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WorldCon Report, Day 3: Into the Smoke

So, day 3 was supposed to be simple.  I had one job to do.  That job, by the way, was to drink beer, an activity that I perform on occasion with no obligation whatsoever.

Well, that and work sgt-at-arms for the Business Meeting, which was fun but uneventful (wait for Day 5).

No, Friday was shaping up to be the day during which unscheduled activities dominated.

Let’s start with this little tidbit:  panelists here at Worldcon, in a shocking display of apathy for the environment, are given a different table tent for each panel.  What do we do with the old ones?  Chuck ’em!

Well, Bob Brown got his hands on one of mine.  The results have been…interesting.

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Then we drank beer.  Beer was good.  Met some good peeps, drank some good brew, talked books and writing.  What more could you possibly want?

Then, as we sat with beers in hand, the smoke rolled in.

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Now, let’s be clear here; we set our state on fire to celebrate Sasquan about a week ago.  But on Friday, the wind shifted, and like smoke following beauty at a campfire the entire con was enveloped in a dense haze.  Fliers were posted indicating that it was unsafe to travel outside, which is kinda crazy for a con that is happening in multiple hotels.

Last, we ended up at dinner with the following people:

  1.  Us
  2. Out Publisher, Maggie Bonham of Sky Warrior Books
  3. Voss Foster, brilliant author in his own right and recent podcast guest for the 3 Unwise Men
  4. Trish McCallan, who writes romance novels and for whom I do not have a link,
  5. The girl who started us writing
  6. An attorney that used to work for me
  7. That attorney’s brother
  8. That attorney’s brother’s girlfriend

This was something of a clashing of the worlds, but a good time and decent mexican food was had by all.

Today, you can catch us at the 10-2 session in Author’s Alley, as we’ll be sharing a table with Kaye Thornbrugh and Jessica Rising.  Esther will be signing autographs at 10.:00.  I’ll be talking about humor in teen and middle grade fiction in 401C at 11:00, then Fandom for Children and Teens at 2:00.  I’m finishing up by taking up the mantle of Cyberpunk in the Sub-Genre Games at 4:00; that should be a blast.

See you there!

WorldCon Report, Day 1: The drumbeat begins

Alright, day one of Worldcon was a slow start.

Jessica Rising was awesome enough to show Esther and I a sneaky way to get in the registration line before the doors to the convention center opened, thus insuring that we did not actually have to wait in said line for more than a couple of seconds once registration opened.  This cleared up our day significantly.

The green room at Worldcon appears to be one of the more lackluster green rooms I’ve been in.  This actually makes a certain amount of sense, as authors will stab a bitch to get on panels at this con; there’s really no reason to try to seduce us further with nummy treats.  Still, I dream of the (literal) salad days in the Radcon green room.

On a more interesting front, I will be standing sergeant-at-arms for the World Science Fiction organization.  Does this sound boring to you?  It is not.  Allow me to rephrase:

I am a peacekeeper for the rule-making committee for Worldcon.  Including the committee that will be debating changes to the Hugo nominating process.

Now, I have been specifically told that, in the event of physical resistance, I am not allowed to simply bounce a motherfucker, which is too bad.  That would have been fun.  That said, I’ll be the one trying to impose some form of order on what is shaping up to be an absolute train wreck.  Wish me luck on that, and await my final con report for details on how it went.

I did have a single panel on Day One, a Legends and Lore panel which turned out to have three authentic Native American Storytellers on it, one other lady, and myself.  How in the hell am I supposed to contribute to Legends and Lore discussions in that setting?  I mean, I’m not whipping out the undoubtedly butchered Native American stories I heard back in Scout Camp, that’s for damn sure.

Didn’t stop the other lady, who dove headlong into an embarassing tale of her father’s sister-in-law’s second cousin, who had some Indian blood, and also may or may not have seen a UFO.  I stopped listening at that point.  Instead, I talked about the culture of old fogeys BS’ing in greasy spoon diners (for those of you who knew Colfax in the day, I specifically went into a description of Allen’s restaurant).  All in all, had a good time and pulled off yet another what the hell am I doing on this panel moment.  All’s well as ends well.

Looking forward to Day Two, which will include such things as the beginning of my stint at Sgt-at-Arms, the Sky Warrior Books table in Author’s Alley (look for Esther or I there), and the following schedule of appearances where you can catch yours truly in living color:

11:00 AM:  Reading in Spokane Falls Suite A/B
4:00 PM:  A shift at the autographing table
5:00 PM:  “Conventions of the Pacific Northwest” in room 303A
7:00 PM:  “Role-Playing Games as an Author’s Tool” in room 401C

I am slightly disappointed that all of these panels seem to be completely en pointe for me, but occasionally I do actually have to be an adult.  Looking forward to seeing anyone who can make it!

Meritocracy

The Supremes issued a couple big opinions this week.  Then the country basically lit itself on fire.  There’s a lot of celebration, and rightly so.  There’s also a lot of hatred from the right for the judicial authority which has so finally demolished the debate.  The legal issues are done.  Gay marriage is now legal.  Full stop.

There’s a lot of talk about “activist judges,” a phrase that comes up from time to time.  The Tea Party has rehashed some old language to complain about the judges.  Ted Cruz, the great blowhard of the Senate, has even gone so far as to propose judicial approval elections be amended into the Constitution, rewriting Article III itself.

It is worth, at this moment in history, to take a look at the idea of meritocracy, to acknowledge that there is an element of meritocracy in the American government, and to celebrate the fact that we do.

Scalia’s dissent in Obergefell is off the chain, but he’s right about one basic thing.  Nine people, who have been elected by nobody, and who are not necessarily representative of the US population as a whole, may simply decide that a thing is a fundamental right, and may protect that right against anything other than a constitutional amendment.  The most powerful people in our government are not the President or the Congress; they are the Supremes.  Mostly, the Supremes try not to flex their muscle, but every once in a while they do.

And when they do, the world moves.

Abortion is legal, and part of the freedom to choose what to do with one’s own body.  Black children may go to school alongside white ones.  We are free to marry one another, regardless of race .  For over fifty years, the Court has been a major vector for social change.

 

This is, by no means, a new thing.

The more we reflect upon all that occurs in the United States the more shall we be persuaded that the lawyers as a body form the most powerful, if not the only, counterpoise to the democratic element. In that country we perceive how eminently the legal profession is qualified by its powers, and even by its defects, to neutralize the vices which are inherent in popular government. When the American people is intoxicated by passion, or carried away by the impetuosity of its ideas, it is checked and stopped by the almost invisible influence of its legal counsellors, who secretly oppose their aristocratic propensities to its democratic instincts, their superstitious attachment to what is antique to its love of novelty, their narrow views to its immense designs, and their habitual procrastination to its ardent impatience. – Alexis de Tocqueville, On Democracy

The judicial branch has long stood as the sole remedy against what De Tocqueville called “Tyranny of the Majority.”

Why is the judicial branch so much better at enacting social change?  Well, they’re not elected, and absent an impeachment proceeding they have the bench for life.  Once a Supreme puts on the robe, getting it off him is going to be damn near impossible.  So they give two shits about what the pundits are saying.  The 24-hour news cycle of today is policed by our politicians with a fine-toothed comb, assuaged and manipulated by press secretaries and talking heads to attempt to give us a portrayal of what we should be thinking at any point in time.

SCOTUS gives 0 shits about that news cycle.  None of the SCOTUS justices are up for election, ever again.  They do not care about public opinion.  They are placed in this position by the Constitution for this specific purpose.

There is a lot of talk out there that SCOTUS should not occupy this hallowed position.  That life tenure for justices is bad.  That the justices of the Supreme Court should, like every other wielder of power in this country, be subject to the will of the people of this great country.

Bullshit.

The people of this country are, by and large, kinda dumb.  Collectively, I mean.  We can’t decide, as a country, really basic things like whether or not every scientist on earth is right.  We hold “debates” on the concept of evolution, as though it were even debatable at this point.  While we’ve got a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, we’ve also got checks and balances for everything.

Even the people.

SCOTUS operates to protect our liberties from ourselves.  To ensure that we are a free and equal people, even when the majority of us want to impinge on the freedom of the minority of us.  SCOTUS owes its duties to the Constitution alone, and owes absolutely fuck-all to the rest of us.  And if that were to ever change, then SCOTUS could not function for that.

You may not like everything they do.  When they protect the freedom of massive corporations to donate money to political causes, the left is not happy.  When they protect the freedom of private companies to be douchebags , the left is not happy.

And sometimes they just get it wrong.

But for the most part, SCOTUS is the one branch of government that can act as a watchdog over the political branches, holding its power like the sword of Damocles over our elected officials, protecting the minority from tyranny of the majority.

And for that, it needs to be a meritocracy, not a democracy.’

In his Obergefell dissent, Justice Scalia notes that the Court is not representative of America.  That they are more educated, and tend to come from specific geographic areas.  The geographic areas are a funciton of the Ivy League system, which has its own flaws.  But the education?  Thank whatever God or Goddess you believe in for that one.  Because that ensures we have at least a minimal bar (no pun intended) to service.

Our country is protected from mob stupidity by a group of nine educated individuals.  Agree with them or not, they are all intelligent, well-studied people.  Support them or not in any given decision, be happy that our founders put them there.  Because a little meritocracy in the middle of a democracy is, in fact, a good thing.

What’s with the sudden rage on Twitter?

Alright, I’ve gone kind of off the rails live-tweeting this horrific CLE I’m a part of.  We’re on lunch break, now, so I’m going to break my thoughts down in a form that isn’t limited to 140 characters.

The NACDL is the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.  In theory, it’s an organization that exists to support those of us down here in the trenches.  It’s supposed to be a resource for us.

And it is, to an extent.  12.75 free CLE hours is nothing to turn my nose up at.  I love me some free CLEs, and I’m just tail-waggingly happy to get them.

But the actual training is excruciating.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the public defense situation in Washington, you should know a couple of things.  First off, we’ve had some litigation concerning the fact that governments tend to underfund public defense (“I spent more taxpayer dollars defending criminals” not being the best campaign slogan ever).  This litigation is sending ripples through the rest of the nation, and we’re kind of at the epicenter.

I’m going to detour here and take a moment to talk about my experiences working the night shift at Jack in the Box.

I don’t know if anyone remembers the 1993 Jack-in-the-Box E-Coli incident.  It was one of those things that was a big deal at the time, and has since faded into our memories.  But I’ll tell you one place that, as of me assuming the position behind the grill, hadn’t forgotten:  Jack in the Box.  I’ve had a lot of friends work in various fast food places, and almost all of them say something along the lines of “Man, after seeing what goes on back there no way am I ever eating at that place.”

That’s terrifying, and thought I spent a year and a half working for Jack I wouldn’t pause to eat there.  The safety standards were impeccable, and they were impeccable because the company had fucked up so badly in the past.  They knew that, with that kind of shit on their record, they had to shape up.

Back to Washington State Public Defense.  In response to those cases I linked above, our courts have put strict standards on things like how many cases I can take during a given time period.  I cannot be overworked, now.  And if the county screws with me, I can just be all “hey, no other attorney can take more, cause state standard, yo.”  No more overloading of defense attorneys; everyone is being super-fucking-careful about that, because after what happened to Mt. Vernon noone else is willing to chance it.

Enter NACDL.

The NACDL folks have come to Washington with the very clear impression that we are nothing more than overworked incompetents.  A decade ago, that may have been true.  But they’re talking to us like we’re in fucking kindergarten, here.  We are Washington State Public Defenders, and because of that we’re obviously a bunch of racist incompetents who ignore our clients and try to plead guilty as quickly as possible.

I fight, in court.  I fight hard for my clients.  I put a great deal of effort into making sure that my client’s voice is heard, even if that voice is really stupid.  I throw down with the prosecutors time after time after time, and I do it because I take pride in doing my job well.

So the #dayofpain thing on Twitter is me venting that NACDL doesn’t think I do.  They’re being nothing but condescending and rude to those of us down here in the trenches, and I’m pretty pissed off about it.  I’d love to talk about how to deal with the racism that is inherent in the system, but I don’t need you to take an entire morning to call me a racist.  I realize that the system screws people over; help me fight it.  I’m all on board with doing a great job for my client, but telling me to stop being a lazy prick really accomplishes nothing because I am not a lazy prick.

So, enjoy the ranting.  Because a bunch of corporate-lobbyist numbnuts have me for two days, and they get to pound on me for those two days.  Then I’m heading back into the trenches, and they’ll find someone else to go be rude and condescending to.

A note:  there’s a difference between NACDL and WDA.  The WDA conference had a “we’re all in this together” feel.  NACDL is more of a “you’re all fuck-ups” feel.  The difference is palpable.

I Just Had My Ass Handed to Me By A Children’s Movie.

I’ve always been kind of a Pixar fan.  They do good films over there, and basically everyone knows it.

Up, when it came out, hit me like a truck.  I still can’t watch it again.  It’s a movie about loss, and it’s simply one of the most depressing things I’ve ever watched.  That’s not the reason for this post; that’s there to set a benchmark.  I say that to say this:

I have never had a movie kick the living shit out of me like Inside Out.

There.  I said it.  Now let me back up.

I read Howard Taylor’s review of it and (even though he put it below his Threshold) had to admit I was intrigued.  Personified emotions?  It seemed to me like you could really use that as a tool for explaining psychological development.  It could be a really neat way to interact with people who have a hard time dealing with their impulses and their emotional control.  I figured it would be a solid Pixar movie, and I was intrigued.  Then game night cancelled, World of Warcraft’s servers were overloaded, and I was bored.  So I headed down to the local theater to check it out.

In the words of Illidan, I was not prepared.

Inside Out is seriously one of the most profound works of art in our time.  Movies these days seem to be nothing more than remakes and rehashes.  As Happy Harry Hardon once told us, “All the great themes have been used up, turned into theme parks.”  So let me be clear:  I don’t know how this movie got greenlit.  I can only imagine the conversation looks like this:

Pixar:  “Hey, Disney.  Us Pixar Boys are thinking about making a movie.”

Disney:  “Great!  We tend to make a lot of money when you do that.  What are you thinking about?”

Pixar:  “Well, we’re thinking of personifying emotions.  You know, get inside someone’s head and show their emotions running around, controlling them.”

Disney:  “Sounds cool.  Could be really cute, I guess.  Happy kids movie?”

Pixar:  “Uh…yeah.  Happy.  That’s one of the five.”

Disney:  “What?”

Pixar:  “Well, you know…most emotions are important.  So there’s actually five.  Wouldn’t want to skew this.”

Disney:  “But…it’s a children’s film.  So, shouldn’t it be happy?”

Pixar:  “We were thinking of making it about growing up, and how your childhood is destroyed and replaced by less happy things as you age.”

Disney:  “Why in the hell would this make a good kids movie?”

Pixar:  “Well, it’d be a really extraordinary learning experience.  Parents and kids could talk about a wide range of emotions.  We could substantially enhance the ability of parents to understand what their children are feeling and doing by giving children a framework around which to understand it.  We could also remind all the parents how completely destroyed their once-happy childhood was, and that’ll effect them on a deep emotional level as well.”

Disney:  “So, you want to traumatize an entire generation?”

Pixar:  “As a learning experience, yeah.”

Disney:  “And you think that’ll be profitable.”

Pixar:  “We’ll throw in a cat/monkey/elephant/dolphin hybrid made out of cotton candy who powers rockets by singing and cries caramels.”

Disney:  “Why didn’t you lead with that?  Sold!”

 

This movie made me mourn those parts of my childhood long left behind.  It managed to dredge up every happy memory I’ve had of the past, then drive home the fact that those times are gone.  It then proceeded to destroy any hope or dreams I may have harbored about the ability to live in that kind of pure happiness again.  Not that I ever really thought that was possible, but still…you couldn’t have let me hope for it?

In short, the movie laid me raw.  I sat in the theater as the credits rolled, trying to figure out what in the hell had just happened to me.  In every other movie I’ve cried at, and there have been a couple, I’ve been crying out of empathy for the characters.  I’ve been moved by their stories, their toils, their triumphs.  Inside Out didn’t do that.  The profound, and the unique, trick of this movie was that it managed to dredge up my own personal stories and make me cry about those all over again.  I have never–never–had a work of art from any medium come at me like that.  I’m still figuring out how they did it.

If you are a parent then you need to take your children to see Inside Out.  Brace yourself to take the hit, but build a bunch of time into the schedule afterwards to break the movie down with them, see what they thought.  The fact that you will then be able to, at any point in time, ask your children which emotion is at the console, will blow your mind.  With that simple question, you now have a tool to make the child become introspective about what they’re actually doing and why.

If you are not a parent then you need to go see Inside Out.  Don’t brace yourself; you don’t need this movie as the tool for parents that it is.  Just take the hit.  Take it.  TAKE IT.  The catharsis on the other side is kind of amazing.

Hat’s off to my new favorite Pixar movie.  I have a feeling I’m going to be watching this one over and over again to figure out exactly how they did what they did.  But for now, get thee to a theater and give Pixar your cash.  They earned it with this one.

The Streisand Effect

In 2003, Barbara Streisand sued a photographer for posting pictures of her beachfront home on the internet without her permission.

The photo was part of a 12,000 photograph collection, meant for the purpose of detailing shoreline erosion in California.  It was small, obscure, and nobody cared about it.  Yet in her zealous defense of her privacy, Ms. Streisand took this company to court anyways.

The result?  Well, everyone on the internet saw the photograph.  As soon as she drew that much attention to it, it became famous, and public record.  The very thing she was trying to prevent not only happened, but happened in a much larger and more spectacular way than had she just left it alone.

This gave a name to the phenomenon.  The Streisand Effect is now a recognized term.  Don’t believe me?  Well, it is.  I’m not usually one to cite to Wikipedia, but I can at least do that much to prove that this is a thing.

Why in the hell am I talking about this?  Well, that has to do with a mistake I see indie authors making far too often.

Dylan Saccoccio didn’t like his review.  He then went to the reviewer’s Goodreads page to rant about it.  Clearly, the reviewer was out to financially ruin him.  It couldn’t be that someone didn’t like his book.  So off he went, picking a fight with his reviewer, Amy’s Baking Company-style.  The result?  Well, it got so preposterous that it’s now linked around the internet.  Now Mr. Saccoccio is branded in my head as not only someone whose books I have no interest in picking up, but also as someone who I have no interest in meeting.  I don’t want to be on a panel with this guy; I wouldn’t want to talk to him at a con, and if I were a publisher I wouldn’t touch him with a ten-foot pole.  He’s radioactive, now, and that’s that.

And all because he didn’t like a review.

If he had let the thing slide, it would have been a single bad review.  Not great, but we all get them.  Not every person is going to like any given book.  If he had let the thing slide, it would have simply sat there.  Now that he has fought the thing, put extra effort into showing us all what an ass he truly is, he has managed to do what the review itself could not.

The reviewer was not trying to ruin you, Mr. Saccoccio.  You did that to yourself.  Time to pick up another pseudonym; this one’s done.

In Which Frog Enters Attorney Mode to Talk About Cops

I want to take a moment to honor Sergeant Greg Moore of the Couer d’Alene Police Department.

I didn’t know Sgt. Moore well.  He wasn’t a buddy.  He was a guy I met a couple of times in the course of business.  He seemed nice, and I never had to file a suppression motion on anything he did.  That doesn’t seem like much, but frankly there’s no higher praise I can give a cop than that.  He did his job well, and he gave his life in the line.  A prayer to the deity of your choice for his family would not be amiss.

Ok, that’s done.  But, since I’m in the mood, let’s talk about cops.

I’m a criminal defense attorney.  When giving legal advice, I tell people that they should never speak to the police, always assert all of their rights, and ask for an attorney immediately.  That’s just good legal advice.  It doesn’t mean cops are evil for doing what they do; it’s just that you’ve got certain rights and it’s my job to encourage you to, you know, use them.

But that’s different from what I’ve seen lately.

Lately, the internet has taken and issue and, once again, polarized it into its two most moronic extremes.  This seems to be a function of our times, where the most extreme assholes are the loudest and most pithy, and therefore get the most out of our rapidly-shrinking attention span.

On the one hand, you’ve got this:

I don’t actually believe that police brutality and racism is on the rise.  I think that the public awareness of the brutality that does exist is drastically on the rise.  The incident pictured above?  Holy crap, was that an illegal shooting.  If you don’t think police brutality and racism exists, then read that article and watch that video.  Because it does exist.

But wait, I hear you say.  You said that this had been taken to an extreme.  Wasn’t that a legitimate complaint?

Yes.  It was.  But here’s the problem:  criminals lie about shit.  They lie about shit alot.

And that brings us to incidents where people get way out of line over crap.  Let’s start with Eric Garner.

Here’s the video of Eric Garner being killed by some cops:

Now, the young man recording the video is talking about what’s happening, but it doesn’t line up with the history.  Mr. Garner was committing a relatively minor offense; he was illegally selling cigarettes.  The cops approach him and try to talk to him about it, and he loses his shit.  He is massive, he is angry, and the cops take him to the ground.

Now, he’s a big fat bastard of a man, and he can’t breathe when he’s on his stomach, so he dies.  That’s sad.  And the chokehold is definitely wrong.  The cops could have done something different, something better here.  It was not perfect, but neither can I blame the cops for their actions.  This dude was not cooperating, and he was a threat.  But, even though I didn’t blame them, people sure did.

Then we get to Freddie Gray.  I have no idea what happened during that arrest, but given the charges that seem to be coming down the pipeline, it was effed up.  But then you get the response, which is completely unjustified.  The cops did something wrong, killed someone.  Let’s break everyone’s shit.  This makes no sense.

Now, these are incidents that have increased publicity.  Since Ferguson, we are ultra-sensitive to police brutality.  And we’ve got this movement of people talking about cops like this:

Or this:

Or this:

All of which has promoted this idea, this abso-fucking-lutely shit-ass idea, that cop = brutal.  “Police Violence is Business as Usual?”  What the fuck, people?  Do you really believe that?

In the county in which I work, we have just had our 210th fresh felony arrest this year.  That’s a small county, and it’s felonies only, which means it’s not the majority of police contacts (they deal with far more misdemeanors).  None of those, that I’m aware of, have filed any kind of complaint for police brutality.  Business as usual, for the cops I work with, is simply being cops.  The goal of most cops is to do their job, not to be violent for the fun of it.

But wait, Frog, didn’t you say that there were two extremes?

Yup.  For every internet position, there is an equally extreme optimism.  And this one comes from some good ol’ fashioned jingoistic red-white-and-blue bullshit.  It looks like this:

Are you seeing that?  Holy shit, people.  A police state is a safe state.  And in case you think this is a Poe’s Law joke, let’s look at some other memes circulating amongst our far right brethren.  Here’s a common slogan:

These are the same people, the same fucking people, that talk about how they hate “big government.”  How Americans don’t need government to take care of them, because Americans are good honest people who will take care of each other.  But suggest, hint, at the fact that we may need to watch the watchmen, and apeshit we will go.

So, here’s where I come down:  cops are not good.  Cops are not evil.  Cops are…simply human.  They have about the same asshole ratio as the rest of society.  Some of them are bullies.  Some of them are pricks.  And some of them are flat-out psychopaths.

But most of them aren’t.  I’ve seen cops go out of their way to help their drug addicts.  I know cops that try to hook kids up with jobs to get them off the streets.  I’ve seen these folks do amazing things, and I know they’re capable of great good as well as great evil.

Police brutality happens.  It is a real thing, and it is a heinous abuse of power.  As a result, it’s flashy.  As a result, it draws a lot of attention.

Back to Sergeant Moore.  He got shot.  He got shot, in part, because of the attitude that presents a confrontation between cops and the public.  Last year, 2014 saw 126 officers give up their lives in the line of duty.  There’s not a lot of solid statistics at how many people police killed, and that area gets even greyer when we start talking about whether those kills were justified.  Fun fact:  some were.  And some were because they thought it was a good idea to stand up to the cops, because after all police are just mindless animals, right?

So, here’s the defense attorney take:  It is good for you to assert your rights.  It is fine for you to remain silent.  But “remain silent” doesn’t mean “tell the cop you are going to whup his bitch-ass.”  It means “shut the fuck up.”  Asserting your rights is a simple, easy process.  Going nuts on a cop is a good way to get hurt.  There’s a chance the cop will beat the shit out of you anyways, but that chance is pretty remote.  I’d play the odds.

As to the rest of us, the ones not in constant confrontation with the cops?  Let’s try to look at each incident as its own thing, each officer as an individual person committing an individual act.  Right or wrong, the entirety of law enforcement should not be judged by their most visibly evil members.  That said, someone should watch the watchmen.

Marvel finally irks me, but it’s not in my geek.

I have a rule.

I don’t watch TV shows about lawyers.  I just don’t do it.  Not that they aren’t perfectly good shows, most of the time.  But…I am a lawyer.  And the closest I have seen anyone come to showing what it’s really like to do my job is either Benched or Night Court, depending on the episode.  So I’ve made this rule for myself:  I don’t watch TV shows about lawyers.  No good can come from it.

So, I’m watching Daredevil, and I immediately realize that I have made a critical error.  I was sitting down to watch a comic book hero show.  Hell, I was going to watch a show set in the MCU.  Oh, I knew Matt Murdock was a defense attorney.  But I always figured we’d see about as much of that as we see Bruce Wayne going over the Q3 reports in Batman.  He has to actually do that work, but they’re never going to show it, right?  It’s a comic-book movie.

I forgot.  In my naivete, I forgot that the rest of the world sees my job as interesting.  As fodder for storytelling.  I see it as mundane and boring, but the rest of the world looks upon me as, well…as kind of interesting.  So of course there’s legal drama mixed in.

And now I’m breaking my rule.  I’m watching a show about lawyers.  And we hatesss it.

“I told you,” says Murdock.  “We’re only going to represent the innocent.”

Oh, good for you asshole.  You’re going to just go out there and represent the falsely accused.  So, of the total population of criminals, you’re going to take the microtessimal fraction, and only build your client base from that?  Good luck eating.

That’s my first reaction.  It’s snarky.  But reaction #2 comes from a much deeper place of rage.

Because according to this show, I am evil.  If you’re a criminal defense attorney that represents the innocent, then you’re a champion of the people.  Represent the guilty, and you are just as guilty as them.  This is the message Daredevil has for me.

Fuck you, Matt Murdock.

Fuck you, because every drug-addicted house burglar I manage to get into a treatment program has a chance to live a better life because of it.  Fuck you, because everyone I help in the Drug Court is absolutely guilty and absolutely trying to make themselves (and, ergo, the world) a better place.  Fuck you, because the number one rule of being a defense attorney is that everyone deserves representation.  If you save someone, and they lead a better life, they get a better world.  And so does everyone around him.  Beat a bad guy to a pulp, and you’ve just made a pissed-off bad guy.  Extend a helping hand, try to help them to find the correct path in life?  Maybe you make the world a better place.

And fuck you, because I’m the only thing keeping the power of the government from flying out of control.  You know what happens without defense counsel?  Prosecutors are free to convict anyone they point at of whatever.  Not every prosecutor in the world is the type to abuse that power, but many are.  And without me here, riding shotgun, the government gets essentially bottomless authority to fuck with your world.  And I can only serve that very important social function of preventing tyranny by representing whoever comes to me, guilty or innocent.

Besides, have you ever listened to criminals and tried to sort the guilty from the innocent?  Good fucking luck.  Fun fact:  criminals lie.  And the primary thing they lie about?  Being criminals.  The vast majority of my clients have some story about why they are wrongly accused.  Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, this turns out to be bologna.  But I can’t ignore it, because what about person 100?

So I don’t sort.  I don’t even try to figure out whether a person is guilty or not.  I try to serve my function, and provide the best representation I can.  I make the State do its job.  Sometimes, a guilty man walks free.  Know why?  Because we err on the side of not convicting the innocent.  Doesn’t always work, and most of the time it doesn’t work it’s because someone who sat in my chair slacked off.

So fuck you, Matt Murdock.  Take some pride in who and what you are.  Because without defense attorneys who represent the guilty, that whole justice system will absolutely fail to work.  And in the long run, you can do a lot more good in the world helping criminals be not-criminals than you can donning a mask and whooping ass.  I like watch you whoop ass.  But fuck you for thinking less of me, because I’ve saved a lot of people too, and I’ve done it by doing the very thing you scorn.

Still, I’m going to keep watching.  Because its the MCU.  And because I love the MCU.  But I’ll always think of Matt Murdock as a bad lawyer, and that’s a problem for this show.

“On the Hugo Nominations,” or “Giving Zero Poops”

Guess what?  There’s a lot of drama surrounding the Hugo nominations.

At first glance, this seems like a big deal.  After all, I’m a genre writer.  This is kind of the award for us, it’s our Oscars, right?  It’s all the recognition from peers that matters to us, to validate our writing.  Not only that, but I’m going to Worldcon this year.  This August, I actually do get to vote to determine who actually wins this thing.  And I will.  But I will do so with all the enthusiasm of picking my favorite Christopher Walken movie on Facebook.  (Suicide Kings, in case you were wondering).

Because, in the end, it isn’t going to matter.

How can that be?  Well, let me ask you a question:  when was the last time that you bought a book because it had won a Hugo?  Ever?  Have you ever looked at a book and said “Oh, well, that premise looks terrible, but it did win a Hugo, so I’ma drop some cash on it?”  Conversely, have you ever looked at a book and said “I’m really interested in this book.  My friends thought it was good. But it hasn’t won a Hugo, so no sale.”

Never.  You have never said either of those things.

Books stand or fall on their own merits.  The only vote that truly matters is the one where you go on over to Amazon and buy a book.  That’s the one that we really pay attention to.  It’s the one that publishers and agents pay attention to.  It’s what fans pay attention to, as one fan tells another about this great book they read.  It’s not the limited selection of people with Worldcon memberships that are going to cause me to live and die as an author.

It’s you.  You and your pocketbook.

So if you’re pissed off about the Hugo nominations, then buy someone else’s books.  If you’re really happy about the Hugo nominations, then buy that authors books.  Because these are the actions that determine the fate of authors.  The awards are just a veneer.  Offer me a choice between an award and a loyal fanbase, and I know what I go with.

Fans of the Joneses, I choose you.

Win a Kindle by Being A Terrible Writer: The Grant-Frog Style Guide

So, many times at cons, we authors are asked to read things and evaluate them.  Most of the time the work needs polishing, but is pretty good.  Occasionally, though, we get handed something that makes The Eye of Argon look like frickin’ Tolkein.

But here’s what’s interesting:  when we authors talk about it, the unintentional humor of the bad work tends to be the focus of the conversation.  We don’t discuss who is fabulous; we revel in the horrific.  It’s this amazing catharsis to talk about how bad some things can get.

So, when Grant Theron Riddell and I started talking, we realized we had hit on something big.  Something new.  Something that will change literary history.  All we had to do was create a style in which the writer was forced to write one of these works so bad that it passed through the abyss and came out the other side awesome again.

Remember, the Eye of Argon is still read aloud at cons.  Can you say the same for your short story?  I can’t.

So here’s what’s up:  I am offering a free Kindle, pre-loaded with Grace Under Fire, to the story that makes us laugh the most in its atrociousness.  But you need to do it following the strict rules of the Grant-Frog Style, as follows:

1.  You are allowed to use pronouns, but if you are using any noun it must be immediately preceded (no intervening adjectives) with the definite article.  You don’t take a breath, you take the breath.  It is encouraged that your pronouns have indefinite antecedents (read:  what the hell does “it” refer to?).

2.  Your story must present an interesting genre idea, then completely fail to make use of it.  If the question of the story is, say, whether a certain new medical procedure is ethical, the story may not show us anyone receiving such a medical procedure.

3.  Be as overly dramatic as possible while following rules #1 and #2.  We need some serious ham on these bones.

Here’s some contest submission guidelines:

1.  By submitting, you are giving me permission to re-post your work here on this blog.  They’re going to be funny, so let’s get others to share in this.  In the highly unlikely event that these works are anthologized for profit, I will seek your permission to include your work for a share of that profit.

2.  1000 words maximum.  After that, the humor starts to fade and I’m simply left with a desire to tear my eyeballs from my head like Oedipus after clicking the wrong profile on OK Cupid.

3.  To submit, send an email to frog@jonestales.com with the subject “Grant-Frog Style Submission.”  Place the text of your story into the body of this e-mail, after your contact information.  No attachments will be opened.

4.  Contest submissions end September 1, 2015.  I will then enter a reading period, though I may have reposts from time to time on the blog as submissions come in.  A winner will be announced on this blog, December 31, 2015.

5.  To receive your Kindle, please include a name and shipping address.  To receive a link to your site/blog/other work in the event of a repost, please include that URL.

5.  Have fun with this.  The point here is to take a break from trying to write well and instead take 1000 words and be God-Awful.  Enjoy.

 

EDIT:  We’ve had some questions about the no-intervening-adjectives rule.  That simple means that the adjective cannot come between the definite article and the noun.  So, “the blue car” violates the Grant-Frog style rules, but “the car of blue” or “blue, the car” is perfectly acceptable.