My Book FLEX Is On Sale For $2.99, or: How Harvey Weinstein Is Like A ‘Mancer

So my books Flex and The Flux are on sale for $2.99 all this month, which I haven’t mentioned much because, as usual, the news is a shitshow. It’s hard to give with the BUY MAH BOOK when the headlines are “RAPE DEMON HAS NOT-SO-SECRETLY INFESTED HOLLYWOOD.”

However, I did want to talk about how Harvey Weinstein is basically an analog for how magic works in my ‘Mancer series. Because my ‘Mancer series is essentially an extended metaphor as to how Harvey Weinsteins get created in the real world.

First: lemme hit you with the worldbuilding in Flex, if you’re not familiar. All magic starts with obsession – your life sucks, so you start focusing in on something that distracts you from the pain. For my lead character Paul Tsabo, that distraction is paperwork. For my co-lead Valentine DiGriz, that distraction is videogames. Doesn’t matter what it is – you just need somewhere to escape your troubles, and this becomes your focus.

(Don’t worry – at no point am I going to suggest that Weinstein’s repugnant habits were just some hobby that got out of control. It goes deeper than that, thankfully.)

But in the world of Flex, if you’re attached to something deeply enough, your devotion starts to rub holes through physics. If you’re a crazy cat lady, you start (often unwittingly) doing magic that changes the world to alter what cats are for you. (Note that this is not the same as “What benefits your cats.” Trapping innocent kitties in a recursive, infinite House of Leaves-style maze because you’re terrified of them leaving is not cool for cats, even if you’re not entirely aware that you’ve folded physics so your cat door points back into your bathroom. Nor is it cool when you don’t want to see the injuries your neglect fosters upon cats, so your felimancy quietly reshapes the cats into more pleasing forms.)

Eventually, the universe gives way entirely and you start forgetting the boundaries between reality and your obsession.

I think we can all agree that’s not entirely a good thing, right?

Because as Abraham Lincoln once said, “If you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Because what frequently happens to ‘mancers in this universe is they implode, either psychologically or physically or both – and they chew up innocent people along the way. That crazy cat lady becomes the nexus of some never-ending cat trap that engulfs entire blocks, subsuming apartment buildings full of living people into her need to be surrounded by loving cats.

It’s unsurprising that ‘mancers are feared in this world. Yet my characters are heroes, and they are also ‘Mancers.

Why are they the good guys?

Because they call each other on their shit.

Seriously. Break down the plot of the ‘Mancer series beat by beat, and you’ll see a consistent pattern: brutal friendship snaps a friend back to a much-needed reality. Paul calls Valentine out when she gets out of line, and hoo boy does Valentine call Paul on the carpet.

When your magic has short-circuited the universe so the laws of physics no longer apply, “friendship” is all that will fucking save you.

Which is one of the lessons that I think draws people to that series, for all its flaws: family is what hauls you back from the abyss. There are plenty of critical plot points when Paul or Valentine, left to their own devices, would make choices that would both harm themselves and the people they love – but in the world of Flex, conflict is kindness.

Now.

Harvey Weinstein is his own form of ‘mancer. Because yes, the laws of physics still apply to him, but the laws of society stopped sometime back in the 1980s.

He’s got these malignant urges to leverage his power for some twisted sexual gratification – and in a better world, people would have been able to say “Harvey, that shit is out of line, you shut that down or we stop working for you.”

But they didn’t. He climbed the Hollywood ladder, and the higher he got, the less people told him what he was doing was wrong. In fact, it was the opposite: staffers quietly started setting up whole bureaucracies devoted to encouraging this behavior – assistants who’d ensure the hotel room was set up the way he liked it, publicists and lawyers ready to quash official rumors, people who were tasked with ensuring the right talent never got a whiff of it.

(Because as has been noted elsewhere, when you realize your star’s career depends on working with a notably repellent guy, there’s pressure the star may not even realize is happening to have her staff keep those rumors far, far away from her.)

And then there was the pressure of uncertainty that swirls around any consent violation – maybe you’d heard things but didn’t know anyone directly, so Harvey’s lawyers and industry news connections made it hard to come out with unsubstantiated rumors. Maybe you were a nobody, and you knew you’d speak your piece and get blackballed at best and at worst smeared in the press as a whorish attention-seeker, so you didn’t say anything. (One wonders how many wannabe starlets did try to speak up in those pre-Internet days and had their careers quietly snuffed out.) Maybe you were someone powerful who did know someone directly affected, but revealing what you knew had enough details that it wouldn’t be hard to trace it right back to the source, and did you want to open that person up to retaliation from Weinstein’s crew without her explicit permission?

A lot of silence. And the end result was that Harvey Weinstein became unmoored from reality.

And like a bad ‘mancer, the less feedback he got that he shouldn’t sexually assault women, the more monstrous his acts became. And it’s not hard to see how that got worse – he was separated from their pain, because his staffers kept that shit away from him. He was surrounded by people whose salary depended on shrugging off those abuses, so they probably cheered him on.

And even now, you can see Weinstein’s baffled. He thinks this is gonna blow over. He thinks that this is just what people did in the 1970s, even when you have people from the 1970s telling him “No, I never forced a woman to watch me masturbate.” He doesn’t get it, because he’s been doing this for, what, thirty, forty years and nobody’s been that upset about it, so this has gotta be a mistake, right?

(Worst of all: maybe he’s right. I mean, Mel Gibson’s getting the Hollywood makeover now, and Woody Allen’s got a hot new Amazon series, and there are Republicans drooling over how irresponsible liberal Hollywood is when they voted for a guy who was literally in a court case for statutory rape during the election that the victim only dropped because she was terrified of reprisal by a future President, so maybe Weinstein knows something about society that, as a society, we don’t want to admit.)

Anyway. Here’s my point.

There’s been a lot of discussion over what the revelation of women’s harassment in Hollywood should mean, going forward.

And for me, I wrote an entire series that’s literally a metaphor for how to save people from falling into places where their obsessions grow to devour them.

Harvey Weinstein had some disgusting urges in him to trade sex for roles – but the reason he got away with that is because the people he respected never said “no” consistently enough to make it stick. At some point in Hollywood, the people who could have said, “That is not cool, and if you keep that up, I can’t afford to work with you” fell away.

What we got was – how did I put it fictionally? Someone who implodes, either psychologically or physically or both – and they chew up innocent people along the way.

So the buried lesson in Flex, which I’m making explicit for you here, is that calling your friends on this shit is critical. If the harm your friends are inflicting upon other people isn’t somehow enough to spur you to action, you’ll also help stop your friend from bloating to the point where eventually someone drops an Internet on them and everything they have collapses.

(But honestly: the victims should be enough.  Assuming you’ve got your eyes open enough to notice them.  Which you should.)

Real friendship is taking someone aside and saying “no” sometimes. And that costs. Your pals don’t always don’t want to hear your message, and there’s drama, and sometimes you don’t get the cool things like, say, hey, late-night parties with celebrities and Harvey Weinstein!

But unless you say “no,” loudly and forcefully enough to put your friendship on the line, the laws of society get erased for these people. And you get to see who they truly are with no external morality to hold them back.

And when it explodes, you’ll wonder whether you should have done anything more. And the answer is certainly: you should have. Because you were close enough to them that your feedback might have mattered, unlike the poor victims who didn’t much matter to these schmucks at all.

That’s my lesson: You can do better. Confront your buddies, because why are you the good guys?

Because you call each other on your shit.

(Also, my other lesson is that my books are available for $2.99 until the end of October. Maybe buy it if you’d like to see how friends can butt heads to keep each other safe and happy? But if you know that already, maybe just be good friends with people. Yes, that is also good.)

1 Comment

  1. dellstories
    Oct 18, 2017

    I hadn’t actually thought of it this way, but, yeah. It makes sense. In my Flex fanfic “Accept The Consequences” (https://www.wattpad.com/312007821-accept-the-consequences) Roger Tanner is all alone, and has no one to pull him back, to tell him, “dude, maybe you’re taking this thing a bit too far.”

    Did you consciously make “call each other on their shit” a theme, or did that sort of just emerge?

    Oh, and have you stopped updating on LiveJournal? The most recent entry is September 21st, 2017: Hey, San Francisco, Come Say Hello To Me Saturday At Borderlands Books!

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