How We Operate

Gini and I, in bed: “Could you scratch my back?”

*Gini scratches.  I purr.*

“Mmm.  The Empire Scratches Back.”

“That’s a much gentler sequel.”

*I pause.*  “Does Darth Vader even have fingernails on his gloves?”

“No.”

“Then he couldn’t scratch anyone’s back.”

“No, no, he could use the Force.”

“I don’t think he has that kind of control.  He can choke you, but that’s blunt trauma.  Being able to rip off a piece of machinery isn’t the same as scratching a back; it’s like saying hitting someone with a baseball bat is the same as scratching your back.”

“Well, okay… no, wait.  The Emperor releases Luke’s handcuffs in Return of the Jedi.  So Vader could…”

“I don’t think that’s fine manipulation.  He’s hitting a button on the handcuffs, not picking the lock.”

“Handcuffs are springing loose!  Are you telling me that the Emperor put Luke in cuffs that he could free himself from by hitting a button?”

“Well… Darth did.”

“Okay, point.  But still.  Hitting a small button is fine manipulation.  The Emperor can scratch someone’s back with the Force, so Darth can.”

*I get up on one elbow.*  “The Emperor also has force lightning!  He’s way better at the Force than Vader.”

“You asked whether Darth Vader could scratch a back!  He’s got the Force!”

“That’s not the way the Force works!”  *We giggle from laughter at referencing the Force Awakens.* “But seriously, we’re debating whether Darth Vader could scratch someone’s back, using the powers he’s known to have.  He’s known to be way worse than the Emperor at the Force. Just because the Emperor can do it doesn’t mean that Vader could scratch someone’s back with the Force.”

“Jesus, you… all right, fine.  What about the prequels?”

“Do we have to go there?”

“There’s that scene in Attack of the Clones where Anakin lifts an apple off the table and carves it.”

“Does he carve it?  I remember him just picking it up.  If he’s tossing it around like a baseball, that doesn’t indicate he can scratch a back.”

“No, I’m pretty sure he carves it.  Hang on, lemme bring up YouTube.  And… oh, man, there’s a lot of videos here.”

“Oh, it’s a pear!  He eats a pear!”

“But all these videos are music videos, and none of them seem to have the scene where he cuts it in mid-air.  Just videos where Padme looks like a total doof as he steals her pear.”

“Okay, goddammit, let’s go downstairs and get Attack of the Clones out.”

*Fifteen minutes later, after we’ve turned on the television and scanned to the scene*

“Well, that settles it, Gini.  You were right.  Anakin slices up a pear in mid-air, so Darth Vader could definitely scratch a man’s back with the Force.”

“…you realize we were supposed to be having sex now, right?”

“Yuuuup.”

Sorry, Mom: I’ve Never Really Been Here

While the Greek vacation was lovely, I’m told my Mom had one complaint: “He always has his nose in that cell phone!  He’s missing everything!”

Which is interesting, because it mirrors the complaint she always had of me on vacation as a kid: “He always has his nose in a book!”

I remember endless vacations as a kid where my Mom told me to leave the damn book in the car.  And half the time I’d smuggle it along anyway, sneaking a page in here, half a chapter there, re-reading when necessary.  I tried not to do it when there was anything interesting happening – though it often took me a while to determine that conversations not directly involving me were interesting – but what everyone always seems to forget is that a lot of vacations are about standing in line, getting tickets, trapped in that interstitial area between Point A and Point B.

I don’t mean to be rude, I really don’t.  But I’ve got two problems that have always shadowed me: I get bored very very easily on travels, and crowds of people overwhelm me.  When I have the energy, I try to strike up conversations, but being among so many people rubs me raw as sandpaper.

For me, reading (whether that’s a book or Twitter) is a mini-way to recharge so I don’t melt down.  It’s like bobbing into a pool of cool water on a hot day – I’m generally trying to rinse off some excess stress quickly so I can get back to whatever semblance of normal I have.

The world’s a little overwhelming right now, so I’m gonna dart off into this closet to forget where I am.  Then I’ll pop on back.

(And the truth is, half the time when I’m not looking at my book and/or cell phone, I’m not there either.  I wonder whether I became a writer out of some defense mechanism, because while you’re looking at this beautiful Turkish countryside, I’m wandering through a fictional world I’ve created, wondering how the economy in a floating castle works.  I spend a lot of time not here, and the cell phone’s just the obvious sign.)

And I know it’s substandard.  Sometimes I do miss out on conversations, try though I might.  Sometimes I know people wanna share things with me and they can’t get my head out of the otherworld in time.  Sometimes they wanna talk to me and I don’t look like I care.

It’s a weird balance.  Because the truth is, if I put the book down, I don’t think it’d be a much better experience for them.  I’d be more stressed, and more likely to snap, and more likely to withdraw into myself in weird depressions.  (People who travel with me have seen me get overwhelmed, and I promise you it’d happen more without the books.)

The truth is, I am a carefully perpetrated illusion.  I function as a human being because I have very carefully controlled my environment to manipulate myself into productivity – my social life is carefully orchestrated, my social media is designed to allow me the personal contact I need, my outings brief and preplanned.  People like me because I’ve engineered my life so I show up at the good moments and close the shutters when the bad days come.

(Even as part of that environment involves revelatory posts like this, so those who know me understand me on some level.  I’m addressing this to my mother because she’s the one who inspired this, but part of that environmental shaping involves friends and acquaintances reading this and going, “Oh, yeah, that’s who he is.”)

So yeah, I’ve got my nose in a cell phone, or a book.  And I get that it’s annoying.  You have a right to get annoyed, because honestly I’m annoyed.  If I was a normal person I wouldn’t need to retreat.  If I was a normal person I wouldn’t need this continual pressure valve of me nipping off to Elsewhere to come on back a little stronger.  If I was a normal person I could spend three hours at a party without having to close myself in the isolation of a bathroom for a bit so I can breathe.

But I’m not.  I try.  But you have a right to be annoyed because I wasn’t listening when you needed me to, because you wanted to share this experience and it flittered by before I could see it with you.

My life’s a compromise some days.  I’m sorry about that.

I’ll try to look up more.

Exhaustion.

Ever since I got back from Greece, I’ve had almost zero energy for anything.  I’ve had guests and all but fallen asleep on them.  Going out to dinner with friends leaves me stupefied. And I’ve written no fiction, so thank God I have the Clarion Write-a-Thon to goad me.

Is this a sickness?  Some jetlag hangover?  Who knows? Either way, it’s annoying. I’ve just got the energy to play videogames and sleep.

Which is especially irritating, as my birthday is this weekend – it’s the most important day of the year, y’know – and I can’t really muster enthusiasm for a party or anything relevant.  I’m going to see some movies with Gini, but largely I just want to collapse and play Doom.

And I have ideas for essays. Just dealing with the feedback seems exhausting, though.

I wish I knew how to fix this. I’ve crashed a fair amount.  But I haven’t been this tempted to take a couple of days off from work to just sleep in a long time, but weekends have shown that sleep isn’t this issue here.

Anyway, I’ll probably be back about the Internets at some point.  But if I’ve fallen off in my correspondence with you, I apologize; even texting seems kind of onerous right now.  Everything’s underwater.  It’s not awful, it’s just very few hours of productivity.  I’d like to do more with my hours in the day, honestly, but it’s not like my Seasonal Affective Disorder.

This is just me staring at a lot of things, vaguely perplexed as to why I’m not doing more with myself.

I’ve Started Live-Writing My Next Novel To Raise Funds For Clarion. Will You Donate?

So as of last night, I officially started writing my new music-as-magic novel and blogging about the process – showing you what professional writers think about when they’re starting the opening chapters.  If you’re interested in upping your writing game, or just want a sneak peek into my next novel, it’s only $10 to join for the next four weeks of watching me hone the opening chapters.

If doing this helps educate some people and keep the Clarion Science Fiction Writers’ Workshop alive, I consider that a bargain of my time.  So would you help out?

Step #1: Donate at least $10 to the Clarion Foundation.  More is good if you can spare it.  You don’t have to donate in my name or anything, because honestly, their Write-a-Thon webpage forms are dreadful.

Step #2: If you don’t already have one, create a LiveJournal account.  Rejoice in this feeling of web page time-travel, as one suspects there’s not a lot of new LJ accounts created!

Step #3: Email theferrett@theferrett.com with your Clarion receipt and your LiveJournal handle, with a header of “HEY FERRETT LET ME IN.”  I’ll do the mystical LJ gestures to get you access.

Step #4: Watch me figure out how to introduce you to Gwendolyn, the protagonist, and how she’s sucked through to Backstage, the mystical world-behind-worlds that influences all other civilizations with the cataclysmic Battle of the Bands.

(Secret Step #5: Share this post if ya can.)

 

 

Why The Game Of Thrones Season Finale Was Predictable, Like All Good Late-Season Finales

So Game of Thrones’ season finale was yesterday, and as usual I have thoughts – but unusually, the first thought is completely spoiler-free, so I can talk about it in public!

Bart Calendar has complained that a lot of what happened in the finale was both predictable and predicted.

The same could have been said of Breaking Bad’s finale – we all saw it coming, as long as you count “all” as “those of us who read the spoiler theories.”  And that wasn’t bad, either.

The problem is, we’re rapidly reaching the end of season-ending surprises for long-term shows.  Because now, we have literally thousands of people who’ve inhaled the show so they know it better than the writer – seriously, George R.R. Martin has a couple of people he calls upon for reference, because he can’t remember all the details of his own world – and they’re like a crowd-sourced spoiler Sherlock, gobbling up every clue and intuiting what’s about to happen.

That’s good.  By the time you get to season four or five, what happens should be predictable on some level.

Because the alternative to that is that you go the J.J. Abrams route and all your clues actually mean nothing, they’re just a big cloud of red herrings tossed casually into the air because we don’t really care about cause and effect, and the big surprise literally comes out of nowhere.

With this many people analyzing and expositing, your clues either mean something tangible – in which case it’s entirely possible to spoil yourself – or they don’t, in which case the narrative is total bullshit and you’re going to be sad.

We are now approaching the end game of Game of Thrones, at a time when viewership is as high as it’s ever been.  That means the big surprises in the early seasons will winnow down as the reasonable alternatives condense into a couple of paths, and viewers will spend hours refining their theories until they align fairly closely with what happens.  That’s actual goddamned storytelling instead of some X-Files spaghetti-plotted clusterfuck – and good storytelling rewards diligent reading.

Yes, it’s less satisfying than, say, the big shocks of the opening season.  Payoffs are always less predictable than setup, but that’s because payoffs rely upon setup.

If you don’t want to blunt the payoffs, then you gotta stop reading fan theories.  Otherwise, well, the results are equally as predictable.

My Clarion Write-A-Thon Delayed Until Monday!

As you’ll remember, I was supposed to start live-writing my new novel for you tonight.  And I shall write it for you!

Just on Monday instead.  (But no worries, I’ll still write for four weeks, so you won’t miss a day.)

The reasoning’s twofold: first of all, I always forget how long writing the opening chapter to a novel takes, and thanks to me oversleeping I only have about an hour to write tonight.  (Figuring out how to set all the factors up is possibly my least favorite part of writing a novel.)  Ideally, I want at least two or three hours so I can bang my head against the keyboard until I come up with something good.

And secondly, quite honestly, watching the fallout from the Brexit vote is stressing me out to the point where I’m having problems switching gears to an equally-stressful opening chapter.  Though this eventually swells into a magical musical Ragnarok, the heroine of this book starts in dire, nonmagical economic straits – $8.10 in her pocket, living on the streets, begging to wash dishes – and emotionally, I need a day or two to switch into that headspace comfortably.

So.  If you have any money left after a global economic collapse, and can donate $10, then you can read about how to watch me live-write my new novel (along with blog posts detailing the techniques I’m using) here.  It’s a pretty cheap writing workshop, all told.  And it starts Monday, when I’ll have a lot of time to discover just who this new heroine of mine is.

(And to give her a name. Which I haven’t done yet.  Wondering if I can get away with “Melody.”)

“Internet Arguments Are Useless.” “No They’re Not!”

I do not expect to change anyone’s minds during an Internet debate.  Most people show up with pre-configured opinions and won’t be budged.

That’s not the same as Internet arguments – or political arguments in general – being useless, however.

I’ve had my mind changed in Internet clashes – I’ve come around to more nuanced positions on consent, I’ve gotten some radical education on trans issues, I’ve moderated my stances on gun control, often during some very flameworthy discussions on the topic.

Here’s the trick:

I rarely changed my mind during the argument itself.

I think what folks are looking for when they want to prove the worth of Internet arguments is the courtroom trial confession, where someone crumbles weeping on the stand and admits they’re wrong before all the world.   They want someone to change their mind in mid-thread, acknowledging their reasoning is a sham, and to roll over to the new side.

On the rare occasions that happens, it’s worthy of a viral screenshot.

No, what generally happens is that someone who seems intelligent scores a few significant hits during an argument, and friends I respect are on this person’s side, and while I’m too caught up in the moment to really acknowledge the hit was scored – in that sense, I’m often caught up in the wussy Internet equivalent of berserker rage, where you can shrug off critical hits and keep flaming – I’ll sometimes settle back later and go, “What I said didn’t seem right.”

I’m now sensitized.

And over the next few months, whenever the topic comes up again, I approach it with a little more curiosity, that concern I might have gotten something wrong, and a year later I’ve incorporated some new facts and my position has been modified.

At that point, I generally don’t even remember where the argument started that first made me go “Hmmm.”  I don’t go back to the people who were yelling at me to tell them “GREAT SUCCESS.”  In many cases, I still loathe those people for being mean.

But that argument has changed my mind.

And yeah, that’s not everyone, or even the majority of people!  But I’ve seen debates I’ve started play a part in changing other people’s minds.  I know some people reading me thought strongly that polyamory never worked, and years later, they’re hesitant to say that.  I’ve watched people who used to be against me on political sides slowly ally with me.  Sometimes, rarely, they even credit me…. but I wouldn’t blame them if they didn’t remember we’d once crossed swords, or didn’t want to admit I had a part in it, because I know there’s some folks who put the tip of the chisel in who I’m still pissy at.

But I wouldn’t be out here writing essays if it was useless.  I don’t like howling emptily into the wind, nor do I like singing to the choir 24/7.  (Though I’ll be honest, it’s nice to sing along occasionally.)

And no, it doesn’t happen all that often.  It’s like panning for gold; lots of water, lots of grit, hardly any gold.  (And the percentage success on random idiots searching strangers, looking for a fight on Twitter is even worse.  That, I’d advise is so low as to not be worth it.)

But as I’ve mentioned, if it only works 1% of the time, 1% differences are enough to swing elections.  I get it if you don’t want to go to the effort of debating, as it’s stressful for the conflict-avoidant, but…

Don’t lose yourself in snark.  It’s tempting to write all that heat off as bullshit, but the fact is that gay marriage is accepted in this country when it wasn’t ten years ago.  Ten years is a small time.  Some significant percentage of  people who once went, “God, why should the gays get married?” turned around and said “All right,” which means that minds can be changed.

It is hardly ever a pleasant process.  And as noted, you hardly ever get anyone who flips their position wholesale.  You hardly ever get anyone admitting error in the heat of the moment.  Hell, the majority of people won’t ever admit an error period.

But some do.  That’s why it’s worth it. That small percentage of people who listen are worth their Internet weight in gold.

That’s why I keep discussing.  You don’t have to; as noted, some days it’s more work than I’d like.  But don’t just shrug and say “It never works.”

It works sometimes.  And given how difficult it is to change anyone’s mind on anything, sometimes is enough.