Accomplished: first convention of 2021!

Capricon 41 took place over the weekend. I was going to pass on it this year. I’ve been running on fumes for ages and saving my small energies for Finishing The Book. The deadlines for submitting panel ideas and for interest in programming came & went while I was still fully mired in the midwinter mental mire. I planned to buy a membership to support the incredible, generous, hard-working people who were making the con happen despite stick-in-the-muds like me, but I was going to steer VERY clear of the chaos created in my brain by attempting online interaction over multiple, simultaneous channels.

Meh, I thought, and blergh. I don’t have it in me to deal with All The Virtual Things.

Then I found out at the last minute that Michi Trota was going to be one of the Guests of Honor. C’mon, self, you canNOT miss out on that, I told myself, and I asked myself in my most persuasive inner voice, How hard could it be to simply attend the virtual con? No responsibilities. Zero expectations. Nothing to panic over.

My argument was simple but convincing. I boxed up all my freakout fears & scraped up all my post-hibernation energy and registered, bullied my tech into cooperating, and got online.

…nd promptly freaked out and panicked and had a Really Bad Day over the ordeal of dealing, but! BUT! I collected some support (THANK YOU ALL MY SUPPORTIVE ONLINE FRENZ) applied warm fuzzies to the anxiety prickle wounds, and in the end it was an amazing good time.

I learned a ton of new things. How one person’s utopia can be another’s dystopia, what makes space opera space opera, the need for shaping society with hopeful, inclusive, personal narratives that go beyond reflecting and amplifying existing systems, and much more. My TBR list has exploded with new titles both fiction & research-related. The affirmation of hearing Real Experts validate the importance of stories like the ones I write–ones with complex, flawed characters, with resolutions based on cooperation & collective action, where erasing a villain doesn’t fix systemic ills, but determination and hope make improvements that are framed as worthy, achievable goals–well! That alone was worth the emotional price of admission. (and that was just the start!)

It’s post-con now, so of course I’m wrestling with residual weasel-whispers of, “You weren’t really freaking out, you just want attention, you’re a weak, whiny, lazy little coward who has all the privileges in the world but can’t be bothered to work hard, so you’re making excuses and posturing and claiming victimhood, you should be ashamed of yourself, other people who have it much worse than you do and manage to do so much more.” Stupid weasels. Good thing I have on my big, spiky weasel-stomping boots.

One extra-grand thing about the con being virtual was that I could bake bread, make oatcakes, and also get a lot of words written in the same weekend I was attending panels and engaging in inspiring discussions. I streamed the filk circles & performances while I was working on Ghost Town more than once, and that was particularly enjoyable.

And now, have pictures of the bread I baked. Because stress baking is a thing in this house.

gooey bread dough in steel mixing bowl
apricot toaster bread is not pretty when it’s in the process of becoming.
sliced loaf of apricot bread on a wooden bread board.
it looks much more appetizing after baking
toasted apricot bread on a blue-patterned Calamityware china plate with gratuitous bacon.
Glamour shot of the final result with gratuitous bacon
A small red dragon guarding a paperback copy of The Sharp Edge of Yesterday in a wooden yarn dish filled with glass beads.
Still here? Here’s a peek at my office dragon’s current hoard.

This isn’t over. Not yet. Maybe never.

Look. I’ve spent years into studying societies, how people fuck them up, and how they unfuck themselves. Politics is history happening, science fiction is the history of the future, and I write hopeful dystopian fantasy & science fiction. So of course I’ve been glued to the news for, um, ever, but especially the last few months. It’s mesmerizing.

This post contains meandering musings about this & that, life the universe, and so on. No particular idea where it’s going, so bail now if you’re looking for a Dramatic Point or a Conclusive Proclamation.

I wish I was surprised by the direction politics have been heading in the US since, oh, since we hit the twenty-first century, but I’m not. I’ve been doing deep research on the history of religious cults, separatist groups, American fascism, racist organizations, Confederate true-believers, insurrectionist movements FOR 35 YEARS.

All this time, I’ve been disappointed and fearful about national politics more often than not, but I cling to hope that my country’s leaders would avoid total collapse. I am too optimistic, perhaps. Still, I remain confident the world won’t end, no matter what.

That’s because I’m a biology major who studied ecology. I have immense respect for matters straightening themselves out on a planetary scale. Global warming may wipe out all life down to bacteria, but life will go on. It’ll be different, it won’t be a place anyone human can live, but…okay, maybe I have a weird perspective.

AND I DIGRESS. Ha. Big surprise. Moving on…

Here’s one thing that sank in early in my fascination with studying ways the future might careen towards hell in a handbasket: wars don’t happen the way I learned about them in history classes. They only look obvious in hindsight or from a distance.

The questions history likes to answer are ones like, “what caused the war?” “how bad did it get?” and “how long did it last?” No one can answer those from the happening side of a conflict. Worse, war in the modern world is messy. To borrow from Dr. Seuss, war can happen without uniforms, it can happen without guns, it can happen without declarations, legislation, or sides.

“War: a state of armed conflict between different nations or states or different groups within a nation or state” (italics mine, definition courtesy of Oxford Languages)

By that definition, the United States has been in a state of war for months now, and I don’t think it’s anywhere near over.

Skirmishes have been happening for years (Occupy movement. Bundys. Border detentions, Charlottesville…the list goes on and on.) Since June 2020 fighting has broken into the open and gone through multiple cycles of violence, truce, and renewed conflict. BLM protests. Pandemic protests. Pre- and post-election Trump rallies. The mob assault on the Capitol.

Yeah. That last one. That’s the one that seems to have finally tipped the scales into “HEY WTF IS GOING ON” for a lot of people.

Looking back, it’s always much easier to connect the dots.

I’m gobsmacked by how stunned people were that the “pro-Trump” rallies “turned violent.” It takes a whopping big dose of denial to ignore the open calls for sedition from a movement so obviously, violently fascist that it embraces the use of the Nazi swastika, one whose followers put bullseye targets on pictures of their enemies, and who call for lynchings and firing squads against their own elected officials.

But hey, denial and lies have served conservative political representatives so well for so long that maybe they forgot that the people they were lying to believe the lies. There’s a dangerous false security in downplaying calls to violence that don’t meet the historical standard of “warfare.” (They aren’t fascists, pfft. That was 1930’s Germany. This is now. They aren’t racist, they’re making jokes. They aren’t proposing the overthrow of the elected government, they’re merely objecting to results they don’t like, and, uh, talking about holding the people who disagree hostage until they change the result…or lynching them…or…yeah…hm.)

I’m glad the Capitol incident made an impression. It barely escaped being a bloody, gruesome wake-up call. Call it a rally gone wrong, call it a riot, call it an organized insurrection–those labels can be discussed. But it escaped being a mass murder only by a chance combination of heroic actions coupled with good luck. It was almost an undeniable act of insurrection. It was almost the first battle in an undeclared war. (have you noticed how Americans only tend to call things wars if they happen somewhere else?)

I wish the immediate aftermath gave me more hope. Sadly, there was also an immediate return to the same old playbook of minimizing, and that doesn’t stun me in the least. The whataboutisms, misdirection, false equivalencies, ad hominem dismissals, and wholesale denial of reality–those tactics have served certain government representatives for so long they can’t seem to accept that they’re not riding the tiger any more, that they’re being batted back and forth by it.

It’s been a quiet fortnight since January 6, in the news at least. It hasn’t been peaceful, and too many people are suffering under the awful laws of the current regime, but the insurrection threats are being taken more seriously by the institutions that are still functioning. So there’s that.

And tomorrow, if all goes well, there’ll be a new president, one who has plans ready to go, a commitment to make the job more than a 4-year series of election rallies, and a team of idealists who want to make systems work better, not just make life better for some people under the current systems.

But those insurrectionists? They’re not going anywhere. Most of them are home, and they live all over the nation. They live in my town and your town. In our neighborhoods. In our families. They work where I work. They shop where I shop.

That isn’t going to end when control of the executive branch of the government changes hands.

But that’s a good stopping point for my post. Time to go do some dreaming, hoping that the world will get better tomorrow and the next day, and maybe for a few thousand tomorrows after that.

Until later.

How long can I feel happiness and existential dread at the same time?

It looks like a win. It sure as shit FEELS like a win, and Imma soak up this feel for a while yet. (And I’ve already rolled up my sleeves and pulled out the checkbook to support Senate runoffs and county-level organizers in states who are eager to build up their community political infrastructure and keep this movement…moving.)

I’ve already lost friends because I refuse to not celebrate, because my celebrating in my own spaces is somehow hurtful to them but their direct mockery of me four years ago–also in MY spaces, as comments–was totally okay, because standards are only unfair when they’re affected…but I digress, as one does.

I’m as stressed as I am happy, and I will be until December 23, or such time before then if the GOP’s use-the-machinery-against-itself long con finally succeeds and we end up with an unelected dictator for four years minimum and become the world’s laughingstock forever.

How I can be thrilled about the projected numbers, the historic turnout, and successful re-enfranchisement efforts etc AND still be terrified it won’t last? Two words: electoral shenanigans.

The presidential part of this election ain’t over until the Electors vote & their votes are recorded–and that won’t happen for entirely too many days for my peace of mind. There’s many a slip twixt ballot box and inauguration stand, and I know too much history to be sanguine about the state of our union right now.

Here’s a handy timeline for the clown-car slow-motion shitshow that is our Electoral College system, courtesy of the Associated Press. https://apnews.com/article/biden-wins-electoral-college-trump-511b69134b9120a2f114e6781a54da84

And if you were thinking, “Hey, this seems unreasonably complicated and unnecessary,”as you read it, you’re right! The Electoral College was specifically designed to keep the election of our president LESS democratic. (If you’re thinking, “AP, pfft, fake news, you are possibly in the wrong blog.”)

I’ve had a soapbox labeled “amend away the fershlugginer Electoral College already, FFS” under my desk for decades.

BUT I DIGRESS.

The AP timeline doesn’t tackle allof the potential issues. So. Here are some are important dates in my hope/fear timeline:
1320 November, 2020. Most states will announce their certified official vote tallies from the November 3 election during this window. Until each state announces its certified, official results, the posted vote totals are provisional, subject to litigation, recounts, and general fooferall.

Now, there are literal books’ worth of laws protecting vote counts from fraud, and thousands of eyes from both parties on the tallying at all times. Organized fraud just cannot long endure where paper ballots are used and their count is being watched by many people. Sadly, there are whole swaths of the US where electronic ballots can still…vaporize.

BUT. With the exception of the Georgia recount (which I have no faith will end any better than Florida in 2000) I expect the system will cough up certified totals reflecting the projected ones. So. So far, so good.

BUT! (there’s always a but, alas)

14 December, 2020 is when the Electoral College votes are cast, and no state’s popular vote matters a hill of beans until the Electors cast their votes according to rules that vary from state to state. And the potential for the Electoral Vote to go wrong is both real and flatly terrifying.

Litigation and challenges are already in progress, and challenges could easily go to the current Supreme Court, which has recently abandoned any pretense of judicial impartiality and bent the term ‘originalism’ to translate as ‘whatever we want it to mean.” And some members (Hi, Bret Kavanaugh!) support hella wacko positions regarding the interpretation of Bush v. Gore from 2000.

There’s a non-zero chance state legislatures in up to 17 states could nullify the will of their own electorates. It’s slim, and based on a questionable technicality (here’s an article on it: https://www.lawfareblog.com/state-legislatures-cant-ignore-popular-vote-appointing-electors ) but any non-zero chance of a big decision reaching our current Supreme Court is enough to give me nightmares.

23 December, 2020: Electoral votes must be reported and certified by this date. So. If we get this far with a Biden/Harris victory intact, that will make for a very nice “the sun will return” solstice present. If we do not, I will angry, I’ll be sad that I’m witnessing the suicidal death throes of American democracy, but I won’t be shocked.

January 6: The Electoral votes will finally get tallied in Congress and the results are announced. By the Vice President. I plan to watch C-Span.

20 January, 2021: Inauguration Day. For someone.

I’ll be riding this hope-fear swing pretty hard for 71 more days.

IN THE MEANTIME, to keep my mind off All The Things I’ll be finishing Sharp Edge Of Yesterday, (November is National Finish My Fucking Revisions Month!) then tackling the first draft of Ghost Town because I hate leaving projects unfinished, and setting up Sharp Edge for publication.

That’s all until later.