All posts by Frog Jones

On Going Home to Spocon

For the last seven years, Esther and I have watched our writing career lift off the ground.  We’re under solicited submission to Baen, we’ve got a well-loved urban fantasy series, we’ve got stories in anthologies from a whole host of different publishers.  We’ve appeared as pros and dealers at WorldCon, World Fantasy, and Westercon in addition to our regional conventions.  Every time we release something, we add people to our audience, and it’s a wonderful feeling.

And then there’s Spocon.

See, in 2011, we weren’t known by anyone.  Heck, at the beginning of 2011 we weren’t even writers.  We were just a pair of working schlubs, trying to make the best of what we had.

But then Esther’s friend talked her into entering the writing competition hosted by Spocon. Which she won. With a little story about summoners, and rune magic, and giant demon-beasts from other realms invading earth. And a little demonic dude named Cythymau.  If you want to read the first piece of Gift of Grace literature ever, you’d have to pick up the 2011 League of Extraordinary Writers anthology, put out by Spocon.

This…catapulted us forward in ways we never imagined.

Spocon, in the meantime, rose to great heights.  In 2015, Spocon hosted WorldCon in the deep smoke of the worst season of forest fires this state has had to date.  It was a monumental achievement for a convention as small as Spocon was, but it took its toll.

In 2016, the staff fractured. I can’t blame them; they’d absolutely burned themselves out putting together WorldCon, and they were done. No Spocon was held. The Doubletree Inn remained silent.

In 2017, two remnants of the staff attempted to resurrect Spocon in two formats; one similar to the original Spocon, and the new Fan Nexus con.

2017 turned out to be a rebuilding year for Spokane nerds. Spocon was riddled by sexual assault allegations, followed by a very poor handling of those allegations by the then-president of the convention. The board removed him as president and took the appropriate steps, but the public relations damage had been done.  The halls of the Doubletree were very quiet last year, and in a row of tables devoted to authors Esther and I alone had a table with books on it.

We didn’t go to Fan Nexus. The handful of people who did go tell me it was amazing, but it failed to draw an appropriately-sized crowd and is not returning due to, I suspect, lack of funds.

Spocon, however, will be coming back with a vengeance.

We may not make much profit on Spocon. It’s not going to be a convention where we sell out of books – most of the people there have already read what we have (the novel under submission to Baen has put something of a kink in our production pipeline).

But this is fandom. And the financial standpoint is not the only standpoint.

In a very real way, Spocon is home. All of our characters were born there. Our entire world was created there. It’s where every wonderful thing that has happened to us since began, and it is the cause.

I’ve made this post because there’s been some questioning.  Authors who aren’t going to Spocon, and who shall remain nameless, have asked things along the lines of “Isn’t that convention basically dead on its feet?” or “Do you really expect an audience there?”

To these questions, I smile. I shake my head. And I simply tell them that it’s a con worth going to.

Becuase here’s the thing:  I know Spokane nerds.  Hell, I grew up a Spokane nerd.  And I can say, definitively, that Spokane nerds are hardcore. They don’t take their geekery lightly.

Yes, 2016’s lack of a convention was a body-blow to Spocon.  It’s going to take a couple of years for it to be resurrected to its former glory.  But that resurrection is, I believe, coming. And since it’s our home con, I want to be there to help make it happen.

So hell yes, doubters. We are going to be at Spocon.  And we are going to have a baller time at it. Because, for us–we’re going home.

See you there.

Spocon is August 10-12 at the Doubletree Inn in Spokane, Washington.

Digital Glamour: Awakening, now available for pre-order!

The first Digital Glamour Story, Awakening, is available for pre-order on a number of different digital delivery systems.

The 11th century, AD, was a bad time for fairies. In the West, William the Conqueror is victorious over the fey-assisted Saxons at the Battle of Hastings. The Kievan Rus complete their rise to power despite Baba Yaga’s opposition, spreading cold iron throughout Europe. In the East, Minamoto no Raiko has defeated the Shuten Doji, captain of the fey forces there. The fey take to a full retreat from humanity’s cold iron into a suspended animation state.

One thousand years later comes 2066 AD. Corporate control of humanity has become more overt, and governments are but shells through which corporations ply their votes. The masses of humanity have slid into poverty, with wealth collecting at the very utmost reaches. Technology is prevalent, but food and shelter are scarce. The media controls the masses, the corporations control the media. All government departments have been privatized, including the military, police, fire, and utilities. Some corporations use their resources to aid their people; many do not.

The rise of synthetic materials, ceramics and plastics, has drastically reduced (though not eliminated) the amount of cold iron in the world. The fey emerge to a world not unlike their old one, where almost-feudal CEO’s demand the loyalty of their peasants without properly feeding them. The world is once more safe for the fey, and the thousand years is over. What they will do when they awaken has yet to be seen.

 

Miscon Report: The Greatest Little Convention in the World

We love Miscon.

Alright, alright.  Those of you who haven’t been are sitting there thinking “What’s Miscon?  Where’s that?”  Well, let’s start with this:  it’s in Missoula.  And it’s one of the best small cons there is.

Yes, Missoula.  Deal with it.

I have a theory of why this convention is so awesome.  You see, Missoula is a college town; the University of Montana makes its home there (go Grizzlies).  Colleges are, of course, hotbeds of nerdism.  There’s a correllation between higher education levels and deep, deep love for speculative fiction of some form, and the area directly around a college tends to be full of grad students, professors, and people who interact with the above on a number of scales.  Therefore, the number of nerds in a town like Missoula is actually kind of high.

But wait, there’s more.  Because, you see, there’s a twist; unlike super-high nerd areas like Seattle or Portland, there is nothing else nerdy for these people to do.  Take Norwescon, for instance.  If you’re from the Seattle area, you have your choice of nerdy events.  There’s ECCC, there’s PAX.  Hell, Sakuracon happens at the same time as Norwescon.  My point here is that Norwescon is not, for a Seattle nerd, the be-all-and-end-all of nerdy things they can do.  A Seattle nerd can head down to Cafe Mox at any point in time and nerd out for an evening with very little difficulty.

A Missoula nerd?  They have one shot.  361 days out of the year, there is nothing within a hundred and fifty miles that’s even remotely nerd-focused.  They’re in the middle of Montana, and nobody around them gives two wet farts about obscure science fiction references.  For those 361 days, they walk around in a state of mild repression, expressing themselves only privately to friends, or perhaps making pilgrimages to outside events.  For 361 days out of the year, they are in a nerd desert.  That reaction you had, right in the beginning of my post, when I said “Missoula” and you said “Why would I go to Missoula there’s nothing nerdy about that bumpkin-filled town in the middle of the wasteland we call Montana?”  That reaction is well-founded, but miscalculated.  Missoula may be a bumpkin-oriented town, but it has many nerds.  And those nerds have been bottling themselves all year.  Pressure has been backbuilding under the cork like a champagne bottle in a microwave.  That sense of repression builds all year, until they get to the one event in Missoula that really lets them off the handle.

And then Miscon starts.

It’s like pulling the cork off the champagne bottle.  All that pressure comes flying out in a wild fugue of geekdom.  You’ve never seen beauty until you’ve seen the your first Montana nerd who’s never been to a convention before suddenly realize she doesn’t have to hide in the basement anymore.  That there are other people in the world who love these things, and who want to love these things with her.  For the first time in her entire life, she is free to be herself among others, and no ridicule will ensue.  She will, instead, be celebrated, for she is among friends.

These people glow.

And they come back.  They come back like addicts, craving this four-day release of their inner selves.  They know they won’t have another chance to be in an environment like this for a year, and they are going to make the most of it.

This gives Miscon a frenetic sort of energy, because everyone around Miscon is driven to make Miscon as awesome an experience as they can.  If it’s going to have to last all year, then they had better let it all hang out.  A Miscon nerd leaves nothing on the table.  They err on the side of doing the thing, whatever the thing may be.  The games are intense.  The boffing is hardcore and consistent.  The Quidditch tournament is unreserved, and the panels are all slammed, because these people are going to live their lives in the brief, moth-like moment that they can.  It is brief, it is fleeting, and its very transience makes it all the more beautiful.

The con-com always seems organized, because they know that having Miscon is far more important than any internal drama.  That’s a lesson for the bigger cons; be willing to put things aside for the good of the organization.  The dealer-room is well-positioned, and as a result of this frenetic pace we had our best convention of sales ever.  Of all time.  Better than Worldcon, Orycon, Westercon, or Norwescon.  Miscon was so great to us, in fact, that we tripled the gross receipts of any one of those other cons.

We brought a table minion with us, as well.  Some of you know Katherine from private life, some of you will remember her from the convention as the awesome Starbuck cosplay (pictured left).  We’d been to Miscon before (but without setting up a table), and we already knew it was one of our favorite cons.  We told her about it, and she gave us that screwed-up facial expression that said “Yeah, Okay.  I’m not going to call you idiots because you’re my friends, but really…Missoula?”

Post-Miscon, here’s what she had to say:

MisCon was magical in more ways than I ever could have imagined and I made a lot of RIDICULOUSLY cool friends. I was skeptical when my friends told me their favorite con is in Missoula, MT, but it has become my favorite too on my first visit. Nerd friends, especially those of you who are writers looking to improve your craft or big speculative fiction readers, give MisCon a shot next year.

Allow us to add our voice to hers.

Miscon is the greatest little con in the world.  It brings the nerd harder per capita than any other con I’ve been at.  It punches well above its weight class in terms of guests, of fans, and of general con experience.  It is a heady, magical place, and I look forward to being back next year.

Westboro Wannabes Picket Norwescon

So, I’m in my hotel room at Norwescon. I don’t have a dealer table, and my panel appearances are kinda limited, so I’m making the best of it by getting as much done on Black Powder Goddess as I can. I’m deep into revisionland when all of a sudden a load, distorted voice from a megaphone starts shouting at me to repent my sins.

Now, understand something; I am on the tenth floor of the hotel. So this megaphone is putting out some serious decibels, if not clarity. I step out onto my balcony, and see that there are people with massive signs bouncing them up and down in front of the con hotel as megaphone-preacher predicts a future of eternal fire for me.

I admit, my first thoughts were of irritation. After all, I’m just trying to get some work done, here. Now I’ve got to listen to this moron shouting at me while I try to fix this little bit of dialogue, or that paragraph structure.

But other people begin to emerge onto their own balconies as well, and now we’re looking at each other. Occasionally, someone shouts something rude back at the preacher. One dude starts up a chant of “Live in sin” over and over again. There are catcalls, people fly the horns, etc. But even that starts to die down in the face of what appears to be a never-ending barrage of scripture.

And I’m thinking to myself; what the hell good can they possibly imagine this is doing?

I mean, is anyone going to say “Whelp, I was going to hit up a room party, drink like Bacchus, and compare various forms of magic and demons to one another, but now that someone I don’t know has yelled Bible verses at me through a megaphone I think I’m going to church instead?” No. That is a phrase said by nobody, ever.

I start a thread on the Norwescon Facebook page about it, and suddenly I’m getting awash in comments. Some talk about the fact that it’s kinda late in the evening and they’re trying to get kids to sleep. After all, the party wing is as far from the tower in this hotel as one can get; he’s literally shouting at the tower of people who really didn’t feel like going out, getting wasted, and/or having an orgy. But he doesn’t care. He’s doing the Lord’s Work, and nothing so silly as logic or reason is going to do anything to stop that.

But I’m getting other comments, too. Comments like this one, from Amanda Hodges:

“That’s awesome! They only protest the good stuff these days. Grats!”

Or this, from Robyn Lynne:

“WooHOO! Norwescon has made the big time! :\”

And I’m beginning to agree with them. These people only protest things that I tend to agree with (with one notable exception). I disagree with these kinds of so-called Christians so radically that the simple act of being protested by them makes me truly believe I’m doing something right. If someone evil tries to stop you, chances are you’re doing good.

And as the protest goes on, I start getting more stories. Here’s one from John Redmond:

“Was a GREAT teachable moment for my 8-year old girl when my sexy Harley-Quinn-themed wife walked past them and they essentially called her a whore. I said, right in front of them, that he had judged Mommy by appearance, not knowing she’s a fanatical member of our Church’s choir and faithful to her husband. Said 8-year-old said, “Isn’t it a sin to judge people?” RIGHT IN FRONT OF THEM. “Absolutely, my dear. Jesus loved everyone except hypocrites. Hypocrites are the WORST sinners. Now turn the other cheek, just walk away from them. They’re evil.”

We got an applause from a good handful of people we were walking with.”

So, to the Westboro wannabes who thought protesting us was a good idea: you fucked up. See, we’re nerds. We have a certain familiarity with the short end of the bully stick. Yelling at us does nothing worthwhile, because we’ve had a lifetime of being judged by others. And we come to these conventions because we’ve discovered that there’s an entire community of us here, supporting one another. For all the con drama that can take place, you come at us as a whole and we respond in kind. Not violently, but as a community. You absolutely failed to shame us, because we took your protest as validation that we are in the right. It’s not that your opinion is irrelevant to us; quite the opposite. It’s that, by your very actions, you have proven an inverse relationship between your goals and ours.

We want freedom; you want oppressive religion. We want diversity; you want the continued dominance of the white male. We want consent-based sexuality; you want sex to be an act of possession. We believe as we want to believe, and we respect that in others; you think any belief other than your own is invalid. And we dream about what the future could be, while you try feebly to cling to the past.

And since we know all that about you, we also know that every angry word that flies out of your obnoxiously loud megaphone only serves to confirm that we are in the right. That, by gathering here to celebrate these basic principles of nerdity, we have in some way affected the world. That ripples are going forth, reaching people–if they weren’t, after all, you wouldn’t care to protest it.

So thank you, Westboro wannabe morons. Thank you for proving, by your actions, the value that Norwescon (and all such fan-run conventions) have in this world. Thank you for proving that we can’t be bullied. You gave us all a teachable moment, and we learned something about ourselves.

And maybe think about what it was we learned before you drag your damned megaphone out to interrupt my work again.

The Stupidity of Faith

There is little in the art of writing lazier than faith as a plot point.

See if these lines seem familiar:

“All we can do now is believe in X” (Where X is the protagonist or, sometimes, the plucky sidekick–usually uttered when X is off doing momentous things and there’s a group of people basically just sitting around believing)

“If enough people believe at once, all together, then X” (Where X is something highly improbable to impossible)

“No matter what happens, I believe in X” (X=protagonist.  Generally line is uttered by side-character Y just as something horrible is about to befall them.)

If you find yourself writing a plot that looks like this, then stop for a second.  Take a step back, and look at what you have wrought.  Because, quite frankly, it’s hideous.  As soon as one character starts talking about beliefs, it’s almost a guarantee that they’re going to be rewarded for that belief.  Rare is the time when someone says “No matter what happens, I believe in X” only to be shot dead half a second later because their faith was wildly misplaced.

It’s lazy.  Instead of having your characters try to do something, they’re simply believing in something.

But this isn’t actually a post about the craft of writing.  This is another one of my political posts.

Our culture has been inundated with these tropes.  Oh, religion’s had its input as well, but we have been swamped, over and over again, by lazy writers telling us that the mere act of believing is, in and of itself, valuable.  Not investigating, not observation, not careful, rational thought.  Belief.  And, generally in these plots, belief against all odds.  These lines tend to get uttered when everything looks its absolute worst, but it’s not, because–faith.  Indeed, those who rationally analyze the situation are almost always wrong, because having the obvious be true would also be kind of a boring story.  So we have this dramatic filter beaten into us, again and again; that last-minute saves really happen.  But only if you believe, regardless of what things look like.

So, now, here we are.  You want to know why we’re getting more polarized?  This is part of it.  When belief becomes more important than rationale, suddenly a lot of things don’t matter.  Things like paying attention to the facts.  If belief is better than rationale, then any facts that disagree with your belief are simply wrong.  So, on the left, we get people who are still clamoring for Trump to not be president (there’s several subcategories here, and they’re all dumb.  A Republican Congress isn’t going to impeach a sitting Republican president, and there isn’t going to be a coup.  He’s the president).  On the right, we’ve got people telling us that “the media” (as though it were a singular entity) are simply not giving us the real facts.  You know, the facts that agree with their position.

Belief has no intrinsic value.  The act of believing in something without question is the act of surrendering your intelligence.  Your intelligence is basically the only thing that makes you different than, say, these guys:

Question everything.  Question your own beliefs.  Ask yourself if you feel so stridently about something, why you feel that way.  Have ideas, not beliefs.

Federal 2.0 – the Progressive Solution to the Current Government

Any time you have a problem, you have to boil that problem down to its bare essence.  And the problem that progressives have, right now is not that the President totally opposes them.  It’s not that Congress opposes them.  It’s not the voters, it’s not “fake news,” and it’s not racism.  All of those things are problems, but they are surface-level problems.  They’re not the heart of the issue.

The heart of the issue is this:  the GOP is now in a position to control the financial resources of the federal government.  In doing so, they will drastically reduce the benefits we have worked so hard for.  They will institute massive, destabilizing tax cuts, because after all that is what they have promised to do.

The progressive goal has been to restore pre-Bush-tax-cut levels of taxation and to use that extra money for additional social benefits.  Education, health care, etc.

As soon as you strip away all of the rhetoric, and you realize that this is the essence of the problem, the solution becomes simple.  Haven’t found it yet?  Well, let me give you one more point of data.

There are states in this country that are “givers.”  That is, these states contribute far more to the federal system than they receive back.  There are also states in this country that are “takers,” wherein the reverse is true.  And take a quick guess at the political affiliation of the “giver” states and the “taker” states?  Did you guess that there tends to be a correlation between the progressiveness of the region and the amount of tax dollars it pays?  Then you are correct.

So, here are the contours of our problem, in bullet-point format:

  • Progressives want to pay for more social benefits.
  • Conservatives want to cut taxes and have less social benefits.
  • Progressives tend to control the states where more tax income is available.
  • Conservatives control the federal government and therefore the federal tax rate.

The solution should now be blindingly simple.

If you haven’t guessed it yet, then let me take you through a step-by-step proposal for how the progressive states could salvage things out of this mess.

Step 1:  Recapture the lost taxes at the state level

The federal government is not the only government in this country capable of taxation and spending–states can do it too!  So, step one is drafting a uniform code of taxation that creates a new layer of income tax at the state level – a tax designed to recapture that federal tax you would have paid before Bush’s corporate tax cuts.  We’d also want to draft this code to be flexible and recapture any taxes lost to Republican tax cuts.

Step 2:  Pool this money together for participating states

Progressive states then take their additional tax dollars and create a new fund.

Step 3:  Fed 2.0

Progressive states agree to form an interstate agency to manage these funds for the purpose of providing quasi-federal benefits on a quasi-federal level.  These benefits flow only to those states who have opted in to Fed 2.0.  Elected representatives from each state control the funds in Fed 2.0 in much the way Congress does; the interstate contract for Fed 2.0 would essentially be a second Constitution, operating slightly underneath and parallel to the current Constitution.  This Constitution could condition participation in Fed 2.0 on any number of social justice issues as well as contribution of tax dollars.  Abortion?  LGBTQ rights?  Women’s Equality?  Racial Equality?  Religious separation?  All built in to the constitution of Fed 2.0.  Remember, states are always free to create their own laws and handle anything the federal government doesn’t want to or have the authority to.

Here’s the potential results:

1.  Progressive states receive more bang for their buck on progressive benefits.

Remember that chart?  The one that said (and I’m generalizing and paraphrasing here) that red states tend to be leeches off the blue state’s contributions?  Well, if the benefits are only flowing to the blue states from the red states, the more we can stretch the dollars staying in the blue states.

2.  Progressives in the federal Congress can propose massive tax cuts with no ill effect.

Now, every tax cut in the current federal government just means a shift in funds to Fed 2.0, which is entirely controlled by progressive states.  So in Fed 1.0, progressive start voting in massive tax cuts.  Guess where that leaves the GOP?  Well, the GOP can either vote to cede power to an entirely progressive secondary body, or the GOP can vote against a tax cut.  This is a lose-lose proposition, and it would place the Republicans into a nasty little Hobson’s Choice.  After all, the only thing Republicans would have to do to absolutely kill Fed 2.0 would be to raise federal taxes back to pre-Bush-era levels, ensuring that there was no lost tax for Fed 2.0 to recapture.  Anyone want to place odds on whether they do that?

3.  The stemmed flow of benefits into the red states is going to put serious pressure on the red state poor to join Fed 2.0.

Now, rednecks will be rednecks.  But the more this system proceeds, the more you’re going to see a lifestyle difference between Fed 2.0 member states and non-Fed 2.0 member states.  And that difference is going to be more pronounced the farther down the chain you go.  It won’t be immediate, but the money is going to continue to flow to Fed 2.0.  And as the education of Fed 2.0 begins to completely outpace the education of non-Fed 2.0, this spiral is only going to get bigger.

4.  Power shifts to the progressives.

In one of two ways.  Either the federal government itself re-aligns in a progressive fashion, thus obviating the need for Fed 2.0, or Fed 2.0 becomes a purseholder in its own right to the point where it wields more financial power than Fed 1.0.  Either way, the progressive agenda ends up drastically ahead, because we were willing to pay for it.

Now, here’s the thing.  I’m just an author, and a mid-listed author of fantasy novels.  I’m just a county public defender who has an idea.  If this is going to happen, much bigger people than me are going to have to have the political will to pull it off.  This is the move; the question is whether we can find leaders who will actually pull the trigger on it.

The Reason We Study History

In 264 BC, the ancient Roman Republic became involved in a series of three wars with Carthage.

Bear with me.  I’m going somewhere with this.

Carthage was a tough opponent, and Hannibal definitely gave Rome some problems in the 2nd Punic War, but the upshot of these things was that Rome kind of ended up conquering most of the known world in what it saw as self-defense.  It didn’t mean to take everything; that was kind of a side-effect of beating Carthage.  But, even though it was something of an accident, in 146 BC Rome finished off Carthage and became the sole superpower in Western Culture (yes, I’m ignoring the East here.  Rome didn’t know much about them.).

And it destroyed itself in the process.

See, all of the power, all of the money, all of the expense and all of the responsibility of running a massive conquest like this became a problem.  Because now that Rome didn’t have an external enemy, it fell on itself as the great Roman leaders began to vie for control of the behemoth, each one stabbing each other in the back in a vicious, brutal game of King of the Mountain.

The first to die was Tiberias Gracchus, murdered because he attempted to sway the people of Rome to his cause using handouts and class-warfare reforms.  Next was Caius Gracchus, his brother, and this time in the midst of a pitched brawl in the forum.  Every death caused an escalation, and soon Marius and Sulla tore the entire republic apart with massive civil wars, using armies to hunt each other down in a bid for power.  The Populari sought to buy off the lower classes with handouts–it is from this period of time that the “dole” emerged, the free corn for the poor, as a Grachii reform to gain support within Rome.  The Optimates sought to maintain power concentrated in the wealthy, and resisted any of these handouts.  Neither of these parties were truly benevolent; both simply used their lines of rhetoric to appeal to the base instincts of the people.

And both began to prosecute and to murder members of the opposing faction.  Caius Gracchus continued to run for office, knowing that as soon as he left office he would face criminal charges.  Marius was elected consul seven times before Sulla not only outlived him, but had his bones drug from his grave and thrown in the river as a sign of disrespect.  The Roman Republic system, the system that had seen Rome through the Punic Wars and had built this massively successful entity, turned and devoured itself from within.

A generation after Marius and Sulla, Caesar and Pompey took up their banners.  Pompey the Optimate, Caesar the Populari.  Both of them were assassinated, but not before completely destroying the Roman system and paving the way for four hundred years of imperial rule.

It was almost eighteen hundred years before a Western republic began to come to life again.

Throughout the nineteenth century, the United States was a backwater.  London was the financial capital of the world; Paris the cultural.  The sun didn’t set on the British empire; the Americans had four time zones.

Then, in 1914, a series of three wars started.  The two World Wars, followed by the Cold War, left America essentially in charge of the world.  We won everything.  We are the last remaining superpower.  Hooray us.

The Cold War, the last great threat to American dominance, ended in 1991.  Twenty-five years later, we find ourselves in exactly the position those Romans did.  We run everything, and vast amounts of both income and responsibility are ours to do with as we please.

So of course we’re destroying ourselves over it.

This week has been, bar none, the worst political week in American History.  There’s an election coming up, and I now have both sides posting in my Facebook feed that the other candidate needs to be prosecuted after the election.  I’ve got both sides talking about revolution, and both sides are simply bitter with the other.

And I can’t help but think of Tiberius Gracchus.

We’re there, folks.  This has happened before.  And it did not end well.  But we’ve forgotten that; we’re so focused in the here, the now, that we’ve forgotten the fact that this level of bitterness, of ad hominem attacks, of personal vengeance before reasoned debate is exactly the thing that destroyed the last world-conquering superpower.

Now, everyone reading this post may be sitting there thinking “Oh, he is so right.  Those other people need to stop being so angry and bitter.”  And if you find yourself thinking that, you are part of the problem.  If you find yourself thinking “well, my candidate shouldn’t go to jail, but the other one should,” you are part of the problem.

I don’t like Trump.  His policies are wrong, his self-control is terrible, and his prejudices are apparent.  He will make a terrible leader.  But stop trying to prosecute him in the week before an election.

It’s OK if you don’t like Hillary.  If you disagree with her policies, that’s fine.  I’d love to sit down and have that conversation.  But stop trying to prosecute her the week before the election.

We have entered a political phase where what people want done is no longer as important as who does them.  It’s about credit and blame, not about the good of the country.  It’s about saving your own ass while throwing your opponent as far under the bus as you possibly can.  The Optimates and the Populari are back to destroy another republic.

This post isn’t going to get nearly as much attention as all of the inflaming rhetoric.  People would much rather repost memes about how terrible the other person is rather than debate their policies.  And, as a result, our republic will continue its death-spiral, just as the last republic did two thousand years ago.

Hail Caesar.

No, I’m not doing NaNo. Don’t let me stop you.

No, we’re not doing NaNo this year.  We didn’t do it last year, either.   Fact is, I can’t foresee us doing a NaNoWriMo event ever again.  It’s simply not an event that has value for us at our current place in our careers.

Here’s what’s going on in our writing work at the moment:  We are working on Graceless, the fourth GoG book.  We’re also in the middle of revising Black Powder Goddess, a book whose submission has already been solicited by a major publishing firm.  We’ve just completed several short stories, all of which are already on their way to their respective anthologies.  The next one to be released?  Dragon Writers, an anthology which includes Brandon Sanderson, Todd McCaffery, Jodi Lynn Nye, and Frog Jones.  In short, we have a lot of stuff going on, and we’re not in a position to drop it all to focus simply on running up a word count.

We did try it back in 2014.  At the time, I wrote out a couple of posts dealing with what it was like to go through the experience.  We did it to meet other writers in our area; we left the month feeling a little ostracized and frankly not terribly excited about the social dynamics of NaNo.

It’s Nov. 1, again.  And so, again, my Facebook feed is flooded with writers talking about NaNo.  Now, while I appreciate the break from election spam, I still have to respond to this BS.  And every time I say I’m not doing it, there’s this assumption that I’m less of an author somehow.  I’m not; I just don’t need to add one more thing on my plate.  But, all of that said, I see the value of NaNo to beginners.  If you’ve never finished a novel, NaNo is a great way to start.  And if you’ve got a group of friends who like to write, NaNo could be a lot of fun, I guess.  I’m not here to wag my finger and tell you kids and your month-long writing marathon to get off my lawn.  It’s just that it’s not for either of us.

Here’s some tips, though, based on the one time I did do NaNo:

1.  If you’re doing it in a group, don’t be a dick.

We went to our first write-in and were immediately shunted off to the side.  Literally.  It was in a Shari’s restaurant, and everyone in the write-in was at a booth.  Except us.  We were told to go be in the other booth, where we could have no interaction with anyone.  Couldn’t be sure of the point of the write-in, but it became clear that everyone already knew each other and didn’t care about new people.  As the new people, this made us feel singularly…uncared for.

Esther and I ended up in a booth seat, having a cup of coffee with each other, but we’d honestly just wasted an hour of drive time to come meet new writers and be social only to be shunted into “not one of us territory.”

Here’s the thing about this:  I don’t think it was intentional.  Everyone who knew each other sat with each other, leaving us new folks out in the cold.  I’ve since talked with some of the folks who were there, and they didn’t even realize they were doing this.  But if you’re going to write-ins, then you need to make sure the new people feel like they’re included.  This is how you find a support system for writing, and without new blood your group will wither and fade.

2.  If you’re doing it then do it.

Don’t say “Oh, I’m doing NaNo tee hee,” plop out a 5k word count in the month, and then pat yourself on the back for participating.  NaNo teaches exactly one thing to aspiring authors; how to put your head down and write.  One of the most common questions we get at cons is “So, how do you keep yourself writing?”  NaNo will teach you the answer to that question (btw–everyone has their own answer.  Mine won’t work for you).

If this is just a hangout for you, join a local writer’s group.  Write the occasional short story.  Hang out.  Have fun.  But if you’re going to accept the 50k challenge, then you’d better make an honest effort at breaking that word count.  Otherwise, what the heck are you doing?

 

3.  Don’t publish it.

For the love of all that is right and good with the world, the first person (and there will be one) on my Facebook or Twitter who asks me to buy their NaNo novel for 99 cents is going to get an earful from me.  Because it’s not done.  When you’ve “won” NaNo, you’ve only completed a zero draft.  You have the roughest bullshit in the writing world.  It’s not just a draft–it’s a hastily written draft.  I’ve got actual, published books, and the thing I had after NaNo was atrocious.  What you have will not be professionally ready to see the light of day absent major revisions.  So don’t shine that light on it–start revising.

With those provisos, enjoy NaNo.  Have fun with it.  Throw down some word count.  Push yourself to see how far you can really do this thing, and get something on the page that you can revise later.  

Just–stop asking me for my progress.  I’m not keeping count.

The problem isn’t misogyny, racism, bigotry, or hate.

All right, all right; I used a clickbaity title.  This is Rome, I did the thing.  So sue me.

All of those things are problems.  All of them.  But I want to take them all as pieces of the puzzle, as symptoms of a much more fundamental issue that our societies are having.  I’m proposing that there is a larger, more all-encompassing problem.  And it is this issue that I wish to glorify with the label The problem.

Did you see how I pluralized “society” there?  It wasn’t a mistake.

America is no longer a single society.  It’s two.  And the problems that America is having with this are not limited to America.  We can see exactly the same problems in the Islamic world, in Europe, in Africa, in China and Japan, in Russia–all of humanity seems to be battling itself, and the root of the problem always seems to be the same.

It all boils down to externally versus internally imposed morality.

I got to thinking about this after I posted an article on my Facebook page concerning a statement made by the Great Blowhard, Rush Limbaugh.  You can read the thing if you want, but the focal point of what he said really boiled down to this quote:

“You know what the magic word, the only thing that matters in American sexual mores today is? One thing. You can do anything, the left will promote and understand and tolerate anything, as long as there is one element. Do you know what it is? Consent. If there is consent on both or all three or all four, however many are involved in the sex act, it’s perfectly fine. Whatever it is. But if the left ever senses and smells that there’s no consent in part of the equation then here come the rape police. But consent is the magic key to the left.”

The comment thread I have on this is pretty predictable.  Because of course consent is the thing that truly matters.  What in the fuck is he talking about?  It went beyond being disgusted with Mr. Limbaugh and came out in a place where we were simply confounded by him.  But someone in the world is listening to this guy.  A lot of someones.  And they are buying what he is selling.  So I sat down and began to think long and hard about how, exactly, that happens.

The first thing you have to do to understand these comments is make two very simple assumptions.  Ready for this?  Here they are:

Assumption #1:  All sex that is not a single man with a single woman outside of marriage is wrong.  If you have sex outside of a one-man, one-woman marriage, you have done an evil act.  And the act itself was evil, regardless of whether you consented to having sex.  So consent doesn’t figure into the values judgment.

Assumption #2:  Sex within a marriage is the right of the man and the duty of the woman.  Therefore, consent doesn’t figure into the values judgment here either, because the man is entitled to the sex as part of his due for being a husband, and the woman no longer has the right to refuse consent because she is now a wife.

Boom!  All one has to do is assume two basic assumptions, and suddenly consent is meaningless.  Of course, those two assumptions make the progressive morality most of the people reading this article have recoil in horror, but nevertheless.  The comments make sense.  Which means the people listening to Limbaugh’s little rant and nodding their heads take those two assumptions as a given in their own morality.

The next question I asked is:  how?  How in the heck do we get here?  Now, I’m an atheist, so my first knee-jerk response was to blame religion, but that’s not exactly en pointe.  Religion figures in, but I know an awful lot of religious people who share the same horror as I do about that particular mindset.  So it’s not religion, exactly.

And then I hit it.  The only way one gets to those assumptions in life is by starting out with them, and refusing to change.  Someone with that kind of morality has it because they:

1.  Were instructed in what is right and wrong by some form of authority figure.  This could be a religious figure, but it could also be their parent, or a community leader, or really anyone that was seen by the subject as an authority figure on that which is good and that which is evil.  In addition to this, the subject also must

2.  Adhere to the belief that questioning the externally-imposed morality is, itself, immoral.

As soon as I started looking at the world, and the people in it, this way, everything made sense.  Religion is only one vector for externally-imposed morality.  It’s a strong one, but it’s only one.  If you look at the world, though, almost all our social problems stem from the fact that people have been taught what is good and evil, and not how to evaluate a thing for being good and evil.  In the externally-imposed morality, reflection and insight are discouraged.  Adapting and evolving one’s sense of right and wrong are discouraged.  Right and wrong are presented as static lists of things to adhere to, not as a way of thinking about the infinite number of possible situations one may encounter in one’s life.

Bigotry, racism (hell, the very concept of race as opposed to culture), misogyny…all of these things make perfect sense when viewed in this light.

Ever since the combined movements of the Civil Rights and the Vietnam Protests, we’ve been shifting away from an externally-imposed morality system to an internally-imposed one.  And that makes the people who still exist on the old system nervous.  We progressives actively engage with the concepts of right and wrong; we evaluate and consider a thing based on its merits.  What alt-right conservatives really hear when they hear “Make America Great Again” is “Get Everyone Back in Line with What is Right.”  And to them, Right is the thing their fathers or their pastors taught them; and those people were taught by their etc, etc, etc.

How do we fix this?  No idea.  But all fixes start by identifying the problem, and I think I’m finally starting to figure out ours.