Thursday Report

So, Thursday got off to an interesting start.

Jack and I committed to going to the guest of honor readings (something I haven’t done since the year N.K. Jemisin and Hiromi Goto were our honored guests, as the venue, though charming, is also not very large) to support Amal El-Mohtar. This is the first year the guest of honor has been someone I’ve known in person before they were guest of honor, and while she was already Kind Of A Big Deal to me during my first WisCon, there’s still that little sense of “Hey, I knew you when!”

But Sarah, who was arriving separately, was travel-delayed and was arriving after an exhausting day right about the time we’d have been heading over. We stayed in the lobby to meet her shuttle coming in, then saw her up to the room and settled in, went over plans for the evening (hers were to sleep, and possibly eat a food at some point).

WisCon was running an accessible bus between the guest of honor reception (the largest and most significant off-site event on the schedule, and also the farthest away, in local bookstore A Room Of One’s Own), and we were quite possibly the last people to take it over, otherwise we probably wouldn’t have made it. As it is, it was standing room only when we got there. There might have been some disability reserved seating up front, but it was so crowded and the introductions had started, so we didn’t want to press through and disrupt things and then maybe have to do it again if the seating was all in use.

But it worked out okay. We found a place to sit in the front of the store (the back of the reception) where we could hear, if not see, and we were out of the press of people. Amal’s reading was as amazing and powerful as the one that moved me enough to overcome my wallflowerishness and step forward for an autograph all those years ago. Kelly Sue DeConnick had some A-plus-plus remarks on writing, creator responsibility, critique vs. hate, and fan entitlement.

We ducked out at the end before the receiving/autograph line formed, in part because we had a prior social commitment and in part because the bench we’d grabbed was directly behind the table and chairs set up for that.

Prior social engagement was something I’ve never done before: karaoke. There’s almost always at least one unofficial-but-traditional karaoke party before WisCon, and this year the event’s organizer (the fabelous Cabell) looped us in directly on the invites and asked us to boost. This kind of thing always sounds like a terrific time to me, in both the classic and the modern connotations of the word. Luckily for me I felt obliged to say yes due to the fact that I’ve been using her house as a dead drop for party supplies all month, because I had an amazing time. I did four songs, two solo, one with Jack, and one with Cabell.

WisCon is the kind of time and place where I spend a lot of time getting over my everyday social and emotional inhibitions. Some years it still takes me till Saturday before I’m really enjoying myself and not faking much of it. This year, despite what was at first a very tense and uncertain afternoon, I think I managed it in record time.

The con proper starts today with the Gathering and the opening ceremonies. I’ve never been much for the ceremony, but I might go this year just so as to have line of sight on our guests of honor. A lot depends on how I feel after the Gathering.

Find Me @ WisCon!

Hello, babies! I meant to do this on the train but internet signal was intermittent every time I had the wherewithal and physical space to do it. So, here goes.

My official WisCon schedule includes four items this year:

  • 10 a.m. Saturday — Direct Payment and the Creator/Fan Dynamic (Panel): About the social dynamics of things like crowdfunding, a topic I know a little bit about. (Room: Caucus )
  • 8:30 a.m. Monday — Starting the Story (Panel): About wrestling with writer’s block and the inertia of starting a story, another topic I know a little bit about. (Room: University B)
  • 8:45 p.m. Sunday — TALES OF MU 10 YEAR REUNION/WEB SERIAL PARTY (PARTY!): We’re hosting a celebration of serialized fiction on the web, revolving around the 10 year anniversary of the start of Tales of MU, and because of happy timing, will also serve as the launch of my new web serial project, Secret Sisterhood of Superheroes.
  • 11 a.m. Monday — The SignOut: A sort of last hurrah where authors and artists assemble for people to have things signed and such. I’ve never participated because I’m an all-digital author; what have I got to sign? (But wait for next year.) But so many people have told me they wished there was a scheduled “meet the author” time for me where they could just say hi and I finally realized last year that’s part of what the SignOut is: a structured time where it’s officially cool to do that. So come! Print out your favorite tweet of mine and I’ll sign it. Bring your WisCon program, if nothing else. I’ll sign it like a yearbook!

Wisconsin State of the Me

So, we are in Madison, and checked into the Concourse. Don’t know yet who else is in town. Right now it’s just Jack and myself; Sarah arrives sometime tomorrow. At the moment, we are waiting on room service (haven’t eaten more than a small, bus-friendly snack since early breakfast on the train, due to train delays rushing us through Chicago Union Station in all of 10 minutes) and decompressing. We might look for other congoers to link up with later tonight, particularly if anyone’s in the lounge

The train ride was a bit of a test run for future train rides. It was our first one together and the longest train ride either of us has been on lately. It had its ups and downs. I had expected to be able to do some creative work, but everything about the experience was just on the edge of being comfortable/convenient enough for that to be realistic.

Among other things, my presentation has changed quite a bit since the heyday of my previous train rides, which made it a lot harder to be left to my own devices in the lounge/observation car in the wee hours of the night. We’re looking at options for future trips like getting a sleeper roomette for slightly more privacy.

Training Day

So, we just spent basically the entire day at the historic, picturesque train station of historic, picturesque Harpers Ferry because our historic, picturesque inn had an 11:00 a.m. checkout time and our train had a 5:16 p.m. departure and historic, picturesque train stations don’t have any place to check or stow your luggage.

We’d come prepared. We had things to read and our electronics and sufficient battery power to overcome any historically picturesque lack of outlets, and as long as one of us stayed put to watch our things it wasn’t hard to go up the hill into town in search of takeout lunch and drinks.

I’m glad that we did have so much time there, because when we’d reconnoitered the station I had completely missed that the tiny station had two platforms, one on the far side of the tracks inside a much smaller, slightly less picturesque historical shelter, with no obvious way of reaching it without (crossing the tracks.

Now, this historic, picturesque station has a historic, picturesque lack of signage indicating things like which platform is for which direction, or how the other platform is reached. I knew that trains follow the keep right rule in the U.S. (or at least, I *thought* they did, but that knowledge had never been important to me before), but I didn’t know which compass direction was which, or if the trains passing through on this stretch would be strictly going east-west at the moment.

So I searched online to see if there was any mention of the platforms. Amtrak’s website informed me that the stairs to the other platform were under the tracks and not wheelchair accessible (their official advice, enshrined in their website, is to board at another station.)  So I knew what to look for, and I found a smaller shelter at the end of the main building with stairs leading down into the tunnel where Slenderman lives, which came out the other side in the small platform. I looked around for signage; there was none.

By sheer chance we were there when the Capitol Limited to D.C. went through on the near tracks, which was a pretty good clue that they were the eastbound lane. I’d been on the Twitter horn with @Amtrak, who confirmed that my train would be on the opposite side, and that they do follow the right hand driving rule in these parts.

At the same time, Jack had the bright idea of opening Pokemon Go, which helpfully includes a compass. and let us find east and west. So we had triple confirmation.

Almost enough to quiet my anxiety, so I carefully noted that every train heading east was on the near track and every train heading west was on the far track, just in case they didn’t have some weird track switching thing going on or had harnessed the power of ghost trains that can go through each other,.

Remember, babies, we showed up in town a whole day early in order to make sure that everything went according to plan. My first train trip (Omaha to Chicago, Chicago to Memphis and then New Orleans) I did something similar, staying overnight in Chicago just to make sure I made my first connection on my first train trip.

When I’m anxious about something, I give myself plenty of time and I seek out information, from as many angles as possible. (This might be why I’m so relatively well-informed about politics these days.)

So we made the decision to mosey on over through the tunnel where Slenderman lives at about 4:30, which was well more time than we’d need but would ensure we could take it nice and slow with our bags up and down the steps and not feel like we were cutting it close.

Right around about 4, other people started showing up for the same train, including a gentleman with a bike who had apparently *also* scouted the location the day before. “Don’t worry, the train is on time as of now,” he told me.

I have phone alerts, so I’d known this, but we thanked him. He’d checked the day before and it had been delayed by more than an hour. We told him we were getting ready to go move over to the platform, and this is when he told us it was impossible to know which track it would be on.

“Amtrak doesn’t own the tracks, so they are at the mercy of the freight train companies.”

I tried to explain that this might be true, but the tracks are still directional so there was in effect only one track here, with two lanes, but he wasn’t interested. He’d talked to Amtrak and they’d told him that “The only way to know for sure is to look down the tunnel when you see the train coming, and see which side it’s on.”

I told him we’d also talked to Amtrak, but he wasn’t impressed.

So we took our luggage down the stairs and into the tunnel where Slenderman lives and we hauled them up the stairs and settled in for the 30-40 minute wait, while he stood with his bike on the other side looking smug and self-satisfied. Two other guys showed up while we waited, and the guy quizzed them about what side they thought the train would come on, and each time they assumed it would be the near side and he called across the track to tell us “This guy’s pretty sure it’s over here.”

“On what basis?” I asked the first time.

Didn’t really get an answer, but it seemed like all three guys thought this was hilarious. It kind of felt like the biggest reason they thought they were right was that we thought otherwise.

Being questioned usually doesn’t do much for my anxiety, but in this case it just hardened my resolve to know that this guy Had Been Told By Amtrak.

Babies, I have done enough customer service and customer service-adjacent work to know that the answer he got was the We Are Not Responsible answer. There are a lot of stations, a lot of stations with a lot of tracks, and a CSR on the phone cannot tell him in advance which track he’s got to be at because They Are Not Responsible for that.

Very possibly he expressed disbelief that they couldn’t tell him, at which point he would have been given the explanation that Amtrak doesn’t own the tracks or make the decisions. Very possibly he would have asked them what he’s supposed to do, and would have been told that he could watch the train as it approached. And very possibly, he filed away this hard-won knowledge as gospel writ, because he had prised it from the stubborn jaws of a lazy, no-nothing phone rep.

Of course the westbound train came on the far tracks, the northern side of the station, the side we were on. And of course the gentleman with the bike and the other two gentlemen (both apparently cis and white) who chuckled along with him at our stubborn foolishness made their own hurried treks through the  tunnel where Slenderman lives to join us.

Sometimes, it’s nice to be right.

 

The adventure begins!

Well, as so often happens in life and in game design, our attempts to make things simpler created a few complications. The inn in Harper’s Ferry has a great view of the train station, but the direct route from point A to point B would involve many steep stairs, so we’re going to have to take our luggage the long way around a dog leg. Speaking of steps, the inn (housed in buildings that predate the Civil War) has staircases that were not built with modern luggage in mind.

We’ve decided we definitely would like to stay here in the future for an overnight or weekend getaway, but whatever difficulty lining up a ride to the train station would be will still be easier than our solution here. And of course as I type this up it occurs to me that for the money we’re spending on a night here plus the added meals, I could have hired a car.

Still, it’s not like the money is wasted, because the night in Harper’s Ferry and the meals are experiences that wouldn’t have come with the car ride. Also, even if this was more of a ~*learning experience*~ than I was looking for, “live and learn” is preferable to either of the alternatives.

There are things that are going our way. The weather is perfect for a day of unnecessary exertions: cool and cloudy, but not humid or rainy. Our inn room is very nice. The inn itself is very nice.  And of course the town is nice.

The Looming Adventure

So, next weekend is WisCon. WisCon as a con officially begins Friday afternoon of Memorial Day Weekend, though there are some programming items the night before.

We’ve gotten in the habit of heading to Madison on Wednesday ever since the fateful year when I booked the airline tickets for the wrong day. We realized this literally the day before, and even with the desperate scramble to get there and get lodging we found the experience more relaxing than normal, with extra decompression/rest time between the stress of travel and the excitement of the con.

This year, we’re trying to avoid flying as much as possible, and Sarah’s got some work stuff that would stop her from traveling on Wednesday, so Jack and I (who have more flexible schedules) are taking the train. This means leaving earlier, since that’s an overnight thing, which pushes our departure till Tuesday.

Our nearest train station is in historic Harpers Ferry, which is also a national park. We’ve never traveled from this station before, and we both kind of get stressed out about new experiences, so in order to minimize the rush/stress on day of travel and avoid having to get our luggage from the parking lot of the visitor’s center to the downtown on the same day, we’re arriving the day before and spending the night in a historic inn right across from the train station, which pushes our departure to Monday, for a con that officially starts Friday.

Our train takes us to Chicago. I’ve trained through Chicago about four or five times, so I sort of know the score there, but we’re transferring to a bus that contracts with Amtrak to get us the rest of the way. It’ll only last 3-4 hours, but

So the next few days are going to be a mix of relaxing/fun stuff and stressful/anxiety-ridden stuff. I’m pretty sure the good will outweigh the bad. My plan is to update this blog every day during at least the trip part of the trip, since I’ll have time at each step, and since a good way to get back in the habit of blogging regularly is to do it under even irregular circumstances.

I have been heavily boosting WisCon this year on Twitter since last WisCon, and I have heard from several people who are coming for the first time, a few who are even coming in part because I encouraged them. Yay. Accordingly, tomorrow I’ll be posting my official WisCon event schedule (it’s light this year, in no small part because one of them is a *big* event), and some tips for finding/interacting with me.

Yep. Still here.

Well, it’s been a (metaphorical) trip, but I’m back. And about to go on a literal trip.

I’ve been pretty silent here on my blog and over on my Patreon page for the past few months, basically going back to when my late winter/early spring sickness tripped me up. Dealing with the backlog of boring but necessary technical stuff that built up over three-four weeks of feeling like death took a lot of time and energy, during which other stuff piled up, and life kept happening, for good or for bad.

While it has been a struggle keeping up, life has mostly been good. I’ve found a very interesting and unexpected niche as a social media pundit (not a pundit about social media, a pundit on social media) that is honestly doing better for paying my bills and contributing to the household than anything else I’ve done.

At popular request, I’ve tried a few ways of converting my social media observations to other formats for other platforms. None of them have really panned out. Twitter’s built-in Moments system breaks down on longer threads. The third-party solutions I’ve tried (Storify and Kanvz) also tend to become unworkable as threads grow. Even when they work, stopping to collate and curate my thoughts slows me down so much and keeps me always working on what happened yesterday or an hour ago (which in today’s climate are both equal to 100 million years) instead of taking in what’s happening now and looking towards where we’re going.

And because I can see the numbers, I also know: it’s not worth the effort. People tell me they’d be more inclined to share a collected link than a Twitter thread, but the numbers say the opposite is true. Twitter threads are the most mobile medium of thought on the internet, because each element within them can be shared separately and sharing any one element drags the whole thing along.

They’re unfamiliar to people, which causes reactions of “What is this?” and “Ugh, if it takes more than one tweet it’s not worth seeing on Twitter.” But those are problems that will be solved with time and exposure.

I made a valiant stab at accommodating people at this, but the tools aren’t there and the time’s not worth it. So I’m going back to my old standby of when people ask “Can you put this in a format I can link to on Facebook?” of pointing out that you can link to a Twitter thread just fine on Facebook, or anywhere else. The link to the first tweet is the link to the thread. That’s what makes it a thread.

I am sorry to disappoint everyone who appreciates other formats, but… I’ve got to go with what works. Threads work. Collations get shared less. Blog posts get shared least of all. That’s the world we live in, and I can’t pretend otherwise just because it seems counter-intuitive.

Creative Stuff

So, my big new project that I was so excited about before I got sick, Secret Sisterhood of Superheroes? There have been technical hold-ups on that, too, but we’ve cleared those hurdles and now we’re ready to launch. As mentioned up-post, I’m going on a trip. Next weekend is Memorial Day, which means it’s WisCon. I had already planned on throwing a party for the 10th anniversary of launching Tales of MU (June 7th, 2007), with a more expansive theme of serial web fiction in general… now that I have a new serial to launch it’s also the launch party for that.

On May 28th, the prologue for Secret Sisterhood will go live at http://www.secretsisterhoodofsuperheroes.com. On June 1st, the first (novella-length) issue will begin. Patrons get the whole issue at once. Everybody else can read it a chapter at a time on the website. I know I haven’t been posting patron goodies lately, but that’s a big one coming June 1st: about 75 pages, by standard novel page count. And more like it to follow.

Secret Sisterhood is more ambitious than anything else I’ve published, on multiple levels, and getting it off the ground has consumed me. My other fiction projects have definitely fallen by the wayside, not so much because it took me a long time to write the story (that was the quick and easy part!) but because of everything else that’s going into giving it the launch it deserves. I will be resuming posting other fiction things in the next few weeks as well.

Changes in Approach

First, if you’re reading this on Facebook: I’m going to be phasing out the cross-posting between my blog and (t)here very soon. It’s part of a change to how I approach social media. Facebook doesn’t display blog posts with all the same formatting (pictures, links, etc.) that I give them, which sometimes makes posts unintelligible or completely alters the context. I’m also trying to get away from my personal Facebook acting as a professional platform. Honestly, one of the reasons I don’t post here more is that some of the times one of my posts blows up on Facebook it winds up being more of a drag than a boost.

I might set it up to post links on Facebook, but I’m not even sure I want to do that. The key thing here is: I don’t have comments turned on for my blog, but I don’t think I can stop people from commenting on Facebook. I don’t care if people are discussing my work. I hope they are. I just really don’t want or need to know about it.

Second, I’ve been rethinking how I handle my Patreon. I keep making plans for what to post there, how often, etc., that fall apart because the next month, the world and I are both in completely different places than they were when I laid the plans down. I just can’t keep up with it. I’ve tried putting together my newsletters but the personal plans are obsolete and the political stuff would be old news by the time they go out.

So the new plan is going to be almost but not completely unplanned. Like, I will make plans from month to month. I’ll plan out what I’m doing in my day and week. But I won’t be trying to fit a formula for an entire year, or an ongoing basis.

The big advantage of being a “solo operator” is that I’m quick and nimble and can change what I’m doing to fit the situation and my needs. So that’s what I’m going to be doing.

Rather than take the ailing newsletter notion off life support, though, I’m going to change my approach to it. I’m neither going to be reproducing everything I’ve written/published (instead I’ll get better about round-ups and links and cross-posts to Patreon).

Instead I’m going to start keeping a journal of the month as I go. It’s a small change in perspective but a key one, because with a journal I’m not trying to shape a whole month into a narrative that still makes sense at the end of the month. Everything in the journal is dated to begin with, so it can’t “become dated”.

I’m starting it today. Obviously the one for May is going to be short. I want to start it now, though, because 1) I want to be in the habit when the first full month starts, and 2) I am about to go on a train trip and attend a con, so there’ll be interesting experiences to record.

Looking Backwards and Forwards

Last year about this time, I was in pretty bad shape. My Patreon was floundering. My creative output was nil. My career, such as it was, felt like it had been circling the drain since my life was upended years ago by a series of events and it was about to go down.

I tried to kick things into gear by proclaiming a Year of Awesome from my 36th birthday (a perfect square year) and my 37th birthday (a prime year). I had big, bold plans for what I was going to do each and every month within that year.

That… didn’t work out.

And I’ve used up a lot of time and energy trying to dissect that and trying to figure out how I can do better, but it hit me recently:

have had a year of awesome.

My Patreon’s more than doubled from last year, even though I haven’t been able to keep up specific frameworks and structures. And I’m making more money through other streams.

I didn’t write a short story every month, but the short stories I did write are phenomenal. Some of my best, some of my favorites. My reach on social media has octupled. I have been published in serious big time magazines and periodicals. I am friends with journalists and chat with honest-to-goodness celebrities. I’ve met U.S. Senators. Rosie O’Donnell gave me advice on how to deal with a sudden rush of attention. I was given an award for writing by George R.R. Martin. That I beat him for.

And people tell me every day that the work I’m doing on political stuff matters, that it helps them, that it

I haven’t really dwelled on much of this because I’ve been focused on what’s not happening, what I’m not doing, what I can’t do.

I don’t know what the next year is going to look like. We are living in troubled times, tumultuous times. My father, who has let me know he is immensely proud of what I’ve been doing, told me that times like these are made for people like me.

So I’m going to continue to play to my strengths, which I have to admit, are *not* in planning and *not* in follow-through. I live in the moment, I excel in the moment. Nimbleness and agility, thinking on my feet, following the muse and seeing where opportunity takes me.

That’s what my real Year of Awesome was about. And I think embracing that is going to make my next Year of Awesome better.

So You Want To Go To WisCon, Part II: Expectations

Okay, so, last year as part of a fiendish plot to lure some awesome people to my “home con” of WisCon (both specific people and awesome people in general), I made a post about the logistics of it all. Now that my plan has worked, I have some friends who have told me that they’re coming but are nervous because they don’t really know what to expect.

So, let’s talk about that.

The Environs

The convention is almost entirely contained within the Madison Concourse Hotel. They have an extensive photo gallery on their website, if you like to have something to visualize. You can see the check-in desk, you can see the grand staircase that connects the lobby downstairs to the main convention area up stairs. You can see the conference/ballrooms, done up for some kind of banquety thing. Those are the same rooms where the larger panel discussions are held, albeit with fewer tables and more chairs.

Almost all of the conference rooms, meeting rooms, and event spaces in the Concourse have themed names and the theme is “state capital”. When you see a con event is being held in “the Capitol”, it’s talking about a room in the hotel’s event floor, not the big pretty building on the square behind the hotel. Trust me, that had me scratching my head the first year.

The hotel can seem imposingly large and intimidatingly posh, especially when you realize it’s the type of hotel that’s used to hosting lobbyists and guests of state officials. If you booked through the con website, you got the con rate for your room. The rack rate is listed on a placard on or near the door, in accordance with state law, so you can see for yourself what it would cost to stay there normally.

Don’t be intimidated, though. The hotel knows us. They might not know you, but they know us in general, and we’re friends going back decades. The Concourse hosts the con every year in a very symbiotic relationship; the con is held in a hotel that mostly does state government-related business on a government holiday weekend, so we turn a slow weekend into a full house for them. We do need to remember that we are not the only guests (there’s often an airline pilot convention and sometimes some other events overlapping our convention, to say nothing of miscellaneous tourists), but everywhere you go in the hotel you’re more likely to be surrounded by WisCon people than not. And within the “event” floors, everybody there should be a con member.

So, you don’t have to explain yourself to the staff when you’re checking in or whatnot. It’s not their first rodeo. At the same time, they will be very cognizant that it might be your first rodeo. They don’t mind answering questions or giving directions. Just bear in mind that the hotel staff and the con staff are separate; the hotel staff can tell you where the Senate Room is; they can’t tell you what event is in it. But there’s an app for that, as well as pocket schedules.

The hotel is the type of hotel that’s meant to impress people. The food options there are all some degree of “fine dining”, with prices that reflect it. If you go out the hotel and take a left, at the end of the block is State Street, which has dining options for all budgets from “state government bigwig” to “college student”; it’s got a capitol building on one end of the street and a college on the other, so, you know. There are quite a few delivery options, too, and yes, they will deliver to the hotel.

In recent years, the Concourse redid its lobby to be a huuuuuge open seating area with smaller arrangements of seats. During the con (and just before and after), this is the setting of the informal event dubbed “LobbyCon”, also known as “people just hanging out together”. It can be very crowded and noisy during peak times, but very chill. If it’s late at night and you’re too jazzed up to sleep, there will usually be people in the lobby hanging out. It’s well-lit, it’s comfortable, and there will be at least a night auditor on duty at the desk. It’s a great place to go at any hour to be outside your room and have the possibility of hanging out with people.

There is a bar open to the public on the first floor. Like everyone else, the bartenders know the con is coming, they know the drill, most of them are into it. There’s usually a special menu of sci-fi/fantasy-themed cocktails available. Light food options are on offer at the bar; hours may differ from the bar’s hours of operation.

Most of the programming is on the first and second floor, with some of the sixth (“the party floor”, aka “the loud floor”). The sixth floor is the location of the Con Suite, which does its best to provide food to con members who can’t just go out and buy food, for whatever reasons.

The third floor has some controlled-access (i.e., you need a room key) areas of interest, including a little kitchenette with microwave, the fitness center, and the pool and spa. There is a biiiiig hot tub attached to the pool, and a sauna and a game room off the pool deck. No extra charges for using any of the amenities or equipment here.

You wear your swimsuit in the sauna. There’s a big button right outside the door that starts it, and a bucket of water with a ladle for getting steam. It’s all pretty straightforward. If you’re finding yourself with a severely scratchy throat after a few days of talking loudly in crowded rooms, try popping a cough drop or lozenge in your throat and sitting in the steam. It’s magical.

The top three floors of the hotel are the “concierge level”, here known as the Governor’s Club. The rooms there are pricier. The elevators will not go to these floors if a card reader is not swiped using a keycard from them. They also have their own express elevator that *only* goes between the 1st and 2nd floor (the hotel’s public spaces) and the top floors, which means that it can’t be used to access the pool or the party floor. There is a bar up in the Governor’s Club levels called the Governor’s Club lounge (often just referred to itself as the Governor’s Club). It is not open to the public, it has a more limited stock and some restrictions (no shots, no long islands; e.g., nothing designed to get people very drunk very quickly), and so doesn’t have the specialty menu, but it is gratis, here meaning “you’re paying for what you drink out of the price of your room”.

On the subject of elevators: There is a bank of three elevators plus the express elevator. They get very busy and very slow at peak times (especially around meals). If you have an issue with crowds or claustrophobia, or you have time-sensitive dietary needs, it may be worth your while to play your meals for off-peak times so that you aren’t trying to get up and down the elevators when everyone else is.

If you have the mobility and spoons for stairs, there *is* a grand staircase connecting the second floor (where a lot of evernts are) to the first floor (where the hotel exit) is, and of course, there are flights of staircases recessed behind doors on every floor. These doors are controlled access! You can open them from the hallway without a keycard; you might not be able to get back in at your destination without one. Make sure you have your keycard with you before taking the stairs. If no one’s there to let you out, probably call the hotel’s front desk.

On that subject: the Concourse’s internet infrastructure is severely taxed with a buncha freaking nerds hanging out, and there are some cellular dead spots in the hotel’s architecture (notably the elevator banks). So don’t rely too much on time-sensitive electronic communication to keep in touch with your people.

Bathrooms are just about everywhere, because a lot of the smaller event spaces are meeting rooms that have their own dedicated bathroom in the back. These are all single occupancy and are all any gender. The hotel provides refreshing ice water stations throughout the convention space, and believe me, proper hydration will make a huge difference. I know it sounds hokey, but. Drink the water.

At least during the con, the hotel does not have a door person (there is a revolving door and an automatic door; I just mean, there’s not a person in a smart uniform holding it for you), so don’t worry about tipping on your way in. I’m sure assistance getting to your room with your luggage can be arranged if you need it, but they don’t have a bell stand with a bell hop there to just do it, so again, no worries about having a tip ready.

If you take the shuttle from the airport (instructions in previous post), that is an appropriate tipping situation. A buck, two bucks, five bucks. Use your budget and your discretion, particularly if you have  a heavy suitcase that the driver loaded and unloaded for you. Tipping housekeeping is certainly appropriate; there are guidelines for the basic expectation in the con’s literature. It’s not a lot. You can always tip more.

Tipping waiters and bartenders in the hotel bar and restaurant is normal. If you’re coming from out of the country and you’re used to people being paid for their labor in a straightforward fashion without this layer of subterfuge: servers are being paid with the expectation that they’ll get most of their wages in the form of “gratuities”, with an expectation that it will be 20% (1/5th) of the bill. So, you have a 20 dollar meal, it’s a 4 dollar tip.

This does not apply to “counter service” restaurants (which includes all fast food chains), which is generally any place where you order standing up at the counter, even if the food is then delivered to your table. If there is a “tip jar” on said counter (it will usually be labeled as such), that usually means that tips are accepted (e.g., for exceptional service or because your change is inconvenient) but not expected. If there is no tip jar on the counter, the staff is likely unable to accept tips. Again, this is for “counter service” restaurants, where the menu’s on the wall and you pay in advance at a cash register behind a counter, not “table service” or “wait service” restaurants, where you order at a table, from a waiter, off a paper or electronic menu.

The Convention Itself

WisCon is, properly speaking, a literary science-fiction and fantasy convention. It is similar to but distinct from media science-fiction and fantasy conventions, comic book conventions, and video game conventions, though there has been and will continue to be quite a lot of overlap and convergent evolution among these groups. WisCon started out to talk about books and writing and reading, but topics of discussion encompass movies and TV shows and, increasingly, video games and roleplaying games. Programming is set by members and ran by members and staffed by members, so we talk about whatever members want to talk about. This means if we have enough members who want to talk about the Jem cartoon, we might have a panel or several about the Jem cartoon.

So, it’s “literary” in the sense that the focus is on writing and reading. There is also an academic track (people present papers they wrote on various sf/f topics). The main events are panel discussions, though, which is a group of people having a conversation among themselves and the audience on a variety of topics. Each day is blocked out a bit like a school day, with events happening in time slots in pre-assigned rooms and a “bell period” between them for people to get where they’re going next. There are breaks built into the programming for lunch and dinner.

With the packed schedule and so much to see and do, it can feel overwhelming. It can also feel like you’re back in school, only you’ve been assigned every class and no one gave you a time-turner. Here’s my hard-won wisdom – take breaks. Giving in to Fear Of Missing Out will lead to burning out and missing more. Part of the con is going to the panels. Part of the con is chilling with people, hanging out, meeting people, and just taking it all in.

I have been on panels about self-publishing, about trans issues in fiction, about social media dynamics, and about what it’s like when a group only gets representation via villains (such as the queer-coding of villains in Disney movies.) Just all over the place. The panels are usually pretty informal and conversational.

Every panel is facilitated  by a moderator. The moderator as well as the panelists are all members who volunteered to speak on this subject because they felt they had something to say. There are some panels built around the guests of honor (the only special category of con member) and their areas of expertise or famous works, but WisCon panels are not really a case of “here are special people being paid to speak”; there will also be panels about the guests’ work that are other people (fans as well as scholars , and many who are both!) discussing them.

The moderators have a lot of leeway to set the tone. Sometimes (often!) the moderator will be a panelist as well. Sometimes a panel is short a moderator. I’ve been plugged into the schedule as moderator a couple of times because the original moderator had something come up. In cases like that, the moderator is more likely to sit back and play traffic conductor for the conversation than join in as a panelist. In other cases, the moderator is the person who really wanted the discussion to happen (pitched it to the con) and wants to be a part of it but doesn’t have much to say, so much as to questions to ask. And in other cases the moderator is basically just another panelist.

The moderator can steer the format towards more Q&A with the audience, or more discussion among the panelists. Some panels become an organic conversation between the panel and the audience. Some are more structured. The size of the crowd and the room and the sensitivity of the topic can affect this, as can the judgment and style of the moderator. Some moderators welcome the audience throwing out discussion points; others swiftly crack down on “My question is really more of a comment.” Again, it depends on the topic and the composition of the crowd.

The panelists can be pretty entertaining. A lot of people (myself included) pick which panels to see in large part based on who’s going to be on them. It’s not that the topic doesn’t matter, but at any given time slot there’s going to be three or four panels that sound interesting. The panelists can make and break them. If you’re going to WisCon, you might already recognize some of the panelists’ names from the spines of books or from your favorite social medium.

Now, if panelists can make a panel, they can also break them. You might find yourself sitting in a panel with a panelist who takes it over, talks over everyone else, runs roughshod over the moderator, and is basically just there to be the contrarian to the very premise of the panel. It happens. It’s absolutely fine for you to get up and walk out if this happens. It’s your time and you paid to be there! Feel no guilt about finding something better to do with your paid time.

It’s also fine for you to use your question, if you can get called upon, to direct the panel discussion towards the other members.

And it’s fine for you to make a note of the panelist and mention the experience in the member survey.

Believe me, the programming people (and they are top-notch people) pay attention to that sort of thing. They can’t solve a problem that they don’t know exists, and sometimes they suspect a problem exists but they need the concrete reports to fix it.

I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea and think it’s all just a trainwreck or a minefield. But I also don’t want anyone to think that we’ve achieved perfection. Fail happens.

WisCon billed itself from the beginning as a feminist science fiction and fantasy convention. It’s now grown to be (or at least strives to be) a progressive convention along all axes. It is not itself perfect or free of -isms. I’ve encountered transphobia from WisCon members, direct and indirect. I know people who have encountered racism. The same generational and demographical divides that are present elsewhere in fandom exist in WisCon. If WisCon has an advantage, it’s that the idea of trying harder and doing better is written into the event’s image. Every year I’ve been there, it seems the crowd is less homogeneous, that the people who were on the margins the year before are closer to the center.

One thing that we’ve been seeing more and more of is the “let’s blow of some steam” panels, for people who find themselves being asked to explain and defend their experiences over and over again on the Serious Discussions About Diversity Panels. The original panel of this format was the “Not Another Race Panel” panel. They’ve been getting more elaborately named since then. The people on them are some of the most top-notch speakers and entertainers in the WisCon returning retinue; they wind up needing these panels in part because they’re in such high demand.

There are also usually some game/activity panels that go along the lines of “Let’s Create A World”, where the panel (with some prompting or seeds or input from the audience) does a world-building exercise (or something similar) over the course of the panel’s length.

You can usually get some kind of hint about how serious a panel will be by looking at the title and description.

There’s also spontaneous programming, which is to say, there are some small rooms that aren’t being used for formal programming and anybody can go to a marker board where they’re on a grid and claim one for a conversation not being had. Say there’s a TV that just started and no one was thinking of it when programming was being developed. Say there’s some development in the sf/f world or in politics that just happened. Say you just want to continue digging into a topic that was touched on in a panel you saw. You can claim a spontaneous programming room for a particular time block and hold your own discussion there. Just make sure to tweet and such so people know it’s happening.

Other Attractions

WisCon has an art show most pieces for sale!), a dealer’s room (mostly books, some games and comics, and some crafts such as jewelry), a bake sale to benefit the Tiptree Award and the famous Tiptree Auction. There is a reception at the bookstore A Room of One’s Own on Thursday, the night before the con proper, where traditionally the guests of honor read from their works. There are readings by poets and authors (none by me; I get stage fright that is easier to manage in a panel discussion, but every year I work up a little bit closer to the nerve needed), some of which are at a coffee shop just a bit down the street from the hotel (Michelangelo’s). Show up early to those ones to get a seat; they get crowded fast.

There is traditionally a dance party on one of the weekend nights, sometimes with a theme.

On Sunday night, there are the guest of honor speeches, which are preceded by a ticketed (as in, you have to pay extra to get in) dessert reception. The speeches themselves aren’t separately ticketed and are open to all members, though the people who attend the dessert reception are already seated so they might have the best spots.

It is entirely possible and acceptable to go to WisCon and skip the big events like the reception at the bookstore and the guest of honor speeches, if big crowds in echoey spaces put you on edge, for instance. It might seem like these highlight events are “the point” of going, but the people who do go to them benefit from the fact that a lot of people don’t. The speeches are always great, but transcripts and videos are usually available before too long. I’ve both gone to them and skipped them, various years.

The Crowd

 I have to say, there’s not “a” WisCon crowd, but several overlapping ones. It can seem like everybody there knows everybody, especially if you’re new and feel like you know nobody, but it’s really more like most people know somebody. I am sorry to report that there are a number of Old Painfully Hip White Guys Who Probably Mean Well. There’s also some pretty rad genderqueer and trans people who I think of as The Youths and who are probably actually all like 29.9999 years old because I am An Old. And so on. It’s not just a mixed crowd, it’s a mixture of crowds.

Basically, picture a mix of old hippies, author photos come to life, and whatever comes to mind when you read somebody with a Pepe avatar talking about “Social Justice Warriors” and “Tumblrinas”. That’s what you’re going to see at WisCon.

A lot of people are there, essentially, working. It is functionally an Industry Event, with a lot of Industry People (“Industry” here being sf/f publishing). There are also a lot of independent artists, authors, and creators there to network and get their name out there and such. There are also a lot of people who are there, essentially, to party and as a vacation. And a lot of people who it’s a bit of column A and a bit of column B.

It’s not unusual to feel like everybody else is there to Do Something, leaving you at a loose end or as an impostor or whatever. If it makes you feel any better, a lot of the people there to Do Something feel the same way.

There are a number of official “icebreaker” type things designed to get you into the flow of things. The first day of actual programming on Friday is kicked off with The Gathering, which is a structured party that I compared to a school carnival in my previous post – held in the big ballroom-sized event space, with stations for games and activities. When progamming breaks for dinner, there are several “First WisCon Dinner” groups that form up and sally forth down State Street to various restaurants. These are mixed groups of experienced congoers and newcomers. If you’re good with large groups, this is a good chance to both meet other newbies and prove to yourself you’re not the only one, and meet people who have been coming for years and who are still interested in meeting new people.

There’s also a lot of informal measures along the same line. While there can be people in any group who seem insular and cliquish (though in some cases, it’s because they are as shy as you are and also don’t know who’s new and who’s not), there are people who take it upon themselves to act as a welcome wagon and guide, make introductions, etc. I benefited from several people doing this my first few years, and I’ve been trying to pay it forward.

Mealtimes at WisCon are prime socializing time. They can be lonely at WisCon if you’re there by yourself and don’t know anybody. Let me tell you a secret: most of the people around mealtime are looking for more people to eat with. Not everybody. Some people have specific plans, some people don’t want a big crowd. But if it’s time for dinner and you say in a loud, clear voice, “Hey, does anybody want to get dinner?”, you might find yourself approached by other lonely newbies, or invited to join a group.

If you’ve got a smart phone, you can also tweet that you need lunch or dinner plans, using the WisCon tags. See if you don’t get an invite. And I keep telling people this and I keep having people not believe me, but if you’re stuck for plans and can’t find anyone, tweet @ me or moofable (my boyfriend, Jack, who is more likely to see it, though I do turn my notifications up for the con). If we don’t have sensitive plans with someone else, we’ll be happy to meet you. If we do, we’ll try to match you up with someone.

Now, there are ~1000 people at the con. I don’t know all of them and no one can vouch for them all in a vacuum. Use your normal rules and rubrics for your personal safety, of course, and feel free to decline anything that seems sketchy or that you can’t trust. There is no WisCon Rule of Politeness that says you have to accept an invitation. But mostly I’m talking about eating in a public place with a group of people.

There is a dedicated lounge inside the con that’s a posted safer space for people of color. If you’re looking to dine away from the white gaze, I am told that popping in there before mealtime can be a good way to hook up with a group, just in case you’re feeling shy about broadcasting that particular need on Twitter. If you witness something on a panel that you need to unload about or process, you’re probably not alone and you’ll probably find other people heading to the same destination for the same purpose.

In recent years, we’ve added a trans/genderqueer space and a disability/access space for similar purposes. If you find yourself overwhelmed by all the crowds and you need to find your crowd, there are some shortcuts.

Party, Party, Party

WisCon’s party culture can take a little getting used to, and it’s still evolving. Each individual party is thrown by an individual or group who are members of the con. They provide a theme, decorate, cater, etc., basically all themselves (and/or pay someone to do so). Each party takes place in an event room/space on the sixth or second floor, and since you wind up with a whole floor of individual parties serving slightly different appetizers and whatnot, mostly it winds up being treated as one giant metaparty, with a lot of people circulating from room to room and grazing.

Parties might have activities appropriate to their theme, like making a magic wand for a book release party about wizards, or designing a mask for a “masquerade ball” theme. It’s just, no one party has a ballroom-sized space, so the theming of something like “masquerade ball” can only go so far.

Now, the larger convention party culture started as a mixture of cocktail receptions sponsored by publishers and the like and authors/congoers hosting keggers in hotel rooms and/or swimming pools. The two have sort of merged together over the years, and now that convention culture is growing up, the drunken debauchery is starting to get roped in a little.

There’s been some grousing mostly from the older generation that WisCon’s deal with the hotel prevents WisCon parties from serving alcohol (due to stuff involving their liquor license and insurance and the fact that a lot of WisCon’s parties are now happening in what is de facto public space on the second floor instead of private space with controlled access). It may be important for you to know that alcohol will be being consumed in and around the parties, but the parties are much less centered on alcohol than they were.

(There are cash bars set up near the parties, and if a party host absolutely needs to serve alcohol for some thematic purpose, their booze can be given to the bartenders to be dispensed. I don’t know how much anyone’s taken advantage of that.)

Be advised that the party floor is hot, enclosed, crowded, and noisy when the parties are in swing (generally 9 PM through the wee hours). The hallway on 6 is marked off so that there’s a traffic lane and a social loitering lane; please observe that to keep things safe and accessible. If you’re looking for a less crowded time but don’t want to miss out on the social – party hours are also a great time for visiting the lobby.

Cosplay and Consent

Cosplay has not been a huge part of the WisCon culture, though every year I have gone there has been a little bit more of it. I certainly would (and have, and am!) encouraging cosplayers to come and bring their craft to the con. I think it’s a tremendous addition to it. Certainly it’s the right crowd to be impressed with and recognize cosplay. I see this as similar to the greater emphasis on other media in addition to literature, and the youthening and broadening of the con membership. There’s a lot of the lowkey styles of cosplay, like the people do modern Disney Princess equivalents or wear dresses in superhero colors and patterns. I dressed as Maleficent for the Gathering last year and will be doing so again this year.

WisCon practices a culture of consent. If you see someone in cosplay, please remember that this does not entitle you to touch them, physically turn them around, stop them with your hand or otherwise physically control them, demand they pose, or take their picture without their consent. There are no dedicated cosplay events, so if you see someone in a costume, they’re a member like you and they may well be heading towards a panel they really want to see. Be delighted in their creativity, but you’re not entitled to their time and space.

Now, for people who want to cosplay, do bear in mind that there aren’t dedicated cosplay events, so if you’re going to dress up, keep your comfort in mind. I did my Maleficent cosplay on Friday because it’s not a full day of programming, and a few hours of that are eaten up by the Gathering, so it’s not like I spent all day going from panel to panel and sitting in, frankly, fairly warm rooms with my cloak and horned hat.

A lot of people who want to dress up, whether it’s cosplay or just being silly or glam or steampunk or whatever, wear comfy clothes during the programming day then change after dinner, so they’re dressed up for the parties. You can wear anything that doesn’t violate decency laws and people won’t bat an eye after 9. There’s not a huge cosplay culture, but there is a decided dress-up culture into which cosplay can neatly slot. There’ll be people with unicorn horns and top hats and cat ears and corsets and capes and whatnot.

Like I said, I encourage people to cosplay at WisCon. I’m going to be doing at least one cosplay on at least one day (and I’ll certainly be dressing up spiffy on other days), so if you come, you won’t be on your own. There is a culture at WisCon (there are *several* cultures, in fact), but it’s driven by the membership and it’s fluid. We can make cosplay at WisCon a bigger thing just by doing it.

Health & Hygiene

WisCon observes safe food handling standards in the ConSuite. A number of volunteers are certified for that. (They always need more help! You don’t need to be certified to pitch in, but if you’re coming back next year, you could volunteer in advance and get the certification on WisCon’s dime. They’d be very grateful! Volunteering is an excellent way to become a part of the con!)

There are generally hand sanitizers and wipes around. I recommend carrying some of your own. “Con crud”, or a variety of gastrointestinal and respiratory infections that propagate through the close quarters of a convention, is a real thing and it can hit you hard during or after a con. Best practice is to wash and/or sanitize your hands regularly. If you are flying to and from the con, sanitize your hands in the airport and plane, and wipe down any surface you’re going to be touching with antibacterial wipes.

That horrible travel cold you thought you got from breathing recycled air? Probably came from a germy surface. This is a life-changing trick that I picked up from a family member. I went from spending a week to three weeks knocked on my back by a chest cold about every other time I flew and every single time I went to a con, to almost never being sick. They’re called “airborne viruses” because you sneeze and breathe out droplets and whatnot, but mostly they wind up adhering to surfaces that are rarely if ever disinfected and you get them that way.

As I mentioned before, there is water, water everywhere and it’s there for you to drink. End of May in the midwest can be surprisingly sultry if you haven’t lived through it. It’s not nearly as hot as the end of July into August, but when you’re at a literary convention it’s easy to overlook how much exertion you’re getting. The con is a workout.

There are also trashcans everywhere! Please do not treat the convention space or hotel at large like it’s a restaurant with full busing service, or worse, a trashcan. Yes, there is hotel staff who will go around and collect empty water cups and trash and clean it up. But there’s a trashcan right there, for most values of “right there”. Don’t make things harder for the staff and don’t make things worse for your fellow congoers. There was one year where every time I walked into a conference room, there was an orange rind or a banana peel somewhere. In one case, there was an orange peel left piled on the table for my panel by a previous panelist.

It’s not that everybody is sloppy and thoughtless. This is a case where a few people can seriously impact the entire convention for the negative. Trash in places trash should not be (which consist of “the trash can”) is a safety hazard and it’s just gross and disrespectful.

It’s mostly not new people doing this. It’s mostly, in fact, old people who should know better but have internalized the idea that Surely Someone Will Just Take Care Of This. I just want to throw it out here, though, because I’m bringing new people in and I don’t want to wind up adding to the problem.

 

March Onward!

Hello, new folllowers! This is both a status post and what I call a processing post, where I reflect on things that have been happening and will be happening. Please be advised that this sort of post is not a request for advice and does not require any feedback. If you’re curious to know what’s going on in my life and in my head… well, that’s what blogs are for. I am more than capable of asking for advice if I need it.

Anyway…

February was an interesting experience after the creative high of January, when I wrote over 60,000 words of fiction and got a lot of amazing things done. I figured things would basically continue on the same, but… stuff kept happening. In retrospect, the same kinds of stuff happened in January. The difference was that in January, my creative momentum let me roll with it. In February, I just crashed and burned. Even trying to edit/format fiction I’d previously written was a lot harder. I kept telling myself that if I could just get past _____, I would get my feet under me and then make up some lost ground.

It was on the very last day of February that I finally gave up and decided it was okay that this never happened. My January word count is still amazing even divided out over two months, and I’d already approached February with the idea that I’d likely write less even if I had another amazing month. So it ended up being way less. I can live with that.

Once I let go of the idea that I was going to make up for my missed fiction-writing plans in the remainder of the month, I realized that the problem all along was that I’d been suffering something like burnout. I did ALL THE WRITING in January and needed to ease off in February. Not a big deal, and something I can certainly account for going forward. As much as I’d like to believe I can take what I did in January and be a fiction-outputting machine year round, that’s just not now things work.

So from here on out, I’m going to take my January approach of throwing myself into one project at a time and add another wrinkle: after a month of hyperfocus, a month to decompress, where I don’t place any creative demands on myself. It’s not a month of, but a month off from the pressure of producing wordcount. The things I did accomplish in February that relate to the business side of writing all happened in times when I excused myself from writing because of temporary physical impediments.

So January was a creative month, February was not. March will be, April will not be (which is handy because it’s a crunch/stress month for the business side), May will be, June won’t be (which is handy because WisCon tends to wipe me out for at least a week, more if I get sick), and so on. It’s not a perfect system as, for instance, WisCon falls during one of the “on” months, but I had my out-of-state family holiday gathering in January and it didn’t break my stride.

As I type this out, it seems incredibly obvious in retrospect that “intentionally trigger hyperfocus on one creative project after another indefinitely” was not a sustainable plan.

It’s not like February was a total wash. My political commentary continued to attract attention (and a lot of new eyes), and even brought in a little money that allowed me to deal with what might otherwise have been serious crises. I’ll need to find a sustainable balance between that and fiction as we go into March, but I managed that okay in January.

The Story on Trump’s Speech: He’s a Good Liar

Late last night, I broke down Trump’s address to the joint session of Congress on Twitter. At the time I said that it was the best speech he’s given yet, though I qualified that this was not a compliment to him so much as a warning to all of us: the regime is stepping up its messaging game, and we all have to be ready.

I predicted a lot of people would be taken in by the shiny new packaging and a patriotic wrapper provided by speechwriter Vince Haley, and when I got up this morning and checked the news sites, I found that I was right.

People sometimes ask me what news outlets I read. The answer is: as many of them as I can. And even beyond that, I look at the headlines and preview text for more. The reason I do this is because I’m trying to get a complete picture not just of what’s happening, but how it’s being framed… the meta-story of a story, if you will.

The meta-story on last night’s speech is: Donald Trump is a complete liar who has never looked more presidential than in this speech where he called for unity while saying things that are manifestly and obviously untrue. He passed a major test in what was sure to be a turning point for his presidency, and he was lying to us the whole time.

By some estimates, he told an average of one verifiable lie or inaccuracy nearly every minute.  And the pundits and talk show hosts and talking heads ate it up and begged him to keep serving more of the same.

Understand, individual people aren’t saying all of this together. Instead, we have fact-checking pieces and rebuttal pieces addressing specific claims and pointing out specific falsehoods, and side-by-side with that we have reaction pieces that talk about how it all came off. What I’m not seeing from the conventional media is anything that puts together the whole picture, of what it means that he gave a surprisingly good speech with a new, burnished and polished persona, and told more of the same lies he’s been telling.

We have a word in the English language for when someone stands up for an hour and says things that aren’t true, but which he wishes to be accepted as true, and which he makes palatable by wrapping up in patriotic imagery and inspiring platitudes and bromides about how we like things that are good and dislike things that are bad, until people find themselves nodding along with conclusions that in better circumstances they would have examined more carefully.

That word is propaganda.

The news media is not about to stand up and say that Donald Trump delivered an hour of propaganda, though, because where the line falls between a persuasive speech that is slickly packaged and actual propaganda is too subjective a determination for any one person to make.

I mean, it would be kind of like saying that someone was being presidential.

Realistically, the media has got to get better at handling things like this if they (and the rest of us) are going to survive Trump’s regime. They have got to stop acting like they’re safely up in an announcer’s box providing color commentary on a struggle confined to a playing field that neither includes them nor has any consequences that extend out of bounds.

This is not a game, there are no boundaries or safe zones or rules or timeouts, and they themselves are very much in play as designated enemies in a declared war.

Anyone who thinks that this speech signals the beginning of a whole new era with a whole new Trump is in for a rude awakening. CNN is already reporting that the White House has chosen to delay rolling out the revised Muslim travel ban executive order, so as to extend the honeymoon period for the speech.

Now, if the problem with how his actions have been received to date really were, as he’s suggested recently, a problem of “messaging”, then the smart thing to do would be to push forward with it now, while he has the public’s goodwill and has had his message accepted by the viewing audience.

If they’re in a position where they’re dead sure that releasing the executive order now would not just fail to capitalize on the momentum of the speech but kill it, they must know it’s not good.

Which is no surprise, since Stephen Miller already admitted the goal is to get to the same policy outcome with different wording.

This means that we who resist can look forward to the belated honeymoon period being over before too long, no matter how worrying it is that it’s happening.

As the day has worn on and the obvious takes get shoved out of the way, there are some signs that some in the media are paying attention to the undercurrents. An analysis piece dropped by the Washington Post shows some real savviness. It makes the point that however many hands wrote the speech, Steve Bannon and Team Chaotic Evil are still obviously calling the shots, policy-wise.

And of course, outside the mainstream media, plenty of well-followed Twitter commentators apart from myself have picked up on the rhetorical tricks that the speech employed. So, I don’t think that this speech will be the turning point at which the American people line up behind Trump or the resistance falls apart. It’s no time to get complacent, but it’s only the first step in a new battle over messaging.

The regime fully realizes how effective it was, but they also know the reality of what they’re peddling doesn’t match the sales pitch. How much mileage they wring out of these new gimmicks before the public catches on to that is going to depend in large part on how badly the tweeter-in-chief does at staying “on message” when he’s not reading a script in the august chambers of Congress.

Here’s hoping he stays true to form.


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