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Until recently, we had been planning on attending WorldCon 75 in Helsinki this coming fall as a family. Given the state of the republic right now, we’re not comfortable being committed to taking our visibly queer, vocally anti-Regime selves across the U.S. border and back. So, with a somewhat heavy heart, I’m announcing our decision to stay home.

Our change of plans can be your stroke of luck, though. We purchased our (non-refundable, but transferable) memberships before the price went up. If you’re interested in attending, please know that we have three adult memberships to sell, one with the first-time World Con discount (80 euros, when we bought it) and two without (120 euros). The discounted one can only be transferred to someone who qualifies for it. The three memberships do not have to be transferred to the same party.

If you’re interested in buying one or more of the memberships, please send an email to blueauthor at gmail dot com. Please make sure you specify how many and which. We’ll be doing this first come, first served. The exchange rate right now is such that we’ll take 80 or 120 as appropriate in either USD or EUR, just to keep things simple. Either way we’ll be losing a little bit on it compared to what we paid, but that’s fine.

I believe the nomination period for Hugos runs through mid-March, so if you snatch these up before then, you will have nominating privileges. Even after that, WorldCon membership carries voting privileges.

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write.

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Yesterday, a conclave of Democratic United States Senators descended on the Bavarian Inn in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, for a retreat that was a bit less noticed than the GOP Congressional retreat in Philadelphia. It was likely put together hastily as an emergency measure for an emergency situation, and I’m going to have more to say about it later.

But first.

Women’s March on Washington of West Virginia – Shepherdstown didn’t have a lot of time to put together an organized response to the Democratic presence, but they pulled it together beautifully.

Circumstances prevented us from participating in the Women’s March on January 21st, in part because of accessibility concerns and the need to pace our shows of resistance, given our various disabilities.

But this action was largely stationary, and taking place on and near the Potomac Bridge, in sight of the frankly quite splendid inn where the Senators were gathered. This was important because there are little overlook areas with seating near the ends of the bridge, and the one nearest the inn has a little parking area with a couple 15 minute parking spots for people to enjoy the view or grab a picture, and some handicapped parking spaces that made this action a lot more accessible.

My partner Jack and I arrived at the bridge before sunup, before seven. We were meeting a friend from Shepherdstown who was absolutely needed at work today and could not participate in the action during its scheduled hours of nine o’clock on. So, we got there before anyone else and we parked without issues, and we took up position in the cold and the light rain as the sun came up over the Potomac. We were out there, “doin’ a freedom,” as the youths probably say (hashtag: #DoingAFreedom), flanking the group’s sign (“HEAR OUR VOICE”) on the bridge when the Senators in their rooms got their first look at it in the morning light. We were there when the marchers proper arrived, and had been there for just over two hours at that point.

Jack had to find a bathroom shortly after that, and this is where our trouble began. Rather than searching the campus of the nearby Shepherd University, he took his car and drove straight off to a nearby convenience store he knew would serve. While he was gone, a group of police cars pulled into the access drive for the little parking area for a little inter-agency confab.

And I have to say, there were probably 3 or 4 different police agencies there, at a spot on a state border with U.S. Senators taking up residence and a university right there, and I have to say that they were polite and friendly and supportive of the admittedly very visibly majority white crowd. I have no complaints about their overall conduct.

But they were making the accessible parking… inaccessible.

So, I went over to talk to them (second bravest thing I did all day, given that I am acrophobic and have an especial terror of bridges) and I started by asking, politely, if access to the handicapped spaces was being restricted for security reasons, or if protesters were able to use it.

“Oh, no!” one of them said. “There’s not a lot, but if someone needs it, they can use!”

I pointed out that they were blocking it, and was told they’d just pulled in for a minute to chat. I then clarified that my interest wasn’t hypothetical and that a protester who needed that space was on his way back. They politely thanked me, finished up their chat, and got back into their vehicles and pulled away… leaving behind a third vehicle, which I had assumed was part of the confab, a Shepherd University police van that had pulled all the way out of the little entry lane and was squarely blocking off the small lot.

It was also unattended.

That was about when Jack drove by, and with the lot inaccessible, he kept driving past the protest, to a park area on the other side of the bridge (the old C&O Canal towpath, I believe). Later people were parked in the breakdown lane on the Maryland end of the bridge, but at this point police were waving people past them.

Now, it’s quite a hike from the towpath parking area to the bridge, uphill, on a very cold and very windy day. Jack judged this was beyond his present level of ability (gentle currently able-bodied readers wondering why someone who needs handicapped parking would even consider the hike: disability isn’t a binary switch), and texted me from where he was parked.

Disgusted, I started taking pictures of the university police vehicle in its spot, trying to get an angle that would capture both its position and the handicapped spaces beyond and the fact that this was the only access point. My plan was to find a twitter account for the university and holler @ them about it. The sun was directly in my screen at that angle, so I didn’t actually get a good one that turned out, but… well, maybe it’s a coincidence or maybe one of the officers on site from another agency radioed them that a protester was photographing their vehicle, but while I was trying to get that sorted someone came hurrying out from the university campus and hopped into the vehicle and moved it without a word.

Now, I’d like to be charitable, but the way it was parked, I can only think two things, and I’m not sure which is more charitable. One is that someone thought that there would be a problem with protesters abusing the 15 minute parking or cramming in to the lot past its very small capacity so they’d head that off at the pass. The other was that they needed somewhere to park that vehicle and this seemed like an out-of-the-way place since no one would be using the overlook parking during the protest.

Both of these situations involve completely forgetting that disabled people exist, even while being within 10-15 feet of clearly visible, marked, and posted evidence of our existence.

Whoever parked that van there, for whatever reason, did not so much make the assumption that nobody would need to use those handicapped spaces for any reason (protest-related or otherwise) as they made no assumption whatsoever. Didn’t cross their mind.

In moments like this I am reminded of the blog story “The Elephant Disappears“, by wheelchair user Dave Hingsburger, who almost had his luggage confiscated at an airport by a security officer who tried to confiscate and cart it away from him, saying “All luggage must be attended!” when Dave asked him what he thought he was doing. Now, if your mind is jumping to the most charitable interpretation of this event from the guard’s point of view… well, first of all, ask yourself why “being charitable” or “giving the benefit of the doubt” implicitly means “to the able-bodied security officer” in this situation and not the man whose luggage was being taken.

To be clear: Dave was right there. Attending his luggage. The guard did not see him as capable of attending his own luggage, or did not see him as a person, or just plain did not see him, even though he was in full view and right there. We cannot know. People with visible disabilities are well aware that all three are possible.

People with disabilities already may have less ability to participate in organized action. There may be mobility issues, sensory issues, issues with crowds. I couldn’t have stood out there all day on my best day; we were there from just before 7 to a bit before 11 and I came home after we grabbed lunch and crashed for three hours.

I might have taken a cane with me, but I was concerned if things went south it might be viewed as a weapon, since I am young-appearing enough that people often wonder why I have one. Jack didn’t have his backpack of potentially necessary emergency medical supplies, because it would have added to our bulk on the sidewalk (that had to kept passable) and similarly might be viewed as suspicious. Might not have been a concern for a typical march in a quietly liberal college town tucked away in the Potomac River valley, but… there were elected officials afoot. Security was pretty intense on the other side of the street.

But with whatever difficulties our disabilities present, the question of “accessibility” is often less a matter of what extraordinary things must people do to allow us to access a place or event and more a matter of what things they should avoid doing that block and exclude us. Stairs are not some natural state for the entryway to a building, someone has to put them. A culture and aesthetic that centers assumptions of certain levels of ability makes them an assumed default, but it could just as easily be ramps or (where possible/appropriate) zero-entry doors.

Someone at Shepherd University made a decision that made the event less accessible. I’m sure if the individual who made that call were here, they would say they were only parked there for minutes… and it really wasn’t that long, in the scheme of things. But it was long enough to cause a problem, and more to the point, any amount of time is long enough that it might have been a problem. We’ll never know if anyone else drove past the protest, eyeing the lot and seeing it was blocked off. I’m sure the university police don’t consider “It was just for five minutes!” or “I would have moved if anyone had needed the space!” a valid excuse when they come across someone illegally parking in or blocking off an accessible space.

As I said, I will have more to say about the event itself and the politics surrounding it. I just had to get this off my chest. It’s less about naming and shaming Shepherd University (though not naming them would seem passive-aggressive, as anyone who looked at a map of the area would know who I meant) and more about talking about the general case of thinking about accessibility and remembering that people with disabilities really, truly do exist.

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write.

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Donald Trump said he’d run the country like a business. He’s not running it yet, but early signs are clear that he meant it. This is going to be a disaster.

Reports have been circulating for more than a week now that Trump’s inauguration organizers were offering hefty cash incentives and even diplomatic posts (as in, “You get to be the official U.S. ambassador representing our country to another country!”) to talent brokers who could line up A-list stars to perform at the ceremony and related events. The Trump team has said that this is categorically false, that they have made no such offers.

I happen to believe it.

All of it.

I believe the reports that the offers were made and I believe the Trump team’s disavowal. How can this be? Because in business, a person in Mr. Trump’s position can say, “Get this done, I don’t care how, don’t bother me with the details, just do it.” and expect it to be done. If the big boss says your job is on the line if you can’t deliver, you do whatever it takes to deliver.

Do I believe Trump’s party planners are empowered to make deals about diplomatic posts? Certainly not. Do I believe that would stop them from implying that they did, if it would seal the deal? Well, of course they would. They are representing a personal brand built on hype and overselling, and on the sort of negotiation that happens after the other party has already come through on their end and you walk back what you promised to whatever pittance you feel like paying.

I can believe Donald Trump had nothing to do with it, that he didn’t approve it. But I also must believe he would have approved of the notion, had it worked and had they gotten away with it. To Mr. Trump, getting away with stuff is “smart” and doing as much as you can get away with is “good business”. And I have no reason to believe that he won’t continue to conduct his affairs this way when he’s president.

After all, he promised to run the country like a business, didn’t he?

Trump tweeted this morning about his son Eric’s conflicts of interest.

My wonderful son, Eric, will no longer be allowed to raise money for children with cancer because of a possible conflict of interest with my presidency. Isn't this a ridiculous shame? He loves these kids, has raised millions of dollars for them, and now must stop. Wrong answer!

A lot of people have characterized this as an immature tantrum. They’re not far wrong, but that characterization misses where this behavior is coming from. “Wrong answer!” isn’t the response of an actual child, but of a childish boss hearing something he doesn’t like.

“Wrong answer!” doesn’t say, “I disagree with this, and will work to change it.” It says, “I’m in charge, and I say that’s not true, so it isn’t.”

Donald Trump said during his campaign that his inexperience didn’t matter because he would surround himself by experts, “the best people”, and get their advice. It’s what he does in business, after all. But to his ears, “the best people” are the people who tell him what he wants to hear. If anybody brings him unwelcome news, they’re wrong, just wrong, and they need to get out of his sight and don’t come back until they can bring him the right answer.

These are not what they call in the business world “best practices”, but they are certainly common enough practices, and they speak to the shark-like image that Donald Trump projected when he played a billionaire business genius on TV for all those years. The very format of The Apprentice speaks to a horrible and horribly stereotypical practice of the sort of bad boss who can easily run a business into the ground: fostering division and competition within the business itself.

The theory is that this kind of environment makes sure everyone is performing at the highest level. The practice is that everybody involved spends as much time trying to undermine each other and guard against sneak attacks as they do on anything that actually helps the company achieve its goals.

And if you pay attention to the ongoing sideshow that is… well, everything about Trump’s transition… it’s apparent that this is what’s happening. He’s got multiple people performing the same tasks in direct conflict with each other. He’s throwing his spokespeople into the deep end and seeing who can swim. He’s making people audition for positions like they’re on a reality show, making picks not based on credentials or merit but on how well they play his game. This does not ensure that he’s surrounded by the best people, but the most ruthlessly manipulative ones.

The way Trump does business—when properly edited—makes for terrific television, if you like that sort of thing. When it’s done in business, no one really sees it except for the people who are immersed in it. But Trump is, as previously noted, not even in office yet and we’re seeing what it looks like when a public figure does business the way Trump does business.

The results aren’t pretty, and that is likely to be the best that can be said of it.

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write.

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Privileges aren’t always what you’d think they are.

When my siblings and I were in school, my parents took a keen interest in our local school system, in order to be certain we were getting the best education possible. My father was heavily involved with the school’s foundation, a charitable trust organization that raised money to benefit the school. The year I turned 18, he campaigned for a bond issue, wherein the town agreed (by popular ballot) to borrow money to greatly expand the school’s physical plant in response to a growing student body.

The school bond campaign did a voter registration drive that reached out to the outgoing seniors, entreating everybody who was 18 or would be by the election to register. The bond measure passed by what to my recollection was an overwhelming majority.

Fundraising is not the only way my parents were involved in my education. My mother in particular was a fierce advocate for my disability accommodations, well-armed with the facts about my needs and my rights. Both of my parents had the opportunity and wherewithal to fight for my education, and they did so.

One tangential result of this is that I grew up with a basic understanding of what a charitable foundation is and what a bond issue is. That is itself a privilege and a form of education.

Becuase of this privilege, my eyebrows didn’t automatically raise when I heard that the Clinton Foundation was taking money from anyone who would give it, including (gasp!) foreign governments, in the (shock!) Middle East and elsewhere. I understand that just because it’s got her name on it (well, her family’s) doesn’t mean it’s her piggy bank, checking account, or campaign war chest.

I’m a bit embarrassed to realize how long it took me to catch on that not everybody grasped that distinction. It’s obviously possible to treat a charitable foundation like it’s your personal slush fund (more on that later) and I figured everybody who was pointing alarmed fingers at the Clinton Foundation was just assuming that was happening. Certainly that’s what the talking heads on TV were talking about, at least directly.

But over time spent watching or engaging with rank-and-file voters who saw the Clinton Foundation as an example of enormous and obvious corruption, it became clear that a lot of them just didn’t understand that there was even supposed to be a difference between giving to the Clinton Foundation and giving to Clinton herself. They described reported donations by members of foreign governments and royal families as being campaign contributions. They either thought the “Clinton Foundation” was a name for Hillary Clinton’s campaign, or that it was like a company owned by the Clinton family.

A couple of weeks after the election, I tweeted the following as part of a thread about messaging and controlling the narrative:

In my opinion, the biggest thing that gave the Clinton Foundation stuff legs beyond the conspiracy core? People not knowing what it was.

I was talking about how good the right has been about understanding the importance of framing the narrative and how good the left has been about letting them do it, sometimes by ceding points that really don’t need to be (and shouldn’t be) ceded and sometimes by simply not understanding that things need to be framed.

In all of the defenses I heard about the Clinton Foundation, I never saw anyone giving even the five second nutshell explanation of what “foundation” means in this context. Absent that information, the defenses weren’t very compelling. It looked like her defenders were just glossing over glaring and obvious misdeeds like they didn’t matter, which played into the appearance of arrogance.

And of course, if you’re thinking of the Clinton Foundation as simply being “Clinton cash”, then the repeated mentions of things the Clinton Foundation does–funding vaccines, cancer research, anti-malarial treatments, etc.—just sounds like, “Look, they also do good things, so get off their backs.”

And “But think about all the good things X did!” is only a compelling defense to people who are already on X’s side.

Obviously not everybody who was critical of the foundation had this misapprehension. But their concerns and critiques were magnified and amplified by an acoustic environment more conducive to noise than signal. Some of the critics were making the same naive error as the defenders, that of assuming everybody knew what they were talking about.

Some were counting on listeners making associations that they themselves did not explicitly make. “Clinton campaign funded by foreign Muslims” is not a bad idea to have floating around, if you’re campaigning against Clinton, foreigners, and Muslims.

Clinton is no longer running for anything. Neither is her opponent, that he can’t seem to stop campaigning. But I thought about this again today, when I saw one of his supporters in a thread about Eric Trump reportedly suspending his charitable fundraising say that people were confusing the issue by bringing up Donald Trump buying stuff for himself “with his personal foundation, his private foundation, not his charitable one”.

That was when another penny dropped for me. The flipside of people not understanding the layers of separation between giving money to Hillary Clinton and giving money to the charitable foundation to which her family lends their star power and good name. If you think “The Person Foundation” is just a high-faluting way of saying “money belonging to The Person”, then when people talk about the Trump Foundation breaking rules against self-dealing, it just sounds like people are getting hung up on procedural nitpicks and bureaucracy.

You hear Trump paid for a lawsuit settlement out of his foundation, you think it’s some kind of obscure, esoteric legal “Gotcha!” Oh, he took the money from the wrong account. Who cares? It’s his money, isn’t it? Why make it complicated? Can’t a man buy a picture with his own money? It’s his, isn’t it? And so on.

A lot of digital ink has been virtually spilled on the need for empathy with Trump voters, and how “intellectual liberal elites” are “out of touch” with “real America”.

Well, I’d be hesitant to validate those notions entirely (particularly as they are textbook examples of the right framing things to their satisfaction), but an extremely important stage of communication that was lost on the left in this election is the part where you consider how the thing you’re fixing to say is going to sound to the person who hears it.

Simply put: if you don’t know where your audience is coming from, your audience isn’t going to know where you’re coming from.

Now, this is not Thinkpiece #5,382,483,290 about The Real Reason Clinton Lost. I do not mean to suggest that if liberal talking heads had prefaced their remarks with, “Well, of course, the Clinton Foundation is a sort of independent corporation set up to manage charitable contributions in the name of the Clintons, so we should be very clear that giving money to the foundation is not the same as giving money to the Clintons themselves,” it would have ended the hoopla and won the election. There were a lot of things going on, and a lot of people were highly motivated to believe the worst.

But it couldn’t have hurt, and might have helped.

Similarly, I don’t bring this up with the notion that if we can school people on foundations it’s going to somehow turn everything around. Even if you can figure out how you lost the last fight, it’s only going to help you if the next fight is the same. The action item here is not “Hey, everybody, make sure you clarify what a foundation is when you’re talking about it on the news.”

Rather, the message I’m sending is: don’t assume your audience knows the same things you do, that what is obvious and goes without saying to you is the same as what is obvious and goes without saying to everyone else.

We didn’t all come up with the same sort of educational foundation.

 

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write.

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One of the reasons I sort of lost my footing after the high of WorldCon was the growing awareness that the sort of forces represented by the ridiculous “Puppy” campaigns and Gamergate have been on the rise in actual world politics, using the same techniques and appealing to the same base instincts and groups of people. Pointing out the fascists in science fiction and fantasy fandom seemed kind of silly when others were marching towards the White House.

I haven’t really been able to figure out how to reconcile that. It took the wind out of my sails, basically drove a stake through the heart of the character of John Upjohn even though I hadn’t quite finished my planned business with him. I had more book reviews planned, con reports sketched out, a post-mortem on the Hugos this year.

But it all seemed so pointless, in the face of American electoral politics.

I mean, I’m good at what I do, at what I did during the Sad Puppy things. I’ve been trying to bring that same blend of insight and humor to actual politics. But it’s harder to know where to start on such a big stage, to find the corner and defend it (or alternately, start assembling puzzle pieces around it).

Anyway…

Last week, Foz Meadows had an essay published at Black Gate about Vox Day, the noted neo-Nazi who ran the Rabid Puppies campaign and turned the Sad Puppies movement into as much of a success as it ever managed to be. File 770 has the details on what happened, the upshot of which is that the essay was moved to a different venue after some sophisty on the part of Day implied (falsely) that there might have been legal consequences to him over the label “neo-Nazi”.

\Vox Day is, in fact, a neo-Nazi. His attempt to write a definitive manifesto for the alt-right (likely in the belief that if he could get out in front of it, he could claim ownership or leadership) specifically referenced the “14 words” neo-Nazi slogan as the fourteenth point.

Denying it, though, is just part of the playbook. Not hiding it, but denying it and preventing anyone else from saying it, even while being open far past the point of dog whistles (I call them “slide whistles”, they’re so comically obvious) about it. Gamergate did it. Trump has done it. The Puppy campaigns did it.

It’s part of the alt-reich’s standard operating procedure: you play at legalism and reference or even invent rules to get the other side, the side that cares about consequences and fairness, to abide by them, even while you don’t. He used these tactics to get Black Gate’s editor to back down, to blink, and now the text which correctly and accurately labels a neo-Nazi as a neo-Nazi politely redirects to another venue, to which it has deferred that duty.

And I look at this, and I look at what’s happening in Washington (well, mostly in New York and Florida, as our President-Elect sees the presidency as more of a side gig) and the way our national news media is covering things, and, I have to say… it doesn’t look nearly as pointless.

As above, so below.

I don’t wish to give Vox Day undue credit for the ascendancy of fascism in this or any other country. He’s just barely charismatic enough to get the few hundred devoted followers he needs for his Hugo ballot-rigging each year. If he could get more than that, he would, because he’d need them to actually control the Hugo outcomes and not the nomination.

It’s not because of Vox Day that Trump is in the White House, but it’s because of people like him.

And this is why it’s worthwhile to oppose Vox Day and those like Vox Day, wherever they may be. In gaming circles. In literary science fiction and fantasy fandom and its associated industries. Anywhere. It’s worth it to a shine a light on what they’re doing, to point it out and call it by name even when it seems obvious, to label fascism as fascism and to call neo-Nazis neo-Nazis.

And to make fun of them. To satirize them, lampoon them, show the world their ridiculousness and teach people how to laugh at them.

 

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write.

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He will never acknowledge it. He will never admit it. His reward for being played is that he will continue to allow himself to be played, specifically so he need never face the truth.

Last night, I read news stories about Priebus, the outgoing GOP head, had been appointed to a “co-equal” position with Steve Bannon, CEO of the white nationalist propaganda/hoax news site Breitbart turned CEO of Trump’s campaign. I had a vivid flashback to back in the summer, when Bannon and pollster/PR flack Kellyanne Conway were appointed to “co-equal” positions “running” Trump’s campaign.

In the time since then, Bannon has sat at Trump’s right hand, whispering in his ear, shaping his policies and connecting him to constituencies that had a lot to do with delivering him the White House.

Conway, for her sins, was reduced to an apologetic cable news tour, always forced to put a palatable spin on whatever Bannon and Trump cooked up, smiling to keep from crying as she denied, denied, denied, and sometimes pathetically reduced to saying what she would say to the man whose campaign she had been hired to manage, if she were able to.

While others who were loyal to Trump are being sized up for cabinet positions or influential roles in the White House, all signs indicate her reward for her job will be to keep doing it, in one form or another.

The common view is that in appointing Priebus, a member of the GOP establishment, to be his Chief of Staff and Banon, a member of what is euphemistically termed the “alt-right” (the modern face of white nationalists and fascists), as his Chief Strategist, Trump is signaling a sort of balanced, big-tent approach. Traditional conservatives and those looking for reasons to be optimistic are hopeful that Trump will use Bannon to bring his Neo-Nazi followers “into the fold”, moderating them into mainstream Republicans.

If how he ran his campaign is any indication of how he will be president, this is not what we will see. The fascist extremists will not join the mainstream but become the mainstream. Priebus will continue his thankless task of selling the more moderate, more grounded members of his party on a jackbooted vision of America, putting a suit and tie over the brown shirts and telling the GOP that this is all good for the party and the country, actually.

This is his reward for staying the course when much of his party wanted to bail out from Trump’s downward spiral. He spent months shoveling Trump’s manure, and the reward for that is a bigger shovel, with which he can dig an even bigger hole for himself.

If only the rest of us weren’t going down with him.

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write.

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Over on his blog, Scott Adams (who reminds us that he is a master persuader, as evidenced primarily by the fact that he managed to convince himself that he is a master persuader) has laid out his case to “un-hypnotize” (as he puts it) anti-Trump voters.

His reasoning goes like this: when there’s a difference in what people see in a situation, the people who are seeing an unlikely addition to reality are the ones who are hallucinating. If everybody can see a pink elephant, the pink elephant exists. If even one person doesn’t see the pink elephant, though, it can be chalked up to a mass hallucination.

It’s basically an application of Occam’s Razor, and as principles for reasoning goes, it’s not a bad one. So let’s follow Master Persuader Scott Adams a little farther along this garden path.

Some people, he notes, look at Donald Trump and see the next Hitler. That is, some people see a fascist strongman rising to power on a wave of hatred and populism. And some people, like he himself, don’t. A Hitler figure is an unlikely addition to reality, so if some people see the danger and some people don’t, then the danger must not be real. He doesn’t see Trump as Hitler, so it can’t be real.

Well, color me reassured. Because if I accept this logic, not only am I thoroughly reassured that Trump cannot be Hitler, I must also accept a rose-tinted rearview mirror of history in which Hitler could not have been Hitler.

Follow Scott’s logic: some people looked at Hitler and saw a dangerous maniac who would fan the flames of hatred and risk plunging Europe and beyond into a war that would dwarf the “Great War” from which it had so recently emerged. And some people didn’t. Some people saw a dangerous demagogue who would scapegoat whole populations and persecute them to the brink of extinction and beyond if he could. And some people didn’t.

I think we can all agree that “patriotic man who wants only the best for his homeland” is more likely in politics than “genocidal demagogue and would-be world conqueror”. So if anyone could look at Hitler back then and not see the unlikely addition to reality presented by Hitler-qua-Hitler, that more extreme conception of Hitler must not exist. At least, not according to the persuasive logic of Scott Adams, Trained Hypnotist.

Of course, he might rebut this by saying that a historical case is different, because we have evidence that the popular conception of Hitler existed and now there is no longer any doubt. That’s very nice, but there are two problems with it.

One, it still leaves us with the fact that at the time of Hitler’s rise to power, the thing that would have struck a Herr Adams, Meister der Überzeugung, as the “pink elephant” of the situation was in fact actual reality, which means that we cannot in the present situation count on anyone being able to determine what is actual reality and what is an unlikely addition just based on an eyeball declaration.

Two, there are still people today who dispute the evidence that Adolf Hitler was anything more than a German patriot who wanted the best for his people. There are people today who still make the same “pink elephant” style arguments against Hitler’s worst excesses and biggest crimes.

Scott Adams tells us that if everybody is looking at something big and bafflingly unlikely like a pink elephant, and some people can see it and some people can’t, it’s proof that the pink elephant does not exist. He tells us that it’s always the addition that is suspect, always the people who do not see any evidence of the addition’s existence that are correct.

So what do we make of Hitler’s apologists? What do we make of Holocaust deniers?

It turns out there a lot of elephants in the world, Scott. That is, there are a lot of things that are big and (to some people, at least) unexpected and showing up in places people would rather not face their existence.

Scott Adams’s rubric for navigating a world like this is that if even one person says a thing doesn’t exist, then it doesn’t. It can’t.

By that logic… what would we be left with? And who decides what the “unlikely addition” is, anyway? In a battle between flat earthers and everyone else, the flat earthers see a mostly round earth as being the pink elephant. They see no evidence of it, so they can dismiss it, quite correctly, using Scott’s rule of thumb. “But they’re wrong,” Scott might say, “and you could prove them wrong by providing them evidence of _____.” And then that’s the pink elephant. It won’t do, Scott. I’m afraid it’s pink elephants all the way down.

The is the worst, sloppiest, and most self-serving example of “consensus reality” I’ve ever seen. As a lens for viewing the world, it dispenses with all the utility of Occam’s Razor by insisting on always shaving at the same angle.

And the thing is, I think Scott Adams knows this. I believe his blog post is structured not to “un-hypnotize” anyone, not to “de-persuade” them, but rather the opposite. He’s trying to use rhetorical techniques to lead his readers to a pre-determined conclusion.

It’s a very straightforward, by the numbers approach, though it’s ruined by his ham-handed application.

Sidenote: I believe that Scott Adams has studied persuasion, but he made the mistake of doing it without studying people, and without any real appreciation for his limits. Nuance and statistical tendencies are liberal myths, after all, just like implicit bias and systemic prejudice. Things either work or they don’t, in Scott-land.

Imagine a frumpy middle-aged sitcom couch lump trying to court a lady using a book labeled “The Art of Seduction”. He shows up on her doorstep, and when she answers the doorbell, he says in a flat monotone with the book open in front of him, “Step one compliment the lady on her appearance being sure to highlight those aspects that are within control such as her clothes or hairstyle hello that is a lovely dress you are wearing step one complete.”

That’s Scott Adams, Master Persuader.

But clumsy and clueless as his approach is, he’s at least trying to follow some good advice.

He starts by proposing a thought experiment. This makes you more likely to accept his premise, because it’s all hypothetical. Few people are going to have a visceral “HECK NO!” reaction to that. He then leads the reader through a series of hypotheticals which are pretty much guaranteed to elicit agreement. By the time he gets to third and final scenario, the average reader’s going to be like, “Yeah, obviously.” It’s not a guarantee that a person who has agreed with you three times will agree with whatever follows, but it doesn’t hurt anything.

This is the point where he breaks in to state his (snerk) “credentials”, so that you will see him as an authority. It’s a jarring misstep, as it breaks the nominal spell his opening created. It’s one thing to lay out your credentials on an area of informational expertise in order to give your words more weight, but telling someone you’re a master of persuasion is like daring them to disagree with you, and it usually produces the same result.

The next two paragraphs are appeals to what I’ll call the fantasist’s ego and then to intellect. The fantasist’s ego is that special section of the ego that wants everything to be a life and death struggle, that wants the ego’s possessor to be the protagonist of reality. There are real-life supervillains targeting you for mind control, Scott Adams says. You’re in the Matrix, Scott Adams tells you.

But don’t worry: he’s not calling you stupid. Even the most intelligent person is susceptible to the mind-bending powers of… GODZILLA. Okay. I should explain to everyone scratching their heads. Scott Adams, Master Persuader, thinks that labeling the shadowy Svengali he imagines is coaching Team Clinton on psyops “Godzilla” is going to make the implication resonate more strongly and deeply with you. Because… Godzilla… is… big? Or scary? Or radioactive?

Or the actual hero of the vast majority of the movies in which he appears.

Nobody knows where he’s trying to go with this, but the actual effect is to make his claims risible and easier to dismiss.

I mean, his set-up is all morpheus.gif “WHAT IF I TOLD YOU THAT HILLARY CLINTON IS” and the punchline is “BEING TRAINED IN PERSUASION BY GODZILLA”.

You’d be laughed out of the sub-reddit, Scott.

That’s what would happen if you told us that.

He could have gone with Svengali or Rasputin, which have the advantage of sounding sinister and foreign to people who don’t know who they are. He could have tapped into the zeitgeist by dubbing the mysterious master of manipulation “Killgrave”, which, again, sounds threatening. But no. He went with Godzilla. Which, okay, Godzilla would be incomprehensibly terrifying in real life, but: nobody’s afraid of Godzilla, not the way they’re afraid of other movie monsters or killers or villains. Godzilla is awesome in the classic sense of the word. Godzilla is too big and too powerful for the human mind to really take in as a threat.

From there, it’s all downhill. He’s still following well-worn advice, but following it increasingly badly. He asserts his supposed neutrality on the topic (not fooling anyone, Scott), he mentions his “credentials” again, he tries to bring up an example of a mass hallucination that he thinks most people will agree with (“everybody else’s religion but yours”, basically), but because he does not understand people, he doesn’t realize that this is not going to resonate with the religious.

Scott, the evangelical Christian in your audience knows that a Hindu reading it is getting the same message. And even people who don’t believe other religions have validity also don’t believe that their followers are hallucinating. This is a cynical atheist’s attempt to relate to the religious mindset on a “how do you do, fellow kids?” level

His closing is terrible. He tries again for the “several things you will agree with, and then a conclusion you will thus also agree with”: he doesn’t believe in the tooth fairy or Santa Claus or luck or God, and he doesn’t believe Trump is dangerous.

Here we come to the thing that’s really holding Scott Adams back, which is that years ago he wrote a line that struck him as clever and it’s shaped everything about how he interacts with people since then: “When did ignorance become a point of view?” In the battle between the comically clueless Pointy-Haired Boss and Dilbert, it’s a great zinger, but using it as a rule of logic for life requires you to assume that you have an innate ability to tell ignorance apart from real knowledge at a glance.

And okay, everybody’s got some of that ability. It’s called critical thinking. But like the saying goes: garbage in, garbage out. If you have any faulty assumptions rattling around in your head, the most logical processes of critical thinking you apply will produce some errors. The less critical you are about your own assumptions, the more often this will happen without you noticing, and the more errors pile up, and you get a feedback loop until you wind up where Scott Adams is, at the point where he’s saying a man who leveraged himself badly in order to open up a series of three casinos in direct competition with each other for no other reason than he really wanted his name to be on the biggest and most impressive one ever built “knows risk management”.

At the point where Scott Adams decided that the world divided neatly into True Knowledge (what he knows) and Ignorance (what other people who disagree with him thinks), critical thinking became a fool’s errand for him. And since persuasion, for the short on charisma, consists largely of critically thinking out loud in a way that others can follow, his career as a master persuader was doomed to failure in that moment.

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write.

alexandraerin: (Default)

One comment I made in one of my recent posts that has attracted a certain amount of skepticism was my endorsement of a con culture that focuses on safety rather than justice in conflict resolutions. “How can you have safety without justice?” is one typical response. “So justice is a bad thing now?” is another.

Well, justice is most assuredly not a bad thing.

But justice in the sense of criminal justice or what we might call retributive justice is not the most pressing concern of a convention’s code of conduct, nor should it be the focus of a convention’s safety or security team.

Let me put it to you this way: how many comic, literary, or media conventions have you been to or heard of, that you would trust with the weighty responsibility of meting out justice? How many of them do you think have the people, expertise, or time and resources to serve out justice in a meaningful sense?

Or to put it another way: imagine you’re in charge of hiring a mall security officer.

You have two equally qualified candidates, alike in all respects except for their answer to the question, “What do you see as the primary function of this job?”

One of them says “To punish criminals, wicked people, and evildoers.”

The other says “To keep mall guests, employees, and property safe.”

Assuming you have to take one and not the other, which one of those individuals do you hire to guard your mall?

If you take the first one, I can assure you: you’re not going to be in charge of hiring for mall security for much longer. Because that is not the job.

Providing safety is a necessary step in almost every human enterprise. It may never truly be complete (safer rather than absolutely safe is the goal), but  providing justice is a never-ending battle and something that requires highly dedicated institutions as well as an individual commitment, and even then it often goes horribly wrong.

I mean, when’s the last time you heard about a gross miscarriage of safety or a travesty of safety?

I certainly don’t mind when a convention has a commitment to justice. My “home convention” of WisCon has such a commitment. But I expect such a convention to be reflected by a striving towards justice, not dispensing it. In recent years, WisCon learned a valuable lesson in the folly of attempting—as laypeople with limited resources—to apply principles of jurisprudence and criminal investigation in resolving conflicts between people. It’s having witnessed this (and part of it up close, as part of WisCon’s ConCom) that informs my view here.

People who are saying that a convention should never act on a complaint without performing a serious investigation, weighing evidence, and having a finding of facts culminating in a verdict in a sentence are, whether they know it or not, advocating for one of two possibilities: an endless succession of unqualified kangaroo courts or a world where conventions never act on complaints. Neither approach actually serves justice. Neither approach does anything for safety.

Trying to find a middle ground (or create a workable “convention court” system) would place an undue burden on conventions, raising the costs in money and time investment, and for what? To satisfy the aggrieved sense of fairness of random people on the internet, most of whom will continue to side with their friends and assume that any result other than the one that vindicates their own biases is a sign that the system was rigged anyway?

No thank you.

I’ll tell you one thing that’s true about this latest case and the one I referenced regarding WisCon: as far as I could tell, neither party ever really disputed the basic idea that it was a good idea for the two of them to avoid each other. Like, that was accepted as just plain a good idea, no matter what version of events you believe or what viewpoint you subscribe to.

In a case like that, what is there to investigate? “Feelings aren’t actionable!” cry the people who haven’t noticed that there was no action in the sense they mean it. It’s an interpersonal conflict resolved via boundary mediation, not a criminal complaint resolved via punishment.

A convention’s commitment to safety means they will try first to prevent conflict, then to diffuse it, then to resolve it. Punishment, if it happens, is incidental. Even if an action is interpreted as punishing, the so-called punishment is not the point. The harm reduction or risk mitigation is.

When James Frenkel was initially provisionally banned from WisCon, to name another case, the outcry was not because he was not being punished enough. Few people wanted him punished more. The concern was safety… not vengeance, not retribution, and not punishment.

When the convention elected to permanently ban him instead, this represented (in my opinion, based on arguments made at the time) a shift from “What punishment is appropriate for this transgression?” (a criminal justice-based approach) to “What action is necessary to ensure the safety of our members?” (a safety-based approach).

I don’t want to go to a convention that thinks it can force people to be better people through behavioral modification, which is the higher goal of punishment, per se. I don’t want to contribute my time, money, or energy towards a convention that is spending its resources in the foolish pursuit of creating a workable parallel to a criminal justice system. I understand the impulse to go, “Wait, there was no investigation? No trial?”, but man, no one actually wants to go down that path: “In the media convention circuit, people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups: the Public Safety Team who investigate crime and the ConCom who prosecute the offenders.” Is that what we want our conventions to spend their time on?

*DONK DONK*

Again, I say: no, thank you.

Conventions have a duty to provide a measure of safety. They have neither the duty nor even the means to provide justice. Trying to act as a court system is how they wind up with uneven punishments, complaints that stretch on for years, etc.

Your average fandom convention at any one time has got not quite enough expertise, resources, money, logistical support, and volunteer-hours to actually throw a convention in the first place… and then, amazingly, against all odds, they do it anyway. You’re not going to get all that and a criminal court system, too.

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write.

alexandraerin: (Default)

I really don’t intend to keep talking about this David Weingart situation, in no small part because at this time there isn’t actually any situation, just an increasingly labored post-mortem on one, but there are a few more things that came up over the weekend that I think I’m going to wrap up here under the heading of “final thoughts”.

First, there is a lot of reason to believe that there is a generational/internet literacy gap at work here. A lot of people (himself included) didn’t understand how his posts could possibly lead anyone directly to the party whose identity he was ostensibly protecting, while some of us—myself included—immediately spotted it at first glance. I wasn’t exaggerating when I said that anyone reasonably internet savvy could find a person who fits the bill in five seconds.

This gap in reactions speaks to a gap in understanding of how the internet works, and in my experience, people who don’t “get” social media on that level have a hard time understanding how conduct that on the surface seems utterly benign and friendly can be menacing or creepy.

After all, it’s “only the internet”, right?

In the same vein: a few of his defenders have taken umbrage with references to Weingart’s “followers” (in the sense of social media subscribers), thinking that it’s ascribing a leadership position to him and a subordinate/minion status to them. They don’t seem to be aware that the term lacks those connotations when it is used in this fashion, dans la belle internet.

“Follower” in this sense is the one-directional version of saying that two people are “friends” on a given site. Just as being “friends” on a social site does not necessarily mean everything connoted by “friend” in a wider context, neither does saying someone is “following” someone on social media share the wider meanings of “to follow” A better synonym for “follower” than “minion” would be “subscriber”.

Why don’t we just say “subscribers”? Because that’s not the word that’s come into common usage in this context. It’s “follower”.

A similar point of contention has flourished around the use of the word “reply”.

As I noted in my previous post, David Weingart’s entry into the all-staff chat forum was to post a reply in a conversational thread started by the staffer he’d agreed to not contact in any way. Now, as he contends and no one that I have seen denies, he made his initial comment in reply to another commenter in that thread.

The pro-Weingart position seems to be that as long as he was affirmatively replying to a specific person in the thread, no one can say that he was replying to the original poster, and thus there was no contact.

But his comment (and every other comment posted into the conversation) are, perforce, also replies to the initial starting point. Not in the colloquial conversation sense, but in the internet messaging sense. It’s like replying to a comment someone else left on a Facebook post; you’re also replying to the Facebook post.

I don’t know if the software in question uses such notifications, but under a lot of systems, the originator of the thread would have received a notification of his comment, which makes the contact that much more direct.

Now, an important nuance to keep in mind: none of this necessitates or implies that the contact was intentional! No one knows what David knew about the thread, the underlying system, its organization, etc. No one knows what he intended. We only have his own report to go on there, and honestly, I see no particular reason to disbelieve him. For the heinous crime of pointing out how internet replies work, I’ve been accused of “slandering” him and “heaping calumnies” on him, but I ascribe no motivations to him and my “accusation” consists of accepting at face value his own report that he innocently posted a video to a particular thread, with the added context from Worldcon 75 about who started the conversation.

But taking both sides at face value, we’re left with the fact that in replying to another commenter on the thread, he also replied to the person who made the thread.

This might well be a case of “you get it or you don’t”. People who understand how threaded comments/internet conversations/forum posts work get it. People who don’t, don’t, and if they’re sufficiently motivated by loyalty to a friend they see as being unfairly accused, they very likely won’t.

I see this alone as reason enough to back away and simply trust that people will think what they will. Language gaps like this are not unbridgeable, but they can’t be bridged by one side. There’s a saying about horses and water that applies here, and it applies doubly so when the horse really likes the other stream on the other side of a hillock and regards drinking from this stream here as treason against the other stream.

This brings me to my second point, which is the generational gap around priorities, which we might describe as a difference in opinion of what it means to serve a community: being loyal to that community’s most prominent and loyal existing members, or attempting to serve all members and potential members of the community equally.

As an example: another prominent filker, in posting what he no doubt considers a spirited defense of David Weingart and denunciation of Worldcon 75, has said words to the effect that the con has decided the filking community is not important or welcome.

I have to say, I fully understand the impulse to stand by your friend and your fellow community member. But casting this as an anti-filking decision, a conscious decision to exclude or attack filkers, is not a good look.

What’s the implication there?

That filkers in particular should receive special dispensations when it comes to their behavior?

I mean, imagine this wasn’t your good buddy Filker Dave in question, but… well… let’s say there’s a guy who goes by Filker Knave. Filker Knave is not Filker Dave. Filker Knave is a nice enough guy, but also a genuine creep. People have been warning each other about Filker Knave for years. Heck of a filker. Nice to his friends. Stand-up guy in a lot of situations. But even his friends know better than to leave Filker Knave alone with a woman.

Not that he means any harm!

He’s just socially awkward, you know?

So Filker Knave causes problems. He causes a particular problem for a particular staffer at a particular con. The con respects Filker Knave’s contributions and expertise (he’s a stand-up guy, apart from the whole “can’t be trusted around women” thing, you know) enough that they are initially willing to accept his help and they attempt to work with him to avoid the problem coming up, but eventually, perhaps inevitably, there is a parting of ways.

But Filker Knave has friends, many of them filkers. Even filkers who don’t know him personally know his friends, and there’s a lot of rallying around when they feel their community is under attack.

Meanwhile, there’s also… Regular Knave.

Regular Knave is a lot like Filker Knave, except not a Filker. He still has friends, his friends are all sure he’s a great guy, never seen him angry, wouldn’t hurt a fly, etc. But like Filker Knave, he causes problems when left alone with women. Like Filker Knave, he comes on too strong. Like Filker Knave and a lot of Knaves, he sort of relies on a sort of rules-lawyery legalism in place of any understanding of social appropriateness or nuance. (“She wasn’t saying no.”, “But she said I could drop by any time.”, etc.) He takes what we might call “plausibly deniable liberties” where he can be seen, and does worse where he can’t.

And while Filker Knave’s friends have a certain cachet in fannish circles, being respected filkers, Regular Knave’s friends are just run of the mill attendees of no particular standing.

And like Filker Knave, he causes problems that causes the con to seek a separation from him.

According to the “defense” of David Weingart’s filking friend, a convention that commits the sin of treating a Filker Knave the same as it treats a Regular Knave is making a horrible mistake and should expect to be penalized for offenses against the community.

In other words, according to this “defense”, David Weingart should be accorded special and preferential treatment because he is an important person in fandom. He should get consideration for being A Big Deal. The safety and security of the unnamed other staffer, being not such A Big Deal, should never have been given priority over his comfort and convenience.

The choice between having Filker Knave on staff or in attendance versus having any other random person on staff or in attendance should always fall on the side of Filker Knave, because Filker Knave is a filker, and an important person, and he has friends who matter. Regular Knave, not so much.

This state of affairs is very much the way things have gone in fandom for generations, I’m sorry to say. I’m less sorry to say that we’ve been moving away from that kind of thinking. This is why I applaud Worldcon 75’s decision in this matter. It reaffirms to me my general impression that the con’s leadership has their priorities straight and is working to make fandom better, safer, and more inclusive rather than deferring to “the way things are done”.

Now this is the point where David Weingart’s defenders pop up to say, “But he’s not a knave! How dare you call him a knave! How dare you make these comparisons and cast these aspersions!”

Well, here’s the thing.

I said this on Twitter, and it was one of the first things I said about his mess: you can’t prioritize safety in your community right up until the point that it becomes inconvenient for you or your friends.

David Weingart himself thought the other person’s feelings about him were valid enough that he insisted on only working for the con to the extent that it could be guaranteed the other staffer would not come into contact with him.

You can take it up with David Weingart if you think that’s unfair. Don’t ask the con to justify David Weingart’s decision.

He eventually used the word “sanction” to describe what the con chairs were asking him to do, and he spoke of consequences in terms suggesting he saw them as punishment, but all the con was doing from start to finish was trying to ensure that the state of affairs he had stipulated as necessary (no contact between himself and the other party) was actually observed.

I have seen a number of people saying things like, “I agree with believing the victim, but this is going too far because I know you David Weingart and I know you are a good guy.” And I’m not going to disagree with them in their judgment of their friend, because I don’t know David Weingart.

But go back and look at any case where someone is accused of harassment, stalking, abuse, or worse, and you will find their friends and loved ones saying the same thing. And most of them meant it. And most of them had the same kind of direct, firsthand evidence and strong personal intuition that it is guiding David Weingart’s friends.

Now! Important! I’m not saying “Therefore, this proves that David Weingart is blah blah blah blah blah.” The fact that his friends think he’s swell doesn’t prove anything other than the fact that, like most people on this planet, he’s swell to his friends.

Everybody defending him wants to argue about what’s “actionable”, as though this were a legal proceeding and a court were doling out criminal penalties. Well, in the sense of “what is firm evidence that can be acted on”, the people in you’re life whom you are good to saying that you are good to them is not actionable in the positive direction. It’s not relevant. Not admissible.

This is a difficult situation, and a real test of the priorities of a community. Trying to prioritize safety only in cases where the danger is provably real is like deciding to buckle your seat belt only when you know you’re going to get in a car crash. That’s not how safety works. If we could know when and where a car is going to actually crash, we wouldn’t need seat belts. We would just avoid the crashes.

If there were any real way—any—to know who the “good people” are and who the “creeps” are, to know who’s upstanding and who is just reasonably charming, we wouldn’t need things like codes of conduct or behavioral agreements or mediation between two parties. We’d just keep the creeps out and trust in the good nature of everyone else.

So what we do in a situation like this is, as I said, a test. David Weingart did a really good job of dealing with it, right up until the point where he felt he was either being accused of ill-intent (he wasn’t) or being asked to accept punishment for an accident (he wasn’t).

That he failed at that point isn’t necessarily a fatal stain on his character. I honestly think both he and the con deserve a certain amount of credit for trying so hard to make this work. And while I find some aspects of his responses since then a little unsettling, I still can’t say that my image of this man I don’t directly know has been indelibly stained.

My image of the fandom community subsets that have rallied around him, though, are taking a beating.

This brings me to my final point, which is: I’ve seen at least two people be shocked and repulsed to look around and realize that they are on the same side as Vox Day in this mess. You really shouldn’t. You’re very firmly in his ideological camp. At the point where you find yourself talking about “illiberals who insist they have a right to be free from anything that offends them” (when no one, and I mean no one, has claimed “offensiveness” as an, ah, offense), you might as well be standing in line to be one of his three or four hundred numbered minions.

Worldcon 75 definitely had some PR missteps in this, though I think even that is overblown. It’s easy enough to look at the blowback they got for addressing Weingart’s post and say they should have said nothing, or left his name and details out of it while acknowledging that the separation had happened, or whatever. Well, it’s easy to litigate a hypothetical.

But we, none of us, can ever know how we would actually have reacted, had things gone differently. We don’t know how we would have reacted, only what seems like the wisest course, knowing what we know now. It’s entirely possible that some or even most of the people now saying they should have said nothing would be saying, “It’s criminally incompetent that Worldcon hasn’t issued a statement! They should be addressing David’s charges! They’re not even defending themselves, so does that mean he’s right?”

The one thing that I think we can take away from this, from a PR standpoint, is that open comments do not lead to open communication. You can’t force people to understand a nuance they’re motivated not to see. You can dump information on the internet, but you can’t make people take it in and put it together. And I say this in response to both parties that have tried to tell their side, David Weingart and Worldcon 75. You can’t control what people take away from what you put out there. If there’s something you need to put out: put it out, and be done with it.

That said, my personal takeaway in all of this is that my faith in Worldcon 75’s leadership has not been in error. When faced with a difficult test, they made a decision that shows for all the world to see that their priorities are not in placating powerful and influential members of entrenched fan communities, but in preventing conflict and ensuring safety for all members of fandom.

Oh, and one final tangential point: I should address the obvious question by the 99.9% of people reading this who have no idea what “filking” is and are wondering if they dare Google it and should turn Safe Search on first, it’s, roughly, “fannish folksongsmithery”. Imagine troubadours who go from convention to convention singing creations in the vein of Weird Al’s Star Wars songs and you won’t be that far off.

And to whatever portion of the 00.1% of the people who already knew what “filking” is feel shocked and outraged that I said that 99.9% of people on the internet don’t know what filking is: sorry, but not sorry. When you live in a pond, you think the world is water. Doesn’t make it so. If frogs are a big deal in your pond, you will tend to assume frogs are a big deal everywhere. Doesn’t make it so.

Some people are saying that this brouhaha reflects poorly on Worldcon, but let me tell you: a whole heck of a lot of people, even people who go to cons, are hearing the word “filk” for the first time in a context where its meaning sticks, and are becoming aware that a “filking community” even exists, and man, this whole mess is not representing the filking community well.

And this is really all I have to say on the subject. This post is quite long, I suspect my longest yet on this topic, because I’m making a single post rather than addressing individual points individually.

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write.

alexandraerin: (Default)

It seems that the precipitating event was not just that David Weingart posted once in a public forum that the other staffer came into while he was posting there. The post he showed a screen shot of was him replying in a thread that the other staffer had originally made, and he continued to post a total of five times in that thread, presumably four of them after that first post which he maintains he regretted and would have deleted if he could?

It’s not clear if the one comment he shared on his blog is the first or last one, or one in the middle, but either way, these are salient details he left out of his account, and that’s troubling.

His defenders—possibly not knowing these details, as they heard his side of the thing first—have chosen to focus on the fact that it was a public forum (at least, public within Worldcon staff) and a fairly trivial, lighthearted post, wondered at what they see as the absurdity of expecting him to know that this would constitute contact.

Well, call me kooky, but replying to a post made by the person he’d agreed not to contact seems like a pretty clear-cut instance of contact to me?

I mean, with a lot of forum software, that generates an automatic notification (meaning even if the person hadn’t been active in the thread lately, they would have received a notice that the person they wished to avoid was apparently talking to them), and even in the absence of that, I think it’s generally understood that when you reply to someone’s post, you’re jumping into a conversation with them even if you’re not speaking to them directly?

Maybe he doesn’t understand that netiquette. Maybe he didn’t know who made it. There’s no point guessing about what he knew when or what he meant by it. It’s entirely possible it was done in all innocence, of course, and Worldcon in their communications with him (as divulged by him) acknowledged that the contact may have been accidental. They just wanted him to take responsibility for it. The salient portions of the email exchange, listed on his blog, is this (bolding mine, italics indicate David is quoting Worldcon’s emailed question):

1) Do you acknowledge that you broke your agreement not to interact with [name redacted] (even if accidentally)?

No. I acknowledge that interacting in that thread at that time gave the appearance of such (and, as I said previously, if there was a way to delete the comment, I’d have done so the moment I noticed). I realize this may seem like hair splitting, but I think it’s important to note the difference between accident and breaking an agreement. The latter has (and should have!) consequences. The former, not so much.

David Weingart is rejecting the framework where an accidental breach matters and insisting that accidents should not have consequences (i.e., punishments, to his thinking). He, like a lot of his defenders, seems to be treating this as a criminal matter rather than interpersonal one. Worldcon 75’s concern here is that their staff are able to function and get along, not to see justice done. Even the code of conduct they have been preparing for the con itself (and are now reprotedly prioritizing finishing ahead of schedule, to address issues like this) is about safety, not justice.

But accidental conduct can certainly have consequences for others, and there’s no reason it should not have consequences in the sense of changes made to prevent the accident from reoccuring. These consequences are not a punishment; they are consequences, but they’re not a punishment.

A lot of people are responding to Worldcon 75’s statement and clarification demanding, in effect, that they prove the charges they have made if they are going to punish David Weingart and drag his name through the mud. But he, not them, put his name out there and attached it to this mess. They can’t retract his post. They have made no accusations except that he had (possibly accidental) contact with someone he had promised not to have contact with, and the bare facts of that are not in dispute. They have levied no punishment against him; letting him go was not a fine or penalty they handed down, but the consequences of his unwillingness or inability to do the work he’d volunteered to do under the general circumstances necessitated by the situation.

And while his defenders want the con to prove that the “no contact” rules were justified, he himself had agreed that they were necessary. As he points out repeatedly, he went to the con leadership to make sure it could be arranged in the first place. He seems in his public posts to be pretty confident that it’s only because he did this that there were any rules, but I don’t think we have sufficient information to conclude this is true. Nor do we have any need or any right to be privy to what concerns the other party might have brought to the con, or what arrangements they requested for their safety.

Regardless, though, he had agreed to abide by the simple principle of no contact. He broke that in a very direct way, accident or not, and reacted defensively (bordering on hostilely in my opinion) when asked to take responsibility for that.

His defenders are saying “ALL THIS FOR A VIDEO” and “ALL THIS FOR A PUBLIC POST IN A PUBLIC FORUM” and “ALL THIS FOR A CONVERSATION ABOUT MEATBALLS”, but it seems shocking to me that they can’t understand that no contact means no contact, that he agreed to no contact, and that… well.

Again. He’s not on trial for harassment. He’s not on trial for anything. There’s no need to quantify what his apparent attention to this person was beyond the fact that it was unwanted, and that he agreed not to give it.

But when someone is accused of stalking or harassment, there’s this semantic game that they often play, where they were just. If someone is stalking someone by following them home, they are just walking on the sidewalk, and there’s not a law against walking on the sidewalk now, is there? Of course there isn’t. People walk on the sidewalk every day.

If someone is sending harassing emails… why, are we saying it’s against the law to send emails? There’s no law against sending emails. Everybody sends emails. You can’t call sending an email harassment, can you? I’m just sending emails.

The thing is: there’s no such discrete, distinct action as “stalking” or “harassment”. These things, they are patterns of behavior, and the individual behaviors that make up the patterns may be benign in a vacuum, certainly may be legal, and absent the context of them being unwanted and/or repeated and/or in some way menacing, there’s nothing wrong with them.

I’m sure some of David Weingart’s defenders are parents of children, or have themselves been children. Well, surely we have all encountered the child who, when told to keep their hands to themselves, plays the game “I’m not touching you, I’m not touching you, I’m not touching you,” right?

And we all agree: there’s no rule against not touching someone.

But we all know: you can not touch someone in a way that is distinctly annoying and jerky.

None of this is to push any kind of motive on David Weingart’s specific conduct. I don’t know his heart. I don’t know his mind. I don’t know him.

But I find it ridiculous that grown adults are employing the rhetoric of “How can you kick a man out over meatballs?”, as if they honestly believed that was the issue.

In my previous post, I said Worldcon 75 has been very even-handed in their post. With the extra context they have since clarified, I will say that they have been remarkably even-handed. He replied five times in one day to a post made by the person he’d promised not to contact, on a forum he had otherwise ignored completely the whole time? That’s. Okay. They acknowledge it could have been accidental. I know stranger things have happened. But let’s be honest… that sounds deliberate, doesn’t it?

Doesn’t mean it is deliberate, of course.

But in this year of all years, no one on the internet can pretend they don’t understand the concept of “bad optics”. It looks deliberate.

And deliberate or not, it had consequences.

When he was not prepared to accept them, that, too, had consequences.

It’s a sad, unnecessary end to a sad, unnecessary story, but he has no one to blame but himself for it.

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write.

alexandraerin: (Default)

So, I’ve just become aware of the statement by Worldcon 75 over their parting of ways with former musical programming director David “filkerdave” Weingart. This statement was made as a necessary clarification of sorts after Mr. Weingart made a post sharing the story from his side.

I have neither skin in this game nor a horse in this race (nor even skin in a race or a horse in a game), but my impression is that the Worldcon statement aims to be fair and even-handed in a way that hardly anyone on any side of any divide will find very satisfactory, but which I think is appropriately neutral for the circumstances.

I have linked to the Worldcon statement, but I’m not linking to his, as it includes a screen shot that allows anyone with five seconds’ spare time and any inkling of how Twitter works to find either exactly the person whose name he’s redacting or someone unrelated that he has put in a very unfortunate set of crosshairs via the information he chose to release. I’ve seen enough internet detective-ing gone wrong that I have no absolutely opinion which is more likely to be the case; but in my opinion, both are deplorable.

I  don’t assume malice where foolishness will suffice, so I similarly have no opinion on whether this was careless or calculated, but either way, it’s irresponsible, and I will not point people to his statement under the circumstances. It is the impact of the actions that concerns me, not the intent of the actor. Mr. Weingart has decried people harassing the person who the information he shared leads to, but the information is still there.

When I read Mr. Weingart’s statement, I do think of other, similar situations where I have heard both sides, and so even though I don’t know the person he’s referring to and I don’t know what the person would say, my mind inevitably tries to fill in some blanks.

I think nearly every woman knows a woman who has been in those shoes, having to ask a man to back off with an ever-increasing level of bluntness while the man professes—very possibly honestly—that he doesn’t have any clue what could make her so uncomfortable, he was just… anything. He was just just. I think a lot of women have been that woman.

But as much as my mind leaps in that direction, I’m doing my best not to let it influence me here. There’s a lot of projection, and the other party in this has not to my knowledge asked for people to leap to their defense or make assumptions about them.

I don’t know David Weingart.

I do know a lot of people who know him, and who have worked with him and played with him, and I know he has a lot of support and a lot to offer any con. But having only heard his side of things, I have to say: at the point you realize it’s ridiculous and impossible to fulfill the functions of an office while abiding by principles you agreed to, you’ve actually realized it’s impossible to fulfill the functions of that office.

That’s the time to, if not step down, then at least step back. That’s when you find a partner, find a deputy, find someone who can go the places that you need to go and do the things that you need to do, without compromising the safety and peace of mind of the person you’d agreed was entitled to such.

Again, only going by his side of things… it doesn’t seem like push needed to come to shove here, especially since the all-important thing that brought him to the all-staff chat thing was so he could post a Babylon 5 video about Swedish meatballs? I’m sure there were legitimate reasons that the person in charge of music would need to interact freely with the rest of the staff, that seems obvious, but posting videos as a punchline to a light-hearted staff chat seems like a strange hill to die on?

I don’t know the other person’s side of things. I don’t want or need to know the other person’s side of things. But it seems like David Weingart knew his position was untenable, and he chose to continue hold onto it until someone else forced the issue.

I suspect the reason for this has something to do with the calculus of priority that we tend to make, in fannish and convention circles, which is: what I or this person has to offer in terms of experience, passion, and expertise is worth more than the comfort and safety of a few people. That’s how you look at a situation where you agree that a person has a right to be free of you and you realize that the position you accepted makes that impossible and you conclude that the solution is for everyone to just sort of power through anyway. You’ve made the decision that what you do for the con is more important than what you do to this individual.

I think no one would dispute to Mr. Weingart’s contributions to cons actually have been tremendously valuable. But as fannish circles and conventions embrace community standards and commitments to safety and work to be more welcoming to people from every walk of life, we really have to internalize the lesson that nobody is irreplaceable.

We need a culture where the kind of knowledge and experience that a seasoned music director brings to the table is shared more widely rather than concentrated in a few seasoned hands, where no one is ever faced with a situation of, “Well, sure, if this person is in this place, it’s going to be a problem, but who else is going to do it?”

Even if he’s 100% right that this is just bad optics, even granting he’s 100% right that the restrictions he’d have to agree to would prevent him from doing his job, we can’t agree to treat women’s (and others’) safety concerns seriously right up until the moment that it’s inconvenient. That’s not how it works.

All of this is based solely on Mr. Weingart’s charaterization of events. To read the comments from Worldcon 75’s Facebook account on their statements, there is a somewhat different picture. Where Mr. Weingart talks of innocently joining a general purpose staff chat forum, Worldcon 75 points out that he was specifically jumping on threads created by the person he’d agreed to have no contact with, posting in them multiple times. That seems to shade things a bit differently than the picture he paints, to be honest?

But again, they’re trying very had to be evenhanded, and so am I. Per his own account, David Weingart recognized that he could not function under the strictures of the principles he’d agreed to. If it’s a shame he was fired, then the shame is that he made them do it instead of finding a solution to the impasse he recognized or stepping back.

Addendum:

Wow. As I was in the process of finalizing this, Mr. Weingart posted some emails he had sitting around to validate his version of events. It includes the same screenshot, sadly, with the same telltale trail of identifying breadcrumbs. If you want to find more about this, it’s not going to be hard with Google, but I just can’t in good conscience send people there directly.

All I’ll say about the emails is: I don’t know what the takeaway we’re supposed to get from them is, but it’s not a good look. I think if I had seen them before I wrote this post, I would have taken a very different tone and tenor.

Edit: 

A previous iteration of this post spelled Mr. Weingart’s name incorrectly. I’m only slightly acquainted with him under his nomme des tubes of filkerdave and did not know his full name before. I apologize for the error.

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write.

alexandraerin: (Default)

Often when I say critical things about Gamergate—or more particularly, about Gamergate’s roots and the conduct of the man who whipped up the initial harassment squad that became Gamergate’s core—I will get a gator in my mentions sidling up to say something like, “Oh, and of course you think that Zoë Quinn is a perfect darling little angel who could do no wrong.”

I don’t know what Zoë Quinn’s faults are, but I’m quite sure that she has them.

I’ve certainly never asked her for her side of the story told by her abusive ex, never bothered to see if she’s told it anywhere. It doesn’t interest me.

I’ve read his side, though, and even if I take everything presented as fact (i.e., just the events, not the editorial asides designed to whip up or channel abuse), the picture he paints of the character of Zoë Quinn as she exists in his story is just a relatively young, somewhat naïve woman who overpromised in a relationship that she wasn’t prepared for, someone who had these ideas and ideals about how things were supposed to be and who ultimately couldn’t live up to them.

The result, in his story, is a bad relationship that ended badly, and sheesh, could I feel him on that, if that were the story he’d wanted to tell.

But nothing in his post justifies his post, or the way he promoted it and the people he promoted it to. Nothing in his side of the story makes him look good, or even like a victim, only someone interested in portraying himself as one.

I was aware that Zoë might be present for at least part of WorldCon. I didn’t think it was likely I’d see her, or that it would be appropriate for a stranger or virtual stranger from the internet to get too invested in finding her, given her recent history, so I didn’t really put her on my “Would Like To Meet” list.

I was never that interested in her as an internet personality until very recently, when I wound up following a twitter handle she uses without initially realizing it was her. I think that was the turning point because it was the first time I was able to see her for herself, and not a character in a drama written by someone else. The ~*controversial figure*~ of Zoë Quinn was based on a real person, but I never assumed it had much to do with her.

The character in the original post is unflattering to say the least; the version of that character in the ongoing spin-off series created by Gamergate is a cartoonish caricature worthy of a political cartoon. The handle I followed on Twitter belonged to a person who said things that were interesting, clever, and funny, to varying degrees. We had some overlapping interests and some similar riffs on topics. I didn’t assume we’d have much in common beyond that.

But when I unexpectedly found myself at a party in a single crowded medium-sized where I knew she was likely to be, I found myself looking for her all the same. Simple human curiosity. The weird thing was I realized I had no idea what she looked like. I mean, that’s not that weird for me. I am not a strong visual thinker and I have medium to severe prosopagnosia. I check the license plate on my parents’ car before getting in because for much of my life, I was more likely to recognize it than them.

I think of people’s appearances in words. I store the words and use them to recreate a rubric for recognizing them in person. But I had no idea what Zoë Quinn looked like, even in words. All the words I found when I tried to call anything about her to mind were from the caricatures, from the stories people told. As it happened, they were no help in spotting her when she was physically present in the room.

Then someone who had bumped into her told me: she’s dressed as a unicorn. Well, not really like a unicorn, but unicorn-like. A unicorn themed aesthetic. Like a unicorn in human form who was still recognizably a unicorn, and also carrying several unicorn-themed accessories.

It was the shoes I spotted. If you’ve seen them, or heard of them, you’ll understand.

I will confess that in all my own human failings, I have wondered how much of the caricature is based on reality. Five seconds after I spotted the shoes, I was pretty sure the answer was 0.

First: she looked amazing.

I want to be clear here that the verb “to look” in the sentence “She looked amazing.” Is not being used as a mere passive linking verb describing her passive appearance. She did a look, and the look was amazing. She—Zoë Quinn—executed a look in an amazing fashion. That’s what I say when I mean she looked amazing.

Sometimes men who have been chastised for objectifying women and/or who aren’t fond of women getting affirmation from sources they cannot control try to draw a parallel between women complimenting each other on our looks (in an all-encompassing sense of aesthetics and fashion choices) and them commenting on our looks in the sense of “On a scale of 1 to 10…” It’s not the same thing. It’s not even close to the same thing, which I think is why my boyfriend Jack says things like “Congratulations on your life and your choices!” so often after complimenting someone, just to make sure they know where he’s falling.

But while you don’t have to be a woman to compliment a woman’s choices, there’s something magical that happens when women and femmes of all stripes compliment each other. It’s a wonderful thing that I really only discovered after I started going to cons and started getting over my shyness at them.

We spoke with each other for maybe a minute, mostly about looks. Our looks for the evening were very different. Hers was ethereal unicorn princess. Mine was… I’m not sure. Dangerous clown? I don’t know what vibe my looks put out, but I’m very particular about assembling them, particularly at cons. I’m not going for “Girl version of Kefka from Final Fantasy VI at a literary convention”, but I think I land somewhere near there. If I could put them into words, I probably wouldn’t need to use looks to get the point across. All I can say is that it’s been refined over the years, and I’m getting pretty good at it.

The main thing we talked about was each other’s hair. She told me how she had come to start coloring it, in quick and general terms, and how it now feels real, feels her, to do so. Making her outside match her inside, making her body represent itself, making it represent not just herself but her_self.

And we were actually on our way to the door when I spotted her, so we didn’t really dig into this, but I think I got it. And it provided an interesting contrast to the caricature that both of our overlapping groups of detractors and harassers have of us in general, the caricature that is the gendered form of “SJW”, the “Tumblrina”: always brightly colored hair, often fat and hideously ugly, brittle, angry, and alone.

This stereotype has as much to do with our actual lives as their caricature of “Social Justice” or “Radical Feminism” (they keep on saying those words; I don’t think they mean what they think they mean) has to do with anything we say or do. It’s not a shorthand they use to understand us, but to save them the trouble of needing to.

“Of course she has [colored] hair,” they say.

“Of course she’s on Patreon,” they say.

And of course I do have rainbow-colored hair and of course I do have a Patreon (Hint, hint.), as I’ve been crowdfunding my career since long before that was a word. But they don’t mean these things as bare, unadorned recitations of neutral facts. They’re invocations of the stereotype. They are reminders that we are not to be approached as human beings leading individual lives with distinct circumstances and personalities, but as a series of checkmarks next to a list of identifying features for target confirmation purposes.

Men even outside these alt-right, ultra-reactionary cliques make similar (if less pointed in their formulation) observations about women who sport pastel or neon or multicolored hair, and what it boils down to is something like this: she’s just doing it for attention, but jokes on her because it totally kills every man’s boner, but still a girl that desperate for attention will probably do anything…

If we complain about the attention, or tell a guy that we’re not doing it for them, we get a response along the lines of “Well, who are you doing it for?”

And the answer, as Zoë said, is for ourselves. Our. Selves. To be true to ourselves. It’s like wearing an outfit that suits us particularly well (and is often part and parcel of doing so), but a little more intimate, a little closer to the skin, metaphorically and in some respects literally. Hair color is a transitory and mutable characteristic, but so are clothes, and I think most people would agree that it’s possible to dress up like yourself and dress up not like yourself.

And the mutability of hair color, I think, matches the mutability of one’s self to a greater degree than more permanent body modifications or more fleeting changes, such as a change of clothes. A hair color might last days or weeks or months. It might change over time; mature, deepen. It might be touched up or altered. It might be allowed to grow out and fade.

Zoë’s hair isn’t much like my hair. I am not much like her. But we both looked at each other and were able to recognize that her hair was her and mine was me, which is to say, we were able to look at each other and admire each other, in this respect.

It was a fascinating exchange at the time, and one I wish we’d both had the time to delve into (we were leaving, as I’d said, and I suspect she had many more people to talk to, if not places to be, too), but in the course of sitting down and writing this post, working through what happened and what it meant to me, I’m finding myself working through so much more.

When I talked about the caricature of the Social Justice girl above, even the generalized one… well, that affects her more than it does me, as she’s a higher priority target for the people who make use of it as a rhetorical tool. I have been harassed by many of the same people, but mostly as a corollary to attacking someone with a higher level of unasked-for notoriety or someone with a higher degree of marginalization. My appearance and actions and beliefs (or the caricatured versions thereof) are used as an attack vector for people more important and more vulnerable than me.

But when I do come to the attention of the hate-hives, the way I get talked about… well, I’m not just a Social Justice girl, I’m a trans woman. I don’t just have brightly colored hair, I have rainbow hair. The last time I was told I was mentioned on a Gamergate forum, the comment on my appearance was “She looks exactly like you’d think she would look.”

At one point, someone made an animated gif meme using my face cropped from a profile pic and text representing the sort of thing that the person making the macro would imagine the character of me would say. It wasn’t something I’ve ever actually said. It doesn’t accurately represent my beliefs or behavior in the sort of discourse they were commenting on. But it’s not about me. It’s so not about me that people only two and three degrees of separation removed from me were sharing the image as a joke about “those Social Justice types who go to far”, honestly and earnestly believing that the person in the image was literally a caricature, not a real person.

When I found out about that, it freaked me out badly. I felt violated in a way that’s how to describe. I knew the reductive stereotyping the picture represented. I had even had it applied to me. But never so widely or so viscerally.
It affected me deeply. I reacted very badly. And I never really got over it, the knowledge that the picture is out there and being circulated.

But after talking to Zoë Quinn at the party, I found myself feeling better in a way that was hard to describe. I felt my spirits had lifted. I felt like I was suddenly less worried, though about what, I couldn’t say. It’s not like I’d gone around thinking about the picture all the time, or all the other pictures like it that might exist now or in the future. I wasn’t actually actively caring about it at the time, so it’s not like I could have noticed the moment I stopped caring, except in retrospect.

I didn’t—and don’t—believe that Zoë Quinn or anyone else is a precious perfect darling angel who can do no wrong. Nor do I believe that anyone can be.

And I’m certainly not the sort of person who seeks approval from certain people because they’ve been elevated to authority figures in my mind or that of society. I can get half a dozen earnest compliments on my hair in a day when I’m not at a con, and at a con it’s often non-stop. It gives me a little boost. Of course it does. And when I can return the compliment, about the other person’s hair or anything else, there’s this little moment of connection that makes it better.

It lifted a weight I hadn’t even noticed I was carrying. As I write this post, and think about the caricatures, and the way I’ve been caricatured, I realize: I’ve put the weight down. It doesn’t bother me anymore. Not at all, or at least not noticeably, not right now… it probably will flare up and twinge a bit in the future at odd intervals, but right now I’m thinking about it, thinking about how it felt, thinking about it cropping up on Facebook where I could see it, and this used to destroy me, and it doesn’t bother me.

That brief exchange with Zoë… it healed my soul. Honestly. That sounds hyperbolic, but that’s what it felt like.

Not because Zoë Quinn has magical powers or Zoë Quinn is perfect or Zoë Quinn is some kind of an authority on my very different life, not even because I know Zoë Quinn has been there done that but because I stopped and talked to another human being who gets it, not about the harassment that is heightened but about why we did it in the first place rand why we do it anyway.

Zoë Quinn, I’m told, is into body modification. I don’t know what’s true about her and what’s story. As I’ve said: I don’t ask Zoë Quinn about her life. My thing is idiosyncratic accessories. I don’t pick them to be idiosyncratic. I pick them because they are me and I recognize that they are idiosyncratic. I like wearing distinctive sunglasses—novelty, fashion, or costume—over my actual glasses. I hang them off the o-ring on my collar when I’m not wearing them. I collect hats. Just lately I’m into wearing long cardigans that make me feel like I’m wearing a wizardly trenchcoat or cape without actually wearing one. Though for that matter, my winter coat is a long black woolen cloak.

When I was of middle school age, I tried a thing for a couple of weeks where I had a bandanna tied round my neck like a scarf. The other children asked me if I was trying to be a cowboy or a pirate or what. I wasn’t trying to be anything, except me, wearing a thing around my neck that for a time made me feel more like myself.

The hair is the same, except in all the ways that it’s not. Hair is more visible than discreet body mods and more constant than any given accessory. It’s there. Always. Or at least usually.

There is a whole genre of posts that go around Twitter and Tumblr where the punchline is basically, “I don’t dress for boys/other people, I dress for the moments when I see myself reflected in a store window.” And that’s basically me, in terms of how I stopped dressing as a shapeless mass of dark cloth and started dressing in ways that make me feel like me. I still dress for the reflections, but not just dim and accidental ones in windows. I dress for how I look reflected in a mirror. I dress for the way it gets reflected back to me from other people.

My hair is part of that. It is part of me.

And Zoë Quinn was part of me internalizing that.

I know she’s not a darling perfect angel. I know she’s not some platonic exemplar of victimhood who has suffered worse than anyone in the history of the world or the internet. I know she’s not the character in her ex’s nasty little play, nor the one presented in the MS Paint webcomic drama that is Gamergate. I can’t really claim to know her as a person after sixty to eighty seconds of interaction on my way out of a crowded party, though even without that I can safely say that she is one.

And that, brief though our meeting was, I’m glad I met her.

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write.

alexandraerin: (Default)

When an actor receives something like a Screen Actor’s Guild award, they often say something along the lines of “It means so much more to me, because it comes from my peers.”

The most direct equivalent of this in the U.S. genre literature world would not be the Hugos, but the Nebulas. The Nebula Award is a guild award, presented by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) and voted on by the membership of the same. The Hugos are awarded by WorldCon membership, which in practical terms is fandom in its most institutional sense; picture the busiest, most accident-prone intersection between genre creators and genre fandom (specifically, the subset of genre fandom most directly descended from fandom as it existed 74 years ago), and you’ll have the WorldCon general membership.

I say this with some amount of affection, being one of them now.

The Hugos are awarded by fandom, but it’s a subset of fandom whose most prominent voices are mostly people who not just grew up in fandom but grew up to be the sort of people who have fans. Being a literary convention, even many of the people who just show up hoping for a glimpse of one of their glittering idols do some writing. Or game design. Or drawing.

So while the Hugos are not a guild award, there’s not a sharp line separating them from “awards given by our peers”. In the modern genre literature fandom, there is an extent to which our peers are our fans and our fans are our peers, and it’s wonderful. I love it.

I did not win a Hugo. I was not on the shortlist. But I was on the longlist, the tabulated nomination data released immediately after the Hugo Awards. I knew I would be, because people told me they had nominated me. As those who follow me or people around me on Facebook and Twitter might have intuited, I was actually the top of the longlist for one category, Best Fan Writer; “top” here meaning “excluding the shortlist”. I was the next alternate selection, the first runner-up to the nominees.

This is a signal honor to me. When I decided I was going to WorldCon whether I made the ballot or not, it was because I regard the fact of being thought of in these terms itself as something of a prize. I talked about this on Twitter back when the nominees were being announced, I repeated it the morning of the Hugos: awards mean nothing without the warm regard of our fans and peers to back them up, and the warm regard of our fans and peers means everything with or without an award.

So, it’s easy for me to say that when I’m not winning awards, right?

Well, if you’ve been following WorldCon stuff, you might know that this isn’t exactly true. There is probably some debate happening somewhere about whether the Alfie Award is a real award or just something that somebody decided to hand out based on a mixture of objective criteria and personal decision. I am not about to wade into that debate, lest I pull back the fragile veil that separates the minds of mankind from the bleak and terrible true reality from which our senses shield us.

Instead, I shall simply say that it is a real award, insofar as it was really awarded. To me. On a stage. By George R.R. Martin. I was in such a daze that I walked off in the wrong direction, then left my trophy backstage.

And I have to say that it was a thrill, obviously. I wasn’t so awestruck because it wasn’t a thrill. But it was a thrill precisely for the reasons I outlined in my blog post. If only the dozen or so people who had told me beforehand had nominated me, I would have been deeply touched to know this. If it had only been them and the dozen or so more who told me this at WorldCon, I still would have been just as touched. But the ballot data has been released and I came in with 213 people who nominated me for Best Fan Writer.

Out of every single person who thought enough of the topic of who the best fan writer in all of 2016 was, just over one in eight of them thought enough of me to throw my name in. I had just 30 fewer nods than Mike Glyer, the man who won and who had my vote, a man to whom I would have been ecstatic to lose and to whom I am quite happy to have lost the bottom place on the shortlist.

And yes, I am quite certain that Mr. Glyer both deserved the spot on the ballot more than I did, and that he deserved the win completely. I was not much of a fan writer before 2015. I don’t expect to be much of one in the future. I wandered into a fray in progress, made a few observations and quips, and I wandered out. It got me a bit of attention, in no small part because Mike Glyer took it upon himself to be such an excellent chronicler of the whole mess. I know he’s not the only one who shared my work, but I can’t for one second imagine I would have finished as high as I did without his kind assistance.

Indeed, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that our nomination totals are so close. I have to imagine that the Venn diagram of people who thought he was worth a nod and people who thought I was worth one had some comfortable area of overlap.

(Which is to say: Thank you, File 770 commentariat. I’m so pleased I got to meet so many of you in person!)

Now, George R.R. Martin instituted (or perhaps I should say initiated, as the man himself is darn sure he doesn’t want it to become an institution of any kind) the Alfie Awards last year to be given out mainly to the person who came closest to getting on the ballot in categories affected by slates.

The Puppies, for all their talk about fun, neither seem to have much of it or understand it when other people do, so they seemed a bit confused about the point of the exercise. Several of them referred to the Alfies last year in terms of being “the real Hugo, given out to the pre-selected winner anointed by the clique”.

But of course, it’s nothing of the sort. It’s possible that in some cases, the person who received the Alfie would have won the Hugo Award, absent a Puppy slate, but it is not inevitable. If the person who receives the most nominations always received the most votes, we wouldn’t need a round of voting.

The truth is that the Alfies are a bit of a joke, which is exactly why they have been so important and so wonderful these past two years, because what we need is a bit of a joke. Something to take a bit of the sting out of being left off the ballot and wondering about what might have done. Something to remind us about our history. Something to celebrate.

There was a lot to celebrate on Hugo night anyway, with many well-deserved wins by well-deserving winners and a total, 100% refutation of the many shifting premises under which the Puppies perpetrated their campaigns this year. We can still mourn the ballots that might have been, the opportunities that were lost to another year of this nonsense, of course, but there’s plenty to celebrate.

N.K. Jemisin checking the internet to make sure it still said she had won a Best Novel Hugo even after she woke up is one of my favorite moments from WorldCon, and it didn’t even happen at WorldCon.

Anyway. With this year’s landscape being so different than last year’s, and the outcome different as a result, I wasn’t sure that George would do a repeat performance for the Alfies. Even knowing that I had been the unofficial “first alternate” in my category, I wasn’t at all sure there’d be one for me if he did. No one can say that Mike Glyer didn’t deserve his trophy, so it’s not like I was robbed of my chance.

But he did, and he gave out an award for all categories affected by a slate, however slightly, and that means that instead of losing to Mike Glyer, I won an Alfie. It’s an actual hood ornament, off of what I believe my father-out-law identified as probably an Oldsmobile, shaped like a rocket plane and artfully attached to its base.

So I received an award after all. Do I stand by my words? More than ever. Because now I have the proof of my supposition that awards mean nothing when there is nothing behind them. I was jumping around the room like Daffy Duck thrilled when I saw where I’d placed, and the notion of getting anything for that besides the knowledge couldn’t have been the furthest thing from my mind.

Then a man called me up on stage and handed me what is literally a piece of garbage—vintage garbage, even collectible garbage, and certainly very artful garbage, garbage artfully arranged, but garbage nonetheless—and it meant the world to me because of what it symbolized. It is a visible, tangible, and ever-present reminder that enough people thought enough of me to get me up on that stage.

Not every trophy is a part of a car bolted to re-tooled scrap metal, but they’re all made out of something and when you get right down to it all that something ultimately consists of is just stuff. The Hugo rocket is stuff. The Oscar statue is just stuff. Shiny stuff, well-made stuff, sometimes precious stuff, stuff formed into iconic shapes, but just stuff.

Having been handed one of the stuffy-est (if not exactly the stuffiest) awards around, I can say that I was right on the money. It is the good opinion and warm wishes of our peers and fans and (as juried awards exist) even sometimes our idols that imbues them with meaning. The Alfie I was given is a symbol of that which I have won for myself and that which I have been privileged to be given, and that is your respect and admiration.

I wish I had thought to say something like that on the stage. I wish I had been as insightful as I am in my best blog posts or as clever as I am in my best moments. I wish I would have thought to say, “They say an award means the most when it comes from your peers, and as I’ve just been handed one by one of the living giants of fantasy writing, I’m going to go with that.”

I wish I would have remembered to explicitly thank the people who had brought me there, in the figurative sense of giving me the impetus and the literal sense of crowdfunding my presence on the stage. I hope my parents raised me well enough that I said thank you at all on autopilot, though I have no memory of having done so.

All I really had the presence of mind to do was hug George, remind the audience that I had received twice as many nominating nods in the category as he had, and then run. I was bowled over. I was gobstruck. I was beside myself.

But the moment only meant something because it was real, and it was real because something real was behind it.

George has been very clear that he doesn’t want the Alfies to become an institution or tradition that is necessary beyond this year. I hope he gets his wish, but I also hope the tradition doesn’t die out completely. However much personal cachet there might be in being one of the very select crowd of recipients of what I’m thinking of as the Alfred Bester Award for Adjacency to Excellence, George speaks so endearingly of Alfred Bester’s place in the history of the Hugos, of WorldCon and the Losers Party, that I’d love to see him continue to be honored in some way.

Ah, well. If there’s one thing the gap between WorldCon 73 and WorldCon 74 has taught me, it’s that not even science fiction writers can predict the future.

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write.

alexandraerin: (Default)

So, the Hugo Awards are tonight. Last year, when the brouhaha stirred up around them started unfolding, I made a blog post that explained the basic situation and the stakes… including my own stakes, which were, as I said, virtually nothing.

Suffice it to say that this year, I’m a bit more invested. My name did not make it onto the final ballot, though I am continually gratified to hear that various people put it forward for my commentary and satire last year.

Last year’s results were an unprecedented response to an unprecedented situation. Thousands of people were motivated to came out to vote and deliver a stinging rebuke to the small cliques of would-be tastemakers and kingmakers who sought to politicize a sci-fi/fantasy award and dictate what works would and would not be seen as being “worthy” of being praised, read, and enjoyed.

Even while we find ourselves in a similar situation this year, I have no predictions to offer about this year’s results, even given last year’s example. It’s similar, but it’s just not the same.

Vox Day and his dreadful elks backed away pretty swiftly and firmly from their promise to repeat their performance verbatim, instead opting to seed their slate with a number of popular picks that would have in all likelihood made it on the ballot without them. The technique of running out in front of a stampede and proclaiming himself to be leading the charge is one that Mr. Day is well-versed in, being as it is how he maintains the delusion of control over his emotionally-driven followers.

As passionate as many people are about the Hugos or about the causes the Puppies have projected onto them, it takes a lot out of a person to stay pumped up about something like that over the course of a year. The people who provide the power to the Puppies’ voting blocs are driven by emotion and rhetoric; it’s the air they breathe. They don’t have to be whipped up into a froth over something. The froth is already there, waiting to be channeled as well as it can be. Most of the rest of us have lives to live, to say nothing of other motivating drives beyond manufactured outrage and aggrieved senses of entitlement.

Then there’s the fact that there’s an honest-to-goodness presidential election looming in November. I don’t know about anybody else, but it’s taken up more of my time and attention than any award plot orchestrated by a tax fugitive running a vanity press for his grim-and-gritty Bible fanfic ever could.

But on the other hand, I’m an outsider to the traditional publishing industry and the stakes aren’t the same for me. So who knows? It’s likely others have been more invested than I have been. Just as it did last year, it’s all going to come down to the numbers. I have no predictions to make. I suspect the results will be more of a mixed bag than they were last year, but that’s a suspicion, not a prediction.

The only ballot choice I’ve discussed with anyone is Alyssa Wong for the Campbell Award, and that only because I’ve been speaking with other Wiscongoers who are enthusiastic members of her fandom about it.

At this point I could quite honestly say “Everyone I know voted for Alyssa Wong,” at least in the sense that everybody whose top Campbell vote I know did so, and if I had the logic of a kicked Puppy, I would therefore conclude that she was robbed if it were to transpire tonight that someone else wins.

This is the same logic that leads those who attend Donald Trump’s rallies to believe that the polls must be rigged or otherwise in error (how could he not be winning when he draws thousands of people who all want him to win?), and it is the same logic that leads many on the left to conclude that this (and indeed every) election is a foregone conclusion (for how could anyone vote for this person, when no one I know would do so?)

But the fact that a group of people who share my taste and sensibilities share my taste and sensibilities is a tautology, not a definitive data point.

All of which is to say that whatever happens tonight, it’s sure to be exciting. I will be rooting for Alyssa Wong, along with N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season (I believe I’d heard her read from the beginning of that book two or three times by the time it came out, so you’d better believe I was invested) and a few others I have particularly strong feelings about. But whatever happens, they were nominated, they earned those nominations, and no one can ever take that away from them.

I’ve said at multiple points during both of the most recent iterations of this mess that the whole Puppy thing started because Larry Correia was not able to understand that it is in fact an honor to be nominated, that to be plucked out of the hundreds or thousands of authors starting a career each year and be named as one of a mere five final candidates for a John W. Campbell award is a signal, career-launching accolade. He didn’t get that. He didn’t care. He had a story in his mind that started with the con rolling out the red carpet for him and ended with his name being called at the award ceremony.

Neither of those things happened. Everybody finds their own way at a new-to-them con. It’s daunting. I know that. It’s tough to break the ice, tricky to form connections. I mean, basically everybody here knows who I am and thanks to the magic of crowdfunding, I am literally here because enough people wanted me here. But it’s still hard to navigate a new and unfamiliar scene, especially when it feels like everybody else knows everybody else.

A lot of that is an illusion. A lot of the people you see at a con are talking to the few people they know well enough to be really comfortable with while marveling at how easily the social thing must come to everybody else they see doing the same thing. That’s just the way it goes. You see your own travails and tribulations. You feel your own anxiety and isolation. You know what an effort you’re making. With everybody else, all you can see is the end result of the effort. You hear the laughter, see the people standing in tight groups, you wonder what they know that you don’t and you conclude it’s each other.

Like I said: it’s daunting. It doesn’t even matter what level of Kind of a Big Deal you’re at. Do you know how many times over the past few days I’ve had conversations that started with me awkwardly approaching someone I admire to tell them, basically, “I don’t know if you remember me, but…” only for them to tell me I’m too famous for that? People are excited to see me, but still don’t know me know me. That’s just how it goes.

Enough people thought well enough of Larry Correia that he was nominated for a Campbell Award the year of his first WorldCon. In all likelihood, plenty of the people there were excited enough to see him. The transitory social nature of a convention just makes it hard to convey that. No one (well, few people) want to be the one to bother someone. The bigger of a deal someone seems to be to you, the the less you’ll want to bother them. Again, just how it goes.

People who stick it out with con culture get over it, or at least get used to it. I figured this out pretty early on in my con-going career, but even knowing it was true, it took me a few years to actually internalize it and genuinely feel like I’m a real part of my “home con” of WisCon. There are still times where I don’t. I can’t stop it from happening. All I can do is not let it bother me enough to take away from my enjoyment overall. All I can do is get over it.

Some people don’t ever get over it. Most of them just stop going to cons. Some blessedly small number of them, though, decide to start movements to make sure that nobody else has any fun, either.

So whatever happens tonight, we are all winners in the Puppies’ sad culture war for showing up anyway. We defeat the Puppies by reading what we want to read, by praising whatever works we admire, and writing whatever stories we want to see in the world.

The purpose of the Hugo Awards is to celebrate and honor the best in speculative fiction, isn’t it? Whatever happens, let’s darn well celebrate and let’s darn well honor. If my picks don’t win, I will not tell the authors involved that they were robbed, that something was taken from them. If they feel that way, I certainly won’t presume to argue, but what they will hear from me is that I was (and am) rooting for them, that I thought enough of them to vote for them, that I thought (and think) enough of their work to consider it worthy of a Hugo.

That’s what an award is, isn’t it? It’s tangible, it’s concrete, it has some rubric behind it to give it a gloss of objectivity, but ultimately it is, as the saying goes, “a token of esteem”. It is a symbol of the regard that others have for your work. And while few would deny that the award is nice in and of itself, it means nothing without the regard behind it, while the regard of one’s audience and peers, without an award, still means rather a lot.

I’ve been telling people this all weekend, when they tell me that I should have been on the ballot for Sad Puppies Review Books or John Scalzi Is Not A Very Popular Author, or my general commentary, or whatever. I wouldn’t kick an actual trophy out of metaphorical award-bed for eating honor-crackers, but I don’t care about the award so much as I care that people appreciate what I do. A trophy is just a concentrated reminder of that.

The Puppies don’t understand any of this. By all indications, they will never understand it. Last year, some of the brightest minds in the Puppy-adjacent Gamergate spent a lot of time analyzing fifth and sixth-hand accounts of what happened before and after the Hugo ceremony, trying to figure out where the real awards were that the “SJW cabal” must have given out after publicly handing out no award in so many categories. Top contenders for “the real Hugos” included commemorative coasters handing out as a participant gift and George R.R. Martin’s personal in-joke “trophy”, the Alfies. Joking about this on Twitter a few minutes ago, I said that they’ve never considered that the real Hugo might be the friends we made along the way.

In all seriousness, though, the real award is the warm regard and respect of our peers and fans. I mean that in multiple senses and on multiple levels. Even the actual Hugos, an actual honest-to-goodness Hugo Award, must be that or it will mean nothing.

Lest we forget: Larry Correia started the Sad Puppies to get himself a trophy that would have been meaningless if he had succeeded. As much as they’ve mythologized their origins and lionized their motivations, the original Sad Puppies campaign was an attempt to logroll the ballot to give one author with an overly developed sense of entitlement the award he felt he’d been robbed of.

There has been a lot of talk about “destroying the Hugos”. The Sad Puppies threaten to destroy them, they say that the imagined cabal of “SJWs” they think is responsible for the sweeping and widespread opposition to their campaign are the ones destroying them, etc. But the Hugos were never in as much danger as they would have been the first Sad Puppy year, if Larry had somehow managed to succeed, if he had actually stuffed the ballot box and rigged the vote completely enough to guarantee his victory. That would have been a far bigger blow than a year or two of No Awards, or a few mixed bags.

Awards symbolize honor and respect. They symbolize an author’s accomplishments. They are not themselves a substitute for any of those things, though, and in the absence of an award, we may still have and still celebrate those things. Like the Whos down in Whoville, we can sing all the same.

So let’s sing. Let’s do something positive. At its core, the concept of a fandom convention is fellowship. Hands strung together across the void. Hands clasped in darkness. Hands clapping in celebration. The root prefix con- means together. We congregate. We convene. We come together.

So let’s come together.

Whatever happens tonight, if you’re here or even if you’re not, why not find an author or artist whose work you appreciate and admire, and tell them that? It might not mean as much as a shiny silver rocket, it might not mean as much as a vintage hood ornament from George R.R. Martin, but it’s sure to mean something to someone.

 

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write.

alexandraerin: (Default)

Yesterday, I said on Twitter that I felt like a real editor when I had to send out my first refusal notice for someone who had failed to follow submission guidelines in a way that is automatically disqualifying: they sent a standard manuscript, with their contact information and all. Since our editorial process is built around reading pieces anonymously, this is the one point on which we’ve accorded ourselves no wiggle room. It might be that we wind up using the other guidelines to trim the slush pile, or at least do some preliminary sorting and weighting, but that’s the one that’s just automatic.

Today, I had an experience that really hammers home the fact that I’m editing a magazine of fiction and poetry. I received the following email:


Dear Editor: I’m always glad to see new publishers on the scene, but you do have more requirements for publishing a writer’s work than I have ever seen.The worst requirement that is going to keep submissions out of your mail box, is your refusing to accept simultations. However, I do wish you goodluck.
[name redacted]

Well! I’ve heard about this, but I never believed it would happen to me. I was over the moon! This may not be the wisest move, but I replied thusly:

Dear Mr. [redacted]
First, let me heartily thank you for sending this email. As a writer and poet, I have many friends who have been editors and otherwise worked in publishing, and they have all told me stories about receiving messages like this when they were first hired or set up shop: the earnest and forthright man who wishes to tell them what it is that is wrong with their submission guidelines and what they may do to correct them.
Now that I have received one of my own, I feel like I am truly part of an illustrious circle.
I couldn’t agree with you more that not accepting simultaneous submissions will keep submissions out of our inbox. In particular, it will keep those submissions out of our inbox that are under consideration elsewhere, thus preventing awkward situations where a story or poem we would like to accept has already been accepted elsewhere. We are admittedly new to this side of the table, but my suspicion is that it will be markedly easier to assemble a magazine when the submitted pieces are sitting still as we try to arrange them. The advantage has always been clear to me, which is why I’ve never balked at submitting to a magazine that does accept simultaneous submissions.
Actually, come to think of it, I can’t recall the last time I read a set of submission guidelines that allowed for simultaneous submissions, without at least some healthy caveats. I know I’ve seen at least one, but it’s very much the exception and not the rule in my experience. I think considering simultaneous submissions is really a luxury that only the bigger, better established venues can afford, as they have the staff, organizational infrastructure, and pool of contributors to handle the complications that arise as a result.
Our fledgling two person operation, on the other hand, does not. In fact, if the only practical difference was that disallowing simultaneous submissions was that it cut our slush pile down by some arbitrary amount, it would still be worth doing on that ground alone. Don’t get me wrong, I’m quite happy that the response has been as strong as it has been. I’m just straining to imagine how we’d keep up if it were both markedly increased in volume and some of the pieces submitted for our consideration came with an invisible random time limit and the possibility of a silent bidding war.
As for our other requirements, they are hardly that numerous but rather are specific. We have a preferred format for reading, which is quite normal. We have a standardized subject line for submissions, which is far from unusual and which aids in our automation and sorting. We require that all personal identifying information be stripped from submitted manuscripts so that we may read them without bias. Markets are split on this, but I think you’ll find most of them either require the author’s contact information be present or require that it does not; there are few magazines that take a laissez-faire approach to where the author’s name appears. We have a generous cap on the number of pieces that may be submitted by a single author at a given time.
And that about does it for requirements. Nothing unique, nothing even that unusual, nothing overly onerous or complicated.
Perhaps it strikes you as more than it is because we spell it out in paragraph form rather than bullet-pointing? This is a personal preference from my own time submitting. I prefer when publishers are unambiguous about what it is they expect of me rather than waving a hand vaguely in the direction of their inbox and hoping I can divine their preferences. It might be that you’ve never had the experience of stopping and asking yourself, “Is this really what the other person wants from me? Am I doing this right?”, but I prefer to go the extra mile to reassure those who do worry about such things.
Or perhaps when you speak of the number of requirements, you’re talking about the section entitled “Dos, Don’ts, and Dislikes” at the bottom? These are not requirements, per se, but rather are there to alleviate one of the unfortunate side effects of soliciting submissions for a first issue. If we were an established venue,then you or any other author or poet who happened by could peruse our back issues to see what sort of things we’re wont to publish, get a general feel for the magazine, and see how your work might or might not fit into it. I know that when I submit my poetry, I take care to get to know the market in which I’m trying to sell it.
It might be that the idea of finding the right home for your work is an alien idea to you. It might be that you are more accustomed to shotgunning your pieces across the wide world and its web, which would explain your preference for markets that accept “simultations”, as you would term them. To which I say: it is certainly an approach to things, but it is not my approach as a writer, nor an approach that is likely to receive a warm reception at any venue I edit.
Spam marketing may move penis pills, Mr. [redacted], but it does not move me.
That said, I wish you good luck as well in your endeavors. If you do chance to have any pieces you would care to submit, please do make sure you follow our relatively few, simple guidelines for formatting, as they help ensure that we can read your work without respect to your identity as a person and thus without any bias based on prior relationship, reputation, or email interactions.
Kindest possible regards,
Alexandra Erin
Head Editor
Ligature Works

Now, I’ve alluded to the size of our slush pile, both in this blog post proper and in the email response. If you’ve been thinking of submitting, please don’t let that stop you! Our guidelines, few as they are, can be found in detail at http://www.ligatureworks.com/submissions. We will tell you exactly what we’re looking for (insofar as that can be conveyed with regards to artistic works), exactly how to format it to be read, and exactly how to send it in. Easy-peasy!

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write.

alexandraerin: (Default)

caps for saleCAPS FOR SALE

Reviewed by John Z. Upjohn, USMC (Aspired)

When this book opens we are introduced to a peddler. I began to feel a sick sense of dread when the book told me that he was not an ordinary peddler. The need to be a special snowflake is ingrained in the sick psyche of the Social Justice Warrior. It is what drives them. It is what makes them all they are.

This peddler walks around with a stack of caps on his head, red caps and blue caps and brown caps and gray caps, and then his special snowflake checked hat that I guess isn’t for sale because how is anyone going to know he’s Mr. Special Cap Guy if he doesn’t have his special cap?

A head-based cap delivery service is so woefully inefficient that it is no surprise he does not sell a single cap all day. “Not even a red cap,” he laments, which suggests that he knows that red caps are best, even if he insists on wearing his ridiculous checked one. Yet they are the ones at the top of the stack, where no one can reach them. SJWs don’t believe in simple market forces like supply and demand. If he knows that red caps are the caps preferred by the majority, there’s no financial reason for him to stock anything else. It’s okay for people to like other caps, but they can’t just expect to be pandered to!

But of course the same radical feminists and I-dentitarians who demand that honest milliners and hardworking haberdashers cater to their every whim lest they be called “offensive” never actually seem to have any money to buy caps! So no one but our poor little cuck of a peddler is surprised when he doesn’t make any sales, boohoo.

He gets no sympathy from me. Should have thought that before you insulted your audience by offering them choices!

So he tramps out into the countryside and sits his lazy ass down beside a tree and falls asleep. Maybe he should just get a Patreon, if working a real job tires him out! It’s when he wakes up that this so far too-predictable tale takes a turn for the interesting: acting individually, a number of unrelated freethinking monkeys have all decided to take it upon themselves, as individual sovereign citizens of the tree, to take one of his hats.

Of course he massively overreacts.

The way the peddler goes off on them, you’d think they’d all taken all of his hats, but each monkey took no more than one. This is also the first time any living creature in the story showed any interest in his hats. He failed to sell them at 50 cents. He communicated no reason to the monkeys or anyone else why they should pay him such a price, or any price. The market has spoken. The hats are worthless! Taking one is no more unethical than pirating a movie that you don’t even want to see in the first place.

Rather than dealing with each of the monkeys as an individual, he generalizes them, which according to Social Justice Warrior logic, is the worst thing you can do. He calls them “YOU MONKEYS”. They freely sell this book to children, and yet I have been banned from many forums online and offline for using those exact words to refer to people. Why is it okay for him to say it but not me? Creeping moral relativism at work!

So the guy gets entirely bent out of shape and he tries to impose his will on the monkeys, the way leftist authoritarians always do, but he finds that they, like all freethinkers, are immune to his only weapon, the feelbads. They won’t be shamed into compliance. They mock him and his beta impotence, each and every individual monkey a shining example of an alpha male, and then in the beautiful, glorious finale, after trolling him so hard that he throws his ridiculous checked cap down at his feet, the monkeys all throw his stupid caps down right at him, too.

It’s a powerful display of defiance and individuality.

They don’t have to give him back his caps, no matter how many times he shakes his fist or stomps his feet, no matter that he pulls out every stop from the Sal Alinsky playbook. He has no power over them. They give him back his caps because they choose to. It’s like they’re saying: it is only through our benevolent forbearance that you have any caps at all, you pathetic mangina. 

They have shown they can take his caps anytime they want. And he knows it. They have nothing left to prove.

Does he learn, though? Of course not. If he could learn, he wouldn’t be a leftist. Just like if there was any demand for caps in the village, the market would already have provided a solution rather than waiting for some “wandering peddle” to happen by.

But he goes right back to it, still haranguing passersby to give him fifty cents for caps that the invisible hand of the free market has already rejected.

Two stars.

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write.

alexandraerin: (Default)

So, late yesterday Gamergates’s semi-feral pet journalist, Milo Yiannopoulos, received his most recent lifetime ban from Twitter. I’m given to understand he has collected almost the whole set now.

Yiannopoulos was banned for his part in inciting a racist hate mob against Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones. His supporters are predictably calling this a violation of his free speech rights, which treats us to such amusing spectacles as self-proclaimed conservatives calling for Congress (the government) to force Twitter (a private enterprise) to bow to their wishes.

The beleaguered Breitbart blogger’s minions, being part of that peculiar but segment of the alt-right that is vocally against justice, is trying the usual tactic of “using progressive’s rules against them”, something they learned from studying Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals in a deeply misguided attempt to understand the modern left, an exercise which now ironically informs their entire playbook.

Of course, since their whole schtick is an utter lack of human empathy or even a rudimentary theory of mind, they can’t actually understand someone else’s point of view enough to understand anyone else’s “rules” or “tactics” or the theories behind them, so their attempt to leverage identity politics consists of basically shouting, “He’s a gay man who has sex with Black people, so you can’t ban him!”

It took all of about five seconds for this to morph, telephone-game style, into them shouting “Twitter banned Milo for being gay, that’s homophobic!”, which is how they think “identity politics” works. And when it doesn’t work for them, they think they’ve uncovered some great hypocrisy.

The other rousing defense they offer of their… you know, I’m not sure what to call him. He positions himself as a thought leader, but a lot of the time? It’s literally just positioning. He doesn’t direct the crowd so much as run to get ahead of where he thinks the crowd will likely be. There is some element of self-fulfilling prophecy to this, inasmuch as he draws attention to easy targets of opportunity (as he did with Leslie Jones). I guess it’s fair to say he is leading the mob, with a philosophical side note that the leader of a mob is also part of the mob.

So the other rousing defense they offer of their leader is that all kinds of criminal activity happens on Twitter and Twitter doesn’t do a thing about it, so apparently Twitter has declared that “saying mean things” or  (more spuriously) “having the wrong opinions” is worse than conspiring to commit terrorism, among other things.

But of course, it’s not that. The self-proclaimed conservative set love to crow about how liberals and progressives don’t understand consequences. Even Leslie Jones’s harassment wasn’t actually harassment. Nobody did it. It happened, paradoxically, because she should have known better than to respond when it started. In their mind, everything that happens to everybody else is a natural consequence of their own actions, and we should all know better.

But such consequences never seem to be the same for the alt-right, do they? No. They say “You’re punishing him for his opinions!” They say, “I guess he’s friends with the wrong people.” They say, “The leftist mob who runs Twitter (lol) can’t stand a conservative gay man who speaks his mind!”

But what happened to Yiannopoulos was not a result of these things, nor an indictment of his actions on an absolute scale of morality. What happened  to him was a consequence of his actions, and a predictable one. He should have known better.

Imagine a crowded marketplace. There are shady deals happening. People are being ripped off, pickpocketed, maybe even forcibly robbed. Over in a corner, people are plotting a violent crime. There are a thousand conversations happening at once, some pleasant, some not.

Say policing is a bit lax in this marketplace, because those who run it would rather have the great crowd of people not presently being inconvenienced by violence and theft feel like it’s a safe, chill place, and because truth be told they make a lot of money from the rip-off artists. There are also some logistical difficulties inherent in keeping the peace in a place so big and boisterous and crowded, but they’re definitely not doing all they could do.

Into this marketplace comes a young man who, seeing a merchant he doesn’t think should be there, he goes over and upsets her stall. And this is not some rinky-dink peddler, but the stall of a great merchant house. He just knocks it over, and keeps knocking it over, and keeps knocking it over.

Is this the worst crime that’s happening in the marketplace?

No.

Is it some great big heap of moral rightness that the authorities deal with this outright disruption of their marketplace faster than they do similar acts to smaller-time peddlers, or greater acts of violence that happen at the fringes, or the conspiracies to commit crimes that don’t actually disrupt the running of the marketplace, however heinous they might be?

Of course not.

But it’s realistic. It’s reasonable. It’s almost inevitable. It is the person who disrupts the orderly running of the enterprise who is the person most likely to be removed from it.

The “speech” (actually, conduct) of Yiannopoulos and those like him has the effect of making Twitter impossible, dangerous, or emotionally draining to use for many people. Luckily for him, so far the “lift” generated by the “engagement” he creates has been seen by Twitter as enough of a net positive to override the drag on it created by the people chased off or browbeaten into silence, or worse. This is a very clinical description of the calculus engaged in by Twitter, and it’s not an endorsement of it, but the conservative crowd is always telling us we have to deal with the “real world” the way it is, and this is how it is.

But when he turned his sights on Leslie Jones? He aimed too high. He struck too close to the heart of the marketplace. She was recently in a major motion picture, currently garnering impressive word of mouth on Twitter. She was recently the subject of a happy ending story generated by Twitter, when she used the social media platform to highlight the inequitable treatment she was receiving from snobbish fashion designers.

Even with that, because of some combination of Twitter’s laissez-faire corporate culture and systemic racism and sexism, it took Twitter far longer than most reasonable people would have expected, when not accounting for those factors.

So while we might well say that he should have known better, it’s entirely possible that he believed he would get away with it. After all, he always has before. If he believes the narrative he’s helped to promulgate, he might not have thought that Leslie’s star was truly too bright for the powers that be to be ignored.

Or he might have been counting on it, angling for the ban and muttering under his breath about what was taking them so long, just so he could have the next piece for his “poor little victim” routine. He’s so oppressed!

In the banning of Milo Yiannopoulos, conservatives got everything they say they want when they’re describing their most reasonable-sounding, least bigoted-sounding goals.

  • A private business decided how to handle a situation.
  • A man suffered the consequences of his actions.
  • The outcome was dictated solely by economic pressures; i.e., what made the most financial sense.

What more could the right want?

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write.

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There’s this group of scientists, mavericks, their work widely derided and discredited. They’re interested in not just investigating the supernatural, but examining it, scientifically. They think they’ve figured out a way to use advanced particle physics to fight and even contain ghosts, if only they can get anyone to believe them.

At the same time, supernatural activity is on the rise in New York City (of course it’s New York, where else would it be?) because a man who believes this ruined earth is wicked and in need of a hard reset has built devices to collect and amplify psychokinetic energy until things reach a boiling point.

Drummed out of academia and out of other options, our “ghostbusters”, if you will, go commercial with their operation and enjoy some local success and celebrity as the artificial supernatural surge creates high demand for their services, though they run into problems with unsympathetic local and federal government officials, which results in some serious setbacks for them until the apocalypse is actually at hand, transforming an iconic creepy old building into a gateway to another realm as the amplifiers go critical.

In a pitched action climax, our heroes wind up ineffectually fighting a giant monster set on cleansing the world by force until they decide to focus their energies (metaphorically and literally) on the portal that allows it to operate on the physical plane. It’s a desperate plan, but this is a desperate time…

That, of course, is a rough outline of a lot of the major plot points of the all-male version of Ghostbusters that came out in 1984. It is also serves the same purpose for the 2016 version.

Oh, spoiler warning? Sorry! But not really. Because telling you this isn’t the same as telling you the story. If you’ve only seen the male version, and I told you that’s how the 2016 version goes, you’d probably be imagining something a lot more similar than it actually is. You might be reading it right now and thinking you’ll know how it goes, and still be wrong.

And honestly, chances are that if you’re even a little bit interested in this movie, you know the premise, and chances are you have an idea what the climax is going to be, at least in terms of the broad strokes approach I took above.

There’s been a lot of breath and ink and screen space expended over the past couple years about the precise difference between a “reboot” and a “remake”, and what the merits of each are, and sometimes how they compare to “retcons”. Frankly, that conversation bores me.

I think it also misses the point by a wide margin. Telling a story over again in a different way is not some new Hollywood fad. It’s a basic part of what storytelling is.

I told a dude on Twitter who was complaining that this movie wiped out the original that it hadn’t, that the boy version of Ghostbusters (and its sequel and all the spin-off media still existed). I told him I checked. Twice. Nothing was wiped out. His response was to say that is interesting and ask me if I’d heard something from Sony about a “DC-style multiverse”.

I told him no, that’s just how storytelling works.

The new Ghostbusters movie shares an outline and some phlebotinum and iconography with the guy one, but it is telling its own story. You could take the same basic premise and the same pile of elements and turn a dozen filmmakers or writers loose with it and ask them to tell their own version, and get a dozen different stories.

Which one’s the real one? They’re all stories. They’re real stories. But they’re stories. None of them is what happened. Unless you believe in the Sandman version of the multiverse, where all stories are true somewhere, in which case: all of them are what happened, somewhere. But that question honestly doesn’t interest me. They’re stories. They don’t have to be true, only true enough to themselves for you to get lost in them.

Are they all good? Is one of them best? That’s a matter of perspective.

We’ve already been down this road before, most of us who were kids when the male version of Ghostbusters came out. We watched the movie and accepted its reality, and then the cartoon came out, with all the same names but not the same likenesses, and a lot of the same gadgets and gizmos, but other ones, too, ones that didn’t quite fit the logic of the movie, and a lot of little elements here and there that made it hard to believe we were seeing a continuation of the story we’d seen on the big screen (or on VHS, or whatever).

And then the sequel came out, and it was very clear early on that as far as it was concerned, the cartoon did not exist. Had not happened. Yet the cartoon was still airing at that point, and it went through shifts as it went that made it harder to accept that even the cartoon was a single coherent story.

There have been Ghostbusters cartoons (plural) and comic books and video games and roleplaying games, all of which tell the same basic story or similar stories in different ways. A comic book of the cartoon might act like the cartoon (or parts of it) happened, but the cartoon doesn’t return the favor.

If you’re of a certain turn of mind, you might be pumping the air or slamming your desk and thinking, “Yes! She gets it! That’s so annoying. Why doesn’t anyone care about continuity?” But this? This here? These aren’t complaints, they’re observations.

I honestly don’t think being shackled to continuity does much for art. I honestly do think that looking for a single definitive telling of a story and elevating it to the point that we can’t try to tell the same story a different way hurts the art, hampers it.

So, irrespective of what I think of the Ghostbusters movie I just watched (and the short version is: it was amazing, and I will write a proper review by and by), I want to say right off the bat that I’m glad that it exists. I’m glad it got made. I’m glad that the story was told again, a different way.

 

 

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write.

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I was recently reminded of an old criticism I’ve heard of crowdfunding, old enough that it dates back to before the word “crowdfund” was coined. It takes different forms but usually goes something like, “If you have to ask people to fund you, it’s not a job, it’s a hobby.”

Well! This is an interesting notion to me. It strikes me first and foremost that it’s a bit backwards. If you can do something and not ask anyone to pay you for it, then what you have is in fact a hobby or avocation… something that demands little enough of you and/or gives you enough in return that it’s worth your time and energy regardless of whether you can make a living at it.

There are a lot of people who write as a hobby. They write in a journal for their own edification, or post it on a fanfic site or personal blog with no monetization elements. They never attempt to make a living at it. And that’s fine. I’m a great defender of those who doodle and scribble and sketch and color and paint because it pleases them to do so, of those who sing and dance and act with no thought as to how to make a career out of it, and those who write to please themselves. I think the world could do with more hobbyists, with more people who do things because they can do them, at whatever level they can do them.

On the other hand, there are people who write for a living. Some of them seek jobs with publications or studios, saying, “If you fund me on an ongoing basis, I will use my talents to write what you want.” Is that a hobby? No, it’s a career. Some of them write things and then shop them around to publishers and periodicals, saying, “If you fund my continued writing and retroactively fund the time I spent writing this, I will let you publish and sell this.” Is that a hobby? No, it’s a career. Some people (myself included, for many things I write) take their work and put it up for sale so that people who want to read it can buy it; this is asking them to fund its creation. Is that a hobby? Not necessarily.

I mean, there are people who are self-publishing on Amazon who are doing it at a level that would be more readily recognized as a hobby than a job, but there are levels and levels to all of these things, and there are people who do pursue traditional routes of publication at what we might call the hobby level, deliberately. They have a career or calling and don’t see any need to make a a career out of writing, but it’s nice to have the recognition?

So now we come to crowdfunding, whether it’s the Patreon style pledge in advance or the slightly older busker model of “I made a thing, if it pleases you, throw a little something in the tip jar.” Is there any reason this is necessarily more of a hobby and less of a job or career than the other models? No, none whatsoever. In its current form—that is, the form involving electronic money and globe-straddling information networks—it seems unfamiliar and new, but attracting the patronage of private individuals or collecting payment by pleasing the crowd are old and storied conventions for professional artists.

Was William Shakespeare a hobbyist, I suppose? He could not have written his plays while living on the coins the groundlings might one day throw at him for writing them, if he could only somehow stage them. He had to ask for funding from powerful and influential individuals who could pay for (and smooth over the sociopolitical complexities involving) his productions.

Or how about that well-known dilettante and all-around duffer, Michelangelo? Oh, he couldn’t hack it chiseling sculptures on spec, so he had to go ask the Pope for funding! Meanwhile, Leonardo was sniffing around the de’Medici tables, begging for scraps!

But that’s ancient history! Let’s talk about the lazy layabouts clogging up Broadway and Hollywood. Listen, if this Hamilton thing was so great, why couldn’t Lin-Manuel Miranda just start selling tickets and then use that money to put on the show? Why’d he need to find backers and investors?

Or those authors who get advances.

Now, I already know what the rebuttal to this line of inquiry would be: it’s different. It’s different to go to a Florentine noble or a venture capitalist or a Hollywood producer or the Vicar of Christ and get money from them. It’s not at all the same as going to members of the general public, to your audience directly, and try to do the same thing in a distributed fashion. Just like it’s different to put a price tag and a bar code on a product and put it on a store shelf vs. putting it up on the internet with a button that says “pay what you want”.

Except it’s really not that different.

There are all kinds of different models of commerce. There are all kinds of different models of transactions. Some of them are more familiar to us and thus, to some of us, more respectable. But at the end of the day, it’s all about this: if you produce something that has value, you are entitled to receive value in exchange for that. And there’s no wrong way to do that, so long as everybody involved is willing and their rights are being respected. You have to find what works for you.

Most writers I know are working another job, or living with a spouse or partner who is and who pays most of the bills. You ask the biggest name writers you can think of what their advice for writers is, and the common thread is going to be: find another way to pay the bills. Get married. Don’t quit your day job. Inherit money. Live in a country with an adequate social safety net. Stephen King. Tom Clancy. J.K. Rowling. The people who have absolutely won at writing will tell you that you never have a chance of getting to that point unless you’re willing and able to find some other way to pay the bills during the long years that you’re not there.

Now, listen. I’m not about to take potshots at other writers because the market is what it is and it’s tough, but if you see a crowdfunded author scrabbling and you think, “They should have done it the right way. This isn’t a job, it’s a hobby,” you have to be prepared to say that about the vast majority of authors and artists.

I know authors who have cracked the bestseller lists and won international awards who would “hobbyists” in the sense that they can’t yet make a reliable living writing. I know authors who are ahead of me in their career by every measure you can think of except one: my meager income is still more than they pull in a month from their writing.

It’s not just authors and artists who struggle. Think about the vast majority of entrepreneurs and small business owners and sole proprietors, when they’re first starting out.

I don’t know if this is still true, the market has changed so much, but when I was a kid it was common wisdom in the TV industry that a show only really became profitable after 100 episodes, which is about 5 seasons, because that’s when the syndication rights became worth something. Just think about that. For four seasons, Roseanne was somebody’s hobby. Four four seasons, Married With Children was the college drop-out living in its parents’ basement. For four seasons, M*A*S*H* was somebody’s overfunded vanity project.

The bottom line is that we all—those people I mentioned and everybody else who works for a living—are “asking for someone to fund us”, in one fashion or another. Doesn’t matter if you’re an author starting out or a highly paid professional businessperson in a highly paid professional business. You’re still “asking for funding” in every negotiation you make, and in every such negotiation, your ability to get it depends in large part on what you’re offering.

That’s why value for value is my watchword as a writer. I have value. You have value. We can exchange units of value and both come out ahead. I keep telling people, if you like what I write and you’re able, pledge me a dollar. It costs you nothing until the end of the month, and I’ll bet you by the time that comes around, you’ll think it’s worth it.

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write.

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So, over the weekend, content extortion site Huffington Post (motto: “All The Exposure You Can Eat!”) picked up a piece that had been making the rounds on Medium. This piece, entitled “Love Will Be The Death Of Us: Notes From The End Of A Relationship”, is basically everything that’s wrong with the personal essay subgenre that I call Sad Boner Confessional.

Said sad dude’s name is Ian Mackenzie. I’m going to call him by his social media handle of @ianmack for the rest of this blog, because it’s disturbing to me that both of his names are first names of major characters in my writing. His tale is the story of what one dude learned from cheating on his infertile wife of 10 years, then pressuring her to accept an open relationship as a “solution” to the problems of their relationship so that he can “explore his sexuality” without guilt, and how this inadvertently freed her to learn she was far, far happier with someone else than she’d ever been with him.

You can tell you’re reading a Sad Boner Confessional when the language suggests a high wire act where the author is trying to achieve some delicate balance between “I’m a sensitive man” and “BUT I’M A MAN” and wants you to sympathize with the contortions he puts himself through as  a result. You can tell you’re reading a Sad Boner Confessional when a man is describing the worst trauma of a woman’s life purely in terms of what it means about him. You can tell you’re reading a Sad Boner Confessional when a man is telling you everything he’s learned from the mistakes he’s made but none of those things are accountability or personal responsibility. You can tell you’re reading a Sad Boner Confessional when all admissions of past sins have a sheen of humblebragging about them.

For example: here’s how @ianmack describes the time of his life when he actively and repeatedly betrayed his wife:

“It happens again: always a different and worthy woman. Comfort for a stricken artist at a conference on the Salish Sea. Honor for a delightful dance with a soulful healer in Vancouver. Companionship for a lonely entrepreneurial Athena in San Francisco.

These interactions weighed heavy on my soul. I could not make sense of them. On the one hand, each felt appropriate, life-affirming and needed. Surely these could not be considered “cheating.” What was a kiss anyway? On the other hand, such interactions were beyond the boundaries of our monogamous partnership to which Katherine and I had vowed. In my uncertainty, I waited, hoping somehow the situation would resolve itself.

Eventually, the guilt crested and I crafted a confession.”

It kept happening, you guys. Somehow, it kept happening. He kept meeting worthy women, Athenas, goddessesses, and he kept kissing them. I mean, kisses happened. He concedes on a purely technical level that he has transgressed against a vow, but not against the person to whom he made the vow.

The only person who has ever written worse Sad Boner Confessionals than the aforementioned piece by @ianmack is Hugo Schwyzer, and that’s because Schwyzer literally wrote essays about the important moral and emotional lessons he learned from sleeping with students and raping and/or trying to murder his intimate partners (the takeaway from that last one was “Hey, we’re all human.”), and they were wrapped up in enough language that suggested he was sensitive and progressive that a lot of people with big feminist publishing platforms celebrated them for a while.

I like to think that Hugo Schwyzer’s very public meltdown and the erosion of his reputation did something to inoculate the circles of commercial feminism/progressive writing against the worst excesses of the Sad Boner Confessional.

That was probably naive of me.

Now, the thing about Medium is that it’s primarily a social media site that depends on other social media sites for circulation, which makes it easier for things to go viral within select narrow circles on it, and so first version of the @ianmack essay managed to attract a lot of positive attention for how “powerful” and “honest” it is.

I’m not sure I’d call it honest. One tick that he has is using the verb “craft” to describe the act of creating a message: he crafts a love letter, he crafts a confession, he crafts a poem. I think this is a winking admission that, as a self-identified storyteller, he is putting a lot of thought into how the messages he sends come off. Perhaps he feels—as many do—that acknowledging the artifice behind his sentiment makes it a cool creative choice on a level that makes it genuine rather than artificial.

But knowing the artifice is there just makes it more glaring why he goes so far to explain his first kiss with his future wife as something that just happened; it primes the reader to accept that in his life, a kiss is a a thing that just happens. That’s part of the frame for the narrative of everything that happens afterwards, including kisses with other women.

He also talks about his repeated infidelity and their inability to have children together in a way that weaves them together not causally (because if he were to say “Of course I strayed, my wife is barren,” he’d be an out-and-out villain) but rather in a way that encourages the reader to subconsciously conflate the two issues, so that we forget that the real issue endangering the future of their relationship is his unfaithfulness and so that we accept that his push to open the marriage up to polyamory is somehow a solution to the childlessness.

(If you haven’t read the piece, you might be thinking, well, polyamory could be part of a solution to infertility, but the conclusion of the story makes it clear that the idea they might have children together with other people was never on his radar.)

Anyway, it’s a horrible tale, horribly told, but because it initially circulated in protected waters it achieved some acclaim and some notice, enough for HuffPo to bestow upon it the highest honor it can offer (i.e., exposure). Being published in the internet’s content aggregator of record does not appear to have worked out well for Mr. @ianmack, though. While his piece is being circulated widely, it’s not exactly attracting positive notice. The comments on the HuffPo posting are pretty uniformly negative. The needle on his patreon (which is promoted at the end of the piece) has not moved at all since I first read it yesterday.

As soon as I read the piece, I knew I couldn’t leave it alone. At first I was just tweeting observations on it, likening it to (infamously bad fanfic) My Immortal and commenting on the more pretentious touches. Before long, I “somehow found myself” on Medium, “crafting” a full-length parody that highlights the more problematic, disturbing, or hilariously bad parts of the original. Family plans took me AFK for most of the day, so I didn’t publish the article—entitled Infidelity Will Be The Death Of My Marriage: The Unbelievably Brave Story Of One Incredibly Sensitive Man’s Intensely Personal Journey Towards Divorce until yesterday evening.

I had some misgivings about actually posting it. The number one question in my mind was: is this actually necessary? I mean, there are a lot of people writing self-important blather on the internet. They don’t all need this level of reply.

What made up my mind were the facts that HuffPo had picked him up, and that he’s apparently using this piece to try to launch a whole career of what he calls “new paradigm storytelling”, and it’s like, did we not learn anything from Hugo Schwyzer?

The responses I’ve received even in just the first 12 hours have convinced me I made the right call. People who were creeped out and unsettled by the original have thanked me for validating what they were feeling. People who could not make it through the original without ragequitting have thanked me for giving them something to laugh about in the whole mess. People who have friends and family who thought the original piece was “powerful and honest” have thanked me for helping them find ways to explain their problems with it.

Just overnight, the piece has already become my second-most-read thing on Medium, and probably my most widely shared thing there. I hope it keeps circulating. I hope it reaches more people. I hope it dogs the footsteps of the original until no one ever shares the saddest of the Sad Boner Confessionals without someone else seeing it and posting a link. The satirist’s curse is that the notoriety of our work will almost always be a fraction of that of what inspires us.

But if I can help turn this insipid trend in creative nonfiction writing into the laughingstock it deserves to be? Dang the torpedoes and full speed ahead.

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write.

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