My drug of choice is writing--writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Friday, November 9, 2018

Social Justice Fortune Cookies

"Holy fuck, these are some huge ass fortune cookies
to hold entire paragraphs inside!"
You got your social justice in my fortune cookies! You got your fortune cookies in my social justice! Two great tastes that go great together? 

It's depressing that so many fail at it, because really SO much of social justice comes down simply to this: Listen and pay attention when people are describing their own lives to you. Apologize sincerely when you fail to do this. 

I've long avoided this direct comparison because I really want to explore it in the book I'm writing, but fascism is the social analogue to abuse. Insults that genuinely hurt blown off as just jokes. The victims will be blamed for their mistreatment. The abuser will cast themselves as persecuted––even by outrageously lying. The SLIGHTEST response is framed as unreasonable and the actual abuse. Praise and superficial charm will be heaped upon "proper" behavior. Convincing people they are completely wrong about reality is an integral part of keeping them feeling crazy and ungrounded. Naming what is happening will incense the abuser/fascist rather than give them pause about their actions. Even mentioning that something was painful is likely to cause a worse reaction, "what about," and an attack posture instead of a consideration of impact. Guilt trips. Intimidation. Explosive anger and backlash. Constantly citing how other people totally agree with them and think they're right. Keeping so many things happening that the victim can't find their center about any ONE issue. There's gaslighting. It gets worse and worse even as a cycle of ups and downs leave the victims numb.

And a whole lot of people will stand on the sidelines (people who claim they care very much) saying "Why don't you make up. They're not THAT bad. Maybe you kind of deserved it."

Insisting that either both sides are just as bad isn't just intellectually indolent, it's actually a fallacy. (It's called the "Middle-of-the-road fallacy" because the fallacy naming folks were getting tired of latin at that point.) So if you think you're being all astute and superior to abdicate any sort of stance against bigotry, supremacy, exploitation, you're not. Your intellectual rigor is right there with your moral turpitude.

It is functionally meaningless to the people being harmed whether or not every. single. one. of the people who voted for Trump personally holds some open animus of racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, or xenophobia. They handed someone who was ALL those things the executive power over perhaps the most powerful nation on the earth even when he told them the first things he was going to do with that power would be to hurt people and they did it BASICALLY because he promised them a raise. Nor was there a "great referendum" come midterms after people saw what his presidency was actually going to be like compared to his campaign: all of the "it's just for show" bigotry and none of the "he will care about this" promises. Pretty much this is exactly what half the electorate either secretly agrees with or doesn't care enough about to stop.

Interesting that the rise of "all this PC stuff" coincided almost exactly with a revolutionary new medium where everyone had equal access and could create content without the censoring and editing power of almost exclusively cis, het, white, male gatekeepers. Every person had much greater ability to reach beyond maybe a roomful of folks who already shared most of their views within a medium where people could find their own voices from a position of relative safety. 
Then...."all of a sudden"....everyone was offended all the time.

Fellow privileged folks (cis het white dudes in particular): Not every space was made with "converting us" in mind. Not every conversation is intended to convince us to join the cause. Not every person is an ambassador trying to "do themselves a favor." But the ubiquitous, nearly universal, expectation of these things in every time and in every place and of every person is absolutely part of the problem.

How come if a book has diverse characters, it's just "pandering" to those groups, but if it has almost literally nothing but cis het white characters, it's NOT pandering to cis het white people? 
Does that seem right to you?

Snarking about identity politics IS identity politics. It's just like most shitty things done by folks with privilege: surrounded by a cultural invisibility cloak, fueled by hypocrisy, and fully charged with a double-standard field. Consider this: what do you get as you strip away "identity politics"? Strip away racial politics. Sexuality politics. Gender politics. Ability/access politics. Neurodivergent politics. Whose concerns are you left with?

The answer isn't "no one's." It also isn't "normal" people's. Or "regular" people. And it isn't "default humans." Or "everyday Americans." The answer is ABLE-BODIED NEUROTYPICAL CIS HET WHITE DUDES. Snarking about identity politics is just making everything about THEM with a little sociolinguistic magic trick that makes it sound like they're doing the opposite.

Dear dude,
I hope you spent like an hour on that three-page screed you dropped on WAW's FB Messenger because I deleted it and banned you without reading another syllable as soon as I saw the words "misogyny isn't real," and it warms my heart to think that you wasted all that time.

White dude: *writes seven paragraph screed about why social justice concept is destroying America*

Also white dude: "Sorry, I don't have time to Google that."

It doesn't matter how erudite, elevated, and chin-strokingly reasonable your case might be, if you ONLY apply it in one direction along a power differential. It doesn't matter if we're talking about deeply examining the nuance of cops while lumping all protesters together, testing the fake geekness of only gamer girls, or pointing out the way gender expression challenges gender essentialism only when dealing with trans folk. It's all the same. 
You might as well be giving out literacy tests at voting booths.....but not to whites. One bigot just thinks they're being logical.

"You have made an enemy this day, Chris Brecheen. Your insistence on posting something that makes me think about status quo portrayals within my own writing pretty much EVERY week or two is unconscionable–I mean, that's almost one percent of your posts! I shall take my like and go home, leaving you with a mere 885 THOUSAND followers left. I could have been your biggest fan if you'd just never posted anything that I dislike. What do you think about that, Chris? What. Do. You. Think. About. THAT!"

Ad hominem is only a fallacy if it's being offered up AS or IN PLACE OF an actual argument. It's entirely possible for someone to be wrong AND an asshole.

Please don't tell people of color, LGBTQIA+, disabled folks, poor people, folks with chronic illness, immigrants, or even women that everything is going to be okay. Shit just got is real for anyone who's not a cis het white guy making decent money. Shit just got has gotten really, really real. Of course shit's real for everyone, but shit just got has gotten life-threateningly dangerous to folks on the margins of our society. Hate crimes are going to skyrocket have skyrocketed now that emboldened white nationalism has won a legitimate election, there are kids in cages, right-wing terrorism is on the rise, trans folks have been erased (literally from the WH policy pages), free press is called the enemy of the people, and the list just goes on and on. Don't be a splainy gaslighting asshole because you want to turn some frowns upside down.

Your ability to stay calm when academically debating someone's experiences and possibly their very humanity is an indicator of your disinterest and your privilege––not your objectivity.

I can't speak for anybody else, but on my ballot initiatives, there was a measure for low income housing, homelessness prevention, a measure proposed by the mobile rich that would hurt school property values, a measure for children's hospitals, a measure trying to expand rent control, homelessness services, an attempt to kill a gas tax that pays for road maintenance, mental illness housing, a measure that would let (or not) dialysis companies gouge their patients, a labor dispute that was written by a shitty EMT company to avoid paying its workers, and half a dozen judges up for reelection––including a FIERCELY anti-LGBT one––on top of, of course, all the people who would be governing me and representing me whether or not I consent to it and the possibility of putting some stop energy in front of our march toward fascism. So while I empathize with and often respect people who march to different drums, I trip up on the idea that it "doesn't matter."

"My rights are just rights. YOUR rights are identity politics, boutique issues, and going to lose us another election." 
-Guess who

Link to some fortune cookies ABOUT WRITING.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

A Midterm Autopsy

Folks, know I'm a progressive and a leftist and antifa and all that jazz. Counted among those I love and respect are anarchists who would never legitimize a colonialist power's government by voting in their elections all the way to actual Democrat politicians. Me, I'm pretty much in the "harm reduction" camp. I vote because while there are lots of legitimate reasons to be disaffected, that's probably the most useful thing I could do to keep my loved ones safe on a Tuesday afternoon. There will be a lot of analysis to come, but I'm on the West coast, so I got the gist of things before I went to bed. I spent a lot of yesterday writing intensely, so today I'm just going to put a 2.0 version of some of my Facebook thoughts.

I'm sad about Florida and Texas (and Iowa) too and it would have been sweet to blue-wave so hard we flipped the Senate to the shock-reacts of the GOP and smacked the smug fuck-your-feelings-snowflake sneers right off their faces. But we were never supposed to win that stuff. No polling data had it even possible. There weren't enough Republican senate seats coming up that were in play this year. Nine million fewer Republicans voted and they still picked up three seats. That's just a reflection of which seats were up for re-election (the Senate is a six year term).

And yes, we saw an open white nationalists get elected. And a literal Nazi get elected. And candidates being investigated for felony charges get elected. And brothel owner who had been dead for three weeks get elected. And we saw some really disappointing races bend to the right as the party of family values proved there wasn't any "family value" that they loved more than maintaining power. We saw a lot of evidence that there are huge swaths of white people in this country who are not in the slightest put off by Trump or his rhetoric of bigotry and devisiveness, internment camps, trans erasure, xenophobia, white supremacy, white nationalism, and literal Nazis.. In fact, they embrace these things.

That is the sobering reality of the Republican party's right wing populism right now, and the fact that Trump IS the GOP––you either kiss the ring or you're out. And it would be all too easy to adopt this narrative without nuance or caveat.

There is another narrative, of course. Because here's the thing, and there's no getting around it. In a midterm election and with an economy that is doing pretty good, the left managed to deliver a hardcore indictment. All things that would work against the results we saw last night.  (The left votes less, votes less especially during midterms, and when the economy is good, people usually meh-out on midterm voting for the status quo.) Despite all those things, the message was delivered loud and clear. 31 MILLION more people voted than in 2014.

Democrats have a check on Trump now. Not just a speed bump of protest. Veto power. Budget power. Subpoena power. Adam Schiff in charge of the House Intel Committee. They HAVE to work with Dems now.

Despite ALL their attempts to suppress voters (through voter purges, through gerrymandering, through voter ID laws, through intimidation, through closing polling stations or forgetting to send them power cords), we took the House. And that means the investigations (some into the very voter fraud that may have influenced this election) stop being winks-and-nudges and "We investigated ourselves and found we did nothing wrong" and may actually start uncovering the corruption that has practically been "What are you going to do about it eh?" since 2018. The rubber stamp on fascism is over. We're getting governors who will be seated when the 2020 census happens (and the gerrymander maps get drawn). Millions of Florida voters were re-enfranchised. Bathroom bills were struck down. Races that should not have been close were neck and neck until the last, and freaking TEXAS might be a battleground state by 2020. Entire states have gone deeply blue that weren't before. Folks are elected to congress from groups that have NEVER had representation. State legislature is flipping like popcorn. There have yet been some upsets that'll keep em' guessing.

And perhaps best of all, there's some stop energy to the Trump steamroll. Folks who were rolling over because it seemed nothing could stand up to him may now find their courage.

An indictment has come down. On internment camps. On trans erasure. On taking away the A.C.A.

We knew today was going to be when the real work started. We KNEW that. Collective action doesn't begin and end with only voting. We face only the reality that the "good job, let's keep going" is a bit more true than our most ambitious fantasies.

  • For the first time in history more than 100 women were elected to Congress. (While that's only 23%, and shouldn't be some huge bellwether, it is)
  • Dems also picked up Gov offices in IL, ME, MI, NM
  • Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland are the first Native American Women in Congress
  • Sylvia Garcia and Veronica Escobar are the first TWO Latinas going to Congress from Texas
  • Dems took over the Colorado State Senate, Maine Senate, Minnesota House, New Hampshire Senate and House and NY Senate
  • Michigan passed automatic voter registration and anti-gerrymandering legislation
  • Nevada passed Automatic Voter Registration and Maryland passed same day registration
  • Jared Polis is the first openly gay man elected Governor of a state
  • A huge power grab by GOP in NC was defeated
  • Louisiana overturned a Jim Crow-era law that allowed non-unanimous jury convictions
  • Kim Davis got creamed by someone she would have refused to issue a licence to
  • Scott Walker is gone and can't ask for a recount because of a law he put in place to screw with liberals
  • Texas Dems picked up 2 state Senate seats and 11 state House races, the author of the transphobic “bathroom bill” lost his re-election, and not only did Beto do better than any Dem has statewide in 30 years but Texas Democrats have proved in multiple offices that they are viable at the statewide level. Texas is shifting left and might be worth not writing off in 2020.

We were never going to fix everything that is so, so wrong in one election, but harm reduction had a good day.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Best Genre Fiction That Isn't SF/F/Horror Not by a Cis Het White Man (Nominations Needed)

What is the best genre fiction that isn't science fiction, horror, or fantasy by a woman, POC, or member of the LGBTQIA+ community. We need your nominations!  

This is the last poll we will run in our Year of Diverse Polls. Please check out this link if you have any questions about the limitations. Understanding the defining lines of (and liminal spaces between) between overarching genres will also be important in this poll, so please read carefully.

For our last Diverse Poll, having covered all the polls folks really get into and seeing a desire for some of the unconventional stuff in my friends' suggestions, I turn to genre fiction--BUT NOT THE STUFF WE'VE ALREADY DONE.  No HORROR. No SCIENCE FICTION. No FANTASY. But other than that, any genre fiction is fair game up to and including the touchy feely shit that "literary fiction" is trying to convince you ISN'T genre (like magical realism). I will, however, put the kibosh on futurism since that showed up in sci-fi polls already.

Examples include, but aren't limited to:
Alternate history
Historical fiction
Magical realism
Meta fiction

The Rules:

  1. Please note the diversity requirements above. 
  2. As always, I leave the niggling over the definition of genres to your best judgement because I'd rather be inclusive. If you feel like Little House on the Prairie is a western, I'll furrow my brow, but accept it. 
  3. You may nominate two (2) books or series. If you nominate three or more I will NOT take any nominations beyond the second that you suggest. (I will consider a long list to be "seconds" if someone else nominates them as well, and will only take the first two.)
  4. You may (and absolutely should) second as many nominations of others as you wish. Also stop back in and see if anyone has put up something you want to see go onto the poll. I imagine with such a broad poll, the nominations will cover a lot of ground and are absolutely going to need your seconds.
  5. Put your nominations here. I will take nominations only as comments and only on this post. (No comments on FB posts or G+ will be considered nominations.) If you can't comment for some reason because of Blogger, send me an email (chris.brecheen@gmail.com) stating exactly that, and I will personally put your comment up. I am not likely to see a comment on social media even if it says you were unable to leave a comment here. 
  6. You are nominating WRITTEN genre fiction, not their movie portrayals. If you thought the new Murder on the Orient Express was a great flick, but you didn't really care for Agatha Christie, then that shouldn't be your nomination.
  7. This is probably well known by vets of this blog by now, but there will be no more endless elimination rounds. I will take somewhere between 8-20 best performing titles and at MOST run a single semifinal round. So second the titles you want even if they already have one. (Yes, I guess that would make them thirds, fourths, etc...) The competition on THIS poll is going to be FIERCE so please come back and second, third, fourth, and twenty-fifth everything you want to see go on to the poll. You may have to get your friends involved. Buy them a pizza. Make it real. 

Friday, November 2, 2018

Poll Results! Best Classic YA Book (or series) Not by a Cis Het White Man

What is the BEST young adult book (or series) written by a woman or POC or member of the LGBTQIA+ community before 2000?  

The results are in. From your nominations to your votes. Here are our results. Remember that this is from our year of diverse polls, so follow this link if you're wondering about the limitations of the poll.

It breaks my heart to see Harry Potter beat out The House on Mango Street, but I knew it was going to happen from the moment they both got their nomination.
Text results below.

Thank you so much to everyone who participated. Get ready to fire up the nominations for our next poll on Monday. (No promises, but you might consider urban fantasy.)

Harry Potter (The 3 pre-1999)- J.K. Rowling 105 36.46%
Time Quintet (Wrinkle in Time) M.L'Engle 48 16.67%
Earthsea Trilogy - U. Le Guin 41 14.24%
The Immortals Series - T. Pierce 32 11.11%
The Enchanted Forest Chronicles - P.C. Wrede 24 8.33%
The House on Mango Street- S. Cisneros 13 4.51%
The Rowan (The Tower and the Hive series) - A. McCaffrey 9 3.13%
Nightworld - L.J. Smith 8 2.78%
Everworld (The First Five Books) - K. A. Applegate 8 2.78%

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Misery Podcast (Pop Culture Confessions)

I was in a podcast! Pop Culture Confession's Podcast, to be specific!

We've got something a bit different this week (and out of order because of holiday timing), but I was in a podcast and we talked about Misery. 

It was the movie, not the book, we were chatted about, but I got to be a part of it to bring in some of the writerly perspective (that my impostor syndrome can't believe they think I have).

This week's confession is so big we had to call in an expert! For the final episode of Spookytober, Chris Brecheen of Writing About Writing joins your three hosts to talk about Misery, which (yet again) Amanda and Hannah have never seen. Thankfully, we've got a Certified Writing Expert on hand to answer questions like: Is losing your life's work worse than having your ankles sledgehammered? How realistic are Paul's writing rituals? What does a greasy protein bar have to do with good writing? And more!

Here's the episode I did on Misery.

All 19 episodes (and counting) of Pop Culture Confessions are available on iTunes

You can also follow them on Twitter: https://twitter.com/pcccast Or on Facebook.

Will I be in YOUR podcast?  Sure. Just drop me a line and if it's about writing in some way (or maybe social media outreach), I'll be happy to schedule something.

I put this up today because it's Halloween and the last chance to be spoooooooopy, but tomorrow expect the results of our poll to go up (and Friday we'll start gathering nominations for the next one). Which means IT IS ABSOLUTELY YOUR LAST CHANCE TO VOTE!!!!