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Politics

Election fallout: yep, last night was entirely horrible

I am taking a mental health day today, and am giving myself minimal exposure to the Internet. I’m avoiding reading my usual social media feeds, as well as most of my usual RSS feeds as well. I don’t have enough stock of Cope to be able to deal with people right now, nor can I really comfort myself with the usual pop culture or book things I like to read about.

What I have done, though, is glance at some of the LJs and Dreamwidth accounts from people in my extended circle–QUILTBAG folks as well as allies. This is the theme I’m seeing: we’re fucking terrified, and also trying to keep it together enough to have one another’s backs. Because moving forward, into the next four years, we’re going to have to have each other’s backs even more so than we have been up till now.

I know people all over the QUILTBAG spectrum, and I know multiple people as well who are raising non-binary-gendered children. One fellow author I know was despairing about how to explain the fallout of last night to her offspring, and how to give said offspring strength to be able to face school.

I know multiple people as well who are now also terrified about the imminent evaporation of their healthcare. Because now that we’re looking at a Republican President, a Republican House, and a Republican Senate, as we move into 2017, you better believe we’ll be looking at the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Because apparently if a Democratic President put it into play, tearing it down is more important than making sure Americans who need reliable healthcare actually get it.

If you happen to be against the ACA and think it should be repealed, do us both a favor and do not try to debate with me about it. Because until I actually hear the new administration coming up with something better, I will not believe that they have any fucks whatsoever to give about Americans getting reliable, affordable healthcare. Before the ACA showed up we did not have a system that gave us this. We still don’t, even with what small gains the ACA has given us–yes, I know, the ACA has its problems, but it at least has tried to get health insurance to Americans who haven’t had it before.

And you know what else I know? I know that there are way, way too many people who have had to turn to crowdfunding to try to raise money for their medical expenses. I see GoFundMes crop up all the damn time for people who are desperate to pay for surgeries, for dental care, for treatment after accidents, and more.

How is any system of healthcare that drives people to beg the Internet for money to cover their expenses at all fair? How is it just? How is it looking out for the well-being of our citizens?

And you know what else I know? I know that the American health care system is a root cause of why my parents died as young as they did. It’s not the only cause, but it sure is a big one. My mother died in 1985. She was 38 years old. Thirty-eight. And the cancer that struck her just about the time I was born beggared our family.

My father died in 2001. He was 57. Did he ever have health insurance? Fuck no. Hell, for a chunk of when I was growing up, after Dad got custody of me and my younger brother, he couldn’t afford to keep us. He struggled to hang onto jobs and stable places to live all throughout the rest of his life. Where in here would he have ever been able to afford to pay for proper medical care for himself, care which could have realized the damage he was doing to his heart and his lungs, and which might have helped him survive that heart attack?

And you know what else I know? I know that while I have been fortunate enough to have stable, lucrative employment for most of my adult life, that even the reasonably decent health insurance coverage I’ve had has lasted only as long as my jobs have done. One of the reasons I’ve clung to my current day job with every scrap of strength I have in me is because I know what’ll happen if I have to change positions. My insurance coverage will reset and there’s all sorts of risks that my now stupidly complex medical history will get “pre-existing condition” stamped all over it next time I have to change jobs.

And that’s even assuming I change jobs voluntarily. If I get laid off and have to go back to COBRA, it gets harder. How do I know this? I know this because of all the times I’ve had between tech jobs, when I’ve been on contractor positions, and you know what all those tech contracting firms DON’T do when they’re trying to get you that year-long gig at Microsoft or wherever? Give you health benefits. I know this because of everyone else I know in the tech industry, too, who’ve been in the exact same boat.

And you know what else I know? I know that even with a well-paying job and stable health coverage, Dara and I have still had to lay out multiple thousands of dollars per year for the last several years because medical shit just keeps fucking happening. I live in low-level dread that this superpower I have of generating precancerous tissue is going to wake up and bite me again as I get older. I’ve already lost one breast, my thyroid, my uterus, and my ovaries. I’m just waiting for something else to get something growing on it that’ll have to come out–and let me tell you, when I had to have an MRI of my head lately to try to figure out why the hell I have ongoing pulsatile tinnitus in my right ear, I was terrified they’d find a tumor.

Because guess where my mother’s cancer was. Right in her brain.

And you know what else I know? I know that with a new incoming administration who is on record as being hostile to queers, Dara and I are going to be braced going into 2017 just waiting for a repeal of marriage equality. At minimum, we’ll be expecting the return of DOMA or something like it. If that happens, even though we live in a liberal state, this will impact us. It will mean we have to pay taxes at the higher single-payer rate instead of the rate married couples get to use, even if I work for a company that is pro-domestic-partners.

More than that, though, we are terrified about the ramifications for fellow members of the QUILTBAG community all over the red states. There will be a resurgence of transphobic bathroom laws–hell, that shit’s even tried to get a foothold here, and that was even before last night’s election. There will be a resurgence of hate crimes against queers.

We are terrified about what this means for people of color. Every single POC I saw commentary from on Twitter last night was justifiably afraid. All throughout this shitstorm of a year, we’ve continued to see outbursts of hate against immigrants, particularly Muslim and Latinx ones.

Dara and I have already had multiple renewals of offers from Canadian friends to give us emergency crash space if we ever need it. We’re not exactly planning on bolting across the border tomorrow–for one thing, it’s not just a matter of “fuck it we’re noping off to Canada, chuck everything into the Raptor and go”. We’d need jobs. We’d need housing. We’d need to sell both our properties. And we’d need to find out whether my stupidly complicated medical history would be a problem. None of these things lend themselves well to immediate emigration.

But there are reasons Dara and I live as close to the border as we do. And every one of those reasons was in play last night–and will be in active play as we move into the next four years.

We are terrified. Don’t try to tell us everything will be okay and that we’ll be fine–because in our experience, living through the history of how treatment of QUILTBAG persons and POCs and people of minority religions has played out in this country, the likelihood is high that no, everything will not be okay.

All we can do now is try to weather the oncoming storm and hope we do not drown.

QUILTBAG folk, women, POCs, and anyone of minority religions who reads me: hugs. Let’s look out for one another. We are going to need one another more than ever. Vent to me here if you need to.

ETA: Dara’s reaction post is here.

Site Updates

Some items of interest, including a crowdfund!

Some of y’all may have noticed that I’ve rearranged the look of the main book pages for [[Faerie Blood]], [[Bone Walker]], [[Valor of the Healer]], [[Vengeance of the Hunter]], and [[Victory of the Hawk]]–not only the individual novel pages, but also the overall [[Books]] and [[Rebels of Adalonia]] landing pages. This is to finally take advantage of some functionality I brought in with my current theme, but also some plugins I’ve installed to get some Bootstrap fun going on.

You’ll see this new functionality in the various buttons on these pages. This all lets me clean the pages up considerably, make them shorter and better organized, and less of a “huge collection of links”. Plus, I get to better emphasize the various blurbs and immediate calls to action at the tops of each page.

I also removed the sidebar from those pages, since the sidebar is something I wanted to keep specifically for the blog section of the site. This change is for two reasons: one, to make the book pages less busy, and two, to make them render more nicely on phone-sized screens.

I may continue to tweak the layouts of things, so if you see something suddenly start to look different, don’t be surprised by that! And if you see anything that actually looks broken, please let me know.

***

I’ve been working on an updated version of the short story “The Disenchanting of Princess Cerridwen”, since the version currently on the site is out of date now that the Rebels of Adalonia trilogy is complete. The new version will have an editing pass, and some tweaks to correct details that were specifically mentioned in Victory of the Hawk.

I’m hoping to do the same thing with this story that I did with “The Blood of the Land”, and release it as a standalone download to the various places I sell my titles. But first, I’ve got to get it some proper cover art. More bulletins on this as events warrant!

***

After seeing one of the best-selling Carina authors post results of a survey of her readers, and specifically noting how a bunch of them reported that Facebook is a source of data for them about finding new books, I’ve been doing an experiment this month. Namely, I’m running ads on Facebook to promote the Rebels books as well as Faerie Blood.

I know, I know–I wince at the idea of actually throwing money at Facebook, but it is important to note that I have had a significant uptick in daily traffic around here with these ads being live. And a notable, if small, uptick in sales as well. So far, this experiment does appear to be valuable. And if Facebook actually can result in me selling books to people who haven’t previously discovered me, hey, I’ll get over any willies about throwing money at them!

ALSO: if anyone reading this did in fact come over because of finding me at Facebook, hi there! Do please feel free to say hi.

***

Last but not least, I’ve just thrown a contribution to this IndieGogo campaign for an anthology to celebrate ten years of The Future Fire. I follow their Twitter account, and moreover, my pal Su J. Sokol, who I’ve featured on Boosting the Signal, will appear in this anthology.

So consider checking this out, won’t you? Thank you!

(Speaking of Su, I owe her book a review. I hope to get that posted soon, so keep an eye out for that!)

News

Thoughts on toxic bigotry

I was going to point and laugh at the Puppies some more today, after seeing this post yesterday reporting that they’ve called for an official boycott of Tor. Now, I am NOT pleased with Tom Doherty’s throwing Irene Gallo under the bus the way he did–but on the other hand, several of my top favorite authors are published by Tor, and I’m fully cognizant of how trying to boycott an entire publisher pretty much only hurts the authors involved. Dara has additional commentary about why this boycott is doomed to fail, and me, I feel some solidarity with Mr. Hines: “I’m disinclined to acquiesce to his request.”

But then the Charleston news exploded over Twitter last night, and suddenly pointing and laughing at Puppies seems rather less important.

Except for this: there’s a thing that the Puppies brouhaha has in common with Charleston, with Ferguson, with Baltimore, with the pool party in Texas, and with every other horrific shooting this country has experienced in the last few years.

That thing is toxic bigotry.

The kind of toxic bigotry that leads people to sniff that SF novels with non-white people on the cover are clearly “message fiction” and aren’t as deserving of awards as books with white people on the cover. That exiles those books to minority-only sections of bookstores, thereby gutting those books’ chances of actually selling in reasonable numbers.

The kind of toxic bigotry that also erases non-white protagonists from covers and whitewashes characters, in the name of trying to make them sell better to white people.

The kind of toxic bigotry that leads people to believe it’s somehow okay to hurl screamingly racist insults under the aegis of an official genre author organization, and then to get pissy when that organization boots their ass out. Pissy enough to then turn around and orchestrate sabotage of the most revered award in that genre.

The kind of toxic bigotry that leads people to believe it’s somehow okay to bitch about non-white people showing up at a science fiction convention–because maybe, y’know, they like science fiction–because they preface their remarks with “There’s no way to say this without sounding racist…”

The kind of toxic bigotry that leads school systems to believe that it’s okay to teach their children that black slaves were “happy”.

The kind of toxic bigotry that leads otherwise rational people to feel threatened because somebody who doesn’t look like them lives near them. Or works with them. Or gets elected to political office, including the White House.

The kind of toxic bigotry that would rather destroy any chance of poor Americans getting health care they desperately need than allow a black President to succeed at something. Especially if the poor Americans in question are also black.

The kind of toxic bigotry that consistently vilifies black victims of shootings in the media, while at the same time refusing to call a white supremacist shooter what he is: a murdering racist terrorist.

The kind of toxic bigotry that can lead a young man to invade a house of worship for the express purpose of killing people who don’t look like him.

It’s all bigotry. It’s all toxic. The only difference between all of these examples is degree–whether the victims are only a little scarred by the acid or have been pushed into a roiling pit of it. It all still causes pain. And when you have to deal with an existence of constant little scars, eventually, it’s just as bad as being pushed into the pit.

And it needs to stop.

I saw this tweet on Twitter this morning:

CAN DO. I denounce it, and the culture that has allowed it to take place. And I will also say these names: Rev. Clementa Pinckney and Sharonda Coleman-Singleton. For them, and for the rest of the victims in Charleston, I denounce the ugly act of racism that has caused them to lose their lives.

Toxic bigotry kills.

And it needs to stop.

Main

RIP Leonard Nimoy

Spock

Spock

The original Star Trek series was one of my very first introductions to science fiction–and to science fiction fandom. When I started going to conventions in the late eighties, I was delighted to discover that a group of fan performers, headed up by the redoutable Julia Ecklar as Captain Kirk, had done a couple of live musical parodies of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. They used, respectively, West Side Story and South Pacific–giving us Wrath Side Story and Spock Pacific.

Dara digitized our old copies of these, and you can find them on her YouTube channel here.

I mention this because to this day, Dara and I still periodically break into song snippets from these performances, and I always DID love the opening number in particular: “WHAT AIN’T WE GOT? WE AIN’T GOT SPOCK!”

Now that line’s got a brand new poignance, since I am seeing the Internet explode with the news of the passing of Leonard Nimoy. The New York Times has an article here. Tor.com covers the story here. John Scalzi has a post up here.

I started watching Trek in my mid-teens, and at that age, I was totally bowled over by Captain Kirk. But as I grew older I developed much more of an appreciation for Spock, and a couple of my very favorite episodes of the series–“Journey to Babel” and “Amok Time”–are Spock-centric episodes. His ongoing struggle between his human side and his Vulcan side makes Spock, for me, a truly compelling character. And it’s played so beautiful in his contentious relationship with his father, from whom he gets his dry Vulcan snark QUITE honestly. Moreover, the way Spock’s face lights up when he realizes he didn’t kill Kirk after all at the end of “Amok Time” is beautiful.

Trek is a strong current in the filk music I came to love as well, particularly the songs by the aforementioned Julia Ecklar. Julia has a wrenching song in particular about the destruction of the Enterprise, one which makes me tear up every time I hear it. But she’s also got a delightful one from McCoy’s point of view: “He’s Dead Jim”. And yet another about the resurrection of Trek fandom when the movies came out. Trek meant a LOT to her in her music, and this shone through into my own development as a fan of Star Trek. I came to admire Spock as a character even more when I saw the hints of an early romance between him and Uhura in the initial episodes–and when I realized he was a musician as well.

So I may be a Kirk fangirl, but Spock is right behind him in my affections.

We lost DeForest Kelley in 1999, and now we’ve lost the second of the triad of the characters that were the heart of the original Star Trek.

But I think I speak for every Trek fan in the world when I say that all of us will be happy to stand in for Doctor McCoy, and provide a place for Spock’s katra to live forever.

Rest in peace, Mr. Nimoy. You lived long and prospered. We will miss you.

I leave you with this rousing chorus:

We’ve an admiral brave and daring, he’s the best the fleet has got!
We’ve a helmsman who’s named Sulu and an engineer named Scott
A Russian navigator and a slightly schizoid doc
But what ain’t we got? WE AIN’T GOT SPOCK!

There is nothing quite like Spock!
Nothing in the world
There is nothing you can grok
That is anything quite like Spock!

Editing to add:

And I also leave you with this.

Speaking of Julia Ecklar, here’s that song I mentioned above about the destruction of the Enterprise. This is “Fallen Angel”, from her album Divine Intervention. It brings me to tears every damn time I hear it, and I’m crying today as I transcribe the lyrics. And the solemn French horn that comes in at the line “there are stars before my eyes”, evocative of the Star Trek theme, particularly kills me.

You can find the album on iTunes, or from Prometheus Music here.

My god, what have I done? Is this what I had to do?
I paid to save six lives–was it worth the price of you?
I would take your spirit in me, to make you live again
But your fire dies across the sky
My god, is this the end?

My steel-and-stardrive lady, my soul’s death is at your hands
As your own death was at mine, love
Though even I can’t understand
Why we gods can’t live forever–why should legends have to die?
As you wail to sleep in glory, my heart still seeks the sky

There are stars before my eyes
But they pale to your dying
You swore we’d outlive time
Oh my love, were you, too, lying?
What’s my life without your singing?
When I’m naught but flesh and bone?
Where have I damned my lover’s soul
To wander all alone?

But this death I can’t deny, as you fade to distant ember
My need to steal from death cost you, love, but I’ll remember
And I long to burn there with you, to never live again
Forever we would light the sky–my god, is this the end?

News

On Google/YouTube–and Kindle Unlimited

Dara has a post up today with an analysis of Google/YouTube’s new music streaming service–and why its terms are a very, VERY bad idea for independent musicians. Her analysis, in short, is that this is aiming to make it utterly unnecessary for your listeners to come to you for any reason–because YouTube will already have all your stuff, and at a streaming quality that is essentially indistinguishable from CDs.

If you’re at all involved in independent music, you should go read what she’s got to say.

And if you’re an independent author, you should definitely keep an eye on this, too. Nick Mamatas reshared Dara’s link by noting, quote: “Imagine Kindle Unlimited if it weren’t optional and if Amazon were trawling physical libraries and scanning every book or story you’d ever written because you have one item up on Kindle.”

Because yeah. I’ve already seen reports that Kindle Unlimited is gutting ebook sales for participating authors–and may even be impacting sales for authors who aren’t participating. Dear Author noted on this post at The Digital Reader with reports to that effect, and links to further reading on the matter.

All of which, for me, continues to add up to deep reluctance to commit my work to any one channel. At the end of the day, I’m not seeing any evidence that signing up for KDP Select, for example, will do any more for me than distributing myself out to Barnes and Noble, iBooks, Smashwords, Kobo, and Google Play too–not to mention selling the print copies of Faerie Blood and Bone Walker.

John Scalzi has said repeatedly on his posts about Amazon and other big-name vendors of books that they are not an author’s friend. They’re there to make money, and if they think you can make them money, sure, they’re going to dangle shiny enticements in front of you to try to get you to commit your work to their exclusive systems. And anything that chokes off the due flow of money to you for your work should be treated with all due caution. I’m not saying indie musicians should never sign up for this new service, or that indie authors should never join Kindle Unlimited–but if you do, do it with your eyes open, and be aware of what it’s likely to do to your ability to sell your work.

In music and in writing, money should flow to the artist.

Read everything very carefully, and find out what will happen to that flow before you commit.

The Internet

Bye Firefox, it was nice knowing you

Those of you who follow Dara, either via her Crime and the Forces of Evil blog, her LJ or Dreamwidth mirrors, or her social networks, will have already seen her post Mozilla and Firefox Careen into a Ditch, in which she recounts going into it a bit with Mozilla’s OpenStandards Twitter account–about why in gods’ names they chose to show some support for Gamergate.

Since Dara put that post up, the Daily Dot picked up on it, and y’all may note–some of Dara’s tweets are in fact cited in that article.

The Mary Sue’s picked up on the story as well, right over here.

It shouldn’t take any of you all much of a stretch of the imagination to guess that I’m with Dara on this. The whole Gamergate debacle is something many, many other people besides me have decried, so I’m not going to get into that here–I have nothing new to contribute to that that y’all haven’t probably already read.

What I will say is that Mozilla has disappointed me here. While I cannot bail entirely on using Firefox, due to having to keep it around for purposes of day job testing, I can and have decided to make Safari and Chrome my primary browsers for personal use. Firefox had already irritated me with its constant memory leaks on OS X, as well as its breaking of Disqus-based comments on several sites I regularly visit (like the Mary Sue, Kevin and Kell, and Ensign Sue). Way back when, when it first launched its system of fast updates, it also made my life difficult at work since Selenium had trouble keeping up with its rapid-fire changes. Which is a pain in the ass when much of your job depends upon automated browser testing.

On the other hand, I liked Firefox’s smart bookmarks, which was a handy way for me to hit RSS feeds of a couple of sites like the BBC and the Seattle Times, whenever I wanted to read news–I could pick and choose which articles I wanted to read. And I had been planning to switch my primary browser on my laptop back to Firefox if I saw any sign that they’d fixed the Disqus problem, despite the memory leaks being annoying enough that I’d had to install a plugin whose express purpose was to alert me to restart Firefox once it passed a certain level of memory consumption.

(Pro tip: if your damn browser needs its user community to write a plugin to fix an ongoing problem FOR YOU, you’re doing your development wrong.)

But now? I’m done. Safari gets to be my permanent main browser now.

News

Some important Ferguson signalboosting

As I’ve periodically posted before, I’m a member of the Outer Alliance mailing list, a mailing list for queer authors and queer allies. One of our members, Dennis Upkins, is a gay man who also is black. And as you might expect, Dennis has been paying very hard attention to the events that have been taking place in Ferguson over the last many days.

He’s put up a post called Your Ferguson Resource Packet, which is pretty much a roundup of a lot of critical reading, especially if you’re a white person who might need to make sense of the massive shitstorm of FAIL that has been Ferguson’s handling of this entire affair.

Go read what he has to say. And if you’re a white person and you find yourself getting angry or defensive, read it anyway.

Because here’s the thing. You may not be a racist yourself. Your friends and loved ones may not be racist. You may personally know and love honorable members of your local police force. But you need to recognize that this isn’t about you. Or about people you personally know and love.

This is instead about the bigger picture of how the justice system in our society is massively skewed against anybody who isn’t white. Ferguson has been an all-too-graphic case in point about this. So was the entire Trayvon Martin case. So was the Marissa Alexander case–which, notably, was a black woman trying to defend herself against an abusive husband, which should have been a legitimate defense for Florida’s Stand Your Ground law and yet SOMEHOW was not applied to her. GEE I WONDER WHY.

And there are dozens of other examples. Dennis points at only some of them. Google. Educate yourself.

Recognize too that even if you yourself are also a member of a minority (e.g., you’re a woman, you’re queer, you’re cisgendered, you’re poor, etc.), if you’re a white person, you are not exempted from experiencing white privilege due to being any other kind of minority. And what does your white privilege mean? It means that chances are really good you’re never going to experience the kind of shit from the police that Ferguson citizens have been enduring from theirs.

Likewise, it means that if you stand up and say “this is bullshit and it needs to stop”, chances are likewise really good that your voice will be given more weight simply because you are, in fact, white.

This is what privilege means. It doesn’t mean you have to feel guilty for being a white person. It means that you simply need to recognize that by default, having white skin will give you more power in our society than being any other color will. It’s the same principle in play that gives straight people more power than queer people, rich people more power than poor people, the cisgendered more power than the transgendered, and men more power than women.

And if you also think that is bullshit and needs to stop, if you want to know what you as a white person can do to help, then again, go read what Dennis has to say. And seriously listen to what he’s saying, and think before you reflexively try to engage him or any other PoC in counterarguments. Pay particular attention to what microaggressions are, and learn to recognize when arguments you may want to put forth to people of color are in fact microaggressions that they hear day in and day out, ad infinitum, and which are way, way more common than you may think. Because I guarantee you that a lot of the counterarguments that may spring to your mind are ones they’ve heard before.

(And if you’re a member of any other minority, try the mental exercise first of seeing how you’d feel if a hypothetical other person tried to wing the same counterargument at you–about women, or the poor, or the transgendered, or what have you. If it would piss you off if somebody said that argument to you, that would be an indicator that maybe, just maybe, you shouldn’t say it.)

And don’t stop there, either. Here is a roundup of campaigns and fundraiders to help Mike Brown’s family and the people of Ferguson in general. If you want to put your money where your mouth is, that would be an excellent place to start.