The Late-Night, Double Feature Picture Show: Life At Rocky Horror

The Rocky Horror Picture Show isn’t a movie to me. For me, it’s the feeling of moist rice sticking to the soles of my pantyhosed feet. It’s remembering not to wipe away that crustiness around my eyes because that’s mascara, you dolt, you need to look pretty for the audience. It’s eating french fries and gravy at three in the morning with a bunch of wasted-out weirdos down at the Athena Diner, wondering who I’m going home with that night.

I was Frank. I was the first Frank. And let me tell you, in the town of Norwalk, Connecticut – a place that didn’t have a single nightclub – that was an honor.

Because there was a single art house cinema in Norwalk, and it was a rattletrap organization called the Sono Cinema – headed by a stubborn man with no head for money and a frantic love for beautiful films. Brian would book the theater with the obscure foreign films he liked, and on a good night you’d get five people showing up. Sometimes he ran out of popcorn.

But he’d been told that running the Rocky Horror Picture Show at midnight was a money-maker, and though Brian loathed the idea of “popular” cinema, he realized he needed some cash. So he ran it once, and filled the theater, but…

Nobody was doing anything.

He realized there was supposed to be shouting, and audience participation, but this was in the days before YouTube and online tutorials. The Rocky Horror was a purely hand-me-down tradition: you could only learn the rituals of flinging rice and wet newspapers by going to a raucous show and being taught.

What he had was an audience of virgins.

So he asked around. He needed someone stupid enough to dress up in women’s clothing, who would rouse an audience on, who would be shameless.

I wasn’t sure if I could be shameless before a theater full of people, but I was the only one who volunteered. I’d seen a few shows, had the tape soundtrack.

And so there was a pit crew at my house at 9:00 on a Saturday. The Rocky Horror lovers in town wanted this to work – it was a lot easier than driving an hour up to the other show in New Haven – and so I had four people in my room making me look pretty.

My mother had no idea what was going on. “Hey, mom, do you have a fake pearl necklace I can borrow?” I asked. “Crap – do you have any mascara? Oh, yeah, could I borrow some pantyhose?”

She stormed into my room, holding a set of L’eggs at arm’s length, and deposited it in my lap. “Here,” she said curtly. “This is the last thing you ask for. And I don’t want to know what you’re doing.”

And I drove to the Sono, and there was a crowd that I remember as being like a rock star audience but was probably fifty wasted college kids – and I sauntered in, flipping effortlessly to working the room, and when the show started I got up to the front of the stage in a bustierre and silk underwear and yelled, “ALL RIGHT, PEOPLE, HERE’S HOW THIS GOES. WHO BROUGHT THEIR SQUIRT GUNS?”

I became a star. Or at least a star in Norwalk, Connecticut.

I was The Rocky Horror Guy.

And there were other Rocky Horror people, a great cast of folks who I came to love, and they were also vital – but I was the person introducing the audience to the show on Fridays and Saturdays, and so I became the face of the Rocky Horror.

(…Which Brian fucking hated. He hated the gaudiness of the show, he hated the cleanup, he hated the freaks showing up all the time because this wasn’t cinema, it was spectacle, but the money let him play Un Chien Andalou again, so he let me do what I wanted.)

And to me, the Rocky Horror is barely a film. It’s a backdrop. The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a flickering blue light where I run up and down the aisles, scoping the cutest girls in the show so I can be sure to plop onto their laps at the appropriate show moment when Frank falls.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a set of crowded bathrooms where we put on makeup and come out to each other, that first time I really understood how complex sexuality was as I saw the straight guy with the broomhandle mustache who wasn’t a woman but this was the only place he would wear a dress, and guys going gay for a weekend to see how it felt, and women switching roles in the show as they tried on butchiness and femme to see how it felt.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a parking lot, where we’d all gather at 10:30 and start drinking lavishly, noting the old crew and welcoming the newcomers, we loved fresh blood because they were either folks travelling from distant Rocky shows to see ours – and they had new lines to shout at the screen, their rituals blending with ours – or they were people who’d never been here before and oh God you gotta see this it’s so wonderful have a hug this is your community fit in.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show is my own sexuality blossoming because I discovered that when you’re shameless you will find an audience, and so there were blowjobs in the back of the theater and women fucking me in hearses and sometimes taking someone’s hand and bringing them to the backstage (“Fuck the backstage!”) and discovering that someone else was already making out in there and God, were we all going to kiss each other eventually?

Probably. And we dated, and we broke up, and we cheated, and that was all right because Rocky Horror was the hub. We could be pissed at each other, but this was where we came and this was who we are and maybe I was aching because Bari and I had broken up again but there was the Time Warp and we could always dance to the Time Warp no matter how mad we were.

And people would say, “Oh, I saw Rocky Horror on VHS!” And I tried not to be snobbish, but… you gotta see it live, I’d whisper.

I did that for about four years. And eventually, the RHPS got encrusted – I ran a very loose show, where “fun” was more important than the details, and hell, if you’d seen the show three times and wanted to go nuts as Eddie roaming about the theater, well, does this jacket fit?

But eventually folks who were Very Concerned about the correct costuming wormed their way in, which led to a stage show that was about mimicking the movie perfectly, which led to a hierarchy where you had to train in the ways of Rocky Horror before you could be on stage, which created this barrier between the audience and the show that eventually strangled it.

At that point, I was more like the Rocky Horror godfather. I was an emeritus; I’d show up, do the intro, and then go hang out in the backstage or goof around in the lobby. And eventually it dissolved, along with the Sono Cinema itself.

And when people say, “Oh, Rocky Horror was on TV last night!”, well, I couldn’t watch. I’m sure it’s fine. But I’ve gone to see Rocky Horror in the theaters since, and I’ve discovered that I lied.

Because I go to see the Rocky Horror in the theaters, and it’s not Norwalk in 1989. It’s these other kids, people I don’t know, and for me Rocky Horror is walking into a room full of freaks and knowing every single one. For me, Rocky Horror is that community…

…and the community is gone.

It’s not a bad thing. Bright lights fade. I wasn’t going to be dressed as Frank forever, nor would I want to.

But there’s a film, and there’s a show, and there are remakes. They’re all good. I want you to love them.

Yet there’s no remaking that crappy theater. There’s no getting all my friends back in the same room with that same feeling of hope that tonight is gonna be awesome, we’re gonna cheer, we’re gonna make new friends, we’re gonna kiss in secret and nurture crushes and maybe touch a genital that we didn’t think we’d like except oh I kinda like that.

There’s no going back.

It’s never been the same. It’s been better. Rocky Horror catapulted me into new realms of bravery – I can give talks to rooms because shit, after you’ve faced down a hundred drunken frat boys, “giving a speech” is nothing. Rocky Horror taught me about sex, and fluidity, and tolerance. Rocky Horror taught me how to handle microfame, because I was a star for six hours a week and then I went back to work at the record shop.

All those have built me into something marvelous, and I’ve thought about going back to some theater and seeing if I could become a member of the crew again, but….

That’s trying to recreate a past.

I have a glorious future to head to.

The longing will kill you if you let it.

Whatever happened to Saturday night?
When you dressed up sharp and you felt alright
It don’t seem the same since cosmic light
Came into my life

It’s National “Don’t Be Nice To Me” Day

Yesterday, I posted a sad status that said:

Feeling isolated and alone today. Nobody did anything wrong. I just woke up this morning wreathed in failure. #brainweasels

And I was beswarmed in kind comments. Something like twenty people replied, others sent kind messages, and still others texted me to send love. Which is all wonderful, and I appreciate that, but…

I’ve got a good support system. I have my bad days, but when I have them, I also have thousands of people on my social networks who are willing to sympathize.

Others don’t.

So I am declaring today “National ‘Don’t Be Nice To Me’ Day – and what I’d like you to do today is to reach out to someone who doesn’t necessarily have a great support network and tell them you’re thinking of them. Or reach out to someone who’s having a hard time and hasn’t, for whatever reason, been able to post online to get the support they deserve.

Basically, take the kindness you were willing to show to me yesterday and use that to surprise someone else with love. Don’t tell ’em why you did it, don’t explain what today is – just text them or @ them or DM them to tell them “Hey, you know what? I’m here for you.”

And if you feel like posting this elsewhere on your blog/social media/whatever, thus converting the latent kindness people feel for you into active kindness for other people? Awesome.

Because any excuse to be nice to someone else is a great excuse.

Don’t be nice to me today.

Be great to someone else.

On Porn And Patreon.

So one of my biggest crushes on FetLife, @KattAnomia, opened up a Patreon account dedicated to her porn career – you donate to her monthly, you get a choice of some erotic photos/videos of her. And because I routinely donate to artists I enjoy through Patreon, I subscribed immediately.

Now here’s the weird thing: the Patreon subscription is actually more expensive than subscribing to her personal website. Which she’s had open for months now. I would save about $4 a month by going directly to her site.

Except that would be porn.

Whereas Patreon is for artists.

Which, I realize, is a weird distinction to make. In both cases, I pay to get nude images of one of the most attractive women on FetLife doing naughty things. But because one site is framed as “supporting creators” and the other is framed as “pay me money to whack it freely,” I was biased towards one method.

Put another way, I was -and am! – paying a $4 surcharge to transform a porn star into an artist.

Which is super-weird, because I also routinely subscribe to hot porn for the exact same reasons – if I like what someone creates, I believe they should earn enough of a living to keep creating it. (Try Desperate Amateurs and, they’re both awesome and creative.)

But my porn subscriptions are purely selfish things. I buy them, I download all the hot movies to my hard drive, I cancel. I don’t get personally attached to the artist in the same way that I do with, say, Good Job, Brain’s podcast performances or Tailsteak’s webcomic Leftover Soup. With those guys, I feel a connection to them – deserved or not – in that they’ve consistently stimulated my brain for long enough that I’m happy to give them cash because I have not only come to like their art, but the people behind it.

With porn stars, there’s a subliminal aspect where I feel shamed for being aroused by a professional.

And porn stars are a much more personal thing these days, thanks to Twitter and FetLife and other social media. @_slut___slut_ on FetLife writes brilliant essays that detail her life as a prostitute at the Bunny Ranch – which are edited versions of her life, as she still wants to pull in clients, but you can sense her being as honest as anyone can be about their job in a highly-public arena. I know that @KattAnomia loves Magic, and her animals, and her cosplay.

I have a better sense of who my porn stars are when they’re not personally turning me on.

Basically, porn has become a thing where there’s more of a personal connection than ever – even if that connection is, as it often is with my essays, a highly-groomed connection that reflects certain aspects of the star with accuracy but quietly crops quite a bit out of the frame.  That presentation is designed to be appealing, but then again you’ll find very few successful artists who are actively griping about how much they fucking hate their job (unless that hatred is part of their appeal, like it is with Randy Milholland of Something Positive).

And yet I realized that even though I think of porn stars as artists in every way – working hard to maintain their craft, perfecting their portrayal, finding new methods of connecting with their audience – I’m less likely to give them money because it feels stickily selfish.

Part of that is, of course, the shameful way that PayPal and credit cards have stigmatized porn. I was loathe to name Katt’s Patreon account by name because I was worried they might realize what she’s doing and shut her down – though thankfully, Patreon has a very clear description of what it allows as “adult content” and Katt stays within those lines.

But other places aren’t so lucky. Try to be a porn star on GoFundMe, or even just raise funds for a charity through FetLife – you’ll get shut down. You can’t Kickstart a sexy project. And when you look for the Patreon of porn, where you can subsidize your porn stars with small payments, it’s usually some Geocities-inspired turd of a site festooned with flashing ads and created with a Vegas methodology designed to obscure how much you’re spending.

Those sites are designed to hide the porn star and magnify the site – you’ll see their clips for sale, but not their blog posts, nor links to their personal site. Whereas Patreon and Kickstarter are all about encouraging that artist’s connection – creators can turn backers into outright fans, and are in fact encouraged to do so by consistently creating kick-ass stuff and being amusing.

And I realized: I want to treat porn stars like other artists. If they’re happy, and creating stuff they love, and that stuff happens to be porn, I want to have a place where I can quickly subscribe without feeling like I’m shuffling into a darkened alleyway to sneak into the video booths.

I want to go to a place that mixes comics and writing and porn and videos and games all together, tastefully blocked so you don’t have to see it if you don’t want to, where “made you aroused” is merely one of a variety of emotional responses that is acceptable, along with “made you cry with happiness” and “made you laugh” and “made you concerned for these artificial characters.”

And right now, Patreon is that. But because of the way payments work, at any moment, Patreon could decide any sexy creator is violating their Terms of Service – which is, to say, “The terms which their overlords PayPal and their credit card processor sets” – and suddenly *poof*, porn’s back to a backwater.

We can’t mix porn and art, because financial considerations keep excluding porn.

Which is a shame. I’ll keep backing Katt on Patreon for as long as they let me, because it’s a convenient site. I don’t have to memorize another login, and I can see all of my backings in one spot, and I can occasionally get pictures of a very attractive woman doing very lewd things.

I could think of that as a $4 surcharge to transform Katt’s naked work into art.

Or I could think of it as a $4 tax to try to convince Patreon that erotic art is also worth having around.

Either way. I’m staying there for now.

The Great San Diego Donut War

I never thought it was possible to breathe sugar.  Yet each exhale had the sweet scent of powdered sucrose, I had overdosed on pastries, my heart thumping, and yet people were bringing me slices of donuts as I signed books, asking me to judge which was better, asking me to eat more sugar.

This was San Diego.

It started out innocently enough – I wasn’t sure where to go out to eat, and a dear friend of mine said, “Go eat at Extraordinary Desserts so I can live vicariously through you!”  Some Googling revealed they also had meals – we had a sandwich – but the desserts.  Oh my God, the desserts.

Donut frenzy

Donut frenzy

So we ate as much as we could of these delicious, delicious cakes, and then set out to…

Buy donuts?

Yeah. I was pretty full already, but it’s a tradition for my book tours – when I come, I bring donuts. (Because donuts represent all that is good and right in my ‘Mancer series. There’s even a guy who reads your personality through your choice of donut. Yeah, it’s a weird series.)

So I had asked my readers, “Where’s the best donuts in San Diego?” and a fight had broken out. Some said The Donut Bar had the best donuts in town – hell, they were routinely judged the best donuts in the country, they’d been written up on The Food Network, you gotta try them. But of course there was the locals’ pushback, saying Donut Bar was overrated, everybody goes there, why would you go there when there were such better donuts?

I sympathized.  (Cleveland has a famous grilled cheese bar called Melt that I find similarly overrated, and I keep having out-of-town guests who want to try it.)  Still, I figured trying the world-famous donuts would be what I wanted, so I set out there.

Except these donuts weren’t world-famous.  They were world-sized.  Check out how big these donuts were compared to my hand:

Donut frenzy

So my friends and I tried the donuts, drinking the delicious chocolate milk they also had, and I was full to brimming but hey, there was a signing. We packed up the donuts.

A dozen Donut Bar donuts were like carrying freight cargo. They couldn’t fit a dozen of these bloated donuts into a single box – we had to haul three boxes, balanced precariously, more pastry than a man had a right to.

I hoped attendance was brisk.

Yet as I was on my way to the signing, I checked into my donut thread and discovered that a reader was so enraged by my going to The Donut Bar that she was going to bring donuts from the better donut place, VG Donuts, the working-man’s donut of San Diego.

And then I had forgotten what town it was, this was San Diego, and there was a tradition of my internet friends Frito_Kal and Technophobia bringing homemade cupcakes to the signing – and these cupcakes were ‘mancer-themed, with green rock candy designed to imitate Flex, and last time the cupcakes I’d stored away had melted in the trunk so I had to try them –

Donut frenzy

– and they were delicious cupcakes but I was getting a little overdosed on sugar now between the stomach full of delicious cake and big thick Donut Bar donuts and delicious fried VG donuts and now the cupcakes and I couldn’t not have them, that would be rude and also when do I pass up donuts, but it was getting to the point of either passing up donuts or passing out and also Mysterious Galaxy, the bookstore, was getting very worried because they were running out of table space to put all these goddamned donuts –

Then came the reading. That was good! I could do nothing but listen to J. Patrick Black read from his new book Ninth City Burning, and read from my new book Fix, and I didn’t have to eat any donuts –

– except as I was starting my signing, someone burst through the door with two bags’ full of donuts, saying, “I HEARD THERE WAS A DONUT COMPETITION, AND I AM HERE TO PROVE THAT {LOCAL DONUT COMPANY} IS THE BEST!”

I wish I could tell you which donut store it was. They were pretty good. But at that point my pancreas was melting.

And when we were done – donehere is a picture of all the donuts we had left over, after about thirty people showed up and ate voluminously:

Donut frenzy

(The best donut was, predictably, VG Donuts. Hipster donuts like The Donut Bar are good, but yeah, once again, the working man’s donut won out.)

And don’t get me wrong: I was grateful for everyone who brought their own donuts to champion their cause. People should be passionate about donuts. Donuts are life. Donuts are joy. Donuts are a beauty to behold, and there’s a reason donuts save lives in my ‘Mancer series.

But that night, I ate a turkey sandwich and skipped dessert.

Trump Isn’t Ready To Be President, And Neither Was John Kerry

A commenter was complaining – with some right – that this election would determine the course of the economy, and for the last two week’s it’s been a constant stream of TRUMP GROPES.  How can we tell which candidate is qualified to, you know, be President?

And here’s my take on the issues:

Running a Presidential campaign is a lot like being the President.  It’s full of constant, unexpected vectors, you are required to make decisions that will alienate portions of the voter base, you are required to make decisions that will infuriate your own supporters.  A Presidential campaign is a hugely complicated thing to get right.

And if you bobble the campaign, you’d make a sucktacular President.

I’m not saying that winning makes you a great President by any means.  But if you watch someone’s campaign dissolve into disaster, that’s the first sign that they couldn’t get the job done.

And in particular, if you can’t handle the obvious attack ads that people will air, you’re not gonna do well in office.

Like, you know, John Kerry.  Everyone knew they were going to come after his war record.  The guys running Bush’s campaign had gone after Max Clenand’s war record in a Senate race, and that guy had lost limbs fighting for his country.  They might as well have sent him an engraved invitation saying, “WE ARE GOING AFTER YOUR STRENGTH IN THIS ELECTION IT’S WHAT WE DO RSVP ROVE AND COMPANY”

…and the attack ads came.

And Kerry spent five days dithering about how to respond.

And I thought, “God, I really don’t like Bush, but seriously, if it takes Kerry five days to respond to something every political pundit saw coming, how well is this man going to do when there’s an unexpected emergency?”

I liked a lot of what Kerry stood for.  But when the obvious attacks came, man wasn’t prepared.   And having a President who either doesn’t prepare for the obvious or can’t see the obvious or, God forbid, both?  Not so good.

Likewise, Trump’s groping comments, well, he knows what he said – or should have.  He should have prepared for the certainty that some of his tapes would have emerged at the worst possible times.  And instead, he’s blaming everyone else but himself and his campaign for not having a good answer prepared.

On a personality level, I still don’t like Hillary all that much.  But she’s that policy wonk who’s got a plan for everything.  Maybe she’s scheming, yes – but you want a schemer in the White House, because the alternative is having some dope like Kerry or Trump who are completely bollixed by the world’s most predictable events, and God damn you do not want that at the helm regardless of political stripe.

(Now only if Bush’s staff had applied the same rigor they did during his campaigns to, I dunno, predicting and boxing off the negative outcomes of the Iraq War, and we might have an entirely different country today.  Which is proof that running a successful Presidential campaign is your first hurdle to prove you’re worthy of office, but by God it is not the last.)


On Men Getting Raped. And Abused. And More. (Trigger Warning)

So Joe Scarborough said that if he had been sexually harassed by Donald Trump, he would have come forward earlier.

To which I ask:

Would you?

Would you really?

Because I’m pretty sure if Donald Trump, Alpha Male, had successfully pinned you – a dude – against a wall and grabbed your cock and maybe even, God forbid, raped you, you would have had a very difficult equation on your plate.

Because if you’re paying attention at all, you know the standard playbook people trot out against rape accusers is:


She’s a liar
* She secretly wanted it
* She’s crazy
* She should have fought harder

So what happens when you, a dude, accuse a known big-time dude of sexually assaulting you?

Well, the first three get melded into, “You’re secretly gay, and you want Donald Trump to fuck you with his huge alpha cock, and it’s a shame you’re so crazy you made all that up.”

So the story is not going to be, “BRAVE MAN STANDS UP AGAINST SEXUAL ASSAULT.”

The story is going to be, “CLOSETED HOMOSEXUAL MAYBE WANTED DONALD? WE DON’T KNOW.” From that moment on, even if you’re straight, you’re going to have a lot of questions swirling about your sexuality. What other cocks have you secretly sucked? You’re gonna have people debating how manly you are…

…which feeds straight into point #4, “You should have fought harder.” You think female rape victims get Monday-morning quarterbacked? Well, you’re gonna see every homophobic guy in existence talking about how they would have cold-cocked The Donald in a hot second, they wouldn’t have been frozen with shock or confused as to what was happening or even a little scared that Donald Trump was a guy who might scotch this $20 million business deal –

Every one of those guys are certain they would have decked Trump the minute any assault happened. You didn’t. So let’s go back to the question of whether you secretly wanted it, huh? Maybe you’re a gay dude. And in the mouths of these guys, “Gay dude” seems like a terminal insult instead of, you know, just something it’s okay to be.  (TOP TIP: It’s totally okay to be.)

Your masculinity is stripped. Because a real man doesn’t get himself into situations like that. A real man always knows what to do. A real man doesn’t let anyone take control of his life.

By losing control of your life, even for a moment, you lost your label as a real man.

Your whole contextual gender is now in question.

It’s gonna get discussed whether men can get raped. You’re gonna get asked whether you were hard when Donald touched you. God forbid you were, because even if you just happened to have an erection when a dude pawed you, that too is proof you wanted it.

And you know what happens on top of that? There’s enough assholes who think rape accusations are funny when it’s a girl. When it’s a guy? Well, there’s prison rape jokes going on alllll the time – don’t drop the soap in the shower! – and once this bombshell hits the news, every shockjock comedian is going to be making laaaaughing jokes about how you got Trumped, making you into some pansy who’s whining about a grope.

Rush Limbaugh’s gonna make fun of you. No question. Not if it hits national news. And then all of Trump’s friends will join in, saying how Trump is a nice guy and he would never do that….

And if you’re wondering where the anger at what Trump did to you is, well, it’s in there, but it’s mixed in with all this skepticism and doubt and moral judgments on you and whether you’re really a man and by the time it’s all out you have a bunch of people going, “Well, we don’t really know what happened, I can’t judge. It seems like everyone involved is a drama queen.”

Welcome to the wonderful world of rape accusations.

And here’s the thing about men being abused by their spouses, or gaslighted in relationships, or even raped by friends:

You exist.

The world will tell you that you don’t exist, because real men don’t get themselves into situations like that and guys who aren’t real men don’t exist.

But plenty of real men wind up abused. We just don’t hear you talking about it in public because, well, all the reasons I described above. There’s a lot of real men who’ve been abused, and survived, and even thrived – but they don’t talk about it because if you think it’s bad for women (AND IT IS), holy crap is it worse for a guy coming forward in American culture.

But you exist.

I see you.

And I understand why you haven’t come out to tell your story yet. I understand why it might take years. I understand why it might never happen, because it’s terrible enough when you’ve been beaten by your wife or raped as an act of vengeance or even just assaulted by a friend when you were drunk…

…but what happens after you start speaking can be so much worse.

So no, Joe Scarborough, if you had been assaulted by Donald Trump, I don’t think you would have come forward sooner. I think you’d be sitting quietly backstage, watching the headlines pile up, knowing what a firestorm your accusation would cause about Donald’s sexuality, and yours. I think you’d still be wondering whether you want to pay the cost of revelation, knowing that all that opened pain might not even do anything to the man who hurt you.

Then you’d wonder how many others were like you.

And you’d realize you’d never know because silence. Silence is so much easier.


You exist.

I see you.

The Most Beautiful Gift I Got On My FIX Book Tour

“What’s your favorite Magic card?” she asked me, a month before I arrived in Seattle.

I used to play a lot of Magic.  I edited one of the best independent Magic sites, and I wrote hundreds of articles on strategy in Magic multiplayer, and there’s still a lot of people who only know “The Ferrett” as that Magic writer.

But I didn’t have a favorite Magic card.  I just sort of missed playing.

And when I showed up at my signing, before anyone else got to my table, she placed this wooden box before me:

My beautiful gift.

That’s a wooden box with a foil Anathemancer on the cover – a minor sideboard card from Alara Reborn – and a quote from Anathema, the villain from my book Flex.  Who is a ‘mancer.

“You didn’t know this card existed, did you?” she asked.  Yet I did, as I have a mildly encyclopedic knowledge of Magic cards because if a card’s for sale at – and it is – there’s a 97% chance I entered it into the database. I knew about Anathemancer, but she made me realize that my mind must have made a subconscious connection somewhere – another secret tribute to Magic wired into my books, as Paul Tsabo has always been a subtle nod to one of my most-played Magic cards back in the day.

It was perfect, and I was breathless.

“Open the box,” she urged me.  And I did.

It was even more perfect.

My beautiful gift.

My beautiful gift.

What you’re seeing there is an art form pioneered by Master Ookubo – taking several cards and stacking them, with each successive layer more cut out.  I’ve thought about buying a Master Ookubo card for years, but they were pricey and I wouldn’t quite know where in the house I could do such beautiful work justice.

But this is even better.  She took a card that was perfect – Archaeomancer is a Limited staple card that actually does a lot of what Paul does in the books – and melded it with artwork painstakingly cut from the cover of my book to create a fusion of my two writing worlds.

She took the days of me being one of Magic’s most popular writers and fused it with the days of me being a nascent novelist, and I lost it right there in the store, my eyes welling over with tears.

I hugged her, and thanked her, and she said she didn’t want to be referenced publicly or else I would be shouting her name to the heavens.  (It doesn’t hurt that the person who did this is someone I’ve also been a fan of for quite some time.)

This is the most wonderful surprise I can ever remember being given, and so it is now on my mantlepiece, where I smile every time I look at it.

My beautiful gift.

And lest I leave you with too much of an impression that I am a noble and dignified author, I would like you to recall that the entire time this was happening, I was wearing this outfit because I lost a bet to raise funds for my goddaughter’s charity:

My beautiful gift.

But yeah. That was the surprise I was not expecting on my tour to close out the ‘Mancer series, and it was a beautiful way to finish off the tour.

And if you haven’t bought Fix yet, either at Amazon or Barnes and Noble or just your local shop, Angry Robot has put the first three chapters online for free so you can read it and, presumably, get hooked on the adventures.

Go check it out. I’ll be over here smiling at my beautiful artwork.

“All The Women Flirted With Me. That’s To Be Expected.” (Trigger Warning)

Here’s the lens to view things though: Every woman is flirting with you because you’re powerful.

The problem is, you remove that lens, and the truth is that some of those women aren’t flirting with you. Let’s be generous and say that most of them are, but 10% are just being nice.

When you expect to see flirting, everything becomes flirting. Someone making eye contact becomes their bold way of seducing you. Someone’s looking away when you stare at them becomes their shy way of leading you deeper into their boudoir.

When what you expect to see is women wanting to fuck you, well, you can always find evidence that someone’s trying.

And if you are a powerful man, with the ability to make or break their career, and you have this lens that everyone’s secretly trying to fuck you, then there’s a good chance you start trying to fuck them. Which, again, maybe a lot of the women there want you.

But the ones that don’t suddenly wind up with a tongue in their mouth, or your hand on their intimate parts.

And some of them freeze. They freeze because they’re reliving some former trauma, or they freeze because they’re trying to figure out how to tell you “no” without losing the career they so desperately need, or they even freeze just because this is so far out of the line of what they expected that they don’t even know how to react to this.

And if you expect every woman to be into fucking you, you’ll see that very still and silent moment of them, breathlessly savoring what they always wanted.

Except it wasn’t that.

It wasn’t that at all.

Even if, reluctantly, they let you keep their hands there in that intimate place because they do that awful math and decide that “getting assaulted” is better than “being beaten up and assaulted.”

But you don’t see that, because you expected them to fuck you, and that lens transforms a trembling, sobbing woman into a girl who was so very nervous about revealing how much she wanted you.

And that’s the thing: you can be right 95% of the time. Maybe you are that attractive, maybe you are that sexy.

But as a human being with any kind of compassion – are you really okay with raping or molesting one out of every twenty women you’re with?

Or do you double down on the lens because you really want those nineteen women, and that twentieth becomes someone who you’d rather lose behind the distorting fog of the lens of “EVERYONE wants me,” and slowly sell your humanity off one 5% risk at a time?

Look. I get a lot of women flirting with me, and I don’t even vaguely qualify as a celebrity – I’m a sex-blogger with a few thousand fans. I can believe that when you’re on national television, you’d get offers that would blow my mind.

But I keep that firm idea in my head: FLIRTING IS NOT NECESSARILY DESIRE. Even though a lot of the times, honestly, it is.

Because that “not necessarily” becomes vital when you start moving into other equations, such as ACQUIESCENCE IS NOT NECESSARILY ENTHUSIASM and SILENCE IS NOT NECESSARILY APPROVAL.

That “not necessarily” is where the remainder of your humanity lives, when temptation comes knocking. That “not necessarily” is where you avoid that 5% exception, or that 1% exception, or even that .01% exception, because holy fuck, what percentage of women are you comfortable assaulting, shouldn’t it be zero, God I hope it’s zero, please Lord let it be zero.

All the women flirted. And maybe they did.

But it’s what you do with that interpretation that makes you either a human, or a monster.

(Title taken from a quote by Donald Trump, but it could apply to any number of people who wind up getting more fame than they counted on.)

Uncomfortable Thoughts On Trump’s Women-Grabbing Comments

1) Over on Twitter, John Rogers has an excellent thread on what locker-room talk is and what it isn’t. He makes a clear delineation on why what Trump said, even allowing for how crude guys talk, is different. It’s good.

Go read it. Now. Because when I’m discussing “locker room talk” in the next sections, I’m not discussing grabbing women randomly – I’m discussing the objectification and rampant fantasy that often happens, and oh my God there is a distinction.

2) I’d like to tell you I’ve never said anything crude to other dudes like “God, I’d love to fuck that one.” And honestly? I don’t remember ever talking like that. I’m mostly demisexual – I like bodies but I need brains first, and I’ve long discussed my desire for a strip club where I sit down with a clothed woman and we talk about our mutual love for Terry Pratchett and oh my God have you seen the latest Steven Universe and THEN after fifteen minutes of discussion she goes “So you wanna see me naked?” and I’d be all like FUCK YEAH.


I’ve probably exchanged locker-room talk with guys, crudely objectifying.

Because I’ve known guys who do talk like that. And at many points in my life, I really wanted to fit in, even with guys I actually kind of thought were dicks. And I don’t recall a moment where I went along with this shit, but I am not so stupid as to imagine that there wasn’t a time when I didn’t.

Furthermore, I got lucky in the sense that I never had to work with those guys, because then I’d have faced a real and very ugly choice in when to stand up and how.

Which is not to say that this kind of talk is acceptable. It isn’t. It’s just that an awful lot of people are VERY PROUD of themselves because they would NEVER EVER stand for that – and while there are very definitely laudable dudes like that, the insidious thing about locker room talk is that it’s always presented as something you can easily walk away from.

But I know folks who were working $5.50-an-hour jobs who had to decide whether to piss off their coworkers and their boss, potentially losing their salary because when they pay you $5.50 an hour, they’re not overly concerned about replacing some asshole who annoys them. I know folks for who the choice was “tolerate the locker room talk or have no friends at all,” which, again, comes down to “choose isolation or awful, awful tone-switching.”

And it’s always easy to say “I WOULD NEVER!” in a theoretical world. The reason this shit is so perpetuating is that you can often get rejected by support groups you really need for shouting this awful behavior down.

Even more toxic: If you go along with this shit, eventually it becomes normalized. You become the mask. You start slipping in terms of what you think is acceptable behavior, forgetting the whole reason you started talking like this was solely to be accepted, and you internalize it. And whoops, there goes the ball game.

I don’t talk locker room talk. I don’t think I’d tolerate it now. But I also don’t want to do the strong-guy alpha-nerd-male RAR of I WOULD NEVER AND I HAVE NEVER AND I WOULD INCINERATE ANYONE WHO EVER SPOKE THAT WAY WITHIN MY EARSHOT, because damn, guys, if we were to listen to every one of you then nobody ever got to speak like that, and yet somehow, a lot of people do get away with it.

And I don’t think you stop that behavior by trivializing the reasons that otherwise-opposing guys cave in. It’s not pleasant.

But it happens. And I’m probably culpable for at least some portion of it, even as I can’t point to a specific incident.

3) So. Bill Clinton, huh?

As far as I can tell, what he did to Monica Lewinsky was scummy but consensual, in the sense that there was a clear power differential but Monica also was attracted and willing.

There is a huge difference between “coming around to a voluntary seduction” and “grabbing women by the crotch and hoping they’re into it.”

So when conservatives bring up Monica, the easy out is for liberals to quote the playbook and say:


Which is…. only sorta true. At least when it comes to b.

Because that b), well, Bill Clinton’s been accused of rape, if never convicted. He’s been widely accused of unwanted groping. He’s exposed himself to Gennifer Flowers.

His career as a troublesome hero goes WAY beyond Monica, people.

I’ve heard liberals furious because, you know, Trump is literally on trial for raping a thirteen-year-old girl, literally a hundred women have said “Trump tried to kiss me against my will,” and yet Trump’s allegations remained buried in the media until he actually admitted it, on tape.

“We don’t believe the testimony of women,” goes the line. And that’s true. It’s so sadly, fucking true.

But if you wanna listen to the testimony of women, you have to look at Bill Clinton’s past, too.

And for every Democrat screaming, “HOW CAN YOU SUPPORT THAT SONUVABITCH TRUMP?”, I remember a lot of very conflicted feminists sorting through Bill Clinton – certainly a serial cheater, certainly a man who disrespected women’s boundaries, quite possibly a rapist – and coming to the ugly conclusion that the laws he passed that protected them were a lot better than the laws the Republicans would pass.

And Republicans keep bringing up Bill Clinton because yeah, the GOP is supposed to be the party of family values, but the Democrats were supposed to be the party of feminism.

When it comes to politics, we routinely swallow the personal bile to choose someone who’ll actually get shit done – and I remember saying the same about Clinton in the late 90s.

Welcome to the current Republican choice.

…except I can’t respect anyone who votes for Trump, even on that awful axis of “I loathe the man personally but I think he’ll protect my rights better than his opponent.” Trump has flip-flopped so many times I don’t think he’d have the stamina to even pass the good laws by a conservative standard, or have the knowledge to get the Supreme Court justices that would be effective for the GOP in the long-term. Trump would be a disaster on every level.

If he was smart enough to listen to the advice of experts, maybe – Dubya was a nice, quiet puppet – but can you honestly look at everything that’s happened this election and tell me that Trump listens?

He’s a failed businessmen, a huckster, a fraud, and anyone supporting Trump because they think he’ll be a better Republican than Hillary is really baffling to me because the dude is a clear serial liar.

Now, I’m not saying that Trump is good. I’m saying that Clinton did a lot of bad shit, and he’s still someone Hillary feels comfortable parading around giving stump speeches because liberals still love Clinton despite his uncomfortable past.

And I do feel that weird frisson of people saying, “YOU HAVE TO LISTEN TO THE ACCUSER!” when most of what I saw on Twitter from my liberal feed during the DNC was “BILL CLINTON’S SPEECH IS SO ON POINT I MISS BILL.” If I was to sample my liberal friends’ Bill Clinton Criticism, I’d say that criticism of Bill Clinton’s Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell policies and his welfare policies and drug laws are like 95% of what I see, and 5% maybe “Well, what happened between he and Hillary was his business.”

And as a polyamorous dude, maybe Hillary and Bill had a “Don’t get caught” agreement, which Bill violated. I’m glad Hillary and Bill worked it out. They seem to have a pretty decent and supportive marriage now. Remember, you can have instances of cheating and emerge stronger.

But it’s not about just Hillary and Bill. It’s about the women involved who may not have wanted to be involved, who felt uncomfortable speaking up because holy shit, did you see what happened to Monica?  And Monica was willing.  Monica had the biggest courts in America trotting out evidence to prove what happened in closed quarters, and still she got dragged.

Hillary is not Bill. But the current polarization of America makes it seem like if you condemn Trump, you can excuse Bill – or if you demonize Bill’s personal life enough, Trump is somehow okay.

They were both kinda scumbags, personally speaking. And I wish that was more acceptable to say.

(And there is a minor difference in that Bill, at least, seems to have spent the last fifteen years reforming and rethinking, whereas I see no evidence that Trump has tried to do a turn-around. I actually believe people can evolve beyond their flaws; the fact that someone was a scumbag in the 1990s doesn’t necessarily mean they are one today. But that’s a sketchier argument because maaaaybe Bill’s just gotten better about hiding his flaws – a lot of feminist dudes do that – and “how one repents for past sins” is something that’s very personal, and everyone has a different measure on how (or if) that can be done.)

4) Lastly, on a lighter note:

There is nothing that demonstrates the incompetence of the Republican nominees more than the fact that they had almost a year to dig up dirt on Trump and found nothing.

You Don’t Want Just Enthusiastic Consent. You Also Want Mexican Dinner Consent.

Here’s a fun fact that will teach you something valuable about consent: I only want to eat Mexican food once a year or so. I’m not opposed to Mexican – but if you ask me what I want to eat, I’ll suggest  burgers, or Thai food, or Chinese, or sushi, or one of a hundred other foods before I get around to burritos.

Yet my wife loves herself some Mexican food, and so periodically she asks me if we could get Chipotle tonight.

And here’s the consent issue:

When I agree, my “yes” could by no means be construed as “enthusiastic consent.” I pause. I ponder. And when I eventually comply with her flautinian wishes, it’s often more of a resigned shrug than anything else.

Yet I do agree, for any number of reasons:

  • It’ll make her happy;
  • It’s not like I’m actively against it, it just wasn’t my first choice of Things To Do This Evening;
  • I’ll probably be more enthusiastic about this once we start.

Now, the big trick is realizing that some nights, this is also how we have sex. Both of us. Often, one of us is more raring to go than the other, and the not-quite-in-sexytimes-mode partner gives a Mexican Dinner Consent of “…all right.”

If the Rules Of Consent were to be invoked, this would be a travesty. All consent should be enthusiastic! You should not just agree, but be vibrating with untrammeled ardor, pumping your fist as you cry YES to the world!

Yet the secret is, a relationship sustained entirely on enthusiastic consent is often a small and selfish one.

Good long-term relationships have their share of Mexican Dinner Consent.

Don’t get me wrong – enthusiastic consent is, and should be, the default behavior when dealing with new partners and/or new situations. If I ask my wife, “Hey, could you eat a doughnut off my dick?” and she’s like “….uh, I guess,” then I’m gonna stop and wait until she’s raring to go vis-a-vis the whole donut-on-a-dong situation.

Because the goal of “enthusiastic consent” is a marvelous one that basically says, “If you’re not sure about this person, don’t risk pushing them into new places they might not like.” Peer pressure from comparatively new people can pressure folks into doing things they don’t enjoy – and while yes, you can letter-of-the-law yourself into justifying the experience with “THEY SAID YES KEEPER KEEPSIES NO TAKEBACKS,” the truth is that someone just did something they didn’t enjoy with you. Which, if your goal is to provide pleasurable experiences for your partner, should be a drawback.

(Hint: If your goal is not to provide pleasurable experiences for your partner, people should not fucking date you.)

But that “enthusiastic consent” model often forgets that mature relationships often involve doing things you’re not all “WHEE YAY” about. Mature relationships involve boring tasks with well-known consequences like cleaning the bathtub and paying the bills and doing your taxes, and if you wait until you’re all like, “I cannot WAIT to clean out that cat box!”, then you’re going to have some pretty malodorous apartments.

Sometimes, you don’t do stuff because it’s going to fill you brimming with joy. You do it because you know it’ll make your partner happier than the effort the act will cost you.

At which point people go, “…are you comparing cleaning the bathtub to having wild, crazy, over-the-top sex?!? WHAT SORT OF SHITTY SEX LIFE DO YOU HAVE, ANYWAY?” And the answer is that yeah, my wife and I have wild, crazy, over-the-top sex too, and those nights are fucking awesome and they’re filled with fire and floggers and all the craaaazy stuff anyone would want in a good sexy relationship. Those are the nights where we’re both equally driven, and they’re frequent, and they’re awesome.

But we also have nights where one of us is a little tired, or we were planning to get some work done, and the other asks, “…so you wanna?”

And the other agrees, for any number of reasons including:

  • It’ll make my partner happy;
  • It’s not like I’m actively against it, it just wasn’t my first choice of Things To Do This Evening;
  • I’ll probably be more enthusiastic about this once we start.

And the truth is, what often happens with Mexican Dinner Consent is a moment where we have more intimacy than if we waited exclusively for “FUCK YEAH LET’S DOOOOOO THIS,” and we’ve opened up an experience to make our partner happy, and that lukewarm consent has made both of our lives better because we don’t have to wait for both of our Sexytime Gauges to reach MAXIMUM INTENSITY before one person’s needs can be satisfied.

Sometimes, my wife asks if I want to go to the museum, and I wasn’t really planning on seeing sculptures this afternoon, but I give her Mexican Dinner consent. Sometimes I ask if she wants to see a movie with me, and it’s not a movie she’d see on her own, but… Mexican Dinner consent. And sometimes she wants to get Mexican, and I wasn’t really up for it but I realize how much happier Mexican dinner will make her, and so… it’s Mexican Dinner night.

And sometimes we want sex. Sometimes that’s Mexican Dinner Consent. But not on a night when we’ve actually had Mexican Dinner, because goddamn, people, how does anyone move when you’re stuffed full of refried beans and tortillas?

(AN EDIT FOR CLARITY: It’s good to remember the difference between “a request” and “a demand.” In my personal terminology, a request can be freely turned down; a demand has consequences for rejection.

(All the above examples are requests – if my wife was going to get angry at me because I didn’t feel like having Mexican tonight, well, I probably wouldn’t advise going along with her just to keep the peace. There is a VERY LARGE distinction between “Do it or they’ll get mad” and “Do it because it’ll make their life better, and it’s not something you’re drastically opposed to.”)