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Friday, September 29, 2017

Best Modern Fantasy (Quarterfinal 1)

What is the best fantasy book or series written in the last 25 years?  

Not a lot of ado for this post.

I am still visiting my mom and we are currently on the vacationception part and have driven all day to San Antonio. I can't really write in the car. So this is short and sweet. Come vote and stuff.

Everyone will get three (3) votes. The top four titles will go on to the semifinals.

The poll itself is on the bottom left of the side menus, below the "About the Author." 

I'm told for mobile users you click on "web page view" and then scroll ALLLLLLLLLL the way to the bottom.

These quarterfinals will only be up for few days each (less than a week) so vote quickly that we can move on without losing momentum.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Social Justice Bard and the Tale of the Nazi Sympathizers

Oh....you don't like that title? Did it make you upset? Maybe a bit angry? Did you maybe not even read the article but instead just reacted to the title in the comments of wherever you found this post? Possibly with either a direct quote or some variation of one of the narratives below? Before we're done, by the end of this article, I truly hope that'll be a more complicated emotion.

However, perhaps in bardic form I should begin by telling a story....

It was late Sunday night when Chris went to bed. He had had a long evening getting a wee one to sleep and would have an early morning trying to fashion a fully reticulated adventure out of celery, farm animals, and merry go rounds.

He looked to find the macro he had saved earlier in the day–the one about all the terrible reactions to puns, and he posted it before floomphing into bed to get a well needed seven hours.

But there were two macros. (You have to say that in a sinister Cate Blanchett voice over for maximum effect.)

Two macros that looked just a bit alike if viewed as tiny miniaturized versions of themselves through the bleary haze of tired eyes. But while one macro was all the possible reactions a person could have to a truly terrible pun, the other was about how not to be attacked by Nazis.
Note: Nazi attack list is not comprehensive.
That morning, I woke to a few messages in my inbox that things had gone a bit Lord of the Flies in the comments. As I said, I was already halfway out the door from the instant my alarm went off, and the comments were a landfill inferno that I had no time to dig through in service to a banning spree or inclination to sift through and ruin my mood for the day's festivities, so I just nuked the whole post from orbit (it was the only way to be sure), anyone who was a shitlord got a one-time pass, and I apologized for putting up something unrelated to writing that I didn't stick around to mod the comments of, and went on my merry.

Let me say that again: I apologized for a post unrelated to writing that I didn't stick around to mod the comments of. I didn't apologize for blemishing their unsullied experience with the profane touch of political thought.

Nonetheless a big chunk of the comments came in: "Oh you are FORGIVEN for putting a political meme on this otherwise marvelous page about writing. Thank you for apologizing and now I can get back to my puns in this hallowed, non-political ground."

And this was my face:
Image description: Writer looking quite annoyed.
I'm not apolitical. I'm not even apolitical on Writing About Writing's facebook page. I never have been. I never will be. Maybe I don't endorse US political parties, shill for a particular candidate, or weigh in on intricacies of the tax code, but there's a whole section of my writing that is anything but apolitical.

As well there should be. Despite a profusion of white male authors who hail to Richard Baush's advice to "eschew politics," most writers are not afraid to confront social issues. They just do it in a resonant way instead of didactically.

And so, as of that moment, I knew this post simply had to be written.

Had to.

So here we are. 

The problem with writers being apolitical, first and foremost, is that they can't be. Not completely.

Yeah you heard me.



You don't have to be a political speechwriter to put forward a political vision of the world. It comes through your writing no matter what you do. Even if you are trying to write in a completely and deliberately apolitical way, what comes through is a complacency and comfort with the status quo. "Nothing is wrong, so let's not talk about it!" is absolutely a social and political stance. Not every story is about politics, not every story is about social issues. Some stories are about growing potatoes on Mars. But even a story about growing potatoes on Mars makes certain assumptions about things like the state of space exploration funding, how respected the scientific community is and where the technology levels will be by then, what countries will be involved in helping with the mission (and why), and a sense that certain social issues will be non-issues enough that they literally NEVER come up.

Any of that sound like it might involve social or political issues?

Look around you at the world. What do you see? Inequality? Injustice? Inhumanity? Poor people? Rich people? Exploitation? What does the political landscape look like? Who is getting screwed? Whose story is being shouted down by others? And whose lives are pretty good that they would want to avoid those topics? What are the truths we cling to, and how do they depend greatly on our own point of view? How are are stories shaping and framing the way we look at things?

It's About the Narrative (oh god, not again)

Of course I'm talking about The Narrative™, and so fucking help me, if you walk away from this blog having absorbed only one thing ever, let it be that controlling the narrative is basically ultimate social power and writers have influence in that regard. (Maybe not as much as media moguls or Hollywood, but we got it.) You don't even have to lie in order to frame a narrative. You just have to decide where to start, where to stop, and which parts to leave out. By not letting certain people speak for themselves, suddenly you have a story that is factually accurate, but not truth.

And writers who refuse to examine their power when it comes to The Narrative™ end up wielding it as Status Quo Defenders. Writers are A) in no way, shape, or form particularly immune to cognitive dissonance (some artists work particularly hard to hear everyone's side of a story, but "writer" just means someone who writes*) and B) writers know the power of words. We shape words and bend them to our wills and in the end we know all too well the dance between semantics and usage and rhetoric and truth. When we apply intellectual rigor only when it suits us, empathy only when it suits us, and start and stop the story only where we want to, it is easy to turn the world into angels and demons.

*Writers run the gamut between high art fiction writers and straight out propagandists writing for [Totally Slanted Press], with legions of Squiddies in between.


  • Narrative is the reason that atheists and the religious look at a fact like human psychological need to find meaning in random events and one group says "Proof we made God!" and the other says "Proof God made us!"
  • Narrative is the reason people (regardless of ideology or political orientation) will argue ad nauseum against provable, demonstrable facts.
  • Narrative is the reason millions upon millions of dollars of post-game riot damage are shrugged off and no sweeping generalizations are made about the moral composition of the (largely white) rioters. (If anything they are usually excused as excessive "revelers" by media and authorities). Yet damage–often far, FAR less damage–done in the name of civil unrest, particularly protesting racial injustice, almost always ends up with whole groups (and often entire races) being labeled as "thugs" or as inherently violent.
  • Narrative is the reason that a billion Muslims are held accountable for the actions of the tiniest of percentage of a fraction of their adherents and cast as being "particularly" susceptible to violence without regard to geopolitical circumstances, but the much larger percentage of white Christian males in the U.S. who become violent in the name of white supremacy never cause their broader groups to be viewed with suspicion. Even the actions of other white supremacists are ubiquitously treated mostly with "as long as they mind their manners, let's hear them out," nuance.
  • Narrative is the reason that conservatives believe hard work will be rewarded even though the hardest workers are often trapped in a cycle of poverty that makes them the most poor.
  • Narrative is (or will be) the reason that the GOP tries to claim the ACA is a failure after it chokes off advertising, funding, and every discretionary budget it can.
  • Narrative is the reason mental illness is instantly blamed when someone goes on a mass shooting spree even though many violent criminals are found to be perfectly sane, many folks with mental illness not only aren't predictably violent, but are more likely to be victims of violence themselves, and the far more common X factor is being a cis het white dude marinating in a culture of entitled misogyny and racism.
  • Narrative is the reason that NFL players protesting the extrajudicial murder of Blacks by kneeling is suddenly about respecting or disrespecting the flag.




  • Narrative is the reason Donald Trump can strip the nuance and empathy when referring to peaceful NFL protesters en mass, all as "sons of bitches," but when it comes to the white supremacists chanting "blood and soil" (whose ranks produced a murderer in James Fields who was willing to plow into protesters with his car), Trump makes sure that we know some "very fine people" are among their ranks.
  • Narrative is the reason so many people say feminism accomplished "all of its goals" at some random (ever shifting) time in the past like "about ten years ago" or "about twenty years ago" but can never actually tell you what exactly it was that changed to mark such a momentous victory as the end of the struggle for gender equality.
  • "Narrative" is the reason the peaceful, quiet, non-disruptive protests on a knee are considered disrespectful towards the US flag but Kid Rock singing in a flag poncho is still considered a good bet for high political office.


"Just cut a slit right down the middle and poked my head through.
Senate seat, here I come."


  • Narrative is the reason people can claim liberals are so easily offended because their political bubbles.....just before they rage-flounce from a page where about 1% of the posts have to do with writing's intersection with social issues in a way they dislike being reminded of.
  • Narrative is the reason that people have in their minds some kind of "perfect" protest, that if Black people would only protest their injustices in that exactly way, they would totally listen, but even though they swear by all the gods that they care greatly about the issue of racial equality and police brutality, somehow no protest will ever be quiet enough, respectful enough, non-disruptive enough to satisfy them until it is literally so imperceptible as to not cause a single wayward discomforting thought in the course of a typical day....and then it gets ignored.
  • Narrative is the reason that no matter how unarmed the Black suspect is, no matter how cooperative they are, no matter how brutal their killing, no matter how much evidence there is–even film, people race to talk about what they did wrong to deserve it.
  • Narrative is the reason that after Clinton dealt with Russian psyops, James Comey's letter, a media that wouldn't let go of a story about private email servers (but has largely been silent about the new administration doing exactly the same thing), a whole fucking shit ton of revolting-level misogyny, and winning the popular vote by four million votes, conservatives then sat down and demanded the left build a bridge to THEM that exculpate them categorically for putting a naked, open bigot in the White House.
  • Narrative is the reason we talk about issues like unemployment, wealth disparity, and loss of manufacturing jobs almost exclusively in terms of white men.
  • Narrative (or perhaps attempting to control the narrative) is the reason that currently two nuclear powers are consumed with convincing everyone around them that the other is unhinged while the world watches in horror.
  • Narrative is the reason the general status quo of peace and stability is so attractive to folks (mostly white, mostly men, mostly het, mostly cis, mostly monied) who aren't particularly harmed by the current situation nor threatened by the future and who, without actually accessing the thoughts of those they assume are harmless, don't think anything worth being outraged about is really happening or will happen and instead demand that folks who speak out about their pain or fear stop bringing up politics.
  • And, of course, narrative is the reason that there is a current sense that antifa is "just as bad" as the genocide espousing Nazis they show up to confront.

Narrative has fueled every war, every genocide, every human marvel of achievement. Narrative is the reason for every pinnacle and depth of humanity. We are a species of stories, and those stories, both who we are and what we are doing here, are never ever EVER not political. Stories are as much of the fabric of what it means to be human as language itself is.

And that's a power a writer cultivates.

Antifa Narratives


It's kind of funny.....

I'm anti-capitalist. Anti patriarchy. Very feminist. Anti heteronormativity. Anti-gender roles. Anti-jingoism. Anti-war. Anti-imperialism. Anti-colonialism and neocolonialism. Anti-oligarchy. Anti-classism. Anti-elitism. Anti-essentialism. Anti-dogma. And (usually) anti-authority.

About anything you tell me is the fabric of modern life, I've weighed, measured, and usually found lacking in some way. I don't have a normal job. I don't have a normal monogamous relationship. I don't have a normal life. I care about my hectare, shower with a bucket to water the plants afterwards and walk miles to avoid driving if I can. I question everything from the foundational assumptions of modern civilization to the veracity of memes I see in my feed each day. I speak out against forms of oppression as forest-for-the-trees as the prison industrial complex and as subtle as ableist language in insults and keep right on going even when friends very vocally Klingon back turn me.

Yet, apparently, the MOST subversive thing I do? The thing that horrifies more people than any other? The thing that truly shocks people when I express it? The thing that on occasion even loses me friends who agree with me?

I listen to everyone with empathy. I try to hear all the stories because they all matter.

The trick with empathy and nuance though is that it has to go in every direction to work. What most people call "nuance" is actually just demanding contrition to the boilerplate arguments of one's own side because obviously if they don't agree with you, they must not have been listening the first five hundred times.

I know a lot of people have seen the antifa narrative frame that either someone wanted them to see (either to win their sympathy for increasing right wing militance or win their newspaper subscription money for the scandal of it all) but there's far more depth and nuance if you listen to their stories.

Here I'll tell you the first one:

I'm Chris. I'm a writer. I like museums and local theater and boy do I love books and well-written online articles. I'm non-monogamous. I listen to NPR in the car. I've been to lots of protests (especially lately) but I haven't been violent at one ever and haven't been arrested at one since my twenties. The last time I was intentionally violent with anyone was two years ago, and they were trying to steal my phone and wallet; I came home and cried that I'd beaten up a mugger. I worry a lot about the strategies and tactics that will be most effective in dismantling white supremacy and particularly its recent naked aggression, but I also hear the cries of folks who are pushed to the margins of our society that allowing right wing extremism to continue radicalizing and organizing young cis white men has  them terrified not only of the eventual institutional harms that WILL befall them if this movement is emboldened, but also (right this second) of being targets of street violence. I hear them when they say that they are relieved that some come to these protests to defend peaceful protesters against the armed provocateurs who have demonstrated no restraint when it comes to their disrespect for opposition. I went to my last protest knowing that Nazis would be there were willing to commit murder with their cars to kill those who opposed them. I was scared, but I came anyway. I didn't need to put on the bandana a friend lent me because there was no tear gas. I wore my Baymax-hugging-a-cat t-shirt and kept a first aid kit in my backpack. I pet sit to make money for the occasional book, video game, or album. I cried for days after my cat died. I love almost everyone to bits even though the behavior of some makes me angry or worried that they might cause others to feel unsafe. I really like pizza and Mexican food. I would probably love to hug you if you wanted one. It's my birthday tomorrow.

And I am antifa.


Narrative #1- They aren't really nazis. That's a watchword that liberals call anything they don't like and anyone they don't really agree with.


I guess we sort of deserve this one. I mean it's not like we were the only ones using overblown language. ("That 3% tax increase is SOCIALISM!) And "nazi" got thrown around by everyone on the political spectrum to describe the closest thing our society equates with "evil." We probably got cocky after WWII.

But you remember that the third time, the boy cried wolf, there really was one, and it didn't go so well for the town that blew him off.

It's fair enough to point out that people can be hyperbolic–especially online. Godwin's law is a thing. But this ideological sidestep stopped making a whole lot of sense as a talking-point counter when, you know, fucking Germans and the Anti Defamation League started telling us we had a very real problem–along, of course with history teachers, political scientists, anyone who lived under a fascist regime.

But sure let's just assume the whole fucking lot of them are just being hyperbolic worrywarts and white teenagers on Reddit have the real expertise on how much trouble we're in.

However, even if you think fascism (or the current political landscape) is "bad" but recoil at the term "Nazi" then you have to talk about how they are actually LITERALLY CALLING. THEMSELVES. NAZIS.

Nazis: *carry Nazi flags*
Nazis: *do Nazi salutes*
Nazis: *shout Nazi slogans*
Nazis: *use Nazi propaganda*
Nazis: *call for a continuation of Nazi policies*
Nazis: "We are Nazis."
U.S. Moderates: "Let's examine the nuance of throwing that label around."

These guys don't even have the excuse that they didn't know what was going to happen or what was happening. They can't claim they had no choice if they didn't want to go to jail or they were just following orders. They have kicked off the party calling for The Final Solution and white supremacy. When they are in town, they sign their credit card bills at restaurants with "Hitler was right." They looked at the Holocaust and decided that the only problem was no one finished it.

These doctrines aren't just "ideas liberals don't like." These people aren't just "anyone liberals disagree with." We're not talking about a 3% difference on the tax code or a regulation on pollution that could cost companies millions off their profit margins. These are actual, literal nazis. They didn't even bother to change the goddamned name, and I promise up one side and down the other that it's not because they like the National Socialist German Workers' Party's politics regarding domestic labor disputes.

But okay......let's give the devil it's due. Antifa and the left are using "Nazis" as a bit of metonymy. "Nazi" rolls off the tongue a bit easier than "a coalition of capitalist corprofascists, the KKK and other white supremacists of various stripes, white nationalists, edgelord racists who think terrorizing whole demographics is the free speech hill they want to die on, and actual literal neo-nazis." And we've no particular interest in giving them their claim to the sobriquet "Alternative Right" as that makes them sound like they are advancing some sort of refreshing, heretofore untried brand of thoughtful non-mainstream conservatism instead of literally the reactionary racist bullshit that modernity has kicked to the curb time and again.

But I mean, look at that fucking list. It's not like these are a bunch of savory folks and by using "Nazis" as a shortcut for all their white supremacist fuckery, we're really maligning some principled dudes who don't deserve that sort of thing.

Moderates: "We reject nazis. We fought a war over this you know."

White dude: "We aren't actually nazis. Let's be careful with words, okay. I think you're just using that as a slur. I believe you'll find our arguments for a white ethnostate, mass deportations, and violence against anyone with the temerity to resist are entirely different. And if you come to the rallys where we are armed and ignore those guys with swastika flags and confederate flags, we can talk reasonably about the things we have in common. Would a Nazi do that?

Moderates: "Well we should probably hear you out if you are feeling indignant about labels."

You understand what we're talking about when we talk about white nationalism and ethostates, right?
Unless the white nationalists you know are scoping out a deserted island or building a ship with which to colonize Mars, they, nor their literal-Nazi allies can enact their fourteen word manifesto without causing DIRECT, VIOLENT harm. And I mean GENOCIDE caliber harm. You cannot create an ethno-state without deportations, forced relocations, and genocide unless YOU are the one leaving.

Today's neo-nazi movement isn't some kind of nazi-lite thing. ("A friendlier, kinder version of white nationalists than your grandparents fought.") If put into power these particular nazis will not merely go on peacefully writing op-eds for Breitbart encouraging racial self-segregation because they really learned their lesson about using state power in unethical ways.

Everyone thinks they would have done something about it before people started disappearing in the night, but those same people are acting exactly the same way the folks who did NOTHING acted. That might be a narrative that needs some consideration.

Narrative #2- But some of them don't claim any of those titles

Yeah and Mel Gibson swears he isn't racist either.

Also Hulk Hogan, Justin Bieber, Donald Sterling, Paula Dean, Michael Richards, John Mayer, Paris Hilton, Duane Lee Chapman, Jessie James, and Kreayshawn, not to mention others.

Very few people are going to say, "Look, I'm the worst kind of racist you can imagine," because everyone always has a way that they actually feel like they're the ones being persecuted and their behavior is not only reasonable but moral. Trust me. I don't stop at the water's edge of listening to the stories of those I disagree with. I hear them out. (But let's not confusing hearing someone out with never taking a position on what they've said.) I've heard what they have to say. (You should too. Get a real sense of what they're actually saying instead of assuming the left is just maligning them.)

White nationalists don't want to kick out or kill everyone who isn't white because they are moustache twirling villains having an evil laugh about how racist they are. They do it because they've convinced themselves their culture is under attack. They really do think a marginalized group getting together to talk about issues that pertain to them (away from the white people who make them feel unsafe) is "the real racism."  Because the social progress from the sixties has undermined their unswerving hegemony. Because identity politics is "bad."

People know being racist is BAD. People just don't really understand what being racist IS.

So when you examine people like Steve Bannon who approves articles encouraging white ethno states on the media outlet entwined with his reputation. Or even examine someone like Trump who swears up and down he loves "the Mexicans" and "the Blacks," has a hard time disavowing the KKK or white supremacists, insists white supremacy marches have "very fine people," uses "those people" unironically in clearly dog whistle sentences against federal judges, basically runs the entire birther movement, calls Mexicans rapists, condones beating a Black Lives Matter protester, shares white supremacist and antisemitic tweets, cares more about undocumented workers than humanitarian crises, clearly has a political motivation that is to destroy every lasting legacy of the Black guy he hates beyond all reason, encourages mob justice against five Black boys (later exonerated), has a shit ton of past racism complaints and lawsuits on his records, and passes laws left and right that are transparently harmful to people of color, sometimes you have to work with what few, meager, fleeting clues you have even if they haven't show you an "I am Spartacus!" moment regarding overt white supremacy.


Narrative # 3- Antifa are just as bad


Antifa means anti fascist. It's basically just a political stance. It unites people otherwise not so united on a particular issue–resistance to fascism. It's like being pro-choice. (Another position that tends to "gather" on the left side of politics, but doesn't really actually tell you anything other than a person's stance on ONE issue.)

Yes, you can bring the semantics of the historical movement and communism in if you want or how antifa failed in Italy and Germany (though you would do well to understand the reasons why--it is not so simple as "because they threw punches and the German people bent to law and order"). You can insist that anyone who uses that label is a commie or something. Or you could just ask people who identify as antifa if they're communist. Most aren't.

(Personally, I think socialism sounds awesome, but in a Bernie Sanders/Star Trek kind of way, not the Stalin/Zedong/Castro type.)

Being angry at someone's genocidal BEHAVIOR is not the same thing as wanting whole demographics dead or forcibly deported based exclusively on the circumstances of their birth.

Nazis: "And should we win the war of ideas, we will use state power to deport you from your home, incarcerate you to be slave labor, relocate you and your family to ensure the success of white people, and kill you if you deign to resist. 

Antifa: "Boy they sure have embraced a hateful ideology and are directly threatening the people I love; it kind of makes me want to punch them in the face."

Mainstream media: "I can see no difference between these two monsters."

If you think that antifa is this super organized hive mind gang that borg-style decides to destroy property and throw some punches at armed fascists, white supremacists, and nazis, but that the white supremacist who committed vehicular murder was just a lone wolf who wasn't in any way connected with the group that just happens to explicitly fantasize about exactly driving over demonstrators, you might want to think about what forces are driving those narratives.


Narrative #4- Antifa violence is still violence, and violence is always bad

You know.....being a pacifist is not the same as being silent in the face of systematic violence and the agents who carry it out, but squeamish about seeing a punch thrown or property damaged, and it is hard not to notice that most of the people who espouse never so much as defending oneself are seldom the targets of violent white supremacy.

Let's make sure something is clear: for the most part we're not actually having a conversation about violence itself. Conversations about violence itself involve examining this country's bloody history, calling for the disarming of police, and serious conversations about reducing our military to a defensive force.

In terms of people hurt, punches thrown, or property damage we would be just as upset about bar room brawls or biker gangs as anything that antifa has done. And we would be triaging our concern about the violence committed BY white supremacist groups far higher than that of antifa considering that people from their groups murder folks on the regular and threaten entire demographics with genocide as a matter of open, stated, like-it's-on-our-fucking-websites-non-ironically objectives.

Sports fans have literally destroyed more things and hurt more people in one night than antifa has since they got on people's radars months ago, but strangely we don't see very many mainstream think pieces calling for their classification as a gang or terrorist group.

What we are having for the most part is a conversation about who has the moral authority to engage in and/or threaten violence, both as a group or in a moment under their own acumen and assessment of a situation. And our country continues (mostly unconsciously of the double standard and what it represents) to have a tremendous discomfort with people pushed towards the margins of our society–who are not in the service of institutions that serve the social order like cops or military–making that judgement call for themselves.

However, that said, are you thinking of Black Bloc?


Text of image at page bottom.

I sympathize. I really do. It can be really alarming to see someone in a black mask throwing punches at a dude on the ground trying to cover their face. I'm still not sure I'm really comfortable with it. But I don't control every single person who is anti-fascist. 

Then again, letting a few seconds of footage in a five hour protest, committed by fewer than 1 thousandth of the population of the overall demonstration completely dominate the narrative of the entire protest is pretty reactionary. Not only that, but that narrative does not include the nuance of the moment regarding what acts of violence provoked that attack (such as the punchee using pepper spray indiscriminately and as an offensive weapon before the cameras started rolling). And the intense hostile environment of a protest/counterprotest is already like a powder keg.

I'm not saying it's moral absolution, but it muddies the water of a sanctimonious narrative that all antifa are always just as bad as Nazis.

Law enforcement does not protect either group with identical diligence. Nor does the criminal justice system. (This is for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that law enforcement agencies have been infiltrated by white supremacists as a matter of FBI record.) Protecting one's identity is important if they don't want to be harassed. You know....like Batman.

And even STILL, people are directly equating and morally conflating the group that wants to kill Jews and Muslims and people of color and trans folks with those who have come to defend them–however personally misguided they think those tactics are.

If folks thought Buzz Aldrin probably had every right to clock a conspiracy theorist for being an asshole (and most pretty much did), but someone in a person's face calling for the systematic eradication of their race is no reason to lose one's cool, perhaps that's a narrative worth examining.

Are you sure you can't see some nuance here?

Group 1: Brings assault rifles to a rally where they discuss violence against people according to the immutable characteristics of their birth in order to create an ethno state of only white people. Brings literally the most easily recognizable symbols of white supremacy available. Discusses using lethal violence. Murder counter-protesters. Bring the most lethal weapons the authorities of a given city will allow. Would move forward with their agenda of ethnic and LGBTQ+ cleansing faster if the other side went away tomorrow.

Group 2: Is sick of group one's shit and their chosen ideology, which could be changed at any time and is not fettered to the static circumstances of their birth. Brings non-lethal defensive accoutrement to counter protests. Stands in the path of clergy to protect them. Would be playing Pokemon Go and complaining about Danny Rand online if the other side went away tomorrow.


Narrative #5 Those poor peaceful Nazis

A) This is not an accurate narrative. Check your facts.

They come with the most lethal weapons they are legally allowed to carry for the venue. They throw eggs and bottles. They will street harass people, including assaulting trans folks they find alone and vandalizing Synagogues. And far from the the "punch nazis" narrative (which, I can see why that doesn't set well with everyone to be honest), they actually go on at length about how they're going to MURDER us.

And if you think that violent white supremacists are just random one off individuals by which the larger group should not be judged. Why is it that the actions of a single antifa break this rule. Why is a narrative with that caliber of double standard acceptable.

B) Regardless of the legality, what Nazis and white nationalists are espousing is genocide. That's espousing, encouraging, organizing, and recruiting to do violence. The very words themselves are violent threats against many groups–essentially promising to kill them and their families if they succeed.

Narrative #6- Things are not that bad

You know you're not going to get a Fallout-style video game prompt the day before it's too late that says: "Fascists are about to take over your government. Do you really want to keep doing nothing? (This may drastically change your gameplay experience.) Yes/No?" There's this idea that there are a lot of steps left before we reach some point of no return, but you never know what that point is until you're looking back at it through 20/20 hindsight.

You know that everyone who knows anything about the rise of fascist regimes and even folks who actually went through THE RISE OF THE ORIGINAL NAZIS is at defcon 1, right? And they are jumping up and down and screaming that we don't have twenty degrees of "this deal is getting worse by the minute" before it's too late.

How many have actually listened to these white nationalists and nazis? I mean engaged the "source material" as it were? Do they know what neo-nazis and white nationalists are saying? Do they understand how they are openly discussing their plans to get more power and utilize state authority? Or do they just see the sensationalized images of them getting punched and think, "Those poor little people who just want free speech." How mean the leftists are to them." Because if anyone actually read their think pieces and listened to their interviews, and let them define themselves instead of doing it for them, and let their narrative be challenged by real people, they might walk away with a different impression of why someone on one of their lists of "Demographics to Be Expunged" is feeling pretty prickly right about now.

Narrative #7 Most of the people they punch aren't Nazis (or KKK, or white supremacists, or white nationalists, or any of that stuff

Citation needed.

Narrative #8- Counter protest doesn't work

Yes it does.


Personally I'm just fucking tired. I'm tired of people thinking I endorse all manner of extrajudicial violence because I hate fallacies of equivocation and see some nuance in the tactics of self-defense when literally armed Nazis march into MY town. I'm tired of people watching the rise of anti-democratic and anti-pluralistic forces by white supremacists who think discussing it nothing more than typical left v. right nonsense instead of the social issue of our day. I'm tired of normalizing white supremacy and genocide because edge lords are too lazy to educate themselves on what's really being said or do anything more than proffer forth a textbook Middle-of-the-Road™ fallacy as "hella deep" analysis.  I'm tired of getting told to stop talking politics on my own goddamned fucking page every time I dare to ask a writer to consider the power they have in shaping the narrative–a power that has destroyed nations, wiped out whole groups of humanity, and convinced itself it's the good guys in spite of, sometimes because of, that.

So forgive me if I don't pause to give a fuck if people wish this post were just another pun.

Because at the end of the day, I'm not telling you that you ought to be Antifa too. I just want to complicate your narrative. I've listened to both sides with empathy. Have you? I'm just reminding you that where you choose to start and stop the story matters. Who you listen to and who you don't matters. And if you start and stop the in a way that vilifies a group of people–a group of people whose stories have been conspicuously absent–the ONE group of people who have definitively stood up (and even put their bodies in harm's way) to protect all the folks who would be at the shitty end of an ethnic cleansing is itself a narrative–it matters. And if your intellectual rigor, your nuance, your empathy and, yes, even your sympathy are all going towards the group that includes among other revolting characters actual, literal Nazis, then you are sympathizing with them. And if you want to play semantic games with words, a Nazi sympathizer is exactly what that makes you.

Care to examine your narratives?

Or at least hearing out those who do?




"So, that image you have in your mind when you hear "Antifa"? The protester wearing all black, including a hood and facemask, amidst a whole bunch of others dressed the same way? That's not Antifa."Antifa," which is a term many decades old, means one thing, and one thing only: Anti-Fascist. If you oppose fascism, you're Antifa. Full stop. 
The image you're thinking of is the Black Bloc, a tactic designed to grant protesters anonymity while they take actions that might get the in trouble. It's a tactic, not an organization. Yes, some--SOME--Antifa groups utilize the Black Bloc. Many more do not. And lots of other movements use the Black Bloc, too, including a variety of anarchist groups. And here's the rub; not even people in a single specific Black Bloc crowd know the identities, let alone political ideologies, of everyone with them.  
Now, it is also true that most of the reports of Black Bloc Antifa violence have proved to be either lies or misrepresentations. But even those that are genuine? Do not represent Antifa as a movement, or most people who identify as Antifa. And every single time you post that they do, EVERY SINGLE TIME you equate "Antifa" with "violence," you are spreading Nazi talking points for them."

--Ari Marmell

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Post Delayed

I may have greatly overestimated my motivation to run around and do chores, pack, schlep to the airport on foot and BART, take a four hour flight, and then dutifully put up a post today. (I don't think the heat in Texas is helping.)

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Analytic Meta Post

This may not make a whole lot of sense to everyone until tomorrow or Thursday (Friday at the latest), when I describe the story in greater detail, but I posted something that I didn't mean to post on My Facebook Page the night before last. It was supposed to be about puns. Instead it was about Nazis.

Well, you can imagine how the comments went because you've seen political posts anywhere else on the entire internet.

I want to show you something from that FB page's analytics, and talk to you as an artist and entertainer about what it means.  This picture is from yesterday, which in terms of an analytical "day" includes both the posting of the meme and its fallout.

That red dip at the bottom is the number of people unfollowing the page. That's probably more in a single day than has ever happened (or at least in a long while).

But here's where things get interesting.

Notice what else happened. That gray mountain at the top was a surge of people liking the page that was almost exactly the same size. JUST AS MANY people said "Oh hey this page isn't just some shallow repository of memes making fun of people's grammar. I LIKE THAT!!!" In fact, that day was a net gain of hundreds more followers. At the bottom of the screen you can see a screenshot of essentially the same thing except with a mouseover on the day dot that tells me how many new followers I got for that day.

And while they were personal, and I can't share them, there were more private messages thanking me than there were declaring an immediate flounce.

Now I apologized because there was no connection with the macro and writing (but don't worry...I'm rectifying that in a blog post even as you read this), and because I didn't stick around to moderate the comments (since I thought I'd posted something else), but I want anybody who saw all the blowback to also see the good stuff. I want anyone who's self censoring because they're worried about losing readers, followers, potential customers, whatever, to see the symmetry.

Folks who want to hear what you have to say are out there, and you can't EVER make everybody happy. If you try, you'll just end up the emotional equivalent of a squeezed out toothpaste tube with fewer people pleased with your callow unwillingness to take a stand than if you'd done what was authentic to yourself in the first place.

You will affect people. You will make them think. And some will not like those thoughts that your art forces into their minds. But for as many people as don't, there are more behind them who will appreciate it, and you for having the strength to say it.

Stay true to yourselves. Stay true to your visions. Stay true to your art.

They'll come.


Monday, September 25, 2017

Best Modern Fantasy (Straggler Poll Results--Okay NOW it's Time for the Quarterfinals)

What is the best fantasy book or series written in the last 25 years? 

Sorry about the false start last week but now we have the really real master list for the quarterfinal rounds including those that won this poll.

Here are the results of the stragglers poll we just ran. The top four titles will get to slog it out with the heavyweights and see how far they can go. Personally, I'm glad the top four all get to move on to the next round because I wouldn't have been happy with two ties, especially separated by only a single vote.

Text results at the bottom of this page.

So now we should have a functional master list without a shitton of redundancies. This will be randomized for the quarterfinals, which will be starting tomorrow.

Master List for Quarterfinal Round


The Kingkiller Chronicle Patrick Rothfuss
Mistborne Brandon Sanderson
Small Gods- Pratchett
American Gods- N. Gaiman
Stormlight Chronicles- B. Sanderson
The Inheritance Trilogy- N.K. Jemison
Harry Potter J.K. Rowling
Keys to the Kingdom- G. Nix

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell-S. Clarke
Night Watch T. Pratchett
The First Law trilogy, by Joe Abercrombie
Song of Ice and Fire GRR Martin 
The Magicians- L. Grossman
The Dresden Files- J. Butcher
Black Jewels Series- A. Bishop 14
Hounded (Iron Druid Chronicles)- K. Hearne

The Graveyard Book- N. Gaiman
Farseer Trilogy- R. Hobb
Malazan Book of the Fallen series- S. Eriksen'
The Lightbringer Series- B. Weeks
Who Fears Death N. Okorafor
Radiance - Catherynne M. Valente
Uprooted - Naomi Novik
The Night Angel Trilogy- B. Weeks

Percy Jackson and the Olympians - Rick Riordan
His Dark Materials- Philip Pullman
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
The Abhorson trilogy by Garth Nix
Kushiel's Legacy- J. Carey
East- E. Pattou
The Hollows Series- K. Harrison
The Mercy Thompson Series- P. Briggs


Results of "stragglers" poll

Keys to the Kingdom- G. Nix 14 21.54%
Black Jewels Series- A. Bishop 14 21.54%
Hounded (Iron Druid Chronicles)- K. Hearne 13 20%
The Night Angel Trilogy- B. Weeks 13 20%
The Last Wish - A. Sapkowski 8 12.31%
The Riyria Revelations- M. J. Sullivan 2 3.08%
Abengoni: First Calling- C. R. Saunders 1 1.54%

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Why Won't You Answer My Question? (F.A.Q.)

Question: Why didn't you answer my question? Why won't you answer my question? How do I ensure that you answer my question? 

Short answer: I might still be getting to it, or it may not have made the cut. If you want to be in like Flynn, make it short and sweet and something I haven't answered already.

Long answer: Back in the day I kind of had to beg for questions. People would mention something in passing during a face-to-face conversation and I would write it up as if they had been sent in to be answered on the blog. I would pause random conversations and say "Do you mind if I use that question in my blog." I would mine the comment sections on FB posts for anything I could respond to as if it had been sent in as a question.

These days I'm having the opposite problem. I can write one or two answers a week, and I get a couple of questions on a slow day. I'm sure even with our Math For Liberal Arts classes, we writers can figure out how this one goes.

So first of all, your question might take a while to answer. I have a queue, but I also triage a bit too based on what seems like it fits my mood. It's not every day I'm ready to apply poststructural, postmodernist analysis to Ren and Stimpy, and I have to be in a mood to really fire back at some of the hate mail with panache.

And some questions may never get answered

Here's a helpful little flowchart for you if you're hoping to get your question answered on the blog.

1) Play me like an instrument. Message me. We connect and eventually meet for crepes. You seem to like me but not be starstruck or weird about it. This is, of course, a ruse. You tell me (all lies) how much you like MST3K, Netflix binges, and threesomes. I am smitten. We go on a few more dates. Things get serious. You pretend to fall for me. We move in together and you discover how little I really make from writing, but stick with me for love. (It's all part of the plan.) We get married and have a couple of kids even though I worry I'm too old to start a family. I never notice the sinister spider-like look when our second child is born. Then, one day, you turn to me and say "Hey, if I asked you a question will you answer it on your blog THIS WEEK."

Absolutely yes!

Of course it'll be terrible when I realize this was all a long con to jump the Writing About Writing questions queue, and my life is a total sham, but that is totally one way to get your question answered.

Let's go on to number two though, just in case this isn't what you had in mind.

2) First check to see if your question has been answered before.  There's The Best of The Mailbox, The Not-So-Best of the Mailbox, and Rage Against the Brecheen. You should also check the FREQUENTLY asked questions both for the blog and for My Facebook Page.

I know that's a lot to slog through, but it's pretty well labeled.

I may occasionally answer a question again (or even more likely, revise my old answer a bit) if it's been a while or it could use some rehashing.

In a perfect world, I would have enough time to make sure everyone who asks a redundant question gets a reply with the URL to the old answer, but depending on how deep I am down the rabbit hole at any given time, I may not be able to do that.

3) Keep it short

I'm less likely to post a question that reads like a college essay. I know we're all writers and it takes three pages to write a question others would do in five words, but consider brevity the soul of wit when it comes to what I'll put up on the blog.

4) Keep an eye out for questions LIKE yours
I get a lot of questions, but many of them are similar or almost identical. I may put up a different version or a composite version of your question, but it is still basically YOUR question.

5) Send it to my email
I will answer questions I get through the "Private Message" function of Facebook, but I get a lot of those every day and there is no way to mark them as important. So your question is likely to get pushed down and fall out of sight and out of mind. It will be MUCH more likely to be answered if you drop it in my email (chris.brecheen@gmail.com) where I can give it a star and come back to it when I have time.

6) Be a patron
Of course if you want to just help this artist/entertainer navigate the perils of a capitalist society, you could always go the total sellout route. Patreon supporters or anyone who has just dropped a tip into the conspicuously placed tip jar I will happily let jump the queue.

Friday, September 22, 2017

25 Things to Let Go if you Want to Write Creatively for Money (Part 2)

Return to Part 1

9- Your purple prose (at least for now)
I get it. You like the classics. You clutch Victorian literature to your breast and weep at the beauty of the prose. You dig the days when writers "could really write." You have a little shrine to Ambrose Bierce. And since the Jane Austen group you follow on FB has thousands of members, clearly there's a market for this stuff and obviously it's okay if you are a little anachronistic in your style, right?

*deep sigh*

I have some bad news. You're not going to like it.

No one is going to buy that Brontë shit today. (Okay, maybe like five people.) Not unless it's actually written by one of the sisters Brontë.

I'm sorry. I love you. I love that stuff too. My fuck, but those Victorians turn a phrase. And sometimes I pause after a sentence and just sigh. But today, no one is going to buy it. Today we have different conventions for how to make a sentence pop off the page using prosaic structure that leans on visceral adjectives and punchy verbs instead of lots of languid multi-claused complex sentences and linking verbs. Even daedal writers are not mannered or overwrought.

I could get into some pretty complicated reasons why we've drifted away from that prose. The postmodernism movement demanded a much different kind of voice, even for its omniscient narrators. Instead of vivid, unnuanced characters, we have the opposite. The assumptions reflected in Victorian language (and even the structure to a lesser degree) were incredibly sexist, and racist even while reflecting fierce moral polemics and an intense interest in the working class. You might as well write in gothic or dark romanticism. (Understand, you can explore these themes and make a mint, but not necessarily emulate the language). Today few readers will give the time and energy needed to parse the anachronistic language of something that isn't already a classic.

Basically we're about half a dozen major literary movements (from realism through existentialism to the emerging movement of the 21st century that is being called transrealism) past that type of writing. And while there is no one single way to write today, and you can still win a Pulitzer prize for literature while writing half your sentences with no subject, today it takes a practiced hand to learn when and where to slip in those buttery Victorian words and creme filled sentences that won't make the whole dish far too rich for a modern pallet.

Today that kind of prose won't make money.  You can write that way if you really want, of course (you can write ANY way you really want), but get ready to write for a small collection of friends and fans rather than for the sweet song of the Benjamins.


I didn't say THAT!
Image description: Framed text: "Talentless is the new talented."
10- The idea of some shit called talent 
Okay look....

There might be this thing called talent.

Maybe.

Love of wordplay. Linguistic aptitude. Sense of story. Memory for a massive vocabulary. Maybe some cocktail of attributes and proficiencies and things taught SO early (like a deep seated love of books, a strong work ethic, artistic ambition) that they can't really be added or extracted to or from a person's alloy by adulthood (even though they may have more to do with a typical white middle class upbringing) all adds up to something we look at and refer to as "talent."

But honestly, no one really knows what those things are, and we certainly don't know how much of them is nature vs. nurture. There isn't a thing we don't shuck off to "talent" that can't be learned, practiced, developed like an acquired taste, or essentially cultivated through hard work. Guidelines of writing can be learned. Discipline can be refined. Even creativity can be improved on like a muscle one flexes a few times a day.

While there may be something out there called "talent," there's virtually nothing it can do that can't be reproduced by hard work on a long enough timeline. And there's nothing it will give you that will matter more than hard work at the end of the day. 99.9% of the time, anything called talent is no more than tremendous effort and an almost obsessive dedication expended over enough time to set someone apart from their peers.

Certainly there are Shakespeares and Faulkners and Baldwins and Morrisons and Euripideses (Euripidii?) who all but one in a billion of us must spend our lives looking up to in awe. But for everybody else, counting on talent to do anything that hard work won't is a long wait for a train that never comes.

Talent (if it exists at all) will not save you. Get to work.

11- Working for exposure

Just repeat to yourself "Artists die of exposure."

Sometimes their characters die of exposure too.
Image description: Jack London's To Build a Fire
If you're in a joint venture with someone who also has no money to pay you, is a friend jump starting their own thing, you are taking on a project that will really force you to be a better writer, or a venue like Huffpo wants to publish a piece you've already written, take it case-by-case, but don't walk into a situation thinking it's okay for you not to get paid. That's exploitation, and the only reason we laugh at the idea of a plumber working for exposure but not a writer is because writers want so badly to be known and famous that they regularly allow themselves to be taken advantage of just for the hope that a little bit of "exposure" will move them along.

What folks are hoping for–that people will come to recognize their name, and perhaps even equate it with quality writing– will take years. (Honestly, the rep of a quality plumber would spread faster.) Not only will it take years, it will take years of doing exactly the writing they want to be doing–not the writing someone else wants them to be doing. Consider how many first time novelists you've taken a chance on because you recognize their name from Huffpo articles? No? Didn't think so.

In the meantime, you are making them money. Your efforts, unpaid, are lining their pockets. Of course they don't want to pay you–apparently they don't need to. And when you start displaying the sense of self worth that you deserve to be paid, you will be replaced. You are putting everything into their brand and not even getting so much as a McDonald's value meal out of the deal. And all you ever really do is reinforce the belief that people can hire artists without paying them, and that your time isn't actually worth any money.

I know it might seem a little less than epiphanic to say that you won't make money if you write for free, and your freelance rate doesn't have to be $100/hr or anything. But if you want to make money, don't do it for free.

Let me say that again: If you want to make money, don't do it for free.

12- A bunch of existential bullshit about not being good enough
Image description: Blue life-sized muppet
gazing out upon the ocean.

Look if I wanted to, I could make an entire listicle for every way you've decided to convince yourself you're not good enough. From comparing yourself to others (don't do that) to worrying that you're too old to have a career in writing (you're not) to the idea that you lack talent (the very idea of talent is suspect) to worrying that you have anything to say (you do).

Ego and overconfidence won't actually serve a writer who wants to make money, but here's a little secret for you: we all lie in bed at night, stare at the ceiling and think about this stuff. Even bestselling authors wonder if their best books are behind them and if they'll ever write again like in their halcyon days before the selling out started. I constantly question my own time management, worry about whether I should have walked away from a steady job to write, wonder if my fiction is going to be any good, fail to live up to my own nearly impossible expectations for output, and think I sure wrote more edgy stuff before my audience was so large and am I self censoring?

But the next day, when working writers sit down, they let go of that crap and do the work. They have these thoughts, give them space, and maybe even think about how to deal with them, but they don't let themselves be paralyzed with fear about it. It's like in a normal job where you might wonder if your boss likes you or if you're on their shitlist or if you should have gone into real estate. Fine, but you still have to go in and do your job if you want to get paid.

Let your existential questions have a seat at your table because you're not Zapp Brannigan, but if you want to make money writing, don't let them steer the conversation about where you'll be vacationing this year.

Existential whosit? That sounds like something people have who aren't me.
Image description: Zapp Brannigan

Image description.
"Spook Chasers" toy–an obvious knock-off
of Ghostbusters
13- That you will write the "next" anything
Are you a professional speed writer who specializes in get rich quick schemes by shady gurus who literally advise people to rewrite books, rip off their titles and mimic them as closely as possible and leech off their success? Do you make your living filing off the serial numbers from huge selling items like 50 Shades of Gray or Harry Potter and selling them under titles like 50 Shades of Desire or Harold Potts and the Hogsmeade Magician School? Do you want to be the literary equivalent of a knock off toy, attaching like a lamprey to the bottom of a successful author and hoping your presence isn't noticed, lest they take the time to swat you with a lawsuit? Is that what you're trying to accomplish? Is that the kind of writer you really want to be? Is that your dream?

No?

Then stop trying to chase trends or write the "next" anything. You don't have the chops for it.


(By the way if the answer to those questions is yes, please just go die in a fire.)

There's a time and a place to consider what sells, and it's not when you're sitting down to the blank page.

Wait a second Chrisaroo, this whole fucking list is about writers making money! Don't give me that artistic integrity shit now!

This isn't even about fucking artistic integrity. It's about getting it done. It might seem counterintuitive, at first, but unless you're literally trying to be the book equivalent of the Spook Chasers toy up above with the character, who is no doubt named Egads Spanglez, chasing trends like that is a fool's errand. I'm not saying you can't write something derivative (lord knows it all is, really). I'm not saying you can't try your own hand at a vampire novel. I'm not saying your wizard school is going to be hella dope compared to Hogwarts.

What I'm saying is that to make money creative writing, first you have to NOT make money creative writing. So you better love it for its own sake while the not-getting-paid part is going on.

There are a lot of ways to make money writing. Freelance. Content. Tech writing. Speech writing. Blogging. And yes even bullshit knock off books can be the source of a paycheck. And you can get your first payday minutes after you smithed some words depending on the person you've done the writing for. But the creative writing takes a long time to come back around, and if the writing you're doing is sucking your soul out your fingertips, you're never going to make it. You're never going to see that book you aren't really passionate about (but figured might sell) through the three drafts and seven revisions and years of love and toil that it's going to need.

You have to write what you believe in. Whether that's a blog with ridiculous characters or a book that you burn to read, the finish line is TOO. FUCKING. FAR. to try and wing it through something you don't wake up in the morning and look forward to writing.

Of course when you're a big, successful writer making money like woah, you might have to revisit this exact question when it comes to "selling out" (and Stephen King's sixty page Kindle commercial is perfect evidence of that), but on this side of the Rubicon, there's only one reason to write a book: you really, really want to write that book.


Image description: dirty fingernails
14- Your oh-so-clean fingernails
I can't really tell you what is going to happen in your paid creative writing career. Maybe you go self publishing. Maybe you're going to go small presses and personally walk copies of your book to local small bookstores to put on consignment. Maybe you go traditional, and you will tour bookstores and sit for hours behind a table and a stack of your books, watching people glance from you to them and back with a "Who's that?" look. Maybe you run a blog and a Facebook page and use those to promote yourself and ask for donations. Maybe you Kickstarter and digitally publish but are hoping to be noticed.

I can't see your path.

However, here is some prescience I can claim. I know what isn't going to happen. I know the path that you will never walk. You will never simply sequester yourself away in your writing space, hand your finished manuscripts to an agent, and let your paychecks roll in. That's not gonna happen.

Not. Gonna. Happen.

In one form or another you're going to have to promote yourself and basically nudge people to spend money on you. Even if you try to stay above it all in traditional publishing, you will have to fire an agent, negotiate for a better book deal, do a book tour as a contractual obligation, or renegotiate when your book deal is up for renewal. Hell even if you're a household name, you'll end up having to press junkets work with publicists and shit.

I know bourgeois concepts of "high art" (as done by the idle rich) promotes a sense that art shouldn't be sullied by money, and that any artist who doesn't want to starve to death in a freezing apartment with a mouth of missing and rotted teeth obviously didn't really love the art for its own sake. And that is just ten kinds of classist bullshit. Artists need to eat. We need to pay rent. We need insurance.

At some point, if you want to make money writing, you're going to have to give up the idea that your work will be so spectacular that it will just speak for itself and people will just throw money at you. At some point, you will have to hold your head high and walk all the people superciliously sneering at you for "making it all about money." At some point, you will have promote yourself.


Image description: snowflake (surely a special one)
15- Your snowflake belief that you are the one writer in the fucking universe who can ignore the process
You're going to have to read constantly if you want to be a writer. "Not me. I watch a lot of quality HBO shows and film. I have a good sense of pacing. I don't really like reading that much."

You really do need an agent if you go the traditional publishing route. "Not me. My shit is going to wow a publisher if I solicit directly."

You have to write every day or almost every day or at LEAST every weekday. "Not me. I only write when the inspiration hits. If I write every day, it feels like a chore. No, of course I haven't ever tried it for more than a few days–I just know."

If you do self publishing you really need to drop the money on a content editor. "Not me. My friends all say it's awesome. Just need some copyediting and I'm good to go."

Okay, but seriously you're never going to publish your Nanowrimo manuscript without a couple of rewrites and major revisions. "No, mine is really good. I need someone to look at the grammar, but it's basically good to go."

This is going to take years of practice to get good. "Not me. I have talent."

As special as people who think these things are, they're all going to have one thing in common: when you check back in on them in a couple of years, they still won't be getting paid for creative writing.

If you want to get paid, it's time to let go of this snowflake crap and assume that the zillion writers who came before you know what they are talking about. Chances are your creativity and discipline have pretty much the same relationship as everyone else's, your prose strength comes from reading linguistic descriptions just like everyone else, you are going to have to revise no matter how good you think it is, and when you stop trying to be a special snowflake and just get your ass to work, you're almost certainly going to figure out that you work just about the same way as everyone else who has ever rubbed words together to put food in their belly.


16- Your self-washing hand
I know a number of talented writers and the reason they can't get their shit out there is that they are greedy fucknoodles about how other people can help them.

One of my most favorite teachers was almost aggressive about asking for social media signal boosting, but never had a second to return the favor. Ever. To anyone. And surprise surprise, he does quite well getting his signal boosted by current students and young writers and basically a bunch of people he's just encountered who all pretty much know each other, but the folks who have been writing for a while–exactly the ones with the bigger, broader followings who could really point a lot of people his way–aren't in the mood to do so because he's got a reputation for demanding favors without reciprocity.

"Hey will you proliferate this post?" "Hey will you share this story?" "Hey will you pass my name on to your agent friend?" "I'm not going to do anything in return of course. Ever. But please help me to put myself out there for absolutely no mutual benefit."

The same thing happens if you try to read at a literary event without ever coming as a member of the audience.

The same thing happens if you try to get people to critique your work without offering to do any in return.

Pretty soon, no one will deal with you. And then your job gets a whole lot harder.

It's a variation on a theme in any industry where those who consider how people can help them without returning the favor quickly wind up using up all the good will around them. One hand washes the other. When you're Donald Trump refusing to pay contractors, there's always another one to take their place (and apparently an entire wing of US politics as well), but when you're a writer, you find out quite quickly that this business is far more small and inscestuous than anybody might realize at first blush.  And reputations matter.

If you're really, really good or already famous, it may not ever matter that you leave behind a trail of people's goodwills like squeezed out toothpaste tubes, but for most starting writers, it can make or break their initial low-paid years to start having doors closed because they were a greedy anal sphincter about reciprocity. If you want to make money, think about how you can pay or trade services for or just do the same in return for those you're hoping to get favors from.

On to Part 3

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Creatives and Sleep (Personal and Meta Update)

Image description: Writer looking over edge of desk.
And being hella cute.
Personal Update

Note: Some days, are not my best. And sometimes I look at what I've written after EIGHT HOURS of sitting in front of the screen and it's pretty much crap. But sitting there and forcing out the words is what makes the words come back faster and gives me the discipline to slam dunk them on better days. So here's a double lesson. If you wonder how I keep punching out writing day after day and getting readers and making money, it's because days when I'm writing shit like this I don't give up. Because I know it'll get better faster (and I'll be more ready to make the most of it when it does) if I just keep showing up and establishing good writing habits.

But if you ever wondered if someone making money at this has a shitty day, HO...BOY YES!!!


So come join me in some crap about sleep if you want to see exactly what it's like when I'm off my game.


First a non-sequitur. Though I suppose it's more like a slight-sequitur.

I'm the kind of nerd who takes linguistic anthropology classes for fun. I didn't need it. I already had my elective. My segment two was in human sexuality. But it sounded wicked fascinating. Decisions like that are probably why I graduated with nearly a year's worth of credits more than I needed to, but I don't regret them.

You can tell a lot about a culture by studying their language and the concepts they have a LOT of words for. Here's something anglophones care about tremendously: time. We have TWELVE tenses. If you're coming over in three hours and by the time you get here I will have been studying for two hours without you, there's a tense for that! (It's called future perfect progressive.)  We have a tremendous lexicon of words that break down time precisely and by impression. We have thousands of metaphors for time.

And indeed, look at how carefully we are constantly watching our time. Arrive at 9. (9:01 and you'll be marked late.)  Work for eight hours. (One minute over and you will accrue overtime, which will make management angry.) If you're on salary, you might be less beholden to minutes and hours, but your paid time off, days on, floating holidays, vacation time all carefully measured. None of this is surprising given the English speaking world's emphasis on labor based capitalism, but it does lead to some interesting side effects for our artists.

We end up in a culture with a powerful emphasis on productivity and strong messages external and deeply internalized that our self worth can be measured literally by how much we produce. This production isn't always in the form of a job with a physical product, but can also be how "constructive" our so-called leisure time is. If you don't believe me, imagine two people of identical health and fitness. One plays video games any time they're not at work and the other is in a local soccer team. Which one has to deal with their mom telling them to go do something?

Are we in danger of getting some sort of point anytime soon.

Shut up evil italics voice.

Think about how busy everyone is all the time, and often it's not regrettably so. There's a certain measure of pride in how fast one can live, and how many things one can accomplish. Consider how (essentially) prideful many people are about how little sleep they tend to get and how much caffeine they require to be functional.  ("My mochachino has five shots of espresso!" And I'm going to slam this energy drink.) Many many people have a socially acceptable addiction to a mild stimulant in order to perpetually tax their body beyond its limits....often in the name of being "productive."

If you've been following along, you know I got a diagnosis of exhaustion a little while back. Technically, they're not 100% sure, but other than drugs (which I wasn't on–prescribed or otherwise) it's probably the best explanation for some sleep walking that happened. I watched Danny Rand for hours and spelled a bunch of words wrong while I was asleep but moving around, so obviously I want to get that fixed as soon as possible.

We're all going to die of natural causes because you decided to free flow what was on your mind this morning when you were staring at the ceiling wondering what kind of erotica to m–

SHUT UP! I'm getting there.

Step one in a lot of cases of too much/not enough of something basic is to start keeping a journal to really become aware of how much/little one is getting over time, so I have a sleep journal that I've been doing for a little over a month. My own results are not that important.

I'll say. Were you going to get to the part where this has to do with writing soon?

Seriously shut up! I'm working on it. You beastly voice. I hate you.

Anyway, my results were that I tend to run a little behind on sleep for days at a time and then crash in some nap-filled display of what is paradoxically, but accurately, described as epic slothfulness. I've been working on getting to bed sooner (since I can't reliably sleep in with roommate's dogs) and trying to even things out, but also I'm still rubber stamping any requests my body makes for sleep no matter how weird they might feel or inconvenient the timing (within reason, of course). And it's evening out, but still has peaks and valleys.

And here's what I notice.

Oh joy! Have we reached the point?

Please shut up. Please! I'm begging you.

My writing is easier, smoother, and more creative when I've had sleep. During the times of "famine," I'm leaning more on discipline, habit, and going through perfunctory motions to get work done. The prose itself is more wooden and less inspired. (Yes, like today if you're wondering.) After a good night or a nap, ideas pop in unbidden and I draw exciting connections between different things.

The results of a gillion studies about creativity and sleep can sometimes fail to penetrate our cultural shields about the need to be ever busy and "productive," but it is important for writers, and really all creatives (and REALLY all humans) to get themselves enough sleep. While insomniac artists have more undirected time, and can feel like they are getting a lot done, study after study belies that they are genuinely more creative rather than just more productive because they're awake. In fact, these same studies, over and over, link creative, original thought to REM sleep.

Also, it is only after deep and satisfying sleep, and waking without an alarm clock, that we can fully engage in the waking creativity known as hypnagogia (which mimics REM sleep in terms of how the brain is processing information). Sometimes we forget that we're human and all our little human functions usually fail quite predictably without proper amounts of our basic needs. And we cruise right past all those studies and crack open a five hour energy drink, wash it down with a Rockstar and think "I'm going to get some shit done today!"

But maybe one lone blogger keeping a sleep journal and saying, "Yep. It works JUST like they said it would" might better sway you. (Anecdotal evidence is a bit of an achilles heel with us.)

Humans need sleep. Creatives need sleep. (I would say they need sleep more than most, but I don't really think that's true. I think most humans are stuck in an uncreative rut of stressing their body to its limits in the name of "being productive." I also think the results of not getting enough sleep become apparent to creatives faster.) I know some lives can't have a moment taken away from them without falling over like the last move in a Jenga game, but most of us can find something we probably are doing that isn't quite as important as a good night's sleep.




Meta

We are WAY behind on what I call "businessish" posts. Things like cleaning up tabs, revisions of old posts, best of from the last months but also plot posts and such. I know some of this is because our current poll has sucked up every third day's post, but I'm going to make a concerted attempt to catch up on that stuff soon. I mention it because it might need to replace some of our regularly scheduled posts (like Thursday's mailbox posts) for a few weeks. I'll rotate through what gets cannibalized, but it's not just your average jazz hands post. I really do need to get my shit together here.