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

Sunday, December 30, 2018

"You Live In A Bubble"


  • *gets up* 
  • *reads about bigotry on the rise in the news; more hate crimes yesterday–someone is in the hospital this time*  
  • *reads about deaths*
  • *learns that the so-called alt-right makes up more than half of domestic terrorism yet those who carry these atrocities out are never labeled as such*
  • *turns on the radio: NPR interviewing members of Trump's cabinet–they dismiss the idea that vouchers will increase "soft segregation"*
  • *carpools to work with someone who is vocally worried about their kid sharing a bathroom with a trans kid*
  • *tries to point out that trans folks have assaulted fewer children in bathrooms than cis folks have; gets made fun of for using the word "cis" and told that "cis" is obviously a reverse slur and to shut up if this carpool is wanted*
  • *carpool goes on to talk about why giving scholarships to Black students is the real racism*
  • *is the only person who isn't a white guy on the team at work and one of only three in the whole department*
  • *works in proximity to three misogynists and two racists–plus one person who is both AND is the boss, so best just smile and laugh*
  • *sits at lunch and listens to loud person at next table explain why southern immigrants are stealing jobs; is asked to stop making a scene for glaring*
  • *boss goes on "all lives matter" rant on the way back from lunch*
  • *rant becomes "blue lives matter"*
  • *back to work–HR has determined that a formal sexual harassment charge is unnecessary; he has been "talked to; the issue is to be dropped*
  • *is forwarded a "funny" e-mail by family where the "joke" is that the woman is really a guy*
  • *before leaving work, has to call the IT guy who calls everything that doesn't work the R word and laughs at the very idea of ableism*
  • *gets "talked to" by boss on the way out the door and told to lighten up and be a team player or maybe this isn't the right fit*
  • *leaving work, watches a group of children go by calling something they don't want to do "gay"*
  • *picks up dinner from a restaurant where only conventionally attractive women are servers or hosts*
  • *drives home called several gendered slurs for missing that a light changed*
  • *comes home, turns on computer–sees private message from a sock puppet account of a guy accused of rape (regular accounts blocked) saying that it was out of line to believe the accusations, and legal defamation actions will be taken if the whole thing isn't recanted*
  • *discovers several online communities engaged in "open dialogue," which today is excusing fascism as a legitimate ideology in one community and is a bunch of white guys explaining why there is no racism or sexism anymore and the gender wage gap is a myth in another*
  • *gets banned from a page for suggesting that there is no comparison between open bigots and those who get angry at open bigotry*
  • *friend of a friend's screed shows up on the FB Newsfeed (because of a friend's comment on it) wherein feminism is declared fundamentally sexist and the person is going to be a humanist/egalitarian starting by declaring war on the word feminism*
  • *reads tweet expressing hope of suicide for being against the Breitbart News Network*
  • *several arguments on several friends' FB walls from everything to abortion access to thought experiments about why a 37-year-old-dating a 16-year-old isn't TECHNICALLY pedophilia* 
  • *libertarian atheist high school friend has posted an article suggesting that marginalized groups are all playing the victim card and have chips on their shoulders; is blocking anyone who pushes back*
  • *has to give up on a lovely community where like-minded liberals post pictures of pug dogs with silly captions because it has been overwhelmed by trans exclusionary and sex worker exclusionary radical feminists*
  • *goes to their own wall, their sanctuary of friends and family who support them*
  • *sees a slur*
  • *asks friend gently not to use slur––to please edit comment*
  • *friend insists they didn't mean it THAT way––that it's a perfectly acceptable word the whole world over even though it has splash damage to unintended targets and whole communities have asked for its retirement*
  • *friend insists that this is over-sensitivity*
  • *tells friend that on their wall, in their space, in their sanctuary of friends and family who support them, for just this one moment they try to enjoy out of the day, that word is not okay*


"You live in a bubble."

Friday, December 28, 2018

BioShock Infinite as Art: Your Argument is Invalid (Part 1)

Note: this is an Ace of Geeks rescue and a multi-part piece that was fairly ....uh...indulgent of me. So for my reposting of it, I've got an eye on places I can trim it down from a six part article. Except for today (because the revision caught me off guard), I will be revising it and posting it piecemeal on the days that Writing About Writing usually takes off––should take me a little over a week to get it all posted.

Among many geeks, it is a source of some tenderness that video games are not typically recognized or generally considered a “legitimate” art form.

Of course, geeks themselves know this epic jackhole pomposity needs to be taken out behind the chemical shed; however, as with trying to get Science Fiction a seat at the big kids' table, it seems a bunch of arrogant blowhards haven’t gotten the fucking memo yet. Among prudish tweed-jacketed Humanities professors, there are those who deny that interactive media could ever be true art. They say it in the same tone of voice that their long-dead compeers used to say that TV wasn’t art; and before that they used to say Rock and Roll wasn’t art; and before that they used to say that movies weren’t art; some of them still insist that computer animation isn't art; and they still haven't quite grasped that overarching historical irony that everything that now fills the very Humanities halls they haunt was at one time passionately decried as not art.

Surely THIS time they are right to be elitist, gatekeepery, and exclusionary, though. Surely this time their prejudice is spot on.

Ancient humanities prof: "Ug think good if like bison,
but not high art worthy of consider."

Plus, seriously, I don’t really think too many have actually played video games since they were pumping quarters into Tempest and Q-bert. I really have my doubts.

Usually I don’t give two landbound shits or a flying fuck about the divide between what the great Eurocentric ivory tower dwellers think is "real art" and what they don’t. They serve a narrow aesthetic at best (too busy patting themselves on the back for their open-minded, post-colonial theses to notice how overwhelmingly white and middle-class their defense committee was). But some days they seem to be ever stuck in an endless cycle of praising the prior generation’s ingenuity as “the right way to do art," and doing modern artistic movements more harm than good.

If they want to lock themselves in their cloistered halls, turn their discussions into exclusionary circle jerks, pat themselves on the back for having it all figured out, appoint themselves the guardians of the bourgeois aesthetic, hate the art and artists of the current and younger generation (who—bafflingly*—end up going on being canonized in the next generation), and then scratch their heads that no one A) could have predicted such a Shyamalanian twist and B) seems to still give a shit what they say about art.....  If they want to do all that, normally, that’s their business.

*This is irony. It's not really baffling.




Today.....ugh. Today is a little different. You see, not so very long ago, I watched one of these snide academics tell a friend named Jessica that her MFA in game design—an MFA not officially offered by the university, but one she designed herself by cobbling together classes in computer art, 3-D art, graphic design, literary theory, film, and independent study—was little more than a piece of paper and that her lifelong pursuit to bring artistic merit to video games was futile, as they would never be respected as true art.

Fuck that tweed jacket in particular.

“These…video games,” he said (and yes, you have to give it that sneering little pause to get the timbre just right), “simply don’t have the ability to be real art. They’re fun. They’re entertaining. Some of them are very pretty. My son plays this one on the X-box that I swear is just like being there. But they’re not art. Understand that good art actually does have a definition.  It’s not completely subjective—the people that say things like that usually haven’t studied art, but I know you have, so you know what I'm saying is true. The composite of the elements has to support a directed vision.  There has to be a theme that is enhanced by the technical aspects of the art form itself.  Video games just don’t have that.  They are just….games.”

I'm paraphrasing. Dillhole was a lot less articulate. It took him like ten minutes to get this out and there was at least two minutes about Edvard Munch that made no sense. Towards the end, I was actively hoping paratrooping Cubans would take over the campus.

For me, all he did was prove he was a complete status-quo-loving tool, without an original thought in his institutional skull for what art even is. Like, I'm pretty sure if HIS boss had heard that speech, he would have instantly earned his sew-on elbow patches. It takes a particular kind of disingenuousness not to be aware of how closely developments in art have tracked with developments in technology. Even if you missed things like the proliferation of literacy and writing after the invention of the Gutenberg Press or the popularity of longer fiction tracking almost exactly with the technological cost of printing it (in those early days, novels were "not art," by the way), and even if you were unaware of how the 20th Century’s technological developments changed art with everything from amplified music, to film, to television, you would have to be straight-up fucking asleep not to notice that computers are changing every art they touch. From CGI, to computer animation, to auto-tuning, to the entire MDA movement in canvas art.

I'm not hoping Atari's Combat wins an Academy Award, but the very idea that video games couldn’t possibly be art is patently absurd.

Yet Dillholicus McDill got under my friend’s skin, and he made her wonder if she was wasting her life and an inheritance that could have gone towards a better car.

“Jess, these are the same guys who thought theater could never be high art—it was just mindless entertainment for the masses. It was ‘fun.’ And then in 1589 my boy, Billy, wrote a little ditty called The Two Gentlemen of Verona.  Maybe you’ve heard of it.  He made them all look pretty sillypants.”

“I know,” she said. "I just wish I could show them one game that is....unquestionable. That’s all it would take. If one game could be high art, they would have to admit that the potential is there for the whole medium.”

Thirteen months later, I played Bioshock Infinite.

I could drop any number of titles to show how video games are breaking the “high art” barrier. The idea that Shadow of the Colossus didn’t weave its elements into a single poignant thematic vision is laughable. I myself am doing literary analysis of Skyrim that I will absolutely finish this year. (Morgan Freeman Narrator's voice: "He wouldn't.") And we don’t even need the fancy computing power or übergraphics of today to cross this Rubicon; Myst was a game, now over 22 years old, whose breathtaking visuals at the time, mind numbing puzzles, and dark soundtrack created a powerful sense of foreboding mystery, which worked with the game’s dark themes of guilt vs. innocence, unclear villains, vengeance, and familial strife.

But Bioshock Infinite is a slam dunk. It's an....okay game. (My opinion will be somewhat hard to obfuscate in this article.) Some love it. Some hate it. Some are pretty meh. But perhaps more than any other game I could unpack (or at least just as much as any other as of this writing), it can end this argument. Every molecule of it tried for something higher, and whether you think it succeeded or not, I can make its case. (I can also write a 30 page paper on the powerful literary elements in The Bell Jar while wishing I had that six hours of my life back, so this isn't about my opinion.)

In this essay.....

Haha. See what I did there. Since that's a meme these days?  Okay but seriously in this essay, I can show by way of its criticism, its symbolism, its composite elements, its mechanics, and even its breathtaking failure at sociopolitical commentary, that every frame had the ambition to be more than “just a game.”  In the end, any sad remnants of fossilized sentiment that video games can’t be real art will be completely invalid, and Dillicus Maximus will go extinct like the dinosaur he is.

This one’s for you, Jessica.

This will be part one of what was originally a six-part series on Bioshock Infinite. (I'm kind of hoping I get it down to five in revision.) It’s not going to be your typical “What did the end REALLY mean?” article. There are enough of those as it is. Instead, I’m going to analyze the artistic elements—with a focus on the literary and writing side since that’s where I have experience and training.  However, this discussion will be impossible to have without giving away some spoilers so proceed with caution.

On to Part 2

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Best Non SF/F/Horror Book (or series) Not Written by a Cis Het White Man

What is the best genre book (or series) [not Sci Fi/Fantasy/or Horror] written by a woman or POC or member of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Please follow this link if you're wondering why this poll has some particular limitations.

This post should have gone up yesterday, but I didn't get in until late. (One of my partners and her husband took me to see a performance of Tuck Everlasting, and we were all a bit famished when we got back to Berkeley/Oakland. I didn't tumble back into my place until midnight and then I just kept right on tumbling straight into bed.) When it's late on the west coast (of North America) there's almost no point in putting up a post. 85% of my followers are still in the U.S. and I can actually see the difference if I post after they've gone to bed.

We've only got a few days left and this is the VERY LAST of our year of diverse polls.

Everyone gets three [3] votes, but as there is no way to "rank" votes, you should use as few as you can stand.

The poll itself is in the lower left at the bottom of the side menus.

If you're on mobile you can scroll ALLLLLL the way to the bottom and click on"webpage view" to see the side menus and get to the polls.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

NON WRITING Work Sharing Guidelines

The rules They're more what you might call "guidelines"

The golden....uh.....guideline here is to remember that lots of people are going to be posting and that this is for all of you. I may add to or amend this list as we iron out what works and what is sub-optimal.


  1. Limit yourself to sharing one piece. I'll do this "event" every other week or so if it stays popular. You'll have other chances to promote other stuff. I'm not going to dig through dozens or hundreds of comments to check that everyone only posted once, but if I notice, I'll remove all of them.
  2. I will remove links that go to crap. (Consequently, PM me if you find one because I won't have time to check them all.) I don't mean a blog you wrote where a pop up asks you to be a subscriber–though that is annoying on the very first visit, justsoyaknow. But anything that goes to a subscription site, a pop-up fest, an obvious marketing scheme of some kind, a completely non-writing site, or any kind of bad-faith crap will be removed. If it really looks like someone decided to just be Spammy McSpamkins, I'll ban them as well. 
  3. This is a post to share things that are NOT WRITING. (Films you've made. Visual art. Music. Your etsy page.)  I do a post just like this for writing. Keep your eyes peeled for it if you want to share your poetry, stories, or excerpts of longer works. Mixed media is okay if there's writing involved. 
  4. You can post any art you want to share--even a link to a an Amazon page selling your wares or your own Facebook page or Etsy page or whatever. But this post will likely get dozens, maybe hundreds of replies. You might want to link to your best "sales pitch" page instead of deep in the bowels of the monetization maze. Thinking of this more as a place to share your work than a place to find new customers is probably key. If they like your work, they'll dig deeper. 
  5. If your link has a preview image, that can't be helped, but please don't put huge images directly as Facebook comments. That will make the comments very hard to navigate. If you absolutely can't link your work for some reason, describe it in the first comment you make, and then reply to yourself with the text of your work (so that the reply "threads"). But best just to link something to your opening page.
  6. Tell people what they're getting into! There will be a lot of folks posting, and unless they recognize your name, a mere title (or worse, just a URL) will not grab their attention long enough to even give a click. However...a description might entice them: ("My Etsy store where I sell ceramic casts of my O face" or whatever.) 
  7. If you give feedback, remember that the person is a human being with feelings who has put themselves "out there," and that is a hard thing to do. These are completed works. The author may not necessarily be asking for your input–certainly not of the "here's what I would change" or "this is why it sucks" variety. It might be nice to ask if they want criticism before giving it unsolicited. You don't have to limit yourself to only praise, but for fuck's sake play nice. Other artists, of all people, should know how hard this can be.
  8. Though I can't enforce this in any way, and no one will even know, it is considered rude in any artistic environment to take without giving back. You won't get invited back if you read at literary events but leave without listening to others (or if you only come on nights when you're reading). You won't be given good feedback in review groups if you take feedback and give none (or don't give as good as you get). And so if you post a link, for the sake of your artistic celestial balance in the universe, please try to find someone else's art to at least click the link on and poke around.
  9. Since this is happening on Facebook, if you read something (and like it) consider giving it a like. I may feature post the ones that do the best if they're appropriate for the page.
  10. Be excellent to each other.


Friday, December 21, 2018

How Video Games Made Me A Better Person

First, a disclaimer: I have a lot of privilege. I code as white (ethnically I'm from a group that has had its whiteness revoked and been the target of genocides, but most people don't know that unless I tell them). I'm a guy (kinda). I'm not straight but I have spent most of my life under the umbrella of straight privilege. Raised middle class, although I'm now poor on paper. Able-bodied except for some neurodivergence. Those marginalized statuses I have, you probably couldn't tell by looking at me, so I pass, out in the world. These experiences are from my point of view, and they may be somewhat sophistic to people who experience marginalization and systematic oppression every day.

I tend to be a bit outspoken when it comes to social justice issues. When I say "tend to" and "a bit," you understand that I mean most of my friends (even those who agree with me) have gone through at least one or two moments on Facebook where they said, "Chris, please shut up. Please for the love of God, just stop posting. Just for a few minutes. Just this once. Please!"

From time to time, however, someone manages to pin me down for a lunch date or corners me at a party where I'm being reserved, shy, and not at all like my online persona, and they often end up wondering about how I came to care so much about the issues I talk so much about. Formative experiences about speaking out against injustice involve my mom, and no small amount of my bravery can be attributed to my idolization of Luke Skywalker. But those experiences set a tone. They laid the foundation for wanting to be morally good. They don't themselves help me parse the thicket of discourse to determine what the right thing is.

That comes from video games.

When I was young, video games were pretty simple. The first game I ever played involved a square picking up an arrow to go look for a chalice, and my favorite game required you to run to the right until you died three times. (You could run to the left, but the crocodiles were easier to jump going right.) And of course there was an inexplicable hostility that a certain airplane had for the river it was raiding.

Boss fight. Circa 1979.
Shit just got real, yo.

As I grew up, video games got better and their objectives improved. There was plenty of rescuing princesses, of course, and stopping alien brains, and terrorist organizations who apparently had the money to build giant fighting mecha but didn't think to put some motion detectors outside their death fortresses, but we also started to see more complex machinations. Villains didn't always just twirl their mustaches or go by names like Sinistar–some of them even thought they were the good guy.

As we reached the turn of the century, and video games began to come into their own as a complex and nuanced art form, we gamers began to take on the avatar mantle of heroes in much more complicated dramas. Sometimes we were on the wrong side when we started out. Sometimes the villains lied. Sometimes complicated political dramas were unfolding with no moral protagonist.
Of course, these days, in video games, we can even choose to be complete epic seepage dripping assholes, adding a whole new layer of choice and complexity to the journey of the gamer.

Like COMPLETE seepage dripping assholes.

And as weird as it might sound, all this nuance and flexibility has helped me to be a better person. We can all figure out how to be a good guy when evil aliens show up to destroy Earth. We can all make the "right" choice when some eight-foot-tall fucking BDSM turtle kidnaps a woman who's begging for help.  But as things get more complicated, and everyone is just looking out for their own interests, it becomes a little tougher to figure out whose side of the story to listen to.

That's where video games come in.

Imagine you fired up a video game and entered in the starting city of a modern (yet steampunk because steampunk is awesome) town. You're probably going to talk to a bunch of people and find out what's going on because you've played enough video games to know that's what you do. And unless you're very impatient, you will probably start by talking to everyone. You won't skip the "Falcons" group and only ever talk to the "Razorbacks." They've all got stories. You won't ignore someone who lives in the bad part of town. You know (as any good gamer knows) that there may be vital information in the hands of basically anyone.

You don't value any stories more than any others.

Now imagine the first people you talk to are kind of bitter and mean. They treat you with some hostility. They don't trust you. They don't like you. But they do talk to you, and when they do, they tell you of terrible things happening to them from the government. Every single one of them has a story about how their experience isn't fair. They don't get enough steam for their punks in their part of town. They are powerless. Poor. If any of them protest their unfair conditions, they are often the subjects of violence. This isn't just a coincidence either. They aren't randomly the poor people. They are HELD DOWN because of some immutable factor of their birth. They may even ask you to help them. They have definite perceptions about the injustice in which they exist. They say it is all around and permeates their lives. Their ancestors were very badly treated, and even though things are better, they still aren't equal.

As you move on, you discover a second group. They are much nicer and friendlier. They like you. They treat you well. They flirt with you (unlocking romance options far more easily). This group lives in a better part of town. They are, by and large, richer and much more powerful. They have all the steam they need and their punks are well stocked. Almost everyone on the TV shows is from the second group and they control the voice that comes over the city-wide PA system telling everyone what a fine equality-loving society they all live in. Almost everyone in political power is from the second group. Almost every notable person in this city's history seems to be from the second group.

Group Two will tell you at length about how the first group is making things up. Sure, they were an unfair society long ago in the before time, but that's all ancient history (the ancient history of one generation ago). Now it's laughable that things aren't totally equitable. Certainly there aren't any deep-seated inequalities to overcome.

They tell you that the first group just wants to put them down. The first group is lazy. The first group won't work to pull themselves up. They say the first group is simply playing the victim because of the benefits they hope to get from pity. In some cases they acknowledge that some *VERY MINOR* injustice still exists, in a detached and intellectual way, but they insist that it is self correcting, often dismiss specific claims of Group One, and firmly believe that any attempts by the first group to right the injustice are "far far worse than the inequity itself." They really discourage you from listening to the first group's stories. Not overtly, of course––at least not at first––but by explaining that they are better able to see injustice than group one, and there isn't any. Of course, if you keep talking to group one, they'll stop being so nice, stop flirting with you. Stop treating you so well...

Laws exist that make it extremely difficult for the people in Group One to advance themselves into the worlds of Group Two (though technically it is possible and a few have done it to much fanfare and are often touted as evidence that everything is better now). Further, a few people in Group Two are quite overt about how they are superior and should be in a better position. They blame most of the Group One's troubles on the actions, culture, behaviors of Group One, often suggesting that if they would just be less hostile, work harder, and accept their lot, they would probably be in a better situation. There are many theories about why the first group is disadvantaged and they are all discussed by the second group with a sort of intellectual detachedness. Many in Group Two talk at length about what they would do to have better lives if they were in Group One.

It is considered uncouth to voice the opinion openly and directly that Group One is inferior, but when it happens (and it seems to strangely often), such opinions are merely considered impolite and part of living in a free society where people can say what they want. They are not immediately censured and aggressively repudiated in the same way as Group One's cries of injustice are....always. Still, it seems that in whispers and through double speak, Group Two is really allowed to speak as horribly as they want about Group One.

Group Two has nothing to gain and everything to lose from even the acknowledgement of the injustice. Group Two's elite enjoy a vast and inexhaustible supply of cheap labor from Group One. And you even discover that there are actual laws and regulations (on top of social consequence and effect) that make it much much harder for anyone from Group One to rise up. Plus Group One is secretly treated worse in virtually every situation––financing, employment, payment...you name it. And Group Two is blaming them for bad things that have begun to happen and looking to make life even worse for them.

Now here is my question to you as a gamer.

Would you, playing this game, have even the SLIGHTEST difficulty realizing what was going on in this scenario? Would anyone not know which group to support to get the "good" ending and which would get the "evil" ending?

Video games helped me to realize that most people look around our world from the inside. We've been here our whole lives. We're used to it. We're desensitized. WE ARE THE NPC's! We are the status quo. But as soon as we look at our world from the perspective of someone who just turned the game on five minutes ago, it becomes shockingly, absurdly, spectacularly easy to realize what is really going on.

When we take the time to listen to the stories of different people, as we would if we were walking around a game world trying to figure out what was going on (and instead of listening to who was in power), we immediately get a sense that our world is not just haphazardly and randomly unfair, but is systematically oppressive. Instead of letting the group in charge tell us that it's fair or as fair as it can be or any unfairness is probably the fault of those suffering, we can go and get the stories from the people themselves and listen to them. The minute we listen to everyone as if they have something vital and important to tell us (and they do) about this world, the truth is laid bare. When we value all the stories around us as equal instead of letting those in power explain away inequality it is almost comical how apparent the injustices are.

In my world (as distressingly unsteampunk as it is) I have a choice to listen to one group–the group in power (a largely male, white, heterosexual, able-bodied, cis group)–who insists that nothing is really wrong that couldn't be fixed if people would just try harder instead of complaining. Or I can seek out other voices and other narratives and let the people best equipped to describe their own situations describe it for themselves. Women who've experienced harassment and sexism. People of color who've experienced racism and xenophobia. Disabled people who've found difficulty accessing the same services as the able-bodied. Gender-variant folks who have a world of difficulties that cis folks do not. I can find those folks and I can listen to their stories and see that they paint a very VERY different picture than those overwhelming the mainstream. And once I have bothered to listen to the stories of those who are not in control of the narrative–and treated those stories as equal to the ones who are–it's only a matter of deciding whether I want to be Luke Skywalker or a seeping asshole.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

September, October, and November's Best (And a Bit of News)

We have three for the price of one today since I'm still trying to fit all the admin jazz hands that I used to use as filler into a three-times-a-week update schedule. 

Something happened in mid-October and I think I've accounted for it in the monthlies (though I'm going to have a bear of it when I try to figure out how to rank the entire year). Facebook pulled the biggest algorithmic throttle it has EVER done. My numbers from FB dropped by a factor of ten. Suddenly I went from 10k articles and quarter million months to being glad if I could break a thousand most days.

They've billed this massive impact to every single page admin and their actual content creators as their great new feature where you get to see "more of your friends" and what you love, but this is also the company that lied to your face about Netflix and Spotify being able to access your MESSAGES. And of course when it came to the admin side of my Facebook experience, their benevolent new algorithm accompanied a FULL COURT PRESS of trying to get us page Admins to buy advertising space and promote our pages with money.  (And of course as I geared up to move "the show" over to Tumblr, they pulled their own überdillhole move.)

Which is just to say that I've been trying to figure out how to figure out what "best" means when my numbers suddenly change (and wishing to hell that 90% of my livelihood was not based on the capricious whims of this god-forsaken site).  This is the best I came up with.

So without further ado, here are best three non-poll articles from the last three months that will go on to untold fame in The Best of W.A.W.

September
"Why Didn't You Report it At the Time?"  
This is a rape culture script.
Narrative Distance
Point of view matters, but so does the narrative distance.
Your Fallacy is Showing
The bad arguments that surround social issues are exhausting.

October
The Buy-Me-Lunch Answer About My Gender
And you don't even have to buy me lunch!
9 Writerly Things No One's Going to Give You (But We All Need)
The exciting conclusion will be here on Friday
Broken Mirror (by Shadow)
A guest author speaks on representation of kink culture

November
Social Justice Fortune Cookies 
Bite sized morsels of social justice!
Fake Geek Girl: Misogyny not Elitism
A rescue from another blog about why some of geek culture's gatekeeping is mislabeled as equal opportunity pretentiousness.
No. I'm Not Going to Beta Test Your Game
Another rescue from Ace of Geeks about "early access" games.

Friday, December 14, 2018

20 Questions (Meta)

A collection of quick-answer questions accumulated over the years that just wouldn't make for their own post. Theme meta. Money. Facebook. Behind the scenes.


1) Jack asks: Question from FB-land. Do you think you should be writing every day (as seems to be your philosophy) or that "your story will come out when it wants to"/"when you're ready, you will write" as is the theme of some of the memes you post.   

I don't think these ideas are as mutually exclusive as you might suspect.

So first of all, I post quotes and shit I don't necessarily agree with 100%. Unless I really dislike it or it's got something really overt in it that is harmful (racism, classism, ableism, etc), it'll probably go in the queue. I run through a lot lot of macros. I can't afford to be super ideologically picky.

That said....there's still some overlap. You may write for years before the story that wants to come out makes you serious about coming to the page every day. And wanting to tell your story out doesn't mean you're going to have the skill to sit down and write it tomorrow. You might have to work a while at your skill set.

An awful lot of people start their writing journey because of a story they want to tell, that they then try to write, fail, write other things, establish themselves, and then return to many years later.


2) Catherine asks: How do you figure out your value as a writer?

You never will. You will always be wrong.

Most days you'll undervalue yourself. You won't believe the people who tell you how much you matter to them. You'll think the compliments are sweet but undeserved. Positive feedback will fade into a din and only the crack of criticism will penetrate. Other days you will be ten feet tall and no one will be able to convince you that your shit stinks.

Knowing that you'll never, ever, be right, the best you can do is hang on to that little voice that says you have something worth saying, and try to ride out the imposter syndrome.


3) Umeko asks: I am trying to start my own blog for sharing my webcomic, art, and poetry. How often should an artist ask for money?

Well, I can tell you what I do, and it's got my bills (barely) paid and about 2/3 of the way to not needing side gigs to keep my cell phone and car insurance. People tell me I could probably ask more often, but most of them are either already giving me money or are pretty supportive. I don't want to deluge people with nonstop messages so I try to thread that needle between asking too much and not enough.

Obviously there are the Paypal and Patreon links at the top of the page on the left and right where they're kind of hard to miss. I do some sort of appeal once a month––once directly to the social media where I share posts and once in the blog itself.


4) Olive asks: Why don't you make your longer FB posts into blogs? [Note: this is about my personal page.]

Kind of for the same reason no one tries to pay their bill with a paper napkin sketch. Oh wait.....

Sometimes I do. Many are the posts there that become a kind of "proto-draft" that ends up going into something I put on the blog later on. Maybe because I refine the idea or maybe because I just didn't expect how hard it would resonate.

But right now I'm down to three posts a week here and I write on FB a lot. That is just going to be where some of my more "fire and forget" writing lives and dies.


5) Anonymous asks: Can every single fucking social justice post you write that isn't actually about writing really be explained by "the narrative"?

Yep.

I mean, I hate to be flip. I know what you're getting at. Sometimes I shoehorn that shit pretty hard to make it fit the theme of this blog and "the narrative" is like the lubricant that makes those square pegs slide right in to the round holes. (Metaphor frappé, anyone?)

But yes. Human beings tell stories. In really really real ways, human beings ARE stories. History is a story of how we got here. Politics is a story of who gets what and when. Polemics is a story of what we ought to find important. Most human beings exist as the main character in a story about their lives. Everyone has a story about you they tell other people. When you die, the only thing left...is a story about who you were. Everything is stories.

So stop for a moment and consider just how fucking powerful it is to have CONTROL of those stories. To tell the stories you want. To be able to silence the ones you don't. To simply ignore the stories of the people you don't want to listen to. To be able to tell your story about an event and never let the person contradicting you tell theirs. To be able to make a person unsympathetic, even antagonistic towards what your story has established as a value. To dismiss a story as "fake" and have that be the end of its full consideration. To frame a whole group in one particular way or another––victim or aggressor (or whiner if they dare to try to tell their own story). To elevate one group's values, aesthetics, and THEIR stories as much, much more important than any others'. To frighten people into action by repeating stories of things that simply ARE. NOT. TRUE.

Yes, every single fucking social justice post can be explained by "the narrative."

6) Many ask: Can I take you to lunch/take you out to get a cup of coffee. Will you share your Amazon wishlist/Steam wishlist/Something wishlist.

You can BUY me lunch. That is to say you can drop the cost of a meal or cup of coffee or a drink into my Paypal and I'll be super grateful. If you're ride-or-die about wanting it to be for a meal, you can earmark it in the comments, and I can even email you back a picture of me enjoying it if you want. And if you really want to dazzle me for Christmas, instead of a $60 gift, register for an ongoing $5 contribution on Patreon for the next year.

However, I've had some weird––and, to be 100% honest, sometimes slightly scary––experiences being really open and accessible to my fans, and I've had to be more circumspect about getting to know people online and not really meet people unless we've known each other online for a while or are going to meet for the first time at a party or group gathering. I want to trust everyone, but some people don't see a person...they see what they've projected into me, and it's gotten me stressed, a little scared, and sometimes hurt.

As for wishlists and shit, the best thing you can do is drop me some money. I know it's not as fun or sexy, but I'll appreciate it a lot more. I promise. A couple of years ago, a bunch of people bought me stuff off various wishlists and I ended up with like eight video games and a bunch of books, but I had to borrow money for the last week of groceries.  So I was playing the latest snazzy video games and eating Top Ramen for every meal and....just....cash is better.

7) Amber asks: Do you ever get PMed questions that just require too much emotional labor to answer or just make you feel gross?

All the time.

Usually it's people annoyed that they got banned from the page who want to double or triple down about whatever shitful shitgibbon hot mess thing they said. ("I see that you banned me for being so right you couldn't even handle it....")  I like to imagine they spent a really long time writing it, because I don't even finish reading the thing before I delete it.

It's kind of breathtaking to me just how absolutely RUDE people will be and then not understand why they got kicked out. Like you would never ever say anything that to someone if you were in their house or even in a business and not expect to be thrown out. It's always the same fucking Chad-clones too, who think they are god's gift to rational thinking.

8) Becky asks: Most amusing instance of "Hey, aren't you the WAW guy?"

"You've probably never heard of you."
To date, the funniest version of this has been online where someone shared one of my articles with me, and then told me: "This guy is not really mainstream. He's pretty niche. You probably haven't heard of him."

I got hipster street-cred'ed about my own work. It was spectacular.

Though I think the BEST one was at an Apple store. I was signing for my purchase and the person says, "That's so weird. There's this blogger I love with exactly the same––" and looks up and kind of makes this eeksqueal noise. And there was a lot of stammering and thanking on my part and feeling awkward and not knowing what to do (also on my part) and I mumbled and stumbled out wondering what had just happened. But I was about thirty feet tall for the rest of the day.

8) Monique asks: I can't see your earnings but it seems like you've been stuck on your current Patreon goal forever. 

[Note: My current goal––that I am 92% of the way to reaching––is to try and cover the rising cost of health care.]

I kind of feel like I have too, Monique.

I've been inching up the entire year, and every month I gain a few and lose a couple and come out a few dollars ahead. So it's been glacial progress overall. Logistically that 92% is from zero (not from the last completed goal), so there's still a ways to go. That goal was created last year when the new tax code and health care changes had were made (I don't get to write off things like my office or computer under the new tax code and since I class as freelance, I pay for my health care out of pocket and always get a premium hike). I came up with a small, couple-hundred dollar goal that was intended to make up for the increased costs the IRS and DHHS (respectively) estimated those things were going up. Plus a little extra to cover some kind of dental care as well.

I've been struggling to reach it all year.

I don't share my exact finances anymore because some people who don't understand Bay Area costs sometimes think I have more than I need (I don't), and people are sort of shitty in general about demanding artists be destitute. So I tend to say things like "I am technically covering my bills" or "I still need side gigs if I'm going to have a car." However I will say that there's about $100 left in my current goal.

Unfortunately December is a really rough month, and I'm currently down $17 (below). A lot of folks re-evaluate their finances as the holidays approach, and cut corners. Plus I'm not a charity. (Though I did hear one cool story of someone who had money gifting a Patreon contribution as a gift for someone ELSE who wanted to support my blog but didn't have the money.)

Lost a few, gained a few, but I lost a lot of $10s and gained a lot of $1s and $5s. 


9) Benny asks: If I may, I have another question (non-nano related) for the mailbox: 
I've created and adopted a certain belief over the past few months that I've taken to heart for my thought processes while writing: "50% of all the writing advice, theory, and guidelines out in the world are simply armchair science, in the figurative sense. The other 50% is also armchair science, albeit in a more literal meaning. The best anyone can do is sit down, shut up, write, and hope we're not using too many commas."

*holds up hand palm down and tilts hand back and forth* "Nyeeeeeeeeeeehish?"

I'm not sure I'd approval-stamp anything so reductive.

You can write an awful lot of shit for an awful long time if you don't ever take any advice at all, Benny. It sort of depends on the advice. There's a part of this that is spot on. You have to write (a lot) and other than maybe some motivational speeches and eighties power chords, nothing is going to get you to that blank page and get your ass into a chair if you're determined to find excuses.

But the idea of "armchair" anything is that the people aren't actually doing the thing (armchair quarterbacks aren't actually PLAYING football, for example), but a lot of advice about how to write comes FROM WRITERS. It's not actually armchair, it's more like "Reports From The Field." Plus everything from process to craft to prose style to writing despite specific obstacles to advice about how to make money. Bit more there than just grim determination and hoping after commas.

10) Casey asks: How many people *do* you ban each week? And do the numbers go up significantly after Social Justice Bard posts? (I'm prepared to bet my non-existent pay cheque they do).

[Note: Casey's question is about Writing About Writing's Facebook page.]

That is not a bet anyone should ever take.

Roughly....a dozen or so a week. This year it may have been a little high because every single one of our polls has involved someone insisting that it's all just Social Justice Warrior "nonsense." And I'm pretty clear in the Commenting Policy that that shit will just get you banned right out.

Every once in a while someone is just grotesquely rude, but most of the reasons I have "Mayday provide folks with a drink" is because they drop trou and pinch a deuce in the comments of a post they don't feel they should have to even read. Entitlement is a helluva drug.

11) I have absolutely no interest in writing fiction but I do want to learn how to write more interesting, engaging non-fiction articles. What community college type course would be best for learning this skill?  "Creative writing" seems to be focused on writing fiction, telling stories.

To answer your question simply, take a writing class that isn't creative. If you're new to college/community college, that's probably going to be Freshman composition. (Every college numbers and letters the class a little differently––where I taught it was Eng120.)  If you've taken Freshman composition, take the next composition class.

Though at the community college level, I wouldn't write off creative writing. If you take a degree in creative writing, you'll end up doing more fiction than you probably want to, but a single class might be useful. Nonfiction can be VERY creative, especially if you want to have the kind of prose style that is engaging and interesting and not so much like a college essay.

You can probably skip the online poetry class with the professor who is clearly on vacation and (literally) phoning it in a couple of hours a week.

12) Several folks have asked: I love your blog and I'm so poor. I want to give you money, but I can't. Is there anything else I can do?

Hey, that's why it's free and always will be. I get it. There's about a hundred artists I'd love to hand money to if I could. The only thing you'll ever "miss out on" is a couple of different newsletters (one with personal updates, one with more news and the occasional status report––those things I share exclusively with my Patrons). But all the writing advice and any fiction I write will always be available for free, even if I also put up a Kindle version or have some print-on-demand copies.

Here is a list of ways people can help Writing About Writing. Numbers 3-6 involve no money. Everything from social media proliferation to letting me know you appreciate what I'm doing.

And of course more directly, you could always prop up posts like this one with a like or a comment, so more people (who maybe do have a few dollars to rub together) will see it.

13) Jason asks: Are either spam bots or troll bots appearing to gain any emotional connection capabilities?

Not that I'm aware of.

The spam I get MOST often through email is offers to write on my blog, and even if I didn't read it, it actually LOOKS like spam. It's all formatted in similar ways. The grammar is bad. It talks about how much it likes my blog in really vague terms that could be true of any blog.



What I get on FB is offers to "rent" my page. They'll give me two or three articles to run a day and then promise $5000 a month when it's over. Most of them try to send me a friend request too on my personal account. That's one of the reasons I ask everyone to include a quick PM letting me know they are an oxygen-loving human.

I think it's still a numbers game on their end. They don't need to work on "fooling" people. They just have to look passable. Because some number of folks out of every thousand will not notice or push the wrong button.

14) Lyra asks: I would actually be interested in the ratio of PMs (or any sort of direct feedback) that are positive or some constructive criticism that actually moves you forward versus haters, trolls, splainers and such.

Maybe one in ten? One in twenty?

Fortunately I'm getting pretty teflon-coated when it comes to the basic haterade stuff. That is usually deleted before I reach the second line. These days it actually takes a comment that has clearly understood and engaged my writing in good faith to get under my skin.

And then every once in a while, someone sends me something lovely, whether it is a sweet letter that they like my work or a donation or Patreon. Or they just slide into my PM to gush a little. One woman (after asking for consent first, like a considerate and proper human) sent me a thank-you e-card with some of the adult modeling she did, as sort of an "art-for-art" exchange. That day I heard my own theme song when I walked into rooms, lemmie tell ya. But no matter how mythically epic or simple the effort is, it's always such a blissful break to the monotony of the hate mail that I love the hell out of it.

15) Hélène asks: Do you use writing aids apps? If so, which? What writing aid app do you mostly use, and why?

Not really.

I use Pages (the generic Apple program on Macs) to do my regular fiction writing. And most of my blogging goes right into the text field of Blogger's webpage. When I'm not online, I write my text in Pages. Sometimes I take notes in the Notepad. I know people swear by things like Scrivener, and I encourage writers to do whatever works for them, but I usually just have some hand scribbled notes next to my computer. The more complicated the program becomes, the more I get wrapped up in using it like an affectation and the less I just sit and do the goddamned writing.

I also had a bunch of those random topic generator apps that are supposed to help come up with prompts and shit to overcome writer's block. They were fun when I was trying to do random writing prompts with my friends as part of a writing circle, but I find that when I sat down to write every day, I actually experience a backlog of ideas. I will never write everything I've thought of, even if my ideas stopped coming tomorrow.  It's like my To Be Read™ list.


16) What's the best way to set up a recurring payment?

Patreon.

Paypal will take out a tiny bit less as part of its payment processing if both parties have Paypal, but Patreon lets me send out rewards and thanks and updates and stuff just by pushing a button and is a lot easier to keep track of.


17) Wendy asks: How do you 'measure' writing productivity in a given day or week? Per page, per so-and-so many words, or per number of hours you've spent on it? What do you feel is the right amount (of words, or pages, or hours) for you?

I used to set goals like this, but these days it's more like a job. What am I doing from 12-6? Writing. I mean I guess that means I'm writing for 40ish hours a week and that feels like the right amount.

I think when I stopped setting page and word count and hourly goals was when I stopped feeling like I wasn't writing enough. Back then, I felt like I needed to push myself to write more so I was always increasing my expectations to kind of keep me honest. These days I pretty much write as much as I can with some time for reading and a LITTLE bit of time for Netflix and video games. In order to write more, I would have to be making enough money to drop my side gigs.

I suppose if I were just staring at the screen during my writing time, I might start to demand word counts from myself, but that hasn't been my problem for some time.


18) Amber asks: Are there some articles you've had in mind that you've just never started/finished because you worry that it's not your "lane"?

Yeah.

It happens all the time before I even start. One time though, it happened basically AFTER I was done.

I don't want to rehash the issue itself, but a little over a year ago when I was a bit more once-more-unto-the-breach about directly taking on social justice issues, I put about 20 hours in on a commissioned piece by a woman of color that she wanted about white feminism and....it was not my place as a guy to talk about feminism. I listened to the beta readers and backed off (even though there were lots of folks from other axes who were very eager to help me bring my skill set to something they felt strongly about). It was clear that trans folks wanted to talk about the issue, women of color (particularly Black women) wanted to talk about the issue, queer women wanted to talk about the issue, but it was also clear that as a guy, I needed to take a seat.

I tried to revise it into an article about intersectionality and the client found the result watered down and not the callout of white feminism she'd asked for. I offered to sell the original to her as a ghost writer (if she would revise it in her own words and publish it under her name), but that wasn't what she wanted, so I ended up eating the 20 hours and not getting paid, which you know--sucks about as much as anyone working half a week and then not getting paid, I imagine.


19) Egbert asks: Is there an archive of your polls on best series of various genres and/or diverse authors? Because they’d probably make really good reading lists.

Sort of.

If you go to the tags and click on "Poll Results" (or just click that link right there), you'll get only the results of our polls. You might have to scroll through them if you're looking for something from a few years back, but they're all there. The diverse authors polls were all this most recent year, so they'll be the first few results you see.

Watch for a big development in 2019. We now have enough people following the blog that I'm going to start archiving the results of our polls (and kind of making them just a little more "official"). I will replace them with more recent results if/when I run that same poll again a few years later.

20) Noora asks: I can only give you maybe a couple of dollars a month. Is that worth it to you?

I heart my big ticket Patrons so big. I send them post cards. I write them "Inside Scoop" letters about how I'm doing emotionally and mentally and the big projects coming up. I offer to name characters after them in my fiction. They keep me fed, and that's not a euphemism. They're the best.

But let me tell you a story. In the last two years, on two separate occasions, I lost over 10% of my income because ONE person couldn't keep up their support. It wasn't their fault. It was just life. I don't begrudge them for a second, but that's what happens when you have a few big donors and not enough smaller ones. One contract renegotiation in Montana and I get a 10% pay cut. One property tax reassessment in Denver and I go from "I can afford to go out to eat this month" to "Let's buy the store brand peanut butter."

What helps is to have lots and lots and lots of little donors. I can absorb one big donor with a life emergency without it being fully 10% of my income, and when little donors cancel (as many do every month) it's not that big a deal. Small donors together form sort of a thriving ecosystem that supports my writing in a way that even my big donors (bless them all to bits) can't actually do.

So absolutely. A couple of dollars. Five. Even one. It really does all matter.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Best non-SF/F/Horror Not Written by a Cis Het White Man

What is the best book (or series) in a genre other than sci-fi, fantasy or horror that is written by a woman, a person of color, or a member of the LGBTQIA+ community? Our poll with the very long name is live, but the important part is it's made of your nominations and now it's time to vote!  

Please follow this link if you're wondering why this poll has some particular limitations.

We're definitely going to need an admin weekend since we didn't get one throughout November, but I'm going to try to drop a 20 Questions this Friday before I duck out. In the meantime, our poll needs a lot more love, especially since there are a few tight races.

Everyone gets three [3] votes, but as there is no way to "rank" votes, you should use as few as you can stand.

The poll itself is in the lower left at the bottom of the side menus.

If you're on mobile you can scroll ALLLLLL the way to the bottom and click on"webpage view" to see the side menus and get to the polls.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Ten Flavors of Gamergate Fail

CN: this article unabashedly discusses misogyny and some of the words commonly used as sexist slurs. There are also some screen captures of some of the actual sexist and abusive things people have written and they are horrific.   

Note: This is one of my Ace of Geeks "rescue" articles that was topical at the time I wrote it. It's a little dated now, but looking back we can see that the pattern of "finding I'm-the-real-victim-here pretense to excuse bigotry" was precisely the small minded hatred it looked like all along, as many of the exact people who were Gamergate edgelords have now become literal fucking Nazis or white nationalists or members of misogynist hate groups––complete with all new rationalizations for why they still are the aggrieved party. Turns out Gamergate was the canary in the coal mine, and everyone saying it was just about being bigoted white men were exactly right. Gamergate turned out to be a pretty spectacular study in how "bigotry-adjacent issues" are seized upon to deflect opprobrium and come up with plausible deniability for intolerance. Patterns that continue today in the persecution complexes of white supremacists and open misogynists and those scripts by Status Quo Warriors (SQWids) who will twist themselves into BDSM knots to consider literally anything before the idea that a prejudiced human might simply be rationalizing their prejudice.

In the history of fail, there have been few examples quite as thorough as Gamergate. Whatever momentum they briefly held in their championing the ethical treatment of video game journalism has been fully eclipsed by an increasing awareness that they are behaving like toddlers with overfull diapers. Sexist toddlers. With potty mouths.

You may have noticed that they're kind of becoming a joke these days.

Let me help you notice.
You almost have to feel bad for the sincere. (I mean the genuinely sincere, not the ones who came along later and really just love to use the word c*nt.) Their struggle is like watching a two-year-old get more and more incensed at the adults laughing at their meltdown. The more red-faced they get, the more they scream and stamp their feet, and the more the adults giggle. "Awwwwwwwww. Who needs a nap and their baba?"

If they weren't literally terrorizing their detractors with utterly-not-cute death and rape threats and causing very real harm with their rampant misogyny and doxxing, they really wouldn't be much more than a footnote of one more sub-culture of manbabies losing their Boys Only clubhouse to actual equality (rather than just insisting that we're past all that while changing literally nothing). Unfortunately, despite the overwhelming urge to infantilize their shrill cries, these are men having their masculinity challenged, and the playbook of masculinity for being challenged is anything but trivial.

Nothing says "Feminists are don't matter to me" quite like threatening mass violence if they are allowed to speak.
Can you see why we actually PREFER the two-year-olds?
Source: Womenwornoutdaily

If you're the last geek in the universe unaware of what Gamergate is, Gawker put up a pretty good primer. Bustle has another. Personally, I like Vox's article the best because they tried very, very hard to cobble Gamergate's disjointed message into a cohesive, fair representation of the Gamergate side.

However, today we ask the questions, "Where did Gamergate go wrong? How has their ostensible cause been so thoroughly perceived by the world at large as wanton misogyny (and not even the clueless, invisible, institutional kind)? Why can't they define themselves? Why can't they convince anyone not to judge them by their most extreme members? Why are they fettered to this horrible image that has doomed their movement? Where did they drop the ball?"

"Where didn't they?" might actually be a better question. Because where Gamergate failed was everywhere. Everything they touched turned into pure fail. They had the Midas touch of fail. They failed so hard that Captain Edward Smith would look competent next to them. They created massive economies of fail. The check was in the fail. They're fighting tooth and fail. They were just completely beyond the fail. They've completely undermined themselves in two shakes of a lamb's fail.

Okay, that's entirely too much fun. I better get on with this article.

1) They tried plausible deniability. And failed. 

The familiar cry of "Not all Gamergates!" went up almost immediately when the death and rape threats rolled in. Several members have tried to suggest that most people in Gamergate simply care about ethics in video game journalism, and they shouldn't be held accountable for the unconscionable actions of a few bad apples. If this sounds to you like an exact parallel of "Not all men," it is because they have used that playbook almost exactly–and with the same clueless lack of understanding about how power dynamics work. (To say nothing of how opting out of being associated with a movement is easier than opting out of being male.)

On the bright side
it saved a lot of time in whipping up
the latest batch of memes.

Newsweek debunked the "few bad apples" idea. There are some flaws in Newsweek's methodology that make a strict numbers game pretty impossible (like that people engaging a hashtag will naturally receive more tweets in return), but the fact that harassment and misogyny is a central pillar of Gamergate "ethos" has been very clearly demonstrated time and again by multiple sources.  The Southern Poverty Law Center has even put the group on their hate watch.

Gamergate's fail here is particularly telling and extra failurific. They honestly don't understand what all the fuss is about. They doxx women who dare to speak out, drive them from their homes, drive them out of the industry, threaten to kill them, threaten to rape them, tweet the most misogynistic tripe imaginable, snidely deride anyone who speaks out about representation in games, openly discuss trolling, hacking, and harassment as legitimate ways to silence their critics through fear [the link here no longer works but it was all there], do it all in the name of their movement, and then honestly can't figure out why those of them who aren't acting like utter jackholes aren't being associated with a deep and abiding concern for ethics.

I can't imagine why they associate Gamergate with misogyny.
Source chainsawsuit.com


If you brave the comments of that Newsweek article (and I don't recommend it without some kitten memes on standby), you will find that people look at the statistics and don't actually think there's anything wrong. They literally can't see how far beyond the fail their behavior is. If they themselves aren't issuing death or rape threats, they do not understand how the world at large can blame them for the movement they're directly associating with.

Let me make this crystal clear: if your religion (to which you were born into by virtue of geography) had a billion people and .001% were extremists, it would be absolutely reasonable for you to be annoyed that you were being painted with the same brush. If you were in a group where maybe 1 person in a hundred were doing something repugnant, people would probably call you to task. But if SEVEN percent (that's about one out of every 14 people) of any movement...ever....were engaged in the worst sort of bigotry imaginable, that movement would be defined by nothing else. Period. Without exception. No matter WHAT they felt like their message ought to be about or wanted it to be about. It's not "just a few trolls," it's a significant portion of their movement. All compounded by the fact that you OPTED INTO that group. Gamergate, for reasons I can only assume have to do with their immunity to irony, only seems to understand this concept when it comes to pointing out how the anti-Gamergate crowd is hurting them in the feels with their meanie meanfaced meanness.

Their worst fail is acting innocent. With plate-sized anime eyes, they wonder why it's not possible to have a sensible discussion that isn't focused on those trivial ol' death threats that have nothing to do with them. They truly believe that they have no culpability in a culture of violence and hatred toward women. They honestly can't figure out that they may have provided the undertones (and overtones) that those who went "too far" have been steeped in for years.


I can't possibly imagine why people think we're violent!

The worst part is their ratio of legitimate concern to sexist troll is getting worse. Most of those who were actually serious about problems of ethics in games journalism cut ties with Gamergate as soon as it became clear what they really stood for. Many sincere critics placed as much distance between themselves and Gamergate as they could (of course a lot of said folks aren't a whole lot better–they're just better at hiding it). But whether really sincere or just good at hiding the deep down sexism they don't talk about at parties, folks who weren't naked misogynists realized immediately that the best thing they could do if they really cared about ethics in games journalism (or about bringing that issue to the table in the next ten years without being laughed off the stage) was to start over with a clean campaign and nuke Gamergate from orbit.

It was the only way to be sure.


2) They tried to convince us that they weren't sexist. And failed.

They kicked off the movement with fail, and never let it go.

It started with the fail of Eron Gjoni and what should have been laughed at as the pathetic backlash of a jilted lover. It was a personal story of a bad breakup that was nobody's fucking business, but he made it everyone's. If any woman had published the same about a man, she'd have been laughed off the internet and told to get a life. Yet, the gaming community seized on Gjoni's girlfriend, Zoe Quinn, focused on her, derided her, made the topic her sexual history, and even spread nude photos of her, and only later tried to work in a non-fail reason for their anger.

Their tweets and posts are filled with some of the most vile misogyny imaginable (in a culture that actually can imagine quite a damned LOT of vile misogyny). Women are routinely called "cunts, bitches, sluts, whores" and more just for expressing their opinions, and responses hoping that they get raped or killed are not at all unusual. There were open discussions about trying to get Zoe Quinn to commit suicide to which one of the most "measured" responses to the plan being that it would be "a bad PR move."

No sexism here! I said so. 

Want to know the icing on the cake? The reviewer Quinn allegedly slept with during her relationship with Gjoni DIDN'T. EVEN. REVIEW. Quinn's game.

Gamergate fail went on to target Anita Sarkeesian, Leigh Alexander, Brianna Wu, and even Felicia Day–all women; none journalists in gaming (the last of whom had the temerity to write a blog post about how she was afraid she would be targeted for saying anything at all). When I say "target," understand that I don't mean strongly worded tweets or counter-points with colorful language. I mean doxxing (in F.D.'s case less than an hour after she posted), rape threats, next level harassment, people coming to their house, and even death threats. In one case, Sarkeesian, a mass murder threat.

No one here but us ethically-concerned death threateners.

Gamergate's focus on women to the exclusion of both men and apparently their vaunted concern for ethics has been noticed by pretty much everyone, and their failtacular faux innocence that it's not about sexism has been debunked over and over.

Felicia Day wrote an article saying she was disappointed that she no longer felt comfortable around gamers because she was afraid of what Gamergaters might do to her. Chris Kluwe called Gamergaters "slope-browed weaseldicks," "slack-jawed pickletits," and "paint-huffing shit goblins." They attacked Felicia Day. You do the math.



[By the way, I was just a game lover with a dim (but low volume) view of Gamergate's sexism until those a-holes doxxed Felicia Day, one of the most genuinely nice and sincere people in the whole geek universe. That's what pissed me off, and when I decided to write this article. So this one's for you, Felicia!]

It's not that they don't care that men are disparaging their movement. (I'm sure this article will generate some lovely tweets.) It's that they care a lot more every time a woman does it.




3) They tried to find an ostensibly acceptable face. And failed.

Gamergate claims it is about ethics in video game journalism.  At least the few voices you can pick out of the fail seem to hammer this single talking point like the drum beat in a Muse song.

The problem is that they don't actually seem to care very much about ethics in video game journalism. Not enough to write about it or focus on it, anyway. What they do seem to care about, based on what they spend an inordinate amount of time writing and responding to, is how awful they find women (or to a lesser degree anyone who cares about representation or inclusion in video games). That is to say that what they actually discuss is an irreconcilable mess of conservatism and anti-feminist reactionism.

Even journalists with fully open minds, prepared to let Gamergate define itself can't find anything other than hatrerade, pretense chips, and failburgers at the Gamergate barbecue. Another could not find a cohesive list of Gamergater demands in 20 pages of searching–a testament to how poorly defined the movement really is.

You'd think by now most of them would realize that there are several examples* of unethical behavior by game journalists that they could list at a moment's notice (even one of their staunchest critics is capable of articulating it better than they can––because nothing says "Srs mvmnt!" like having your opponents do a better job of pointing out what you claim to care about), but really this is the pinnacle of their fail (the "Holy Fail," if you will). They haven't yet realized that incessantly repeating the tissue-paper thin rationalization like a doll with a string ("Actually, it's about ethics in video game journalism. My diaper is full now.") wasn't going to hold up in the hurricane of their own harassment and abuse. And then, of course, there were Men's Rights Activists, like Milo Yiannopoulos, who found Gamergate to be a good battleground for their latest round of attacks against feminism. These are the same MRAs that the SPLC has called a hate group and who helped create Eliot Roger and who want to dial back gender roles to the fifties in the name of "equality."

*For bonus points, however, watch the "it's-not-about-sexism" high ground crumble in the very first comment and get even worse from there.


It's almost....I mean it's ALMOST like ethics are not really what Gamergate is all about.


4) They tried to make it about ethics. And failed. 

One of the failiest bits of Gamerfailgate is their war cry of ethics. To listen to their incessant bloviation on the moral turpitude they are attempting to expunge, one would imagine they are paladins charging headlong into a den of corruption. And that's not too far off the mark for how they talk about themselves. (Seriously, maybe they play just a few too MANY video games?) They really do have a few complaints and gaming journalism has some shit to answer for.

The problem is that their behavior is completely. fucking. unethical. They rode the fail boat into the fail station of Fail City in the country of Failtopia. These people wouldn't know an ethic if it bit them in their ass. Most people would rather literally anyone else on Earth tell them about ethics than these unethical trolls.



If they were about ethics––even a little bit––things like abuse and harassment and especially casual discussion of rape, doxxing, and death threats would trouble them deeply. They would be twisting themselves into pretzels to police their own with thunder and fury and distancing themselves as dramatically as possible from anyone who hinted at that sort of behavior. They would be rallying around those figures who suffered attacks and offering sincere apologies to the victims instead of petulance, defensiveness, saying things like "Welcome to the party, pal," or insinuating that the targets of their harassment have enjoyed it, profited from it, brought it on themselves, or even engineered it.




5) They tried to keep partisan politics out of it. And failed.

While a few liberals have taken the time to voice that they are against social justice warriors (because fuck equality if it means you have to self reflect or listen to someone else's story, apparently) most of the Gamergate movement has taken such an incendiary stance on social justice and liberals that they immediately framed themselves as predominantly a partisan (bitterly so) conservative movement.

By placing themselves against the concerns of feminism specifically and social justice in general, and by hurling "liberal" around like a sneering barb, they immediately ensured that nothing they said would transcend a general left vs. right mentality in the way they hoped it might. In fact, anyone concerned about the ostensible issue is immediately aware that they are siding with a group predominantly composed of young, VERY conservative men who fear change and are openly hostile to liberals, feminists, women who disagree with them, or people who give a shit about social issues.

Do you have any idea how far to the right you have to be to still buy into the myth of a liberal media?

6) They tried to take on journalism. And failed.

One thing you can't do for very long (at least not with national attention on your movement) is make vague and nebulous claims about "journalism" and not expect...you know.... a journalist to eventually show up and check out your story. Understand, the media is not some monolithic single facing, lock-armed entity. Any individual journalist would have WET DREAMS about being the one to break a mainstream story of massive top-to-bottom fraud and corruption in any industry.

Except there was a little thing missing....called evidence. Gamergate is able to point to a few troubling timelines, a couple of websites doing reviews despite obvious conflicts of interest, some "journalists" who are clearly PR mouthpieces for new games releases, a few "old news" scandals like the Duke Nukem release promising blacklists for poor reviews, and a lot of accusations of collusion, but not much in the way of actual proof. As earlier links have demonstrated, Gamergate has largely depended on the rage of young men towards a vague, nebulous, and ill-defined problem for its legitimacy, often invoking convoluted conspiracy theories with no actual proof. As it became more and more mainstream (especially after Sarkeesian canceled a speaking engagement because of an e-mail promising the worst school shooting to date if she was allowed to speak), more journalists took note and checked out the claims. And journalists are exactly the sorts of people with the skill sets to investigate such claims.

Or in this case to DEBUNK such claims.


Have a few websites acted unethically, especially towards a few products?

You bet.

Do video game reviews (along with movie reviews, book reviews, television reviews, music reviews, and basically any entertainment industry reviews) have unreliable critiques of new high-budget products?

They absolutely do. (I think the last time I was fooled by such a review was in the pre-release of Eraser.)

Is it a massive conspiracy of corruption that is particular to games or that can't be circumvented by finding venues and/or reviewers one trusts?

No.

But riling up journalists with the claim that they're all unethical and have no integrity is never a capital idea.

Instead of trying to find evidence with which to frame the narrative, Gamergaters used the 20-year-old-tweeter's playbook of getting horribly nasty with anyone who said anything they didn't like. The resulting failstravaganza was predictable.

Hey boss? There are some news outlets outside that would like a word with us.

If you have truth on your side, some journalist somewhere will be very interested because journalism is competitive as all fuck and everyone wants to break a story. Not that the industry doesn't have its problem with truth and spin, but the problem is if you're just doubling down on unsubstantiated claims or holding up half a dozen minor infractions over a decade as your "proof" of a massive conspiracy, those same journalists have much wider reaching mediums through which to tell the world that you're completely full of shit and (barely) hiding your misogyny behind something that isn't really an issue.

With that, Gamergate failed at any chance they ever had to control the story of their own existence. Even Wikipedia's Gamergate entry is unambiguous that the movement's rationalization is a thin veneer of pretense over a hotbed of male entitlement experiencing a fairly minor challenge in its waning hegemony. Unless they literally film a game reviewer getting a blowjob and saying: "This will take you from a four to four and a half stars, easy! Five if you do the swirl," their fail is hung around their necks like a millstone.

Now the only place their conspiracies are taken seriously (largely by each other) is the back alleys of Twitter, Reddit, and 4chan. They have no venues to reach a broader audience because they've systematically burned every bridge around them. They have to doxx people or threaten school shootings to get any attention, which is exactly the wrong sort of attention.

7) They tried to dismiss their critics. And failed.

Gamergate is renowned for its reasoned and measured response to criticism that it...

Wait...hang on.

What I meant to say is that Gamergate is notorious for nasty and savage attacks and totally losing its shit on anyone with the slightest bit of criticism about their approach, overall philosophy, or specific claims. They get really mad if you aren't "getting the point" (their point), or are letting that pesky misogyny stuff distract you. And I mean they will read the title of your article (only) and start wishing for your death and dismemberment.



They fail at having a reasonable discourse. (Do you sense the THEME here? The MOTIF? The RECURRING IMAGERY?)

The problem is that almost every time they try to dismiss their critics' claims, what several of them actually do is end up reinforcing the criticism. They say that they're not sexist, and go on to say sexist things. They claim that they aren't misogynist, so those bitches need to get back into the kitchen and make them a sandwich. They claim that they aren't a movement defined by their opposition to feminism, but that they hate feminism and fucking feminists really need to stop trying to change the industry.

And this is from the best of the bunch! These are the "not trolls." This is their "reasonable" vanguard who are REALLY pissed off that people are judging them based on just a few fringe voices.

Every time they take to their keyboards to dismiss their critics with their patented brand of face-melting vitriol, they end up making matters worse.

If you don't want to be harassed, stop daring to complain about the male dominated market
Sheesh, why you gotta be so sexist about not seeing that?

8) They tried to claim they were the ones being mistreated. And failed.

The playbook of abuse, bullying, bigotry (and fascism incidentally) is all the same. No matter how shitty you're being, claim it's you who are being attacked.

Several members of Gamergate have tried to call out every passing disparagement as irrational, unfair, generalizing, sexist, racist or otherwise reverse-bigoted. They gleefully point to cases where they have been threatened or doxxed as evidence that anti-gamergates are just as bad. (Or actually, to their mind, even worse.) Often they work very hard to try and prove how unreasonable the other side is being to lump them all together, even constructing Glen Beckian flow charts and statistical analyses with lots of photoshopped red arrows "proving" how they are the real aggrieved party here.

Of course when they do this, it is usually ignoring the folks behind them calling everyone c*nts and b*tches, and threatening corrective rape or mass shootings, so it's a bit hard to take their moral high ground seriously (but that goes back to point #1). Instead of being seen as a legitimate call to have a clean discourse, it came across far more like they gave it out like terrorists and bullies only to fall over and cry like soccer players when they finally goaded their victims into an angry reaction that paled in comparison.

ETA: The absurdity of this tactic–piling on and harassing detractors with urbane reasonableness while ignoring violence going on in the name of your movement–has now been called "sea lioning" after this hilarious comic by Wondermark.

And if you think that sounds kind of like arguing with a teen-ager who has motivated reasoning but not quite the brain development for critical thinking skills yet, you're not the first person to make that connection.




I want to be clear that I do not support in any way the tools who are trying to give Gamergate a taste of its own; however, the problem with Gamergate's claims of reverse discrimination is a sad echo of most claims of reverse discrimination made by misogynists, racists, homophobes, cisgendered folk or basically those at the top of social hierarchies: not one critical person who looks at what is happening sees anything but spectacularly unequal abuses.

Even without getting into a conversation about how institutional power-backed slurs are always worse than powerless invectives (a complex point that usually takes a basic, open-minded understanding of social issues and a few minutes to an hour of good faith study to be parsed), there's just no way in which being called a "whining manbaby" is on par with death threats, or that calling out misogyny is as destructive a force as the misogyny itself.

The term "neckbeard" (though definitely body shaming) is not "just as bad" as "slut," "whore," or "cunt" no matter how offended men are to be insulted. (If they cared half as much for the harm they were causing though....)

Journalists, mainstream gamers, people who've finally noticed Gamergate due to its mainstream attention, even the SPLC, all took one look at the power dynamics and realized that Gamergate was abusive, hateful, destructive, misogynistic, bigoted, and even violent with its speech, and giving far far far more than they were getting.

Their claims that they are the victims are pathetic and laughable, and not a little bit ironic since they bloviate at incessant lengths about how playing the victim card is so contemptible.

9) They tried to tokenize outside of their overwhelming demographic. And failed.

I am very much in favor of marginalized people being given space and voice. And #notyourshield began as an important vocal movement against the opponents of Gamergate standing up against misogyny and racism in their names. Unfortunately, like everything else in the Gamergate failstraveganza, its launch had several key epicfails before even clearing the troposphere.

A) Listening to marginalized voices is important, but you can't only listen to the ones who agree with what you say. That's called "tokenizing" (or less formally "I have a black friend who thinks this is okay.") To really listen to marginalized voices in a way that matters, you have to listen to all of them–not just hold up the ones who are saying what you want to hear. Gamergate's problem was to champion those tiny few who seemed to agree with them (see below) and call the overwhelming majority on the other side "over-sensitive and easily offended."

B) The #notyourshield movement did highlight a few usually-marginalized voices, but what it has also done is draw attention by relief to how overwhelmingly male (and to a lesser degree white) Gamergate is. A movement thought to be "mostly" young (white) men was outed by this movement as actually being better characterized as OVERWHELMINGLY young (white) men. Like over 90%.

C) In their continuing campaign to be utterly immune to all forms of irony, Gamergate held up the #notyourshield movement in front of them as a means of deflecting the incoming criticism of misogyny and racism. Like....some sort of....attack parrying....device...type...thing.

D) Perhaps worst of all was that not all of these #notyourshield people were even real. Obviously some are (you can watch their Youtube videos), but a number were exposed to be sock-puppet accounts of pure fail. Nothing says "My argument is naught but a goulash of fail" quite like catfishing your own astroturf movement.

Because ethics?

10) They tried to accomplish something without real centralized leadership. And failed.

For one "that's-not-a-moon" moment, it looked like it wouldn't simply be possible to let the froth spew from their MANdibles, as they rant ceaselessly in their own insular worlds at the ass end of the internet while the adults got on with their lives. Gamergate's aggro campaign managed to knock some advertisers from high profile gaming sites.

And Gamergate took a victory lap.



However, between that and the Sarkeesian threat, a lot of eyeballs turned to the movement, and those same advertisers realized that while they want very badly to remain above this sort of drama, the total scorched Earth tactics that absolutely will end up involving boycotting products on the "wrong" side will make it impossible for them to ignore the dust up completely. They realize that capitulation to the terrorism tactics of Gamergate cannot, within the broader consumer public's mind, reasonably be anything but an endorsement of violent misogyny and unsubstantiated conspiracy theories and using death threats to silence dissent.

Even that victory for Gamergate was short lived. The tide has turned.

The problem with leaderless movements is exactly this. When a movement yokes the anger of thousands of young men without a single voice or focus, there are hundreds of responses (or more) to every perceived slight, criticism, or challenge. Some are reasonable, some on par with "Die c*nt," and some the equivalent of cyber terrorism. The reasonable will be lumped in with the cyber terrorists because they're all holding up the same banner. It is pure fail to not realize that's how decentralized movements work, have always worked, and will always work––some benefit in some ways from this structure (notably legal liability); most don't.

Gamergate can't define itself, so others define it. They can't normalize their reactions, so their extremists set their timbre. They can't agree on anything, so the impression they give is that they agree on nothing (other than, of course, the misogyny that defines them). They can't be coached on talking points so the only thing they manage to parrot for months on is a largely unsubstantiated claim.

Gamergate has collapsed under the weight of its own rudderless rage. No matter what it wants to be or wishes it were, it has become a poster boy for young angry white men frothing at the mouth that the women (who are in what was once their space) are now asking for representation and inclusion.


Here's who I do actually feel bad for. The gamers who may sincerely worry that there something is wrong within the world of the hobby they love dearly. Those who are actually interested in shoddy media practices, and not the corruption of the industry by scummy "liberals" and "SJWs".  (Seriously, do they know that SJW isn't actually an insult?) These sincere folks can't seem to be taken seriously since their broader movement has been utterly hijacked by abusive teen-age boys.



This why I almost (but not quite) feel bad for them. Misogyny so overt and revolting is an albatross that ensured failure from the beginning for a cause that could stand to have some attention. Those who are genuinely concerned..... they have likely never had to be a part of a movement where things like public relations were important, where it was vital to coach members on the talking points of how to respond to certain criticism, or where a leadership could issue statements condemning the words or actions of renegades or hold a press conference where they state their goals officially.

They don't get why they can't just stamp their foot and shout that they're not about misogyny and have that be the end of it. They don't get why they can't just dismiss criticism and never have to hear it again. They don't get why they can't just shrug at the death threats because it wasn't them personally, and get back to steering the conversation where they want it to go. Instead, they are literally befuddled as to why those pesky harassed women keep showing back up. The ability to declare what is important and what is trivial is a power they used to command...at least in the gaming world. Sea lioning is supposed to work (because it always has) and now they can't figure out where they dropped the ball, to say nothing of getting it back.

They've never been in a situation where they had to work hard to control the narrative because, until now (in this world where they were kings) the narrative has always been whatever they said it was.

For the rest of them, they have stacked fail upon fail, stuffed fail into the cracks, and covered the whole thing in a thick covering of failfrosting. They have failed even to understand why they failed, and instead just gotten angrier and angrier with a wider and wider audience that wouldn't fall for their failtastic, petulant bullshit. They failed to rally support, failed to not be hypocrites, failed to police their own movement, failed to even define their movement, failed to not be reprehensible humans dripping with the most disgusting misogyny imaginable, failed to rationalize their sexism with even the hint of propriety, and failed to even acknowledge that outside of their slimy internet cesspools, wishing people dead or raped, threatening to do so, or in fact, taking steps to make such things far more likely by revealing people's personal and private information is NOT ETHICAL BEHAVIOR .

You can't even pretend to care about ethics when that is the face of your movement.