The Watchtower of Destruction: The Ferrett's Journal
Below are 10 entries, after skipping 10 most recent ones in the "The Ferrett" journal:
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Seven Thoughts On Orlando, Islam, And Gun Control|
If you think your assault rifle will keep you safe when the government comes for you, you have not paid attention to the drones and missile strikes in the Middle East. Got news for you, punkie; if there’s a serious go-to-town revolution against the government, you’re not going to be the bold revolutionary, you’re going to be a satellite-targeted crater in the fucking street.
Technology’s moved on. Your revolution will mostly consist of IEDs and hiding, if it comes to that.
People say we can’t change gun culture in America – there’s too many guns, and too many people with guns.
You know what else everybody used to do?
We fucking smoked.
America used to be a goddamned chimney, my friends, with something like 80% of people lighting up. We had Fred Flintstone and Barney goddamned Rubble shilling Winston cigarettes to kids. We had a massive corporation covering up the truth of what happened to smokers, a government thoroughly in Big Tobacco’s pocket. We had a nation of addicts, literal addicts, because remember that quitting smoking is only slightly less difficult than quitting goddamned heroin.
And yet now smoking’s a small segment of American culture. It exists – just as, I suspect and would hope, gun owners would continue to exist after some massive, effective, gun legislation – but it’s now a thing where, for good or for bad, we massively flipped the switch.
You know where that all started?
The official link between cigarettes and cancer.
If you’ll note, the Center for Disease Control doesn’t even *collect* statistics on gun use. That’s been shut down by Senators in the hands of the NRA, so we can’t even get data on what effects guns have.
So if you want to change things, that’s where I’d start: write your Senator to tell them that you want a special wing of the CDC to collect gun data. Make it as immunized from politics as any government agency can be, which is to say poorly, but *get the fucking data*.
And if you want to tell us we can’t change things, well, a generation of kids who have largely grown up not chain-smoking would like to inform you that big changes can happen, if you want them to happen.
While I do love Igor Volsky calling out the lame “Thoughts and prayers” from politicians who are deep in the NRA’s pocket, I really hate it when people say, “Wow, if we only raised $2,500, *we* could buy a Senator!”
It’s not just money. The money’s the grease, but the heavy piston action is the voters the NRA can round up.
If you want to beat the NRA, the sad truth is that a significant amount of you will have to become a one-issue voter, the exact opposite of the way a lot of NRA fanatics are now.
So. A gay nightclub.
It’s amazing how many conservative pundits are erasing the “gay” portion from this narrative, as though that somehow didn’t matter.
Gay clubs are safe spaces. As a straight person, have you ever held hands with your date in public and thought, “I could be beaten to death for this?” Well, your gay and bisexual friends have.
Walking into a club like this is telling gay people, “We can destroy your happiness anywhere.” Don’t pretend that doesn’t fucking exist. Don’t pretend that somehow, gay people lead a life mostly like ours because gay marriage passed.
It’s still a goddamned dangerous time to be gay in America. It’s getting better. But you still risk shit like this.
This wasn’t “a nightclub.” It was a statement. And some asshole with a gun made a counter-statement, so don’t you fucking twist the story to make it seem like it could be any straight person.
A bunch of my conservative friends have reminded me, quite cogently, that a lot of Islam virulently hates homosexuality, and if we let everyone in from the Middle East into America then we’d be back to stoning, and how can we claim to be acting wisely and compassionately towards gays when Islam itself hates the homosexual?
Which is true. You look at polls, and Muslims are largely intolerant of gay culture.
Open up the polls for American Muslims, and it turns out they’re more likely to be in favor of gay marriage than Evangelist Christians.
It’s almost like, I dunno, being a part of American culture influences people’s viewpoints or something.
And if that was true, then maaaaaybe the worst thing you could do would be to stigmatize Muslims so that they *didn’t* feel like a part of American culture, to conflate every Muslim as “foreign,” and alienate them so that they don’t feel any attachment to the country they live in.
Huh. Maybe it’s your attitude that’s fostering terrorism.
And while I’m at it, my worst conservative friends only bring up Islam when they’re talking about what homo-hating bastards these folks are, selling the “THEY’RE ALL OUT TO KILL YOUUUUU!” line as though literally every Muslim would slit a gay’s throat and rape a woman whenever they could.
And keep in mind: I don’t deny there are serious fucking cultural issues going on. If you, say, take in thousands of refugees from a culture that doesn’t respect women or the QUILTBAG train, well, you’re going to have some serious issues getting these people on-board. It’s not going to go smoothly, and one of the serious liberal critiques I will aim is the way that liberals hand-wave those issues. Integration’s a serious bitch, my friends, and it’s often a messy compromise you make to save the lives of innocent people who’d otherwise get ground to meat in a war zone.
That said, here’s the thing:
I’ll accept Islam as a monstrous, monotone religion of purest hatred…
If you claim all of these untagged Christian shooters and apply the same logic to Christianity.
Because that’s the magic, you know. White guy does it? Unhinged. We don’t own him. He was acting on his own, no matter how many friends he talked to online. White religious guy does it? Well, that’s not Christianity, how dare you label us!
The great thing about being white and of the dominant religion is that your shooters never count. Those guys? Well, we know they’re unhinged. Were they talking to other hateful people? A splinter sect, they aren’t real. No matter how many Biblical nutbags run and gun, that never touches the core religion that we like.
So a brown guy shot up a crowd. That is, and continues to be, and will never not be, terrible. But he’s 2% of all mass shootings.
The other 98% are white guys, some percentage of whom were seriously religious. Claim them. Apply the same logic to the religions you think are acceptable. Then we’ll talk.
Until then, well, yeah, ISIS is a huge fucking problem, but Islam is a huge fucking religion, and every huge fucking religion has its fringe elements that you have to deal with.
(And if you want to talk about what Islam does globally, go back to the last point about what it does in America.)
Lastly, as someone who suffers from mental health issues, please remember that not every bipolar or depressed person shoots people. In fact, most of us don’t.
I’m not one of those people who’ll tell you that a guy who shoots up a club isn’t crazy. He is. But like Islam and Christianity, “crazy” covers a wide variety of issues, and conflating insanity with mass shooting is a bad thing to do for those who do suffer.
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.
This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/541094.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.
My Mother’s Awful Secret, Kept For Thirty-Eight Years|
So the wise among you will remember this tattoo from December:
That, my friends, is a Star Wars tattoo, which my wife and I got because we met in a Star Wars chat room.
We met in a Star Wars chat room because I had seen Star Wars well over seventy times in the theater. In fact, I saw Star Wars fifty-seven and a half times before I was thirteen.
And that was, you youngsters, in the days before your fancy-schmancy DVDs or VHS tapes or even reruns existed. Back in the day, if you wanted to see a movie and you were a young kid, you had to bug a relative into taking you.
I bugged my relatives fifty-seven and a half times.
The half was, I am only semi-ashamed to say, when I got my grandparents to take me. They’d misread the matinee as 12:30 instead of 1:30, so we showed up an hour early, so Little Ferrett somehow convinced them to go into the theater early, watch the Death Star Trench Run, and then watch the entire movie again.
It is safe to say that Teeny Ferrett was a relative-bugging machine. Imagine the challenge of convincing a relative, who has almost certainly seen Star Wars with you at least once because, well, hardly anyone has that big a family, and then saying, “Uh, hey, I know we’ve done this twice before and you know I’ve seen this movie forty times, but…
“…could we do it again?”
So my Star Wars bugging game was on fleek.
But the title of this entry was about my Mom’s horrible secret, which I only discovered when she arrived this Thursday and she told me how much she’d enjoyed The Force Awakens, and…
She should probably see Star Wars.
MY MOTHER HAD NEVER SEEN STAR WARS.
Let me repeat that:
had never seen
Which, if you think about it, showcases my mother’s sheer manipulative genius. Can you imagine what it took to not only withstand the pleadings of an iron-willed kid who would not shut up about this movie, but quietly maneuver every other relative to see this damn movie without once having to go yourself?
Jesus Christ, Machiavelli probably would have broken down at some point and said, “All right, I’ll go.”
Yet my Mom danced among the requests for my entire childhood, only now thinking, “Maybe it’s time.”
So we showed her last night. She was sleepy, and having an allergic attack, but we got to the Death Star escape and she said, “PAUSE THIS MOVIE, I GOTTA PEE.”
She didn’t wanna miss a minute.
So she liked it. Which is good. Because as my friend Angie said, it’s so hard to rehome mothers once they get to that age.
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.
This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/540799.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.
Authors! How Many Books Did You Sell? A Survey.|
So when I get back from Greece, I’m going to talk frankly about how many units my books Flex and The Flux sold.
There’s just one problem:
I don’t know whether that number is actually an impressive number.
The problem with publishing is that a) nobody wants to share their failures, and b) the successes push the top of the scale so much that it skews your vision. Okay, if you sell 100,000 copies of your novel, you’ve done pretty well.
Yet what do good midlist sales numbers look like?
…somewhere between 100,000 copies and zero. I guess. Hardly anyone discusses the mid-range numbers, making it difficult to say what an author can, or should, expect.
So here’s where I ask my fellow authors: how many copies of your book did you sell? If you made a blog post, or know of a blog post that discusses units (and not total dollars made), point me to that blog post. (I know about Kameron Hurley’s brave revelation of her own sales numbers, but everyone else I’m happy to listen to.)
If you’re willing to share your numbers personally, identifying yourself and your book sales in public, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. (Telling me when it was published, if you’re self-published, and the average prices you sold it for will be a part of the equation, if’n you could share.)
And even if you’re not willing to say on the record, email me what you’ve sold and I’ll put you as an anonymous data point.
(And yes, I know you can look up Nielsen BookScan ratings, but that’s not an accurate total because it leaves out all ebooks and many many bookstores. Everyone’s numbers on there are off by at least a third these days, maybe more. Currently, BookScan is planted firmly in the “better’n nothing” camp.)
As a former book buyer, numbers always fascinate me. This is a lot like Tobias Buckell’s author advance survey in that it’s a starting point for authors to know what the business is actually like. Ultimately, I’ll compile a Google Sheets of numbers so there’s some better idea of what unit sales look like…
With the caveat that, having talked to several industry professionals, what matters for traditional publishers is not raw units, but beating your projections. Smaller publishers are profitable on smaller print-runs, and what’s a big hit at a mid-level press might be a disappointment at a major press. If you sold 100,000 units but the publisher printed 500,000 copies, you’re in the doghouse.
In any case, we’ve had some good studies on author advances and writing income, but raw book unit sales haven’t been something I’ve seen talked about – at least when we’re not talking JK Rowling numbers.
If you want to share, let’s see how much data we can compile.
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.
This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/540595.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.
So If I Was Going After Donald Trump….|
Attacking Trump has a lot of problems, but one of the main one is that Donald’s wrong for the Presidency in so many ways that watching the media go after him is like watching a small kid chasing chickens – he runs after one, notices another getting away, runs after that. He says too many outrageous things, and it destroys the news cycle because they’re just getting hooked on one when something else too delicious to leave on the ground comes up.
So if I was in charge of the Democratic “Take Down Donald” Campaign, I’d announce a schedule:
Every two weeks, from now until the election, we will be discussing a new and entirely different way that Donald Trump is unfit for the Presidency.
And I’d focus on that with a series of commercials, the same commercials, aired as many times as humanly possible, homing in on just one of Donald’s many flaws. (I’d also call him Donald.) That would be what Hillary discusses in her campaign speeches, what I’d instruct other Democrats to focus in on, our social media targets.
So for two weeks, all we’d talk about is Trump University and what a rip-off it was, bringing out all the knives to bear, and discussing the delicious paradox of whether Donald knew he was extorting people for a degree that he knew was worthless, or whether he was just happy to walk away from it when it wasn’t what he wanted, and if so, is that what he’ll do to America when he plasters the Trump brand over the Oval Office?
Two weeks of shots. Get that in there as much as possible. Like a little television arc.
Then switch. Don’t map out the schedule in advance; be flexible. But if you do it right, people will wonder what’s coming next. It’ll be like spoilers for a movie – “I heard the next Donald Doofiness will be his lack of international knowledge.” “No, I hear it’s the accusations of him abusing his wife!” “No, I hear it’s his shameful treatment of veterans!” “It’s that he’s not even really a billionaire!” – with forums lighting up and suggestions made and his opponents getting furious.
Donald’s really good at pivoting away whenever someone starts to gain ground. So nail him down. Play his own game. Make it all about what he can’t do, and refuse to be lured away from that.
It’s what Democrats have been traditionally crappy at anyway, so might as well learn on a big target, amiright?
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.
This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/540283.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.
So I’m Going To Greece. Here’s The Books I’m Taking. Suggest One More.|
On Friday, I’m going on vacation to Greece and Turkey and Italy for ten days. This will be a lovely cruise, and if it’s anything like last time, I’m going to get a lot of reading done.
So thanks to my new Kindle, I’ve stockpiled lots of books! In case you’re wondering what I’ve been hearing good things about, here’s the list of books I’m taking with me:
- Joe Hill’s THE FIREMAN, which I am currently 65% through and thoroughly enjoying, as I have all of Joe Hill’s books;
- Will McIntosh’s LOVE MINUS EIGHTY, because his DEFENDERS was one of the best books I read in 2015 and SOFT APOCALYPSE was sad and moving (even if it didn’t really have much of an ending), and I’m told this is his best work;
- Seanan McGuire’s EVERY HEART A DOORWAY, as I love the idea of a grown-up Narnia and I love Seanan’s works;
- Ransom Riggs’ MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN, as Bart Calendar won’t shut up about it and people have kept comparing bits of it to my own book THE FLUX (which, no, the Peregrine Institute was pure coincidental naming);
- Cassie Alexander’s DARK INK TATTOO, because she writes good smut and she has promised me tattoo smut in this tome;
- Claudia Gray’s LOST STARS, as everyone tells me it’s the best new Star Wars book, and also my daughter won’t shut up about it;
- Delilah Dawson’s HIT, because I enjoy a female hitman paying off her credit cards as much as anyone else;
- Richard Hacker’s THE ULTIMATE CIGAR BOOK, since if I’m smoking them occasionally I feel I should know the history, and the only other book I read a) talked about the hurricanes of 1994 as though they were recent history, and b) taught me lies that the guys at the cigar store easily dismissed;
- Siddharta Mukherjee’s THE GENE: AN INTIMATE HISTORY, which Ken Liu recommended and the opening chapter detailing a man’s struggle with his entire family going insane hooked me.
Now. Despite all that, there’s room for one more book here. I read fast, and I’ll be trapped on a plane for hours, and cruise ship expeditions involve a lot of travel time as we drive endlessly to my destination. (Not that I expect to read all of these books – though I read five on my Italy trip – but I want a wide variety in what I do read.)
So. What I’m looking for is one final book recommendation. Something published in the last two years, something that’s not the first book in a series, and something light. (No dense books; time has proven I can’t read them on vacation.)
The books I’ve raved about to people lately have been Scott Hawkin’s LIBRARY AT MOUNT CHAR, Charlie Jane Anders’ ALL THE BIRDS IN THE SKY, Dan Wells’ JOHN CLEAVER series, and of course Rae Carson’s THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS.
If you have a book that fits all those criteria, suggest away! I may have read it. But then we can geek out about it!
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.
This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/540041.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.
Unpopular Opinions On Bernie And Hillary|
Look, Bernie supporters: you’re not only losing, but you sound terrifyingly like Republicans arguing not to pull out of Iraq.
You’re ignoring the math to leap to a conclusion you want to be true instead of looking at what’s actually happening.
You’re yelling about the unfair process of getting nominated as though the establishment somehow sprung these complicated rules upon Bernie midway through the process, as opposed the path to nomination being mostly known when he started his campaign.
You’re claiming “The media was against us!” exactly like the Republicans did with Iraq, as if the newspapers owed you popularity. The media always has a storyline it’s spinning; your challenge is to come up with a better story that they buy into, not to yell and froth.
And worst of all, too many of you are pulling the sad Republican bullshit that anyone who doesn’t support you in this endeavor are not real Americans, or at the very least to be side-eyed thoroughly because somehow they hate real change. You’re pulling the sad Republican bullshit that if people don’t support Bernie, it’s because they’re idiots who don’t know any better.
Look, guys. I’m a Bernie fan, and judging from this season’s political donations, I’m at least $240 more for Bernie ($20 a month for a year) than I am for Hillary (an ice-cold zero). If you want to change the process? That’s awesome.
But the Democratic party should be the alternative to the Republican party’s math-blinkered nature, and you do that by acknowledging facts. Black voters didn’t go for Bernie? Rather than yelling at them that HEY BERNIE’S GREAT at random POC, why not investigate their fears and work to counteract them? Or learn from the ways that Bernie bobbled the black vote this year (as was my fear he’d do way back in July of last year) and figure out how to build better grass roots the next time?
And y’all terrify me when you’re like, “Bernie’s the better candidate!” Well, he’s gotten less votes almost everywhere that counts- though unlike Hillary, he’s improved in his results as time’s gone on. In terms of sheer numbers, it’s Hillary by a landslide.
Y’all terrify me when you say, “Hillary’s been so mean to Bernie!” God, have you ever watched one fucking Republican attack ad? Hillary’s gone after Bernie with lily-white gloves on. She has not exposed one knuckle. Wanna see what the nastiness will look like? Here, read the nasty stuff that nobody’s unloaded on him yet because the Republicans have been secretly hoping he’ll be the candidate.
That’s what a hatchet job would look like.
And in that sense, sure Bernie’s beating Trump. Because nobody’s gone after Bernie yet. Maybe he can pull it off, maybe he can’t, but read that set of attack ads ready to go and see whether Bernie’s popularity has been truly tested; it hasn’t.
Be honest with yourselves and stop buying into your own goddamned hype.
And if you want to say, “Electing Trump would send a lesson to the Democratic party that they need to shape up!”, well, I want you to ask yourself a vital question first:
In 2000, Gore moved to the right to pick up votes, then Nader split the vote, and Bush got elected instead of Gore. (Full disclosure: I voted for Nader, and I blame Gore for alienating voters.)
A lot of you are unhappy with Obama. But Obama was literally the lesson that the Democrats learned from losing massively in 2000.
So do you honestly think electing Trump, someone massively unstable, is going to create someone notably better than Obama?
Bonus question, but not one you should ignore: Do you think “creating the better Democratic party” was worth the economic collapse and wars we got from eight years of George Bush? Because that’s really your argument, isn’t it? If we fuck over America, we’ll create a better and more resilient party! And maybe you conclude that’s true. But you should also ask yourselves whether that triumphant party will have to spend eight years picking up debris.
And if you’re frustrated by Bernie over Hillary, well… I am too. Welcome to the long and stories Democratic tradition of “Picking the person they think is electable” over “The person who people actually like,” which leads to horrific fiascoes of Dukakis, Gore, and Kerry. I too wish the Democrats would learn the lesson that they should nominate the person who gets folks the most riled up, as opposed to choosing the person who is least objectionable.
But they do. Maybe you can change that. Please. Try.
That said, you Hillary supporters?
First off, if you’re saying “The Republicans shouldn’t cave to Trump!” and yelling for Bernie to step down at the same time, you’re hypocrites. Bernie Sanders isn’t stepping down in part because he feels he’s not being heard in the Democratic party, and he knows darned well that the only way to force policy change is to swing enough power to get a seat at the table. This is the sort of cold-eyed realism you’d probably cheer if it was Hillary using her leverage to make changes.
If he steps down too soon, he doesn’t get what he wants. And he wants to be influential. That’s what politicians do. If Hillary wants his votes, she’s gonna have to make concessions to Bernie.
And the people who are all outraged that Bernie Sanders wanted to debate with Trump? Every time I hear them speaking, they sound as though Bernie and Trump’s debate will be them getting together over beers and bitching affably about Hillary. “Women, amiright?”
No. Bernie and Trump are both outsider candidates, but Trump and Bernie are wildly at odds on all sorts of issues, particularly those of economic hardship. The reason some Bernie bros can believe there’s no real difference between Bernie and Trump is because Bernie and Trump haven’t battled. And Donald Trump is a big windy bag of lies, but I’m pretty sure when Bernie goes “We need to raise taxes on people like you,” Trump is not going to shrug and say, “Well, yeah, I need to have 90% of my income taken away, like all millionaires!”
Trump won’t debate Bernie because he knows he benefits from Bernie Bros conflating their policies. (He also knows that being snide to Bernie, as he always is during debates, will alienate potential crossover votes from Bernie.) If it did happen, suddenly it’d put the stark differences for the candidates into place and people wouldn’t be able to switch votes as easily.
It’d be a massive win for the Democratic party if it happened, which is why I’m 90% sure it won’t. (Though this election season, I’m loathe to put firm bets on anything.)
Eventually, Bernie’s going to have to side with someone. When he does, he’s going to bring voters with him. And that guy, unless I’m radically misreading Bernie, is not going to be Trump.
(But again, hey, this election season, amiright?)
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.
This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/539785.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.
Unpopular Opinions On Gorillas and Wayward Kids|
So this weekend, a gorilla had to be shot because a four-year-old kid found its way into the gorilla’s enclosure. (If you want details on “Why didn’t they tranquilize the gorilla instead of murdering it?”, read this Facebook note from a zookeeper; the upshot was that shooting darts into a gorilla is not an insta-knockout, and would probably piss off the kid-holding gorilla majorly before it passed out.)
And I have two thoughts on that one:
First off, there’s a lot of people calling for the parents’ heads on a stick – which I probably would have before I had kids. I used to hear these tales of parents losing their kids at malls and sniff, “God, how did they lose track of their own children?”
Now I go, “My God, how do we not lose more kids?”
Kids have zero survival instincts. They run away and don’t look back. And in a vacuum, you could be a perfect guard to jail this irrational critter inside a cage of pure protection, but when you’re out and about you have to pay for the clothes you just bought or hold the elevator door for someone or even adjust your other kid’s diapers.
When you go to do that, sometimes the kid darts off into traffic because they saw a bug and Christ that is scary.
And I’m not saying that the parents weren’t negligent, because I don’t know all the facts about this, but it’s also possible the kid vanished and the parents were looking frantically for him while all this happened.
Maybe it is a case of stupid parents. It could also equally easily be a case of “accidents happen with kids.” And it sucks, but that’s the way the universe currently works: some parents have their kids squirm away into an elevator and are lucky enough to have a friendly face guiding the kid back to safety, other parents have their kids squirm away and fall into an open elevator shaft.
It’s possible these were slacker parents who raised an ill-disciplined kid; it’s equally possible the parents just had the worst possible outcome for the tragically common situation of Runaway Kid.
In the absence of better knowledge – and I’m sure news stories will fill in more details over the oncoming weeks – I’ll try to opt for kindness.
That said, an online friend of mine said, “I’m sorry, but I value the life of a four-year-old more than I do a gorilla.”
I’m sorry, but I don’t.
Look, man. These gorillas are endangered. As the zookeeper in the Facebook says, you put these gorillas out into the wild and they get poached. I’m told there’s not enough of these gorillas left to fill a 747, and the zoo’s one of the few places left that can hold them safely.
Either way this went down, kid or gorilla, it was going to be a tragedy where a living creature who didn’t understand what was happening got killed for reasons that weren’t its fault. And even though I am a human, I’m cold-eyed enough to say, “While I spent the weekend with an adorable almost-four-year-old girl who I adore, there are literally millions of four-year-old humans – while we’re down to a handful of gorillas because, as a race, we’d rather strangle an entire species than risk one human.
“And while I love children, if it’s down to one kid against a dwindling species, I choose the species.”
I suspect that’s a really unpopular thing for me to say, but this is a Kobayashi Maru of dilemmas: you have to 100% kill an endangered gorilla, or risk killing a child (as the gorilla might have gotten bored dragging the kid around and let the child go). It’s gonna be horrid either way. And I’m not saying we shouldn’t kill mountain lions running lose in human territories, or let our daughters be dragged off by rabid dogs. Human lives matter.
I’m just of the opinion that at this point, if some human gets into the enclosure with all the endangered animals, the priority should be saving the endangered animal. Because it’s not the animal’s fault, either. And what they need to protected from are dumbasses like us.
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.
This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/539555.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.
How We Help Breed Charming Sociopaths, Or: The Con-Bayashi Maru|
A few weeks ago, I asked people who host kink parties how they’d deal with one guest claiming that another guest was under investigation by the police for sexual crimes.* And I’d say about 75% of the respondents said some variant on:
“Well, I’d talk to both sides and see who sounded more reasonable to me.”
Now, let’s set some opening criteria here by invoking the nerdiest possibly comparison: The Kobayashi Maru.
In Star Trek, there’s a training mission called the Kobayashi Maru, which puts Starfleet cadets into an unwinnable situation to see how they deal with defeat. (Kirk won, but only by reprogramming the computer to allow a victory.)
People do not like unwinnable scenarios. People like to think that their tactics have no down sides, and once they’ve decided on a course of action, they have this funny habit of shrugging aside the costs of doing business as somehow not being harmful.
My point in these writings on public spaces is that no matter what you choose, your choice carries the risk of harming someone innocent.
Ban people based entirely on hearsay accusation? Well, false reports do exist, and even if you act discreetly – because remember, you don’t have to tell someone why you’ve banned them from a private event – you still risk ostracizing an innocent who’s been targeted by a malicious person.
Ban people based entirely on whether the law has taken action? That’s got two problems: first, the sexual offender registry is notable for sweeping up teenagers who’ve accidentally had sex with someone a year too young, and second, have you noticed the humiliation that rape victims have to go through on the stand in order to get a 7% conviction rate? The court system is designed, as I’ve noted in the past, to make it very hard to convict – and for good reason! – but “not being convicted in court” does not mean that someone is harmless.
And you know what I feel the result of “We’ll just talk to them and see” is?
That you should stop fucking being surprised when yet another charming predator turns out to be a serial offender.
“I’ll determine who’s guilty based on who feels right to me” is as decent a method as any other, but you give up your right to go “HOW COULD THIS HAPPEN?” when hey, the person who’s very convincing turns out to merely be a great liar.
Because what you do in situations like that is to send a clear message: If you want to get away with abuse, make sure you’re likable. And the top-tier predators are smart. They figure out really quickly that “doing favors for other people” is a great way of incurring likeability, and they learn how to spin stories to gaslight other people, and they’re smart enough not to victimize every person but to only target a precious few.
And that’s not even counting the charming folks who’ve gone all rock star and have come, quietly, to believe that they’re such studs in the community that every person desires them. These folks can do serious damage – not because they’re trying to be evil, but because they’re like “Hey, if I’ve got her tied up, the last five people liked it when I stuck my fingers inside of them without warning, so this is sure to please!”
When you ask them? They’ll be confident, poised, sure that this was just a misunderstanding. They’ll be Very Concerned, just enough to ensure that you get the impression they’re a good person –
– and then the flip side of the “Who feels right to me?” test comes in, because not only are you disproportionately rewarding people who are charming, but you’re disproportionately punishing people who are traumatized in ways you think are unseemly.
Because not everyone’s a convincing victim. There’s a scene in the movie Spotlight, where reporters find a guy who’s on a crusade against molesting priests – and this guy is stuttering, and alternately brutally nasty and then cringingly apologetic to the reporters. He’s literally got folders full of sketchy evidence that he hands out to anyone who asks.
He looks like a complete nut case. The problem is, he is a complete nut case – but that’s because the abuse made him unhinged. He didn’t react well to being betrayed by an authority figure he idolized, and as a result he’s not together enough to present himself as being convincing.
And like him, lots of legitimate victims are angry, and appear vindictive, because shit, if someone hurt you or someone you loved, wouldn’t you want them not to get away with it?
Being violated is like grief: there’s a script you’re supposed to follow when someone you love dies, complete with weeping at the coffin and clutching loved ones for support, but everyone reacts in different ways. Some people go for isolation. Some people get nasty. Some people run away to drugs or sex.
That doesn’t mean they’re not in pain. It just means they’re not following the script.
So what happens when you adopt the “Who feels right?” means that you reward socially adept people and punish those who don’t follow the “good victim” script. And as such, when another superstar turns out to have a rotting underbelly, you shouldn’t really be too shocked.
Our community, largely, rewards these behaviors.
Now, at this point I anticipate a lot of rage and people shouting, “Well, I’m not a trained investigator! Yet you’re telling me not to necessarily trust the court system, and you’re telling me not to automatically believe the victim, so what do you want me to do?”
I want you to acknowledge the path you’ve chosen has drawbacks.
I want you to be aware of the failure modes of your choice, and to be prepared to walk things back when something hits those failure states.
I want you to admit fallibility.
Look. When I say, “My preference is to believe the victim, in the absence of better evidence,” I do so knowing full well that some percentage of victims make false accusations. And were I running an event, I’d be prepared for the eventuality of uncovering a false accuser, and ready to potentially undo a ban based on new evidence.
If you talk to people to see whether they feel right to you, I’m asking you to recognize that you’re not trained at this, and that manipulators can abuse your system just as off-the-script victims can fuzz your senses, and to be ready to try as best you can to correct for that liability.
If you only ban court-convincted people, acknowledge that the court is not a perfect method of safety – it’s the best way we have to administer justice, but “justice” and “safety” are not always linked.
This is the Con-Bayashi Maru. There’s no perfect solution. And what you do in a time of imperfect solution is to acknowledge the failure modes and try your best to apply workarounds whenever you can.
* – The actual investigation was for possession of child pornography, and there was some discussion of whether having child porn was a bannable offense or whether even “being an active child molester” was reason to bar someone from a party, but most people seemed to take this specific instance as a more general “What do we do when someone comes to us with serious hearsay?” Some may have altered their answers if it had been a case of, say, rape, which is a failure state *I* heartily acknowledge.
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.
This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/539384.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.
Why You Don’t Have To Wait To See How Captain America Turns Out Before Judging It|
Do I have to give a spoiler alert for something that was broadcast across headlines yesterday? Well, in case you were sleeping, Marvel made a big change to Captain America yesterday, and in case you don’t know I’m giving you until the end of this sentence to get out.
All right. So the latest issue of Captain America: Steve Rogers #1 retcons events so that Steve Rogers has been a Hydra agent all along. That’s right: Captain America is, and has always been, Hydra’s greatest asset.
I told my wife Gini about that and she said, flatly, “No.” And left the room.
Which was pretty much the Internet’s reaction. Never before have I seen so much hatred heaped on a comic book’s decision. But the #1 response to the hatred from turning, you know, one of Marvel’s greatest sources of moral certainty into a secret supervillain was this:
“Hey, we don’t know where this is going, wait for the whole story to come out before criticizing.”
Except there’s two reasons why that reasoning of “Why you should wait” is blatantly wrong.
First off, we probably do know where it’s going. Long-time comics fans have seen a lot of stunning changes to major characters – The Spidey we love is a clone! Superman’s two zappy twins! Batman’s been crippled, and Azrael’s taken over! Charles Xavier’s turned evil, Magneto’s turned good! – and we know ultimately there’s one of three options here:
Option #1: This becomes the new status quo, now and forever, which means we’re absolutely right to hate it as much as our initial gut reaction tells us to, or:
Option #2: As is more likely, this will be the new status quo for about three to five years, as long as editorial stubbornness holds out against the fans’ desires, and eventually we’ll see an awkward year-long storyline where this is all undone and this becomes That Awkward Storyline That Most People Would Like To Forget About Except That Hipster Writers Keep Reverting To This When They’re Out Of Ideas.
Option #3: As is even more likely, the plan is that this is all a dream! Cap has had hidden memories implanted by Hydra! It’s an alternate-universe introduction to the Evil Captain America that the real Cap will ultimately fight to show him what he could have become if he wasn’t so awesome! It’s the Cosmic Cube warping history! But whatever happens, it’s not real, it’s a bubble universe that passes at some point and hey, okay, sure, thanks for playing.
(And if it is #3, then fuck the Marvel Editorial Team for getting out there in TIME Magazine and USA Today and convincing the fans by saying, “Oh, no, this is really how it is.” Lying to mislead us didn’t work out for JJ Abrams in Star Trek II, and it would be similarly icky here.)
So it’s possible that the team has some new trick up their sleeve, one we’ve never seen before in eighty years of comics stunts, but it’s highly unlikely. Chances are very good that what we’re reacting to is entirely valid. Because turning Marvel’s paragon of moral certainty into a compromised spy is either a really ham-handed insult to Kirby and Simon and Schuster’s legacy (remember, two Jews literally created Captain America because they wanted to have the strength to punch out twenty-five Nazis), or it’s the exact sort of shoddy linkbait PR technique that was done largely for shock effect. (We’ll get to “What if I’m wrong?” in a moment.)
But let’s be honest: Anti-heroes are lazy fucking writing.
Anyone can write a character who is morally compromised. The storylines come quick and easy when you have a hero who does the wrong thing periodically – when they get backed into a moral corner, fuck it, they murder somebody and mourn! Oh, it’s easy! They get to do whatever they want!
The reason Captain America and Superman are hard to write is because creating adventures for a hero who must a) retain the high moral ground, b) be challenged, and c) win is, as Tailsteak once said, like writing a haiku. Yes, it’s hard to do that and make it interesting. That’s the point. That’s why Captain America is iconic when thousands of other similar heroes have failed – he’s one of the most heroic heroes ever.
Compromising his moral identity makes it a lot easier to tell stories about him, in the same sense that playing football gets a lot easier when a player carries a submachine gun onto the field. Maybe there’s still some strategy, but it’s not football any more. Writing a Captain America story involves finding the real tensions that tempt even a paragon to shave a few moral corners, putting enough pressure on that you can’t possibly see how he’ll get out of it, and then watching him do it.
The reason Marvel did this is because they know this isn’t how Captain America isn’t supposed to be, and yet either they see “Taking the thing away that made Captain America interesting” as a positive achievement – which is bad – or they’re willing to burn fans’ good will towards Captain America to generate cheap publicity over an event they know they’ll have to erase, which is even worse.
But! My own personal objections aside, let’s say that the team has found some way to thread the needle, and this new Captain America will become utterly amazing down the line. It’s happened. I was violently against bringing Barry Allen back in the Flash, back when Barry Allen had died to make a noble sacrifice for the world and Wally West had taken over for eight years – but damn if Mark Waid didn’t turn that into one of the greatest Flash storylines ever.
So let’s say it’s going to get good. Really good.
Should people judge the story by this first issue?
Fuck yes we should.
Look, part of art is knowing where the reader’s going to pause, and manipulating that expectation to be satisfying. One of the reasons the world is glued to Game of Thrones is because yes, it’s good for binge-watching – but the creators know that for many, the experience of GoT is tuning in once a week and waiting in anticipation for what happens next.
They set up their cliffhangers very carefully, because they know that most of their viewers’ expectations are shaped by when this chapter ends.
Narrative is governed by tempo. If a dear friend came up to you and told you, “I have a cancer problem,” and then disappeared for a week, leaving you to stew and wonder what had gone wrong, you’d be furious when they came back and said, “I was born in July! I hate my astrological sign! Ha ha!” But that joke, cheap and stupid as it is, might work if you gave them a second’s pause before dropping the punchline.
Writing is about rhythm. It’s about satisfying all the audiences that might watch this – LOST and X-Files were very satisfying to people who watched it chapter by chapter, but in the end they couldn’t pull together a coherent storyline, and that’s the opposite failure, and it’s just as bad.
So it’s not wrong to judge a story by how it’s satisfying in the short term. This is how it’s initially told. Marvel knows that at some point, this first issue of Captain America would stop and then people would have reactions to it that determined whether they bought the next issue. That’s how the biz works.
And they chose to go for shock value.
Which is, I should mention, fine. I don’t agree with this artistic decision, but they have the right to go for shlocky shock, just as DC had the right to turn Batman vs Superman into a grit-fest. But they set the tone for a storyline that people appear to be roundly rejecting, and you know what?
If I write a shitty first chapter to my next novel (coming out in September, I remind you!), it is not wrong for you to conclude, “Wow, I won’t like the rest of this book.”
Your conclusion might be wrong. Plenty of stories start out slow and build to brilliant endings. (I infamously had to make five running starts at Dune before I got hooked.)
But if you fail to read the rest of the book with the shitty opening chapter, that’s not a failure on the reader’s part. That’s a failure on the author’s part in drawing you in. Or it’s a marketing failure on the publisher’s part by giving you a cover promising shiny space unicorns and giving you an opening chapter with gritty military violence. Or it’s just a generic failure that’s really nobody’s fault because hey, the greatest epic poetry ever written won’t appeal to someone who hates poems.
But it’s not a failure on your part, because reading should not be an experience in “Who can chew this tin foil the longest.”
If you don’t like it, leave when you’ve had your fill.
Maybe this storyline is going somewhere unexpected and wondrous. But by presenting that first issue as they did, Marvel and crew set up an expectation that either a) this is pretty damn disrespectful to Kirby’s legacy, or b) this is the kind of tawdry stunt-PR crap that’s destroying comics.
Would I know how to fix this error in the first comic? No. That would depend on knowing where they are going with this. And even then, it’d be hella-tricky. But as I said, it’s not the reader’s job to make it easy on the writer.
And Marvel knew this would cause a shitstorm. It’s why they had stories ready to go in major media outlets. I don’t feel all that sorry for the hatred they’re enduring, because they had to know this was part of the cost of doing business. They’re not surprised, they’re braced, and they’re hoping this generates new sales. I can’t feel all that bad for someone who purposely triggered a barrage of social media. (Especially when the writer of this storyline seems to be sniggering at the rage trollishly on Twitter, but Twitter’s a remarkably hard place to read strangers’ state of mind.)
And in my heart of hearts, I hope that I’m as wrong as I was when Mark Waid brought back the Flash. I stopped reading after that first “Barry Allen is back!” issue, and later picked up the back issues when someone told me that wow, this was way better than he’d thought, and even if it was ultimately option #3 on the Menu Of Grand Comics History Changes, it was perhaps the best Option #3 that anyone ever did.
So I’ll hope this is a good story, in time.
But I’ll also argue that when they’ve only given you this issue to ponder for the next month, it’s not wrong to base your decision to dislike it upon literally everything they’ve presented to you.
Oh, and one last thing about the guy who wrote this storyline:
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.
This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/538908.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.
Good People Often Stay Closeted. Good People Sometimes Stay Silent.|
Here’s the thing nobody denies: speaking out helps other people. Every time a gay person comes out, they help normalize “being gay” for other people. Every time a depressed person speaks openly about their struggle, they help to reduce the stigma of a crippling condition they didn’t ask to have. Every time someone smacks down racist or sexist talk in public, they help send the message that that kind of talk is not cool.
What few people mention is that those discussions help other people but may harm you.
We’ve all heard about the kid who came out as gay and his family disowned him. Someone openly admitting their mental health struggles can be passed over for promotions at work because, well, they’re crazy. Yelling at your friends for racist or sexist language can cost you friends – and it’s all well to go “Well, those aren’t the kinds of friends you should have!”, but that’s scant consolation when you’re lonely.
Speaking out hurts.
And yet there’s often this liberal narrative that good people burst out of the closet, muscles rippling, while these sad poisoned Gollum-like people stay within. If your game store is full of homophobic assholes, a good person would charge in there like a bull, call them on all their shit, face them down mano a mano until they bent underneath your herculean will!
What kind of weak asshole would just choose not to play at that store?
But here’s the truth: Speaking out helps other people, but protecting yourself is also a priority.
This does not make you a bad person.
Look: I’m openly polyamorous… now. But my wife and I were poly for several years before we acknowledged it on the Internets, and I’m not ashamed to say that we kept that shiz under wraps because we had two teenaged daughters who lived with their biological father. Maybe he’d be cool with our open marriage, or maybe he’d decide this was time to go to court to get the kids out of the hands of those perverts.
We had to weigh our desire to speak out against the very real cost of maybe not getting summer visits with our kids.
I don’t regret that choice one fucking bit. I regret not speaking out, of course. But in the end, it’s nice to do good by giving poly workshops and helping other poly couples feel represented and sharing my experiences… but I wouldn’t be able to do any of that anyway if I wasn’t able to talk to my kids, as I’d be too miserable to function.
Likewise, not everyone has the energy to fight grand battles at their schools or family meals or game stores – or even if they do, they don’t have the energy to fight every battle that comes along, because shit, you can grind yourself to dust grappling with every microaggression, and is it really worth the progress you’ll make if you destroy yourself along the way?
It’s not wrong to pick your battles. It’s not wrong to prioritize your own survival over forging paths for other people’s future benefits. You should fight wherever you can, of course, and don’t make the closeted gay Republican mistake of trashing your own people to fit in, but…
In the end, any good movement is about finding compassion. And we should celebrate the people who fight the good battles, because they make headway. But those stories all too often end like Christ Himself did, with some poor schmuck dying horribly and a weeping family and a legacy that only kicks into play years after the pain and the survivors have faded.
And your movement should be understanding enough to not view you as a soldier to be shot up in the front lines, but as a human with needs who deserves as much love and support as anyone else.
Your activism can be part-time, when you have the strength to do it. Not every combatant can be a warrior on the front lines; there should be room for guerrilla tactics, and spies, and even noncombatants who occasionally lend hugs to the people who need them.
You have to protect yourself so you can fight whenever you can, in whatever way you can. You might not be up for every battle. You might, in fact, be totally unable to fight some battles because you know that losing your kids or your parents or your social group is not something you can afford to do right now.
That’s okay. Protecting yourself does not make you a bad person. Find the places where you can afford to make change, but don’t beat yourself up for not being able to be as “bold” as other people, because part of this journey is in finding your own strengths and learning how you can contribute even with the very real compromises that everyone has to make.
Just don’t give up.
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.
This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/538867.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.
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