Sign Up For My Newsletter, Win A Free ARC Of My Book THE SOL MAJESTIC!

The Sol Majestic!

I’ll be doing a book tour to promote my fine-dining-in-space gay romance book The Sol Majestic in June and July. And the biggest problem with book tours is this conversation:

“A book tour? When are you coming to my town?”
“…I was there last week.”

But that’s the problem! Between the billions of Facebook posts and Tweets and other aspects, people don’t get the message that I’m coming – even though I’ve said it a billion times before! So I asked my fellow authors: What works to get the word out?

They told me: newsletters.

So. If you sign up for my newsletter at https://www.theferrett.com/newsletter/ within the next two weeks, I will enter you into a raffle to win a free advance copy of The Sol Majestic – which, if not the best book I’ve ever written, is certainly the closest book to my heart because it’s got love of food and people being kind to each other and investigations of what art really means and also how do we make the work better, all overlaid with wild imaginations of what it would mean to make the finest cuisine with the weirdest sci-fi technologies.

You can win it just for giving me your email address, people.

(And also, if you pre-order it and follow the directions, you’ll get a free signed bookplate and a secret recipe and oh you know the drill by now. Click the link for info, if you must.)

Anyway. Gimme your email, and from then on I’ll send you an email about once a month with my most popular blog posts, and the books I liked, and excerpts from what I’m writing, and also hey I’ll be in your goddamned town wanna join me for free donuts and drinks afterwards?

(NOTE: All my book signings involve donuts and going out for after-signing beverages. I like to eat, what can I say?)

So head to https://www.theferrett.com/newsletter/ and sign up, and in two weeks we’ll see if you’ve won. And prepare for another book tour as I try to hit as many spots as possible in the US, and maybe even Canada this time.

How To Turn Someone With Herpes Down Without Being A Jerk

FIRST, A DISCLAIMER: Invariably, when I post an essay on “How to be nice to people,” some folks get offended. “Why are you asking me to put in extra effort for strangers?” they sneer. “I’m so sick of being told how to talk! Why do I have to learn these things?!”

Alas, the relevant clause here is “Without being a jerk.” There are plenty of no-extra-effort ways to turn someone down; they also happen to be methods that hurt people’s feelings.

Top tip: Being nice to people usually involves going the extra mile.

So rather than dealing with the usual blowhards who are furious about having to burn their poor, overworked brain cells on superfluous concepts like “empathy,” I will delete the comments of anyone who complains about having to be nice to HSV carriers and replace them with a comment saying, “@USERNAME would like you to know they are a jerk.” Commenting on this blog post means you consent to this.

THEN A SECOND DISCLAIMER: Remember that not turning down someone with herpes is also a perfectly acceptable default. But if you’re not comfortable with someone’s status…

“Why Do You Want To Die In A Car Wreck?”
You probably got in a car sometime in the last year or so. It’s well known that people die in car crashes a lot; it’s one of the most common causes of death.

Why did you want to die?

Your answer, of course, is probably “I didn’t want to die, I just needed to get to the mall.” And yet you accepted that risk of dying, knowing that hundreds of thousands of people have died in car accidents, knowing that car rides are inherently dangerous.

“But the only way to ensure you never have any risk of dying in a car accident is never riding in a car!”

Bingo.

(Well, not actually true, as someone my wife knew once died sleeping when someone crashed through their bedroom, but close enough.)

Point is, at some point most of you tallied up the risks of driving in a car – an act so dangerous you have to be professionally trained and get a license for it – and said, “Yeah, I’m willing to risk death for convenience.” (And bonus points if you ever said, “I’ll get in a car with a stranger I summoned from the Internet and pay them to drive for me.”)

You didn’t want to die in a car crash; you just wanted to get places more conveniently. And you wanted that benefit so much that you weighed the risks, decided the benefit was larger than the potential downside of losing a limb to a drunk driver, and proceeded to hurl yourself into harm’s way.

Nobody wants to die in a car crash.

Nobody wants to get herpes, either.

So when you say, “I don’t want to get herpes” to someone you’re turning down, you’re being unthinkingly snide by implying that the people who have sex with these folks do want to get herpes. They don’t. Like you, they’ve looked at the risks, calculated them – albeit differently from the way you do – and decided that the benefits of fine sex with this person outweigh the slight potential of getting herpes.

And it is – or can be – a low risk. With modern treatments, the risks of having sex with someone with known herpes are pretty slim. I know of at least three married couples who’ve been partnered for ten years minimum where the one has yet to catch herpes from the other. I get that you don’t want to get it, but managed properly it’s roughly as distant a risk as dying in a car accident.

…a risk made even more complicated by the fact that you may have herpes right now and not even know it. True story: I had a friend who was dating a guy for six years – a man who’d been tested negative for herpes on multiple occasions over decades, simply because either the right tests weren’t being used or he hadn’t had his first outbreak. He was as safe as it could be ascertained. And it turns out he had a latent strain, and he had his first outbreak, and she caught it.

Again. This isn’t an ad for “WHY YOU SHOULD WANT HERPES” – there’s a reason I wear condoms – but as a disease, there’s a lot of people who do have it right now and don’t even know because for them, it’s not that inconvenient.

Which is why some other people take other risks. You don’t have to; in fact, I assume you won’t, and that’s fine. I’m not shaming anyone for deciding not to have sex with anyone for whatever reason you choose. But when you say “I don’t want to get herpes,” that carries some bad implications.

What should you say? “I’ve read up on it, and I’m sorry, but I’m not comfortable with the risks.”

That’s honest, and it doesn’t look down on anyone who chooses to say “Yes” instead. Because the only way to absolutely ensure you never pick up herpes is not to have sex with anyone – and if you’re out there having sex, the best you can do is mitigate the risks, not eliminate them.

Don’t Assume Herpes Was A Conscious Choice.
Some people did pick up herpes by having sex with people – and as I’ve argued in the past, that should carry no more stigma than picking up a cold from work. Just like getting in a car risks death, interacting with other people on any level risks catching some disease.

However, there are some folks who picked herpes up through nonconsensual means. Their mother had it and passed it on to them, or someone who sexually assaulted them had it and passed it on.

Which means when you’re talking with someone about their herpes status, it’s best not to imply in any way that this was some sort of punishment for sleeping around. You don’t know. Don’t be a jerk.

Offer What You Can Outside Of Sex.
One of the things that hurts people the most is the way that revealing their HSV+ status gets them insta-dumped. They’re having a good time talking with someone, sparks are flying, and then SEE YA.

Now usually that’s a way of saying “If I can’t fuck you, I don’t need you,” which is a pretty jerky way of interacting with people anyway. And I’m certainly not saying you need to continue to talk with someone as a friend when all you want in your life right now is a date.

But if you’ve started to make a friend, and you could use a friend, why not see if they’re amenable?

That’s not universally applicable, of course – the “If I can’t fuck you, I don’t need you” attitude isn’t unique to the non-herpetic population. And many folks would see the friendship as a sad consolation prize they don’t want. But some might want to still have a scening buddy, or someone they can get whipped by but can’t get fucked by, or just someone to chat with online.

The cold disappearance is what often hurts the most. Sometimes that’s necessary; by no means should you hang around someone out of pity, because that road leads to disaster. But sometimes you can hang a left on that road and wind up in buddytown, and if you can, that’s helpful all round.

Ask In Advance.
So you’re hip-deep in a hot makeout session that’s trending towards Teh Sexx0r, and your partner wriggles uncomfortably and says, “Um…. you should know… I have herpes.”

That’s a bad time to find out, hoss.

My friends have told me stories that boil down to “Formerly amorous person leaps off them like a scalded cat, backs out of the room with the air of a man escaping a plague zombie” or, even worse, “Lust-addled person goes for it, freaks out, has lots of tests and then decides crap, they can’t handle the HSV thing.”

Look. HSV is startlingly common. Somewhere between 10 and 25% of people have it. If you’re dating, it will come up. So discuss it. Proactively. If sex is in the air, say, “Hey, the last time I was tested was in November, and my results were negative.”

Start the discussion in advance rather than just assuming it’s all good.

Read The Comments.
If past experience is a guide, people with herpes will weigh in on the shittiest (and, hopefully, nicest) ways they’ve been turned down. Listen to them. Take notes. Because if you want to be kind, part of that kindness involves keeping your eyes open.

A Teenaged Memory: Queen At Live Aid

Ever remember something that made you so ineffably happy at the time, yet in retrospect it was heartbreakingly sad?

That was Live Aid for me.

I watched Bohemian Rhapsody last night, where Queen makes their triumphant performance before a massive crowd at Wembley stadium, and I’ve heard my old friends reminiscing about their shared experiences watching Live Aid – resonating to Queen, remembering all the other songs that thundered out across the world that day, highlighting their love of music.

I didn’t love music. I don’t think I even had a Walkman at that point. I’d heard songs, sure, I listened to them, but I didn’t really have a favorite band.

Possessing a favorite band would have involved having friends, which I didn’t.

Oh, I suppose some people devised their favorite band without the outside pressure of buddies asking them to defend their choices, but for me, I just like what I like. I don’t rank things. I knew other people had favorite bands, but I associated that with friendship – they chose bands the way old nations waved flags, clustering into groups of heavy metal and pop and the weirdo classicals, continually trading music and playing each other songs and what did you think of that, aren’t they good, how do they compare.

And I… just had radio.

It was a pretty barren thing.

The magic of music is often not just in the melody, but the way a song can come to capture a moment of your life. I remember Iron Maiden as the fierce triumph of battling past anxiety to attend my first music concert, Duran Duran as the girl I liked so much I took her to a pop show I didn’t like and felt her head on my shoulder, The Time Warp as that crowd of rowdies I came to fall in with at the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

But what is music when you’re nothing?

I had no friends, no social groups, no anything. My life was something I worked to avoid. I read books because that was like living something, anything, for a while, but my actual existence consisted of sliding like a ghost through the hallways at school and hoping nobody bullied me that day. My family fretted, but the best part of my day consisted of locking myself in my room and forgetting myself.

What would music capture, then?

Why would I want to relive it?

And yet everyone I vaguely knew – I only vaguely knew people – seemed very excited about Live Aid, which seemed nice to me, it was for charity, and a lot of bands were contributing.

I asked them whether they wanted to watch it at my house.

I don’t recall how that happened – they were mostly acquaintances, and risking rejection must have been such a terror for me that I whited out the memory of it. And it must have been late in the school year as well, as Live Aid happened in July, so maybe I was giddy in the last weeks of sophomore year. But…

I remember having to rearrange the house. I didn’t have people over. I only watched TV in my room, which was too small and smelled of stress. So they decorated the basement, and moved the TV there so I could have some privacy,
and put bowls of chips and cookies out.

Three people showed up.

One of them was a girl.

And though I saw Queen live, I have no memory of that. All I remember is a glorious contact high – because I had friends over, people who wanted to be with me, and maybe it wasn’t me but the concert they wanted to see, but they also wanted my company and maybe that wasn’t so bad.

And they talked about the music and oohed and aahed over the performances and we cheered whenever the money tallies were announced, but really I kept thinking, in amazement: There is a girl. In my house.

I never thought that would happen.

I didn’t have any designs on her – well, I mean, I had a massive crush on any female who didn’t reject me, but all those crushes were bound so tight I could never let any aspect of that seep out. But she was a nerdy girl like me, and very happy to see her bands at an actual party, and in retrospect she may have been as lonely as I was, or maybe she was just an extrovert.

Yet what I remember is that I had spent the last three years honestly believing that no woman would enter my house at all, ever, I’d be forty and slouching back after work to an empty apartment the way my bedroom was empty now, and endless decades of isolation and insanity would erode me because I had no concept of friendship, and yet…

Here I was. At a party. With boys and girls, and nobody seemed to be mocking me.

It was, I swear to you, the best day of 1985.

There was music. But mostly I sat back listening to other people talk, perhaps too quiet, but just bathing in this brief illusion of normality, because this is a life that other people had and I never would but God had gifted me with this one brief moment to sustain me and thank you God, thank you, thank you for giving me a glimpse of the life that other people have.

They left early, of course. We weren’t old enough to drive, and the parents had to pick them up. And before nightfall I was back in my room-cum-prison, eating the last of the chips, feeling the loneliness set back in.

I probably should have asked them for another party, maybe to see a movie, but that felt like too much.

I didn’t have another party that summer. Or that fall. Or that winter.

I didn’t call up the girl, or the other boy – the third attendee was my friend Bryan, and sometimes we hung out, but mostly the summer was just what the rest of my life was, which was to say going out to places that my parents made me yet coming home alone.

Yet every day I remembered the party.

I still do.

And that was the most brilliant moment of 1985 for me, and yet it was so small, such a trivial moment, such a thing where awkward me should have called up the girl and the boy and tried to be normal and yet I was so scared and so used to isolation that it never occurred to me that we could get together without a worldwide event to draw us.

I could have had friends. I think. It’s so easy to imagine that now.

Yet all I had was one party – a flickering ember that dwindled, dwindled, dwindled over the course of a long winter, the residual heat that kept me from committing suicide when I contemplated the desolation that was my future, and some days I wish I could find that young unwashed Ferrett and tell him that he’s worthy of love, he should call, he can do this.

Then some days I look at old adult Ferrett in fear that he’ll put his hand on the doorknob to his house with his wife and his loving children and his beautiful partners and clever friends and that doorknob will turn out to be that prison-handle and all of this will be some elaborate teenaged fantasy I created because it was better than going mad from despondency.

I left that room, one day, in 1985. I had a party. It was a good party. And I’ve had several parties since.

But some rooms you never really leave.

Why “Never Make Someone Your Priority When You’re Only Their Option” Is Misleading Poly Advice

There’s a quote that’s floated about the Internets for years, and it goes something like this:

“Never allow someone to be your priority while allowing yourself to be their option.”

It’s a good starter rule for monogamy, but I feel the advice often goes awry for the people who most need it in polyamory – because they’re often filtering their polyamory through the perspective of monogamy.

Because as I always joke about in my classes, monogamy has a secret win condition called “death.” There’s a hidden monogamous escalator – you date, you kiss, you go steady, you move in together, you get engaged, you get married, maybe you get yourself some kids along the way, and each stage is perceived as a higher level of commitment by society at large.

Get married until death do you part, and congratulations! You have won the game of monogamy!

….except you kinda haven’t. I mean, we all know that bitter fundamentalist couple who made a drastic mistake when they were nineteen but their religion won’t allow them to divorce, so they’ve endured in misery for fifty years. Or you’ve got that couple who can’t afford the split in property (or who don’t want to upset their kids), so they shamble along in a caricature of surface-level affection.

Point is, even though society’s keyed most people to see “living together forever” as the victory condition for monogamous relationships, it’s not really all that.

But if you’re not careful when you enter into polyamory, you can accidentally slurp that philosophy up like poison in the groundwater.

I did that a lot in the early days of going poly: I wasn’t looking for a girlfriend, I was looking for a secondary wife. I thought I’d find yet another soulmate to rival the woman I’d spent ten years building a relationship, and we’d come to rely on each other for all the emotional support that my wife and I gave each other, and we’d smooth down all of each other’s rough edges to learn to work properly with each other, and eventually we’d, I dunno, move in and get a triple-marriage and die happily in a nursing home cuddle puddle.

Most of these relations snapped like a shattered tibia under the weight of “must be wife material.” The truth was, what we shared was a good sense of humor and some sexual chemistry, and I would have been a lot better off letting those relationships grow organically, rather than treating our first serious disagreement be “Now, we’re going to be lifelong partners, so we have to correct even the slightest flaws because we will be two weasels locked in a paint bucket forever, so let’s map out a better and lasting communication strategy.”

Know what would have kept us together? A box of chocolates and a good makeup fuck.

So saying “Never allow someone to be your priority while allowing yourself to be their option” is good advice for monogamous people who largely have to learn to be priorities, and it’s excellent advice for single-poly people dating poly couples who want to dodge the toxic idea of “couples privilege” (where two people can dump you at any time for any reason any time you have a need that conflicts with theirs)…

…but if you’re still approaching polyamory through a history of viewing relationships through that monogamish lens?

Well, wiser minds than me have fallen prey to the idea that every relationship must be a five-alarm fire priority, and as such they kind of forget the idea that relationships can have optional parts.

Like, I’ve got friends who I woodwork with, and they’re completely reliable if I need to fix a bookcase I put together wrong, yet we don’t sit in a circle troubleshooting each other’s relationship troubles. I’ve got friends who will drop everything to talk me through a depression at three in the morning, but I would not trust them within fifteen yards of my finances. I’ve got friends who I go months without seeing, eventually catch a completely enjoyable beer and a movie with, and then not plan anything for months after.

Not everything in poly relationships needs to be a priority either.

This is most commonly expressed in terms of a classic Dom/Sub relationship, where someone goes to a tertiary partner for hot beatings and proper tears, but is reliant on a spouse for their finances and fundamental emotional checkins. But there’s all sorts of other shapes a poly relationships can take – I have comets who I care for deeply, chat with twice a week, and yet will never actively book a flight to go see them because that’s not how that works for us. I have partners who have neuroses that are hair-bristlingly at odds with my insecurities, and so when they freak out they have to go to their other partners or else we would implode.

You know how some couples are great until they move in with each other and it turns out they utterly can’t live in the same space? In poly, you don’t have to.

The beauty of polyamory is that your relationships can be custom-fit to whatever you need.

But to do that, you have to let go of the idea that the universal priority is inherently better than the option. It certainly is for some people, mostly monogamous ones, who need it – and there’s nothing wrong with that!

Yet that may not be you.

The way I phrase it is, “Never give something to someone who you’re quietly expecting a trade back from.” If you’re holding space, emotionally or Google Calendarwise, for someone who doesn’t prioritize that space back for you, then definitely take a step back.

But a lot of times, you can be forge a perfectly happy relationship with people who don’t prioritize you in all the ways you’d like to be prioritized – you just quietly say, “Okay, that’s not the kind of relationship we have, I can’t get that kind of support from them – is this still worth having?”

A lot of times it still is.

And the more you can remember that, the happier you’ll be in polyamorous relationships.

I Don’t Swear To Offend You, I Swear.

“We’re gonna impeach the motherfucker.”

So said Rashida Tlaib in a speech – which caused a stir, because good people are not supposed to swear, and if they swear that means they are so crude you can safely ignore them. Which I said, more or less, on Facebook – to which a friend replied, more or less:

“I don’t care whether anyone swears, but I do hate it when someone uses a shock word to cause outrage and then pretends they didn’t mean to.”

The problem is this:

When I say “fuck,” I am not trying to cause outrage.

I find the word “fuck” to be a satisfying amplifier. When I say, “That guy irritates me,” you get the gist, but “That fuckin’ guy” slams the point home emotionally. Saying “That’s weird” doesn’t convey the emotional valence that a good, solid “What the fuck?” does.

My swearing is not a calculated attempt to offend you – for me, the usage of expletives is like a peppery seasoning that makes my language pop. And it’s not that I am incapable of eschewing the obscenities, or that my intellect is not up to the challenge of stripping offensive oaths in the proper social situations – it’s that left to my own merits, I find the sounds of profanities to be melodious, providing a depth and resonance to sentences that no bowdlerized version could provide.

I mean, one of my greatest authorial achievements comes from when I had a videogame-wizard face down her enemy in a one-on-one fight and had her coin the phrase, “Mortal Kombat, motherfuckress.”

Yet the world being as large as it is, I acknowledge that people’s opinions differ. I was listening to a podcast this morning about a theater producer in the Deep South, who said “fuck” in the presence of children and was told in no uncertain words to get out of town or he’d be tarred and feathered. I acknowledge that, which is why I try not to swear around children until I’m told their parents are okay with it, and I don’t break into flurries of epithets at polite social gatherings.

But that’s not because I intended to offend you. I acknowledge that it does offend you.

But that’s not why I did it.

I did it because I myself enjoy it.

And I think of an idiotic idea I had a long time ago, which is sadly not uncommon among men today – that if a woman dresses in a sexy way, she clearly was out to turn me on. And ever since I’ve stepped away from a simple black T-shirt and jean ensemble into more in-depth fashion, I’ve learned that yes, sometimes I do look quite dapper, but often I’m not dressing up to impress anyone but myself. The fact that other people like my style can be a factor in why I dress up on any single day – but given that having, say, pretty pretty princess fingernails means that I have to cope with strange women continually grabbing at my hands without my consent means that some days I dress up to please myself despite other people’s reactions.

My friend who left the comment is female. I think if she complained about a guy catcalling her and I said, “I don’t care how anyone dresses, but I do hate it when someone wears outfits to turn people on and then pretends they didn’t mean to,” she’d rightfully tear my head off.

(As my friends did back in the day. Thankfully.)

Likewise, framing swearing as an act inevitably intended to instill outrage is a cultural window I think we should view carefully. I’m from a culture where swearing is a very casual thing, and in fact if you look at George Carlin, some have turned swearing into a thing of beauty. And yes, probably coming from a politician it probably is a studied act of outrage, but it may also be a case where her natural tendencies to think of swearing as a beautiful punctuation overlapped with her need to make a splash in the media.

Yet I think there’s a danger in assuming that someone’s actions must be driven by an intention to provoke a reaction in you, regardless of what that action is. I’ve seen that allegation levied at gay people, at trans people, at all sorts of other behaviors – and more often than not, what people are doing is living the life they want to and being braced for a blowback they’d prefer didn’t exist, but have to deal with being the realistic people they are.

And you know what the people who give that blowback are?

Those fuckin’ guys.

A Ferrett In Chicago (At A Convention!) (This Weekend!)

A Ferrett In Chicago (At A Convention!) (This Weekend!)

If you’ve got no plans this weekend and want to see a Ferrett, I’ll be at Capricon in Chicago. What’s special about that?

1) It’s my first time visiting a convention in Chicago. So if you’ve wanted to meet me, well, I’ll be there.

2) My time-travelling soup battle book The Sol Majestic is coming out in June, and I’ll be reading a special excerpt from it there. I’m doing a solo reading, and I’ll be bringing two advance review copies of the book to give away to people who show up and want it.

(Alternatively, if you order the book in advance, you’ll get a signed bookplate and other free swag. But you gotta preorder soon.)

So here’s my schedule, in the unlikely event you’d like to intersect with a Ferrett:

Friday at 5:30 p.m.: Literary Economics
The Sol Majestic is about the running of a space-bound restaurant and so has a surprising amount of economics in it. Plus, I’ll be recommending the shit out of Daniel Abraham’s The Dagger and The Coin series.

Saturday at 11:30 a.m.: I Read From My Book THE SOL MAJESTIC
I have no idea whether anyone will attend. Maybe it will be you.

Saturday at 1:00 p.m.: Ferrett Signs Books!
Ditto.

Saturday at 2:30 p.m.: Social Media and Mental Health
You may have noticed my social anxiety has impacted my blogging habits a bit of late, and I’ll be discussing how to work the two on this panel.

Saturday at 7:00 p.m.: Hipster Cthulhu
In which I shout the praises of Cassandra Khaw and Matt Ruff.

Sunday at 10:00 a.m.: The Business of Writing
A.k.a., “How to make whatever money you can effectively at books.” It’s a learning process. Come learn.

Anyway. I’ll be new at that convention, and nervous, so if you see me – I’m easy to spot, check the fingernails – please say hi. I’ll be happy to talk to you, if I’m not on my way to a panel.