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

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Best Contemporary Fantasy Book (or Series)––Final Round

What is the best very fantasy book (or series) written after 2010? 

Don't forget to vote! Your nominations have formed our semi-final polls, your votes on the semi-final polls decided which titles made it to the final round. And now it's time to make your voices heard. I'm going to wrap this poll up and post results in mid August, but DO NOT DELAY. It will be over before you know it. So take a moment to vote for your favorite fantasy genre book or series that has come out just in the last decade.

And don't forget that the poll will let you vote again after one week. Since I can't monitor or stop the shenanigans, I encourage it. Vote early. Vote often.

Everyone will get three (3) votes. Use them....wisely.

The poll itself is on the bottom left of the side menus, below the "About the Author." If you're on mobile you have to click "webpage view" then scroll alllllllllll the way to the bottom, you can find the poll. But if that doesn't work either, you are experiencing a problem that is not common but is normal, and you can go right to the website here: https://poll.fm/10582371

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

An Inescapable Fact (Personal, Meta)

I tried to wait on this as long as I could, but I can't put it off any longer. 

The truth is, it is not going well. 

I really, really wanted to put this off until the worst of the first wave of the pandemic was in the rear-view and some tiny vestige of global economic recovery was starting, but I live in a country with a sizeable contingent of people who won't wear masks, or who stick their noses out the top in an act of passive resistance, and while they use words like "rights" and "freedoms," in praxis they are dedicated to spreading a potentially fatal disease because someone dared to tell them what to do. 

I didn't want to do this. I have certainly had my own difficulties writing during Shelter In Place. I have a lot of bad A.D.D. brain days. I'm working entirely too much at my nanny job. I haven't been able to write HALF as much as I want to. But five months in, I have to deal with Sh.I.P. ing like it's the new normal....because we don't have the culture or leadership for it not to be. 

And it's not going well. The global recession has begun to hit my patrons, and crowdfunding is one of the first things folks cut when a budget gets tight. A lot of folks are canceling or reducing their contributions, and I've lost a LOT of money in the last five months. There have been ups and downs. I even ended up a couple of dollars ahead of the month prior in June, but overall things have been slipping.

So despite my intentions to wait until the pandemic wasn't hitting your wallets and MY productivity quite as hard, it doesn't seem like, in my neck of the woods, either the pandemic or the economic collapse is going to let up any time soon.

I love my big donors, and I couldn't pay my rent without them, but I also couldn't pay my rent without HUNDREDS of smaller donors. They form the foundation upon which my ability to have any financial security at all rests, and their steady and small contributions are the reason a big donor can pull or reduce their funding without me needing an oxygen tank and a fistful of quaaludes. One of the reasons I offer one of my best rewards to folks who sign up for my second-smallest tier––$3 a month––is because I value my small donors so much. I know it's a hard time for someone to find a chunk of their budget for crowdfunding, so I'm hoping to find a lot of folks who have $1, $3, or $5 to give. 

I'm gonna keep doing what I'm doing one way or another. But if you want to help me keep the rent paid and lights on, right now I sure could use a lot of small donors to make up for some of the recent hits. I'm making up a lot of lost revenue during Sh.I.P. with the nannying hours, but I need something from writing to still be there when that ends. If you like what I do, and want me to keep doing it (and doing it more), I could use your help. 

Please visit my Patreon if you can help. Even a dollar or three a month makes a big difference when a lot of folks take that step. And the ongoing support allows me to plan and budget for the future.

If an ongoing donation, for whatever reason, isn't good for you, of course I'm happy to get one-time donations as well. I can take donations through Paypal, Venmo (chris.brecheen@gmail.com) or arrange for some other form if electronic transfers don't work. Some people even literally send me checks in the mail.

Of course, the rewards aren't "worth" the amount of the tiers, but they are my small way of saying thank you for helping me stay afloat, and they go from getting in on backchannel status updates and a monthly newsletter all the way up to early access, a quarterly major newsletter, autographs, and even tutoring if you want it. 

And as always:

  1. Thank you so much. Even if you can't help. If you'd asked me ten years ago if I wanted a writing career to involve daily contact with readers, I would have reacted like some people do when you say the word "moist." Now I can't imagine my life without you all. 
  2.  The algorithm for social media rewards engagement, so if you can't help financially but want to do something (or you want to help out doubly so), please consider reacting to this post and/or commenting. I'm told GIFs work the best, so feel free to have a gif party in the comments.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Protect Thyself (The Renown Margin)

So I'm trying something a little different here.

I'm writing two posts about the same thing. Not a two-part post (I do those all the time), but rather a two-facet analysis of the same event. One is this one: a pitfall of attention which those on the margins of fame (or further in) should navigate carefully, and the other: a NOT Writing About Writing "navel gazing" post about the same situation and how I'm dealing with it.

Remember, I'm not famous, but parts of my life have juuuuuuust started to bend that way, and so I write about it.

I've written before about the intense attention that can come from maintaining a high public profile. Sometimes that attention is even sexual or romantic. But it can also be extremely mercurial. People don't like me because they like ME. They like me because they have projected things onto me. (They also sometimes DON'T like me because they have projected negative things onto me, but that's a whole other foxhunt.) And that affection and attention can disappear instantly for any number of reasons.

I can't tell other people how to be moral agents with whatever fame (or in my case vestiges of proto-fame) the universe has bestowed them. I've heard of famous actors and musicians who treat their enamored fans like absolute shit––demanding "nudes or GTFO" or other tactics to "haze" them. That just seems like a particularly craven way of looking at the complexity of that power dynamic.

For me, it's very important to protect people who might be approaching me as if I'm on a pedestal or may have a harder time with boundaries because of the power differential. Which is a complicated way of saying I try really hard not to take advantage of fans. (The "groupie threesome" jokes were fine and well when I was profoundly unknown and they were patently absurd, but you'll notice a dramatic phasing out once it was less of a joke.) From their point of view, they're taking the entire chance of rejection to do the reaching out in the first place. I try to keep that in mind.

They may be in a vulnerable position and reaching out to someone they have sort of created in their mind. They may be trying to ameliorate some sort of pain with someone they think is kind of "safe." They may be caught in a feedback loop with finding polite-but-non-flirty attention wonderful and feel that they need to "up the stakes" to keep it going. There are a lot of reasons to be careful and not exploit that power dynamic. It's important to get to know people for a good long while and let a human rapport develop independently of some sort of fan/artist-entertainer dynamic.

It's been a learning curve dealing with the beginnings of quasi proto-fame, but I've started to realize that there's another set of feelings I wasn't taking into account.


One of the frailties I have as a writer is an inkling of understanding of just how powerful words are, and a sadly insufficient skill to wield that power quite the way I want to. I'm fairly certain we only need to take off one sock to count those writers who ever REALLY could (at least in any given language). The rest of us are forever apprentices and never masters. But the power of words is undeniable––the sheer force they are capable of exerting. And a skilled wordsmith can forge and bend and shape ideas until they are nearly perfect.

There's more to crafting a kind of enduring cultural narrative than a perfect wording, of course, or Jonathan Edwards would have successfully caused many more to give up The Great Awakening and returned to 18th-century Protestant ethics after reading Sinners In the Hands of an Angry God. Repetition is important. Cultural reinforcement is important. Seeing it everywhere is important. 

But there's still this part of me that does believe, at least in theory, that I if could just word things...perfectly, I could change the world. Alter perceptions. And of course change people's perceptions about me and affect their emotions profoundly. This alone can make me particularly vulnerable to people who say, "I love your writing," and PARTICULARLY, ESPECIALLY vulnerable to people who say, "Your writing has made me love YOU."  

Because that's sort of the dream, isn't it. To be like, a not-creepy, good-guy version of Wormtongue. (Maybe named Adroittongue––which could be awesome in more than one way.)

And you have to be very, very careful when someone cute as fuck with goo-goo eyes walks up to you saying just exactly, precisely what you want to hear about your writing. Even "Maybe we should get to know each other first," might not be quite enough protection.

I think all artists and entertainers and people in the public eye with a higher profile have to be a little extra careful when they get exactly that kind of adulation and uncritical attention. It feels good. But we're not just protecting the other person from power differentials and their perfunctory impressions of our faults and the sometimes unexamined wants and needs. 

We're also protecting ourselves. 

These folks might be crushing badly, but have a life that just can't handle you in it, and they really just want the validation of knowing they COULD. They aren't going to bother to stop and think if they SHOULD, until they reach a point where the issue is forced. They might want to know they're still desirable because it's been a dry spell, or their partner is distant. They may find you beguiling until you start to move and talk like an actual flaw-ridden human instead of the paragon they imagined you were. They may find you enchanting in a fantasy way, but there is someone "real" who they'd rather be with, and the minute that is a possibility, they turn away. They might just be extra thirsty because your selfie game is totally on point, but the chemistry test goes badly. They may even simply get distracted (or perhaps YOU were the distraction) and fade away because they never completely saw you as a human being with feelings that little ol' THEY could hurt. 

They may be using YOU. 

Things like this happen to everyone. It's life. You move on. Sometimes they're just not that into you. Sometimes you're the "safety crush," and they get accepted by their "reach crush." Sometimes things change. Sometimes someone doesn't look in the mirror and tell themselves, "This is a bad idea" until they're right on the edge of not being able to take it back. And I've had relationships that started exactly this way go on for years (and are still going) and that ended in a way completely unrelated to pedestals, and fame and whatever else.

But if you're managing some level of fame, you might find this sort of interaction happening not so much as a "Hey, that's life," pace, but more like a couple of times a month. That's just because you are in a position of high exposure (and possibly vulnerability) to it. And you're going to have to learn to deal with it if you don't want to shrivel up and hate everyone who ever sends you an e-mail that they think you're great, with an offer to maybe get a cup of coffee some day. 

I came up with my own way to navigate these moments, but whatever you do, be sure and consider your own feelings in these interactions as well as the other person's. 

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Fortune Cookie Wisdom XVIII

The number one cause of writer's block is not trusting the process. It's when you think your first "first sentence" has to be absolutely perfect that you freeze up. When you truly accept that you're going to change it fifty times, the stakes are low enough that you can just start.

All writing is political. Even if you are trying to write in a completely and deliberately apolitical way, what comes through is complacency and comfort with the status quo. "Nothing is wrong, so let's not talk about it!" is absolutely a social and political stance. Look around you at the world. What do you see? Inequality? Injustice? Inhumanity? Poor people? Rich people? Exploitation? What does the political landscape look like? Who is getting screwed? Whose story is being ignored (or more likely shouted down) by others? And whose lives are pretty good so that they would want to avoid those topics at any cost? What are the truths we cling to, and how do they depend greatly on our own point of view? How are the stories of who we are and how we got here shaping and framing the way we look at (and avoid looking at) things?

You can enjoy writing exactly when and how and where and for as long as you want as a hobby, and even fling stuff around when you want for some spending money, but the minute you want writing to be your paycheck, you're going to spend some annoying-as-fuck days doing shit that isn't writing and you don't want to do.

We treat our brains like they're these psychic entities that live on other planes of existence that can only be reached by astral projection from the psi-vortexes within our skulls but our brains are right there with us not getting enough sleep, hurting from stress, and feeling kind of sick when we eat too much greasy food. Exercise a little (if you can). Eat decently (if you can). Drink enough water. Take your meds (if you can). Your brain is an organ. It's pretty awesome, but it has never NOT been a part of your body.

Your mindset is more attuned to geography than you're probably ready to deal with. It's the reason you can switch rooms and forget what you were thinking of, but if you go back into the old room, you'll often remember. It's the reason that as soon as you come over the hill on the way to the next town over, you start thinking of how good that one restaurant is.

And it's gonna mess with you when you try to work from home.

You've got all those spaces that are for other things. If your couch is for relaxing, that's not a good work spot. If you basically only sleep in bed, even propping yourself up, you're going to be tired. If the kitchen table is where you eat, you're going to be hungry all the time.

We writers learned long ago to carve out a spot that's just for working.

A body count will never raise the emotional stakes by itself, and it's usually bad writing to try. You have to rely on other tools––and better writing.
A lot of people feel a lot of different ways. And that's all okay. There are no wrong answers when you're sheltering in place, worried about the entire world but especially Nana and your friend who had chemo and radiation for Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma five years ago, and watching your leadership strategically NOT CARE how many people are going to die so that Game Stop and Starbucks can open back up right away. It's okay to not be okay.  In fact, you probably shouldn't be okay.  We're deep in uncharted waters and someone used the map back to normal as a quick fix, back when we thought we were going to run out of toilet paper forever.

One of the problems with our deepest and darkest anxieties is that we let them hang out in dark corners and imagine that they are huge and insurmountable. We listen with half an ear or try to distract ourselves or cover our (proverbial) ears and refuse to listen as soon as we realize that they are voices we don't like. When we only get part of the message, it becomes so easy to imagine that the rest is even worse. Sometimes we make fears and anxieties a hundred times worse by letting them live in shadowy corners where we can imagine they are so much more powerful and have so much more to say than we've ever even heard.

Fans are not friends. They can become friends, but most will come and go very capriciously. More so than people you meet through regular channels. It is important that artists and entertainers who are beginning to touch that spark of fame keep themselves protected by not assuming (initially) that those relationships bear resemblance to true friendships, no matter how much adulation or seeming intimacy pours out from them.

When we book nerds go to see movies, we can accept that (if we're lucky) we're going to see a bit of audio/visual media roughly similar to the book we like with some familiar moments that hopefully cleave close to the spirit of its source material. But we're not going to get "THE BOOK ON SCREEN™," so it's important to remember that we're watching the movie for a MOVIE'S sake and that it's an adaptation.

Content/developmental editing is probably the hardest to deal with, the most expensive per page, and THE. MOST. IMPORTANT. for your fiction. You need someone who is able to identify what's not working in a story. You need someone who doesn't KNOW your character to tell you if they're making sense or not. You need someone who doesn't understand the plot to tell you they're confused. You need someone who isn't in your head to point out that your words aren't doing what you think they are. THEN you fix the commas. 

You don't even have to lie in order to frame a narrative. You just have to decide where to start, where to stop, and which parts to leave out. By not letting certain people speak for themselves, suddenly you have a story that is factually accurate, but not truth.

Reading with compassion is the great equalizer when it comes to trite advice like "write what you know." (None of us know what dragons or space cruisers are like, but writers have been doing just fine with them by using their reading, empathy, and imagination.) Because given time, a good reader can "know" almost anything. Not because we go through the experiences ourselves, but because those who do often write about them. And we have the whole of human experience at our very adept fingertips.

Yes, there are influences that are unearned advantages of birth and cannot be controlled, like being a cishet white dude, or being raised middle class by formally educated parents. There are a few things that are like "force multipliers," like having social media outreach, nepotistic connections in publishing, or some entirely-unrelated-to-writing fame. But no one ever EVER "made it" without working outrageously hard and probably pretty close to daily.

Not a racist who walks this Earth does not justify their behavior with STORIES. Not a single misogynist. Not a single transphobe. Not a single bigot. It might be stories their parents told them. It might be lies repeated so often they accepted them as truth. It might be narratives they never unpacked that come from poor representation in media. But it's stories all the way down, and that is part of the reason fiction can be so fucking powerful.

I know it's shitty to realize that you probably won't establish a writing career if you don't overdo it at LEAST a little, and everyone has to find their own peace with that and their personal strategy for surviving capitalism. Probably most people you ever knew who were fantastically good at something overdid it a little. Had long days. Worked weekends. Gave it more gas than the folks who wanted a functional work/life balance and a robust set of complementary priorities. And while you absolutely want to make sure you know that writing (or art of any kind) is work even when it feels like it isn't, and that you factor in enough self-care to safeguard your health both physical and mental, you also have to understand that you are your own "boss" when it comes to writing, and your ambitions are directly tied to just one fucking metric asston of hard work.


Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Facebook Gems Top of June 2020

Maybe don't try telling a six year old that
someone who will enjoy you doing it for an hour or so
is one thing you're actively hoping to find in a partner.

Since shelter in place and global pandemics and political landfill infernos tend to fracture my already ADD attention, I've been doing a lot more writing during Shelter In Place in bite sized chunks on Facebook. I'm still writing, it's just fewer long hours of focus on a single good article a day. So until Sh.I.P. ends or my ADD gets used to the new normal, I'm going to put some of my best posts (including some of the memes) every couple of weeks into a compilation post.

If you are demanding that fascists, bigots, and Nazis get a seat at the table and be heard out because "The Marketplace of Ideas!", but dismiss "defund the police" or socialism outright as worth listening to, you are less about boundless and limitless free speech than you think you are, and a LOT less slick than you imagine about covering up what ideas you're kind of okay with.

Stop that!

The word “set” has 430 different definitions and the word “run” comes in a distant second at nearly 400, and we successfully manage to work out from context which one is meant.

Which is just to say, I’m fairly certain English, Western Civilization, and the future of humanity will be okay if “literally” joins “cleave,” “oversight,” and “sanction,” as a contronym.

The left and the right have different meanings when they talk about "cancel culture."

For the left it is often a nuanced issue when an individual is harassed (in very abusive patterns and for a very long time) by their former peer group, in stark contrast to the claims of valuing restorative justice, and usually with exact proportionality to their social marginalization. (Cishet white men are not held as accountable and given WAY more second chances.) It intersects with ableism as people with rejection sensitive dysphoria and various mental illnesses can be severely traumatized, often for years, by many of the most commonly used tactics, simply for not being contrite enough, fast enough. I'm not going to say where I land to someone who isn't smiling at me over broken bread, but it IS complicated.

For the right and it's staunchest critics "cancel culture" is pointing out that dead white slavers maybe don't deserve to be lionized on an actual pedestal. Or it is celebrities receiving literally ANY consequence for bad behavior, even as minor as a few all-caps tweets that hurt their feels in response to open, naked bigotry.

The sooner that little disconnect is understood, the easier it is to deal with the fact that our terminology and harm-reduction introspection will be commandeered to shame us for looking sideways at their ideologies the MINUTE they hear of it.

I really think it's time for Gen X to do the work of our generation and make a difficult choice.

We can either keep responding to Artax memes with "TOO SOON!" some thirty-six years later in a display of entire-generational trauma, or dropping paragraphs about how the Skeksies legit fucked us up, and thus acknowledge that the kids movies of our day were sort of the media equivalent of the playground with the corrugated sheet metal you could tetanus-cut yourself on and the teeter totter that would send you to the hospital...


We gotta stop giving today's kids' movies shit about how fluffy they are. By which we usually don't mean "fails to tackle real, topical, and serious issues by allegory," but rather "doesn't have characters or scenes that are immediately traumatizing." 


Let us do this ONE thing to better the world instead of just watching millennials and boomers yell at each other as we eat Honey Nut Cheerios for dinner.

I had an avocado tonight as a capstone on dinner. But I didn't eat any toast. And it had been an hour since I had a bread product of any kind.

So hopefully I haven't destroyed my financial future forever.

If you ever want to “get it,” run a nice big page for a while. Compare the reactions to a few bigoted slurs or naked bigotry itself to the reaction to “irregardless.” See what makes people actually angrier. See about what they equivocate and about what they are unyielding. Notice what moves them to vitriol. See the patterns in the big numbers merit out over and over.

It’ll be quite the experience for you.

It's probably worth it for anyone at the upper end of social hierarchies to consider how many interactions happening at the social/cultural level, couched in slick language and well rehearsed scripts (and injected with everything from politics to motive), still boil down to this:

Person 1 - You're hurting me.

More powerful person - No I'm not. And if I am, you deserve it.

There's an op-ed in the NYT by Paul Krugman identifying this moment as the total breakdown in the US response.

It is.

This is the moment Trump decided to cheer protestors because they were protesting Democrats who had shut down businesses in response to the pandemic. He did this because they had (D)'s after their name, and he has come to see Democrats as his enemies because he is an egomaniac and everything is about him. 

And they don't properly fellate his genius. 

In cheering on those protesting a (reasonable) leadership response to the pandemic, he signaled several things at once.

1- He abandoned leadership. Basically, by not having a federal response, he told the states they were on their own.

2- BUT he cheered the protesters who were protesting the governors of those states that weren't doing what he wanted. So he may not have overtly and outloudly coordinated zero response, but he clearly favored it.

3- He signaled to every governor in the country that he would support their ignoring the virus and condemn any leadership response to it. He emboldened those who were calling it a hoax or overblown and cowed those who were trying to keep their citizens safe.

4- He engaged in a very official, top-down, conservative response (even if that response was to do nothing). He voiced official support for coordinated, well-funded, backed-by-billionaires, totally-not-grassroots political protests calling for ZERO response to the pandemic (trading lives for jobs). He may have done this as a personal move because those people were protesting his political enemies, but in doing so, he firmly put himself on the side of those rushing to reopen despite having no control.

5- He essentially ginned up the folks who would become the anti-mask movement today--,wearing masks being the ONE thing people could do to make everyone much, much safer, and the one thing other countries are doing that is getting them back to (a somewhat adjusted) normal.

Dudebro: I am an egalitarian. An equalist. I would march for equality. I would fight for equality. I would DIE for equality.

Peep from marginalized group: What I would like you to do is name this and acknowledge the particular ways that inequality affects me.


I think it's very likely that we just have to start thinking of masks in the same way we do shirts. I mean you might see someone without one, but indoors it'll probably get some stiff glances. And mostly, it'll just be something people wear.

Find a comfy one that you like and matches your outfit. If you don't the tight one you have, invest in the looser ones. Have a whole set with logos that fly your geek or nerd or sports or whatever flag high. Get ones with some snarky political statements on them.Go unapologetically Disney. Find the tie or loops that you like the most. Fashion statement with your mask. Consider rhinestones!

("Oh, that mask does NOT go with your pants. Wear THIS one. Much better.")

Get used to it. This is probably going to be our lives now. Possibly forever. We don't even know how well a vaccine will work, especially not with an active antivaxxer movement. New normal. Adapt.

Look, if you want my Game of Thrones/House of Cards piping hot take, what is happening with schools isn't any goddamned different than anything else the GOP does. They may want things to look like they're back to normal, but that's not WHY they're doing this.

They walk in, break things, and then shout, "THIS IS BROKEN. WE HAVE A POLITICAL IMPERATIVE TO GET RID OF IT." They did it with healthcare. They did it with SNAP. They've tried to do it with welfare to some success. They are trying to do it with social security, but they have to tread lightly or they'll lose the over-65 vote they can't win without. They can't get their way when most people LIKE the programs they want to eliminate, so first they have to sabotage them.

Now they're doing it with schools. Because public education costs a lot, and private education can bust the public school teachers union and otherwise circumvent many of the reasons WHY public education is expensive (usually at the cost of the the teacher and/or the quality of education, but who cares about that when there's money to be made).

They are going to CREATE a teaching crisis by causing a body count. By forcing everyone back into physical classes, hundreds of thousands of teachers will either die, get terribly sick, or be out for weeks––and those are the ones who don't quit or retire early. And then the Republicans will swoop in: "Shame about that public education system that is collapsing! Good thing we have vouchers and privatization."

That's my piping hot take. This is the long game for them, and they exploited a global pandemic to get their way because literally nothing is beneath them.

But, of course, at this point, Machiavellian doesn't matter. The consequence-oblivious sledgehammer has joined the fray.

About three days ago, Trump threw his ego into the argument (and everyone who says no to his plantation-sized, but two-year-old mature ego,"hates him"), so now schools will reopen and if he has to bluster because it's about HIM and his "authoritah" instead of children and health (or even the long game of breaking public education). He will threaten governors and take to twitter and turn yet another aspect of managing human health and safety into a partisan issue. Which means folks with Republican governors and purple states where people won't stand up to him are going to be even WORSE off.

The worst part is being absolutely 100% certain that there will be viral videos of openly weeping parents wishing to anything and everything that they could just go back and let their kid have a shitty semester or two.

Epidemiologists in April: Close the schools.

The Trump administration actively ignoring epidemiologists in June: Open the schools! Or I'll defund your asses.

I hate to be the one to point this out, but when you apply the law of big numbers to low statistical chances, you get SOME results. This is absolutely going to cause the deaths of tens of thousands of teachers. That's just the math of it. And hundreds of thousands more will be hospitalized, have organ damage, or be out of school for weeks.

But kids are going to die too. And no one thinks it'll be their kid until it is. Covid-19 affects kids less (and thank the UNIVERSE for it), but it doesn't NOT affect them at all, and by ten that fortuitous resistance is all but gone. So as soon as you start having MILLIONS of kids go back to school, the law of large numbers will kick in, and the math will show no mercy. Some are going to be in hospitals. Some are going to have lifelong organ damage. And some are going to die.

This isn't the absence of leadership. That's not actually even an accurate appraisal of our Coronavirus response.

It's ANTI-leadership.

Trump didn't just ghost his executive duties and abdicate to the states––in many cases explicitly.

He abdicated to the states and then kneecapped the ones who made him look bad by doing a good job. He got on stage and said shit that was actively harmful. He's out there consciously undoing the state and local leadership that has tried to step up into his vacuum of initiative.

"Lack of leadership" doesn't even cover it.

Disney parks didn't reopen because it was safe.

Disney parks reopened because they got indemnity shielding from the government (slickly folded into one of the stimulus packages). Translation=Disney parks reopened because now they can't be sued unless someone can PROVE Disney "intended" to violate the already lax social distancing rules the government has set down.

I like Disney as far as evil corporations go, and I am generally pretty happy with what I get back when I give them my money, but they are NOT looking out for you.

It is now statistically more dangerous to go out than it was in April, we're still in the first wave. There are people I love and haven't held in four months. Most countries have this thing under a semblance-of-normalcy-returning degree of control, but our numbers are in a "runaway scenario" because we have anti-leadership and no check on base behavior so abhorrent that it is telling us to get over the deaths of ten thousand kids and a hundred thousand teachers so we can have a good financial fall.

I will never ever forget that it is because you groomed your base to be anti-science, anti-media, and anti-expertise for thirty years, turned masks into a culture war issue, exploited a pandemic to slide through ever more ultraconservative policies that even you constituents wouldn't want if they were paying attention, covered up your criminally negligent failures (and your just plain criminal scandals), cared more about the stock market than literally anything, and assumed that hundreds of thousands dead was a conspiracy to make your cult leader look bad.

And guess what? Our economy's tanking anyway because you won't actually fix what's WRONG with it.

I can be compassionate, empathetic, love nuance, and still be so angry with you that my fury burns like ice.

I just hope I'm not alone in that long, long memory.

Conservatives: Free Market free market freemarket freemarketfreemarket.

Liberals: Okay but human live–

Conservatives: FREE MARKET!

Walmart: We've determined that it's in our long term financial interests to require masks given the customers we will lose and "lose" if we don't.

Conservatives: Not....like.....THA **NAZGUL SCREAM**

Monday, July 20, 2020

Best Contemporary Fantasy Book (Or Series) FINAL ROUND

What is the best fantasy book written after 2010?


Remember this is a poll. These ten choices came from your nominations and the best of two semifinal rounds. If you don't come to the page and vote, your comment will disappear into the ether of social media and be all but forgotten in a moment, but if you vote, the results will go on our results page for YEARS (at least until the next identical poll).

As I said above: a nomination process and semifinal rounds shaped this poll. I didn't "leave out" your favorite. If I picked the choices for the poll, there would be a lot fewer white dudes. I just record what y'all write in and vote. 

I do want to stress one thing. This poll is about books. It is not about Paul Blackthorne running around Canada. This is about written literature. I don't care if you liked The Dresden Files TV series. If you think Butcher's writing reveals a chronically sexist author, vote for something else.

This poll will probably be up into August. As always happens when I have semifinal rounds, I've been running a lot of posts that are just results and reminders, so I'd like to focus on some actual writing (about writing). 

Everyone get three (3) votes, but that there is no ranking, so using as few votes as possible is better.

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

I'm told if you're on mobile you have to click "webpage view" then scroll alllllllllll the way to the bottom, you can find the poll. But if that doesn't work either, you are experiencing a problem that is not common but is normal, and you can go right to the website here: https://poll.fm/10582371

Poll Results: Best Contemporary Fantasy (Semifinal 2)

Text results below

I know I don't usually post on Monday, but I owed you from Friday last week (when I had an emergency nanny shift). Plus I have a lot to do this week. I thought I could wait out a recession, but so much of this pandemic is starting to take on "The New Normal™" properties here in the U.S. that I'm going to have to start back up doing appeals posts. And that means I want to put out some good articles before I pass the hat. So I need to get all the admin and jazz hands out of the way. 

That means you're going to see the final round go live LATER TODAY! 

We had a three way tie for fourth place, so ALL of those titles will go on to the final round. That means ten titles instead of only eight, but I didn't want to wait any longer for a kingmaker. (Or I guess for a whomever-is-fourth-under-the-king-maker.)

The Stormlight Archive - B. Sanderson 98 54.14%
Broken Earth Trilogy - N.K. Jemisin 43 23.76%
The Innkeeper Chronicles Series - I. Andrews 10 5.52%
Discovery of Witches Trilogy - D. Harkness 8 4.42%
Middlegame - S. McGuire 8 4.42%
Riyira Revelations - M. J. Sullivan 8 4.42%
Ancillary Series - A. Leckie 6 3.31%

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Best Contemporary Fantasy Reminder to Vote [Semifinal 2]

What is the very best fantasy book (or series) written between after 2010.

I told you that the semifinals would go fast! Don't forget to vote! Results go up tomorrow (and if I'm burning up everything I want to burn, the final round will a little later). Your nominations have formed our poll, and now it's time to make your voices heard for which titles should go on to the final round.

And please....before you complain about what's NOT on here, remember that this is a semifinal, so go check out the results of the first semi final before you whip up too many of those tears.

Everyone will get three (3) votes. Use them....wisely.

The poll itself is on the bottom left of the side menus, below the "About the Author." If you are on mobile you can pick "webpage view" and scroll down. Otherwise (or if you're having other trouble finding it), just use this link (coming soon!)

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Best of May and June 2020

Because of Covid-19, my nanny hours doing their very best bamboo impression, and my rather dismal success shrugging off both to focus long enough to write full articles while my ADD is flaring like the sun during the last ten minutes of a Star Trek episode.....

....takes a breath because boy was that metaphor carrying way too much weight....

...I am doing something a little different today. 

I've written so few full articles that going to combine May and June together and do one "best of" post for both of them. Hopefully I only ever have to do do this once. But in the last two months, these are the articles that performed the best and will be joining the others in The Greatest Hits.

You Can Have the False Dichotomy, but I'm Keeping the Word

I'll admit that introversion and extroversion occurs on a spectrum instead of a dichotomy, if you'll never again consider removing the words altogether. Because frankly that word is a little world of loving joy for me.

Trying to excuse the damage done with the idea that it is ONLY words is a little preposterous coming from writers, but they still try.

JK Rowling is a trans-antagonistic bigot. JK Rowling wrote a series that means a lot to a lot of people. Is it possible to reconcile these two facts?

Honorable Mention

So this post would have made second place, but it is technically a round up of Facebook posts and not its own article. Still I'll give it a proud nod. 

Monday, July 13, 2020

Writing about NOT Writing (Personal and Meta)

I had a plan for today.  

I was going to post the best of May and June (combining them because both were lackluster at their parts and that's just how life is going here in the age of Covid-19).  

Tuesday I was going to remind everyone to vote. (On the best contemporary fantasy semifinal poll, I mean, but you should also totally VOTE vote––if it didn't matter, certain people wouldn't be trying so hard to take it away.) 

Wednesday....well anyway you get the idea. I had a plan.

Now, this is what I'm writing instead. Not because this is nothing––a fact of which I'm going to have to remind myself of throughout the day when I'm dealing with my imposter syndrome and feelings of guilt––but because this is what is left. I'll have to slap it up on my way out the door. I'm not even going to have time to run it past my editor, so forgive me for the missing commas and compound adjectives without dashes, and just know that it's not on her.

I love writing and for the most part I love my job. That might seem like a redundant statement, but it's not. You can enjoy writing exactly when and how and where and for as long as you want as a hobby, and even fling stuff around when you want for some spending money, but the minute you want writing to be your paycheck, you're going to spend some annoying-as-fuck days doing shit that isn't writing and you don't want to do.

I maintain a page on Facebook. People there discovering my writing and then becoming Patrons is probably the reason I am a working writer. So it is absolutely a vital part of my writing career, even though it's not writing. And most days I enjoy my work there, for the most part. I hide a few comments, delete a few comments, ban a few bigots, but for the most part, it's pretty okay as far as the not-writing stuff goes. Every writer who wants to be a working writer has to promote their work aggressively (even household names do book signing tours night after thankless night), so this is a reasonable way to achieve that reach.

But every once in a while, I post something that is just an irresistible honeypot for bigots. And unless I want them to drive everyone else away (I don't) or to just let the comments be the wild west like they are elsenet (also no), I have to moderate the comments, hide the "terribly-clever-and-original" reply that the SQuiD doesn't even realize has been said (with even the same fucking wording) fifty-times already. (Being unaware that they are clone copies of each other is part of their clone programming.)

People saw this, and suddenly poo-crusted howler monkeys looked like the wizened sages compared to them.  The edgelord SQuiDs made sure everyone knew they did not bother to know such information, but limited themselves to GOOD books. Some said "FUCK YOU, I WILL NOT BE DECENTERED." And the whole thread became a landfill inferno of racists, people who are "Not racist but...", who think if they dress their bigotry up in a trenchcoat and give it one of those Groucho Marx disguise glasses, everyone will totally be fooled. And of course just a deluge of folks gushing forth who maybe just don't understand that in a world where all the systematic and systemic levers and pulleys of power benefit one group, if you do NOTHING to dismantle such systems, the results that come out the other end will continue to always be racially unequal.

"Why do you have to make everything about race?"
"Can't we just ignore the fact that I have all the social, financial, symbolic, and political power?"

Six hours now I've spent banning racists and deleting comments.  I've mostly only removed the WORST offenders, and still I had to give my page six hours of labor on a Sunday for that one little post. 


I could have written a whole well-researched article in that much time. I could have prepared for this week so that by Thursday, I wasn't writing one of those self-flagellating posts about how I don't write enough. I make 15% of my rent if I nanny for that long. I could have finished up season 2 of Avatar: The Last Airbender. I could have taken a big bite out of Luigi's Mansion which I'm going to have to give back to its owner as soon as he gets bored with Mario Kart. I could have masturbated like six times. But no....I went cross-eyed reading comments to try and scourge the racists from my space. Because people see "decenter whiteness" and absolutely fucking lose anything resembling a sliver of composure. 

And they call US snowflakes.

(And don't think for a second if I only stick to fluffy that people won't wonder why I'm not taking a stand on certain issues.)

I cannot say that I have this fame
But to a lesser degree, I must say "Same"
[It is a crime I never got into rapping.]

And don't even get me started on Thursday and taxes. I class as a freelancer but because Patreon, Paypal, Venmo, cash, and my A.C.A. health plan all require paperwork, I still spend an entire day gathering documents, even though I hand them to an accountant like I'm a Pakled.

Accountants are smart.
They help us go.
Anyway, the point is, inasmuch as I can make this post something useful to share with writers, when you shift from writing as a fulfilling hobby that maybe even gets you a nice evening out worth of dosh once every a coupla blues (that's blue moons, friends in case you're having trouble keeping up), to that moment where it's your day job, you're going to have to spend some time NOT writing. All the florid prose in the world about how much you just looooooooove writing and it makes it all worth it isn't going to prevent you from being nip deep in shit you would rather not be doing.

And that totally isn't writing. 

The real pisser of it all is that not all of it will be stuff you can plan for. Some days will just show up out of the cliché and kick over your sand castle.

I can't tell you what it will be. Could be an argument with your agent. Could be a last minute promotion. Could be making sure that Nazi scum isn't worming into your self-promotion space hoping that you don't have a firm grasp on the paradox of tolerance. But whatever it is, you better know that it's out there and it's going to turn some days into banal shitstorms of taking care of business instead of the gloriously inspired rainbow pixie dust bukake that you've imagined a career in arts to be. I'll admit that I love my job, but it's a job. It's work. And some days suck ass in the totally not fun way. 

Friday, July 10, 2020

Ducking Taxes

Taxes today. Can’t put ‘em off any longer. (I have multiple income streams—Patreon, Venmo, PayPal—and all are “freelance,” so I absolutely can’t do it without an accountant.)

This takes all day for me because I spend hours in password reset hell so I can get to accounts I need once a year for documentation. And if I finish before 8pm, I’m going to curl up and weep openly.

So I will see you tomorrow.

(I will make sure I throw something up on Monday for the next couple of weeks to make up for this little quarantinication.) 

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Facebook Gems (Bottom of June)

What have I been up to?
I took a page from Riker's 2nd season book, and grew a beard.
Remember as long as Covid-19 has bequeathed me the attention span of a gnat (with ADD), and I'm doing more of my writing in smaller chunks on my personal Facebook account, I'm going to be posting some of my best posts every couple of weeks. It's partially to have an extra "jazz hands" article to toss up every couple of weeks so it doesn't look like I'm over here writing one or two posts a month, but mostly it's to remind everyone that my writing happens in different places during times of turmoil––and that's all we've gotten in the last half a year.

Be sure and scroll down to check out "The Smoulder™"

We'll be doing a lot of admin and "jazz hands" posts this week, so that I can have a bit of vacation with my quarantine (and take care of a shit ton of adulting that has been backing up while I worked 60+ hours a week between, but I'm still writing behind the scenes so that next week can be awesome.

I'm pretty sure when quarantine is over,
it's going to be very similar to exactly this.

You couldn't say science was ONLY wrong about evolution and global warming, so you attacked all of science.

You couldn't say medicine was ONLY wrong when it contradicted your ideas of sin, sexuality, and gender, so you attacked all of medicine.

You couldn't say experts were ONLY wrong when they took umbrage with the policies that helped the rich or devastated certain communities or your insistence that your religious dogma was unassailable, so you attacked all expertise and put everyone's "beliefs" on an equal footing with years of education.

You couldn't say the media was ONLY wrong when they told the truth about your corruption or how your policies played out, so you attacked all of media.

You couldn't say that government intervention was ONLY bad when it was doing things you didn't like, so you attacked all government intervention.

For forty years.....

And now here we are. You have created an entire wing of the political landscape of this country that is PERFECTLY engineered not to trust Medicine, Science, Expertise, The Media, or Government Interventions, which turn out to be the all things you need to depend on the most during a global pandemic if you don't want mass casualties. And so we have 4.24% of the population and 25% of the Coronavirus cases and deaths. Because you attacked entire institutions rather than face that you might be wrong about a few things.

This is on you.

Remember, folks:

I will happily engage you in an honest to goodness online debate.

It will only cost you twenty-five hundred dollars a month. Sign up for my Patreon today!

Reward tier: "Debate me!"

$2,500 per month

Once per month, on any topic of your choosing (including the humanity of others or any tenet of social justice), I will debate you with maximum good faith and not ban, block, or remove it. I will prepare for two hours, debate you online for a full 24 hours––accounting for the fact that I need to sleep for eight hours on roughly US West Coast time––doing nothing else but giving you my full, undivided attention.

[Of course, there are some lower reward tiers as well....]

There's not enough "THIS!" in the world to "This!" this with.

Going out with people I like is actually quite awesome. Strictly speaking, I don’t hate DATING. I rather love it, and miss it during Sh.I.P.

The part I don’t like about dating is the skeet-shooting phase. Where you fling yourself out there, and as soon as someone gets a good look at you, they shoot you down.

Incidentally, that’s exactly the phase I’m in right now. It suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucks.

So......here's the thing....

The place I order groceries from limits you to like ten boxes of Cheez-It Sharp White Cheddar grooves per month. Ten of those little boxes usually lasts me about 20-25 days or so. I make do.

I ordered my ten little boxes. (I mean they WILL get eaten––it is me after all.) And I thought there was a glitch that erased them when I saw the number next to the product was zero. So I reordered.

So here I am now with.....TWENTY boxes, half of which are FAMILY SIZED and about twice as big. You can apparently order ten OF. EACH. SIZE.

So roughly thirty boxes worth. Or about 2 1/2 months of fucking Cheez Its in my pantry.

My cup runneth over.

I might be a perv.
I took about ten seconds to get this whole thing.
Perhaps it's helpful what a common phrase it tends to be around here.

You know, I've had "really hard jobs" before but they all involved consequences for my failures. I cannot think of a single job I've had where if I failed so badly that I actually broke the law, I would then be protected from the consequence of even having to be arrested, charged, and tried––never mind not being fired on the spot.

Today a major chunk of the police force of Atlanta are basically saying that none of them will do their jobs if ANY of them should ever face so much as due process for extrajudicial murder....ever. (Also a classic echo of the "Fine, I'll just leave" abusive response to having bad behavior so much as pointed out.)

But sure, let's talk about how these bad apples are so, so few.

Every summer we Americans go through this.

People hang on the SCOTUS decisions and cheer or hiss or breathe a sigh of relief. And the rulings that really affect our lives are almost never 6-3 or 7-2.

They are 5-4––often along ideological lines.

And yet by November, the Russian psyops and the conservative false flags and the purity politics, and everyone who has (ironically) gone to so SO, SOOOO much trouble to convince folks that their vote doesn't matter, will have created this pervading sense that there's no appreciable difference between the two parties or their presidential offerings.

There are many harmful overlaps between Democrats and Republicans and it is sophistic and naive to be unaware of them, but for anyone who thinks there's "no difference," I hope this moment each summer we white-knuckle our way through is a reminder that they are not the same. RBG is pushing NINETY. And Scalia is a reminder that we can't really know HOW many justices a single president will get to replace. So unless you're 100% sure your ENTIRE revolution is going down before NEXT summer, we have a way to reduce harm.
Pretty much fuck everyone who won't take this seriously.
I'd like to get laid again some day.

No, YOU just spilled olive juice all over your shirt after just two fisting an entire can of California black pitteds by putting them on your fingers.

CN: Abuse

My younger years were marked by a number of emotionally abusive relationships, and one of the things I noticed, as I was getting therapy and getting better, is that people on the outside who were enabling that abuse would often deconstruct a moment that had happen at the height of my frustration and anger and desperation.

When I was younger, it was a slammed door or raging tears, but as I learned that my emotions would be used against me, and that I had to shut them down, it might only be a raised voice or a badly chosen word. But the point was, it was always something. THERE WAS ALWAYS SOMETHING I HAD DONE IMPERFECTLY.

These people would ask why I had done that, ignore the entire context leading up to the moment and say, "Well no WONDER they were upset," and use that moment to invalidate the entirety of the abuse. To their minds, unless I was the perfect victim (which I could never ever ever EVER be by their rubric), I had to go back to the abuse and further endure it.

I think about this a lot when I see white people arbitrating that civil unrest means the entire struggle for equality is nullified. White supremacy is abusive, but white complacency enables that abuse.

Remember, KPOP stans and TikTokers did not buy out assigned seating and thus CAUSE a low attendance. Trump's staggering loss of support pulled that off all by himself.  

What KPOP stans and TikTokers DID do was waste Trump and the Trumpsters time, money, and make them look very, very foolish by registering for MILLIONS of RSVPs that cost everyone from some T-shirt maker, who now has tens of thousands of dollars in Trump t-shirt inventory, to security companies and police who just stood around waiting to manage a crowd that never showed up to the RNC's millions in prep they never needed (for an event they probably would have canceled if they'd known how low the turnout was going to be) to flooding them with fake data that will still take them hours of work to sift through after the bots are done. Not to mention the sheer schadenfreude of getting them to crow for weeks ahead of time about how fucking BALLER their guy was to get those numbers, for what turned out to be smaller than an Oasis reunion tour.

You're just going to have to trust me that this Tumblr Post about the LGBT islands and all its subsequent replies (which goes on longer than its viral post a few years back) is absolutely gold.

I have some relationships based on mutual sarcasm,
but there's always a way to use your "safeword."
And it's a real "read the room" skill.

It's probably worth unpacking the sorts of signals you send to disabled folks (maybe even friends and family who are watching you) when you skip over things like Trump's white supremacy and his horrifying political decisions and the harm he does and his lies and his ego and his.....(ad nauseam) to make fun of the way he drinks water or his need for a ramp.

These things are not what make him a bad person and a worse politician, and if we're going to talk about his hypocrisy and the fact that he can't seem to admit that his body is having some problems, I'd be really careful to focus on the HYPOCRISY ITSELF because it's a short jump from that to ACTUALLY making fun of disabled folks...

...which, just to be clear, is something we were mortified that HE did.

So maybe the idea that the ends of his political destruction justify any splash damage is something worth considering. There are PLENTY of reasons he is unfit to hold office, and the fact that he himself would make fun of someone who couldn't one-fist a glass of water might even be one of them, but when we tear into that, we really show what our society considers important. ("Go ahead and be a Nazi, just don't let 'em see your hands shake.")

Them: But I didn't use any medical data. I just made fun of people who think this virus is a big deal. You said that was okay. Why did you ban me.

Me: Yeah, look, if you want to just lie low and get your "You should be writing" memes, you should LIE LOW. When you pop up and get yourself noticed by being a dillhole, it turns out I **JUST** might mouse over your user icon. And then I'm going to notice "back the blue" banner. And then.....well....then you're sort of in trouble....

Because then you've shown me TWO things that are all kinds of awful, and I know I really don't like you, and don't particularly want the further input you might drop on future posts if I do not rescind the invitation into MY SPACE.

Shoulda kept that low profile. But you just had to....what's the phrase you diaphanous ego fuckstrudles use? Oh, right. VIRTUE SIGNAL. You HAD to virtue signal.

Bye, now.

When I say we’re totally gonna hit 1 million dead (lowball), this is why. The GOP has spent 30 years basically perfecting half the country into a mindset that is singularly unable to handle medical, scientific information or expertise delivered through media with public safety enforced (or even just encouraged) by government. Or to take seriously anything liberals take seriously. Because that was politically expedient for them to do.

Folks in that culture (every single one of them) are going to have to see this up close and personal before it feels real to a critical enough mass that we might see a shift. Right now they absolutely, genuinely think they know better.

The Venn diagram of people who won't wear masks despite the laws and people who tell BLM protesters that they "deserved" police brutality because they "broke the law" is pretty close to a circle...

But what they haven't realized yet (and would be pearl-clutchingly incensed to have pointed out) is that the overlap part is labeled "Just made it piss obvious they're racist."

Alright. I didn't want to have to do this, but you leave me no choice.
Here comes.......The Smoulder™

There's a lot on the news about the U.S. "giving up" the Covid-19 fight. Based on folks' pictures, it seems like a lot of peeps have traded in Shelter In Place for "fuck it."

And these are MY liberal friends (and even so leftist that they consider "liberal" an insult). This is not a cross-section of Americana.

I won't wag my finger. It's been an unbelievably rough four months, and cities and states reopening with nary a care, and an honest-to-fuck "anti-mask" movement like something out of Rick and Morty means that pretty much until there's an insta-test or vaccine, we're doing this indefinitely. I know some folks can make calculated personal risks that don't put vulnerable populations at risk, carefully invite people into their family bubble, and maybe even snap a selfie.

Okay, Boo. You do you. I've amped my risk when I knew I had five days to sit around and see if I got sick before I had to see anyone I care about, so I'm not here to judge. But let me just add one thing as your concerned Uncle Chris. Something that I almost never see when people are spouting mortality calculations like there's no real reason to be afraid:

As someone who almost certainly had this in early April, please let me remind everyone that you don't roll a cosmic set of two D&D ten-sided dice and only have a bad outcome if you get a 01 (if you're young and mostly healthy). And then you either drop dead or stroll on with your life having ducked the scythe once more.

You get a hospital visit on a 02 or less (which is much more likely than you think if you haven't actually PLAYED D&D). And that's if you're young and in perfect health. Age and preexisting conditions could drive that number up as high as 17 or more. (Though, to be fair, I don't see too many 85-year-olds ignoring social distancing.) And if too many folks in your area have been taking the same chance, the hospitals might be overwhelmed, and then your chances on that life/death roll get a lot worse.

No one knows the numbers yet, but you might roll for permanent organ damage. Or just MONTHS of recovery before you're really better. Could affect your lifespan in the long run. Lung scarring after this probably means that if a bus doesn't get you, pneumonia before your time surely might. That's a pretty shitty roll too.

And oh boy howdy, since I'm talking to folks in the US, please think of the medical bills......

I suspect most people here are being responsible and quarantining after a gathering because I don't have wildly inconsiderate friends and, for the most part, they know they could feel okay for several days while being contagious, but one of the worst things, if you're being cavalier about this, is that you could FORCE everyone you come in contact with to make the same roll. Maybe even someone with a much worse "outcomes chart" than you have to roll on.

And even if you roll pretty darn well––as I did––you get laid out with the worst sick you've ever had In. Your. Life. (With the possible exception of one flu where I couldn't keep down water.) Burning lungs. Raw throat. Impossible joint pain. Twisted guts. And when you're all recovered, which could take two weeks if you're lucky, or a month or even longer if you're not, another week at least of quarantine, which for a lot of people means roughly a month without pay at a minimum.

So please don't forget to factor that into your calculus.