Hello. I Have A Penis. Are You Turned On Yet?

My penis can even be erect for you! I mean, that’s gotta set me apart, right?

No? But wait, there’s more! My penis (erect) likes to receive blowjobs! That’s a helluva draw, I know.

But this penis – which, just to remind you, I am currently in possession of – can also be inserted into your vagina, ladies! In fact, in addition to my penis-delivery methods, I can also give you graphic details of all the ways I would like my penis to intersect with your body!

No, I won’t check to see if you’d like those penile intrusions. Why would I? If I’m turned on, you must be. That’s the way arousal works.

Just so you can verify the ownership of this penis, I have several options to send you photos of it, which I will whether you asked for them or not:

  • Penis in a bathroom
  • Penis next to a beer can or flashlight
  • Penis with a hand gripping the base so the penis looks bigger.

So act now, to get a penis! I’ll deliver! Or, more actually, I’ll probably just talk a lot about delivering and then chicken out and masturbate to pictures of you, then ghost. But that’s okay, because it’s satisfying to me. And therefore you.

(WARNING: The owner of the penis makes no promises as to his ability to maintain an erection, maintain interest in a woman when he has no erection, maintain a safe operating environment for any woman engaged in isolated activities with him, maintain a healthy emotional distance where he won’t fuck you once and then get murderously jealous of everyone else in your life regardless of your requests for him to leave, maintain a washed physical form, maintain a job, maintain ethical integrity with regards to the spouse he’s probably not mentioning, maintain his mansplaining ascertainment, maintain his secrecy with regards to any photos you may send him, or maintain the rains on the plain in Spain. Please take penis as directed. Do not taunt happy fun penis or he might just up and strangle you. For real.)

What Do You Do When Someone’s Flying High But About To Crash?

So you’ve got a friend who’s walking into a field full of red flags.

Usually, those red flags are relationship-based – “Oh, we opened up our relationship, but I’m not allowed to date men, only women!” they cry, thrilled about the hot sex they’re going to be getting, unaware of how that story usually ends. Or they’re a desperate guy who’s ecstatic to have his first real girlfriend, a girlfriend who is quietly encouraging to drop all his friends and hobbies because she doesn’t really seem to like who he is, only who he might be with a little molding.

But he’s in love, so what can you say?

Sometimes the Waving Field of Red Flags comes from other, more mundane topics – the friend who’s quitting their job to sell CutCo knives for a living, the relative who’s found a friendly bank to loan them money to buy a house they can’t possibly afford.

The specific shade of this Waving Field of Red Flags doesn’t matter. The point is that they’re rhapsodic because they’re at the top of this particular rollercoaster ride, the point of max exhilaration where it’s all giddy anticipation as the coaster ratchets to the top, and they don’t see the massive plunge coming.


But experience tells you it’s gonna happen.

So how do you warn them off? Especially when they’re so goddamned happy right now?

And this is when my take on advice comes in strong.

Because nobody seeks advice when they know what they’re doing. You get advice when you’re not sure about which way to go – things like, “What college is best?” and “How do I save for retirement?” There’s usually a research stage before life’s decisions, and that’s when someone is receptive to input.

Ah, but in matters of the heart…

Once the emotions kick in, they’re no longer seeking advice – in fact, logic becomes their enemy. Because when you’re really committed to this new relationship or this lovely house they could buy or this profitable dream of a career they could have, the logical portion of most people’s brains stops seeking input and starts becoming a Rationalization Engine. They’ll cling to any sign of goodness as long as it supports the facts they want to see.

So if you think a friend’s in trouble, well, you can talk. Heck, you almost certainly should. But you have to realize, you’re probably not going to make a difference. They may claim they’re open to feedback, but in truth they’re probably locked and loaded. At best you might be able to wrestle them off the path through a combination of leverage and guilt, but even then you’ll have to deal with their resentment because they were sure they had a good thing – and maybe they’ll fall for the same trick the next time.

So what do you do?

You change your conception of “advice.”

Because the way I see it, advice isn’t actually meant to change someone’s point of view.

It’s a lockbox you bury in their basement.

Because call me cynical, but what I find is that most people won’t change their behavior when things are going right – they only consider alternate paths when they’ve burnt everything to the ground and are wandering dazed through the wreckage, trying to figure out what the heck happened.

Your job is to seed the basement with enough fireproof lockboxes so when they’re pawing through the ashes, they might find the box of your old advice and go, “Crap, that’s what I did.”

Or, if you’d like to be slightly more hopefully, advice is the box that they open when things start to turn sour and they go, “Oh, maybe my friend was right.” Sometimes they leave a little earlier thanks to what you said. It can happen.

But the important thing is this: Advice almost never stops someone in their tracks.

And that’s actually good. Because you’re not always right. I know I’ve done some damn fool things that worked out in my life that arguably shouldn’t have, most notably “Quitting my job and moving to Alaska to marry my Internet sweetheart,” a move that literally nobody at the wedding including the bride and groom thought would work out, and yet here we are twenty years later.

I’m not saying you’re not probably right. But advice is fraught with its own issues – your personal biases, differences in personality, misinterpretations, dumb luck. If what someone’s going to is super-obvious then yes, maybe you wanna go to the mat, but the darkly cynical side of me would like to suggest a darkly cynical solution:

Some people gotta catch wood or drown.

And like the lockboxes, the best you can do sometimes is hold your dumbass friend’s hand while they descend into darkness, knowing that this is probably disaster, knowing that they’ll need a friendly face when this is all done to wipe the ashes off their cheeks and help them back to their feet.

Or maybe you throw a party in a few years and celebrate because whee, you were wrong, it’s the twentieth wedding anniversary and wasn’t it great that you didn’t stop them?

But probably not. This is probably disaster. But your advice is not meant to wall them off from this. Your advice is that lockbox they open up later on, when they’re confused and hurt, and maybe you help them to shape their experience with this so that next time, next time, they’re a little slower to plunge into stupidity.

That’s how cynical people keep friends. We love, but we don’t expect. We stash the love for them for when they need it later. And be ready to pick them up when they fall.

That’s the best we can do. And sometimes, hopefully, it’s even good enough.

Potentially Perilous Poly Patterns: The Catalyst

You’re polyamorous, so you’re able to date anyone you want. That’s good!

Except the person you’ve fallen in love with is married, and they’re not polyamorous. That’s bad!

EXCEPT that after some awkward discussions, the married couple decides that they’ve been wanting to expand their horizons for some time – and since you’re right there and waiting, they’ll open up their relationship, starting with you. That’s good!

If you’re thinking “Isn’t there a hidden ‘That’s bad’ coming?”, well, you’re way ahead of the curve.

Because I’ve written before about how first-timer couples have a habit of treating their new polyamorous partners more like an experiment than an actual love. (Insert hashtag #notallcouples.) They tend not to see this new lover as a person with needs, but rather as some exciting adjunct to their existing relationship – they get more sex, they get more excitement, they get the fascinating experience of handling jealousy and attractions in a different way –

And that pattern often works for the third party, right up until that person has a need that conflicts with the needs of the couple.

Classically speaking, the trigger point that causes the break is one of two things:

  • The other partner is “okay” with polyamory as long as they also get to boink the outside partner at the same time, which usually leads to a couple of uncomfortable threesomes and a discussion of “No, I just want to date this person, not both of you”;
  • One of the two couple-partners gets way more into the external partner than the other half was expecting, at which point the reins get yanked and yanked back hard.

At which point there’s an awkward discussion about Oh, sorry, we weren’t ready for this and the new person gets tossed out on their ear.

Basically: We like you, but we’re not willing to accommodate you.

Now, that’s all a known danger, Khaleesi. Being people’s firsts runs the obvious risk of becoming someone’s last when they discover this is not for them. I’m not saying never to do starter poly – even though, full revelation, I don’t – but I am saying that if you’re attracted to anyone who’s in flux, you need to be prepared for the very real concept that this might not evolve the way you thought it would.

Yet there’s an ugly kicker to all of this:

Sometimes, it turns out that you were not only an experiment for this couple, but you were a successful one.

What often happens afterwards is that the couple has been on autopilot for so long that you’ve woken them up again – your new and sexy hotness has gotten them to talk about sex more and started up all those old kinky negotiations they stopped having, and the threat you posed to their happiness actually forced them into talking more and hashing out issues they’d quietly buried.

You see them around. They’re lovey-dovey in ways they weren’t before, their spark flaring ever-hotter, maybe even dating quietly on the side in better-defined polyamorous relationships. And one of the partners – the one you were into – will look at you and give a little sigh-smile that goes Oh you kid but that part’s over because they’ve prioritized themselves properly and you didn’t fit.

Which can be a heartbreak if you’re still single and looking. Or even just still not over that person.

But you gotta ask yourself when you’re getting into a relationship with inexperienced folks: Am I an actual priority, or just a potential catalyst? And keep in mind, there’s nothing wrong with being a catalyst if you want to. It can be super-fun being someone’s gateway to a new world.

Just… keep your heart properly protected. Because if you think this is A True Relationship and it turns out that you were a nice-to-have, you can damage yourself in ways you don’t want to. And you’re worth keeping safe.

Joker: A Review

There’s been a lot of critical frothing about how JOKER is the first superhero movie that’s worthy of an Oscar. So let me say this:

JOKER is what an Oscar movie looks like to people who haven’t seen a lot of Oscar movies. It’s mirroring the superficial aspects of much better films, but without the underlying philosophies that made them actually resonant. So what you get is a pastiche of other, more interesting, movies, held together by one amazing performance from Joaquin Phoenix.

There’s also been a lot of critical frothing about how JOKER is an incel’s paradise, designed to make sad rejected men feel vindicated when they lash out at society. So let me also say this:

JOKER is not really interesting enough to launch a movement like that. If you think of FIGHT CLUB, remember all the interesting philosophical questions about what it meant to be a man in this modern age and how nihilism wasn’t quite the answer but neither was faith?

Well, JOKER doesn’t have that.

Remember how TAXI DRIVER indicated that Travis Bickle was an alienated loner, but also looked insightfully into the ways he manufactured his own loneliness and in fact played into the idea that maybe being the savior of women wasn’t entirely a selfless act?

Well, JOKER doesn’t have that either.

Now, all that sounds like I hated this movie – and I didn’t! It was well worth my AMC Moviepass money, and I had a good time in the theater. My advice is that you go see it!

But JOKER has been blown up to be all sorts of interesting things that it’s not actually interested in being.

Because JOKER is, at its heart, a comic-book movie. It exists in an absurd cartoon world where, in the course of literally three days, two entirely different men decide to beat the shit out of a random clown. It exists in a world where a guy shoots three people on a train and the newspapers thunder headlines of, “SHOOTING RICH ASSHOLES: A NEW TREND?” because the plot demands it.

If you’ve ever seen any of the PLANET OF THE APES movies, you know where literally every character in the film is a completely vindictive asshole, with each supporting character’s entire goal is to grind down the protagonists’ lives until they finally snap?

Well, that’s JOKER.

It’s a big, sloppy soap opera of a movie, and that’s absolutely great, but the Oscar movies it’s trying to emulate usually have one other aspect that JOKER purposefully ignores:

A philosophy.

And Oscar films love a little philosophy.

A more interesting film – and mind you, JOKER is pretty interesting as it is – would have made some judgments about baby Joker; whether people were in some way right to reject him, or whether society itself is designed to hinder some sorts of people and help others. It might have asked how a real-life Joker comes to be, and as such it might have been either sympathetic to the incel movement (don’t be) or deconstructing the idea of it, or just looking at what a nice white dude can get away with.

JOKER… isn’t any of that. Joaquin Phoenix has said specifically he didn’t want anyone to understand or sympathize with Joker, he wanted him to be something that no psychiatrist could diagnose, and as such the film is oddly hands-off in asking the question, “Is this guy justified?” It basically rains shit down on the Joker in an entirely predictable fashion where if you ask, “What would make this guy the most miserable?”, you can call every beat of the plot.

Which isn’t to say that it might not launch its own movement if it gets popular enough; hell, THE MATRIX has shown that even with an explicit philosophy, you show a movie to enough people and they’ll start seeing things that aren’t really there (cough cough Red Pill man-movement centered around a film made by two trans people transmuting their experiences into science fiction). JOKER might well honestly create something, but that won’t be so much the movie as aimless folks looking for any handy movement to latch on to.

What I suspect we’ll get are a lot of edgelords in cosplay, which means we’ll see a reduction in the number of Rorschach masks sold this Halloween.

But JOKER is like an Oscar movie in one very specific way: there is a brand of Oscar movie, at least one per year, that features an amazing actor’s performance housed in a pretty mediocre movie. If you every watched Philip Seymour Hoffman in CAPOTE, he absolutely blazed every moment of the screen nailing becoming someone else entirely, a masterwork of actor’s skills.

The plot? Predictable. The directing? Mediocre. But you come for the acting and don’t expect much else, and you’ll be okay.

JOKER is kind of like CAPOTE in that Joaquin Phoenix’s performance is every bit as good as people say, and watching him transform himself into the unknowable is well worth the price of admission. And the directing is quite good at times, coming alive at the correct moments of violence.

But one of my prime moments of nerddom is that I saw THE DARK KNIGHT with Neil Gaiman on opening night (along with the other 17 members of my Clarion class). And he came out frowning and said, “I’m not sure if I watched a magnificent movie or just a magnificent performance.”

JOKER is a magnificent performance. Go see it for the one-man show. But when it falls way short of winning the Best Picture Oscar this year, don’t be surprised.

Two New Stories From The Sol Majestic, In Case You’re Not Hungry Enough

So my food-porn-romance-in-space book The Sol Majestic has been out for a few months now – enough to pick up stellar reviews like this one from Locus, the place where science fiction publishing gets all its news:

Smart, compelling, joyful and blistering in both its honesty and emotional reckoning, The Sol Majestic is a singularly original novel that has the power to be a true life-changer for its teen readers. Ferrett Steinmetz has created something exceptional here, it’s quirky and it’s real and it’s highly relevant to our world and our time.

Colleen Mondor, https://twitter.com/chasingray/status/1174803662662594560

Those of you who’ve read it can judge whether that’s true or not. But regardless of whether you loved The Sol Majestic and want more, or haven’t purchased The Sol Majestic yet and want a taste, there’s two stories out there for you that are free to read:

First off is a special story I wrote for Tor.com, called “Yelp Reviews From The Greatest Restaurant In The Galaxy.” Four customers share their experiences of what it was like dining at The Sol Majestic, which interweave a bit to show you more of how Paulius and Scrimshaw (the Sol Majestic’s owners) run things behind the scenes. This tale made my wife tear up; with luck, maybe it’ll draw a bit of wetness to your eyes.

The second story isn’t actually new, but if you’re new to The Sol Majestic you might not have read it’s sorta-prequel – the Nebula-nominated novella I wrote in 2012 called “Sauerkraut Station.” If you’re new to the Sol Majesticverse, this gives the backstory of how Savor Station came to be, told through the eyes of a small girl called Lizzie in what I have described as “Little House On The Prairie, But In Space.” And if you remember reading this tale – one of my most popular stories – then know that The Sol Majestic shows you the woman little Lizzie has grown into.

And if you like either of those, consider picking up a copy of The Sol Majestic; it’ll do yer tastebuds good. And if you’ve read The Sol Majestic, whether you liked it or not, consider leaving a review at GoodReads or Amazon. Every review helps feed the mighty algorithms that drive recommendations!

Bon appetit.