Categories
2. Worldbuilding 3. Other Things Writing Life

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.

Categories
3. Other Things Writing Life

Some awkward conversations

This one is for my friends who are struggling with the questions, “How can people believe these things?” and “How did we get here?” after the events at the US Capitol Building and sundry other places on 6 January, 2021. This one is about dealing with the people we know who even now cling to lies in support of violent insurrectionists.*

My sorta comprehensive answer is “It’s been a bumpy decades-long road paved with bad intentions, and many of the people who say these horrible things don’t believe in them. The lies serve them, or did, right up to point they don’t The others who spread them want to believe as badly as Agent Mulder wanted to believe in aliens and for the same reason: the lies give them meaning and the comfort of purpose in a harsh and meaningless world.”

The two articles below dig up the foundations of the nasty place American Culture has become. Fair warning, they’re from Patheos.com, which means they’re informed by Christian traditions, so if that offends, stick to the TL;DR summaries. That said, I HIGHLY recommend the Slacktivist blog by Fred Clark.

1: Bad Faith In Witch Hunts And Moral Panics TL;DR summary: The mix of self-interested lying leadership & want-to-believe followers on obscene display in the 1/6 Ku Klux Coup is all familiar to any nerd who lived through the Satanic Panic years. There wasn’t an epidemic of satanic child abuse then, the elections weren’t stolen this year.

2: The IndigNation TL;DR summary: indignation is a hell of a drug, & guilt is painful. It’s human nature to prefer comforting lies that feed resentment over truths that require admitting fault. The seductive righteousness of narratives about welfare queens, black violence, predatory criminals, lazy immigrants, and other LIES is all tangled up in this ugly facet of being human and fallible.

My takeaway from these two explainers: steadfast defense of facts is vital & necessary. Be indignant in the cause of truth. Push back as hard as you’re being pushed. Raise an unassailable wall of reality.

I’m not saying anyone should debate with LieBelievers. That way lies exhaustion & burnout. Don’t go there. It’s a dead end.

Deny, drop, and deflect. Or question & drop if, like me, you prefer putting a nice rubber coating on your wall.

NOTE: all this assumes you can’t or don’t want to cut LieBelievers out of your life entirely. That is a valid choice, and one I support. Do what keeps you healthy and safe! But if you plan maintain relationships with the lie-addicted, here’s a few sample examples of how to raise an indignant wall that repels argument.

“The election was stolen.”
“You don’t really believe that.”
“It’s true! There’s tons of proof.”
“No, there isn’t, because it isn’t true. How ’bout them Cubbies, though, huh?” (change the subject to something irresistable to your chosen audience.)
–> PRO TIP: repeat that last part in a firm and friendly tone until they give up & move on. With family, it can take two or three firm repetitions.

“Biden has dementia.”
“Do you really believe that?”
“Haven’t you ever listened him? He’s obviously mental.”
“Huh. Yeah, I’ve listened to hours and hours of speeches. But if you want to believe that, go ahead. It isn’t worth arguing about.”**
“No, you don’t understand–” (or any other attempt to continue the discussion.)
“Nope. I do understand. Anyway, let’s talk about that puppy you adopted. How’s she doing?”
–> and repeat the deny-disengage-deflection until they give up & move on.

“This pandemic response is overblown.”
“You can’t believe that, do you?”
“I do! People are losing their jobs, kids are getting depressed, we need to get back to normal.”
“Wow. Okay, no, but I’m not going to talk about it with you because you won’t like what I have to say. Tell me how you’re doing with <insert topic here>”
–> repeat that last part etc etc.

Deny. Drop. Deflect. Rinse & repeat.

The use of the word believe is deliberate and important. Don’t give lies the dignity of being “thoughts” or “opinions.” But! You don’t feed the conflict by calling them out as lies, either. Diminish them with pure, solid dismissal.

This isn’t, “you have your opinion, I have mine, let’s agree to disagree.” This is, “You’re poisonously wrong, it isn’t my place to cure you, so I’m containing the poison.”

No one who spreads these lies is thinking about them. Yes, they’ve all “thought hard about it” and “done the research,” and they do believe they have done that because they want to believe. (Or they’re deliberately, knowingly throwing out ‘controversial’ ideas because they’re pot-stirring agitating instigators, but that’s a whole ‘nother issue. Also a read-flag reason to refuse the bait and redirect the convo.)

From my side, being told I’m believing something immediately triggers an important critical process: questioning WHY I believe it. The Slacktivist blog tagline is one of the reasons I love it so much. “Test everything. Hold fast to what is good.”

That’s a good motto to live by.

I go over a “you believe” conversation in my head multiple times later and in private, and I investigate the facts that were challenged. And I do that research using new sources, not the ones I used to get to my original viewpoint. Do I change my mind? All the time. Do LieBelievers? It’s possible. Learning is lifelong. You never know what will spark an epiphany.

And if you spot people in your life refusing to discuss your beliefs…well. You might want to do some serious questioning, reflection and new research.

Image by Ajju prasetyo from Pixabay

That’s enough blog.Onward to other news

I’m wrapping up Day 5 of 7 in my Ghost Town draft. What’s th new project about? Little downstate Illinois college town, new police chief who talks to her great-great-granddad’s ghost, and the county’s first murder in twenty years. What could go wrong?

The Sharp Edge Of Yesterday is out for final continuity checks & is listing for March 23 release.

Until later!

*don’t @ me with anything like “but BLM or any other false equivalencies, what-about-ism’s or other logical fallacies. Do you really believe the George Floyd riots and the Red Hat Insurrection are the same? REALLY? Okay, then. You’re wrong, but we can talk about something else.

**in case you don’t know me well, my emotional read on all phrases like “you’re not worth arguing with,” “this isn’t worth arguing about” and “we’re not talking about this,” is as deadly conversational insults. They are messages of Ultimate Disrespect. I accept that I am delivering disrespect along with my denial. Nah, tbh, I REVEL in that part. I don’t respect lies. And, hey, some people think those phrases means they’ve won the conversation. That just adds a delicious little spice to the exchange.

Categories
Writing Life

Mini rant followed by a personal happy


It does NOT matter how good or bad a leader is at every other aaspect of their job. If they fail to condemn lies, bad acts, and even atrocities committed in their name, they are themselves in the wrong.

There is no morality balance sheet when it comes to choosing leaders. Good deeds do not balance out bad once.

If you say, “Yes, but_____” (for example, “Yes, that’s bad, but it isn’t him doing it, and sure he isn’t coming out against it, but he’s done this good thing or that good thing…”) you are accepting the YES part. It’s on you.

So if you say, “Yes, but Trump isn’t a dangerous rabble-rousing, racist bigot just because some people who follow him are, he’s a good businessman, and he’s done great things for foreign policy…”

I won’t argue with you. Imma look you straight in the eye and remind you that Hitler loved dogs and Mussolini made the trains run on time and you’re deliberately supporting a bad moral position with a bad faith argument and a bad debate tactic, and doing so means you aren’t interested in listening, only denying.

And then Imma avoid you on the internet until February or so. (That’s assuming you don’t unfriend & block me, which is probably optimistic, but I’m Sunshine Care Bear I guess?)

There are millions who welcomed this presidential circus in ’16 and want it to continue, and they’re seriously fucked up and not worth engaging.

Now I figure about 20 million are suffering from deadly cases of sunk-cost fallacy, and another 20 million are so fond of the misinformation the’ve been given that they would glue the scales right back onto their eyes if God themself appeared on the road to reveal the Way, the Truth, and the Light.

Bottom line, I see no point in engaging with anyone from those groups. I love a good, meaty political discussion, but online, I bring steaks to the grill and get handed soy burgers for my plate. No, thank you.

ANYway.

I’m feeling grouchy today.

Tired of watching misinformed people full of the arrogance of their ignorance harass people who are trying to save them. We’ve reached a point in this out-of-control-again pandemic in which people are dying with COVID-19 denials on their lips instead of prayers.

It didn’t have to be this way. It isn’t this way anywhere else on Earth, not even in the other worst-hit developed countries.
(Except maybe Great Britain, with Trump-lite? And possibly Sweden? LOOK UP THE STATS YOURSELF I BET I’M RIGHT THIS IS JUST MY BLOG THINKING HERE KTHXBAI.)

In any case, for sure the numbers are public and the comparisons are painful. COVID-19 is a scary disease, but what’s really deadly is ‘Murica.

But that’s another post. I digressed again. ANYway.

Here’s the happy thing: SOMEONE WROTE FAN FICTION in the Rough Passages world.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I found this out a little while ago, but I’m gonna keep sitting in that bright happy-happy spot for a good, long time. This was an Author Achievement Trophy I didn’t expect to unlock for…ever, tbh.

I’ve updated my Achievement Trophies page on the site here and got another happy surprise. I’ve collected almost all the trophies I set out to unlock when I started this whole publishing game. You know what that means?

I’ve leveled up!

I shall put on my thinking cap & come up with a new set of trophies to unlock. Ideas welcomed. I may not USE any of them, but I love reading clever ideas.

And lastly, a weekly status report:

Sharp Edge of Yesterday is ~5/6 of the way done now, and I should finish the last of the pt 5 revisions this weekend. I’ve laid in one extra plot development scene and expanded a second, and I’m going to skip the remaining planned one because…I don’t know that this story needs it? Sure, it would develop that character, but she isn’t the protag, and it would slow down pacing just at the point I’m trying to push events faster. So unless feedback really thinks it needs to be ‘on screen’ so to speak, I’m saving moving onwards to other stuff. Squishy, angsty aftermath stuff that will set up later stories.

<cue evil laughter>

That’s all the all until later.

Except for this cute pupper picture. Click it & you might end up on my Bookshop.org page where you could look at my growing collection of book lists & perhaps even get some gift ideas.

Photo by Josh Hild on Pexels.com
Categories
Detours Media Consumption other things Writing Life

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.

Categories
other things Writing Life

I will not look away.

I’m really trying to stay off Twitter, Facebook & news sites until I get to work late on November 4. It’s dipping my brain in pure stress for no gain. Nothing I read can affect my vote. I voted last week. Nothing I see will make me think better or worse of anyone supporting candidates whose explicit political goal is to make me an un-person.

(I am willing to discuss incendiary topics calmly and rationally. Honestly, when it comes to support of Trump, I have QUESTIONS. But the chances of online or on-screen hyperbole and insult changing my mind? Not high.)

There’s no reason to watch the process unfold from here to the finish.

But I keep peeking, like a little kid watching a scary movie with her hands over her eyes. it’s like watching a really big, dangerous weather front move in. Like a derecho, or a sandstorm, or a blizzard. The disaster is so huge it’s visible from far off, so huge it seems motionless until you look away, and then BAM it’s crept up on you, the horror is there, it’s blowing down your walls, toppling your castle, burying you alive.

The socio-political scene in the United States is as bad as it’s ever been in my lifetime, and I don’t expect it to get better. I mean that not in a “I don’t expect it to get better soon,” kind of way, but in a fundamental “something big is gonna break and a lot more blood will be spilled before things improve” kind of way.

I can’t say, “before blood is spilled,” because that’s already happened. It’s been happening for as long as this country has existed. And no, I don’t expect the country to erupt in flaming chaos overnight everywhere no matter who wins.

In fact what worries me most is not that the current outbreaks of violence are organized or that they’re extremist right OR extremist left. What’s terrifying is that much of the violence is NOT extremist. It’s violence BY the state, normalized, supported and encouraged by vocal supporters OF the state. Who vote.

All the false equivalencies and “both sides-ism” being thrown around are signs that this time, things are a little different. It pains me to see so many intelligent people I know so focused on the basketball game of “regular politics” that they are failing to see the great big gorilla waltzing through the game while people on the sidelines loot the box office and kill the staff.

Sorry. That analogy kinda got away from me. ANYway.

To all my acquaintances who fear we are doing a replay of Russia in 1917, that if Democrats win majorities that they’ll be stripped of their fortunes by a leeching leftist state, dragged out of their dachas by leftist antifa, and hauled off to re-education camps if they dare to voice conservative ideas…

I submit that we are actually in a rerun of Germany in the 30’s

Hitler was elected. He was all about law and order and bringing back prosperity. To some of the people. The right people. Good, everyday, law-abiding people who believed that

I really hope I won’t be living in 1930’s Germany after this election. I hope that at least one more time, the system creaks along towards correction.

Free and open elections are one of the few things the USA got more or less right, back at the beginning. In most ways we have never lived up to the democratic ideals we hold to be self-evident. I mean, it’s right in the Declaration of Independence that only all MEN are created equal, and on top of that insult we committed the injury of engraving in our Constitution that idea not all men were, in fact, men, that some were only worth 3/5ths of others.

But we got elections more or less right in concept. (Our execution has not been good, and since 1929, it’s gotten progressively unprepresentative, but that’s not what this post is about.) Then along came television, and the internet, and now somehow we’ve managed to forget how the basic process of having a bunch of people cast ballots and then counting those ballots even WORKS, to the point where people can believe that not knowing the results instantly means the result is wrong.

FFS, THINK about it. Why do we wait until late January to inaugurate the new President if we know who it is back in early November? Sure, orderly transition and all, but 12 WEEKS just to prepare?

Nuh-uh. There’s that long delay because it took time to count ballots and declare official winners. Every. Time. There are rules about when and who and how ballot counting happens. It can’t be rushed. Now imagine how long it took to collect and collate it all before computers. How long it took to transmit those results from place to place BEFORE telecommunications.

Yeah. Elections ain’t over until they’re over, and this time, no matter who wins, it’ll just be the beginning of a long next act.

I’mma go work on a stories with protagonists who are good and gentle folk who want to do better even after they’ve been beaten down and done bad things, stories where they achieve victory through cooperation and kindness in a world where none of those things are valued.

So, yeah. See y’all on the other side of this bit of history.

Cute panda included for de-stress purposes
Photo by Flickr on Pexels.com