I Didn’t Vote for Trump Because He Was Clearly Unfit for Office—and Still Is

“Who would ahve guessed that a reality TV star with NO government experience, 6 bankruptices, 5 kids from 3 different marriages, 11 charges of sexual assault, and 4,000+ lawsuits could Possiblby Be So BAD at Being President?”

“Who would ahve guessed that a reality TV star with NO government experience, 6 bankruptices, 5 kids from 3 different marriages, 11 charges of sexual assault, and 4,000+ lawsuits could Possiblby Be So BAD at Being President?”

I am really getting tired of seeing headlines about Trump voters who are having buyer’s remorse. And I am absolutely disgusted that we still keep seeing headlines and op-eds urging us to try to sympathize with his voters. We already have plenty of proof that the thing his voters have in common is bigotry. Poor and working class people overwhelming voted against Trump. So stop trying to make a case that people flocked to him because of financial distress.

The Paradox of Tolerance

The Paradox of Tolerance (click to embiggen)

I’m also really tired of bigots and their apologists trying to argue that any criticism of their hatred and bigotry proves we’re just as intolerant as they are. It’s not a new argument by any means. I’ve had people throwing that one at me personally since the 70s, and it’s been around a lot longer than that. Karl Popper called it the Paradox of Tolerance: that the only way to have a tolerant society is not to tolerate the intolerant.

And this isn’t even every anti-gay thing Donald did during the first seven months of his presidency. (Click to embiggen)

It’s a false equivalency, in any case. Let’s look for a moment at the transgender bothroom bills as an example. The bigots who push the bills make a lot of noise about sexual assault (despite the fact that many states have had laws allowing transgender people to use the bathroom the matches their gender identity and there as never been a single case of someone using the law to try to commit assault), or the religious freedom argument. But all of that is just smoke and mirrors. Look at the actual impact of the laws banning transgender people from using a public bathroom that matches their identity. The practical upshot is that under such laws, transgender people cannot safely use any public bathroom. At all. If they try to go into the bathroom that matches their gender presentation, they are violating the law and risk arrest. If they try to go into the bathroom that matches their gender assigned at birth, particularly if they don’t look like they belong there, they risk being harassed, beaten, and worse. The effect of the law is to make it impossible for transgender people to exist in public places, work places, and so forth. And that isn’t an unintended consequence. The people pushing the laws don’t think transgender people have a right to exist at all.

What’s another word for “you don’t have the legal right to exist”? Genocide. Murder. Take your pick.

But what is the other side of this debate? The other side is saying that transgender people have the right to exist, and therefore other people can’t force them out of existence with the power of the law. The other side is not saying that people who wish transgender people didn’t exist are themselves subject to execution. It simply says that they have to let the other people exist. The bigots aren’t going to be assaulted for thinking unpleasant things about some of their neighbors. The only penalties they will face depend on their actions, not on their mere existence. Yes, if they state their opinions, they might get called a bigot. If they try to act on their opinions, they may face other penalties. But no one is saying they don’t have a right to exist.

Donald’s campaign promises consisted of contradictory statements and a boatload of racist and other bigoted dog-whistles. He didn’t just appeal to the intolerant, he promised that if they acted on their intolerance he would help them get away with it (what do you think the real message of that “I’ll pay your legal bills” was?). It is no accident that certain types of hate crimes went up after his election. It is no accident that some of these hateful people, when they assaulted (or attempted to assault) people of color or queer people and so forth, shouted things like “this is Trump’s country now!”

Besides being unfit for office, Donald campaigned on hate and implied genocide. It isn’t just ludicrous to ask people to empathize with his supporters, it’s suicidal for a free society to do so. So stop giving us those headlines.

“The Five Stages of Trumpism: 1) It's a total lie, never happened, fake news. 2) It happened, but it's not a big deal. 3) OK< if might be a big deal, but it isn't illegal. 4) Okay it's illegal, but Hillary and Obama something-something, so it's okay. 5) Get over it, libturd, your just a sore loser.”

“The Five Stages of Trumpism: 1) It’s a total lie, never happened, fake news. 2) It happened, but it’s not a big deal. 3) OK< if might be a big deal, but it isn't illegal. 4) Okay it's illegal, but Hillary and Obama something-something, so it's okay. 5) Get over it, libturd, your just a sore loser.”

That statue doesn’t mean what you think it means—bless your heart

The official declaration of the State of Mississippi when they seceded from the Union at the beginning of the Civil War: “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery—the greatest material interest of the world.”

The official declaration of the State of Mississippi when they seceded from the Union at the beginning of the Civil War: “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery—the greatest material interest of the world.” (click to embiggen)

I wasn’t born in the South, but because of economic factors too complicated to go into at this juncture, the small town in Colorado where I was born was inhabited almost completely by recently transplanted southerners. All of my grandparents had been born in former Confederate states, as had most of the teachers at the public school, and the parents and/or grandparents of 95+ percent of my classmates at school. And even though my father’s job had us moving around to other parts of the central Rockies through most of grade school, because our family attended Southern Baptists churches, I continued to be exposed to certain myths about the Civil War that descendants of Confederate families tell themselves. I was taught that slavery wasn’t the primary issue of the war, for one. I was taught that most soldiers on the Confederate side had been involved for economic reasons, and certainly not because they believed that whites were superior to blacks, for another. And I was taught that just because the Southern Baptist church and many other institutions still advocated for the segregation of that races, that it wasn’t because they still believed that one race was superior to the other.

Each of those statements was a lie.

I was a teen-ager in the 70s when the Southern Baptist Convention finally endorsed desegregation of its churches. And it was as a teen that I learned most of what I’d been taught about the history of our denomination and the Civil War was untrue.

Historically, every state that seceded to form the Confederacy (not just Mississippi a port of whose declaration is pictured above), explicitly listed either slavery or the superiority of the white race (and some mentioned both), as their reasons for seceding. The infamous cornerstone speech delivered by Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens explained that the foundation of the new Confederate government was “the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.”

It can’t be any clearer than that: the primary mission of the Confederacy was the perpetuation of slavery of black people and the entrenchment (nay, glorification) of white supremacy. And Confederate soldiers did not volunteer, fight, and die by the thousands because of some need to preserve the mythical idyllic pastoral culture of the Southern plantation—most of them were too poor to own plantations, for one thing! No, typical Confederate grunt believed that if slaves were freed, working class whites would surely lose their livelihoods. The collective self-esteem of the white working class was shored up by the explicit statement that at least they weren’t slaves, so while they might have worked hard in exchange for less than their fair share of societal prosperity, at east they were better off than those black folks! The abolition of slavery was then perceived as an existential threat to the white working class. Of course they were willing to take up arms to protect slavery!

In the immediate aftermath of the war, symbols of the Confederacy weren’t displayed publicly. There were memorials erected in a few places to those who died in one battle or another, and certainly individual tombstones were occasionally emblazoned with Confederate symbols, but there wasn’t a stampede to erect statues to the leaders of the Confederacy afterward. For one thing, there wasn’t a lot of pride in having been on the losing side.

The first big rush of Confederate monuments was years after the war ended as Reconstruction officially ended and Federal troops were withdrawn in 1877. Across the former Confederacy, state legislatures started enacting Jim Crow laws, designed to make it difficult or nearly impossible for black people to exercise their right to vote and to enforce segregation of the races. And statues and monuments went up all over the South. The plaques usually talked about the bravery of the person depicted, but there were also language about the nobility of the cause for which they fought. Blacks living in those states, most of whom were former slaves, knew exactly what that cause had been, and the message the statues and monuments was clearly: “white people are in charge again, and don’t you forget it!”

A portion of the Southern Poverty Law Center's graph showing when Confederate monuments and statues were erected across the country.

A portion of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s graph showing when Confederate monuments and statues were erected across the country.

Most of the Confederate monuments were put up in the 1910s and 1920s, coinciding with an increase in activity of the KKK and similar organizations terrorizing blacks. And the next big surge was in the 50s and 60s when civil rights organizations began having successes against some of the Jim Crow laws. The purpose of those monuments was not to honor the culture of the South, the message was still “stay in your place, black people, or else!” A great example of this resides not many miles from my home. Washington territory was never a part of the Confederacy, and the few inhabitants of the state who served in the war did so as part of the Union Army and Navy. A local family, some years after the war, donated land in what would one day become the Capitol Hill neighborhood to the Grand Army of the Republic (which was an organization made up mostly of Union side Civil War Veterans) for a cemetery for Union soldiers. And that’s who was buried there. But decades later, during one of those surges of monument building, the Daughters of the Confederacy paid to have a monument to soldiers of the Confederacy erected in the cemetery. There are no Confederate soldiers buried there. Not one. And there are no soldiers’ names engraved on the massive monument. But there it is, erected in a cemetery full of Union soldiers, a monument to the so-called noble cause of the Confederacy.

Now that some communities are rethinking these monuments—many of them extremely cheap bronze statues erected during times of civil rights tensions—other people are claiming taking them down is erasing history. No, taking down these post-dated monuments in public parks and so forth isn’t erasing history, it’s erasing anti-historical propaganda. The other argument that is put forward in defense of the monuments is that “both sides deserve to be heard.” That’s BS in this case, because there aren’t two sides to racism. There aren’t two sides to bigotry. There aren’t two sides to genocide. White supremacy is not a legitimate side to any argument.

When we defeated Hitler’s armies, we didn’t turn around and erect monuments to the government that murdered millions of people in concentration camps. We destroyed their symbols. When we liberated Iraq, we tore down the statues of Saddam Hussein, we didn’t enshrine his image in an attempt to give both sides equal time. Those few Confederate monuments that list off names of people who died are fine (even if a lot of them have cringeworthy language about the cause they were fighting for). Cemeteries where actual Confederate veterans are buried of course can have symbols of the Confederacy on the tombstones and the like. But the other monuments, the ones erected years later, they don’t belong in the public square.

They belong in the dustbin of history.

Obstacles in our way—trying not to get mired while writing

This image (which I believe originated as a cartoon at Doghouse Diaries) has been repurposed many times. In this case to accurately depict the feeling of writing a book.

This image (which I believe originated as a cartoon at Doghouse Diaries) has been repurposed many times. In this case to accurately depict the feeling of writing a book.

Any writing project can get bogged down, not just writing books, but the amount of story you need to assemble and make work to create a novel is a much more daunting task than a short story. It’s not just the fact that it’s a longer project. The challenges of a short story are different than the challenges of a novel. A short story can be read in brief period of time, not giving the reader much chance to forget things revealed at the opening of the story, for instance. A reader is more likely to spread the reading of a novel over a number of days, so details in chapter one are more likely to fade from memory by chapter ten. So sometimes you want to find subtle ways to jog the reader’s memory of earlier events.

Sustaining the reader’s attention over the course of a book also generally requires sub-plots. The main plot of your novel might be the fate of a young prince about to be betrothed to someone he has never met, but over the course of the story various distractions and obstacles will cross his path, each requiring their own resolution. You may also introduce less-obviously related problems or goals of various supporting characters. Getting all of those interacting in a way that both feels natural and is entertaining to the reader can be tricky

I’m not the kind of writer who starts with an outline. I often start stories without a clear idea of whether this thing that’s occurred to me is going to be a short story, a novella, or a complete book. Very rarely an idea will hit me, I’ll sit down and start typing, and some hours later I have reach the end of a short story. More often what happens is I write for several hours stopping at a point where I either have to stop to go to bed or work or something else, having only then figured out that what I’ve got is a longer story. Even then, I don’t usually stop to do an outline until I hit a serious snag. At that point, I can map out what I’ve written already, start identifying emotional arcs and so forth, and as I make all of that explicit in the outline, start seeing how these various bits might be made to come together in a satisfying conclusion.

Other people I know have an outline when they start, but even with a detailed outline at the beginning, writers get bogged down, hit snares, and so forth. Whichever type of writer you are, when you get hung up, the solution is often to go back to the basics:

  • Who’s story is it?
  • What do they want?
  • What’s in their way
  • How far are they willing to go to get what they want?

And don’t just answer those questions for your protagonist. Answer those questions for any villains in the piece and all the supporting characters. I often find the solution to what seems to be a complete dead-end on a plot is to change which subplots cross the hero’s path when.

Another important tool is simply to re-read everything I’ve written before. I had a book-length story moving along a while back, everything going according to plan until I hit this one big snag: I needed two of the characters (specifically, two of the villainous characters), to go to a particular place so they would literally cross the path of some of the other characters. Except I could think of no logical reason they would go there at that point. I really spun my wheels on that for a while. I even tried re-outlining the story from scratch to see if I’d notice something different. While re-reading everything I’d written thus far, two tiny details that I had put in the descriptions of two parts of the story leapt out at me. I had put them in simply because they seemed to fit the mood, and I was trying to give the reader a good image of the characters. But each detail implied a couple of things that I hadn’t consciously thought as important to the plot. And while I didn’t originally intend the two details to be related to each other, I realized if I went with the explanation that did relate them, it gave me a perfect opportunity to drop some new information in the laps of the two characters–information that would send them out to retrieve something, and put them where I needed them when I needed them.

I don’t think that my subconscious put those two details in for that reason originally, but when I found it, it did seem almost miraculous, like a finding a secret bridge across a seemingly impassible chasm in the plot. And once I had that connection between those details, it made several other things later in the book easier to explain.

And frequently, while I’m re-examining those character arcs, or reviewing the outline and comparing what I’ve already written to the plan, I find little gems like that buried in the scenes. A detail or a throw-away line or maybe just a coincidence that I can exploit to leapfrog the plot ahead.

Sometimes, in order to keep putting one word in front of the other, we have to go looking in the muck for something we can repurpose.

Weekend Update 8/19/2017: Superheroes of all kinds

Shon helps his aunts take care of street cats (photo © Kolony Kats)

Shon helps his aunts take care of street cats (photo © Kolony Kats)

Now here’s a story I wish I’d known about to include in yesterday’s round up of links: 5-Year-Old Boy Wants To Do is Help Street Cats . “Every time Kris Papiernik and Kia Griffin’s 5-year-old nephew, Shon, comes for a weekend visit, he only wants to do one thing — go outside and take care of the street cats.” And you know what, you can be a superhero right along with Shon: “To help Shon and his aunts continue feeding and providing medical attention to the street cats of Philadelphia, you can make a donation to their mission.”


A so-called Free Speech Rally organized by neo-Nazis, white nationalists, and white supremacists in Boston today has not gone as the hater’s expected: An estimated 15,000 counter-protesters showed up Saturday at Boston Common to stifle a much-smaller Free Speech Rally scheduled for noon.

Veterans for Peace are among the groups protesting the hate speech rally.

Veterans for Peace are among the groups protesting the hate speech rally.

Among the thousands of people who are there to protest the hate are members of the local chapter of Veterans for Peace. In previous demonstration, Veterans for Peace members have been known to get in front of protestors or counter-protestors when violence breaks out, not fighting back, simply taking the beating or pepper spray, et cetera.


Former California Governor (Republican), Arnold Schwarzenegger is no stranger to the hero/villain dynamic, having played both in many movies. But he’s also no stranger to Nazis, having been born in Austria shortly after the end of World War II. So he had a few words for what has happened in the last week, and the failure of the president to address the issue: Arnold Schwarzenegger to Neo-Nazis: Your Heroes Are Losers. The entire video is worth listening to, especially hearing what he though the president should have said:

“As president of the United States and as a Republican, I reject the support of white supremacists. The country that defeated Hitler’s armies is no place for Nazi flags. The party of Lincoln won’t stand with those who carry the battle flag of the failed Confederacy.” —Schwarzenegger’s suggestion of what Donald should have said.

And he had some words for the so-called alt-right marchers and demonstrators:

“Believe me, I know the original Nazis. I was born in Austria in 1947, shortly after the Second World War, and growing up I was surrounded by broken men. Men who came home from the war filled with shrapnel and guilt, men who were misled into a losing ideology. And I can tell you that these ghosts that you idolize spent the rest of their lives living in shame. And right now, they’re resting in hell.” —Arnold Schwarzenegger

Schwarzenegger suggested we all donate to our favorite anti-hate charity. He’s also authorized a t-shirt sales of which will raise money for the Simon Wiesenthal Center: Arnold Schwarzenegger “Terminate Hate” Tee.

I agree with Arnold: it’s time to terminate hate, and that includes the symbols of hate. We understood that in 1945 in Germany. Time we applied the lesson closer to home:

Friday Links (take a stand edition)

“I want my friends to understand that 'staying out of politics' or being 'sic of politics' is privilege in action. Your privilege allows you to live a non-political existence... if you find politics annoying and you just want everyone to be nice, pliease know that peopled are literally fighting for their lives and safety. You might not see it, but that's what privilege does.” —Kristen Tea, motherwiselige.org

“I want my friends to understand that ‘staying out of politics’ or being ‘sic of politics’ is privilege in action. Your privilege allows you to live a non-political existence… if you find politics annoying and you just want everyone to be nice, pliease know that peopled are literally fighting for their lives and safety. You might not see it, but that’s what privilege does.” —Kristen Tea, motherwise.org

It’s the third Friday in August and I’m running late on getting this week’s round up of links for a variety of reasons.

I tried to assemble a post that didn’t focus on the bad stuff going on, but I can’t. And the reason is summed up in the graphic at the right. Horrible things happened in America: literal neo-nazis and white supremacists murdered someone, injured a bunch of others, and then our president not only failed to condemn them for days, but clearly signaled that he is one of them, and refused to disavow the KKK and Nazi leaders who were actively declaring on camera that they supported Trump and felt he supported them.

So, here are the links, sorted into categories as accurately as I could.

Links of the Week

Last week the Independent newspaper published a list titled “30 mind-expanding experiences you should have before you’re 30.” “Entitled” would have been more apt, as the list was one that was so dripping with privilege that it was impossible to take it seriously. As a (not rich) parent of a (not rich) twenty-something this list made me so cross that I thought I would write my own..

Mother Of Charlottesville Victim Heather Heyer: ‘I’m Proud Of What She Did.

Things We Saw Today: How You Can Help Charlottesville.

Some historical politicians knew how to respond to complaints from white supremecists: Letters of Note: Kiss my ass.

Science!

Dan Savage: Get ready for sex robots that look like Bigfoot.

‘Not a good idea:’ Why you shouldn’t try driving to the eclipse Monday morning.

Science Fiction, Fantasy and Speculation!

Hugo awards 2017: NK Jemisin wins best novel for second year in a row.

Tired Puppies 2017 . “If you scratch the paint of libertarians you find frustrated authoritarianism trying to peek out…”

Ray Bradbury Reveals the True Meaning of Fahrenheit 451: It’s Not About Censorship, But People “Being Turned Into Morons by TV”.

N.K. Jemisin’s ‘The Fifth Season’ To Be Developed As TV Series At TNT.

he truth in fantasy: An interview with Hugo-winning Ottawa writer Amal El-Mohtar.

During Trump’s present, it’s gotten hard to write the future, says John Scalzi.

Jason Sanford — Measuring the slow Hugo Award death of the rabid puppies.

Locus Online News » Worldcon News.

Fixing the Dragon Awards isn’t my problem | Camestros Felapton.

Farewells:

BLANCHE BLACKWELL, IAN FLEMING’S MISTRESS AND THE INSPIRATION FOR PUSSY GALORE, DIES AT 104.

This Week in History

The Myth of the Kindly General Lee.

Robert E. Lee opposed Confederate monuments.

This Week in Difficult to Classify

‘A whole different relationship’: Mayor Murray and the man who says he abused him.

Fabulous, Darling!

Texas ‘bathroom bill’ dies in special legislative session.

Chorus of Opposition Helps Prevent Anti-Transgender Bill .

Pantone announces new purple shade in honor of Prince .

This Week in Tech

THE EMAIL LARRY PAGE SHOULD HAVE WRITTEN TO JAMES DAMORE. “Your interpretation is wrong. Your memo was a great example of what’s called “motivated reasoning” — seeking out only the information that supports what you already believe. It was derogatory to women in our industry and elsewhere. Despite your stated support for diversity and fairness, it demonstrated profound prejudice. Your chain of reasoning had so many missing links that it hardly mattered what your argument was based on. We try to hire people who are willing to follow where the facts lead, whatever their preconceptions. In your case we clearly made a mistake.”

GoDaddy boots neo-Nazi site after a derogatory story on the Charlottesville victim.

Google cancels Neo-Nazi site registration soon after it was dumped by GoDaddy.

Discord bans servers that promote Nazi ideology.

This Week in Misinformation

‘Patently false’: Newspaper rips Idaho GOPer for defending white nationalism as ‘people who love the Constitution’.

Fox guest says LGBT rainbow flag is just as offensive as Confederate flag: They ‘represent the exact same thing’.
Excuse me? For the record, never in the history of the universe have gay people waged a bloody war in order to enslave straight people.

Burying the Lie of the “Alt-Left”.

AP FACT CHECK: Viral photo doesn’t show ‘antifa’ beating cop.

Charlottesville and the Effort to Downplay Racism in America.

This Week in Covering the News

AP Definitive Source | How to describe extremists who rallied in Charlottesville. AP styleguide says stop calling them alt-right: ‘we have taken the position that the term “alt-right” should be avoided because it is meant as a euphemism to disguise racist aims.’

Culture War and Hate Crimes

The persistent crime that connects mass shooters and terror suspects: Domestic violence.

Culture war news:

The Deadly Consequences Of Texas’ Anti-LGBT Adoption Bill.

N.C. House Votes to Protect Drivers Who Hit Protesters.

NEW TEXAS BILL WOULD MAKE RUNNING OVER PROTESTERS LEGAL.

Rauner Signs Law Removing Sex Crime Statutes of Limitation.

White Christians Who Voted for Trump: Fix This. Now.

“We Just Feel Like We Don’t Belong Here Anymore” -Think it’s hard for the white working class in rural America? Try being a person of color.

This week in the Resistance:

Rep. Pramila Jayapal Introduces Resolution To Fire White Supremacists From White House.

Johnny Cash’s family tells white supremacists to get Johnny’s name out their mouth.

No, Mr Trump, we’re not the same as the neo-Nazis.

In Charlottesville, the Local Jewish Community Presses On.

This Week Regarding the Lying Liar:

The Trump Files: When Donald Destroyed Historic Art to Build Trump Tower.

Donald Trump has no grasp of what it means to be president.

Donald Trump Just Gave the Press Conference of the Alt-Right’s Dreams | National Review.

This Week in Racists, White Nationalists, and other deplorables:

Why Did Someone Have to Get Killed Before GoDaddy Severed Ties With The Daily Stormer?

WSU College Republican President attends ‘Unite The Right’ rally in Charlottesville.

Man Who Marched In Charlottesville White Supremacy Rally Disowned By Family .

Man arrested by FBI agents after allegedly planning to bomb building in downtown Oklahoma City.

Charlottesville: The Truth About Women and White Supremacy.

Watch Jason Kessler, Organizer Behind Disastrous White Supremacist Rally, Get Run Out of His Own Press Conference.

Watch the Vice Documentary on the Charlottesville White Supremacy Rally.

Before Charlottesville, a String of Killings Raised the Specter of Far-Right Violence.

Videos!

John Oliver – Charlottesville:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

Stephen Makes Condemning Nazis Look Easy (Because It Is):

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

Writing should be an adventure

“One of the dumbest things you were ever taught was to write what you know. Because what you know is usually dull. Remember when you first wanted to be a writer? Eight or ten years old, reading about thin-lipped heroes flying over mysterious viny jungles toward untold wonders? That's what you wanted to write about, about what you didn't know. So. What mysterious time and place don't we know?” — Ken Kesey

“One of the dumbest things you were ever taught was to write what you know. Because what you know is usually dull. Remember when you first wanted to be a writer? Eight or ten years old, reading about thin-lipped heroes flying over mysterious viny jungles toward untold wonders? That’s what you wanted to write about, about what you didn’t know. So. What mysterious time and place don’t we know?” — Ken Kesey (click to embiggen)

Some of the best stories I’ve ever written (by which I mean that I don’t cringe much when I re-read them years later) began with me trying to figure something out. I didn’t sit down at the keyboard thinking, “I’m going to write a story about a detective who left the force looking for the one who got away, and X, Y, and Z are going to happen.” Instead, I had a question I didn’t know the answer to, or an image in my head of a character in a situation and I didn’t know how they got there, or a snippet of conversation I had imagined between two characters and I was trying to figure out what they were talking about (or even who they were, sometimes)! I didn’t know what the story was, and I was writing to find it out. I wasn’t writing what I knew!

I’m not saying that it’s wrong to plan out your plot or to chart your character arcs. I’m also not saying not to do research. What I am saying is that making art isn’t about re-hashing what you already know and assembling it into a perfectly constructed package. When I was a kid trying to write adventure stories I didn’t know what it was like to pilot a rocket ship to another planet. I didn’t know what it felt like to face a dragon armed with a shield and a magic sword. But I wanted to know what that felt like. So I imagined it and tried to write it. And I would go to the library with a list of things to look up in the card catalog. Yes, at ten years old I was tracking down books on piloting planes and about fighter pilots (because I knew most of our astronauts at the time had been military pilots), and bringing home books about sword-making and astronomy and geology and so on.

One of the reason I usually had at least two stories in progress back then was because when I hit a point where I didn’t know how something worked that I needed my characters to do next (that I couldn’t figure out from the set of encyclopedias we owned and would require a library trip), I could pull the page out of the typewriter, set it aside with the rest of story A, and pick up story B. It was really frustrating if I had a snag in both. I would usually wind up picking up one of my fictions books (or going to the bookcase in the living room and see if any of my parents’ current fiction choices looked interesting) and reading until I thought of something to do with one of stopped stories.

One of my favorite parts about moving back when I was 12 to the small town where I’d been born was that the library was close enough to our house that I could hop on my bicycle and ride to the library any time it was open. So I didn’t get stuck on those insurmountable snags nearly as often.

The only limit to your writing should be your imagination. Yes, you will need to do research from time to time. Research isn’t just about going to the library or browsing the internet. You will be amazed how many experts in things are willing to talk to you if you ask politely. I got a tour of the county morgue just by calling and saying I was trying to write a murder mystery and didn’t want to just copy things I’d seen on TV. And the most fascinating thing about that was a nice long talk I had with an investigator that wasn’t about the process of an autopsy, but rather about the steps they go through to locate next of kin and gather information at the scene. Particularly heartbreaking from this investigator: he had a bundle of file folders of John and Jane Doughs (several of them teen-agers) that he was determined to identify before he retired. They’d been buried in anonymous graves. As he said, “All of them had to have been loved by someone sometime. They deserve a name and to be properly mourned.” I went in thinking I was going to learn how to describe an actual autopsy accurately, and came out with much more.

Also, you want to be careful when you portray people and events from cultures other than your own (More research! Find more people willing to answer your questions!). But again, your imagination is the limit, not just your own lived experiences.

Don’t settle for what you know now: ask yourself what you want to know, and go write it!

We mistake our privilege for something earned, and think the worst of those without pedestals

Who knows what self-delusion lurks in the hearts of white men? The Shadow knows...

Who knows what self-delusion lurks in the hearts of white men? The Shadow knows… (click to embiggen)

My dad was the kind of racist that was almost too easy to spot. He threw around the n-word and other racial slurs not just casually, but with great frequency. It was impossible to talk to him without also hearing how all those people were the cause of anything and everything bad that he perceived was happening in the world. Friends and acquaintances didn’t always believe me when I would describe the phone conversations where I had to ask him, multiple times, to stop talking like that or I would hang up.It was simply toxic to talk to him, which is why I literally stopped speaking to him at all about seven years before he died. My dad was the kind of racist who made it easy for other people to congratulate themselves that they weren’t racist because they didn’t talk as crudely as he did. We look at guys like my him, or the people waving Nazi flags and throwing Nazi salutes in Charlottesville, Virginia this last weekend, and tell ourselves that we aren’t like that, so clearly we aren’t racist.

Who speaks truth about the evil that lurks in the hearts of men?

Who speaks truth about the evil that lurks in the hearts of men? (click to embiggen)

But we live in a racist society. We’ve been conditioned to believe all sorts of things about each other based on the color of their skin. Studies show that when we’re shown photographs of black teens of either sex we consistently over-estimate their age, for instance. We’ve been conditioned so that if we look at a young black man, we don’t see a kid, but a thug. We’re pre-disposed to believe that a young black man is not only capable, but likely to hurt someone. We see a video of a dark skinned person carrying a toy gun getting gunned down by police (even though he has dropped the toy and has his hands in the air), and say, “Well, he still looked dangrous.” Then we see video of hundreds of white guys showing up at a political rally carrying rifles and guns and say, “They’re just exercising their rights.”

It is impossible to grow up in a racist society and not absorb a lot of racism. It is also impossible to grow up in the U.S. as a white person and not benefit from all that racism. Part of it is the generational thing: we lived in nicer neighborhoods than we otherwise would because our parents, grandparents, and so on benefited from preferential hiring practices, redlining of mortgages, and unequal distribution of resources for public schools. And it’s easy for us to say, “Well, that was the bad old days. Things have changed, now, and besides, I can’t do anything about it.” But it isn’t just the bad old days. Racist assumptions are baked into all of our social conventions, institutions, and business practices. Studies have shown again and again that changing something as simple as making a name look less ethnic on a resume substantially improves the odds that a submitted resume will get result in a call for a job interview, for instance. We see it in statistics of which people cops decide to stop and question, let alone the ghastly statistics about police shootings.

So if you’re like me, looking at this news this weekend and being horrified that an angry white man who drove his car into a crowd killing a woman (and wounding at least 19 other people), while people ranging from ordinary citizens to news anchors and even the president are bending over backward to say that bigotry isn’t involved—it isn’t enough to say, “Aren’t they terrible people?” We have to be willing to admit that these terrible people were enabled by a society which explicitly benefits white people, whether we individual white people think of ourselves as racist or not.

Some other folks have explained it quite well: How “Nice White People” Benefit from Charlottesville and White Supremacy:

“For white people who don’t self-identify as disciples of Richard Spencer, David Duke, and/or the ancient demon Beelzebub, there is extreme anxiety around the accusation of racism. We see this fear of blame in Trump’s statement. “Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama” seems to say, ‘Hey, there’s been a tense racial climate in this country forever. It’s not anyone’s fault!’ Except the opposite is true. American white supremacy has been a problem forever, and it is all of our fault, fellow white people.

“White people benefit from white supremacy. Period. Peggy McIntosh spelled this out for us in 1989, but apparently we’re still not quite getting it. Her famous piece, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” lays out undeniable ways that it is simply easier to be white in this country, like always having a boss who is a fellow white person, or, you know, being able to eat Skittles at night without getting shot. Most white people didn’t ask for this privilege. Actually, that’s the whole idea. White privilege is an inherent advantage that easily goes unnoticed and unacknowledged. Rather than stuffing down the sense of shame associated with this obvious unfairness, why not work to even the playing field?”
—Lauren Duca

The referenced article by Peggy McIntosh is also a very good read: White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.

“I was taught to see racism only in individual acts of meanness, not in invisible systems conferring dominance on my group.”
—Peggy McIntosh

We can’t just shake our heads and blame it all on those people. Society as a whole, including us, are to blame. The first step is recognizing that the problem isn’t something which was forced on our country. The problem isn’t something that just appeared recently. The problem has always been there. It has been growing and getting angrier for years. We are part of the problem, so we have to be part of the solution. We have to find ways to oppose this racist authoritarian movement with more than just words.

Weekend Update 8/12/2017: Hugo Winners and many other things

The 2017 Hugo award base was designed by Finnish artist Eeva Jokinen. (Photo by Michael Lee.)

The 2017 Hugo award base was designed by Finnish artist Eeva Jokinen. (Photo by Michael Lee.)

The Hugo Award winners were announced yesterday at Worldcon 75, this year happening in Helsinki. I’m not there, but enough people I know are that my twitter feed was full of news and reactions. And it’s really fun when people whose work you love and who you have met in person are among the people bringing home rockets. I checked against my ballot after, and found that in four categories the person/work that I picked as number one had won. And it looks like in every other category, the winner was in my top three. Of course, as I said at the time, I thought that every category had at least four or five pieces that I absolutely thought deserved the award. It was a good year. And isn’t this year’s trophy gorgeous?

Anyway, the winners are:

Novel:

The Obelisk Gate, by N. K. Jemisin (Orbit Books)

Novella:

Every Heart a Doorway, by Seanan McGuire (Tor.com publishing)

Novelette:

“The Tomato Thief”, by Ursula Vernon (Apex Magazine, January 2016)

Short Story:

“Seasons of Glass and Iron”, by Amal El-Mohtar (The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales, Saga Press)

Related Work:

Words Are My Matter: Writings About Life and Books, 2000-2016, by Ursula K. Le Guin (Small Beer)

Graphic Story:

Monstress, Volume 1: Awakening, written by Marjorie Liu, illustrated by Sana Takeda (Image)

Dramatic Presentation, Long Form:

Arrival, screenplay by Eric Heisserer based on a short story by Ted Chiang, directed by Denis Villeneuve (21 Laps Entertainment/FilmNation Entertainment/Lava Bear Films)

Dramatic Presentation, Short Form:

The Expanse: “Leviathan Wakes”, written by Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby, directed by Terry McDonough (SyFy)

Editor, Short Form:

Ellen Datlow

Editor, Long Form:

Liz Gorinsky

Professional Artist:

Julie Dillon

Semiprozine:

Uncanny Magazine, edited by Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas, Michi Trota, Julia Rios, and podcast produced by Erika Ensign & Steven Schapansky

Fanzine:

Lady Business, edited by Clare, Ira, Jodie, KJ, Renay, and Susan

Fancast:

Tea and Jeopardy, presented by Emma Newman with Peter Newman

Fan Writer:

Abigail Nussbaum

Fan Artist:

Elizabeth Leggett

Series:(Special Category added by option of Worldcon 75)

The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold (Baen)

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer: (Not a Hugo Award, but administered along with the Hugo Awards)

Ada Palmer


And I’m sure that in certain corners of the trollnet there is a lot of angry thrashing: Women swept nearly every category at the 2017 Hugo Awards. To paraphrase Ruth Bader Ginsburg: and for how many years were the categories literally swept by men (and almost always white men, at that)? Let me repeat: I’m an old, literally grey bearded, cis male white fan who literally learned how to read from Robert A. Heinlein novels, and every single one of this year’s winners were fabulous sf/f works that deserve that award because they are awesome stories.

So, congratulations to all the winners!

Oh, another thing announced yesterday: Worldcon 2019 will be in Dublin, Ireland! It’ll be the first Irish Worldcon! Yay! There’s a lot of other fun news from the con, you can see a bunch of pictures and more here.

On to other things: Terry Gross is one of my favorite people to listen to on the radio. She’s been interviewing people for years, and much of what I like about her show is how many times she made me really connect with and care about people I didn’t expect to. Anyway, she was on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon this week, and it was funny in a way I absolutely did not expect. Watch the whole clip to learn about her process, but also to get a really good laugh when she tells the story of the time Bill O’Reilly angrily stormed out of an interview.

NPR’s Terry Gross Has a Sick Burn for Bill O’Reilly Walking Out on Their Fresh Air Interview:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.

Lots of people have been freaking out about all the nuclear war talk this week. I left most of it out of yesterday’s round up of links other than to link to an analysis of why it is almost certain that we don’t actually need to be worried just yet. But besides most people not understanding the technological hurdles as to why North Korea doesn’t have that missile-capable bomb there’s more. And Nothing New On North Korea Except Donald Trump’s Freak-Out. There actually isn’t any new news. Only one agency is saying this is a possibility, and that same intelligence agency claimed the same thing several years ago and was shown to be wrong then. Furthermore, Donald isn’t suddenly talking about this because of a security briefing he got. He started angrily threatening war when he saw a headline in the Washington Post… which he has also claimed in one of the fake news outlets, but obviously he doesn’t really think that, does he? Anyway, Rachel Maddow’s clip that I linked is really good. And she had an actual
(recently retired) intelligence expert whose specialty was North Korea for decades. It’s really worth the watch.

Related, I’m really irritated that this is even necessary: From the editor in chief of Christianity Today: The Use of Nuclear Weapons Is Inherently Evil. Even though I consider myself a former christian, it angers me to a level that is difficult to describe that there are so-called christian pastors saying the opposite, saying things like Megachurch Pastor Says Trump Has God’s Approval to Start Nuclear War. Geezus! Even the religious right’s favorite president, Ronald Reagan, condemned nuclear weapons as “totally irrational, totally inhumane, good for nothing but killing, possibly destructive of life on earth and civilization.” And who can forget what the late evangelist Billy Graham said on the subject: “I cannot see any way in which nuclear war could be branded as being God’s will. Such warfare, if it ever happens, will come because of the greed and pride and covetousness of the human heart.”

Well, we certainly have a president who epitomizes greed and pride and covetousness…

Grrrr! And don’t get me started on the literal Nazis marching in North Carolina… but at least some Republicans are waking up: Former GOP Senator Calls For Trump’s Removal “Donald Trump is seriously sick. He is dangerous. As a citizen, a former U.S. Senator and twelve-year member of the Armed Services Committee, I urge you to act at once. This is an emergency.”

I can’t end on a sour note. So, here’s some much better news: ‘Sense8’ is back in production, and the finale is going to be totally ‘epic’ and Formerly Abused Husky Now Helps Children Who Have Been Abused.

Friday Links (death defying edition)

“A gay christian is not an oxymoron. A hateful christian most certainly is.” - “When you get quoted on a church sign.” — John Pavlovitz

“A gay christian is not an oxymoron. A hateful christian most certainly is.” – “When you get quoted on a church sign.” — John Pavlovitz (click to embiggen)

It’s the second Friday in August, and we’re surviving a tamped down heat wave and smokezilla. Those are related. While the unhealthy air quality is not good for us, on the other had, it’s blocking enough sunlight that (depending on which part of the region you’re in) temperatures have been between 10-16 degrees farenheit cooler than they would have been without the smoke. Prevailing winds have finally shifted, bringing in cooler air, so the temps will go down a bit and the air quality is improving.

We’re both still very busy and have been feeling less than well which we’re attributing to the haze–we’ve both got red eyes and painful sinuses all the time, and despite sleeping in a room with an air purifier and an air conditioner, neither us seems to be getting nice deep sleepl

Anyway, on to links! I’m still trying to sort it so that the science and other, mostly happy news is at the top, and then we get to less pleasant topics before finishing with music videos. Enjoy!

Links of the Week

The supposition that NK will soon have missile-capable thermonuclear weapons is, at best, stupidly generous.

The Last Death-Defying Honey Hunter of Nepal.

Science!

10 Badass Trees That Refuse To Die.

How America Really Lost Its Mind to Pseudoscience: Hint, It Wasn’t Entirely the Fault of Hippie New Agers and Postmodern Academics.

City-dwelling sea snakes are changing colors for a strange reason.

Early humans may have seen a supervolcano explosion up close.

Study: The Milky Way is swarming with black holes.

The Largest Space Telescope Ever Could Study an Earth-Like Exoplanet Next Door.

Prehistoric Baby Skull Shows What Our Common Ancestor With Apes May Have Looked Like.

Malicious code written into DNA infects the computer that reads it.

Rare Fossils Reveal New Species of Ancient Gliding Mammals.

Evolutionary psychology is the most obvious example of how “science” is flawed.

This Week in Weather and the Atmosphere

The Long Seattle Haze Shows How Climate Change Will Hit the Poor.

This Week in Typography

The Loveliest Living Fossil“Nº was the number sign before # became a number sign, and it refreshingly serves this one and only purpose.”

Science Fiction, Fantasy and Speculation!

Locus Online News » Dragon Awards Refuse Withdrawal.

The Story of the Bad Ugly Monster by May Peterson.

This Week in History

How Ice Cream Helped the U.S. Military at War.

Here’s Why the U.S. Hasn’t Brought ‘Fire and Fury’ to North Korea .

News for queers and our allies:

The Hero Who Saved His Gay Friends.

Conservatives Are Really Scared Of This Purple ‘Gender Unicorn’.

This Week in the Patriarchy

If Men Were “Just Polite” To Each Other – comic by Kasia Babis.

How a 19th century nude painting became a feminist meme.

This Week in Misogyny in Tech

I’M A GOOGLE MANUFACTURING ROBOT AND I BELIEVE HUMANS ARE BIOLOGICALLY UNFIT TO HAVE JOBS IN TECH.

Researcher reveals how “Computer Geeks” replaced “Computer Girls”.

Culture war news:

Republicans and Democrats differ markedly in perception of discrimination.

Republicans and Democrats differ markedly in perception of discrimination. (click to embiggen

Court Blocks Federal Prosecution of California Pot Growers.

We Hold Sasha and Malia Obama to a Higher Standard Than the Trump Children, and That’s Ridiculous.

The Walls We Won’t Tear Down: “what used to be racial segregation now mirrors itself in class segregation.”.

Texas Transgender Bathroom Bill Falters Amid Mounting Opposition .

This Week Regarding the Lying Liar:

© Copyright Gary Markstein – http://www.gocomics.com/garymarkstein

Nearly Half of Donald Trump’s Twitter Followers Are Fake Accounts and Bots.

How Twitter took on Trump’s bot army—and won.

‘I hate when people take credit for an election I won’: Trump blows his top over Bannon-praising book.

Twitter suspends army of fake accounts after Trump thanks propaganda ‘bot’ for supporting him.

News about the Fascist Regime:

What The Fuck Just Happened Today? Anyway, congratulations. So far you (and America) have survived Steve Bannon, Steve Miller, “alternative facts,” “Braggadocious,” Jeff Sessions, Anthony Scaramucci, Neil Gorsuch, and so many bad policies and apocalyptic pronouncements that a person needs a web archive like this to track them all.”>.

Video reveals how actions of US border officers led to tragedy: Investigation finds allegations of abuse (including sexual abuse of minors), impunity along U.S.-Mexico border.

This week in Politics:

Get Off Kamala Harris’s Back: Lately the Democratic senator has been criticized for being too establishment. But this discussion is much bigger than her.

Mueller Seeks White House Documents on Flynn.

A Congressional Candidate Asked Men If They’d Be Willing To Give Up Their Civil Rights.

This Week in Racists, White Nationalists, and other deplorables:

White people should be more afraid of other whites than they are of people of color.

This Week in Hate Crimes

Minnesota mosque bombed during morning prayers.

On average, 9 mosques have been targeted every month this year.

Farewells:

Glen Campbell Is Dead at 81 from Alzheimer’s.

Things I wrote:

Weekend Update 8/5/2017: Let’s stick with happy stuff.

Getting a better perspective on threats to knowledgee — and us.

By their fruits you will know them — when people show you who they are, believe them.

Videos!

P!nk – What About Us (Lyric Video):

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

Move Your Body – Sia ft Kazaky:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

By their fruits you will know them — when people show you who they are, believe them

“Just a reminder. There's not two of you — Internet you and real you. There is just one real you. Which means if you're not kind on the internet, you're not kind.” —Glenn Melton Doyle

“Just a reminder. There’s not two of you — Internet you and real you. There is just one real you. Which means if you’re not kind on the internet, you’re not kind.” —Glenn Melton Doyle

Those of us who are fans of Geek Girl Con had a little scare this week, as a message that seemed to indicate a huge portion of the staff was quitting together came into our mailboxes. The post (also put up on the con’s Facebook page and elsewhere) was carefully crafted to push the outrage buttons of the types of person most likely to be attracted to the con’s spirit of inclusivity. And yes, the outrage machine seemed to be gearing up. But there were enough skeptical people to keep it from snowballing too quickly. And the manner in which the post was made was a big clue for many people: the folks who were resigned hijacked the official Geek Girl Con mailing list to post their vaguely described grievances, and hijacked the official web page to post it, and none of them were willing to sign their names to it. Even before I read it, once I knew that, I knew that it really didn’t matter what their grievances are. Anyone who would hijack the official mailing list and the web page were the kinds of people who needed to be removed from convention staff.

But you don’t have to take my word for it Rob Salkowitz breaks it down nicely: GEEKGIRLCON DEALS WITH THE PAINS OF PROFESSIONALIZATION.

“As anyone who has ever worked for or with a nonprofit can tell you, the transition from volunteer to professional organization is not always smooth. People who contributed to the growth of the organization may feel resentment toward an outsider brought in above them, whose job is to make tough decisions and impose management discipline on previously informal systems. As fair-minded and inclusive as you might want to be in that role, eventually you will piss some people off just because you are the boss and they aren’t.

“It’s not unusual for longtime staffers to quit in these circumstances, sometimes in a huff. Sometimes, to really make a statement, they’ll resign in a group. If there’s something actionable, they can call a lawyer. And if they really want to leave a mark, they’ll take their dispute public via social media.

“But taking over the organization’s official email to blast out their manifesto after they’ve already quit? Nope. NOPE. In no conceivable universe is that ok.”

We now know that all of those who quit were white guys who posted their grievances anonymously (vague claims of being discriminated against by the new executive director who happens to be a woman of color) because they didn’t think they would be taken seriously. And that might have been true no matter what, but the way they did it really shows all we need to know. I’ve been either on staff or closely involved with enough people on staff for a lot of cons to recognize both the dynamic Salkowitz explains above and the circumstances that likely led to the mass resignation. By the way, it was only five guys, out of a staff of a bit over 50, so while it seems like a lot, it certainly isn’t most of the staff, as their post clearly tried to imply.

I could go into more detail about why hijacking the con membership’s list was wrong, how it is triangulation and so forth. But the real reason is this: when I have been in situations where I felt I was the aggrieved party and have been tempted to do such things, I knew that the suggestion was coming from the little devil on one shoulder, and not the little angel on the other. (Although in my imagination it’s the evil fairy tale queen on one shoulder, and a happy glitter-covered fairy on the other).

We come up with rationales for vindictive, angry, destructive behavior all the time. It’s not fair, we say. Or they started it! Or it’s just the internet! Or I was joking! Or you took it wrong! Et cetera and ad nauseum.

Maybe you are right. Maybe you have suffered a great injustice. But here’s the thing: if you win by fighting dirty, that isn’t justice. The ends don’t justify the means. There is a big difference between righteous indignation and vengeful lashing out. Just as there is a difference between cruelty and kindness. How we take a victory or defeat matters just as much as the actual outcome.

Situations are messy and there’s always more than two sides to every story. But every side isn’t equally true, or equally valid, or equally relevant. And sometimes you can tell which side has the fewest facts in their favor by their tactics. And I, at least, can spot a sore loser from miles away. Even when they’re hiding behind anonymity, misleading verbiage, and the furtive fallacy.

There are not two of you. There isn’t literally a devil/evil queen on one shoulder and an angel/good fairy on the other. There’s just you. A noble and just person doesn’t have to resort to dirty tactics. If you’re fighting dirty, even if for a just cause, then you’re not the hero.

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