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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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August 3rd, 2016
10:17 am

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Understanding Trump: An Imperfect Guide From A Stunned Liberal

I’m not going to claim to understand all of Trump, because frankly, Trump’s nomination is the culmination of hundreds of intersecting cultural trends.  Anyone who claims to have a simple answer for Trump’s appeal and his rise to power and his history is lying as badly as, well, Trump.

But I have figured out a few things.

Trump’s Not A Good Liar.  America Wants To Believe Rich People.
The slightest fact-checking would tell you that Trump has always lied to the press, often when he didn’t need to, often in ways that are trivially verified.  I grew up in the shadow of New York City, so I’ve been watching Trump get away with flagrant and fragrant whoppers almost all my life.

Trump is an awful goddamned liar.  I’ve seen five-year-olds who lie better than he does.  You want to watch a good liar, watch Bill Clinton – his speech of “I did not have sex with that woman” was impassioned, believable, precise in what undeniable truths it left out, and took hard-dug evidence to contradict him.  That’s how you lie convincingly, folks.

But the horror show of America is that Trump doesn’t need talent.

We’re so in love with wealth that we assume anyone with money is telling the truth.

Trump’s always been a consummate bullshit artist, but he’s always had fans because he was born wealthy, and Americans are desperate to believe that wealth is the sign of talent and hard work.  (And, conversely, poverty is the sign of indolence and incompetence.)  To much of America, “having lots of money” means “You made smart decisions, so we should listen to you.”

Thankfully, I grew up Connecticut among trust fund kids, so I am deadened to that lie.  I’ve seen dumb, lazy kids given millions and still wind up with hundreds of thousands.  Being rich and well-connected means you can make catastrophic fuckups that would get other people jailed or bankrupted, and come out with more than most people have.

Now, some people have worked hard for their money and made wise decisions.  I support those guys.  But America’s inability to distinguish between “earned wealth” and “luck wealth” means that all millionaires are essentially self-made Gods to many, these greater-than-human people who don’t err.

People don’t fact-check Trump because that would break the illusion.  They need Trump to be someone who tells the truth, because otherwise millionaires might be fallible human beings, and deep inside they burn for the day when they become wealthy and perfect and inevitable.

We subsidize patently awful lies to keep this illusion going.  Which is why Trump has gotten away with it all along.

Part Of Why You’re Hearing Trump’s Flaws Is Because The Machine Is Turning On Him.  
I posted this Tweet this morning about how Trump asked, repeatedly, during a national security briefing, “…why can’t we use nuclear weapons?”

But.

Note that this unsourced accusation is from Morning Joe, a conservative talk show.  A talk show that, several months ago, was vaguely pro-Trump.

Note how he said this meeting happened “several months ago,” and yet somehow he’s only bringing this topic up now.

I’m not necessarily saying that the accusation is a lie.  In fact, I suspect it’s absolutely true.  (But that’s my anti-Trump bias showing.)

What I am saying is that the conservative party has always held a tight focus in what their journalists have been allowed to say, and Morning Joe would have lost viewers, support, guest access, and support had he allowed this to be spoken on his show when Donald Trump was in favor with the Powers That Be.

I’ve said that you have to keep in mind that the leaks you got about Hillary the DNC was orchestrated by Putin to affect the election.  You can get mad – because what happened there was suuuuuuper shitty – but also keep in mind that someone is purposely magnifying Hillary’s flaws to make her seem unelectable, and keep your outrage, if not checked, at least within a firm context that it’s part of a smear campaign.

Likewise, I loathe Trump, but a lot of the things that are being said by conservatives are things that are allowed to be said now, because key figures to conservative media have finally decided it’s okay to take a potshot at Trump to keep the party together.

Get mad.  But also remember that Trump hasn’t changed; what’s changed is the opinion of the guys who hold the reins on people like Morning Joe.  And you should be asking yourself, “Hmm, I wonder what stories from other Presidential candidates who sucked up more effectively got swept under the rug?”

Because, you know, several months ago Trump was baffled why he couldn’t lob nukes around like tennis balls.  You’re hearing about that now, along with all sorts of other things that are undermining his campaign.  All the facts that fit this “Trump is unfit to be President” narrative were there all along, it’s just that the media chose not to display that until now.

Question that process.

Trump Is What Happens When You Remove All Possibility Of Apologies.
People were shocked when Trump went after Khizr Khan, a grieving father of a decorated veteran. But that was Trump’s only strategy!

Look.  Trump is about two things that appeal to narrow, yet terrifying, portions of the electorate:

  • They want a strong candidate who’s not afraid to go toe-to-toe with anybody.
  • They want someone who never apologizes.

For a lot of people, “an apology” is a weakness.  It means you did something wrong – and remember when I said the people who believed Trump were seeking someone who’s infallible?  They don’t want a President, they want a Godhead who dispenses perfect decisions the first time, every time.

Any time Trump breaks that narrative of “Trump is never wrong,” he loses core votes.

So you can’t apologize.  What’s left?  Well, you could ignore the remarks, but strategically, then you look weak if enough people are addressing it – and Trump’s gotta go toe-to-toe.  Once an issue gets enough media attention, which Khizr Khan’s speech did, Trump can’t afford to not bring it up.

So what are Trump’s options?

He’s gotta go on the attack.  When you can’t back down, and you can’t ignore, the only option is to go assault the person and tear them down until they’re no longer a worthy opponent.  You’ve got to go after their moral standing so the things they said are compromised; that’s exactly what he did with Hillary.

And I’m not saying this is a campaign strategy, but it’s the sad strategy of the Alpha Dog who believes very firmly in status.  If someone’s risen to a challenging status, you have to lower their status.

I doubt that even Trump understands what he’s doing, but watch his Tweets – he’s literally confused by the concept that someone, anyone, would get to say nasty things about him and he’s not allowed to respond.  Alpha Dogs can’t ignore threats, and he perceives himself as the ultimate dog.  WHY SHOULD I BE LEASHED.

That’s why he lies all the time.  He can’t say “I was wrong,” because that would indicate weakness.  Instead, he pretends he never said what he said and never did what he did.  This is what happens when you remove “Yeah, my bad” from the equation.

(And if, as a conservative, you’re upset at what Trump has done, keep in mind that y’all opened the door to this when you mocked Kerry’s war record in 2004. Either veterans are deserving of respect no matter when they disagree with you, or you’re mocking a decorated veteran by wearing “Purple Heart” bandages to show that any idiot can get the medal. That is on you.)

Why Does Trump Appeal To Poor White Voters? 
I don’t pretend to know.  But I think this interview with J.D. Vance, who wrote a book called Hillbilly Elegy, which discusses the motivations of the white working poor, talks a lot about how desperation and culture affects you. I’d definitely read that; I plan to buy his book.

That said – and read that guy more than me – I’d remind you that “dignity” is a thing that people will literally kill for.  People will tolerate being poor, as long as they’re seen as worthy members of the community.  But they cannot tolerate being shunned or mocked.  And the saddest lesson of history, shown time and time again, is that folks who get the shaft will almost always listen to comforting lies that assure them their lives are worthwhile.

The rise of Trump is fundamentally an upper-class liberal failure.  When we bitch about hicks and idiots, we’re exacerbating the problem.  I’m not sure how to reach to them, because part of the issue is that I don’t connect to people like that on a regular basis.  (I know a lot of poor people, but they’re all Democrats like me.)  But I am smart enough to know that this failure to connect is an issue.

Which is not to say that the people who vote for Trump are somehow correct in what they do, or free from unexamined racism.  But I think the only way to change that culture is to interact with it in more positive and less dismissive ways, and that’s something upper-class liberal twits like me have consistently failed at.

We need to do better.  I need to do better.

But again, read that interview.  And maybe the book.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/551506.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

(25 shouts of denial | Tell me I'm full of it)

09:22 am

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My WorldCon Schedule! Come And Say Hi To A Ferrett!

Friday, 8:30 pm: Ferrett Reads From Fix!
If you’re looking for a sneak preview from the next book in the ‘Mancer series, I’ll be reading the chapter where Aliyah starts out playing a soccer game and ends up destroying large swathes of Kentucky.  And I will be reading it dramatically.

Saturday, 5:00 pm: Ferrett Signs Books!
I’ll be signing in the same room with John Scalzi, so I’ll just sit there with a sign saying “MY BOOK’S NOT AS GOOD BUT MY LINE IS SHORTER.”

(As usual, I will be so happy to be there that I’ll sign anything.  Doesn’t necessarily have to be my book.  Or even a book.  If I can put a pen on it, I’ll sign it.)

Friday, 2:00 – 3:00 pm: Second Childhood: Cartoons For Adults
Hear me squee about Steven Universe and Adventure Time with several people on a panel!  Because I assure you, I can squee about Steven Universe ALL DAY.

Entire Convention: Hey, Text Me.
If you wanna get a lunch or a dinner or hang out at some point, I’m amenable.  This is a light schedule, and I’m there to say hello to people, so if you’re there let’s find someplace to meet!

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/551392.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

(6 shouts of denial | Tell me I'm full of it)

August 2nd, 2016
09:57 am

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How Pokemon Go Simulates The Ravages Of Old Age Though Terrible Game Design

Want to know what it’s like to go senile?  Pokemon Go is the perfect way for teenagers to experience what it’s like to get old, so much so that I presume your trainer just dies when he hits level 30.

Because in Pokemon Go, you start out as a young and hale Pokemon trainer at the top of his game.  Every monster is capturable.  You can track down monsters easily, and the rewards for getting them are plentiful.  The world is your oyster.

But as you level up, old age settles in.  Your senses dull.  Monsters you once tracked easily become findable only with great effort, and by today you can’t even find them at all – you know, maddeningly, that the Clefairy you so desperately seek is somewhere in the neighborhood, but deafened and blinded, you have no idea where it might be.

Your grip weakens, too, as you level up.  Trivial Pokemon that once took a single ball to capture now require you to weakly lob five or six balls with your arthritic, useless hands.  The rewards you used to get for accuracy and skill get removed, so the 50 extra XP you used to get for a nice throw no longer count – presumably because you’re so bitter and jaded that you no longer believe you deserve reward for an excellent throw.

Other games, foolishly, have equated “levelling up” with “more power” and “greater skill.”  Pokemon Go breaks with that tradition by demonstrating that levelling up is merely crawling closer to the nursing home – with each level and Pokemon Go patch, you lose power and skill.

I’m level 19 now, and I dread becoming level 20 because I can barely catch a Weedle as it is, and how do the poor bastards of level 24 shuffle about?

You may think I’m kidding here: I’m not.  Thanks to a combination of poor game design and inexplicably terrible patches, Pokemon Go has become a game that actively punishes you for playing it, and players are not happy about this.

Let me first explain how I play Pokemon Go, however, because there’s two ways you can play the game.  A lot of people are concerned about levelling up their biggest Pokemon so they can battle for dominancy of the gym markers placed all over the map.  Personally, that’s of no interest to me.  Pokemon Go released in summer, which means that teenagers and college kids have nothing to do except squat near their gyms and battle.  If I, the underlevelled fortysomething, do manage to squeeze a Vaporeon into the gym, the seven camp kids squatting near the Rocky River pool will ensure I’m kicked out in short order.

No, I play Pokemon Go for Pokemon’s very mandate:

Gotta catch ’em all.

There are a hundred and fifty or so Pokemon, and the only way to catch them is to go wandering for great distances in real life.  My wife and I, who know little about Pokemon, get a thrill every time we find a Pokemon we didn’t know about – “What the hell is that magnet thing?  Look at that” we cry happily, as one of us captures some weird-ass beast we had no clue existed.

We could look up the list of Pokemon on the Internet.  We don’t.  For us, as for many people, the joy is in the exploration.

And Niantec has actively started punishing us for exploring.

In the beginning, the game gave you a list of Pokemon in your neighborhood, along with a rough estimate as to how far you needed to walk to get them.  You had no directional element – but you knew there was a Ponyta roaming through this Target parking lot somewhere, and you could play an elaborate game of cold/hot to find it.

After a few weeks, Niantec removed this feature.  Now you could see the Pokemon in your neighborhood, but they were only sorted by distance.  You couldn’t tell how far away you were, only that you were closer to the Ponyta than you were this useless frickin’ Weedle.

And now, with the latest update, Niantec has removed the order.  You can only see the Pokemon in your neighborhood.  You don’t know which direction to go, merely that they’re within about a half a mile of you.  Good luck!

If you started playing from the first week, in the last month you have watched your ability to find Pokemon degrade.  That’s Pokemon Senility, Part One.

Now, “finding Pokemon” is pretty much the largest reason people play – so much so that there are multiple sites that fake geolocations to map out the Pokemon in your neighborhood.   Or there were.  Niantec has shut them down, ostensibly because they were overloading the server – but their game trailer promised that you’d be able to find Pokemon by direction and distance, so basically Niantec has eliminated third-party services that provided what they promised.

Want to find a rare, specific Pokemon?  Hell with you, buddy.  Now you can’t.  And by the way, we’re going to punish you for wanting to do anything else while you’re hunting for rare Pokemon.

Punish?  How?  Well, as every Pokemon player knows, your local neighborhood is infested with Com Mons – Pidgeys and Rattatas are everywhere.  You will, quite literally, find Pidgeys and Rattatas on every corner, sometimes two or three at a time…

…and you will hardly find anything else, if you live in a “Pokedesert” like I am.  See, Pokemon are generated according to the number of people playing Pokemon Go in your local area.   If you live in a big city, rare Pokemon spawn all the time, because the game goes “Oh, there’s fifty people there, let’s drop some good loot.”  But if you’re walking through the sleepy suburbs Rocky River, you will hardly ever find a Pikachu – just Pigeons and Rats everywhere.

Which would be fine, if the game encouraged you to capture pigeons and rats.  But as you level up, it encourages you not to.

See, Pokemon Go’s way of encouraging you to make in-game purchases is Not Subtle. In fact, it’s so blatant that it literally makes you feel feeble.  Because as you level up, Pokemon become much more likely to escape your tossed balls, until eventually a Pidgey that would have taken a single ball at level 5 suddenly starts requiring four or five balls.

Now, admittedly, quietly ramping up the difficulty on pay-to-play games is a long-standing tradition.  Seriously; go read this article on a guy who’s spent $9,000 on his iPhone game, it’s terrifying.  But Game of War has tons of fiddly options that confuse the user – which doesn’t sound like a strength, but at least when the game screws you over, your dignity is preserved because you’re not sure what’s happening.

Pokemon Go has so few stats that it’s blatantly apparent the game is jacking you.  Pokemon have a single rating: Combat Power.  And you know that at level 12, getting a Pidgey at CP 45 never took more than a single ball, but when at level 18 it takes two or three balls to capture it, there’s no denying the game is making you less effective as you climb the ranks.

And that Pidgey breaking loose is maddening, because you don’t even want the Pidgey.  You’ve captured literally hundreds of Pidgeys, and if your goal is to “catch ’em all,” then Pidgeys are an active annoyance because they’re taking up a spot that maybe an exciting Staryu or a Bulbasaur might occupy.

Why would you try?  Because the game is boring otherwise.  You’re just looking for some small entertainment while you’re endlessly wandering around, hoping a Squirtle appears.  Having it burn up four or five of your precious supply of Pokeballs, particularly in Poke-dry areas where you can’t refill them except by buying them or driving to better locations, means that when a Squirtle does hove into view you might not have the balls left to capture him.

(Oh, and Niantec inexplicably removed the XP reward for super-accurate throwing of your Pokeball.  That didn’t matter when your reward was a rare Pokemon, but removing rewards when all you’re getting is a Pidgey makes the grindy parts even grindier and less fun.)

So you wander, the game encouraging you not to interact with its low-level entertainments, rendering you unable to find its high entertainments.   And you can’t have the game on in the background, you can’t text while you have Pokemon Go on, you can’t do anything but Pokemon Go and maybe have some tunes on.

Basically, Pokemon Go demands PAY ATTENTION TO ME and then, as you level up, actively punishes you for trying to interact with what it offers the most often, and has taken away the tools that allow you to find the things you want.

That is the epitome of bad game design.

And unless Niantec can deal with this problem, it’s going to start hemorrhaging users soon; oh wait, it already has.  Unsurprisingly, people don’t like feeling stupid, and the entire game is currently devoted to making its most invested users feel feeble.

They can fix this; I know the stated issue is “server overload,” but honestly if the game allowed me to home in on rare Pokemon, I’d be okay with it not working more often.  Helping you find rare Pokemon is a must-have feature in a game that is about capturing and exploration; otherwise, why do I even have this thing on?

Likewise, yes, technically speaking we’re “encouraged” to buy Pokeballs when the game ramps the level up.  But that ramp is so apparent, and for Pokemon we actively have come to hate, that we’re more likely to quit the game out of disgust, or only check it when we’re in a high-traffic zone.

This game is broken, and broken in a way that screws over its most heavily-invested users.  It can be fixed, but that’s gonna require communication – Niantec is infamously closed-mouthed, but an announcement of “We know how important Pokemon-tracking is, we’re working on that, it’s our top priority” would keep me playing more because I’d know they knew why I was playing.

As it is, Niantec looks clueless.  That’s not a good look.  Especially when you’ve taken an interesting game and patched out all the features the “Gotta catch ’em all” people liked.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/551012.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

(20 shouts of denial | Tell me I'm full of it)

August 1st, 2016
10:13 am

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Fighting The Last-Book Hangover, Or: An Overly-Revealing Look Into The Writing Process

So as y’all should know by now, I’ve been live-writing my latest book The Song That Shapes The World to raise funds for the Clarion Science Fiction Workshop.

I’m now going to trash three weeks’ worth of work.

It’s not because what I’ve written over the last few weeks is bad.  It’s typical first-draft stuff that needs cleaning, but it’s a strong start: a musician fleeing an abusive marriage stumbles into the mystical world of Backstage, where once every decade they have a Battle of the Bands that determines the song that shapes the multiverse.  I like the lead character.  She’s got depth I could explore in a different manuscript.

But she’s the wrong character for the book I want to write.

The book I initially described was “Pitch Perfect with magic.”  I want something that is, if not light, at least full of weirdness and humor and bizarre situations.  I want friendship.  I want oddball.

And what I wrote was mundane, everyday angst.

Now, I know why I wrote angst: it’s a last-book hangover.  See, the manuscript I finished before this one is the as-yet-unsold Savor Station – which is, hands-down, the best thing I have written.  And that novel is mournful and elegaic, because, well it’s the story of a prince who’s been starved of everything good in life (including food and dignity) and regains strength by finding the finest restaurant in all the stars.

And I hit that book so out of the park that when I started writing The Song That Shapes The World I was like, “The last time I wrote a very sad person in a dire situation, I wrote a great novel, soooooo…. let’s do that again!”  I even, I am shamed to admit, went back and reread the opening to Savor Station to go, “Okay, how can I duplicate that?”

But rehashing what I did well last time is not delivering what got me excited about this.  I could make a good book about this, but that book wouldn’t be “Pitch Perfect with magic,” it’d be “Savor Station with music.” And while it’d be nice if my muse decided to write tonally-consistent books, apparently I write novels like I write short stories – continually switching valences.

(Rich Horton, noted short story reviewer, met me at a party and said that I was notable for the way no two of my short stories sounded alike.  He did not make this sound like this was actually a strength.)

I could continue and write a book I’m capable of writing, or I could set everything on fire to write the book I am thrilled to write.

Yet!  This is a fantastically interesting situation!  Because what I’m going to do is swap out the lead character and write the exact same story, and show you how the story needs to change when the protagonist changes!

Gone is Gwendolyn of old, who’s practiced in her husband’s recording studio for three years but has never been certain of her talent before live audiences.

Arrived is Gwendolyn the new, the samurai musician, who sees fame as a virus.  She hitchhikes from obscure bar to obscure bar, waiting months between performances, playing for people who don’t even know she’s supposed to be there.

In both cases, the Gwendolyns stumble into a bar, hoping to play.

In both cases, the Gwendolyns flee the bar and head to the mystical world of Backstage.

In both cases, the Gwendolyns meet the dragon-riding, cello-playing nemesis who escorts them into this bold new world.

But what you get to see – at least if you donate and get your membership for the Clarion Echo blog I’m doing – is how a book’s plot is tailored to its protagonist’s weaknesses and strengths.  This isn’t a matter of swapping out personalities – a story’s elements are about showcasing what the protagonist can do and jabbing at their weak spots, and so the bar that Gwendolyn the old walked into would be no challenge at all for Gwendolyn the new.

The bar changes.  The people changes.  The attitude changes.

And if you donate $10, you get to see how mutable a world is when a writer’s starting out.  You can read the old chapters, then see the new chapters as I write ’em, weigh in, maybe help me refine the magic system a bit.  And you do that by donating the cost of a couple of coffees to the Clarion Foundation, which is a good cause that helps writers.

Anyway.  I’m starting that tonight.  You can come watch.

I’m kinda excited about this.

So as always, here’s the steps to do this:

Step #1: Donate at least $10 to the Clarion Foundation.  More is good if you can spare it.  You don’t have to donate in my name or anything, because honestly, their Write-a-Thon webpage forms are dreadful.

Step #2: If you don’t already have one, create a LiveJournal account.  Rejoice in this feeling of web page time-travel, as one suspects there’s not a lot of new LJ accounts created!

Step #3: Email theferrett@theferrett.com with your Clarion receipt and your LiveJournal handle, with a header of “HEY FERRETT LET ME IN.”  I’ll do the mystical LJ gestures to get you access.

Step #4: Watch me figure out how to introduce you to the new Gwendolyn and her new challenges.

Step #5: Share this post if ya can!

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/550803.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

(1 shout of denial | Tell me I'm full of it)

09:06 am

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A Different World. A Better World. A Noble World.

(NOTE: On Friday night, raw and exhausted, I posted this essay to my FetLife account through a faltering Internet connection.  And I debated whether I wanted to publish this one here, on the open web, as it’s intensely personal to me.  But I ultimately decided it was the second part of a longer essay I’d started with “Yes, Of Course” – and as such, am posting it exactly as I’d written it then with no edits.)

So last night, I drove out three hours and took a day off from work to hold my girlfriend’s hand for about an hour.

She was going in for surgery. She’s shit-scared of surgery. I’ve seen her beautiful eyes go wide as she says “No, no, no, I do NOT want any needles” and there were no needles around, just her memory of needles. So for her to be wheeled into a cold place where they were going to cut her open…

She would have made it without me. But it would have been worse. So I went.

And it was a weird day. I spent a lot of it in that liminal space between “sorta family” and “maybe not” – her dad was there, and so was her mom, and they know about me and they like me but I’m not, you know, her husband. Everyone was perfectly pleasant but there was always that weird hum of “Hi, I’m new here” even though we’ve been dating for over a year because yeah, hi, family emergency oh and look who’s here.

(And like many times of comfort, it’s hard to tell how effective you are. She tells me – and I believe her – that she only got through it as well as she did because I was there. Yet aside from a couple of tight “Don’t you fucking let go of me” moments, she looked fine. Some days, you really could use an alternate world where you peer through a window to a crying wreck and have them say, “See? That’s who I would have been this morning without you.”)

Anyway, the surgery went without a hitch, and a few hours later they rolled my love back in. And there was a brief pause because her husband went in to see her, and then her Mom and Dad went in, and there I was in the waiting room like a schmuck and eventually they brought me in and her husband and I got her back to her feet and out the hospital door and home.

Then I went to my hotel, because frankly, she was sleepy and needed rest, not “Time with Ferrett.”

And here I am. In a hotel room on the ass-end of Pennsylvania, alone, except.

Except.

She said something.

She said something magnificent.

When I saw her she was zonked out, like you are after they’ve put you down deep enough to cut you open without waking you. But eventually she told me, “Yeah. They kept asking me ‘Who’s waiting out there for you in the lobby?’ and I I told them ‘My husband and my boyfriend’ and they stammered and asked like six times and I kept saying, “My husband, and my boyfriend.’ And eventually I just told them, ‘Look, I lead an alternative lifestyle, all right?’ and they did the surgery.”

I keep thinking about that.

Because even for me, who’s pretty much as out as someone can be about polyamory, there’s still so much secrecy that it fucking burns.

“Ah, yes, this is my wife I’m checking into with this hotel room, sure.”

“Kids, this is Ferrett, he’s a… friend.”

“I met him at a – oh, well, a conference, I guess.”

And it’s never *meant* to be an erasure, it’s always with acquaintances or strangers or kids who don’t necessarily need to know who Mommy is fucking. It’s a thousand “Do I want to open this discussion with the clerk at the Holiday Inn?”s and “How much do my co-workers need to know?” and “My family’s got a couple of conservative fundamentalists, I don’t want this shit blowing up on Facebook.”

They’re not quite lies, but they’re not quite truths, either.

And they’re good reasons, you know? I want to be a value-added. I don’t want to stir up a fuss in anyone’s life. Hell, half the time I’m um-erring at someone I’ve just met, deciding whether I want to be someone’s educational experience today, and so how can I really blame someone for not wanting to blast my name out to everyone?

Yet my girlfriend did not give a fuck. She was exhausted, and tired, and when she was stripped raw the last thing she wanted to give up was to acknowledge the love that was sitting out there in that lobby for her and fuck, I’m crying now.

But it’s a moment. It’s a moment where her don’t-give-a-fuck punched a hole through to another world where I saw what it might be like not to have really good reasons not to just be buried under a tide of assumptions, and in that moment our love felt realer than it ever had before, this thing where yeah, we don’t live together and we’re never going to get married and we’ll never have once-a-week dates and all the traditional pathways designated as “serious about each other” somehow didn’t fucking matter.

We don’t call each other, but I’ll drive out to hold her hand when she needs me.

We only get to see each other once every couple of months, but she’ll fucking face down a bunch of surgeons in the place of her to tell them, Give that man respect for what he is.

And I get shit sometimes because my relationships don’t look like the relationships traditionally considered “deep,” and sometimes I buy into that. Maybe I’m shallow. Maybe my girlfriends just function because they don’t ask too much.

Then moments like that happen and I remember what love is.

I’m alone in a hotel room. Ironically, I’m texting her. She’s still up, still talking to me, and with luck I’ll see her tomorrow and go to her parents’ house for breakfast.

I love her.

I love her.

I love her.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/550565.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

(11 shouts of denial | Tell me I'm full of it)

July 28th, 2016
10:25 am

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“Yes, Of Course.”

So my sweetie C. is going in for surgery tomorrow. She’s shit-scared of hospitals, uncertain of what the surgery means, and terrified.

I’ll be driving down to hold her hand in the hospital.

And the sole pleasant thing about this ugly turn of events is that this is a twinned decision. My wife Gini and I had a weekend planned together at home after a bunch of visits and travel, the long slow weekend where we’d curl up and reconnect. We’d both been looking forward to that.

Yet when C. texted me with her medical results, and it was clear that surgery was the only option for removal, I shared them with Gini. And she said, “Yes, of course you have to be down there. She’ll be terrified.”

That’s because our partners aren’t partners, but our friends.

This is a consistent pattern. When one of my sweeties was – and is – experiencing legal trouble with their visa to America, Gini kept asking what she could do to help reduce F’s anxiety about possibly having to leave the country. “Yes, of course we must help them.” When another sweetie needed some emergency supplies sent to her, Gini authorized the expenditure without a second thought – “Yes, of course she needs that, send it to her now.”

I should note that Gini is not dating any of these people. They’re my partners alone. Yet Gini’s had dinner with them, hung out, heard me talk about them. She cares.

And that goes both ways. When Gini’s partner wound up in the hospital, I asked her whether she needed to go to him. As it turns out, she didn’t; every partner is different, and her boyfriend was suitably stoic that he neither needed nor wanted hand-holding.

(For the record, when I had my heart attack, I told Gini to stay at her boyfriend’s place that night and catch up with me in the morning, there was nothing she could do in the ER except sleep shittily in a crappy bucket seat and the nurses were taking care of me. I panic about many things, but hospitals are not one of them; we all have our individual times when we need someone to hug us.)

But when her partner was in trouble, I said, “Yes, of course.” Just that the “of course” was Gini slightly spent more time texting him.

What I’m grateful for in our relationships is that we don’t endure each others’ partners, we embrace them.

And part of that is me changing my dating habits. I used to have a lot of churn in my love life, having torrid two-month relationships with scores of partners. Those partners were of varying levels of compatibility with me, and I wasn’t good at filtering out the good people whose needs just didn’t mesh with mine, so Gini was pleasant but she didn’t get attached. How could she? If she really liked someone, the average time I spent dating was about four months!

But as I’ve honed the concept of my polyamorous Justice League, my partners are much better suited for me; everyone I’ve been dating now, I’ve been seeing for at least a year. And Gini’s had time to see how they’re good for me, and to know them well enough to understand why I love them (even if she doesn’t necessarily have the time or inclination to date them herself), and so when something bad comes up….

Her natural reaction is “Yes, of course.”

I’ll be driving tonight to see C. And Gini and I have already rescheduled our reconnection date for next weekend, when hopefully we’ll see movies and snuggle and catch up.

But tomorrow, there’s someone who is terrified of doctors who’ll be in a cold hospital bed. And she’ll have her family there, and she’ll have her friends there.

She’ll also have me.

Of course.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/550317.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

(8 shouts of denial | Tell me I'm full of it)

09:54 am

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If You Feel Like Buying Fan Art of Valentine….

My friend Bill is now selling prints of his fantastic Valentine fan art.  Which, if you’ll recall, looks like this:

Flex Fan Art: Final, Colored Edition!

I told him I didn’t think he’d sell that many prints, but he was free to do so. (I don’t get a dime; that’s beautiful art, so I told him he could keep the profits.)  So there it is, gorgeous as always!  Check it out if you wanna.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/549893.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

(Tell me I'm full of it)

July 27th, 2016
10:06 am

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So What’s A Post With 24,000 Facebook “Likes” Get You?

On Monday, I posted my essay “Oh, For Fuck’s Sake: A Gentle Talk With My Republican, Democrat, And Undecided Friends.”  By this morning, it’s up to 24,000 Facebook “likes” in a viral politigasm.

Which is weird. I’ve gone viral before, most notably for my essays “Dear Daughter: I Hope You Have Awesome Sex” and “Can I Buy You A Coffee?”  And I’ve found that those who haven’t gone viral have the wrong impressions about how this works, so let’s bust a few impressions:

1)  You Don’t Get Famous.  The Essay Does.  
The next day, I wrote a followup to the “For Fuck’s Sake” essay called “Why Your Presidential Protest Vote Is A Wretched Idea,” and as of now that essay’s got 170 likes on Facebook total.

That demonstrates that when you go viral, 99.9% of the people show up for that essay, read, and leave.  Hardly anyone goes, “Oh, I’ll read what else this fellow had to say!” and proceeds to trawl your blog.  You’re a one-stop entertainment, worthy because someone’s friends linked them there, and then you go.

It’s nice to have that level of attention for a while, but people tend to think, “Oh, you’re famous!”  No.  That essay has been widely read.  I doubt most of its readers could pick me out of a lineup.

2)  A Viral Post Doesn’t Sell Your Books.
You may note I have my three books for sale, and I didn’t notice any significant bump in sales on the Amazon sales rankings.  (Well, okay, I saw a bump, but that’s because my book Flex is on sale for $2.99 this week.)  Again, people liked what I had to say, but most of them ghosted afterwards.  Which is normal.  (And fine with me.  I don’t write essays to sell books, as a rule.)

Now, sometimes, if a post blows up huge, you’ll get offers related to that post.  When “Dear Daughter” passed half a million likes – still my high-water mark! – on the Good Men Project and the Huffington post, I got an agent asking me if I wanted to turn that essay into a book, because they had a publisher who’d expressed interest.  I told them “No, but I have this novel” and they went, “Nah” and disappeared.

3)  …But It Kinda Does.  
If you’re looking to sell books, blogging is the long con.

See, when I published my webcomic “Home on the Strange,” I noticed a weird pattern: I’d have a huge hit, with 10,000 people linking to our Doctor-Who-As-Jesus strip or our alternate ending to Harry Potter, and then the next comic would be bare-bones normal in terms of traffic.

But the overall numbers kept creeping up.

Eventually, I came up with my “Pepsi machine” theory – which is to say that a fan is like a big, cumbersome Pepsi machine that you’re looking to tip over.  Hardly anyone tips over a Pepsi machine in one muscular push.  No, you gotta rock them, a little at a time, until eventually they sorta wobble over.

Likewise, most people – me included! – have established habits.  I hit the same six webcomics every morning.  Adding a new webcomic to my list?  For no apparent reason, that seems like an effort.  But if a webcomic keeps getting linked to by my friends, with each visit I’ll think, “Oh, I should come here more often!” and then I don’t.

Eventually, I accrete enough good will that all right, I’ll add this to my regular trawl, and suddenly I’m a fan.

Likewise, I have a lot of fans (comparative to the normal person, not at all comparative to a true celebrity), but they’ve all arrived in dribs and drabs; some liked Home on the Strange, others liked my essays, others liked my books.  Most of them had to see me around a lot before they eventually started reading me regularly, for whatever definition of “regularly” counts.

I’m not going to have 24,000 fans tomorrow.  But I’ll probably walk away from this with maybe fifty people who now read me regularly.  Maybe five will read my book, maybe two will like it enough to recommend it to other people.

That’s actually a decent ratio.

Which is why I wouldn’t recommend this method if you don’t actually enjoy blogging. It works, but it’s like panning for gold; lots of time knee-deep in mud, a few flecks.

Better enjoy the outdoors.

4)  Hardly Anyone Knows What Goes Viral.  
There’s a couple of people who know how to go viral easily – I see Chuck Wendig churning out essays once a month that everyone seems to link to, and I go, “Man, even accounting for his larger audience, that guy knows how to connect.”

The rest of us have no idea what connects, or why.

Look.  “Dear Daughter” was an angry essay I wrote in fifteen minutes on my lunch hour, and that writing will probably be referenced in my obituary.   “For Fuck’s Sake” was a Sunday evening writing which I put a lot of thought into, but I’ve written a lot of thoughtful pieces and I still don’t quite know why that one took off.

I just write a lot, and about once every eighteen months, one catches fire.  And I assure you, if I knew how to craft essays that consistently drew 24,000 Facebook “likes,” I would.  Even now, I have no clue why that “For Fuck’s Sake” essay launched into the stratosphere versus my usual political rantings – it feels about the same to me, but it resonated with others.

Every so often on FetLife, some moe without an audience will get a wild hair up their ass, belligerently bumping chests with people who do have an audience to say, “Why don’tcha write an essay anonymously, HANH?  Why don’tcha prove that it’s the WORDS that make you popular, but your AUDIENCE?”

Well, first off, why the fuck do you think my audience – such as it is – sticks around?  Because I’m writing things they think are shitty?  Come on.

But secondly, if you think “writing an essay” is “one shot, one kill,” then you’re wrong.  I’ve written probably ten thousand essays.  Of them, three have gone viral enough to spread across the Internet.  The Venn diagram between “What I consider quality” and “What resonates with people” is a mystery indeed.

Oh, I’m confident that if I wrote a lot of essays under a pseudonym, I’d eventually regain my current levels of notoriety.  But expecting one essay to be as popular as, say, “Dear Daughter”?

The only person who could say that is someone who doesn’t fucking write.

5)  Your Reputation Sticks With You, Though.  
As mentioned, maybe people couldn’t pick you out of a lineup, but they get a rough impression about who you are.  There’s a lot of people who don’t read me who know that I’m loudly polyamorous and sex-positive, I’m left-of-center even though I’d like to be considered center, that I’m depressive and occasionally psychodramatic.

Lots of people really don’t like me for any of those.

So when I meet people at conventions, I sometimes have folks doing the stop-and-stare moment of “Do I want to talk to this asshole?”  They have formed an opinion of me from my writings, and they do not like me.  Sometimes they make excuses and GTFO.

Which is why I’m always baffled when people are like, “Oh, Ferrett just makes up shit to start controversy!”  No, man. I get enough side-eye for the things I believe.  There are real-world consequences to my writing, and as a dude with social anxiety I assure you I feel every one.

There are doubtlessly people who do start up controversies for “fun” – I’ve met them, scrappy assholes who want to start “a feud” to “get traffic” – and they’re usually people with small audiences.  And I wonder whether they’re so enthused over these mock-fights because they’re never planning on going out in public where their rep is attached to their face.  And after a couple of thoroughly faked essays, I wonder if they’ve lost any friends.

But me?  I put my face and my books on these essays, because if one goes viral and I wind up getting shit on by a thousand people for some opinion I’ve opined, I want that shit to be from people I actually don’t like.  I’ve got enthusiastic Trump supporters leaving insulting comments, but hey, I’m okay pissing off those people.

Like I said: most people can’t tell what’s going to be a hit or not.  So pretending to be an asshole in the hopes that someone pays attention to you?  Seems like small pay for idiotic work.  You probably won’t go viral, but you’ll have real-life people who read you – if you have real-life people – believing you’re either a genuine asshole, or a manipulative fake asshole, and I’m not sure what’s worse.

You may think I’m an asshole, but at least it’s for things I believe.

 

 

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/549692.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

(1 shout of denial | Tell me I'm full of it)

July 26th, 2016
10:23 am

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My Book’s On Sale For $2.99 At Barnes and Noble This Week!

If for some reason you have not read my book Flex – which features snortable magic drugs, a paperwork magician who turns his filing cabinet into an FBI hacking device, and a chubby videogamemancer who enjoys pegging – then you can get it at Barnes and Noble for $2.99 this week!

(NOTE: Amazon usually matches B&N’s prices, but I’m not checking there because B&N instigated this sale, and you should throw ’em the cash if you’ve got a Nook.  But wherever you buy it is good.)

As an extra-special reminder, the finale to the ‘Mancer trilogy is coming out in six weeks, and you can preorder Fix.  (In fact, if you want to support an author, you should always preorder their books.)  If you’re a fan of the series, @Gaileyfrey Twitter-reviewed it last night, and she had this to say:

Y’all have read FLEX and FLUX right

Hell yeah you have, you love great speculative fiction

WELL FERRETT DID IT AGODDAMNGAIN with FIX

Here’s what I will tell you: BADASS SUPERMAGIC TWEEN GIRL ON A MISSION TO FIND HERSELF AND SAVE THE WORLD AND SAVE HER FAMILY

I’m just going to be over here changing how I write young characters because @ferretthimself RUINED IT by showing how BEST to write a tween

[grumping] like it wasn’t bad enough he schooled us all in worldbuilding now he’s gotta go and raise the bar for young female characters too

TL;DR: – @ferretthimself is a jerk – go preorder FIX immediately

I’ll be a jerk for that.  So in short:

Message ends.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/549521.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

(4 shouts of denial | Tell me I'm full of it)

09:44 am

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Oh, For Fuck’s Sake: Why Your Presidential Protest Vote Is A Wretched Idea

Pop Quiz: What do you think when I say “President Bill Clinton”?

All right, your first thought is probably “the bawdy things you can do with a cigar.”  (Ah, Billy.)  But then your mind likely wanders to Clinton’s Presidential accomplishments; if you’re a conservative, you fret at all the damage he did, if you’re a liberal you think of the economic prosperity he wrought.  Eight years in office is a long time.

Now: How many of you thought of Bill Clinton and thought, “He was elected because voters were sick of the two-party system?”

Ah, but that’s arguably true!  People forget that Ross Perot was the third-party candidate in that election, acquiring 18.9% of the popular vote – more than any independent candidate in modern history.  And while mostly Perot held relatively even support between conservatives and liberals, conventional wisdom is that Perot siphoned away votes away from Bush – the first Bush – to help tilt the race in Clinton’s favor.*

Did you remember that?

Or did you remember “EIGHT YEARS OF DEMOCRAT IN OFFICE”?

See, that’s the problem with Presidential protest voting.  You think you’re sending a message, but the guy who wins the Presidency hears “I won, I get to do what I think is best.”  The guy who loses maybe hears a message, but that guy lost.  And after two years of President-in-office, all those Presidential protest votes evaporate in people’s memories to become, well, another Democrat or a Republican won.

Note that I’m saying Presidential protest votes.  Because here’s the thing: if you want to make legitimate change in what is and has always been a corrupt system, placing a single vote in the ultimate winner-take-all race is the worst fucking idea ever.

You want to change that system because it’s corrupt or nonrepresentative or what-have-you?  Well, there’s a sliding scale here:

Voting in Presidential races to change the two-party system?  You might as well poop your vote onto toilet paper.

Voting in Congressional races?  Better.  You have a chance of being heard.

Voting in midterm Congressional races?  Now you’re getting golden.  Midterm races are where only the ancient and entrenched vote, and a fresh face showing up when there’s not the Presidential dog-and-pony-race has an actual chance at producing change.

Writing letters and emails to Congressmen while they’re still in office, telling them what you will or will not support?  Oh, you’re approaching the beatifics now, my friends.  The truth is that most corruption isn’t actually hidden. It’s out in the open.  We all know how much the NRA is paying politicians, we know how much the Koch brothers are pouring into races.  But no one cares.  If you care, well, that’s one politician who has to worry about losing your vote.

Voting smartly for local candidates?  Oh my God, that’s right, your state governor and mayor and other officials exist, and chances are really good a few hundred votes can make a difference.  Hell, mayors have gotten flung out of office because some old fart didn’t like the way the trash collectors left their cans on the lawn and mounted a crusade, so if you want to make a change, hey, start here.

And the absolute thing that will guarantee a change insofar as any one person can make a change?

Volunteer.  Get out there and canvas.  Get the local politicians indebted to you.  Get voters on your side.

That’s how you make a difference.

I’m not saying not to vote in the Presidential elections.  I am saying that the Presidential elections are the accumulated corruption of literally the entire country funneled through an avalanche of votes, and if you think you can change the system by showing up once every four years and spending ten minutes standing in line, then fuck are you egotistic.

Look, if you’re a disenfranchised Democrat who was disappointed with what Obama could accomplish, let Samantha Bee remind you how the 2010 election – where you young spitfire Democrats didn’t show up – completely fucked Obama by ushering in a new tide of crazies:

If you think you’re “fighting corruption” and “sending a message” by one third-party vote in the biggest campaign ever and then going home for half a decade, you done fucked up.  Because the government is not just the President – you may note Obama struggling to pass laws through a Congress who hates him.  And that Congress, in turn, is beholden to politicians in their home states.

Want change?  I support change.  But I don’t support it through the weaksauce mechanism of a single Presidential vote.  You’re not going to get Jill Stein or Gary Johnson elected – which isn’t to say you shouldn’t vote for them if you believe in their candidacy, because if that’s the case you should.  But if you’re voting for someone else to “send a message” to Hillary and/or Trump, well, a lot of people sent messages care of Ross Perot and yet somehow that package never got forwarded.

You can’t get Jill Stein or Gary Johnson elected – but with hard work you do stand a reasonable chance of getting a third-party option onto your city council, or into the mayor’s office, which may demonstrate that your neither-Democratic-nor-Republican policies are effective, which is the only way you’re going to actually send a message for the necessity of a third party.  You need to work from the ground up, paying attention when the news headlines are not shoved into your face daily, actively participating in democracy as opposed to passively sitting back and having CNN stuff you full of poll results.

The Presidential Election makes it easy to know what’s going on.  But the elections that you can use to change the system in are small, undocumented, often overlooked.  The corruption is endemic, but part of the reason that corruption is endemic is because people don’t bother to show up – at the ballot boxes, at the volunteer office, at their politician’s mailbox.

Corruption sails by because people like you aren’t watching.

So yeah.  If you’re pissed off about how Bernie got screwed by the DNC, voting for someone else in one election is a positively dumb way to fix that complaint.  Former Bernie staffers have rallied to create Brand New Congress, which has as its goal electing, well, a brand-new Congress. Volunteer for them, donate to them, do something other than dorking up the ballot box with your single vote and going back to Netflix.

Or if Bernie’s not your guy, there’s plenty of other options out there!  Google them!  Find the local levers of change and start tugging those fuckers.  If you’re furious, use that rage productively.  I want you to go make permanent alterations to the fabric of our society.  I want you to fight corruption, and entrenched interests, and politicians who no longer give a crap about you.

But you will not do that with your crappy Presidential protest vote.  You’ll have to put more skin in the game.

Good luck.  Because I damn well hope you do.

 

* – Not that he needed much help, honestly.  Bush was a weak candidate.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/549264.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

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