.
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Originally published at Goth House. You can comment here or there.

Part of the Clarion West 2014 Write-a-thon series.
Sponsor me, sponsor another writer, or learn more about the Write-a-thon

There’s this thing they used to make you do in school — maybe they still make you do it, I don’t know — which involves reading a story, and then writing about what it means. We call this activity English Lit,. This will shock absolutely nobody, I know, but I happen to be naturally good at this thing. It comes so easily to me that, as a kid, I was vaguely astonished that they bothered to give me a grade for it. It felt like cheating. In college when all my other plans crashed and burned, it meant I could switch back to my comfort zone of English Lit and emerge, barely, with a BA in my teeth. I still do this thing, this English Lit thing, in an informal way, just for fun.

In the parlance of modern Internet fandom, English Lit is like writing a “meta” — looking at a story in terms of its themes, metaphors, unexpected symbolic connections, relationship to larger social forces, etc. And there is nothing wrong with looking at a story that way. But it meant that when I wanted to write my own stories, I intuited that what you would do is reverse the process: start with the meaning you wanted people to take away from it, and work backward.

But that’s actually not how stories are built.

It’s like trying to build a cathedral, and starting with the gargoyles.

More on this topic, I Am the Walrus, and vampire facials, all behind the cut...Collapse )

Originally published at Goth House. You can comment here or there.

Part of the Clarion West 2014 Write-a-thon series.
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One of the most important things that I learned at Clarion West was the difference between story and plot. It’s not really intuitive to separate them, because they’re so closely linked in a successful finished work. I’m sure there are many writers who never bother to consciously make the distinction. You might think it would be the sort of distinction that an English Lit degree would have taught me to make, but no. Even from a critique standpoint, the plot and the story are treated as pretty much the same thing.

But they’re not.

More words and now TWO pictures of Gene Wilder...Collapse )

Originally published at Goth House. You can comment here or there.

Against Against YA

From Slate, by Ruth Graham:

As The Fault in Our Stars barrels into theaters this weekend virtually guaranteed to become a blockbuster, it can be hard to remember that once upon a time, an adult might have felt embarrassed to be caught reading the novel that inspired it. Not because it is bad—it isn’t—but because it was written for teenagers.

Oh, good! A controversy I can dig my brain into that is completely irrelevant, non violent, actually sort of fluffy and entertaining — but also relevant to my interests: whether it’s “okay” for adults to read YA novels. (Adult friends: please read my upcoming YA novels. It’s okay.)

Just for you, my darling! Many words behind the cut...Collapse )

Some people enjoy reading lit fic. Others, I suspect, enjoy the feeling of superiority they get from knowing that they are the sort of person who chooses to read serious literature, when they could be reading something fun.

Originally published at Goth House. You can comment here or there.

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What did I learn at Clarion West? [1]

We were having lunch at Elliott’s Oyster House for Father’s Day and talking about the upcoming Write-a-thon. Mom asked me, “so — did you get anything out of Clarion West?” I goggled at her for a moment, then said, “of course!” The conversation moved on, but I determined that one of the things I needed to do during this Write-a-thon was a “what I learned at Clarion West” series.

This was a slight conflict with the other thing I needed to do during this Write-a-thon, which was a daily writing, less dorking around on the Internet, pledge. Because, probably the number one most important thing I learned during Clarion West is that I needed to spend a lot more of my time writing. I needed to make it a priority — daily, pretty much. It’s a weird mental trick, putting my brain into writing space — I have sometimes, only half-jokingly, called it a “temporary voluntary psychotic state.” If I don’t practice all the time it gets a lot harder.

And — I know there’s kind of an anti-Malcom-Gladwell sentiment swirling about on the Internet these days, but I think he was onto something with the 10,000 hours rule. It’s not that 10,000 hours is precise or magical or guaranteed, but getting really good at something often requires both 1. More practice than you would ever believe, and 2. Not practicing wrong. Clarion West helped me with both.

Life disruptions will get me out of the daily writing habit, though, and giant festering piles of stress will sometimes crush it out of me. When it gets hard just to get through my day, it gets harder still to face the gentle hum and blinking cursor of the laptop. And I have to get back to writing productivity, because I have SEQUELS to write, dammit! (Yes, Waking Up Naked in Strange Places has sequels planned. )

So, that is my Write-a-thon pledge: Writing Lent, which means six weeks of daily writing, plus no Internet or other blatant goofing off except on Sundays. Because that’s how Lent works, I think, but I was raised evangelical Protestant so I probably have no business WHATSOEVER doing this. Anyway, every Sunday, look for a new post explaining one thing I learned at Clarion West. But on not-Sundays, I will be cloistered in my Cave of Writing (that is, my bedroom).

Originally published at Goth House. You can comment here or there.

Because I’m a creep

About a week ago, yet another violently disturbed young man killed a bunch of people for no reason.

Yes, he was a misogynist of the most toxic kind, with a grandiose and visceral hatred directed at both the women who denied him his “rightful” share of their affection, and at the other men who got all the affection he felt entitled to. And yes, shortly before his murder spree, he posted a manifesto of Unabomber proportions, and a video suicide/homicide note. Both of these express a fairly clear purpose to his hatred, through a messed up nice-guy-ism so on point it sounds like parody:

I don’t know why you girls aren’t attracted to me, but I will punish you all for it.

It’s an injustice, a crime, because I don’t know what you don’t see in me. I’m the perfect guy, and yet you throw yourselves at all these obnoxious men, instead of me, the supreme gentlemen.

I will punish all of you for it.

So, he said that he was going to kill people because he wanted to punish the women he thought he deserved, who wouldn’t date him, as well as the “obnoxious men” they dated instead. But is that really why he went on his massacre? Who can say?

Sure, the “Men’s rights” and “Pickup artist” online forums that he frequented are full of men (and sometimes women) expressing very similar ideas about the inherent depravity of the female sex — they’re shallow, vain, stupid, scheming, amoral, good only for one thing, ought to be deprived of their sexual autonomy, etc. I would post specific examples, except I don’t want to make myself vomit. You can find plenty of them chronicled, for purposes of mockery, at manboobz.com (now “We Hunted the Mammoth” but manboobz.com will still get you there).

Anyway, in spite of all their vitriol towards women, and all their dehumanizing and sometimes violent rhetoric, most MRA types aren’t mass murderers. Most of them probably aren’t serial killers either. I suspect that a lot of them are sociopaths, but let’s be clear — the overwhelming majority of sociopaths are not killers of any kind. (Although they are often rapists, and MRA forums are disturbingly full of rape apologetics, so there’s that.)

No, it takes something special to turn an ordinary hate-filled and empathy-free young man with an imaginary list of grievances and a narcissistic sense of entitlement into a spree killer. What that thing is, we still don’t know. But we want to know. In the early days after a massacre, you can always see pop culture struggling to answer the question “why?” and shape a senseless event into a narrative that we think we understand.

Immediately after Columbine, for example, some people tried to make it retribution for bullying — yet, eventually, evidence revealed that the killers were just as likely to be the bullies themselves. Other people tried to make it be about wearing trenchcoats, or listening to Marilyn Manson, or playing video games. But, based on the killers’ own writings about why they did it — they did it to feel important. They did it for the infamy. If any external social force is to blame for the Columbine massacre, that force is the media, which frequently turns spree killers into darkly glamorous antiheroes.

The media, unsurprisingly, thought that “goth culture” was obviously far more culpable, and pushed that narrative pretty hard.

Do all spree killers kill for the same underlying reason? A silicon chip inside their heads that gets switched to overload? Or can we take their manifestos at face value and assume they kill for exactly the reasons they tell us, weird as those reasons might seem?

The world of MRA types, sometimes known as the manosphere, has responded in a predictable fashion to any suggestion that Rodger might have killed people because he took all that normalization of extreme misogyny a little too seriously. They’re blaming feminists.

Feminists are, somehow, not only the cause of the original rampage but are also shamelessly, SHAMELESSLY attempting to hijack this tragic event, which clearly had nothing whatsoever to do with misogyny, for their own nefarious anti-misogyny purposes. [Men’s Rights Activists respond to the Elliot Rodger murders with a hearty “Nothing to see here! Move along!”]

Many voices in pop culture — not only in the dedicated manosphere, but also the mainstream media and social media — don’t want to believe that Rodger killed a bunch of people because he hated women for acting like autonomous human beings. He told us that’s why — but they don’t want to believe him. They do, however, believe him when he tells us that he hated women so much only because he was lonely and sexually frustrated.

Maybe this really is the fault of the crush who rejected him, the women who didn’t want to date him, all the women who “creep shame” guys they find creepy. If he’d just gotten some real affection, some sweet understanding, so the thinking goes, he wouldn’t have felt like he needed to start killing — he would have been happy in a relationship!

Except… that view makes no sense at all when you look at it from the point of view of any of the women he might, potentially, have dated. I realize this might be a little advanced for some of you, or seem suspiciously like feminism, but you really need to try a little empathy here. After all, you’re urging us — women — to empathize with the romantic frustrations of a man who turned out to be a mass murderer. That’s kind of a tall order, really.

You want us to understand how much it hurts. How lonely it can be.

We do. Of course. Because we’re lonely too. We get rejected too. Just like you. We’re awkward at parties and nervous and shy talking to people we find attractive. We dream of mating with somebody we think is better than we are. Sometimes we get downright obsessive about people who simply don’t want us. We cling to false narratives about relationships and how they work, and buy self-help book after self-help book looking for that magic key that will make it all work out.

Just like you, we blame our dating failures on ourselves, and search desperately for something we can fix — wardrobe, makeup, fitness routine, even plastic surgery. Or maybe we focus on the ways our behavior might be putting potential romantic partners off, and get obsessed over “The Rules” or somesuch.

Except, wait a minute. You dudes — you don’t actually do all of that. If you can’t get the relationship you want, you blame women. And when women can’t get the relationship they want, they blame themselves.

But let’s think about Elliot Rodger in particular. Let’s say I meet this guy at a college party and we hit it off in person, so I check out his online activities. What I find there creeps me out, so I try to end the budding relationship right there. I might even try to let him down gently: “You’re a nice guy, but…” I wouldn’t be saying this because I think he’s actually a nice guy. I would be saying this because I’m afraid he might kill me or something if I make him mad.

I’ve met guys like that. They seem mostly normal if you talk to them in person, but they have really disturbing ideas that they post online, put in newsletters, or sometimes allude to in person without quite going into the full gory detail. I back away slowly, feeling a bit grateful that they actually showed me their gross maggot-infested underside before I had to find out the hard way. I don’t want people like that in my life. Seems pretty sensible, right? From my point of view? Why would I want to date a guy who seems creepy and disturbing?

Or, let’s say we meet at a party and he creeps me out right from the start. Maybe he’s handsome and superficially charming, but you know, Ted Bundy was handsome and superficially charming. Maybe I notice the little signals that tell you somebody is a sociopath. Maybe he actually says something misogynist out loud, and I cut him off, because I have a strict no misogynists policy in my dating life.

It might seem weird to you dudes out there — who routinely profess complete bafflement as to what women want in a dating relationship — but I don’t actually want to hang out with people who hate me. And I’m a feminist, so I don’t date patriarchalists either.

Am I being judgmental? You bet. Why shouldn’t I be? Don’t you make judgments about who you want to hang around with? Don’t you usually hang around with people you actually like spending time with, who bring something positive to your life?

Maybe he tries chatting up a friend of mine after he strikes out with me. Maybe we talk about him later. Maybe she is thinking about dating him, and I advise her not to. I tell her he creeps me out. I tell her he strikes me as kinda serial-killer-ish. Am I creep shaming, at that point? Or am I just, you know, ONE HUNDRED PERCENT OBJECTIVELY CORRECT, BECAUSE SERIOUSLY, THIS GUY TURNED OUT TO BE A SPREE KILLER.

There’s no way you can reasonably spin this into an argument that women ought to give more time and attention to guys who seem creepy, that we should give them a chance to prove they’re not the creeps they seem at first. Instead, it’s proof positive that we should run away screaming at the first sign of creepiness.

We’ll never know if Rodger would have killed without the manosphere out there egging him on, reflecting his worst impulses back at him, normalizing his violent and dehumanizing thoughts, patting him on the head and telling him “yes, yes, you’re absolutely right, women do owe you their affection and they are lesser beings than you, and if you were a real man you would be able to manipulate them into doing whatever you wanted, so get out there and manipulate!”

But we do know those MRA guys are creepy and disturbing. Am I shaming them? Not hardly. They have no shame. But they ought to be ashamed of themselves.

Originally published at Goth House. You can comment here or there.

BTVS Episode Poll: 6.18 Entropy

And now, it's time for everything to fall apart -- and Spike and Anya to get it on -- in Entropy!



BTVS Episode Poll: 6.18 EntropyCollapse )

Prop 1 Karma

These signs went up in the Northgate area, on the meridian of Northgate Way and 5th avenue. Who put them there? Did they get permission? Did they have to pay for it? What would have happened if Paul and I had gone out one night and removed all the "No on Prop 1" signs like we talked about?



I know what the anti-Prop 1 sign is supposed to communicate. But what I got out of it was this: Sixty bucks, really? Damn, you right wingers are petty.

I'm not really surprised that Prop 1 failed, any more than I was surprised when the teapartiers seized the House of Representatives in 2010. Weird, mid-cycle, less obvious elections tend to get a bigger turnout from that contingent.

Why? I don't know. Some of it has to do with who those people are -- older, less busy, less poor, etc. Poverty itself imposes a huge cognitive load, of the kind that causes people to miss deadlines and so on. Sometimes the right wing engages in active voter suppression of the populations likely to vote in favor of a more liberal or progressive agenda. Many low-income and disadvantaged voters effectively disenfranchise themselves -- they believe, with some cause, that nothing will ever change for people like them, and as a consequence give up trying.

But sometimes it seems like mostly what's going on is this: spite is a weirdly powerful motivator.

It's rare to find a voter who will openly claim "I vote the way I do because I'm short-sighted, vindictive and selfish." And yet if you look at most of the "reasons" people give for being against Prop 1, there isn't much more to them than that. Oh, Metro is too "inefficient" so they don't "deserve" any more money. The drivers get paid too much. It's not the right KIND of tax. We already pay too much in taxes!

None of those are reasons. They're after-the-fact justifications, and pretty pathetic ones at that. None of these people did a cost-benefit analysis and concluded based on evidence that the overall cost to the region of a sputtering transit system amounted to less than $60 per person per year. I mean, I would think rational people would be willing to pay $60 a year just to help keep crappy drivers off the road, but that's not how they think of it.

It's simple: they don't want to spend their money supporting public transit. They'll spend $600 in gas to save $60 in car tab fees, and count it as a victory.

It's like the Koch brothers -- they're willing to spend millions influencing elections, in order to avoid spending millions in taxes. Do they come out ahead? Nobody knows. But that's not the point. The point is that they WANT to spend their money gaming the system, rather than promoting the general welfare. In part, that's because they have so much money that the money itself doesn't matter to them anymore. What they want to do is "win" the way they perceive winning.

This sort of thinking has become really common among the right. I think, at one time, their self-image was that they were tough, but fair and practical. They framed their policy recommendations as, "this is the correct approach, even if it hurts some people." But nowadays their attitude seems much closer to "this is the correct approach BECAUSE it hurts the people we want to see hurt."

How do you govern a society where a significant, and motivated, chunk of the electorate feels that way?

It's tempting to engage in psychoanalysis, to try to figure out what the hell is wrong with people, and to hope that you can just get through to them somehow, with a compelling enough argument, a plethora of indisputable facts, or an emotionally powerful appeal.

But, no. Some of those people can be reached, sure, and we shouldn't write them off forever -- but changing hearts and minds is only going to pay off in the long run. Today, the way you win elections for progressive and liberal causes, is by turning out the voters who want those things.

This is where I think Prop 1 really failed. April is already "owned" by tax day. Voting isn't on anybody's radar. Only a tiny percentage of eligible voters turned in a ballot, and of those people, the vindictive right wing outnumbered everyone else.

Anyway, I can be vindictive too, and have appealed to the powers with a series of tweeted curses. Alas, #Prop1Karma did not become a thing. I suck at this hashtag business.
If you voted against #Prop1, may the only convenient route from your house spend ten years blocked by never-ending roadwork. #Prop1Karma
If you voted against #Prop1, may gridlock make you late for everything you ever try to get to. Work. Concerts. Court dates. #Prop1Karma
If you voted against #Prop1, may your car get stolen whenever somebody with no car needs it to get somewhere.
If you voted against #Prop1, may you get a $60 parking ticket everywhere you take your car. #Prop1Karma
If you voted against #Prop1, may gas go up to $10 a gallon. Only for you, though. Okay, I don't really know how that would work. #Prop1Karma
If you voted against #Prop1, may the parking rate where you work go up to $30 a day. Assuming it's not there already. #Prop1Karma
If you voted against #Prop1, may your next car be a "lemon" -- and the car after that -- and the car after that -- #Prop1Karma
If you voted against #Prop1, may a person too old to drive plough a 1970s Cadillac right into the center of your living room. #Prop1Karma
If you voted against #Prop1, may everywhere you drive be blocked perpetually by people on bicycles, skateboards & rollerblades. #Prop1Karma
If you voted against #Prop1, may your car throw a rod when you don't have the money to fix it, forcing you to rely on public transit. #Prop1Karma

Under the Skin

Short answer: atmospheric dark fantasy with some memorable scenes and Scarlett Johansson naked, but slow and lacking in story. Cautiously recommended, as long as you’re prepared to be kinda bored.



Longer thoughts below — spoilers ahead.


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I have a theory about art movies — that they are boring on purpose, and boring in a particular way, in order to signal “this is an art movie.” So they always have plenty of long suspended moments, usually well-filmed, during which there is no dialog and nothing in particular is happening. Professional cinema reviewers never seem to mind, either — it’s rare for glacial pace and lack of incident to be singled out as flaws.


It makes me feel like a cretin sometimes, to be sitting there watching a movie — this one, or Beasts of the Southern Wild, or Brokeback Mountain, or Martha Marcy May Marlene — and be thinking, “this is good, but it could be less boring.” It’s almost like being able to put up with boring art, without calling it out for being dull, is recognized as a signal that you are a person with taste. You are a person who is not bored by art movies. You are better than those restless yahoos squirming in the back, who just came because they wanted to see Scarlett Johansson take her clothes off, and are whispering to each other about how horrible this movie is and they should have seen the new Captain America instead.


Really, I think I wouldn’t have been bored at all if it had been a little more up front with the story. There’s a fine line between “enigmatic” and “completely opaque” and I think this movie falls too much on the opaque side. But that’s another way of signaling that we’re watching an art film, isn’t it? Make the audience work to figure out what’s going on, and give them lots of time to think really hard about it.


Every review of this movie calls Scarlett Johansson’s character an “alien,” but they must be getting that from the press kit or something, because there is actually nothing in the movie to tell you what kind of inhuman predator she is. She lures men into a puddle of black goo, and her true form is person-shaped black goo, and she has a silent protector/boss/cleanup man who rides around on a motorcycle — none of that signals “alien” to me. If it’s important to know that she’s an alien, in movie terms, we don’t. She could be some weird predatory selkie. (The movie is set in northern Scotland. I wasn’t sure if the frequently unintelligible accents were intentionally thematic.)


The movie has only one real plot turn, about halfway through, when she lures a severely disfigured man back to her place, and fails to finish him off. We see him start heading into the black goo, and then later we see him running naked across a field. After that point, she no longer picks up any victims and her body seems to be breaking down — she’s clumsy, unable to communicate, and eventually literally disintegrates as the Scarlett Johansson outer shell sloughs off to reveal the creature underneath. She shows signs of going native, ordering a piece of cake that she literally can’t eat, displaying fear, and trying to have sex (which ultimately fails, because, it is strongly implied, she lacks an opening in the appropriate place.)


Now, the scene where she picks up the disfigured man is really lovely. Her script is exactly the same as it always is — she displays no awareness at all that he’s not the usual average-looking guy unable to believe he’s getting hit on by somebody who looks like Scarlett Johansson. His wary disbelief, and ultimate acceptance that it must be a dream,  is genuinely touching. But why doesn’t he get absorbed by the goo? I’ve seen several reviews that assert she takes pity on him and lets him go, but there’s not a moment in the film where we see her make that decision. So I was convinced that it was just the mechanism breaking down somehow. If the breakdown is caused by a change in her — an infection of humanity, perhaps — that’s a pretty important thing that the movie should actually have shown us.


Still, as I indicated above, I cautiously recommend this movie, if you’re willing to put up with being a bit bored. Many of the scenes are really memorable and creepy, and the score is fantastic. It’s an interesting movie to have seen, even if the act of sitting through it in the first place is sometimes dull.


Originally published at Goth House. You can comment here or there.

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Zombies of the patriarchy

Here are some ridiculous things that conservative anti-feminists recently had to say about feminism:
Conservative Women Celebrate Women’s History by Criticizing Feminism.

I can’t believe how much staying power these narratives have. The anti-feminist right has been making the same claims since I was a kid.

I’ve never understood why they do it, especially the women. I sorta get why some dudes would be — patriarchalists, I guess? — since a patriarchy puts them in charge of everything, and people like power. And I get why people who were raised that way and don’t know anything else would just accept it and try to get on with their lives. But I don’t get why women who could choose to be something else, choose to be patriarchalists. What do they have to gain?

I also wonder why patriarchies and patriarchal thinking are so common. Why doesn’t it ever seem to go the other way? Matriarchies are rare, and I literally cannot think of a single toxic, oppressive example on par with the toxic patriarchies that are still depressingly plentiful.

(Some wags out there will no doubt suggest that the women’s studies department of many colleges could be regarded as a toxic matriarchy, but I think that kinda proves my point. How much power does any women’s studies department actually have?)

I see various theories floated for why patriarchy seems to be a kind of default — oh, it’s because men are stronger, or because women use too many of their resources taking care of babies. But those theories never seem to adequately explain the phenomenon. After all, it’s not like tiny, weak, single-parent men or tall, childless, ass-kicking women are automatically excluded from participation in the patriarchy.

So this is my theory: the patriarchal instinct is driven by an urge to seize control of the reproductive capacity — which necessitates diminishing the autonomy of the women who are “keepers” of that capacity. It’s a deep-down, gut-level, sub-rational primate kind of thing, which gets turned into elaborate abstract social narratives and structures. You know, because humans do that.

It gets long and I talk about sexual assaultCollapse )

I don’t know how to kill these zombies of the patriarchy, these stupid, destructive ideas that never seem to go away. Maybe a flamethrower.

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BTVS Episode Poll: 6.17 Normal Again


"There's a world of strength in your heart, honey."


BTVS Episode Poll: 6.17 Normal AgainCollapse )

Bonus question! We see Buffy working at the Doublemeat Palace for I think the last time. Who kinda thought she quit when she walked off the job to go chase demons with Captain Charisma?

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