embrodski

Jun 152018
 

Here’s a popular but shitty entry in the culture wars. It’s a defense of bigotry, dressed up as humor.

 


First, let’s cover why some people like it. All the following was said by friends or friends-of-friends. I cannot take credit for the words, which is why they are well spoken. They are slightly snipped and paraphrased here and there for brevity.

[Critics of the comic] appear to believe that the girl in the comic, and those she represents, is a bigot who speaks in “all X are awful” generalizations for any group, from white people to men to heterosexuals. This is missing the point. [“Not all X”] statements are meant to derail. I see them ALL the TIME in response to people NOT saying “all.” You want her to defend herself from an unfair accusation instead of explaining her rationale by insisting that her not adopting the language of the accuser is proof of guilt. I’m pretty sure the artist didn’t have her specifically say those words because it’s so obvious to them that the accused don’t say all in most of these cases that pointing it out is redundant to the actual message being conveyed.

To get nitpicky for a moment, the word “all” itself isn’t even what really matters. “All police departments need to crack down on prejudice among their officers” still doesn’t justify “not all cops are racist.” The argument is still being shifted away from a system of cover-ups of abuse of power, and toward a new topic of the prevalence of racism among individual police themselves… Which the original speaker now has to address, or else be accused of being prejudiced against all cops.

One of the major problems is that liberals so often speak of institutions and systems, and those who aren’t on the same page take it personally. This is why the “it’s just a few bad apples” defense is so frustrating. The quote is “a few bad apples spoil the batch” NOT because some racist cops make all cops racists, but because the institutions that allow that rot to continue ruins even the non-rotten apples. Entire populations in this country don’t trust police anymore because the bad actors have been protected too often and for too long. Hell, it’s often not even about racism really, or even sexism or prejudice, it’s about power imbalances and lack of accountability. But the most vulnerable in society are always going to be the first to speak out.

The same goes for other institutions or establishments that don’t enforce equality. It’s not that men are never raped or harmed by sexism, but institutionally, men run the military, men run the government, men run the majority of major corporations, men run the police departments, etc. The harm of “patriarchy” is systemic, and insofar as it harms men too, the sentiment that it is men who need to help solve the problem should not be taken as an accusation that they are inherently part of it.

The gal in the comic here doesn’t actually represent someone who is saying “All men are <bad thing>” or even “X proportion of men are <bad thing>.” She’s supposed to represent the view that “long-running institutional norms in our society empower or permit men to do <bad thing>.”

This isn’t about men. It’s about our society. That’s why “not all men” is a bad response. It’s not that the statement is wrong, it’s that it’s a diversion from something crucial.

The problem with #NotAllMen is that it pulls the conversation away from one about culture and social awareness to one about being personally offended at being accused of something you were never really accused of.

 


And here’s why I disagree.

I used to call myself a feminist, and I basically still am, though I don’t identify with the group anymore. [This comic] is one of the reasons why. I know people who are genuinely good people. Who want justice and happiness for all. Love a number of men. Only hate those who are awful and deserve it. They would regularly post about gross violations of personhood or other awful injustices, and head it with something like “Men are trash!” Not because they are man-hating nazis. But because that’s just the culture. It’s not seen as a bad thing to do, and gets you lots of cheers. Everyone knows they only mean the bad ones, right? Call them out. End the brutality and patriarchy and oppression. Fight back!

I did it too

And eventually when I realized I basically hate my gender and wish I wasn’t a part of it, and stopped participating, and started asking these kind and caring people to not use that sort of language anymore, I got backlash. Because of course we don’t mean ALL men, just the trash ones. Stop being such a Meninist. Stop distracting and giving cover for your peers (my peers????) who really are doing awful stuff.

And seriously, I just want to stop feeling like I’m trash because of what other people who look like me have done.

So yeah. I assume the percent who hate men is 0%, or close enough to it that it’s a rounding error. The problem is pervasive and systematic and has nothing to do with actually hating men. It has to do with creating a culture/environment that casually destroys a class of people and holds their only acceptable moral condition is one of self-loathing. It’s the daily denigration that wears away at one’s psyche. And it doesn’t have to be “serious”–the people I know who routinely say this are kind people who have male friends, relatives, and sometimes lovers, all of whom they really like. For comparison, how many times can one joke about “black men can’t hold down jobs” before “I’m obv not serious, I’m married to a black guy myself” stops mattering?

 

(in reply to) “the sentiment that it is men who need to help solve the problem should not be taken as an accusation that they are inherently part of it.”

Thing is, lots of men are working to solve the problem. We’re not omnipotent, despite being born with a penis, so there’s not a whole lot most of us can do. But goddammit, we are trying. And we *still* get subjected to the “all men are trash” rhetoric. In fact, we get it far more than anyone else, because we’re the ones that are friends with the people saying it, and see it come up often. The assholes who perpetuate oppression almost never see this sort of thing. So as good as it may feel to say that men are trash, it’s hurting the people who are trying to help, and not doing anything to fix the actual problem. And pointing that out? That gets you lumped in with the misogynistic assholes.

Also, there’s far better ways of expressing the sentiment that men need to help solve the problem than repeatedly stating how awful all men are.

The problem is that the gal in the comic sometimes says just what you’re saying, and in those cases she’s in the right, and the comic is entirely correct. But other times she’s just saying “all men are trash” and everyone’s cheering about it, and in those cases she’s doing harm and the comic is supporting bigotry. The problem with the weaponization of “Lol, another #notallmen meninist” is that it is used to conflate the second situation with the first situation, and is used by bad people to harm others and make everything toxic.

 


And of course none of the above really matters. Because here’s the thing.

Most people, and certainly the ones who share this comic approvingly, are still in “there are only two sides” thinking. It’s the message the overwhelming majority of their social environment is pushing onto them, so I don’t entirely blame them. What they’re doing is posting a thing which in their mind is the equivalent of waving the “Heeeeey, I’m on the Left side! wooooo!” flag. It feels good. It fights oppression. It shows support and caring for their hurting friends.

And so anyone saying “Hey, that’s not cool, and here’s why” is, in the poster’s mind, an attack on their side from the other side. Because they’ve been told no one on their side would say such a thing, and there’s only two sides, so obviously the person being harmed by the comic are from the Right side and are here to start shit.

I hope my words, and the words of others like me that are trying to speak up gently, with understanding, but with the message that “You are hurting us because it feels good to you and maybe that’s not so great” will help to carve out a third side. A side that has spent the entirety of their lives learning and fighting for those who are oppressed and ground down by the system, and who hate that system themselves. But who also don’t want to be ripped apart in the process. Who are not content to have to choose between that or becoming the perpetrators of further mass harm. A side that believes there’s actual mutual forward progress possible, rather than just two sides and a war over which side gets to rule.

We can do better.

Jun 132018
 

I hope this isn’t TMI, but it’s relevant.

I think people look sexier with clothes on. I mean, it depends on the clothes, of course. But in a good outfit, everyone looks hotter than they do naked. I would prefer to have sex with my partner clothed in most cases, if it wasn’t such a pain.

Of course the social consensus is that peak sexiness is at the level of complete nudity. Which is why the “swimsuit” competition is the sexiest one. And why Baywatch was the sexiest show. They’re ramping up the sexy by reducing the amount of clothing!

I find burlesque boring for this reason too. The enjoyment is from… watching people get more naked? Everyone else loves it sooooo much though, I must be weird.

I had a bunch of narratives about what had caused me to deviate from the norm this way. I read tons of comic books growing up, and anime in my teens/twenties. I came to identify the ideal visual as sleek, clean lines (as drawn by a pen), and solid, uniform colors (as filled in by an inker or computer). Naked humans have all sorts of imperfections in their lines, and subtle shading and texturing in their skin color. But you put some nice clothes on that, and they sculpt the lines into smoothness, and replace variable skin with a single solid color. Etc etc.

I know a bunch of people tho, and many of them are less than vanilla in taste, and I was curious how many other people like me might exist in the fringes of humanity. So I tossed up a quick poll on Facebook.

Do people look sexier with clothes on? Or nekkid?

And a stunning 80% of respondents said they prefer their partners with clothes on!! 80%!! That’s insane! I realize it’s a self-selected sample, and my bubble of friends isn’t representative, etc. But even so… 80%??

I’m pretty damn sure now that the majority of the human race thinks fully-naked people are less sexy than people with a hot outfit on… and yet (almost?) everyone believes that the consensus position of everyone else is that nakedness is peak sexiness. Nothing else really drives home just how bad humans are at making knowledge public.

Jun 012018
 

Every time any update is pushed to anything, I just wait to see what it’ll screw up next ><

A tweet storm about the reintroduction of slavery in Louisiana. :( Unfortunately just the FB images, since I don’t do twitter.

 

Alonzo Fyfe’s reply to the old canard that you can’t derive an Ought from an Is. If these Is statements are true (which in our world they are) than that Ought statement (we ought to promote an aversion to causing pain) is also true. As an objective fact, dependent on other objective facts.

 

There is one thing the Jehovah’s Witnesses got right…

 

Every Culture Appropriates. A great piece that chronicles the history of the cheongsam. Ends with

“To the extent that the cultural-appropriation police are urging their targets to respect others who are different, they are saying something that everyone needs to hear. But beyond that, they can plunge into doomed tangles. American popular culture is a mishmash of influences: British Isles, Eastern European, West African, and who knows what else. Cole Porter committed no wrong by borrowing from Jewish music; Elvis Presley enriched the world when he fused country-and-western with rhythm-and-blues.

How to draw the line between that and America’s ugly tradition of minstrelsy, in which subordinated peoples are both mimicked and mocked—as Al Jolson mimicked and mocked black music in his notorious blackface career? There is no clear rule, but there is an open way: the values of respect and tolerance that draw precisely on the rationalist Enlightenment traditions both rejected and relied upon by the cultural-appropriation police. Those traditions are the spiritual core of American culture at its highest. And those values we should all hope to see appropriated by all this planet’s peoples and cultures.”

 

“Philip Cross” has not had one single day off from editing Wikipedia in almost five years. “He” has edited every single day from 29 August 2013 to 14 May 2018. Including five Christmas Days. That’s 1,721 consecutive days of editing.

…The operation runs like clockwork, seven days a week, every waking hour, without significant variation.

…the purpose of the “Philip Cross” operation is systematically to attack and undermine the reputations of those who are prominent in challenging the dominant corporate and state media narrative. particularly in foreign affairs.

…This matters because, an ordinary reader who comes across an article questioning (say) the official narrative on the Skripals, is very likely to turn to Wikipedia to get information on the author of the article. Simply put, the purpose of the “Philip Cross” operation is to make certain that if that reader looks up an anti-war person such as John Pilger, they will conclude they are thoroughly unreliable and untrustworthy, whereas if they look up a right wing MSM journalist, they will conclude they are a paragon of virtue and entirely to be trusted.

…What is particularly interesting is that “Philip Cross”‘s views happen to be precisely the same political views as those of Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia. Jimmy Wales has been on twitter the last three days being actively rude and unpleasant to anybody questioning the activities of Philip Cross. His commitment to Cross’s freedom to operate on Wikipedia would be rather more impressive if the Cross operation were not promoting Wales’ own opinions.”

 

Make No Law. Popehat has a legal podcast, at long last!  Specifically about the First Amendment and relevant historic cases!

 

Anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) laws are designed to stop malicious litigants from silencing people by suing them for protected speech. While the defendant can prevail in court, to do so costs tens of thousands of dollars (because this is the US), and will either ruin most people or silence them. Anti-SLAPP laws stop these lawsuits, force the plaintiff to pay the defendants costs, AND impose an additional penalty (assuming that the lawsuit was indeed frivolous and an attempt at harassment/silencing)

Colorado has very weak anti-SLAPP laws. The PPP is is an organization working to strengthen these laws. You can sign their petition here, as well as donate money to the cause. I did so, and I think it’s a great idea for anyone who has ever posted anything on the internet.

 

Sounds like Bill & Ted 3 is actually happening

“The story springs from the ending of Excellent Adventure, in which futuristic mentor Rufus (George Carlin) predicted the duo would write music that would turn the world into a utopia. (This has not happened yet.)

“You’re told you’re gonna save the world,” Matheson told Entertainment Weekly in March during a reunion interview with Solomon, Reeves and Winter. “And now you’re 50 and you haven’t done it. Now they’re married, and it affects their marriages, and it affects their relationships with their kids, and it affects their everything.”

The original is one of my favorite movies. This spin on it sounds awesome. Sounds a lot like the end of The Last Temptation of Christ, in fact. God I hope it’s good.

 

Torturers can smile too. Our society is so broken that not only do these people walk the streets freely, there’s a chance they could be promoted to the highest levels of government. Take note if your rep votes to confirm this monster.

 

 

 

May 302018
 

The Collapsing Empire, by John Scalzi

Synopsis: As the FTL highways binding a galactic empire together begin to collapse, our heroes must find a way to make the disparate shards of habitable space fully self-reliant before the human race is wiped out, while fighting off usurpers who’d use this crisis to steal the crown.

Book Review: This is a fantastic commercial SF title. The plot is high-stakes and very interesting. The action moves along quickly, never once boring or belabored. It’s tightly written. The dialog is snappy, the humor is wry, the characters are complex and engaging. It’s written in a very contemporary style, which I enjoy, and which makes it easy to read. Collapsing Empire grabs you, flows quickly, and is a hell of a lot of fun along the way. This is why Scalzi is both rich and very well known. He writes well, and is fantastically entertaining.

And when you’re done with the novel it quickly disappears from your mind, never to be thought of again. This is in the highest tier of popcorn entertainment, but it’s still popcorn entertainment. It has no ambition, and leaves nothing lasting behind. Which is too bad, because Scalzi has a lot to say. He may be as well known for his popular and very political blog as for his fiction writing. He’s smart as hell and full of snark, and the style of that comes through in his fiction, but without content behind it.

This is the beginning of a long series, and the setting and story arch promised to us is epic enough that I believe this is a story that might, in fact, take many books to tell! And I have faith in Scalzi’s ability to tell it. So maybe he’s just suckering people in with a great story and characters without laying down anything heavy in the first book, and plans to start weaving deeper themes and messages into future books in the series. Or maybe not, maybe he just wants to write good entertainment and have fun, I dunno.

The thing is, I don’t really enjoy straight-up commercial fiction anymore, regardless of how well it’s done. I’m worried it may be too snobby of me, but I really want some substance in what I read. I’m a bit distressed about that, because this means that the best selling authors will never write for me. Wide popularity and comfortable paychecks mostly come from writing the light fare. It feels like a shitty thing to ask/wish for authors to write in a manner that will get them less money and less fame just because I happen to like it more.

Anyway, if you want good entertainment without having to think much, a literary equivalent of the MCU perhaps, this is a good book for you. Since my reviews are for people similar to myself – Not Recommended.

Book Club Review: Again, it depends on what you want out of a book club. The book was certainly fun, and so there was some fun had in chatting about it and comparing notes. And since it’s such a quick read it’s not a burden on the group. It’s one of those books to put in your list for a palette cleanser after a very intense or difficult read. I wouldn’t call that a direct recommendation, but it might count as a sorta recommendation anyway? I dunno, take it as you will.

Update: Looking back, I realize the synopsis is a bit misleading. As far as I can tell right now, that’s a synopsis of what’ll be happening in the series. This first book only starts to tackle these problems.

May 252018
 

This is a follow-up to my last post about Flee, My Pretty One. As might be apparent from some of my writings, I used to be far more leftist. As a younger man, I was ready for the revolution. In large part I think it’s just plain hormonal, I’m quite a bio-determinist when it comes to personality. But in part it was also because I just didn’t have much to lose.  When you’re already at the bottom things can’t really get worse, right? As a kid I had nothing except rage, so what did I care? Burn it all, start over, at least this way there’s a chance things will be better. Now that I have well over a decade of labor stored up in the form of property and savings and obligations from the govt, I’m much less excited about razing the world. Like, hey, some of that stuff that’s gonna be razed is my stuff! Can we implement change without incinerating all my stuff? That stuff is years of my life…

But I still understand the urgency needed, the screams that change cannot wait. How many tens of thousands of lives are we willing to sacrifice while we slowly increment our way to a new system? How many who didn’t have to die? But there’s also the realization now that unless things are carefully planned and go slowly, the result of burning it all down is often worse that the previous status quo.

Or at least, worse for those with something to lose. When you’re being killed by the system, anything is appropriate. Everyone has a right to self-defense.

But I’m not being killed by the system, and neither are most people (I think). So it feels like sacrificing the many to maybe save a few. Not a bright idea. OTOH, are you willing to live in Omelas? And all that results in a lot  of angst and self-hate, and that’s how we get art, right?

My drift greyward has been helped along by the fact that I’ve always had friends across the political spectrum. And for some time I was one of the most-left people in my circles. It did suck leaving that identity behind. I think what sucked most is that the community I have now is more like a group of friends and other real people. As opposed to what I had then, which was an ideology. A movement, full of fire and passion, which provided instant connection and relatability with everyone else within it. We hated the same things, loved the same stuff, had the same outlook. Now everyone I know is a unique and complicated person and I have to go through a lot of work to get to know them and fit them into my life. It was so much easier, and more fun, when things were straightforward and passionate. People sometimes accuse rationalists of being akin to a religion/cult, but this is a well-grounded community, and isn’t even 1/5th as religion-like as the leftist movement was when I was in it. I miss that. :/ But now that I’m no longer a child I must put away childish things, etc etc

It’s harder to be friends with leftists nowadays, because it’s tough to relate when you can see the Crazy. We’re still friends, but there’s a bit more distance, it takes more effort.

I still remember that anger though, and I still identify with it. Sometimes. When no one else is watching.

May 222018
 

Saaaaaay… I normally do an Author’s Notes post when a story of mine gets published. Did I not do that for Flee, My Pretty One? It kinda looks like I didn’t, I don’t see one on here.

Weird.

So! This was originally written quite a while ago, for an open anthology call on the theme of “Start A Revolution.” I’ve been rabidly anti-corporation for most of my life. They’re soulless, profit-maximizing monstrosities, who know nothing of human values. Optimizers unfettered by concern for us. Stross calls them invaders from Mars. Many people have pointed out that they resemble the problem of unfriendly AI in their lack of human values + ability to alter their environment to fit their utility functions (including, infamously and recently, Ted Chaing) I agree, and I would love (or rather, once would have loved) to see a revolution bringing these forces to heel.

I call them Dragons. For two reasons. The first is that dragons are already known for their rapacious love of treasure, and their willingness to do anything to horde it. They are powerful, and non-human, so they make a good metaphor.

The second is that I’m racist against dragons. If that’s a thing? I realized this back when I was playing Shadowrun. During the course of a campaign, I realized that no matter what he did, I would never trust Dunkelzahn. He could be a saint for centuries, doing only good works, and die sacrificing himself to save me personally, and I still would say “Good riddance. You can’t trust a fucking dragon. He was obviously motivated by some evil plot, he held hatred for us all in his heart, and it will come to light eventually.” I’d be horrified if my offspring dated a dragon. Etc. I don’t care what they do, I know they’re evil.

And like, if you’re going to be racist, I think it’s probably best to be racist against a fictional giant lizard species, so you aren’t hurting anyone. And as long as I’m at it, I can maybe use that racism in my stories, so anyone who’s similar to me can get that same visceral revulsion.

Anyway, yes, the story is about starting a revolution against corporations, except that corporations are actual non-human persons(?) in the story. This makes it more satisfying to attack them, since violence against a person is always more meaningful than violence against “the system.” And giving your villains a voice and agency is more exciting.

Except, of course, violence is bad. And the real world is messy and fuzzy, so trying to apply sufficient violence to the correct target is never as clean as Hollywood and/or activists make it seem. So it all keeps spiraling into ever more chaos until everything is shit around you. And thus was born “Flee, My Pretty One.”

Of note: This story had a lot of near-misses when it was seeking publication, with editors saying “This is good, but it’s not quite right for us.” Then Trump was elected. And the next place I submitted to said “Wow, this is great, you’ve got your finger on the pulse of the society.” And I nodded and said “Oh yes, yup, that’s exactly what I was doing.”

I’ve been pissed at the system my entire life, regardless of the political party in charge. Because it’s not about the political parties, for the most part. It’s about the entrenched powers that stay entrenched from one election to the next, regardless of whether the Reds or the Blues are nominally in charge that moment. I guess most people aren’t that upset with the system itself. So, on the one hand, it’s interesting to see so much of the population suddenly as riled up as I’ve always been. It helped get this story published, at least. But I’m dismayed that what they’re angry at is still the politicians. I figure this means that once the politician in charge is swapped out, society will return to how it was, and nothing will have changed.

>:(

May 182018
 

Provenance, by Ann Leckie

Synopsis: A noble’s daughter must navigate the treachery and bureaucracy of a byzantine political system to impress her mother and show up her brother

Book Review: This book is almost the exact opposite of the previous book I reviewed (Six Wakes). It has a robustly thought-out world, rich imagery, a coherent story, and fantastic language. The word-craft is stellar, Ann Leckie knows how to compose glowing prose. And the characters are all deeply human and relatable. In particular, I loved the protagonist and her naïve, babe-in-the-woods persona. Overly trusting in an unscrupulous world. <3 I also enjoyed seeing a world with a default neutral gender for everyone, and some people could adopt male or female genders when they grew up if they wanted (which it seems most/many didn’t).

Unfortunately, there is no point to any of this, and no plot to care about. Some old family relics may be forgeries. Her mom and her brother aren’t that bad, they just underestimate and overshadow her. The action is primarily about legalisms and bureaucratic obstacles, and it doesn’t really matter if she fails. It’s not quite as bad as going to the DMV, but that’s not saying much. For all the skill Leckie has in writing, this novel just bored the hell out of me. It seemed very much like Leckie was having fun writing about the frustrations of a favorite niece. I know Leckie can do good work, we’ve all seen it in Ancillary Justice, which was amazing. But this isn’t it. I got about 60% of the way through and quit out of sheer boredom.

That was probably my favorite part of the book though, because it meant I finally had some reading time that wasn’t in service to the book club, and I could FINALLY finish Seven Surrenders!! (yes, I know, I’m very behind. :( I’m sorry guys!)

Seven Surrenders is even better than Too Like The Lightning. Now that the world is set up and the characters are established, Ada Palmer can really dig into the ideas she’s presenting. Not that she wasn’t doing that before, but even more so. The writing is to die for, like dessert for your eyes. And the entire work is ridiculously ambitious. Straight-up audacious, honestly. Every single chapter has some major moment that struck me hard. I know that basically everyone in the Rationalist community has already read this, and some of you are cosplaying it already (envious!), so you don’t really need me saying it too. But damn, this thing is great. I really hope to read Will To Battle before WorldCon!

Also, it’s a crime that this didn’t get a Hugo nomination. This is exactly the sort of high art that these awards are supposed to recognize.

Seven Surrenders – Highly Recommended
Provenance – Not Recommended

Book Review: There was a bit of talk about the gender thing, which was interesting for a while. And a few sparks of “people are weird for getting so attached to objects.” And several people were able to get through the novel on the strength of the prose and the likability of the characters. So it’s not awful as a whole. But it doesn’t have all that much to really recommend it. Like, if you want to start a conversation about gender… read freakin’ Seven Surrenders with your book club. Provenance does many things well enough, but it doesn’t shine, and fades quickly from memory. Not Recommended.

May 172018
 

The more I write, and talk with other writers, the more I get the impression there’s two major styles of writing. And no, this isn’t the old Pantser vs Plotter thing. Like all arguments that break a large field into two distinct sides, it lacks nuance and isn’t fully reflective of the world. But it does give us good tools for thinking about the thing.

Work-style writing. I call it this because doing this style of writing feels like work. The author is consciously and deliberately trying to sculpt something impressive. They struggle with theme and voice. They dredge up their great fears for themselves/their in-group/the future, they incorporate their philosophical outlook on life (hopefully without being preachy), and forge it all into this piece of their psyche that has every bit of emotion and skill they currently possess. They go over it again and again, looking for flaws, tightening things, worrying about every bit. And when they’re done they worry “Will people get what I was trying too say? Am I being too obscure? Too blatant?” This sort of writing is pretty darn pretentious, and every writer doing it not-so-secretly wishes their work will win ALL the awards. The point of this style of writing is in the presentation of an impressive finished product for an admiring audience. There is no point to it without an audience. It’s fulfilling when it works, but it is not inherently fun to do, and it takes immense amount of energy.

Fun-style writing. This is the writer sitting down and just having a good time while writing. This type of writing is a joy to engage in! It’s what many people say writing should be like. All the things mentioned in Work-style may still be present, writing in themes and philosophy and so forth can be really fun! But it’s not the point. If they’re in, great, if not, whatever. There isn’t a ton of worrying about it. The author is greatly amusing themselves by living out this fantastic story/scenario in their mind, and incidentally also doing the extra work necessary to share this fantasy with everyone else who wishes to read it. This is a thing that a writer would do on their own, for fun, even if no one ever saw the result, because there is joy in the process. The finished work is a byproduct, not the goal. Writing the story down still takes time, and skill! But it is more invigorating than draining, and so fun-style writers tend to be far more prolific.

Work-style generally reads slower. Fun-style goes fast, and is snappy. Work-style invites you into the author’s mind. Fun-style invites you to be the author’s friend. Work-style often makes demands of its readers, requiring work on their side as well. Fun-style primarily wants the reader to enjoy themselves.

A writer can do either style of writing, depending on what they wish to work on next. Even a single work can alternate between the two, being mainly fun-style, with patches of work-style here and there. But for the most part, one can tell when a novel is work-style, and when it’s fun-style.

I am primarily a work-style writer. I’ve done fun-style writing before, and it’s just the best damn thing ever. :) Both my Amazing Man stories were just me having a damn good time, writing whatever I thought would be fun and awesome to write next. I gave no fucks at all, aside from amusing myself. Each one took less than a single weekend to write (most of my stories are a month-ish process. Although that’s while holding down a full-time job). The first Amazing Man story was the most fun I’ve ever had while writing, until I wrote the second one and had an even better time!

And yet, I don’t really do that sort of writing. Something about it feels… cheap. Maybe it’s the ingrained puritan work ethic of my parents, saying that doing fun things is lazy and that nothing of value can be created unless laborious suffering is involved. Maybe it really is just a taste thing—I often dislike fun-style novels/stories, and almost never fall in love with them. Whereas I really enjoy work-style works (when they resonate with me, obvs not the majority of them). Or maybe it’s just straight-up old, snobby prejudice.

I don’t begrudge authors writing for fun. Often, even very well-known authors who made their mark writing a great work-style piece will shift to fun-style, because it’s damned fun to do. I certainly don’t blame them. But I wish there was some way to know beforehand that this was a fun work, so my expectations were correctly lowered. That’s probably clarifies a bit why some of my reviews go the way they do. I’m more likely to enjoy work-style, and feel annoyed if the author is just having a good time when I was expecting something more involved.

But when some writers talk about how great it is to write, and others talk about how hard it is to do so, I think this is the primary difference.

May 162018
 

Lately I’ve been hearing about Sealioning again. I finally saw an actual stated definition, rather than just someone dropping an accusation to signal applause lights from their side.

Sealioning: A subtle form of trolling involving “bad-faith” questions. You disingenuously frame your conversation as a sincere request to be enlightened, placing the burden of educating you entirely on the other party. If your bait is successful, the other party may engage, painstakingly laying out their logic and evidence in the false hope of helping someone learn. In fact you are attempting to harass or waste the time of the other party, and have no intention of truly entertaining their point of view. Instead, you react to each piece of information by misinterpreting it or requesting further clarification, ad nauseum. The name “sea-lioning” comes from a Wondermark comic strip.

 

First off, that’s just plain old arguing in bad faith. But here’s the comic that inspired this term, from Wondermark:

The Sea Lion is demanding that a racist person put up (evidence) or shut up. But the sea lion is being an ass. The message of the comic seems pretty clear—even people who say racist things deserve some privacy. Don’t harass them nonstop, or you are the one being the ass. That’s a good message, TBH.

You’ll notice there’s no actual arguing in the comic though, which makes “arguing in bad faith” impossible. It seems like the term “sea lioning” is being used to by people to say “If you disagree with my assertion and ask for supporting evidence, that in itself is doing something bad.” I’ve seen it be used that way before, and a lack of reading comprehension applied to the comic in question could easily support that interpretation. This is rock-bottom in the Hierarchy of Disagreements. It’s entirely  social shaming (“a demand for listeners to place someone outside the boundary of people who deserve to be heard”). Going forward, seeing the term “Sealioning” being used is going to be a big red flag for me that the other person isn’t worth talking to.

I also think it’s weird that the racist is the good guy in this, but hey, it’s the internet.

May 112018
 

I had some conversations with the wonderful Erin over my week at WotF, about gender identity. It clarified some things for me about the meltdown of my previous relationship, which I hadn’t realized at the time.

I don’t have an internalized gender identity. For most of my life I’ve just defaulted to male (poorly) and ignored the issue. Then, for a few years, I tried performing masculinity. I was pretty good at it, and it was fun. Like role-playing, and seeing just how far you can take it! It also came with certain advantages, and finally resulted in a fulfilling sex life. But it was like wearing a false identity. It wasn’t natural, it was a neat mask.

For clarity, I didn’t think of it as wearing a mask at the time–just as trying out something new, and having a lot of fun with it. I was proud that I could perform masculinity well. It’s nice to find a new talent, especially one that’s richly rewarded! And now I know that, when I need to temporarily strap on the masculinity for advantage in certain situations, I can do so. But eventually it got old, and it started to really wear on me to be wearing this mask day in and day out, my entire life. It had taken over every interaction with everything in the world, and that was too much.

Unfortunately, I had met my then-current life partner near the beginning of the performing masculinity phase, and she loved it. Trying to move away from it while in a relationship with her was like coming out as gay while being in a serious long-term relationship with someone of the opposite gender, or deconverting after marrying a fundamentalist. They’re going to be unhappy that the person they married has changed into someone else. It woulda been easier if I’d known more about gender identity and performance when we’d met, but I was just learning and starting to try stuff out then. I couldn’t have any sort of conversation about this stuff, cuz I didn’t know it myself.

This tendency of people to change over time is why I consider all relationships to be limited-term engagements. Maybe we could’ve kept this particular relationship going longer if this was the only thing complicating it. But combined with all the other issues, it could not hold.