The post that treadeth into no-man’s land.

Alright, it’s been a year, and I’m ready to break down the #Gamergate debacle.  I shall attempt to do so, and then I shall await the flensing that comes when any blogger touches this, the internet’s third rail.

Let me begin by saying this:  I am a gamer.  I like video games.  I like board games.  I like RPGs.  And I like the people who play them, regardless of gender.  There are some problems inherent in the industry, and some problems inherent in geekdom in general, and those problems need sorting.  This happens to be the thing that has brought those problems to a head.

I’m going to break this thing down into phases.  I’m going to do that because I think there’s a lesson to be learned in how this thing fell apart, because there is no topic that we bring up that couldn’t do this exact thing.  #Gamergate is a horrific example of how things snowball on the internet.  Let’s rewind back to the beginning, and watch what happened.

 

 

Phase 1:  Zoe Quinn gets a lot of attention for Depression Quest

Depression Quest is actually an interesting game that tries to simulate a struggle with depression.  It’s pretty dark, not very fun (and not meant to be), and relatively stark.  It has no flashy graphics, just static pictures and text overlaid with melancholy music.

In short, it’s not a very fancy video game.  Despite its lack of sophistication, it’s powerful.  And Quinn was heralded by reviewers as having done an awesome thing.

However, gamers used to sweet graphics and twitch gameplay, half of whom get triggered by Quinn’s game and don’t even know it, could not understand what the hype was about.  There’s no cool action, no anything really.  It’s a choose-your-own-adventure novel, essentially.  Judged by the criteria on which most gamers judge games, Depression Quest sucks.

 

 

Phase 2:  Conspiracy Theories Begin

So, the perspective of gamers at this point in time is this:  (1)There is a game that sucks, that (2) is getting incredible press.  This becomes consensus, and quickly accepted as a given.  As a result, the logical conclusion is that something is going on with the press.

This, by the way, is not a new theory.  Fact of the matter is, there’s a revolving door between the video game industry and the video game reviewing industry, and the same sites that review the games also advertise them for money, and there’s a lot of issues running around in general.

So it’s natural, even predictable, that the internet went searching for a reason that Depression Quest got a bunch of attention while not being a “good” game (again, by gamer standards).  I point this out simply to show that there were people, in the beginning, who did not get into #Gamergate as a gender issue at all.

 

 

Phase 3:  Someone finds out Zoe Quinn is an adult female

If a man had made Depression Quest, the accusation would have been that the man paid off Kotaku.  But Zoe Quinn is not a man; she is, in fact, a relatively attractive woman.  What’s more, she’s a relatively attractive woman who had, at one point in time, dated Nathan Grayson, a journalist at Kotaku.

Let me be clear here.  Ms. Quinn did nothing wrong.  The two reported their relationship to Kotaku, and did all in their power to ensure that Grayson did not work on Ms. Quinn’s stories after that.

Still, there was a concern here, and it’s not an invalid one:  Did Mr. Grayson influence the press?  I tend to think not, because I’ve played Depression Quest and I get why it has good reviews.  But given the tendency of gaming journalism to be skewed, and given the level of frustration about it, it’s not really shocking that this popped off.

 

 

Phase 4:  Some preteen boys vent their juvenile rage

Adults, when put into this situation, compose clearly thought-out arguments and try to sort through them to find the truth; it has been this way since Socrates.

But not all gamers are adults, or act like it.

Instead, a subset of gamers concerned about journalistic ethics expressed their concern in a wildly inappropriate fashion.  Sadly, that subset tends to be one of the most vocal and flamboyant groups, and therefore is the one that draws the most attention.  I say “preteen boys,” and I have no doubt that most of these people were.  Some weren’t, but they were acting like it.

Death threats, rape threats, publication of documents (“doxing,”) – Quinn got hit with it all.  And as the theory about her sleeping her way to good reviews spread, one post to another, the vitriol grew with it.  Soon, people are reacting to Quinn having read only the column of some other vitriolic asshole, and they respond in kind.

 

 

Phase 5:  For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction

Enter the Social Justice Warriors.

Now, Quinn needed defending.  She was being unfairly harassed, and the form that harassment was taking was nasty and misogynistic.  There’s no doubt that she was taking more harassment because of her gender.  There were evil, misogynist, and juvenile assholes going off the rails, and they were in the wrong.  I have no problem with the SJW’s stepping in to back Zoe Quinn.

Gender has long been a huge issue in video game culture.  It’s a back-built pressure, and it’s about time someone did something about the misogyny that is undoubtedly present.  

But here’s the problem:  anyone using the #Gamergate tag was branded an evil, misogynist bastard.  The SJW’s didn’t stop at simply condemning the nasty behavior being targeted at Quinn and her supporters.  They labelled the entire group as being responsible for the behavior of a few.

From the perspective of the SJW, #Gamergate supporters were doing evil things.  Therefore, #Gamergate was evil.  Therefore, anyone who wanted to talk about it, even if they too condemned the juvenile behavior of their colleagues, was evil.

 

Phase 6:  #Gamergate supporters react to SJW’s.

So, now we’ve got a group of people who thought they were reacting to press ethics who are now being told that they were never talking about the press, they were just part of a secret, misogynist cult from the beginning.  Simply by getting into the discussion, they are brutal, woman-hating pigs who should be ashamed of themselves.

And this group of people?  They’re shocked.  Offended.  And given no leeway at all.  They were a part of Gamergate, and so now they are the devil.  End of story.

Suddenly, SJW becomes a pejorative.  This group starts seeing the posts of the SJWs as irrelevant, becoming more and more disillusioned with the ideas of diversity.  To them, the fight is now about their freedom, not about misogyny.  From their perspective, the SJW’s attacked an honest argument about journalistic integrity by “playing the gender card.”  That makes SJW’s worthless.

 

Phase 7:  Rinse and Repeat

So now the Gamergaters, even the ones who didn’t start out bigoted and nasty, are quickly becoming or have become bigoted and nasty.  The SJWs have become more high-handed and judgmental than ever, not stopping to parse the situation but rather judging everyone involved, a much easier course to feeling morally righteous about onesself.

And the more debate happens, the more worthless juveniles on both sides behave inappropriately.  So the death threats, and rape threats, and murder threats abound, and both groups are guilty by association with their lesser minds.

It’s not about Quinn anymore.  It’s not about Anita Sarkeesian, or Brianna Wu, or any of the other victims.  It stopped being about the press long ago.  It’s now simply about two groups of people who hate each other.  Both of them believe they are justified.  The battle lines have been drawn, and there will be no compromise.  #Gamergaters turn into Sad Puppies and blow up the Hugo nominations.  SJW’s get their revenge by declaring Worldcon to be invalid.  The wheel keeps on spinning, around and around, like a modern-day Hatfield-and-McCoy scenario.

 

So, what do I think about this?

I think people are individuals.  I think that there were well-meaning people on both sides of this damned thing that got caught up in a shitstorm and dragged to one side or the other.  I think misogyny and the actions of the vocal-asshole #Gamergaters were absolutely wrong.  But I also think that the #Gamergaters who tried to keep things en pointe and called out the vocal-asshole contingent were unfairly painted with a brush much wider than it needed to be.

Here’s the thing that scares me:  This evolution can happen to any conversation at any point in time.  It’s a series of inappropriate overreactions, each one of which is targeted at an ever-growing population, who then get sucked into the vortex of hatred that one of these debates invariably creates.  And nobody is going to admit they’re part of the problem, and that is just going to make the problem worse.

Place the blame where it belongs.  If you were making a death threat, or a rape threat, or in any way personally harassing someone on the other side of the debate, fuck you.  If you knew about that activity and condoned or ignored it, fuck you.  But if you argued against that activity and still got called a bigot, then I’m sorry that happened to you.  On the other side, if you believe that people should live a life free of harassment, then good on you.  If you believe that we need to act with respect towards one another no matter what disagreement we’re having, good on you.  But if you condemned the many for the actions of the few, then fuck you.  And if you responded to hate with hate, then fuck you.  All you did in those situations was make the matter worse.

The internet is an amazing tool.  It allows us to share our thoughts like never before, and it allows ideas to travel the world at the speed of light.  Sadly, some ideas are bullshit.  And it’s much easier to be caught in a web of hatred, stridently arguing your position, than it is to take a step back and acknowledge that the world is a very complicated place, and maybe when it all comes together in one forum there is more than a black-and-white scenario going on.

So, there it is.  Blog responsibly, people.  In fact, #blogresponsibly.  Let there be a voice for moderation, for reasonable discourse, and above all for humanity.  Because if we as a society continue to abuse this amazing tool we’ve created, it’s just going to keep abusing us back.

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.

What the Hell Just Happened to Me? – the side effects of the Grant-Frog style.

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So, as of today the Grant-Frog style has existed for an entire week.  It has been one of the strangest weeks of my writing career.

Let me start by saying this:  the style started as a lark.  Grant Riddell and I were getting drunk at the Norwescon Small Press party, having a good ol’ time, and cracking jokes.  This style was one of those jokes, a joke so funny that we had to share it with the rest of the world.

It has grown.

People that I have never met are talking about it.  The concept is being linked around the net, and it’s starting to become a real thing.  And we’ve started noticing a couple of things.

The first thing we noticed was the complaints.  Writing in Grant-Frog Style is hard, said the writers who attempted it.  And it is.  Following the format strictly is ridiculously difficult.  We built it based on a common error, but even the bad stories we read didn’t use it all the time.  Why, asked the writers, did you make this so god-damned hard?

The answer, interestingly, is that we did none of this with intention.  The idea that the Style came from anything other than a manic conversation fueled by Angry Orchard Cider and beer from some local brewery vastly overestimates our level of planning.

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That said, it’s something of a happy accident.

I’ve been doing a sentence-of-the-day on Facebook for the last week, punctuated with #grantfrog.  Every day, I try to do a little Grant-Frog writing.  And the authors who have tried are right; it is damnably hard.  Making sure that every noun is immediately preceded by a “the” requires that you parse every damn sentence and make sure you don’t miss a noun buried in there somewhere.

What’s interesting, though, is this:  most of the time, when I write, I’m simply typing the words as fast as they come to my head.  I’m not sitting down to parse the structure of every sentence, I’m just letting it flow.  Revision comes later.

Now that I’m doing these sentences, though, something strange is happening to the rest of my writing.  I’ve found myself actively thinking about my words as I lay them down.  My exercise in writing terribly has actually improved the quality of my initial drafting.

stretch-class-grade-121

Grant-Frog has, for me, become something of a stretching exercise.  Like getting your forehead as close to your ankle as you possibly can before you go out for a run.  It’s uncomfortable, it’s hard, and (fun fact)  you are never going to run by kicking your forehead.  It simply won’t work.  But by doing that, your leg and back limber up.  You stretch your muscles to their limit, and suddenly normal motion becomes easier, more fluid.

Now, I write a little Grant-Frog, and it’s uncomfortable.  It’s hard.  And it’s about as effective in terms of writing as kicking oneself in the forehead would be to a pleasant jog.  But I’ve found that it limbers me up.  I stretch whatever internal, creative muscles I have, and then writing other things becomes easier, more fluid.

This doesn’t mean I don’t need to revise, but it does feel like things are cranked up a notch in terms of the quality of work I’m producing on the initial go, and when I do revise I’m catching a lot more.

I’m still interested to read the atrocious works of fiction that people are out there busily generating.  They’re going to be amazing, and we’re going to have a world of fun with them.  But now I’m also thinking that the reactions of people who go out of their way to write one is going to be nearly as interesting.  I want to know if other people get as much from this stupid drunken accident of a creative writing practice as I do.

Maybe we’ll make it into an MFA syllabus after all.

 

“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.