My Book’s On Sale For $2.99 At Barnes and Noble This Week!

If for some reason you have not read my book Flex – which features snortable magic drugs, a paperwork magician who turns his filing cabinet into an FBI hacking device, and a chubby videogamemancer who enjoys pegging – then you can get it at Barnes and Noble for $2.99 this week!

(NOTE: Amazon usually matches B&N’s prices, but I’m not checking there because B&N instigated this sale, and you should throw ’em the cash if you’ve got a Nook.  But wherever you buy it is good.)

As an extra-special reminder, the finale to the ‘Mancer trilogy is coming out in six weeks, and you can preorder Fix.  (In fact, if you want to support an author, you should always preorder their books.)  If you’re a fan of the series, @Gaileyfrey Twitter-reviewed it last night, and she had this to say:

Y’all have read FLEX and FLUX right

Hell yeah you have, you love great speculative fiction

WELL FERRETT DID IT AGODDAMNGAIN with FIX

Here’s what I will tell you: BADASS SUPERMAGIC TWEEN GIRL ON A MISSION TO FIND HERSELF AND SAVE THE WORLD AND SAVE HER FAMILY

I’m just going to be over here changing how I write young characters because RUINED IT by showing how BEST to write a tween

[grumping] like it wasn’t bad enough he schooled us all in worldbuilding now he’s gotta go and raise the bar for young female characters too

TL;DR: – is a jerk – go preorder FIX immediately

I’ll be a jerk for that.  So in short:

Message ends.

Oh, For Fuck’s Sake: Why Your Presidential Protest Vote Is A Wretched Idea

Pop Quiz: What do you think when I say “President Bill Clinton”?

All right, your first thought is probably “the bawdy things you can do with a cigar.”  (Ah, Billy.)  But then your mind likely wanders to Clinton’s Presidential accomplishments; if you’re a conservative, you fret at all the damage he did, if you’re a liberal you think of the economic prosperity he wrought.  Eight years in office is a long time.

Now: How many of you thought of Bill Clinton and thought, “He was elected because voters were sick of the two-party system?”

Ah, but that’s arguably true!  People forget that Ross Perot was the third-party candidate in that election, acquiring 18.9% of the popular vote – more than any independent candidate in modern history.  And while mostly Perot held relatively even support between conservatives and liberals, conventional wisdom is that Perot siphoned away votes away from Bush – the first Bush – to help tilt the race in Clinton’s favor.*

Did you remember that?

Or did you remember “EIGHT YEARS OF DEMOCRAT IN OFFICE”?

See, that’s the problem with Presidential protest voting.  You think you’re sending a message, but the guy who wins the Presidency hears “I won, I get to do what I think is best.”  The guy who loses maybe hears a message, but that guy lost.  And after two years of President-in-office, all those Presidential protest votes evaporate in people’s memories to become, well, another Democrat or a Republican won.

Note that I’m saying Presidential protest votes.  Because here’s the thing: if you want to make legitimate change in what is and has always been a corrupt system, placing a single vote in the ultimate winner-take-all race is the worst fucking idea ever.

You want to change that system because it’s corrupt or nonrepresentative or what-have-you?  Well, there’s a sliding scale here:

Voting in Presidential races to change the two-party system?  You might as well poop your vote onto toilet paper.

Voting in Congressional races?  Better.  You have a chance of being heard.

Voting in midterm Congressional races?  Now you’re getting golden.  Midterm races are where only the ancient and entrenched vote, and a fresh face showing up when there’s not the Presidential dog-and-pony-race has an actual chance at producing change.

Writing letters and emails to Congressmen while they’re still in office, telling them what you will or will not support?  Oh, you’re approaching the beatifics now, my friends.  The truth is that most corruption isn’t actually hidden. It’s out in the open.  We all know how much the NRA is paying politicians, we know how much the Koch brothers are pouring into races.  But no one cares.  If you care, well, that’s one politician who has to worry about losing your vote.

Voting smartly for local candidates?  Oh my God, that’s right, your state governor and mayor and other officials exist, and chances are really good a few hundred votes can make a difference.  Hell, mayors have gotten flung out of office because some old fart didn’t like the way the trash collectors left their cans on the lawn and mounted a crusade, so if you want to make a change, hey, start here.

And the absolute thing that will guarantee a change insofar as any one person can make a change?

Volunteer.  Get out there and canvas.  Get the local politicians indebted to you.  Get voters on your side.

That’s how you make a difference.

I’m not saying not to vote in the Presidential elections.  I am saying that the Presidential elections are the accumulated corruption of literally the entire country funneled through an avalanche of votes, and if you think you can change the system by showing up once every four years and spending ten minutes standing in line, then fuck are you egotistic.

Look, if you’re a disenfranchised Democrat who was disappointed with what Obama could accomplish, let Samantha Bee remind you how the 2010 election – where you young spitfire Democrats didn’t show up – completely fucked Obama by ushering in a new tide of crazies:

If you think you’re “fighting corruption” and “sending a message” by one third-party vote in the biggest campaign ever and then going home for half a decade, you done fucked up.  Because the government is not just the President – you may note Obama struggling to pass laws through a Congress who hates him.  And that Congress, in turn, is beholden to politicians in their home states.

Want change?  I support change.  But I don’t support it through the weaksauce mechanism of a single Presidential vote.  You’re not going to get Jill Stein or Gary Johnson elected – which isn’t to say you shouldn’t vote for them if you believe in their candidacy, because if that’s the case you should.  But if you’re voting for someone else to “send a message” to Hillary and/or Trump, well, a lot of people sent messages care of Ross Perot and yet somehow that package never got forwarded.

You can’t get Jill Stein or Gary Johnson elected – but with hard work you do stand a reasonable chance of getting a third-party option onto your city council, or into the mayor’s office, which may demonstrate that your neither-Democratic-nor-Republican policies are effective, which is the only way you’re going to actually send a message for the necessity of a third party.  You need to work from the ground up, paying attention when the news headlines are not shoved into your face daily, actively participating in democracy as opposed to passively sitting back and having CNN stuff you full of poll results.

The Presidential Election makes it easy to know what’s going on.  But the elections that you can use to change the system in are small, undocumented, often overlooked.  The corruption is endemic, but part of the reason that corruption is endemic is because people don’t bother to show up – at the ballot boxes, at the volunteer office, at their politician’s mailbox.

Corruption sails by because people like you aren’t watching.

So yeah.  If you’re pissed off about how Bernie got screwed by the DNC, voting for someone else in one election is a positively dumb way to fix that complaint.  Former Bernie staffers have rallied to create Brand New Congress, which has as its goal electing, well, a brand-new Congress. Volunteer for them, donate to them, do something other than dorking up the ballot box with your single vote and going back to Netflix.

Or if Bernie’s not your guy, there’s plenty of other options out there!  Google them!  Find the local levers of change and start tugging those fuckers.  If you’re furious, use that rage productively.  I want you to go make permanent alterations to the fabric of our society.  I want you to fight corruption, and entrenched interests, and politicians who no longer give a crap about you.

But you will not do that with your crappy Presidential protest vote.  You’ll have to put more skin in the game.

Good luck.  Because I damn well hope you do.

 

* – Not that he needed much help, honestly.  Bush was a weak candidate.

Oh, For Fuck’s Sake: A Gentle Talk With My Republican, Democrat, And Undecided Friends

It’s hard to look at the headlines when you’re facepalming.  But I see my Facebook feed alight with various opinions on the election, all of which are wrong – so rather than screaming OH, FOR FUCK’S SAKE at all of you individually, let me pull you into the corner and have a brief but compassionate talk:

To My Moderate Conservative Friends: 
This is a tough time for you.  For years, I’ve said “The Republican party is saturated with racist jerks who’d like to raze the Constitution to the ground,” and you said, “No, no, that’s not who we are, we believe in firm laws and equality.”

Then you wake up to discover that your official candidate’s a guy who literally doesn’t know how many articles the Constitution has, and David Duke is so thrilled by Trump’s candidacy he’s come out of the woodwork.  You’re not a racist – I wouldn’t be friends with you if you were – but you’re realizing that Trump is representing an ignorant, anti-science, pro-white wing of the party that you tried very hard to convince me didn’t exist.

Worse, those people you claimed didn’t exist (or were just background noise) are, in fact, dominant.

That is a moment for soul-searching.  And from what I see, y’all are doing it.  And I commend you for that.  And a lot of you are refusing to vote for Trump, as is correct.

However, while you’re soul-searching, take a moment to reflect deeper.

Because the party elders tried very hard to convince you that all of your fellow Republicans were as upstanding as you were – because they knew you might leave the party if you actually understood a lot of the people who stood with you were racists waiting for an excuse to stand back up again.  This uncomfortable dissonance you’re feeling right now is because they knowingly suckered you into believing that your reasonable concerns were what most Republicans felt – and now you’re seeing that yeah, maybe not all, but a lot of Republicans are pulling that lever out of nationalistic white pride and foreign hatred.

You’ve been suckered already.  This is a fact.  It’s not shameful unless you refuse to learn from it.

Now.

I’d like you to ponder the fact that a lot of your hatred of Hillary Clinton may come from the same people who misled you about your fellow voters.

You’re not obliged to like her, of course.  But consider that much of your reflexive “NEVER HILLARY!” information came from the same sources that told you yes, all your fellow Republicans want is what you want.  Consider that a lot of the scandals around Hillary come from a thirty-year, well-funded, unending campaign to turn up dirt on her, and that campaign stemmed from the guys who suckered you.

I’m not saying she’s great.  (Oh boy am I gonna unload on her in a second.)  But if you’re seething with reflexive Hillary Hatred after years of headlines, take a moment to remember who fed you those headlines, and the other things they were feeding you.  Then reexamine that from a more sober point of view.

That’s all.

(And if you’re starting to type your frothing answer on WHY HILLARY IS THE DEVIL within five seconds of finishing this discussion, you have failed to ponder.  Try again.  Try harder.)

To My Liberal Friends Saying “There’s No Difference” Between Hillary and Trump:
There’s no delicate way to say this, but do me a favor:

Look down at your hands.

Yeah, every one of you who said that and looked down at your hands will have noticed that you’re white.

It’s pretty easy to claim there’s no difference when you’re not the one he’s targeting.  I get that you’re mad, and it’s a legitimate anger; Hillary’s a prickly candidate.

But do you think the Supreme Court Justices that Trump will nominate – and he will nominate them – will make no difference in your lifestyle ten years down the line?  (Go look up Antonin Scalia’s record, then ponder Trump’s statements of Our Beloved Scalia, then ponder what the court would rule with four of him on the team.)

Do you think that your LGBTQ friends will be treated the same in a Hillary-as-President world versus a Trump-as-President world?

Do you think that Hillary will respond exactly the same to Putin’s invasion of foreign countries, when Trump has said explicitly that he won’t?

Do you think police reform and Black Lives Matter will be exactly the same in a Trump world versus a Hillary one?

Sure.  Get mad.  Claim that Hillary’s an awful candidate.  But saying “There’s no difference” is the most selfish kind of tantrum, the kind where you don’t get the candidate you want and you overlook the many and manifest differences between “Not good” and “apocalyptically awful.”

I know you wanted to vote for someone, but all too often we vote against someone to keep the Seventh Seal plugged nice and tight.  And I’m trying to say this nicely, but your sputterings of “There’s no difference!” comes from the quiet white privilege where the only hardships you’ll deal with are the economic ones.  A lot of people who don’t share your skin tone will suffer if Trump gets elected, and they’ll suffer in ways that a Hillary election will not cause.

There is a difference between the two of them.  What you’re actually saying is, “I don’t want to choose between a terrible option and total annihilation.”  I’m sympathetic.

But that is the choice on the table, at least in terms of electability, so stop saying there’s no difference.  There is a difference.  You just want all good choices, and you’re not getting that, so please.  Wake the hell up.

To My Bernie-Loving Friends: 
The leaked DNC mails are ugly, it’s true.  But I have to wonder:

Have you guys ever watched a political campaign?

I suspect if you had leaked emails from the 2008 campaign, you’d find the DNC equally biased against Barack Obama, and people asking all sorts of ugly questions about how to handle his blackness.  But we don’t.  Why?

Well, because Putin didn’t want McCain elected as badly as he wants Trump in office.  That’s the guy who leaked this stuff, at a time proven to be maximally damaging, and so when reading those emails you should get mad but you should also a) consider who wanted you mad and why, and b) wonder what the RNC emails would look like if they were leaked.

Because guys – this is how the sausage gets made.  It’s ugly.  It’s never pretty.  They’re going to discuss voting blocks in ugly, reductive ways, and they’re going to figure out lines of attack, and yes the DNC absolutely needs reform…

But do you notice one thing?

Notice how Bernie never won the black vote?

You know, that black vote that’s literally the only thing holding Trump back right now?

Fact is, Bernie had the odds stacked against him, but he fucked up by not funding enough of his black outreach team, and bobbling easy questions on race.  Yeah, I know you think he should have convinced the black vote, but the fact is that black voters have had a lot of guys promising vast change and then tossing them away once they got into office, and Bernie was unable to connect with them.

If Bernie had won the black vote, guess what?  He’d be the damn nominee right now.  And yes, he had some hurdles to overcome, but it’s like Gore vs Bush in Florida – yeah, the votes got miscounted, but if Gore hadn’t sold out to the right-wing and alienated the left then no hanging chad could have stopped him.

Say it with me, folks: Bernie fucked up.  The odds were stacked against him, but he knew that black voters were key to the nomination – or should have – and he kept putting his foot in his mouth.

And Bernie is not an unassailable candidate right now anyway, and I wish y’all would stop saying that he is.  Hillary went after him with kid gloves.   And the Republicans stayed away from him because he was such a soft target that they were eager for him to get into office.  If you thought Hillary was nasty, ponder ads saying that “BERNIE SANDERS WANTS UNDERAGED CHILDREN TO MOLEST EACH OTHER,” and yes, you think Trump would be afraid to go there if he wasn’t trying to siphon away your vote right now?

My point is that yes, the DNC did shitty things.  But that’s all of politics, and your idea that it’s only the DNC that did something reprehensible is part of that conspiracy theory myopia you have.  The RNC also does shitty things.  Leaked emails from Bernie’s campaign would probably make him look terrible.  Nobody looks good while debating how to get people to vote for them, and yes, this is awful, but it’s the kind of awful that’s so commonplace that experienced political operatives are going, “…okay, yeah, that’s how this works.”

Get mad!  But don’t get mad as if this is a special thing that the DNC did because they are their own unique flavor of evil.  Get mad because politics is shitty.

And then remember that Barack Obama likely had it just as bad in 2008 and he won.  The system is rigged, but all systems are rigged, and you can win it with a flood of votes just like Trump did.

Unfortunately, Bernie didn’t, so stop talking about him like he was the unqualified best choice.  The “Unqualified best choice” would have gotten the most votes in the end.  (Which isn’t the only thing that would make a candidate the “unqualified best,” but it sure as fuck is the start.)

There’s reason Bernie is still choosing to go after Trump instead of Hillary, my friends.  Examine that.

To Hillary: 
You….

You fucking hired Wasserman less than four hours after she got kicked out of the DNC?

Are you even trying to look good, woman?

Jesus, I’m voting for you and that looks bad.  Cut it the fuck out.

To My Enthusiastically-Voting-For-Trump Friends: 
OH FOR FUCK’S SAKE.

#NotAllFedoras: On MRAs and Fedora Biases.

(This essay was written to raise funds for @Catlaughing; FetLife user @ThoughtMonster donated, and as their topic chose “In Defense of the Fedora.” If you’d like me to write 500-750 words on the topic of your choice, there’s still two slots open; this one, I thought was interesting enough to cross-post to my Real Blog.)

The fedora has, unfortunately, become the stylistic choice of a generation of asshats. All those guys who absorb the pick-up artist manuals for women and proceed to use them to treat women as some sort of vending machine for sex, where you manipulate the controls until the sex comes sliding out?

They have decided that fedoras are The Bomb.

I wear fedoras. (Or, more accurately, fedoras and trilbies, since trilbies go better with my funny head shape, but sadly no one ever knows the difference but hat aficionados.) I wear them because I look damn good in them.

Without that hat, all you’d see would be a bald spot and a funny-shaped head. The hat helps give definition to my face. I wear it because it’s an assistant to a doughy physiognomy, which helps me to look prettier. I do not wear the hat because I wish to attract women with my blatant peacocking, but because it makes me feel good to wear a fedora.

Anyway, when I approach you, I promise I don’t have any pick-up lines ready, nor do I have a couple of negs ready to unload to undermine your self-esteem enough that you might be willing to sleep with me to impress me. I promise you I don’t work like that. I promise you not every asshole wearing a fedora thinks like that.

But my other promise is this: I promise not to get too upset if you lump me in with those clowns.

Look, how the hell would you have any way of knowing who I am? It’s not information that can be magically transmitted to you. No, all you have to judge me at first is by what I wear – and unfortunately, a lot of really irritating and slimy dudes have chosen, without even checking with me, to don the fedora as their outfit of choice.

Now, if you’ve run into enough of these bozos that you’ve come to associate me with them, well, it hurts… but I feel that a lot of my hurt should be directed at the people who are making me look bad. You have been, sadly, the victim of enough bad behavior from these fedora-wearing choads that I think it’s piling hurt on top of hurt to get pissy at you when yeah, five out of the last seven guys who had this outfit tried real hard to sleep with you. Maybe even tried to work you over, emotionally or physically, to get in your pants.

Me telling you, “You shouldn’t judge me by this hat that other assholes wear!” is, in fact, a way of saying, “You should lower your defense mechanisms for my convenience!” And if your hard-earned personal wisdom includes the direct experience that “Dudes in fedoras are likely to be creepsters,” well, then, I get why the shields went up.

Because I have my own biases! Me, I’m suspicious of old white guys in suits, because every time I see some asshole on television screwing over poor people, it’s some old white guy in a suit. I’m not saying it’s right to exclude white guys in suits from your parties because they might be self-centered Republicans, nor would it be right to pull them over in cars on suspicion of banking fraud just because they’re old, white, and driving a nice Maserati.

What I am saying that if your personal experience – and I stress “personal” experience, not as in “I’ve seen those bankers destroying our economy on NPR’s website!” experience – is that whenever you’ve seen some guy in a fedora, he’s been about to slobber all over you, I’m going to try not to take it personally when you initially respond to my behatted self with trepidation.

Yet at the same time, you have to realize there’s a balance between personal experience, media experience, and legitimate bias. Because somewhere, there’s a dude who got mugged three times by Hispanics, and now treats every Hispanic as a thief-in-waiting….

And then that guy told his story, which confirmed to someone else that “All Hispanics are thieves,” and then that guy told enough people so the cops started profiling Hispanics because shit, they’re gonna cause trouble, and then next thing you know there’s real legitimate discrimination.

It’s complex. I do not want to tell you to ignore the experience of your own senses to put you at risk of abuse by asshole pick-up artists in hats. But I do want to tell you, “If your assumptions about guys in fedoras comes mainly from reading articles that other people have written instead of actually talking to guys in fedoras,” well, keep in mind that you’re working with second-hand evidence, even if you trust the people who wrote those articles implicitly.

The people you trust implicitly have their own biases, and you’re at the biggest risk from importing them.

Because the way legitimate discrimination works is that people shorthand and amplify – “I got mugged by Hispanics” turns into “Hispanics mug everybody who looks like me” turns into an unquestioned assumption that guys who look a certain way (because not every Hispanic has the brown skin and the mustache and the cholo outfit) are all criminals and should be shunned.

The world is complex, so people make shortcuts. And the best way to fight those shortcuts is to recognize that the shortcut is not the person. If you choose not to talk to me because I look like some slimy MRA asshole, that’s fine, but then don’t conclude that I am a slimy MRA asshole. Don’t use a time when you didn’t interact with me at all to reinforce your personal experiences.

Because somewhere, a black guy in a sketchy neighborhood is walking past a white person’s car, and that person is mashing the “lock” button to protect themselves. And there’s two ways you can do that:

“I don’t know this guy’s motivation, but I’m not prepared to take the risk right now.”

Versus:

“You see that guy? Total mugger. I just locked him out. God, this neighborhood is terrible.”

In the first, you acknowledge your own potential bias, keep a watch on it, and allow for the introduction of new data.

In the second, your bias has just confirmed itself, even though nothing actually happened.

For me personally, the fedora-bias isn’t a big whoop. Occasionally some feminist leaves a comment assuming that because I wear a fedora, I must be a Men’s Rights Advocate who sneers at consent – which proves that nobody’s free of stupidity. And it means that some women are less likely to sleep with me, but since I don’t see “getting fucked” as a right I was denied, but rather as an activity I am obliged to convince partners is as good for them as I’d like it to be for me, that’s no big loss.

And, you know, I believe the “Not all men” argument is insidious bullshit. Not all Waffle Houses are altars of food poisoning, but if you get sick enough times you start skipping Waffle House to go to Bob Evans. Not every Waffle House has to guarantee you diarrhea before you say, “You know, I’d rather not.” You should have a right to make your own decisions on what’s safe.

But at the same time, with every right comes a responsibility, and the responsibility for “choosing your own dangers” should be “recognizing the potential for internalizing other people’s misinformation and treating them as fact.”

You don’t have to hug every fedora-wearer. You don’t even have to be particularly nice to them.

You just have to go, “I don’t know, and I’m unwilling to take the risk, but that doesn’t mean I’m right.”

That is, I think, the best you can do in the real world.

I’m Still Live-Writing My Newest Novel For Charity. Won’t You Donate?

So if you’ll recall, I promised to live-write the start of my latest novel-in-progress, The Song That Shapes The World, to help raise funder for the Clarion Science Fiction Writers’ Workshop.  The Song That Shapes The World is, as you’ll recall, “Pitch Perfect with magic battles,” in which I promise:

 

Ever since then, I’ve been battling technological glitches and recalcitrant novel starts to explain not just what I wrote, but why it works – or, in this case, mostly why what I wrote doesn’t work, since I’ve had a lot of false starts on this novel.  But if you’re a writer, seeing me explain why this perfectly-lovely scene has to go is, in a way, a lot more interesting than watching someone do it right.

But I still need your help!

Because this live-writing has been so delayed (and because of some major revelations about the book I just had), I’m going to go crazy and do this for two months instead of one.  But I’m still doing it to raise funds!  So remember:

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.

(NOTE: Because my outgoing email currently will not let me send, I’ll probably have to contact you through LJ.  This is suboptimal.)

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.

Step #5: Share this post if ya can!

“I Thought Democrats LOVED Plagiarism!”

I have what I call an Facebook Idiot Conservative Friend.  He’s a warm, reasonable guy when you can sit him down for a few beers – but put him on Facebook and suddenly he goes on wild, irrational benders where he rants about what “all liberals” do, even though I don’t do it and I’m right there, man.

A lot of his liberal friends have stopped talking to him on Facebook.  Can’t blame ’em.  It’s pretty hard when you’re saying “Hey, uh, I’m a liberal and I’ve told you on several occasions I don’t actually believe that” and he’s ignoring you the friend in order to score a political point about What Them Scurrilous Liberals do.

Me?  I listen to him rant, and usually don’t engage.  He’s a good bellwether for what the Republicans are mad about today, for good or for ill.

Yesterday, though, he made a doozy of a dipsy post, where he linked this article on Joe Biden’s 1987 plagiarism with the comment:

“I remember when Democrats thought plagiarism was A-OK! Two thumbs up!”

And this is, sadly, a standard tactic of my Facebook Idiot Conservative Friend: whenever the Democrats criticize a conservative for doing something bad – in this case, Melania Trump’s ham-handed stealing of Michelle Obama’s speech on integrity – he’ll haul out a time a Demmycrat did that as proof that Democrats have no ethics.

Except whenever he does it, it’s a crappy comparison.  Lemme break it down.

Point #1: Yes, Joe Biden Plagiarized A Speech.  But Democrats Didn’t Give Him A Thumbs-Up For It.
My Facebook Idiot Conservative Friend – FICF for short – has implied that we actually were for Joe Biden’s plagiarism.  But what does the article he himself links to say?

For Joe Biden, his plagiarisation of a speech delivered by Neil Kinnock, then Labour leader, helped put pay to his own campaign to win the Democrats’ presidential nomination more than 20 years ago.

What turns out was that in 1988, Biden actually had several instances of minor plagiarism, which his speechwriter took the blame for, but it was too late – not that Biden was leading in the polls at that point, but the accusations were enough to sour Democratic voters on him.  He withdrew, in mild disgrace.

So for for FICF to frame it as “We thought it was A-OK” when, in fact, voters chose not to elect Biden largely on the basis of accusations of plagiarization, is an idiotic thing to say.  Clearly, it wasn’t okay.  He spent years humiliated by that, deeply regretting not saying “Like Kinnock,” and didn’t run for President again for twenty years.

Erasing that controversy is every bit as bullshit as saying “Conservatives think Trump is A-OK!”  A lot of them do, it’s true – but that erases the people walking out on the RNC this very week, the people who are crossing lines, the New Republic writing an entire issue to try to stop Trump.  Trump may win, but it’s awfully hard to say that conservatives were thrilled with him – most major figures seem to be moving backwards, trying not to get his taint on them. They may not fight him as hard as you’d like, but it’s not like this is a thundrous roar of united glee, either.

Rewriting internal controversy into harmonious applause is the most puerile kind of propaganda.

Point #2: Not Every Scandal Should Be Met With Lifelong Expulsion.
After I pointed out that Biden’s plagiarization ended his Presidential campaign so badly he didn’t try again until after two decades, my FICF’s even-Facebookier-Idiot-Conservative friends began pointing out that “Well, you people rewarded Joe Biden with a Vice-Presidential position!”

Well, yes.

After twenty years of him not plagiarizing people any more.

If he’d started quoting Reagan during his stump speeches in 2007, I’d betcha thousands that Crazy Unca Joe would have have crashed and burned again.

At which point the FICs blurted, “Well, you didn’t hold him accountable!”

For what?

I personally was not saying that Donald Trump should divorce Melania immediately, as this blatant plagiarism is proof she’s not fit to be the First Lady.  I think she made a stupid, callow error that shows that Trump and his campaign aren’t terribly bright – as witness this New York Times article showing how the Trumps ignored their speechwriters and subverted the anti-plagiarism-checking software that every major campaign runs their speeches through these days – but I don’t think it means that Melania Trump should never show her face in politics again.

I think it means she should be a) roundly mocked in the press for an error that should have been easily foreseen, b) apologize for the incident, and c) not do something that dumb again.

You know; what Biden did.

And this ham-handed cut and copy affects the Trump family’s chances of winning the election, well, that’s also what happened to Biden, and I’m fine with that.

As a writer, plagiarism cuts into my own wallet.  I despise it.  But unlike the Facebook Idiot Conservatives, I don’t think the proper answer to every scandal is “ETERNAL EXILE.”  Sometimes, I think the proper answer is “You learn a valuable lesson about how plagiarization brings you a lot of headlines you didn’t want, and then you don’t ever do that again.”

(Or maybe not.  The very next day, the Trump kids took full credit for writing a speech that someone else ghost-wrote for them, but I doubt that’ll matter as much.)

Point #3: “We Accepted That This Politician Did That Once” Is Not The Same As “We Enthusiastically Endorse This Behavior.”  
At which point the Facebook Idiot Conservatives swarming around my FICF like remoras started saying, “Well, you voted for him!  You knew he plagiarized!  So you must love plagiarization!”

To which I asked my conservative friend:

“Does a vote from you for a politician mean that you then not only approve of, but heartily endorse, every action they have ever undertaken?”

“If so, please provide a list of the politicians you’ve voted for, I’ll crowdsource a list of unseemly things they’ve all done – for all politicians have – and see whether you can pass your own test.

“Hint: you know you can’t.”

I note that my friend, at that point, acknowledged that “Ah, they all do it.”  Because ultimately, he’s a sane guy; he just likes ranting on Facebook, and I suspect it’s a lot easier for him to spew vitriol online about what the liberals do than it is to handle the nuance I’ve seen him deal with in real life.

Because the truth is, you don’t get a major politician without a few scandals in their closet.  You don’t get a politician who doesn’t have a few issues you disagree with.

If the only person you’ll vote for is someone who a) holds 100% of your positions and b) has never had a scandal, you will never ever vote.

As such, it’s blatant bullshit to claim that “a vote for $Politician is an enthusiastic support for everything they’ve ever done.”  I’m not thrilled with Hillary’s weak record on Wall Street, but it’s her or Trump.  I wasn’t thrilled at the way Obama elevated drone strikes to a murderous art form, but in 2012 it was that or lose Obamacare.

Every vote is a compromise.

Every vote involves holding your nose a little.

That is, in fact, politics.

And trying to recast every vote for a politician as a hearty endorsement of every action of their entire career is a game no one’s winning.  I could go through and pull up all the crappy things that McCain and Dubya and HW and even sainted Reagan did, stuff that my FICF would go, “Yeah, well, fuck, that wasn’t good, even if I voted for them” –

And I could hold it up and go, “See?  You like this!  You voted for this!  You love this!” but that would be a bullshit game designed to erase the complexities of politics and turn us all into Evil or Good people, depending on what aspect we’d want to highlight.

(Though thank God I never lived in Massachusetts.  I like to think I’d have had a hell of a time pulling the lever for ol’ Ted Kennedy, who drove a woman off a bridge, left her to drown, then didn’t tell anyone for nine hours.  That would have been a hell of a pill to swallow.)

The truth is, in politics, you never get what you want.  Not entirely.  And you never get a politician who you don’t cringe a bit at – or if you do, they’re nonelectable.  (And if you BernieBros don’t think Bernie didn’t have some scandals boiling, think again – Hillary didn’t dare touch them for alienating you, and the Republicans didn’t mention them because oh my God they were so hoping to break these open once Bernie was the official candidate.)

Yeah.  We vote for people who’ve done shitty things.  It doesn’t mean we like the shitty things.  It means we like the shittier things the other guy is going to do even less.

And casting past sins as an excuse for today’s sins is even shittier.  Yeah, Joe Biden did a crappy thing.  I don’t like that.  I never did.  If he still did that today, I’d agree that he deserves the crappy headlines that Melania is getting – maybe even more so, because he’s a career politician and Melania is not used to the political stage.

But to phrase it as though “Democrats thought it was okay?”  Wrong for so many reasons.  That logic’s divisive, and I don’t like it when my liberal friends do it to my conservative friends either.

Look.  You have to bear the burdens for the main platforms of your party.  Think Obama’s economic policies are  wrecking the country?  Yeah, well, I’m complict in that, because I voted for the man.  Not happy about the way trans folk are getting the screw these days?  If you’re voting Republican, you’ve got that ick on your hands.

Vote for Trump because you want to see what happens?  You are complicit in what happens.

But the idea that somehow you can vote for a politician and never get your hands grimy, well, that’s an illusion.

The idea that every misstep should be met with endless banishment from any level of government, well, that’s also an illusion.  People make mistakes and, hopefully, learn.

The idea that you can erase moments of great controversy at the time to twist it into a roar of approval, all so you can score points on The Other Side on Facebook?

Crappy as hell, no matter who’s doing it.  And I dislike the way Facebook makes people so eager to score points against sides that their own friends are on, erasing the very pointed concerns they have about “Yeah, I’m voting this way in this election but I have these concerns and I wish there were better solutions to vote for” into “THAT’S WHAT YOOOOOUUUU DO!  ALL OF YOU!”

I think it’s crappy because it swallows up that thin slice of common ground we might somehow stand on, and casts us all as US vs THEM.

Whereas some of us agree with some of them.

Maybe we could do something about that, if people weren’t trying so hard to be very clever on Facebook.

Hawking My Books At A Never-Ending Funeral, or: How It Feels Promoting Fix In 2016

So in 2015, I published my first book, Flex, and that was hella-exciting.  Debut novels are easy to push – people have never seen you before!  You’re showing up new at the ball!  People are happy to give you, the debut author, a guest slot in their blog or a review because this is your first!

Then six months later I had The Flux came out, and that was still pretty exciteamundo because Flex still had a lot of momentum, and there were still blogs and podcasts I hadn’t hit in the first tilt-a-whirl go-round of Flex PR.

(NOTE: At one point, Angry Robot said, “Since your first book got delayed, we want to publish your second book be six months after your first.  I went, “Are you crazy? That will make people think I can write a book every six months!”  And they were not crazy; I was so totally, utterly, wrong.  If you can publish a new, quality book every six months, or even faster, do.  Momentum counts.)

So here we are, with Fix coming out in six weeks, and this one is really hard to promote for two reasons:

  1.  It’s the third book in a series.  Admittedly, it’s the final one in a series, and it’s designed to be read as a standalone, but it’s always harder to sell, say, Rocky III or The Amityville Horror III because it’s just not as exciting.  Maybe the new installment is exciting, but now it’s a continuing saga, and you either liked Rocky or the Amityville Horror or you didn’t, so it’s hard to get new eyeballs in through the door.
  2. The news is an absolute, unending, toilet-clogged shitshow.

#2 is much more relevant than #1.

I mean, at this point last year, I felt like it was fine to joke a lot about BUY MAH BOOK and cajole people endlessly that BY THE WAY NETGALLEY HAS COPIES OF FIX FOR YOU REVIEWERS TO CHECK OUT and laugh out loud shilling this book, hey did you know you could preorder it?

But this year?

It feels like I’m hawking merchandise at a funeral.

HEY, MY BOOK FIX IS

*another black man killed*

YOU COULD TOTALLY BUY

*three cops shot dead*

THIS BOOK

*countries rioting in government overthrows*

OF MINE

*our own country led down the path of a psychopathic con-man who has a better chance of winning the election by the day*

And I really feel this strange urge to shut the fuck up, because frankly, there’s no good time to wedge in a mention of such an insignificant thing in between the school shootings and the protests and Britain spiralling down the hole.  Someone important has always died, and so it feels totally inappropriate at times to express the squee I feel at this new book getting out to market.

And the number of advance reviews are way down from the past two books, which is a shame because both my editor and my friends have called Fix their favorite book in the series…

But this is just part of the book game.  Any long-time writer will tell you there are things out of your control, and this is one of them.  It’s the third book in a series, and those are harder to get people excited about.  It’s a tumultuous news cycle, so getting that work out is harder.  Everyone knows you’ve gotta keep pushing forward, which is why it’s always about writing the next book so even if this one doesn’t do as well as you’d wanted, you’ve got that new book in the pipeline to tack your dreams to…

But still.  I’m spending time donating money to good causes, writing to my Congressmen and my mayor, researching how to vote in this next election.  I hope you are too.  And if that time spent making the world better means some of y’all aren’t in the mood to read about the deepest secrets of Valentine DiGriz, and how the Unimancers might actually be better for Aliyah than her father, and what happens to Paul when you take his daughter away from him, well, I get that.  I support that.

But see?  Even that felt scummy.  Write your politicians first, my friends.  The book can wait.

But yeah.  2016 is such a shitshow it just feels gruelling to even slide a mention that I have a book out in between the horrors of politics and the landslides of dead men, and I’d be surprised if other authors didn’t feel that too.

I know we’re supposed to believe that art is what saves us.  And art helps.  It really does.  But a lot of the times, art is just sort of crouched down, hoping that fascism and bullets don’t actually tear through our bones, and nobody likes hearing that but art didn’t stop Hitler, art didn’t stop Stalin, and art is just this thing that can blossom beautifully but all too often turns out to be these sad stems trampled underfoot when the bad men come.

Besides, this isn’t about art anyway.  The art has been done.  All the art I’ve had to render got put into Fix.  We are now into marketing mode, and if I don’t feel as much like marketing these days, well, I’m probably right to do that.

It’s just weird.  People are dying, and you should buy my book.

Hard to make a sale like that.

Hard to not feel like a total putz when you try to make that sale.