Midnight Sonic Assault

Some jackasses decided to break the law and set off fireworks late last night, which meant we were all jolted and the dogs spent a long time huddled against me, trembling furiously, before any of us could return to sleep. I don’t know if it’s a case of white supremacists attempting to place an entire neighborhood under siege (as has been happening in a lot of places where protests are ongoing) or it’s asshats who think their “fweedoms” include blowing shit up at midnight simply because voters supported the ordinance telling them not to. And good luck getting the police to persuade the asshats into behaving responsibly or arrest a few entitled bigots; I’m sure they’re too busy downtown trying to menace whatever protestors our community can produce.

I’m sure it will only get worse from here, since the Fourth is coming up. I am extremely nervous about what that might mean. Fireworks have been illegal in our city for a while now, though outlying rural areas cherish the “fweedom” to let loose the artillery and fill the emergency rooms with burns, amputations, and assorted other injuries every year.

I have never liked fireworks, personally. They always remind me of the sonic assaults my childhood abusers used during rageaholic sessions. You’d also think anyone who has a pet would take a look at the shuddering, the drooling, and the hiding most animals do when the fireworks start and think gee, maybe this isn’t a good idea, but apparently, selfishness and sadism reliably wins out for most people.

And it is sadism. If you have pets and you let off artillery for an abstract “celebration,” you are taking a direct hand in traumatizing your animals, betraying the implicit contract to protect and care for them. It’s that simple.

I’m sure people will scream “but what about fweeeeeedom! and patriotism!” and additionally moan that I’m a killjoy and have no right to accuse them of being sadists, that they love their Fido and Kitty and it really doesn’t upset their animals that much. I shall have no ruth for such bullshit, because my dogs were pressed against me shaking in fear for at least an hour and a half after the last boom reverberated through our otherwise quiet neighborhood while I lay internally raging against the selfishness of fuckwits and wishing I could explain to my poor furry companions.

I’m sick of it. I’m so sick of selfishness and fuckwittery. Some days it seems like there’s nothing else on this damn planet, at least as far as a certain species of bipedal primates is concerned.

I’m also worried about what the booms and crackles might cover. An entire army division could move in and announce martial law while racist asshats and their fuckwitted racist friends are busy blowing shit up for “fweedom” and we’d never know until too late. Don’t tell me it’s an outlandish notion, for God’s sake, just look at the news–outlandish shit is happening night and day.

“But it’s tradition!” some people will moan. So was bull-baiting and cockfights. “Tradition” is not a reason to keep doing fuckwitted, stupid, racist, sadistic, or abusive shit. It’s also not a defense.

…you can tell I’m feeling the lack of sleep. I’m annoyed, and even coffee isn’t soothing the urge to let my claws slip free. Maybe getting a run in will help, maybe not. I can probably let a little of it out on the heavy bag, and see if there’s a combat scene or two I can write today.

Time to take the dogs for a walk. And if there’s spent fireworks scattered in the street before particular houses, at least I’ll know which of my neighbors is a fuckwit. One always has one’s suspicions, of course, but confirmation is confirmation, to coin a phrase.

Christ, I wish people would just stop being fuckwits. But apparently asshattery will always be with us, lo unto the pearly gates. It’s enough to make even an optimist think there’s no redemption for our silly little species. Today I’m almost halfway there already, and if I have to go pick up milk I’m sure I’ll see something that will push me the rest of the distance.

Over and out.

Round and Round We Go

The Princess found out earlier this week that her favorite streamer–the one she’s been watching ever since she and her bestie were playing JRPGs in middle school–preys on underage girls. She’s watching the stories come out in realtime, and struggling with the games she loved because she watched this fellow play them. “Baby’s first internet rumble,” I remarked during brekkie this morning.

She made a face like she used to when she was nine and had just discovered sarcasm. “So what’s going on in your part of the internet?”

I was forced to admit, “Pretty much the same thing.” There’s another of the periodic reckonings in SFF authordom, where the stories about predatory douchebags have circulated for years and then, once they reach a certain mass or a victim decides to risk going public, a lot of other men show their asses and how little they value half of humanity by going to bat for said douchebags. Or, worse, attempting a finger-wagging “I’m an ALLY! I would NEVER do that!” and being called on behaving just as badly, for just as long.

“They all work off the same playbook,” I told her. “And this happens cyclically. Over and over.” Because it does. The dustups happen with depressing frequency, and they’re rarely a surprise–the whisper networks are pretty robust. At least mine are, for which I’m grateful.

The only new-ish thing is that I seem to have moved out of the victim pool and into the “useful for cover if I can just mislead her enough” pool. Part of that is the fact that I’m older and not seen as sexually available or attractive, part of it is that I have some tiny perceived power in the vast heterogenous ecosystem of publishing. I’m sure a wide lateral network of female peers who tend to warn me early and thoroughly is part of it, and makes me a less attractive target for cultivation, lovebombing, or negging.

I’m lucky.

Because I’m regarded as old, fat, and unattractive, not only do I escape some of the creepers but I also miss out on a lot of opportunities, since the biggest plums douchebags are empowered to hand out once they’ve reached a certain amount of success (lower difficulty settings, let’s not forget) tend to be reserved for the victims they want something from instead of the hags they cultivate for cover.

I stopped going to conventions partly because I couldn’t afford travel and childcare costs, which is one way society punishes women who dare to have actual careers. But mostly, I was tired of being creeped on, harassed, assaulted in elevators, cornered after panels, pinched, groped, negged by male small-press publishers, followed into parking garages, followed to my hotel room, propositioned in the dealer’s room, and the instances of having to defuse a (possibly inebriated) man who insisted I should drink from the glass he brought me so hard I suspected–no, I knew–it was adulterated somehow.

Instances. Plural. And there’s still the online stalkers/harassers, who I’m sure will mistake this post for blood in the water, but at least I can block their sock puppets over and over.

The first few times I saw these fandom or SFF publishing reckonings, I was naive enough to think maybe they would change something. But they happen with such regularity, and the douchebag harassing rape-y behavior reported each damn time never really changes. It’s never a reckoning, it’s more like the periodic release of tension so the system can continue as usual.

On my pessimistic days, I’m pretty sure racism and misogyny have humanity by the throat and won’t ever be pried free. On my optimistic ones, I’m pretty sure humanity will find a solution–once we’ve tried literally every other damn possibility twice or thrice. The simplest solution, of course, is stop being a fucking douchebag, but that seems beyond the power of a significant chunk of white males, or even males in general.

I’m sure someone will bleat “both sides!” and “women can be abusive too!” in the comments, but I don’t fucking care. I’ll start caring when we reach gender parity; until then, the problem is overwhelmingly on one side and that side needs to clean its fucking house, come get its people, and adult up.

“So it looks like X has finally been outed,” a friend said yesterday, mentioning a douchebag who had been shitty to one of our mutual friends many, many moons ago. “At this point the only man I like is Y, unless you’ve heard something about him?”

I’m sure the heaviness of my sigh reached through both our phones. “…well, yes. Y does A, B, and C. I have two reports from two separate women.”

“GODDAMMIT,” was the reply. “So that’s why he’s such an ‘ally’.”

Which is another blog post entirely, isn’t it.

Over and over it happens. Round and round we go. Where does it stop? I certainly don’t know, unless it’s when society changes to the point that the fear of being outed and consequent disapprobation reaches a certain level. But then the douchebags will probably just find another way to be creepy and shitty.

“They don’t really know how NOT to be creepy,” a male friend, someone I rather like and hope is trustworthy, said yesterday.

“They know,” I had to say. “They just don’t care. I’ll tell you how I know: because they manage to refrain from being creepy around people not in their victim pool.” If they can weigh the consequences and refrain in some situations, it absolutely means they know better, and have deemed it an acceptable risk in other situations.

I understand some men not wanting to think their fellow men just… don’t care. I understand they don’t want to think about what it might say about them personally, as men. Just as I don’t want to think my fellow white women can be racist-ass Karens or TERFs because I want to believe I’m personally better than that, I understand men don’t want to think they have the capacity to be a misogynist predator.

We all have to face uncomfortable things about ourselves, and doubly uncomfortable things about whatever privilege we possess. The solution is simple: Just don’t be a douchebag.

Just fucking refrain.

Individually we might manage it. Collectively? I’m pessimistic today, so the best I can say is “we’re doomed.” Tomorrow I might feel differently.

But I’m not betting on it. I have no grand ending for this post, I have no solution other than don’t be a fucking douchebag and don’t cover for douchebags. I don’t even have the strength to be optimistic today. The merry-go-round has just swirled too many times, and I’m queasy on a spiritual level.

If there was anything else I was fit to earn my living as, I’d probably leave publishing. I would keep writing, of course, just not for public consumption. If even I am tempted to burn it all down and walk, think of how many great books we’re missing out on because a douchebag has hounded other women out. Because those women were exhausted and brutalized–emotionally or physically–into leaving. If these men could just fucking stop being douchebags, think of all the great stuff we could have in games, movies, books, you name it.

We could have a better world. But some douchenozzles just don’t want it. And they happen to be placed in positions of power.

It’s almost like that’s what the system is designed to do overall, isn’t it.

Isn’t it just.

Fair Warning

Apparently I have “arrived”, to some small degree, since over the weekend I was the recipient of quite a few bot-written emails telling me I’m “too political” and have “lost readers” because of it. Well, either those emails were bot-written or more than one subliterate fascist mouthbreather with exactly the same knee-jerk misspellings and right-wing buzzword addictions decided to hit my contact form at exactly the same time from masked IPs.

Hilarious, isn’t it.

Assuming for one moment these were written by a real human being instead of a bot, I decided to make a public statement. Here it is again, just for clarity:

So if you’re emailing me with “you’ve lost me as a reader, you’re too political,” let me just answer you publicly: I don’t write for fascist white supremacist asshats. Go with your tiny god, I am singularly untroubled by your absence. Besides, I suspect you pirate content instead of buying honestly anyways, because cowardly thieves are all of a piece.

What I said on Twitter, and I meant it.

I’m repeating it here because my tweets are deleted after a certain amount of time (Jack Dorsey doesn’t get to mine my content for more than a short while, dammit) and so there is absolutely no grey area or confusion about where I stand.

No story is “apolitical”, and if you think it is, it’s only because you share prejudices with the writer. Human beings are political beings; artists transmute their daily lives into art and make no mistake, politics are a part of daily life. Politics affect schooling, the availability of food, whether or not a particular person will be targeted by violent law enforcement or COINTELPRO, the availability of healthcare, and a host of other inescapable facets of modern life.

If you side with violent repression, if you side with white supremacy, if you side with hatred and bigotry, you’re not going to like me or my books. Consider this fair and explicit warning. Also, attempting to threaten or “shame” me will only get you roundly mocked. Go sit in your dirty racist diaper and howl elsewhere, you’re doing this to yourself and I have no sympathy.

Everything is on fire right now, and I have to work. I have the luxury of still having work, and of being able to shut off the wi-fi and concentrate–if I can, I suspect it will be difficult for a long while. Of course I’d love to be a superhero, or impersonate one out on the streets, but that’s not my lane. My lane is my books, to tell stories, to tell the truth with fiction and not to look away, and to use whatever privilege and platform I personally have to boost those voices which might not have either.

If this angers you, if this makes you want to avoid my books or my blog or my social media streams, that’s fine. I’m not forcing you to read me. There’s a vast mass of content out there, I’m very sure you’ll find something that suits you.

I will not stop doing–and saying–what I know is right. I’m also not going to stop writing romance, fantasy, sci-fi, or any other genre I damn well please. If that’s a problem for you, there’s the door. If it isn’t, great! Come on in, grab a digital drink, and I’ll keep telling stories.

And that, as they say, is that. Onwards to Monday, my friends.

Minor Malfunction

Sorry, guys. WordPress had a minor malfunction, and some old posts ended up in your inboxes. I apologize for that; I hate having my inbox snowed under like you do.

*headdesk*

It’s been a day, and we all could have done without this. Again, my apologies. I’m gonna go hide in a corner now.

From Bede to Leduc

So, I recently read Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People. I’m fascinated by the transition between paganism and Christianity for many reasons, personal and scholarly; I tend to follow Gibbons in thinking the faith both profited from and contributed enormously to the fall of the Roman Empire1. The older I get, the weirder Christianity and its assumptions seem to me.

Of course, the older I get, the weirder any religion other than a sort of salad-bar paganism seems. There’s a great deal of “live and let live” when your gods welcome foreigners into the pantheon as a matter of course. If one must be religious at all, a diverse group of gods who are required to show ID if they want you to do anything at all for them and are understood sometimes as representations of deep psychological processes one is harnessing for one’s own therapy and use in becoming a decent person is hardly the worst way to go.

But I digress. (As usual.)

History is full of “holy what the fuck” moments, and I had one about three-quarters of the way through the Ecclesiastical History, in Chapter XVI. Bede was talking about Caedwalla’s2 military takeover of the Isle of Wight.

Here I think it ought not to be omitted that, as the first fruits of those of that island who believed and were saved, two royal boys, brothers to Arwald, king of the island, were crowned with the special grace of God. For when the enemy approached, they made their escape out of the island, and crossed over into the neighbouring province of the Jutes. Coming to the place called At the Stone, they thought to be concealed from the victorious king, but they were betrayed and ordered to be killed. This being made known to a certain abbot and priest, whose name was Cynibert, who had a monastery not far from there, at a place called Hreutford,  that is, the Ford of Reeds, he came to the king, who then lay in concealment in those parts to be cured of the wounds which he had received whilst he was fighting in the Isle of Wight, and begged of him, that if the boys must needs be killed, he might be allowed first to instruct them in the mysteries of the Christian faith. The king consented, and the bishop having taught them the Word of truth, and cleansed them in the font of salvation, assured to them their entrance into the kingdom of Heaven. Then the executioner came, and they joyfully underwent the temporal death, through which they did not doubt they were to pass to the life of the soul, which is everlasting. Thus, after this manner, when all the provinces of Britain had received the faith of Christ, the Isle of Wight also received the same; yet because it was suffering under the affliction of foreign subjection, no man there received the office or see of a bishop, before Daniel, who is now bishop of the West Saxons.

–Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People, Project Gutenberg.

I quote the entire (short) chapter because I had to set the book down and stare into the distance, just working this around in my head. I think I even mouthed “what the fuck” at Miss B, who was snoring heavily next to me, blissfully unaware.

Dogs, man. Anyway.

The murder of royal children is nothing new in history; the very concept of monarchy makes it somewhat inevitable. Dictators pursue the families of those who oppose them on kind of the same principle, with extra terrorization thrown in.

But what brought me up cold was imagining those kids. Just think about it–you’re a child, your family is murdered, you’re hidden and betrayed, then you’re going to be executed and you know it, and along comes this guy to browbeat you into swearing allegiance to his particular sky fairy and he won’t leave you alone until you do.

Imagine being Bede and thinking this story is not horrifying but actually laudatory and exculpatory of murder, and worthy of being held up as a moral victory for your “pacifist” faith.3

Christianity is wild, yo. And people say history is boring.

Other things–like Bede’s constant harping on the “correct” way of calculating Easter, and the reasons why–were interesting and in some cases eye-rolling, but this one particular nugget filled me with cold sleepless horror. I had to take some Violette Leduc right after, to get the taste out of my mouth.

Of course, I also had to read Carlo Jansiti’s afterword about how Leduc’s publisher bowdlerized Ravages and wouldn’t bring out Therese and Isabelle until Leduc stood to make money from it from another (less shitty) publisher, at which point the shitty publisher said “Oh, no, we never said we wouldn’t publish it!”4 Which filled me with incandescent rage. I suppose as an anodyne to Bede it was healthy enough, but hardly less wearing on the nerves.

I was going to head right into The Book of Margery Kempe, but I think I need to pace myself and am instead diving into Witchcraft and Demonology in Hungary and Transylvania, which I scored in the recent Palgrave sale. There’s only so much unfiltered medieval Christianity I can take at one go. Besides, the latter book is a collection of scholarly articles, so I can go hunting through the footnotes at leisure in a way the Kempe-dictated and priest-filtered book5 won’t allow.

I just… I’ve been thinking about that short chapter in Bede a lot lately. It hit me right in the feels, and I’ve never been so glad for modernity, imperfect as it is. Bede’s world was horrifying in several ways. Of course, life is still horrifying around the globe; I’m in an immensely privileged position (for many reasons) and grateful for it.

I want everyone in the world to be just as privileged as I am. More, even.

We can’t hope to understand or mitigate the horror without a knowledge of, and critical reckoning with, history. I think a lot about hearing Harry Turtledove talk about how on balance things are much better than they ever were, and he was absolutely right, but still, it’s awful enough and we can always do better.

Always.

Salad Rolls of Fate, Intervened

I meant to spend the weekend finishing HOOD‘s Season Two zero draft, and possibly knocking off a chunk of Finder’s Watcher as well, but unfortunately Fate (in the form of a couple salad rolls, I suppose) intervened, and I spent Saturday night with a rather violent bout of food poisoning.

To be absolutely fair, it might not have been the salad rolls, but they were the only thing consumed in the right timeframe. Well, there was some cake a bit later, but… anyway, the point is, Saturday night was the kind of party nobody ever wants to have.

Except maybe the dogs, who were extremely excited at the break in routine, and wanted very much to get their noses into whatever I was producing from the top end (Mum is a magical food-making machine!) while not quite so enchanted with anything produced from the, erm, the other end. (Mum, that… doesn’t seem right…) Additionally, when I collapsed halfway between loo and bed–mostly because why bother trudging all the way back to pillows and sheets when I was just going to be back in the loo posthaste–they took turns nosing and snuggling me, either to encourage me to get up so the predators didn’t think I was weakened or to see if maybe I had produced more magical food.

In other words, it was an experience, and I spent most of Sunday staring blankly at whatever task was in front of me. There’s never an opportune time to get food poisoning, but I suppose it was lucky that I’ve been working ahead on just about everything. I would have prepped Soundtrack Monday and the final post for my NaNo series yesterday, but I was having trouble stringing words into coherent clauses, let alone sentences. I did get the red sauce and focaccia for the week done, since I’d spent most of Saturday (before the cyclone hit) doing prep work, so everything was to hand and easily done.

Consequently I’m feeling rather low this morning. Physical misery puts a pall over everything, and I’m tender in every direction from my midsection. There’s two scenes left to write in Season Two, but I can’t decide just what Robin Hood should be caught doing. Murder (utterly justified)? Theft (for a good cause, of course)? Something else? He isn’t talking, which doesn’t surprise Maid Marian one bit, so I suppose I might have to send Guy of Gisbourne in to irritate Robb into making a move. Sub rosa, of course, since Giz is already occupied in escaping an exploding spaceship.

I should note that characters have a funny dual existence inside my head. On the one hand, there’s the story; on the other, they’re all at a round table inside my head, jostling and discussing and telling different lies to each other. Sometimes one has to set a character against themselves or dangle something they want very badly before they’ll start talking. It’s not enough to know what happens next, I need to know why, and sometimes with a cagey character, I’m forced to play dirty.

Anyway. I should make a list, otherwise nothing will get done today; yet I don’t want to because I’m pretty sure only half of what I’d put on the list will get done at all, for no other reason than I’m still not feeling quite myself. Better than nothing, I suppose.

Off I go, chickadees. I hope your weekend was less… interesting… than mine.

When They’re Not Serving

I’ve got a survey out to my serial subscribers, asking if they want to go to Season Three of HOOD when Season Two ends. Season Three is the payoff, but from what I can tell, plenty of people are getting bored with Season Two.

I don’t take it personally–serials, especially long-running ones, are difficult, and the long shoal in the middle of a trilogy’s Book 2 is an inescapable fact of life. But it does mean that I might be finishing Season Two and putting together a whole new serial.

It might even be The Highlands War, but don’t bet on it. I have several prospects, including Lightning Bound and the wangsty Dracula reboot I’ve been playing hooky with. I may just keep Wangsty Dracula for my own personal delectation, too. It’s nice to have some things just for oneself.

In other news, I spent the weekend getting a few things put together, like an upcoming test giveaway. I’ll be giving away two signed, personalized copies of the UK edition of Dante Valentine; I want to see if the giveaways will drive a couple other things and I don’t do signings anymore.1 Of course, it may be an idea I’ll quietly let die on the vine once the flu-fever recedes, because I’ve been running 99.9F or slightly above since last week.

I don’t mind fever so much–my body tends to cook itself at the slightest provocation–but the body aches have convinced me it’s flu, and I do mind those. I feel like I’ve been beaten with a truncheon. The only thing I’m missing is garish bruises, which I’m alternately grateful for the lack of and a little peeved that I’m not wearing a badge of honor for.

I know it doesn’t make sense. It’s still how I feel.

Anyway, I’ve a full list of things to get done today, including the finishing touches on the giveaway and some yoga, since I’m going mad at not being able to run. If it’s not plantar fasciitis it’s the damn fever; it’s always something. Getting older sucks, but there are good things too. Like being able to look at things, shrug, and set them aside when they’re not serving me.

In any case, it’s a Monday and I’d best be back at work. I hope your beginning-of-blessed-autumn is proceeding a little more smoothly than mine, dear Readers.

Over and out.