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An Open Letter to Trump Supporters

I need to get this out of my system so that I can finish grieving, and processing, and then move on to finding ways to actually help people. So:

Dear Trump Supporters,

I am trying not to lump you all in one group. I am trying to practice empathy, and to remember that no, the majority of you probably aren’t racist or misogynistic or homophobic on a day-to-day basis. But if you’re so inclined to read it, this post helps explain why the results of this election have had me crying off and on for the past 48 hours.

Look, I personally will probably be OK under a Trump administration. I’m straight, able-bodied, and cis-gendered. I am a woman, which could be problematic, and I am half-black, which could also be problematic. But my field is female-dominated, particularly at my office location, and I look white enough that Trump’s various racial profiling plans probably won’t hit me. My health insurance comes through my employer, so I don’t have to worry about losing it. My personal life might not change that much.

But especially in my expanded online circles, I have a lot of friends for whom Trump’s stated policies are a huge problem. (Again, read this link for what those problems are, and why many of us are worried for ourselves or for loved ones.)

And, to be honest, Trump Supporters, the analogy provided in this post helps explain why I’m struggling to be empathetic toward you.

If you don’t want to read that, though, I’ll say this: Like many of you, I’m a Christian. In my opinion, if Christ were physically among us today—Christ, who treated women, even those of differing nationalities, with respect and consideration; who was not white; who said “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s”; whose first followers were selected from people other teachers rejected; who called for his followers to aid the poor and weak; who healed the sick; who humbled himself before others even though he was the Son of God; whose ministry and teachings were built upon empathy and compassion for others—I don’t believe he would have supported Trump.

So that’s why I’m struggling to be empathetic with you. But as I said, Christ’s model for me is empathy and compassion, so I’m trying. (This is much harder—and right now impossible—for me to manage with people who have expressed outright hatred and violence toward others. I’m not that Christ-like. I also suspect he would have condemned them as he did the Pharisees.)

I get that many of you felt Clinton was unsuitable for the office. I don’t believe that her faults outweigh Trump’s, so to be honest, that point doesn’t help me much on the empathy count.

But I do get that many of you are struggling. Articles like this one made me consider how a lot of you have been facing the reality of losing not just your way of life, but your livelihoods. No jobs, in dying communities, and with no way to leave. It made me think how people, when faced with that kind of desperation—even if they haven’t worded it as such to themselves—will take any perceived port in a storm. Because they’re sinking, they’re dying, and what else can they do?

So when you hear that a policy is “more of the same,” you conclude that that isn’t what you need. It won’t help you and yours. And in our two-party system, you take the avenue that gives you the greatest chance for change. The greatest chance for life. I can understand that. I can empathize with that. If that’s why you voted for Trump, I’m sorry. Because you’ve needed help for a long time, and haven’t gotten it.

I have to admit, though, I don’t believe you’ll get that help from Trump. Manufacturing jobs are disappearing due to automation; they’re not “just” being moved overseas. The oil and gas industry is dying because those resources are are finite and won’t last forever. Even if you don’t believe in climate change, you have to admit we can’t keep using those indefinitely. I don’t think Trump has a solid plan of supporting you. I don’t believe that things will be better for any of us, under Trump.

But I say with all sincerity that I hope you are right and I am wrong.

I hope you’re right, and that you do get your jobs back, and that your communities thrive again.

I hope you’re right, that Trump’s demonstrated misogyny and racism, which stretch back for over three decades, are not true indicators of his character.

I hope you’re right, that his avoidance of paying taxes for 20 years makes him a patriot, not a con man.

I hope you’re right, that 97% of scientists are wrong and climate change isn’t real.

I hope you’re right, that running a country like a business will work out for the best, even though the country will be run by a man whose businesses have failed.

I hope you’re right about all of that, because I don’t want this country to collapse. I want us to do better and to thrive.

But I gotta say: my hope that you’re right is a small, weak thing, easily dwarfed by my doubt. Because Trump’s policies speak to me of fear-mongering, and denial of truth, and division.

Nevertheless, I do hope you’re right and I’m wrong. I’m praying for it.

I am also literally praying that Trump will have some sort of Saul-on-the-way-to-Damascus revelation. I think he needs it. For all our sakes.

But in the meantime, we have a lot of work to do. I hope you realize that, as well.

Sincerely,
Me

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Dear Former Self Circa March 2004,

I suppose it’s most common to write these sorts of things at five- or ten-year intervals. The whole “humans have five fingers on each hand, making multiples of five and ten natural points at which to parse out our world” thing. But I couldn’t have written you this letter two years ago, and I suppose in another three, I’d have something else entirely different to say. At least, I hope so, because if I don’t, that means I won’t have grown at all.

So, I’m writing this letter to you now. I picked you because you’re on the cusp of graduating college, and maybe you’re ready to hear this. Maybe if you’d heard it, it would’ve impacted you.

Or not. Maybe you did hear it in college, but it just didn’t stick because you’re a young adult, full of optimism, thinking that the general rules of writing and publishing didn’t apply to you.

I do know our 16-year-old-self couldn’t have taken what I’m about to tell you. She needed to feel she was good at something, that she had talent, that she was worthwhile. It’s quite possible that if she’d been told what I’m about to tell you, she would’ve stopped writing, and I know neither of us would’ve wanted that.

But I’m hoping you, Former Self Circa March 2004, are in a place to hear this. After all, you fancy yourself practical about this whole writing thing. That essay thingummy you had to write for the “real world for English majors” college class you’re in, where you listed your desired job (writer, naturally) and what you had to do to make that happen? As I recall, you got an A, and your professor gave positive feedback on your practicality. You considered things like how you’d pay for health insurance! You wrote about setting up a budget, since a writer’s income varies widely and you wouldn’t make a regular salary month to month! You thought about how as a self-employed person, you’d have to set aside approximately 50% of your income to make sure you covered taxes, as your wages wouldn’t be garnished and you’d be responsible for that extra tax that you didn’t remember the name of, but it existed, you knew it did!

You were right about those things. I don’t think it was a bad essay, really. But brace yourself, Former Self, because what I’m about to tell you, you would have thought impossible.

We’re 34 now, and we’re still not published.

It’s okay if you need to take a moment to absorb that. I understand.

Ready to continue? Good.

Now, before you go blaming me and saying in my old age (mrph) I gave up on our dream, the truth is, we vastly underestimated the amount of work required to get our art to the point where people will pay us for it. By vastly, I mean our underestimation was more like the size of Asia than Texas.

Because for years and years, you (I) didn’t do the work. Come November of 2004, you’ll learn about NaNoWriMo, and you’ll decide to participate for the first time. That’s great! You’ll “win,” and write over 50,000 words during the month of November. You’ll start a yearly tradition that you follow for the next seven years, striving each time to beat your previous year’s word count. And you do, and it’s fine and dandy, but that’s pretty much the only writing you’ll get done during those seven years, and that is not great. It’s not dedicated practice, and it won’t be enough to get us where we need to be in order to be publishable.

No one asked you to say it out loud, I know, but you had this idea in your head that getting published would be easy, once you had the right book. That you’d send it out and get an agent and presto, within like a year you’d be published. Or that, if you decided to write short fiction, you’d get a story finished in a month, maybe two, then send it out and in a month, maybe two, have it accepted, and then, in another month, maybe two, it’s out in the world, because most magazines are online now and so it doesn’t take as long to publish, right? Six months is a reasonable time for a short story to appear, right?

Oh, sweetie. No. No, it’s not.

But that’s kind of beside the point right now, because the truth is, you’re not as good a writer as you think you are. I mean, you’re not bad. You’ve got good ideas. You can turn a pretty sentence. You can turn lots of pretty sentences. And yes, you’re good enough to take first place in a college writing contest that hardly anyone’s ever heard of and that even *you* understand isn’t really a credit that will get you anywhere. (Spoiler: You’re right; it doesn’t; we’ve [wisely] never listed it on any cover letters, and it’s not mentioned on our current website. Because it “paid” in free books we never received, and it doesn’t matter.)

So that’s nice. But you understand very little about what actually makes a story work. You don’t know how to build a satisfying character arc over the course of a novel. You don’t know what character agency is. You hate outlining. (To be fair, I still hate outlining. But I understand attempting it can maybe cut out some of the writing and rewriting and rewriting and more rewriting that we also hate.) You’ve got a lot of work to do. And the work you do during NaNoWriMo isn’t enough.

You will get feedback for some of those NaNoWriMo novels, which is good. I think the 2008 one is the first that you actually finish, that you get to stick The End on. Which is excellent, because you can’t sell an unfinished novel. It’s still not publishable, though. Because, again, you don’t understand character arc, and boy HOWDY do you not get character agency.

My biggest writing regret for you, for us, is that it takes widespread layoffs at your day job in 2012 to make you get serious about writing. But thank God, literally, that you don’t lose your job, because even though beginning in March 2012 you do take writing seriously and you do devote yourself to improving your craft, the next four years still aren’t enough to get you published. Writing isn’t the backup plan you think it’ll be, because somehow even when you repeatedly hear “don’t quit your day job” and that the average advance for a first time novelist being $5000, it doesn’t sink in. Those calculations you made about how long a severance package could last you, vis a vis how long it might take an agent? The severance package would’ve lasted, at best, a quarter of the time. You need your day job while you work at getting better. We’ll need it probably even after we’re publishable.

Because remember that bit where I said we’re not published yet? I am a better writer than you are, and I know so much more, and it’s still only getting me some hold notices and personal rejections on short stories, no acceptances. It’s been two years since I’ve sent a novel out to agents, but it was the same case there, really: a full out and a partial out, but no acceptances.

I hope I haven’t discouraged you too badly, though. We do have markers to show we’ve made progress, in the twelve years since I was you. I mean, in 2005, you’ll get accepted into multiple MFA programs, and you’ll choose the one in Chicago. Granted, it won’t terribly helpful in actually becoming a better writer, since that first semester is devoted mostly to generating ideas, which you don’t need help with. (I do think it was the right decision to quit, by the way; you didn’t need yet another semester of “learning to generate ideas” before you even get to the real-writing bit in year 2. You needed to learn craft and structure.) (Still, I don’t regret that we went. We did benefit from our time there, just not in ways related to writing. That’s another letter, though.)

[Thus commences the years of not doing the work, so don’t be surprised that I don’t have anything to report until:]

You’ll be a finalist in a local genre fiction novel writing competition in 2013. (You won’t win, but in a previous year you didn’t final at all, so: progress.)

Then in 2014, you”ll be accepted into Viable Paradise, which, let me tell you, is HUGE to our development and you are going to be so, so glad to go, and then so, so glad you went.

2015 is kind of a meh year regarding accomplishments, but then again, it’s when we learn quite a lot of what I told you up above regarding the business of writing and how hard it is to get published. Your blinders come off, and you work more on your short story craft. On the strength of your VP attendance, you also join Codex, an online community for spec-fic neo-pros. That’s fabulous because it, too, challenges you to be a better writer, and teaches you more about the realities of publishing. So: progress.

Still with me? I hope you are. Because, even though I’m not where you thought I’d be, I’m doing the work to become a better writer. I haven’t given up. I hope that in another twelve years I’ll be in a position to write Former Self Circa March 2016 about how yes, now we’re published (ideally long-ago published!) but there’s quite a lot I didn’t know. And yet, look at how far we’ve come. Growth is always better than stagnation.

So I’m glad you never gave up, Former Self, even if you were a little too lackadaisical about writing. That you never gave up means we were able to grow. And for that, I am thankful.

Much love and many hugs,
Current Self, March 2016

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(but not a real fur coat that’s cruel)

I’m going to pretend I’m the only person on the Internet to allude to ’90s Canadian rock music in conjunction with the Powerball reaching 1.3 billion dollars. (I am too original, shut up.) The song is dated, of course, because how far would a mere million dollars go? A billion, though, that could get you somewhere.

So, in honor of this momentous Powerballian occasion, and because I believe I can actually finish this blog post before the drawing on Wednesday, meaning this post will still be current, huzzah, I present

What I’d Do If I Had a Billion Dollars

  1. Stick 50% of it in savings to deal with taxes.
  2. Hire a financial consultant and/or lawyer to help me figure out how to manage at least that 50%.
    1. Management likely to involve some sort of investment strategy where ideally interest earned per annum would be enough to cover living expenses.
    2. Except “investment strategy” sounds really dull and boring so let’s say the meeting is at Disney World. (Shut up.)
  3. Pay off my townhouse mortgage.
  4. Remodel townhouse. Updates to include:
    1. New kitchen appliances and flooring, maybe new cabinetry if I decided I hate the existing cabinetry. Which I probably would decide, because I am a billionaire.
    2. If as a billionaire I’ve replaced the kitchen cabinetry, it seems like it’d only make sense to replace the bathroom cabinetry (is it still called cabinetry?) as well.
      1. Eh, or maybe not, because how exciting is remodeling a bathroom? Not exciting enough for a billionaire, I don’t think.
    3. New carpet throughout.
    4. New gas fireplace, maybe? Especially if there’s a special design nowadays that prevents miller moths from flying in through the flue and committing suicide in the beautiful blue glow of the pilot. (Which there’s probably not, but since I’m a billionaire I could probably invest in some aspiring inventor to design one.)
    5. Seekrit tunnels, because they’d be fun.
      1. Except putting in the seekrit tunnels means I’d probably have to buy out the adjoining townhouses, which I could do because billionaire, but really I think it’d be better to just flip the townhouse after I’ve remodeled it and find a different house more amenable to building seekrit tunnels.
    6. TBD: Flip townhouse for new house that has seekrit tunnels or in which I can build them easily.
  5. Buy a Tesla S.
    1. If I discover I hate it, angry-tweet at The Oatmeal for making this comic which made me think a Tesla would be cool.
      1. If he angry-tweets back at me, still-angry tweet that I am a billionaire at least before taxes! and maybe convince Twitter to rise up in arms against him?
        1. That probably wouldn’t work because I think people are more likely to hate newly minted billionaires than web cartoonists, and really I like The Oatmeal (at least the persona I’ve built up in my mind based on his comics) so I’d want to be his friend.
    2. Alternative plan: If I discover I hate it, sad-tweet at The Oatmeal for making me want one, sell it, and get a Prius instead.
  6. Enable my parents to retire. (Well, my dad’s the only one working, but either way, I owe them.)
  7. Oh yeah at some point I’d quit my day job. When is questionable since I wouldn’t want to leave them in a lurch or anything, but yes there’d be quitting.
    1. Then I’d make a new daily schedule where I write in the morning, when my brain is freshest.
    2. And I’d stop my old-person schedule of eating dinner at 5 (because I like the longer block of time after dinner to write) and stretch it all the way to, like, 6.
  8. Become a philanthropist. Philanthropic activities to include:
    1.  Donations
      1. To bunches of spec fic magazines, such as Fireside Fiction (which could use donations now!) and Strange Horizons. Art is awesome, y’all.
      2. To those programs that let you sponsor children.
      3. To those programs that let you sponsor kittens and puppies.
      4. Not to those programs that let you sponsor dolphins, because the love of dolphins experienced by my 12-year-old self has been forever destroyed by those articles that talk about how male dolphins often employ “sexual coercion,”  to use the preferred scientific term, on females.
      5. To some faith-based organizations.
      6. To Heifer International.
    2. Take on a secret identity and dispense vigilante justice  Donate to still more things. It worked for Bill Gates.
    3. Maybe start up a pro-paying speculative fiction magazine of my own, to provide another market for writers.
      1. Except this really sounds like a lot of work, and would require time to think of a good name (Billionaire-Funded Stories for You lacks a certain something) and to find a decent editor whose tastes more or less align with mine and whom I trust not to publish stuff I’d hate to have my billionaire name attached to, and that makes me wonder what my “vision” or whatever even is and how I’d communicate it to this hypothetical editor for a hypothetical magazine funded by my hypothetical billionaire dollars.
        1. Let’s file this under TBD, also.
    4. Support renewable energy initiatives.
      1. But if that looks like it’s still not enough to save the planet, maybe help out with the whole trying to get us off the planet thing.
  9. Travel more.
    1. To the Wizarding World of Harry Potter! (Shut up, Disney World is already covered by my investment strategy meeting, remember.)
    2. To Peru
    3. To Australia
    4. To New Zealand
    5. To various cons because even though I am a billionaire, I am still pursuing my writing career.
  10. How much money do I have left? Gah, being a pretend billionaire is so hard.
  11. Become irritated with people who keep asking me for money.
  12. Become selfish and greedy and lose out on the best years of my life, losing everything and everyone I ever loved until I have a touching, but at times harrowing, Christmastime encounter with four spirits who cause me to reexamine my life choices and show me the error of my–

You know what? 12 sounds utterly exhausting. I don’t want to do that. It’s clear to me now why the Bare-Naked Ladies sang about a mere million dollars. It’s easy to figure out what you’d do: eat more Kraft dinner even though you don’t have to, buy someone’s love, whatever. A billion is so much more work.

…but I’m still probably going to buy some lottery tickets.

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Snickersnee hee hee

I subscribe to dictionary.com’s word of the day, and awhile back the word of the day was snickersnee, which is a large knife. Most words I read there sound at least vaguely familiar, but snickersnee? Nope, not a flicker of recollection.

From the age of 12, I would say the majority of my vocabulary acquisition has been through reading*, and this is all the more true for my knowledge of bladed weaponry. It is because of a childhood spent reading fantasy that I learned about, in no particular order, claymores, broadswords, stilettos, daggers, long knives, rapiers, katanas (or was that one from a CRPG? hmm…), scimitars, and cutlasses.

No one taught me about snickersnees.

I initially thought it must’ve been another of Lewis Carroll’s contributions to English, like chortle or galumph. It makes sense: You attack the Jubjub bird or the Bandersnatch with your snickersnee so that you can be sure your vorpal sword is still sharp when you go after the Jabberwock. Snickersnee just sounds Carrollian.

But no, according to www.etymonline.com, snickersnee has been around since the late 1600s and comes from Dutch.

So then I figured, the reason I never learned snickersnee until the age of 33 is because the modern writer cannot use the word in a nonfacetious manner. Consider the following:

The warrior priestess surveyed the oncoming orc horde. Teeth bared, she drew her mighty snickersnee.

Or how about:

Joram slammed his bag of coin before the blacksmith. “I need the finest snickersnee that ever was smithed, capable of slaying ten thousand men!” 

And:

The spy darted through the crowd, struggling to keep her cloak closed around her bloodied snickersnee. She shivered; sense memory would not let her forget the slight resistance before the tip of her snickersnee slipped under the prince’s ribs. Every time she blinked, she saw the tip of her snickersnee, blooded. 

They all lose a certain . . . sense of intimidation, shall we call it? The poor snickersnee cannot hope to lose its immediate association with snicker, for which titter is also a synonym–and tittersnee is no better. Plus, thanks to the Mars company, snickersnee also brings to mind an attack with a chocolate bar. Nougaty, caramelly, peanuty goodness does not blend well with violence. At least not in my circles.

Anyway, I suppose snickersnee is useful in that it serves as a reminder that the fluidity of language is a good thing. So good on you, snickersnee, good on you.

*Which has led to numerous occasions of mispronunciations due to English’s haphazard vowel system and penchant for adopting words into the lexicon willy nilly. Ah, English, you rapscallion you.
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Amazon Advertising Algorithm: Hi!

Me:

AAA: Hi! Amanda, Hi! Hi, hi, HI, Amanda!

Me: Are you bothering me for anything related to hospital layouts? You know, the thing I’m researching right now? For the book I’m working on?

AAA: Um. Maybe?

Me:

AAA: C’mon, this’ll only take a minute. Three, tops.

Me: [sighs] Fine, what do you want?

AAA: Remember that tarp you bought like, a year ago?

Me: Kinda.

AAA: Isn’t it time you bought another one?

Me: No. What does this have to do with hospital layout?

AAA: But tarps! You bought a tarp in the past. This means you like tarps. Don’t you want another tarp?

Me: No.

AAA: Are you sure? That thing you wanted the tarp for, isn’t it coming up again?

Me: No.

AAA: But it’s been like a year since you bought a tarp—

Me: I don’t want another tarp. I still have the tarp I bought from you last year. It remains adequate in its tarp-ness.

AAA: I’ll email you. Hold on a sec.

Me: … three floors seems pretty common. So if I blow up the top floor…

AAA: OK, I sent the email. You gonna look at it?

Me: Trying to research, here.

AAA: Oh, just look. It won’t take long.

Me: [scans email, deletes, goes back to research]

AAA: Did you just delete the email I sent you?

Me: Yes. Maybe four floors is better…

AAA: But why? Don’t you want a tarp?

Me: No, I told you, the tarp I have is fine. I haven’t used it in nearly a year. It still exists if I want to use it again. I do not need another tarp.

AAA: How can you know that, if you didn’t even look at all the options I sent you? Green tarps, 10 by 20! Blue tarps, 20 by 10! Camouflage, 30 by 40 with reinforced grommets! SO MANY OPTIONS FOR ALL YOUR TARP NEEDS!

Me: I’m trying to tell you, I don’t have any tarp needs!

AAA: You don’t know what you need! [splashes tarps across all the web pages]

Me: [closes out all web windows, breathes heavily, changes Spotify to soothing string music. Returns to web after blood pressure has lowered to safe levels]

AAA: Hi! I thought of something else tarp-buyers like you need. [flings web page with tent stakes]

Me: [implodes]

AAA: Uh oh, looks like you had an accident! Luckily, I have just the thing. [splays suction cups and plungers across the screen]

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Why I persist in writing

Chuck Wendig has a not-flash-fiction writing challenge up at his blog to write on the topic “why I write.” Since it’s been *mumblemumblesnarzle* months since I posted anything, I figured, why not?

Only I’m putting a slight twist on it to write about why I persist in writing.*

I’ve blogged previously about how annoying I found this one commercial that indicated one can wait until retirement to write the Great American Novel. Because it feeds into the idea that creating art is simple, that all one needs to create something beautiful is a lack of fetters and/or great swaths of time. Then, presto, Beautiful Art! In like three months, tops!

It doesn’t work that way.

Yes, it is physically possible for a person to wait until retirement to write, but chances are slim that waiting that long will result in a great anything, at least not in a short time frame. Writing is hard. Learning the craft is hard. Learning the craft and applying it and then getting rejected anyway is hard. It hurts, until you get your carapace built up. Even after that, sometimes it finds your vulnerable spot and slips its stiletto through. Writing is not for the faint of heart.

So, having experienced the truth that Writing Is Hard, why do I persist?

I’m glad you asked, fictional asker of non-rhetorical questions!

I persist because I stay on a more emotionally even keel when I’m writing. That’s important for someone who too often lists toward depression. I persist because words are awesome, and I like making them do my behest. I persist because people are awesome, and sometimes not-awesome, and writing helps me empathize with them either way. (Bonus: I get to pretend they’re doing my behest.) I persist because the longer I go without writing something new, the crazier my dreams get, and that’s not a good thing. I persist because I want to leave a mark on the world. I persist because I want people to laugh, sometimes cry, and to think and engage. (With the art. Not necessarily me, because like I said, sometimes people are not-awesome.) I persist because stories are important. They help us understand and navigate the world. There’s a reason why Jesus taught in parables. I persist because I have daydreams about meeting my writer-heroes as a peer, and I can’t do that if I’m not their peer. I persist in writing because when I stop, I always find my way back, so why delay the inevitable?**

I persist because even on the days when I hate the slog or the rejection or the “Dear God why did that thing get published” bitterness, I can’t imagine loving any other work more.

Writers write, and writers persist.

I am a writer. I persist.

And if you’re a writer, reading this? Go write. Go persist.

*Which is really a lot of flash and jazz hands to make it sound fancier when it boils down to the same thing. But whatevs.
**I persist because footnotes work in no other medium.

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Well, I picked an interesting year to be a first-time attendee to WorldCon.

Since it’s quite likely that my (very small) readership has no idea what WorldCon is, it is a yearly convention dedicated to science fiction and fantasy. It is also responsible for awarding the Hugos, which (for now) are the largest awards given in the SFF field. The Hugos are fan-chosen by members of that year’s WordCon (this year it is Sasquan). They are also fan-nominated by members who elect to nominate.

The way that voting is supposed to work is that members nominate those works they deem worthy, on an individual basis, and those votes are tallied up and the works with the highest tally of votes (assuming the votes meet a minimum) make it to the shortlist. This year’s shortlist, however, is primarily dominated by two slates with a lot of crossover: Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies. The situation warranted discussion in Entertainment Weekly and Slate. Read those for further background if so inclined. George R. R. Martin also has an excellent series of posts on the slates, beginning with “Puppygate.”

I bought my Sasquan membership back in February. It was probably after the Sad Puppies slate had been publicized, but I am not a follower of the blogs of either Brad Torgersen or Larry Correia, who formed the Sad Puppy Slate, and certainly do not follow the blog of Theodore Beale aka Vox Day, who put together the Rabid Puppy slate. (I am especially disinclined to read anything by the latter, considering in his eyes I would likely be considered a half-savage [because I am half-black] who shouldn’t have the right to vote [because I’m female].) So at the time I purchased my membership, I had no idea any of this was going on.

I’ve since seen the arguments that the purpose of the Sad Puppies is to bring the “fun” back to SFF and return the Hugos to recognizing adventurefuntime works instead of “literary” works that espouse various agendas. George R.R. Martin has neatly refuted those claims with “Where’s the Beef?” so I won’t spend much time discussing that, except to say: in his post, Martin quotes a hypothetical question, plus some rhetorical musing, posed by Correia: “if Robert Heinlein wrote Starship Troopers in 2014, could he get on the Hugo ballot now? Or would he be labeled a fascist with troubling ideas, and a product of the neo-colonial patriarchy? And before you dismiss that question, maybe you should read up on what the voting clique that shall not be named says about Heinlein now. Sadly, I suspect the only way Heinlein could get on the ballot today would be if my horde of uncouth barbarian outsiders got involved and put him on our suggested slate.”

Martin states that “I don’t think Heinlein would write STARSHIP TROOPERS in 2014. If you know Heinlein, you know that he was a man who changed with the times throughout his career. He was always trying new things, new techniques, new challenges… and his political views changed HUGELY over his lifetime.”

Which is a very good point. But also? I don’t think it’s a travesty to consider that works that were first published over fifty years ago would not be published today. Readers’ tastes change over time–even aside from political or ideological shifts. If Shakespeare were alive today and tried to get his plays produced on Broadway for the first time, I don’t know that there’d be anyone willing to take him on. “Dude, iambic pentameter? What century are you from?” Or Jane Austen: “Funny enough in places, but readers generally like much less convoluted sentence structure. Also, this seems a lot like Bridget Jones’s Diary.” So, Heinlein: “Reads a little too much like neo-colonialism.” Not impossible to envisage, and not worthy of pearl-clutching at the depths to which we have fallen. The reasons classics become classics is because they continue to be read despite seismic shifts in taste. I doubt people will stop reading Heinlein anytime soon, which is much more than the average writer will achieve.

Which is somewhat a segue to my point: I don’t understand what the Puppies hope to accomplish. If they are truly calling for more recognition of unknown/lesser-known works and writers, great! The normal way to go about that is to tell people about them. “These are the awesome books/stories/media I consumed in 2014! Please consume them also!” not this forced recognition via slate-voting the Puppies promote. As numerous others have pointed out, by their very nature, and when they work as intended, the Hugos show the direction in which readers’ taste runs–they are awarded by popular vote. Add to that the fact that readers’ tastes change, and it seems the Puppies have failed to grasp the basic concept that hey, maybe other people like different things than you do, and maybe the number of people who likes things you don’t is greater than the number of people who likes what you like. It is not the end of the world. I’m not a huge fan of Mexican food, but I know lots of people are. I’m probably in the minority on this count. Somehow, I have survived.

So maybe the Puppies really want a change in what gets published–which isn’t going to happen. Because again, readers’ tastes change, and publishers want to make money. So they will publish books they think will appeal to readers–the most readers–in order to make that money. The Hugos don’t dictate what gets published. They can help a writer’s career, but they don’t stop the thousands of non-nominated books from getting published.

And so, speaking as someone with no clout and no skin in the game (after all, I’m still unpublished, and even if I were to get published it’s statistically unlikely that I’d be nominated for a Hugo) yes, I can see how “Puppygate” might have destroyed or be in the process of destroying the Hugos–but like seismic shifts in readers’ tastes, like people liking and disliking different things, it would not be the end of the world.

I have heard that Theodore Beale/Vox Day threatened that if “No Award” is given to the Rapid Puppy slate this year, he’ll ensure that no award is given in that category again, ever. Which makes me think that he’s like a tick swelled up with blood, overinflated with his own sense of importance. Because what would he actually accomplish in the long run? Yes, the Hugos are venerable and important to the field. But they are not the field itself. It is so, so much vaster than that. On some level, I’d be sad if the Puppies have broken the Hugos beyond repair–but another award system might rise up in its place.

More importantly, I’d still have books to read, and they’d still be books like Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice or N.K. Jemisin’s Hundred Thousand Kingdoms or Wes Chu’s Lives of Tao. There would still be books I like, books about which I’d say, “Hey, I read this awesome thing. Please read it too!”

No matter how large a tick gets, fandom is larger. And that’s not going to change.

 

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Hello, human! Clearly you are on the Internet, since you moseyed your way over to this blog post. Perhaps you are wondering how to human decently on the Internet. Following is a primer to help you, human, act like one while Internetting.

Basic Tips

To be a decent human on the Internet, there are a few key things you should always keep in mind.

Thing 1: You will encounter people who are different from you in terms of race, gender, age, ability, religion, sexual identity, body type, socioeconomic status, location, etc. These differences do not make the people you encounter non-people. Nor do these difference make these people stupid or evil.

Thing 2: The people you encounter who are different from you will also have different opinions from you. (And the people who are the same as you in terms of [repeat list above] will also have different opinions.) These differing opinions do not make the people you encounter non-people, and nor do these differing opinions make these people stupid or evil.

Thing 3: While on the Internet, you will often encounter people’s words instead of seeing or hearing them speak directly. This indirect communication doesn’t change the fact that you are interacting with another human.

Interacting with People Who Are Different from You

Fellow human, I have something shocking to tell you. It is entirely possible to get along with people who are different from you. It’s true! I’ve done it! There are steps you may follow to help you get along with others.

  1. Listen. Yes, you may disagree with another person. But you know what? You’re more likely to learn something new from someone who is unlike you. Cue ’80s tagline montage: The more you know; knowing is half the battle; knowledge is power. Listen, and maybe learn something that will make you an even more decent human. Listening means:
    • Not assuming your experiences are universal and therefore apply to your conversant.
    • Not assuming the experiences of someone you know/heard of who is somehow like the human with whom you are interacting are universal and therefore apply to your conversant.
    • Not shutting down your conversant if that person says something with which you disagree.
  2. Engage respectfully. Here, “engage” means written and/or audio communication, since the Internet is magic and makes both possible. Engaging respectfully generally means that you, human, keep in mind the Basic Tips, above. But specifics also follow below.
  3. Disengage as needed. There may come a time when you no longer wish to interact with another person. That is okay. The vast amount of time, I assume that no one is forcing you to interact with another person (work or school projects possibly being the exceptions), and so you get to decide when you want to quit. Specifics follow below.

Engaging Respectfully: Specifics

This is, of course, step 2 as noted above. But it’s a large topic to cover in one step. Allow me to break it out into more specifics.

When expressing disagreement, focus on the opinion, not the person. 

Now, you may wish to show your conversant the error of their thinking and sway them to your point of view. This is often a waste of time, because people are disinclined to listen to strangers on the Internet. But if you’re intent on attempting to change the mind of your conversant, remember the following:

  • Calling someone an idiot, stupid, or various epithets is not going to change their mind. It is unhelpful and will probably make your conversant even more resistant to change.
  • Use of phrases such as, “Huh. I did not think of that. That’s interesting. But did you consider X?” is helpful and is more likely to make your conversant amenable to change.

Never, ever, ever, ever threaten someone or their loved ones, pets, etc.

This is serious. It is Not Okay to threaten a fellow human on the Internet, or their family, friends, or pets, with murder, rape, dismemberment, violence, etc. Period.

But Amanda, you might be thinking, I wouldn’t actually DO any of those things. I am just trying to express my severe disagreement with my conversant! I don’t care. Threats are still not okay. Your fellow human on the Internet doesn’t know if you’re joking (and “ha ha just kidding!” doesn’t make it better, either). Because the fact is, there are people out there who do murder, rape, and dismember. Your conversant on the Internet may have encountered such people, such such threats are not abstract to them; the threats are real.

It sounds trite, but really: if you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, don’t say/write it on the Internet.

But Amanda, you might be thinking, they did it first, to someone I care about and/or someone I think is awesome! 

Okay, that’s harder. I have seen those comment threads that make me wish I could reach through my screen and throttle a d-bag. But I still say threats are not okay. Take the high road. Other decent humans will back you because you are being decent in the face of douchebaggery, and decent humans tend to have one another’s backs.

Don’t dox. For all the same reasons as previous.

Disengaging: Specifics

When you encounter indecent humans on the Internet, it is a valid response to disengage. While disengaging, you should again remember the Basic Tips. But remembering the Basic Tips doesn’t mean that you have to do a “soft stop.” Especially if dealing with an indecent human, it is often most effective to employ a hard stop, where you cease all communication immediately without explanation. This may cause the indecent human to claim you were “too [weak, stupid, etc.] to continue the conversation,” but you know what? Forget them. You have better things to do with your time, decent human.

If it is an option, you might also try various blocking methods on social media to mute the indecent human. That way, the indecent human can blahblahdouchebag all they want, and you simply don’t have to hear or read it. Again, there might be cries that you’re “too [weak, stupid, etc.] to respond,” but I think we’ve established, decent human, that you STILL have better things to do with your time. That’s why you muted the indecent human, amirite?

Another option for disengaging is what one might call the “last word” disengagement, where your last response to the indecent human is an explanation of your cessation of communication, a link back to a salient point/rejoinder, or other attempt to leave “on top.” I think, however, that this is less effective. Indecent humans will often view it as a challenge and attempt to reengage you in the argument. It is annoying and exhausting. Don’t attempt it unless you truly don’t have better things to do with your time.

Closing

There you have it, human! A simple primer to behaving like a decent human on the Internet.

If you’re thinking the majority of these were things you were taught in elementary school and/or picked up simply by living among humans, yes, you’re right.

And if you’re thinking that the average comment thread implies a distressingly large percentage of humans on the Internet behave worse than the average grade-schooler, well, unfortunately you’re right there, too.

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The hat of realism

I try to limit my posts about writing, since I have my doubts about their widespread appeal versus, say, amusing fictionalizations featuring my dog, or perhaps zombies and brownies recipes. (Which probably also have limited appeal, but whatevs.)

However, the issue of realistic expectations has been on my mind recently, and because I think my brain periodically needs to have its thoughts dumped out to make room for new ones (especially critical as I move into revision mode) I thought I’d go ahead and blog on it.

So: On various writing boards and forums, one inevitably comes across posts by writers despairing over ever having their work accepted. This usually seems to be in conjunction with finding an agent. And the standard reply to these ubiquitous gloomposts is something to the effect of, “Cheer up! It only takes one yes!”

Well, if we’re thinking long-term, as in truly developing a career as a writer, that aphorism is false. It takes several yeses. A veritable string of yeses. A short list of “yeses” required if one wants to develop a career as a traditionally published writer:

  • Yes from the agent (let’s assume for now that the agent is legitimate and competent)
  • Yes from the editor at the publishing house
  • Yes from the editorial board at the publishing house
  • Yeses from readers

And even then, there are no guarantees. Just because an agent loves a book doesn’t mean an editor will love it. Just because an editor loves it doesn’t mean the editorial board will approve it. Just because the editorial board approves it and has it published doesn’t mean readers will love it.

And even that assumes the process goes as it it should–for instance, that the editor doesn’t leave the publishing house and orphan the book; that the author and editor agree on changes to the book; that the publishing house itself is stable and doesn’t go under.

So every time I see “It only takes one yes!” I’m tempted to reply, “Um, no. It takes quite a lot.” But I don’t, because I’m a writer, and I get the Pit of Despair moments. I get that sometimes you need to hear “It only takes one yes,” because the only thing you can do in the moment is look at the next step and ignore how there’s still a whole mountain to climb.

I get that we writers are cobbled together from extreme hubris and paralyzing self-doubt. It’s an exhausting pendulum to ride–which is why I try to keep on my realism hat. It is the hat that reminds me that it is a bad idea to overanalyze statistics from The Submission Grinder (“Hmm most other people had their stories rejected at days 12-16 and I am on day 17 with no rejection OMG does that mean my story is going to be accepted?!?! MUST WATCH CONSTANTLY TO FEED THE FIRE OF HOPE! *clickrefreshclickrefreshclickrefresh*”). It is the hat that reminds me I shouldn’t expect to be more exceptional than the exceptions–that Stephen King had his railroad spike chocked full of rejections; that J.K. Rowling was on welfare and had Harry Potter rejected from 12 publishing houses before it was accepted for a small advance; that I am statistically unlikely to have a career approaching either one.

It is also the hat that reminds me that the one way to guarantee failure is not to write and not to submit my work.

So, does it take more than one yes? Of course. Does that mean we should stop trying? Never.

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(*Because it sounds slightly better than “conversation with myself,” whether semi-fictional or all fictional or with no adjective whatsoever. Also, hiiii! Let’s pretend I haven’t been absent for like three months, m’kay?)

Me: Why do we talk about “media consumption”?

Cassia: [head tilt]

Me: Think about it. Media consumption, like we’re eating it.

Cassia: [maintains head tilt]

Me: But the food-consumption comparison doesn’t work, because once you eat food, it’s not like anyone else can use it.

Cassia: Bark!

Me: Okay, no. That’s gross. People don’t do that. And you shouldn’t either. Anyway, my point is, under normal circumstances, you eat food, and it’s gone. But with media, it’s not like only one person can watch Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. It’s not like once someone has read American Gods, no one else can. Media can be, and is meant to be, enjoyed and used by multiple people. So why the “consumption” thing? Makes us sound like ravening beasts, you know? MOAR MEDIA! [Godzilla-like stomps]

Cassia: [whine]

Me: Sorry. But yeah, media consumption. Weird, right?

Cassia: [whine]

Me: Oh. That’s your “feed me” whine, isn’t it? You don’t care about what I’m saying.

Cassia: [head tilt]

Me: [Sigh] Okay. Dinner. But this means you own me a discussion on why that Labor Day movie with Kate Winslet is so very, very problematic in terms of, you know, actual logical human behavior.

Cassia: [whinnnne]

Me: Fine. Here’s your food. Consume it just like you would media.

Cassia: [happymunchmunchcrunch]

Me: [sigh of the long-suffering]

 

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