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

Thursday, August 31, 2017

An Old Priest, a Young Priest Groupie Threesome Jokes and Problematica (Mailbox)

We're here to kick ass for the lord
[CN: That link has zombie movie gore.]
What happened to all the threesome jokes? Why don't you remove stuff you admit is problematic?

Wait....not priests. Questions.  An old Question and a Young Question. I always get those two mixed up.

As you can imagine over the last few months (well, years really) of life changes and disrupted posting schedule, I've built up quite a backlog of questions that have gone unanswered. I hate to say it, but we probably passed dozens and are well into the "hundreds" range at this point.

That's why we're not just going to get back into answering questions every week (I'm thinking Thursday right now), but we're actually going to start making it a point to answer two questions. Or two sets of questions in the case of quickies or questions I can bundle together.

Most of the time they'll be two separate posts on Thursdays, but this week we have some dovetail in topic.

Even though my whole spiel isn't on this post, you can send me more questions at chris.brecheen@gmail.com.

Alex writes:

As you go through your reruns on your Facebook Page, I am noticing that you used to REALLY hit the groupie threesome jokes hard, but then they almost completely went away. I know this is a weird question, but did something happen? (Like a bad one or something?) They're still there, but just a lot less common now. Weirdly curious long time fan.

My reply:

[Note: I added the link to the question above.]

Yeah, I kind of put those jokes on the shelf. At the very least, I'm not taking it as a point of pride to work one into every SINGLE post.

Well, sort of. If anyone wants to keep score, I'm still a pervy, pansexual, sex positive, polyamorous guy with a reasonably serious interest in group sex provided I can find at least two other people who are also enthusiastic. And you still get Writing About Writing through a persona (I'm a bit different in person) that kind of turns that wankel rotary engine up to eleven. So I'm never going to be one to shy away from a quality threesome joke.

What I have cut down on is the groupie part.

And it's a lot harder to work a regular ol' threesome joke into posts about writing, lemmie tell ya. It's almost as hard as....hmmmm what would be a very difficult thing to hook up, that almost never really happens, that I could compare to the perfect opportunity to make a threesome joke....

Oh well. It's just not coming to me.

Let me sum up.

No wait, there's plenty of time. Let me explain.

When I started Writing About Writing almost six years ago, one of the explicit Mission Statement's three parts was specifically to create a template (in real time) for a pragmatic career arc from "Unknown Doof Trying His Hand at Blogging™" to well....however far I get, I suppose. (Right now we're six years in, and after writing a post every day for six years, I can pay the rent and for groceries with writing.) I wanted people to be able to see the "behind the scenes" for a writer's life. I wanted them to notice I write a lot of shit (and I mean a LOT. OF. SHIT) that doesn't really stick to the wall. I have done whole concepts that played a lot better in my head than they did in pixel form. (Remember how the Sci Guy used to clone pretentious people to murder them? Yeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaah. And somewhere around here there's a Muppets song filk.  *shudder*) I want them to see that the fiction is hard to write and takes time. I want them to see my bad days. My stunning failures. My blown deadlines. I want them to see that when you have a kid learn to walk, a loved one with cancer, a break up, two moves, have to work 40 hours of day job, and elect a fascist in a two year time span, it really cuts into your productivity. I want them to see that I don't just sit down and spew unicorn rainbow jizz out my fingers and BAM, it turns into money and book deals through the magical power of Inspiration™.

Anyway, the point is, this is an evolving work. Things have changed in six years. In 2012 I made a hundred dollars for the ENTIRE year and the groupie threesomes joke was....you know......a joke. Because there are no groupie threesomes. That was the whole point. It was like talking about the millions of dollars I was making or the paparazzi following me around or my invitation to the late night talk show circuit. And the idea of fame and fortune are ridiculous reasons to write. Writers don't really get groupies.

Until that sort of started to not always be 100% entirely the case.

I mean it's not like I'm the lead vocalist in an eighties hair band or anything, but it started to become clear that it wasn't all a great big giggle either. A comment here. An offer there. Met someone through my writing and it kind of went somewhere. Got hit on by a stranger because I was "that writer guy." Someone wanted to get to know me because of what they'd seen of me in writing. A standing offer if I want to visit their part of the country. And of course...OG. Understand, this was all happening over the course of years, I'm usually the last person to get the memo when someone is into me, and it's not like it was a switch that flipped one day, but I definitely started to notice it was happening more and more often. And even though a lot of these people got to know me a little (at least online) first, the catalyst for much of it was my writing.

The thing about groupies....even just that word....is there is a power differential there. It might not be as role-based as a therapist and their client or a teacher and their student, but it is something to be aware of ethically as long as I am maintaining some sort of celebrity mystique in a person's mind. (No matter how ridiculous that seems to me, it is becoming a thing.) People project things (good and occasionally bad) onto who they think I am. People can fall in love with something that doesn't even have anything to do with you. And even without the projection, the person they think they know is still a curated public persona. I have to keep my eyes open for people who are being vulnerable because they're in a vulnerable situation because that's not something I want to take advantage of. And being starstruck (as absurd as that seems with a two bit blogger like me) can contribute to not having good boundaries or expressing one's needs.

It isn't just something to protect the other person either–I have to be careful to have boundaries for my own safety and security as well. People can....by which I mean people HAVE projected intense emotions onto me when their love life was in some kind of duress that then evaporated and left me feeling rather rejected once they straightened things up.

There's complexity too. Sometimes the writing just gets me on people's radar in the same way being a debonair life of the party might. Dismissing an autonomous adult's decisions about what they choose to get into can be infantilizing. I've not yet met a single person who wasn't happy to take a moment to get to know me for me. (Not beCAUSE I hang with Leonardo*). I also have some personal hang ups about truly casual sex. Not that I'm opposed to it, but the anxiety of a moment can.....um.....you know maybe we're getting just a little too personal here.

*I don't hang with Leonardo.

And while I might not ignore a room key slipped into my hand from someone I met a few hours earlier at a vampire LARP who really carbonated my hormones, (especially when they say things like "I am for you Chris Brecheen" or something) or generally handle the people doing the coming on on a case-by-case judgement call, given the power dynamics involved when this starts to shift to slightly-less-hypothetical, it's probably not something I need to keep joking about on the regular.

But threesome jokes (sans groupies) are totally still on.


Anonymous asks:

I've been following you for a long time and I've seen that sometimes you stop using words, but leave them in your blog. ("Butthurt" and variations of "douche" spring to mind.)  My question is this: why don’t you just change it if you have decided it's no longer okay. (BTW I agree with most of your decisions.)

My reply:

Confession time.

This wasn't an anonymous question. This was actually a question that was SO old, I forgot where I put it and who wrote it. But I do remember the wording almost exactly.

What the hell was I thinking????
The answer to this is simple: I totally do. All the time. I am constantly finding things I would NEVER write today littered among my old stuff and I just sort of quietly get in there and edit it with a horrified look on my face. There was a dead sex-worker joke one time... And the less said about the original Twizzlefizzlepop the better. Six years is a long time to learn how to be a better person.

Sometimes I even just slip in and change something discreetly when someone sends me an email. ("Hey Chris. That Michelle Rodriguez joke you made is kind of playing into rape culture." And yes it was.)

However, when I get called on something in the comments or on FB or something where there is a public record of it, then I leave it up and make an edit. That way there is accountability on my part (I'm not trying to claim it never happened), and others can see and benefit from the record of the conversation, and perhaps even decide to phase the word or idea out themselves.

I'm not perfect. I fuck up. I'm sure tomorrow I will learn things I did today that could have been less shitty. All any of us can do is be open to those who say we've messed up and try to be better.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Best Modern Fantasy (Round 5)

What is the best fantasy written in the last 25 years?   

Please remember, we're just narrowing down the field. There have already been four rounds and several of your darlings are moving on to the quarterfinals. These titles are not the whole poll, and we're only about 2/3 through the mega list. We're also probably going to do a "runners up" poll with all the fifth place choices to round out the exact numbers needed.

Why am I saying this? Because every time I post one of these rounds, one of the bits of feedback I inevitably get is. "Oh my god how can you have a best fantasy without [insert my favorite thing here]. This poll is so illegitimate!"  So please just remember that I'm only working off of YOUR nominations, and we're not even to the quarterfinal round yet. We just need to cull a few titles off the lists for what will be going on to the next round. Keep checking back if you're desperately sure there is a criminal omission here.

There have SO many nominations for Best Modern Fantasy that we are going to have to do a round before quarter finals.  So in order for this not to drag on for months, I'll be running these early rounds for only THREE DAYS EACH.

There is no way to "rank" votes, so use as few as you can bare.

The poll itself is at the bottom left, under the "About The Author." 

For those of you on mobile devices, I'm told that if you scroll ALLLLLLLLLLLL the way to the bottom, you can see the poll.

Note: If you see a title that is "breaking the rules" (older than 25 years–published before 1992) please let me know. I did not have time to cross check all of them. 

Don't choose poorly.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Best Modern Fantasy (Round Four Results)

Just a quickie here to show you the results of round four.  Top four are going on to the quarterfinals. 

Round five will go up tomorrow.

Text results below.

The Graveyard Book- N. Gaiman 69 35.38%
Farseer Trilogy- R. Hobb 55 28.21%
Malazan Book of the Fallen series- S. Eriksen's 30 15.38%
The Lightbringer Series- B. Weeks 18 9.23%
The Last Wish - A. Sapkowski 12 6.15%
The Golden Key- M. Rawn, J. Roberson, and K. Elliott 5 2.56%
Who Fears Death- N. Okorafor 5 2.56%
Everfair- N. Shawl 1 0.51%

Monday, August 28, 2017

That Madmartigan Sigh (Personal Update)

Image description: Madmartigan in armor with a sword
Remember when we were thirteen and this scene* from Willow where Madmartigan single handedly defends an old castle from an army was basically the coolest, most epic, badass as shit thing you ever fucking saw in your entire young life, and not just some straight up implausible as fuck cartoonish slapstick that just happened to be live action?

No? Just me then?

*Some Youtube scenes can't be imbedded, so if you'll just have to follow the link if you don't know what I'm talking about.

Okay well if you skip ahead to 4:40, that's the Madmartigan Sigh.  

Ah the Madmartigan Sigh: A formative moment in my childhood, and the well to which I return every time I'm tired, beat up, in the middle of a bigger struggle, but there's a dragon to slay. It's the sigh you give when you'd rather take a break, and your metaphorical courtyard is still swarming with a-holes, but someone has to do something about that fucking dragon before your inner Willow gets killed.

Usually it's a dragon named writing.

August really caught me off guard. I was totally ready for the six weeks of summer school to be nightmare tough, but what I didn't expect was then to learn a REALLY hard lesson about pet sitting and what kind of writing I was going to be up to doing and have time to do when I was out there doubling up on jobs. Most of the last three weeks involved somewhere between two and four hours per day in my car driving back and forth (and sometimes back and forth again) from one job to another to make sure that animals were okay. 

It sort of defeated the whole point of pet sitting, originally a little side gig I came up because it would provide the money to stretch out how long I could keep writing. (At the time I scheduled them, I didn't know I was going to start making juuuuuuuuuuuuust enough to pay the bills without digging into the kickstarter money.)

Now sit back and grab your corn cob pipes because I'm about to lay down the folksy wisdom like it's the didactic end of a South Park episode–this fits into a pretty good lesson about writing–and really maybe a pretty good lesson about any creative endeavor and possibly even life.

It's not usually enough if it "technically" works on paper.

That works for the emergency stuff. The run from thing to thing stuff. It might even work if you're designing your college schedule and if you squeeze in one more class, you can have a Tues/Thur schedule and a five day weekend. Tetrising a schedule like this is a valuable skill and when you're sort of in your "dayjob" mode (which doesn't mean you're at a job or it's actually the day, but just that you are doing things that don't require your brain to be at its most imaginative). But you have to be able to give yourself more time around the margins for creative endeavors. You can't instantly shift gears from running across the bay area to walk a dog and sit down immediately to write. At least most of us can't. There might be a few writers out there with the brilliance of muse control analogous to a Shannon Lee caliber martial arts master, but even this thirty year vet has trouble focusing when there's somewhere to be in just a couple of hours or settling down my mind when I just got through with four hours of running back and forth.

So give yourself some cushion. If you want to write for five hours, don't expect to be flying in the door at 4:59 from a full day and that you'll just transition seamlessly to your creative mode. Get good sleep if you can. Have time to read if you can. Have time to just DAYDREAM if you can. And know that it's twenty to thirty minutes to fully shift into a creative mode.

But me....I have to get back to blogging and writing. No matter how much double booking kicked my ass to the curb and left me in the gutter to die, I have a book to write and six updates a week. I'd love to take a day or two off, but I've been at a low output here all damned summer, so there's no rest for the weary. I have to just Madmartigan sigh, and jump on this a-hole's head.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Joss Whedon and the Art-Artist Divide

Image description: Joss Whedon
This shall be my introduction to this article. It's not much to look at and it probably needs a much better hook to get the reader's attention, but it's all there's going to be. You see, when I tried to write a real introduction, I just couldn't. I kept getting hung up on the language. "Too soft?" "Too rough?" "Too apologetic?" "Too dismissive?" I ended up just writing and erasing for literally hours. So this is all there is. 

[2022 Note: This is an older article that does not account for the recent Shapiro article in Vulture in which Whedon adds a whole new layer of horrifying to his new role as a cringe sandwich.]

The reason why is that it turns out an introduction to a topic like this is probably as messy and complicated and nuanced as any I'm likely to try and tackle, and most people have to find their own personal path, but many do so while passionately decrying anyone else whose personal path is different. (And what'll really bake your noodle is that sometimes they're right to do so.) Mainstream art and entertainment and mainstream artists and entertainers tend to be a microcosm of the world they reflect, amplify, distort, and portray in their work. They are troubled. Deeply, deeply flawed. And they often perpetuate the power differentials of the society even while saying that such things are anathema to them. And sadly, even when they do something significant and topical and relevant to one type of societal power imbalance, they are often oblivious, or even dismissive, of other ways in which oppression manifests. 

But the introduction is also supposed to tell the reader what a piece is about. So I guess I'll just come right out and do that: It's okay if we react differently to finding out our faves are problematic, but it can be a really dillhole move to defend indefensible behavior because we liked the media our faves have created.

About a week ago, Joss Whedon's ex-wife accused him of serially cheating for 16 years and called him a “hypocrite preaching feminist ideals.” She based this on a confession letter he sent her which she quotes extensively in her article. In it, she quoted things he said about his infidelities with coworkers and fans that revealed a definite atonal note with his public-face persona as a "male feminist."

Nothing like a little Schoenberg joke to liven things up.
Image description: Music--example of "atonal"

It can be difficult to discover that people who create beautiful things are themselves not always so beautiful–that their own lives are fraught with poor decisions and shitty moments where they failed to live up to their own ideals.....or perhaps they never had those ideals to begin with. That someone who themselves picks at the snag on the sweater of the idea that we are all capable of becoming the thing we hate the most, or who deftly explores the nuance in the space between beauty and its opposite, isn't alway a living paragon of their work. It can be similarly troubling to find their work reflects their own problematic perceptions of the world. And some artists are wonderful in some areas and terrible in others. (Jerry Lewis springs to mind as his recent passing reminds me of both his misogyny and homophobic slurs as well as the countless troubled hearts he may have eased with a laugh through his slapstick, and the billions [that's with a B] that he raised for muscular dystrophy. Also Stephen Colbert who is scathingly critical of racism, sexism, and the laws that perpetuate it, buys entire towns textbooks, speaks eloquently about gender equality, and took forever to stop making jokes about trans folks.) Life is messy and complicated and humans have labyrinthine paths that weave at once through their boundless good and their raging tire fires. 

"Oh well yes, the tire fire.
On the other hand he is really outspoken about racism, and
he makes this Bearnaise sauce every Christmas for anyone who stops by the house,
no questions asked, that I swear literally tastes like love. You'll get used to the smell."
Image description: Tire fire gif

But, then again, sometimes an issue isn't about nuance. Sometimes it's not about refusing to see the world as angels and demons (as important as that perspective can be). Sometimes the art/artist divide isn't something we use to acknowledge that, yes indeed, we've engaged media by problematic faves, but as a way to deflect any criticism from ever reaching them at all. ("Sorry brah. Art artist divide. Check into it, and when you're done leave a message with the hand.") Sometimes looking at naked truth without flinching is as important an aspect of our response to art as being willing to be ushered into an entertaining dialogue with our culture. 

Image description: Long line to the "Comforting lies" booth
While the "unpleasant truths" booth is empty.
And in that, our knee-jerk response to defend anyone who has done work we like can work against us. It's fine to be fans, but not realizing that the fandom entrée comes with a heaping side dish of cognitive dissonance can be hurtful when it causes us to silence, ignore, or even attack those who have salient analysis.

Responses to Cole's letter have run the gamut from outright refusal to believe her (mostly from men–and despite how unlikely it would be that a year after the financials are settled, Cole would find any benefit in taking on someone with the social capital and platform of Whedon) to a defense of him as merely a philandering jerkwad but totes still a rocking good feminist, all the way to being unwilling to watch his body of works ever again and side-eyeing anyone who does. But it is those folks whose hearts race to Whedon's defense that end up doing the most damage–struggling not only to deny that opprobrium is warranted, but even that Whedon did anything worse than just being a crappy husband who was castigated publicly for what should be a private matter, and that there's no reason to besmirch his reputation as a fine upstanding feminist.

It is. He did. There is. 

And the problem isn't that folks still want to be able to watch Buffy or that "everyone is an imperfect feminist." (Of course they are.) The problem is the people silenced and the conversation crushed in the rush to defend Whedon. People who aren't willing to give up on the idea of Joss Whedon aren't merely saying they still like Firefly despite its conflicted relationship with sex work or that the premise of Dollhouse didn't put them off from giving it a try. Often what they are saying is: "This isn't actually a problem so shut up."

It is important to note that not everyone felt this came out of left field. While criticisms of Whedon's "strong female characters" certainly suffered from the phenomenon that the more visible something is in popular culture, the greater the chance it will be held up as an example (because why use obscure examples no one has heard of to make your points?), and while he certainly always had a fanbase that wouldn't hear of it when it came to criticism, this was far from the first time that Whedon's feminism, personally or artistically, had been questioned. 

His body of works drew fire on the regular as patterns began to emerge of women's sexuality being dangerous, fridging women, "nice guy" characters who aren't actually that nice, nonconsensual pregnancies, sex positive characters portrayed as fundamentally broken in some way, and quite a lot of rape, rape jokes, and rape plots (often framed as "bad" or with supernatural consent issues, but still a well he draws from often). His speech at Make Equality Reality about feminism claimed that the worst thing about feminism wasn't that its mainstream movement is often transphobic, racist, or homophobic. Rather it was the word feminism that he as a cis het white guy didn't really like and (like every "equalist," and "egalitarian" on a thread about feminism) he would then rebrand in a move that ignored the entire history of the movement. Or that time he fired Charisma Carpenter after she got pregnant. Or that time he bragged about slipping a gendered slur so bad it should have earned Avengers an R rating past the MPAA rating board. Or that Wonder Woman draft.  Or..... And all of this is to say nothing of transphobic jokes, whitewashed representation, the bi erasure of having Willow become "gay" or other failures of his feminism to be intersectional.

(On a personal note, I'm not really an interesting person myself, but I know a few folks who are, and several of them have met Whedon at various functions during the last decade or so. And it seems every SINGLE one of them who looks cute in a dress reported some sort of story of being hit on, flirted with heavily, or even discretely propositioned. It's anecdotal, of course, and all my friends were a little flattered to have received such attention, but it always struck me as a data point that sounded a bit like an out of tune woodwind in the final chord of a symphony, given the outspoken feminism. I've been non-monogamous for 20 years, and monogamy is certainly not a prerequisite for any of the fierce feminists I know and love. Certainly I didn't know what agreements he and his wife had (though now I have a better inkling), but when you hit aggressively on your fans over whom you have a power differential, and claim to be überfeminist, that's sort of.....hmmmm.)

Through it all though, folks have stuck with him. Not in a "Yeah, but I still kind of love the musical episode" way, but actually defending him as kind of perfect. To them, his missteps were tiny if even perceptible, easily forgivable, and never part of a troubling pattern that should be talked about; his portrayals–even over multiple shows, characters, and arcs–never intended to be didactic; and his feminism was ever brilliant. His shows were awesome ergo he was great. He was great ergo his shows were awesome. This is the opposite of the art/artist divide. It is more like the art/artist fusionification. Each side being used as validation that any criticisms of the other side couldn't possibly be true.

You want proof he's a good feminist? HERE!
Image description: They got the mustard out GIF.

And this is important. Because when we talk about the art/artist divide sometimes these criticisms are salient. Didactic art went out with morality plays and portrayals of characters often include their worst flaws bubbling to the surface. Some of the most culturally relevant art has been created by some brand of bigot, to say nothing of that well worn phrase: "a product of their time." When today's hot take and elevated blood have cooled and descended, our ability to see art (and the world as well) as more complex than merely peopled with "garbage humans" and "the world doesn't deserve them" becomes much more sophisticated.  And we take this art and entertainment and deconstruct it and contextualize it and talk about its creator in just the way we might our all-too-human loved ones. We speak of them a loving parent who keeps using ableist slurs to describe politicians. We speak of them like a friend who would stand with us at the gates of hell but who we really hope will come around on that "the poor are just lazy" crap. Or....maybe we speak of them more like we might that uncle who molested his drunk niece.

And if we don't engage art and artists as flawed, that's where the problem happens.

It is precisely because of this unwillingness to discuss––to even consider––that Whedon's feminism might be imperfect or to discuss it for so long that has led the most recent story to hit so poignantly. It is exactly because so many people have held up Whedon as "the feminist we deserve," and because he enjoys enormous social capital (and monetary gain) from that label, that this isn't just an art/artist divide moment. Because we turned away from the many sources that said "Um....guys?" as simply looking for something to complain about. Now that the criticism can't be ignored, it hits twice as hard. Picasso was a philanderer too, and treated women like doormats, but he didn't run around quoting fake interviews about how kickass of a "genderist" he was by answering an imaginary reporter's questions about his strong female characters.

Of course Whedon's work is flawed and he is human because all work is and all artists are. But when an artist is deified and their work considered sacrosanct, they must first fall to Earth to be discussed as human.

And for some, that is a very long fall.

Watch that first step off the Hero Worship rock.
It's a doozy.
Image description: fallen angel in a crater.
Source: https://bpsola.deviantart.com/art/The-Fallen-Angel-351473548

Whedon didn't just act like a random asshole in a random way that has "nothing to do with feminism." He didn't knock a coffee cup out of the hand of a grip and then tell them, as soon as they cleaned it up, that they were fired for not getting out of the way fast enough. He didn't just commit infidelity in a randomly jerkwad way, falling for someone in a whirlwind of emotions that brings his ethics, but not his attitudes towards women, into question. What he did was not just to sleep with sex-positive women who were empowered about their own sexuality. What he did was not just a failure to be open and honest within an agreement of non-monogamy or even to simply disregard commitments and agreements to be monogamous* in a lecherous but random way.

*And believe me, you're talking to someone who dislikes him some heteropatriarchal monogamous assumptions.

What Whedon did, by his own words, was to exploit his substantial power dynamic as writer, creator, executive producer, and often director of these shows. He exploited this power over women he described as the "beautiful, needy, aggressive young women" that he was surrounded by. And he described being surrounded by them as a curse not to be able to take advantage of.

And then he did.

Not ethical non-monogamy with open honesty. Not a random series of autonomous women in control of their own sexuality who chose him, but those over whom he had power.

Not once in a moment of indiscretion and weakness. But over and over again. For fifteen years.

Look at his use of language in that letter, how it shifts the culpability for fifteen years of cheating to the neediness and aggressiveness of women around him and how unfair it was that he was not able to partake of them once he had that power....like they are some kind of "buffet" and not people. He talks in another part of his letter about "conquering and acquiring" which literally frames women as conquests and possessions. Further, he bought into a ubiquitous gender-based double standard: that men's serial adultery is basically okay so long as it is their wives who they truly love. 

And he lied to his wife. Not just lied but told her that her suspicions about his relationships with women were completely off base. In his own words: "As a guilty man I knew the only way to hide was to act as though I were righteous." And so he would tell her she was completely off base to have these suspicions because he was such a kickass feminist and he just preferred women's company. Feminism was his alibi in gaslighting his wife.


For fifteen years.

"So remember all those times I told you that you were crazy for
thinking that I might actually be sleeping with all those women?
About that....."
Image description "These Hysterical Women" old time picture.
These are not random actions, random lies, random immoral behaviors, random Hollywood gossip, or random moments of human weakness in a vacuum that have absolutely nothing to do with how men treat women in our society. These are at the very heart of patriarchy and how men view and treat women as disposable, as objects, as backup support, emotional labor, and child care "home bases" while they fuck around, and as conquests. This is just the Hollywood version of the guy sleeping with his secretary who calls his wife who is at home with the kids to say he'll be late and tells her to stop being "hysterical" about with her ghastly suspicions–he just has some extra work to do.

Is Joss Whedon "not really a feminist"?  It probably depends on what folks mean by that word. Some try to stretch over anyone who thinks "men and women should be equal" (whether they like the term applied to them or not) and do so regardless of any problematic beliefs or behaviors. Others gate-keep the term to exclude any who disagree with them about certain founding principles–in some cases, these principles are progressive (like body autonomy) and in some cases, they are cissexist and transantagonistic (like requiring a vagina). "Male feminist" is an impossibility to some and highly suspect to many, especially when it is mentioned early and often like Harriet Jones from Doctor Who introducing herself. ("Joss Whedon....male feminist." *holds up male feminist card*) In many ways, our arguing over whether Joss still has his feminist street cred is nothing more than an extrapolation of our argument over the word itself. What does that even mean?

However, I will ask my readers to consider this: If the world had found out that a woman celebrity had been lying to her husband for fifteen years while she carried on a series of adulterous affairs with the men over whom she had power (all while lying to the guy for years while he supported her visible career), would so many be racing to her defense as still fundamentally a good person who cares deeply about men and doesn't see them as objects. Would they be doubting that the guy was anything but scandalously taken advantage of?

Maybe not....unless it's actually about ethics in game journalism. #seewhatididthere

I'm a guy, and as such, feminism isn't my word to define, claim, or arbitrate on others, but shutting down the conversation about WHY Whedon's behavior had a particularly anti-feminist slant to it (and that is different than merely UN-feminist) contributes in a number of ways to normalizing that infidelity double standard for men, to normalizing the exploitation men in power do to women over whom they have power, and to tacitly suggesting that it's okay to behave in some pretty misogynistic ways as long as you slam your fist on the podium when you say equality is important and have created some "strong female characters."

And none of this is to say that anybody has to stop watching Buffy or Angel or Firefly or even avoid whatever Whedon does next. Perhaps now we can REALLY start to watch these shows. Because now that we can talk about Whedon as a human who has fucked up in ways that directly undermine the very feminist ideals that serve to promulgate his work, we are more free to engage that work in nuanced and intricate ways instead of feeling that the slightest disparagement is treading on hallowed ground. Now we can have these conversations without using hushed tones because otherwise someone is going to come along and shut down the conversation that dares besmirch their golden calf.

Now–perhaps ONLY now–we can begin to see his work with untrammeled perceptions.

It is possible that Whedon's art and media reflected ideals he himself was too flawed to achieve. It is possible that in his art, he shaped a portrayal that he knew reflected the better angels of his nature. (There is probably a whole thesis to be written about how his aversion to casual sex outside of deep relationships in his shows may have been a self-repudiation.) It is possible that his guilt led him to be even more outspoken through his art. It's certainly possible that he brings a perspective on subverting various tropes (sexist and otherwise) that can make for delightful media. As a flawed artist myself, I am even willing (to the disgust of many of my friends, I'm sure) to say that it is possible he is still a decent person who made a deplorable chain of indecent decisions. 

But what is not possible is to claim that the exploitative way a man who has a lofty reputation for being such an awesome feminist treats women is irrelevant within the context of a social movement largely about the exploitative ways that men treat women. 

Image description. Cartoon who is about to argue but thinks better of it.

For many, Whedon's works will still be important–possibly even vital–and that's okay. For many others, this was the last straw in even wanting to be in a room where something he's done is playing. And that's okay too. We never quite know what's going to get us through a tough time, or resonate when we need to hear its message most, or what might become important before we have seen its creator critically. But it is also a tacit approval, particularly for living artists, to continue to consume their media in ways that gives them income and legitimacy. His dialogue is snappy and he is really good at subverting people's expectations. Then again, we may be directly putting him in a position to exploit more women if we let it slide. Buffy isn't suddenly, retroactively transformed into NOT fairly groundbreaking television for twenty years ago even if it's forever tainted by the idea that there may have been some "casting couch" dynamic going on. It is also worth mentioning that a lot of people worked on all of these projects who were not Whedon. It's complicated. Where we get into choppy water is by defending Whedon either as unimpeachable or as randomly unscrupulous in a way that has nothing to do with a career built on being A Good Feminist™ or simply refusing to acknowledge the slightest criticism because of the art/artist divide. 

The art/artist divide is a messy thicket and largely a personal decision for each of us to navigate. (I've still never seen Ender's Game, nor do I have any inclination to do so but I have read a LOT of homophobic authors of color because I valued their perspective on racial issues. Every couple of years, I look across the room at the Marion Zimmer Bradley books I bought before I found out about her and I just.....can't. So they sit unread, even though I've already spent the money.) However as much as "the art/artist divide" gets used as a "get out of jail free" card for avoiding discussion altogether, it is actually an important part of the dialogue between art and entertainment and the culture in which it was created–not by exculpating creators from the slightest criticism, but by being able to set them aside for a moment and really examine their work with some intellectual rigor. That divide becomes an uncritical barrier between fandom and artist, but also feeds on a feedback loop where the work is unimpeachable because the creator is above reproach and the creator is above reproach because the work is so beloved.

This shall be my conclusion to this article. Because I don't have a powerful didactic message or thesis. And I thought for a long time about what the take-home message should be, and kept erasing it and rewriting it over and over. "Too definitive?" "Too prescriptive?" "Too ambiguous?" "Does that come across like I'm telling them how to think?" So this is all there is.

An artist who creates poignant and resonating art turns out to have a pattern of behavior antipodean to both his upstanding reputation and much of the reason his work is considered compelling. Now a gillion fans, kinda fans, and grudge watchers who thought they were screaming in a room full of folks who refused to have their chains rattled will all decide what they want to do with that information moving forward. 

Because really the only bad choice is to claim that it doesn't matter.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

A Visit to The Sci Guy

Chris: It's lucky that Dudley Doright just happened to be in a place with no internet while we were dealing with this cyberattack. No one knows that we couldn't have posted anything but Evil Mystery Blogger posts for the past week.

Sci Guy: Luck had nothing to do with it. I made sure Chris had no internet.

Chris: You sabotaged Chris's internet?

Sci Guy: Look the guy thinks his ethernet is a mesh for gathering the upper air so there's enough pressure behind the data stream to–and understand now that I am directly quoting him– "pump it through the intertubes." It's not really that hard to shut him down and make it look like an accident.

Chris: Damn. That's good thinking. I definitely need to give you a raise. From now on it's two fast food coupons every other week for you!

Sci Guy: Great. I'll be able to get hash browns and a drink.....bimonthly.

Chris: I might have some Bed Bath and Beyond gift certificates.

Sci Guy: Oh good, I worry about thread count a lot.

Chris: Okay well....I'll look into getting you some actual money. Incidentally, I trust that massive unlicenced hadron collider you're obviously building over there has nothing to do with trying to re-rip the time space continuum in violation of interdimensional law so that you can poke around parallel universes and find a timeline where the woman who kissed you exactly once before she died is still alive, kidnap her from whatever life she's had there in the last two years, and bring her here like some really fucked up comic book villain who does a bunch of evil shit because he can't get his dick wet, and that your relative inefficiency in tracking down an IP address of someone who keeps shitposting in our name has nothing to do with such a "nice guy" quest.

Sci Guy: You know....fast food coupons will be good....now that I think about it.

Chris: We really have to stop this clown.

Sci Guy: I keep telling you it's someone from upstairs. Main floor. It's not Evil Chris and it's not the Cheese guy and it's not anyone outside the Writing About Writing compound. Literally all you have to do is install cameras or something. Or hire someone who doesn't knuckle under when the staff gets annoyed at being asked if it was them.

Chris: Okay, well I'm going to go somewhere else now because this conversation is damaging my squee. It's sloppy joes day in the cafeteria–Grendel and his mom do them really great. Keep your hardon out of the hadron okay?

Best Modern Fantasy (Round 4)

What is the best fantasy written in the last 25 years?   

Remember, we're just narrowing down the field here. These titles are not the whole poll, and in fact if you have voted on every round so far, you've seen only about half the titles. This isn't even the quarterfinal round yet. We just need to cull a few titles off the lists for what will be going on to the next round. So if you don't see someone you're sure should be on here, they're probably in another part of the poll. Keep checking back and they'll turn up.

There have SO many nominations for Best Modern Fantasy that we are going to have to do a round before quarter finals.  So in order for this not to drag on for months, I'll be running these early rounds for only THREE DAYS EACH.

There is no way to "rank" votes, so use as few as you can bare.

The poll itself is at the bottom left, under the "About The Author." 

Note: If you see a title that is "breaking the rules" (older than 25 years) please let me know. I did not have time to cross check all of them. 

Don't choose poorly.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Best Modern Fantasy (Round Three)

I'm back!

I have internet! And best of all I have it without having a sixteen hour schedule of pet care that involves four hours of driving each day. (It's really the little things.)

I do have some running around to do today, in service to the eldritch gods with whom I've made a pact about finishing my novel before it's even later than late, but nothing like these last few days. Here are the results of the latest Modern Fantasy round. The top four will move on and the bottom four are culled.

And if you'll forgive me a personal quick, single tear for A Dirty Job:  "You were up against giants, my friend. But it doesn't make you not good."

The next round of this poll will go up tomorrow...along with one of these half-dozen posts I've got mostly drafted.

Text version below
The Dresden Files- J. Butcher 84 36.52%
The Kingkiller Chronicle- P. Rothfuss 47 20.43%
Mistborne- B. Sanderson 44 19.13%
The Magicians- L. Grossman 22 9.57%
The First Law Trilogy- J. Abercrombie 20 8.7%
Hounded- K. Hearne 7 3.04%
A Dirty Job- C. Moore 5 2.17%
 Dawn of Wonder: The Wakening- J. Renshaw 1 0.43%

Friday, August 18, 2017


I'm still down wifi (and probably will be in any meaningful way until Tuesday).  I'm working to bring you what I can write in word and then copy paste into the Blogger text field at an internet cafe or McDonalds in the limited time I can be away from doggo, but it'll be Tuesday before we're back on track.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Best Modern Fantasy (Round 3)

What is the best fantasy written in the last 25 years?  

Remember, we're just narrowing down the field here. These titles are not the whole poll, and in fact if you have voted on every round so far, you've probably seen less than half the titles. This isn't even the quarterfinal round yet. We just need to cull a few titles off the lists. So if you don't see someone you're sure should be on here, they're probably in another part of the poll. Keep checking back and they'll turn up.

There have SO many nominations for Best Modern Fantasy that we are going to have to do a round before quarter finals.  So in order for this not to drag on for months, I'll be running these early rounds for only THREE DAYS EACH.

I want to clear up a mistake I made on the last poll. I wrote 25 years on the nomination post and then thought I had said 15 when I wrote the latest culling round. So Harry Potter and Song of Ice and Fire are back on for the quarterfinals, and I'll try not to make that mistake again. My brain is not the best place for numbers on a good day.

I also want to remind everyone that I'm currently on a job with a dog I can't really leave alone for very long and a spotty internet where I don't even get cell phone signal, so I'm doing the best I can to get some content offerings sacrificed to The God of Pageviews™ but it'll be Tuesday before I can reliably post. I start doubling up at another job WITH internet on Friday, but there's going to be a lot of back and forthing. I should have some posts ready to cut and paste though. 

Back to the poll:  There is no way to "rank" votes, so use as few as you can bare.

The poll itself is at the bottom left, under the "About The Author." 

Note: If you see a title that is "breaking the rules" (older than 25 years) please let me know. I did not have time to cross check all of them. 

Don't choose poorly.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Reminder: Unwillingly Offline (Meta)


I am currently on a job that has limited internet access. Most of what I am doing online comes from when I walk the dog far enough down the hill to get some cell phone signal, but my phone doesn't work well for writing whole blog articles. I'm getting some writing done on my novel, outlining a bunch of articles for next week, and trying to prep the polls with things I can just cut and paste quickly when I am in town long enough to stop and whip out my laptop. (I might get a listicle in there too if I can get the whole thing written in a word document!) However, for the most part, I'm stuck doing what I can and when I can and our regularly scheduled content has been interrupted.

I'm doing the best I can, and the best thing I can say for all of this is that the writing continues apace, I just can't get it uploaded. So next week, starting Tuesday when this job is over, should be a cornucopia.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Best Modern Fantasy (Round 2 Results)

The latest results in our ongoing effort to pull enough titles out of the running to get a proper poll has its next set of results. The top four titles will be going on to the quarterfinal round. HOWEVER....it seems that someone slipped in a disqualified title (much like Harry Potter in the last round). The Song of Ice and Fire is awesome, and Martin is still writing, but the first book (Game of Thrones) is older than 15 years. So it is the NK Jemison Trilogy that will be going on.

Edit: My original nominations call said 25 years (not 15), so a couple of titles are back on the menu.  :)

Text version below.

The next group of titles I'll be trying to weed out will be up tomorrow. Stay tuned!

American Gods- N. Gaiman 64 35.36%
A Song of Ice and Fire- GRR Martin 36 19.89%
Small Gods- T. Pratchett 33 18.23%
Stormlight Chronicles- B. Sanderson 23 12.71%
The Inheritance Trilogy- N.K. Jemison 10 5.52%
The Riyria Revelations- M. J. Sullivan. 6 3.31%
Garden of the Moon- S. Erikson 5 2.76%
The Iron Druid Chronicles- Kevin Hearne 4 2.21%

Meta Update

So here's the current situation:

I'm about to head over to Ikea and purchase a number of their sturdy, but inexpensive tables. (They're called Lack if you're curious and they're only about $8. Which is good when, like me, you're on a budget.)  So what I was going to do is purchase a number of Lack's–right now I'm thinking maybe as many as ten or fifteen. I may have to make a number of trips because I'm currently only driving a little Prius C, and it will be limited to four or five per trip.

It'll probably take me a couple of hours to get them all built. They're not as tough as some of the stuff (the chest of drawers I built looked like I was assembling an orbital laser), but they'll still take me a bit per table.

I'm going to set them up next to each other. I haven't decided if I'd rather do a row or more like a circle around myself. I'm still sort of gnawing at the details there.

And then I'm going to flip them. Every goddamned one. Because right now is so table-flippingly annoying, oh my fucking god! There aren't enough tables here. I'm not sure there will be enough at Ikea.

Flip all the mother fucking tables.

I'm typing furiously in the parking lot of a McDonald's and pretending that I don't see the manager giving me the hairy eyeball every time he comes through the parking lot because he knows EXACTLY what I'm doing and I haven't ordered so much as a cup of coffee.

Internet at the place I'm pet sitting has gone out as of last night around 8pm.  Normally I would just take it as a sign from the universe that it's time to focus a lot more on my writing and use my phone as a hotspot when I have something to post. However, this particular job is one of those swanky houses with a pool and a view that is way up on a hill, so my phone doesn't really get signal there.

Can you hear me now?  No. No I can't.

So normally in THAT situation, I would just make sure all the animals are okay for a few hours and head out to the library for a solid writing shift. After all, I'm pretty clear that pet sitting is not 24 hour supervision (unless that is actually the service paid for) and I have other jobs/plans that I'll be doing during a typical gig. However, the dog I'm watching this week is pretty high maintenance. I don't want to leave her (or put her in a crate) for that long.

So I'm kind of off the grid for a bit–except maybe if/when I can steal away for an hour or so.

What that will mean for blogging depends on how this week unfolds. I may be able to just pop down the hill to the library once a day for a short visit, post something I've already written in a word document, and you'll hardly even know how annoying of a time I'm having up here. But it also might mean that I miss a post or three this week and then have some EXTREMELY awesome posts when I get back to wifiland. The content will be the same either way (and is still ramping up from the summer school schedule). The schedule just might be a little messed up.

I feel like fucking Doctor Claw. Next week will be awesome, Gadget! NEXT TIME!

I haven't seen Mr. Manager for a hot minute, so I'm going to attach a cheap and easy didactic lesson to this moment. A lot of writers hit a speed bump and say "WELP. Can't write today!"

The thing I hear most from writers who I admire and love and read and want to be like is that when something goes wrong, it's annoying, and maybe even makes for a good story, and might slow them down or fuck up the blog post for that day or something, but they keep writing. Even if they have to use pen and paper by candlelight, there's just something about that process of amalgamating images and emotions into words that they look for any way to Macgyver a solution instead of reasons they can't.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Best Modern Fantasy (Round 2)

What is the best fantasy written in the last 15 years?  

Remember, we're just narrowing down the field here. This isn't the whole poll. This isn't even the quarterfinal round yet. We just need to cull a few titles off the lists. So if you don't see someone you're sure should be on here, they're probably in another part of the poll. Keep checking back and they'll turn up.

There have SO many nominations for Best Modern Fantasy that we are going to have to do a round before quarter finals.  So in order for this not to drag on for months, I'll be running these early rounds for only THREE DAYS EACH.

This post will be it for today since yesterday's post not only took about six hours to write, but then about five hours of comment moderation to keep from getting trolled by people who thought the post was a paint by numbers instruction manual or a place for performative satire. Hopefully tomorrow

Me: Wouldn't it be a great example of irony if a bunch of SQiD's showed up on my post and did exactly what the article described.

The Internet's Millions:

Back to the poll: there is no way to "rank" votes, so use as few as you can bare.

The poll itself is at the bottom left, under the "About The Author." 

Note: If you see a title that is "breaking the rules" (older than 15 years) please let me know. I did not have time to cross check all of them. We have already had a series (Harry Potter) get disqualified.

Don't choose poorly.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Best Modern Fantasy (First Round Results)

Not much fanfare here since it's 9pm and I spent five hours on today's post and a couple more watching the comments on FB to keep the trolls (and ironically, no insignificant number of SQiDs) at bay.

You'll see the top four in the quarterfinal rounds once we cull the massive number of remaining titles down to four manageable lists.

To the others, give a hearty wave.

We'll get a new round up tomorrow.

Text version below.

Harry Potter- J.K. Rowling 110 48.03%
Night Watch- T. Pratchett 50 21.83%
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell- S. Clarke 19 8.3%
The First Law Trilogy- J. Abercrombie 18 7.86%
Keys to the Kingdom- G. Nix 11 4.8%
Lightbringer Series - Brent Weeks 10 4.37%
Age of the Five Series - T. Canavan 6 2.62%
The Powder Mage Trilogy- B. McClellan 5 2.18%

Social Justice Bard and The Status Quo Defenders ("SQiDs")

CN: Mention of rape.

Let me begin with two stories of things I've seen in only the last 36 hours....

The first you've probably seen happening yourselves. A Google employee wrote a manifesto that women are biologically less well-suited to be engineers and that diversity practices designed to combat discrimination based on gender and bring gender parity to 50/50 were the brainchild mostly of leftist authoritarianism.

This instantly made national news from blogs galore to National Public Radio debate forums. This is important as it was not laughed at, tossed aside, completely ignored, or considered to be the inconsequential self-absorbed ravings of an irrational person with a biased axe to grind.

It was all bullshit of course, and took mere hours to be debunked not only by other engineers, but even within academia (an institution that can't debunk a cheese sandwich inside a month). This was partially because it had all been debunked the week before.

And the month before that.

And the year before that.

And the decade before THAT.

And basically every time some dude opens up his mouth and tries to reverse-engineer a biological reason for the rampant sexism in their world (from Sam Harris's ludicrous "estrogen vibe" to the popular "girls are bad at math," to The Bell Curve, all the way to the new claim that women are just more neurotic and less able to handle stress), they are pulling the same familiar song and dance, that has never been exactly true and has always been misappropriated as an excuse for discrimination.

It's not that these people haven't stumbled upon some sort of fact or another or some study or something that might be TRUE (testosterone in prefrontal cortexes or whatever the fuck), but rather it is that without deviation, the paradigm into which they immediately attempt to plug and play this new data is that it makes SENSE to look around and see sexism on display. This is always the central conceit of each new round of bullshit. That whatever men tend to do (or not do) more, that is A) always and unquestioningly the objectively better way to accomplish every desirable outcome even though it is men who define success, B) not usefully supplemented by any other approaches that might be what women, femmes, or even gender variant folks "tend to be better at," and C) absolutely biologically destiny–no matter how minor the results are, how little the disparity matters compared with other X factors, or how difficult these differences might be to untangle from culture.

Each round then becomes a variation on the theme: "Aha! I was right to be sexist all along!"

And while the battle lines were drawn immediately, as one can imagine, with sexist MRA's and the so called "alt right" immediately falling to the ground like men's soccer players over the writer's "freeze peach" (because no one should ever get fired for saying outright that one class of people are inferior and there OUGHT TO BE a gender gap since women are naturally neurotic), they then proceeded to publish details of those Google employees who decried the letter (all trans folks, women, or people of color) even knowing exactly what the online response would be.

However, there was also a secondary outcry (mostly from men) that we examine the ten-page document with great intellectual rigor for its 9 1/2 pages of less offensive claims, apply maximum nuance to its suggestion that reverse discrimination is objectively bad, assign nothing but immaculate faith (better than good faith) to its author, trust the author when he assures us he's not about gender stereotypes (right before he drops the mother of gender stereotypes), completely ignore the broader context of a company with a real gender diversity problem in an industry that is famously hostile to women, listen closely and carefully to the scientific explanations, reignite the dialogue about biological determinism, and closely entertain, discuss, examine, and debate this topic.

Oh and, of course, they also ignore anyone who points out the sexism. Anyone (usually women for some unknown reason) who read the slightest sexism into it is just, quite simply, wrong and they are reading it wrong. They need to have someone who "truly understands" its real meaning inform them of how just wrong they are and just how much this idea needs to be discussed. This includes shutting down anyone who does a point by point takedown (without actual counterpoints, of course). Because anyone who continues to read it "wrong," after they have magnanimously elucidated the proper way to read it, needs to work on listening to them and build a bridge to their interpretation.

(Irony is not high among the list of things these folks notice.)

As if this were a new and fresh and exciting idea that it was just wrong to dismiss out of hand.

As if he had floated some invigorating, ultramodern concept heretofore unentertained, particularly within tech industries.

As if he were an exciting firebrand, floating a notion no one had ever encountered before and for which the "Athenians" would make him "drink hemlock."

As if men using vague ideas of biological difference to justify misogyny and discrimination is a new and edgy discourse that no one has ever thought of before and which really needs to be given room to breathe.
"Ug get brandy and monocle.
Have debate why men better at build fire."

The second story is a bit more personal, but even if you're not aware of it exactly, you've probably seen it play out a thousand times.

On a social justice themed FB page, there was a screencap of a tumblr post about portrayals of rape in modern media. A robust discussion ensued. And when I say "robust" and "discussion," please understand the scare quotes around both words. Generally women took to the thread to explain that they sure would love a little less rape-as-backstory, and a lot less rape happening "on camera" within modern media, and to try to draw a parallel between the reaction to the character whose sexual assault was "heavily implied" and the outright demand that it MUST be actively portrayed to "count," with those of the prevailing attitudes in our society that people don't believe women who say they've been raped. ("We must have more than heavy implication," the men said, "if this man is to be deemed a 'bad person'.") Generally the men were explaining that realism, "showing, not telling," and emotional gravitas required this rape to be portrayed rather than implied. And of course that we couldn't know the guy was a bad guy if there was only ever heavy implication.

First it was one guy. Comment after comment rolled in from women and he replied. Not to one or two. Not five. Not ten. But fifteen comments. Then twenty. Then thirty. Hours went by and he just kept going. Each comment a carbon copy of the last, almost a dead repetition of his original reply ("Rape MUST be portrayed for emotional impact!"). He was the online paragon of the guy in your contemporary lit class who won't stop talking over all the other students but who keeps saying the same thing over and over about why THEIR take is right and every other is wrong. Thread after thread where he had to have the last word and kept going no matter how many more voices chimed in, even with new and interesting perspectives. Hours of him simply hitting reply with a resilience and tenacity that would have impressed Hercules.

Then another guy joined him, meticulously going through dozens, perhaps hundreds, of comments to explain why our current depictions of rape are exactly what is required by fiction and in no way a reflection of our culture.

Then another showed up. Sometimes they would tag team a thread, but often the second showed up where the first had not. Again, it was not a matter of expressing an opinion on the idea in general and moving on. Every single new person who came in on that thread was contradicted separately–and pretty much by the same exact argument.

Between the three of them, there was almost nowhere, in dozens or perhaps even hundreds of sub-threads, where their argument went unrepresented. Each newcomer was argued down with a replica (not exact, but a variation on a theme) of the last. And while there were a few people who gave their opinion and moved on (and a couple who left screeds like "sexism isn't real" but then also moved on), the impression that there was a balanced debate going on was almost entirely driven by these three guys' indomitable vigor in replying endlessly to comment after comment after comment.

It didn't have to be those three guys. It could have been any three guys. Any three who would ceaselessly, tirelessly, unswervingly continue to basically auto-duplicate endless variants of the status quo party line to any newcomer who dared to enter the conversation with a contrary opinion.

These types of guys are so clichéd because their arguments are identical. Their scripts are identical. Sometimes their actual word choice is even the same.

And the thing of it is, these arguments are so interchangeable... SO predictable.... SO unoriginal... SO common... SO basic.... that they were actually wholly unnecessary to articulate (even once, never mind hundreds of times). These men weren't exposing all these commenters to their fresh and innovative thinking. They weren't producing unique or original thought. They weren't blowing anyone's mind. It was the same old bloviation as always. Any one of those women would probably have been able to articulate their argument at least as well as they did (if not better). Any one of them probably had a hundred conversations just like it.

These men weren't even actually edgy (though they would certainly have vociferously argued that they were indeed the bleedingest of edgy). They were arguing, literally, that nothing should be changed and we should keep doing things the exact way that we do them right now with absolutely no alteration.

They were literally (and ceaselessly) defending the status quo.

"Not today, Satan!" say they.

Conventional wisdom in social movements is that something called emotional labor is seldom done by those with privilege (particularly men).

These folks (usually men) demand to be educated. They refuse to empathize. They won't even bother to understand the basic vocabulary surrounding a concept before trampling in with their opinions. They don't process their feelings. They make little effort to be nurturing and excuse it with "women are better at this stuff." They seek validation but do not put as much energy into giving it. They do not develop the emotional literacy to express, or even handle, and particularly to take responsibility for their emotions. They don't learn to be vulnerable and instead distill every emotion into anger.

Emotional labor?
Is that like when I scream and sweat as I'm pumping out hot lead?

And this is true.

Certainly also there are plenty of dudes who will spend six hours online researching PvP shadow priest builds and spell rotation so they don't get called a "n00b" in battlegrounds, who will suddenly, inexplicably lose all ability to work the Google when it comes to the core concepts of social equality, the "meaning of feminism," the sources that confirm the wage gap, violence statistics for groups pushed to the margins of society, the concept of privilege, how microaggressions work, or even (ironically) emotional labor. There are those who expect that conversations about lifelong inequality must always center on their feelings and never dare to imply that any impact is anywhere near as important as intent, which must never be impugned. There are those who expect any conversation about their odious behavior to be diplomatic enough that they never actually have to sit with uncomfortable feelings.

And this is also true.

But the idea that they do no emotional labor seems to have a hitch. 

Because they are the vicegerents of tirelessly replying. They ceaselessly roam about, entering any space they aren't physically barred from and rarely fail to find the time and energy to play devil's advocate, demand nuance, provide a one-size-fits-all approach to metonymy that they have heard about slurs (while simultaneously being rather forgiving of actual slurs). They are the ones who will reply to a thread for hours without giving up and who always "just have to" point something out. If you disagree, you must not have understood, so naturally they are willing to explain again why you are wrong. And if you disagree again, they will explain again....and again....and again....

These are the people who, with indefatigable tenacity, call out any progress and "reset" the conversation to some halcyon moment of equality (always "about ten years ago") in which equality was achieved and "you can't prove otherwise." Like creationists insisting with each new debate that the central tenets of evolution are unproven and must be defended afresh, they demand the conversation return to square one and that square is that all things are equal and fair and the burden of proof is to demonstrate otherwise. Even inequality itself must first be demonstrated.

And they are the people who do every step of dance of "proof" with inexhaustible precision. Demand they educate themselves, and they can call out just wanting to learn in good faith. Provide them the education and they question its veracity. Provide the integrity of the education with proof and they wonder about the source. Demonstrate the source validity, and they become experts in the methodology of proving a claim and demand physics-level experimental rigor. And if you somehow get through all of this and their defenses begin to crack, THEN...they often must away. They finally have something they must do. Finally an engagement is pressing. However, when they return, the dance will have reset, and all the steps must be done anew. They are unrelenting and feel no fatigue.

These are the people who dig through the internet with dogged persistence to quote mine a Tu-Quoque argument or focus on some imperfect moment they can use against anyone who makes a point they don't want to hear or whose basic human dignity might challenge the status quo. (The race to excuse extrajudicial executions with a suspect's risque selfies, for example.) Thus they can limit those who they arbitrate are deemed qualified to complain only to saints.

These are the people who tenaciously show up to accuse victims of faking their own lived experience or only looking for things to complain about. These are the people who walk past a thousand travesties of the criminal justice system to appear like clockwork and demand all about them adhere to the founding principles of "justice" in the form of jury-level skepticism. Who liken every criticism to thought police. Who dismiss criticism as the tumblr addled rantings of professional victims, but then go ten rounds extolling the virtue of building bridges to those with openly bigoted viewpoints. Who will demand academic rigor in order to accept a claim, but turn around and find academic studies laughably out of touch of the real world. Who will (but only when the status quo has hurt someone) tirelessly demand everyone wait endlessly for "all the facts" before forming judgement.....until such time as that can reasonably become "get over it." Who "Not ALL men" any negative generalization about cishet white men (but are strangely okay with both good generalizations and the ones done towards other classes of people). Who will bloviate endlessly on using derailing techniques from fallacies of relative privation, to bringing up that men suffer too when a conversation is not about them. These folks endlessly reassert their purview to be the arbiters of what "counts" as bigotry, marginalization, discrimination, even though they've never experienced any of it. Who weaponize white male (and cishet) mediocrity as an ideal that all others must aspire to. Who are unrelenting in their stop energy. Who ignore people's boundaries or attempts to disengage (a practice called sea-lioning) and continue the argument. Who find no overall point made with humor or anger too clear not to dive in with a "Well actually..." or a "To be fair" on their lips or tips of their fingers. Who construct longer and longer replies that require more and more time and energy to unpack. Who meet points not with good arguments or undeniable facts but rather simply with MORE--more time, more energy, more words, more replies, more comments....

And who never ever ever ever stop for a moment from dissecting and policing the tone of any piece--no matter if they are the intended audience (or not) or the piece is intended to be angry or funny. They promise that social justice would essentially already BE here if only people would word things more to their liking. Most use vastly more energy to perpetually inform authors of EVERYTHING–everything from blogs to FB comments to Tweets–that they would surely listen if the case were just made in a nicer/more respectful/less angry/less insulting way. Most use far more energy getting people to match their ideal tone (which bears a striking resemblance to dead silence) then they ever do engaging the idea.

And slowly but surely by simply outlasting and outspending emotional labor, they exhaust everyone. They exhaust those who engage them in good faith. They exhaust those who try to educate them. They exhaust those who try to give them another's' perspective. They exhaust those who painstakingly disprove the assumptions by which they are operating. They exhaust the academics and the laymen. They exhaust the people they claim to care about. They exhaust....everyone. The message is clear: the price, should the status quo be challenged in any way, will be unswerving, unrelenting attrition. And when those they work so hard to silence succumb to fatigue, they take a victory lap.

And of course if at any point during any of these inevitable, predictable, uninspired gambits anyone should become exasperated, angry, frustrated, emotional in any way (even if it's having to deal with the same argument for the thousandth time), or restrict their access to go right on tirelessly expressing their opinion ad nauseam, they declare their victory by virtue of superior rationality.

These people don't do no emotional labor. They do tons of emotional labor. They practically do ENDLESS amounts of emotional labor. They show up with North Starian predictability almost everywhere. They rant on endlessly. There are a million more to take their place should one fall. While they have the "home court advantage," few groups are willing, with such predictable tenacity, to kick open more doors, slog into more battles, and take on more opponents in their resolute intransigence. They are constantly doing vast, unceasing amounts of emotional labor.

It is just emotional labor done with the aim of maintaining the status quo.

Toy Available Here
Often these fighters for "The Way Things Have Always Been Done™" are called Status Quo Warriors in the world that has gleefully adopted the label "Social Justice Warrior" as not only a shitty insult, but a pretty cool thing to be called, actually. However, personally I prefer and for purposes of my bardic yarns, I shall use something a little different for these stalwart, untiring defenders against the agents of social progress:

"Status Quo Defenders"

I personally like this since A) they don't really "fight" for anything, but rather run an endless gambet of pre-programmed defenses intended to win based on attrition and causing their opponents to eventually give up. And B) I get to call them "squiddies" like the nickname for Sentinels in The Matrix, and imagine them as having sensitive radar dishes that can hear the slightest breath of social criticism and "snap" towards the any detection of progressive thought around them (like "maybe rape shouldn't be such a common plot device"). Then here come the SQiDs

"Squiddies sweeping in quick."

"A squiddie?"

"A sentinel. A killing machine designed for one thing."

"Search and destroy."

A mention of women's issues on a thread in G sector.
Let's get over there right away.
You two "What about the menz?" and we'll demand proof it's even really an issue. 

Plus you have to love the metaphor of those tiny little hands constantly grasping for anything they can get their little fingers on and lasers eager to tear apart any resistance they find to those who dare to break their rules. The only way to deal with them is to shut them down completely (with an EMP) or be so quiet they never notice you in the first place. All identical. All relatively mindless beyond their programming. All imagine they are rational, and eschew emotion, but have mistaken their programmed violence as perfectly objective. All completely indistinguishable from one another. And all serve a fucked up system that doesn't want people waking up lest it lose the ability to suck the energy out of them without so much as a complaint.

Sounds about right.