Truth, Consequences, Twitter, and Milo Yiannopoulos

So, late yesterday Gamergates’s semi-feral pet journalist, Milo Yiannopoulos, received his most recent lifetime ban from Twitter. I’m given to understand he has collected almost the whole set now.

Yiannopoulos was banned for his part in inciting a racist hate mob against Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones. His supporters are predictably calling this a violation of his free speech rights, which treats us to such amusing spectacles as self-proclaimed conservatives calling for Congress (the government) to force Twitter (a private enterprise) to bow to their wishes.

The beleaguered Breitbart blogger’s minions, being part of that peculiar but segment of the alt-right that is vocally against justice, is trying the usual tactic of “using progressive’s rules against them”, something they learned from studying Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals in a deeply misguided attempt to understand the modern left, an exercise which now ironically informs their entire playbook.

Of course, since their whole schtick is an utter lack of human empathy or even a rudimentary theory of mind, they can’t actually understand someone else’s point of view enough to understand anyone else’s “rules” or “tactics” or the theories behind them, so their attempt to leverage identity politics consists of basically shouting, “He’s a gay man who has sex with Black people, so you can’t ban him!”

It took all of about five seconds for this to morph, telephone-game style, into them shouting “Twitter banned Milo for being gay, that’s homophobic!”, which is how they think “identity politics” works. And when it doesn’t work for them, they think they’ve uncovered some great hypocrisy.

The other rousing defense they offer of their… you know, I’m not sure what to call him. He positions himself as a thought leader, but a lot of the time? It’s literally just positioning. He doesn’t direct the crowd so much as run to get ahead of where he thinks the crowd will likely be. There is some element of self-fulfilling prophecy to this, inasmuch as he draws attention to easy targets of opportunity (as he did with Leslie Jones). I guess it’s fair to say he is leading the mob, with a philosophical side note that the leader of a mob is also part of the mob.

So the other rousing defense they offer of their leader is that all kinds of criminal activity happens on Twitter and Twitter doesn’t do a thing about it, so apparently Twitter has declared that “saying mean things” or  (more spuriously) “having the wrong opinions” is worse than conspiring to commit terrorism, among other things.

But of course, it’s not that. The self-proclaimed conservative set love to crow about how liberals and progressives don’t understand consequences. Even Leslie Jones’s harassment wasn’t actually harassment. Nobody did it. It happened, paradoxically, because she should have known better than to respond when it started. In their mind, everything that happens to everybody else is a natural consequence of their own actions, and we should all know better.

But such consequences never seem to be the same for the alt-right, do they? No. They say “You’re punishing him for his opinions!” They say, “I guess he’s friends with the wrong people.” They say, “The leftist mob who runs Twitter (lol) can’t stand a conservative gay man who speaks his mind!”

But what happened to Yiannopoulos was not a result of these things, nor an indictment of his actions on an absolute scale of morality. What happened  to him was a consequence of his actions, and a predictable one. He should have known better.

Imagine a crowded marketplace. There are shady deals happening. People are being ripped off, pickpocketed, maybe even forcibly robbed. Over in a corner, people are plotting a violent crime. There are a thousand conversations happening at once, some pleasant, some not.

Say policing is a bit lax in this marketplace, because those who run it would rather have the great crowd of people not presently being inconvenienced by violence and theft feel like it’s a safe, chill place, and because truth be told they make a lot of money from the rip-off artists. There are also some logistical difficulties inherent in keeping the peace in a place so big and boisterous and crowded, but they’re definitely not doing all they could do.

Into this marketplace comes a young man who, seeing a merchant he doesn’t think should be there, he goes over and upsets her stall. And this is not some rinky-dink peddler, but the stall of a great merchant house. He just knocks it over, and keeps knocking it over, and keeps knocking it over.

Is this the worst crime that’s happening in the marketplace?


Is it some great big heap of moral rightness that the authorities deal with this outright disruption of their marketplace faster than they do similar acts to smaller-time peddlers, or greater acts of violence that happen at the fringes, or the conspiracies to commit crimes that don’t actually disrupt the running of the marketplace, however heinous they might be?

Of course not.

But it’s realistic. It’s reasonable. It’s almost inevitable. It is the person who disrupts the orderly running of the enterprise who is the person most likely to be removed from it.

The “speech” (actually, conduct) of Yiannopoulos and those like him has the effect of making Twitter impossible, dangerous, or emotionally draining to use for many people. Luckily for him, so far the “lift” generated by the “engagement” he creates has been seen by Twitter as enough of a net positive to override the drag on it created by the people chased off or browbeaten into silence, or worse. This is a very clinical description of the calculus engaged in by Twitter, and it’s not an endorsement of it, but the conservative crowd is always telling us we have to deal with the “real world” the way it is, and this is how it is.

But when he turned his sights on Leslie Jones? He aimed too high. He struck too close to the heart of the marketplace. She was recently in a major motion picture, currently garnering impressive word of mouth on Twitter. She was recently the subject of a happy ending story generated by Twitter, when she used the social media platform to highlight the inequitable treatment she was receiving from snobbish fashion designers.

Even with that, because of some combination of Twitter’s laissez-faire corporate culture and systemic racism and sexism, it took Twitter far longer than most reasonable people would have expected, when not accounting for those factors.

So while we might well say that he should have known better, it’s entirely possible that he believed he would get away with it. After all, he always has before. If he believes the narrative he’s helped to promulgate, he might not have thought that Leslie’s star was truly too bright for the powers that be to be ignored.

Or he might have been counting on it, angling for the ban and muttering under his breath about what was taking them so long, just so he could have the next piece for his “poor little victim” routine. He’s so oppressed!

In the banning of Milo Yiannopoulos, conservatives got everything they say they want when they’re describing their most reasonable-sounding, least bigoted-sounding goals.

  • A private business decided how to handle a situation.
  • A man suffered the consequences of his actions.
  • The outcome was dictated solely by economic pressures; i.e., what made the most financial sense.

What more could the right want?

STATUS: Tuesday, July 18th

The Daily Report

Well, some of my plans yesterday got derailed by sudden extreme weather. There was a heck of a squall. At its peak, it was raining so much and the wind was blowing so hard that Jack pulled his car over on the way to the store to text me and ask if a hurricane had somehow managed to sneak up on us.  It was “just” a severe thunderstorm, but he couldn’t see one foot past the windshield.

I lost a little bit of progress on a couple drafts to power dips. Not a lot of actual words (thank you, autosave!) but enough to take the wind out of my sails, especially as the lights continued to flicker. I really need to think about getting an uninterruptible power supply for my office. It sucks to have to switch to a mobile solution when bad weather rolls in.

It wasn’t a bad day, all in all, though. My Ghostbusters piece was a hit. It got picked up in a few unexpected places, and the director of the movie liked a tweet that contained a link to it. Granted that he has liked a lot of tweets mentioning his little film, so it might just be random social media engagement, but I like thinking that he might have read it.

Interesting thing is that while the Ghostbusters piece spread faster initially than the “Infidelity” one, that one gained steam more as it went, and it also generated a lot more revenue. It’s possible I picked up a patron or two on the strength of the new piece (always hard to tell where they’re coming from), but nothing in the way of tips.

…suddenly hitting me that the Infidelity piece had my support links woven into a little bio at the end, that was humorously tied into the theme of the piece, while the Ghostbusters one has—as have all my more recent Medium pieces—a generic, large-text copy I’ve been using. No other Medium piece of mine has generated the same level of income as the “Infidelity” one did, but none of them had anything like the same viral legs.

So maybe the lesson here is that the organic bio (bio-organic?) approach that ties into the piece keeps people reading long enough to register the links and click on them, while the shouty approach just registers as “Okay, the thing I came for is over and now here are the commercials.”

This is why I do so much post-morteming on my own work. It’s easier to spot these patterns after the fact.

Financial Outlook

Well, I’m going to be adjusting my Medium strategy on the basis of the above observation, and maybe that will shake loose some more change mid-month and alleviate that anxiety I was talking about yesterday. Other than that? Things pretty much continue.

The State of the Me

I drank a lot more water yesterday. This makes a huge difference to my well-being, particularly at the height of the summer, but it’s the kind of thing that’s harder to think of or manage the worse off I am. Yesterday I was already doing a lot better, and as a result, I was able to take better care of myself.

Plans For Today

It feels kind of like a “muddle through” day, not in the sense that I’m struggling but there’s no particular direction. I’m going to putter around creatively and see what happens.

STATUS: Monday, July 18th

The Daily Report

Well! Last week was very bumpy for me, but I had a pretty good weekend, physical fatigue notwithstanding.

I did not expect the opening of the submission window at Ligature Works would cause an immediate rush of submissions, as it’s a brand new venue and no one knew what to expect, guidelines-wise. There wasn’t a long build-up time before I even discussed that it was going to open, and I didn’t talk it up much in the interval. I was intellectually prepared to wait a week or more to get my first submission, or to have them start trickling in during the back half of the window.

Well, they started to come in on Saturday, and I now have several stories sitting in the Dropbox folder into which they’re deposited. I’ve only given them a quick initial read through, since it was the weekend, but I like what I’m seeing. I can’t wait for poetry to start coming in.

The next two weeks (inclusive of this one) are going to be a bit busy for me, since I was so out of it last week and AFK the week before. I have to keep reminding myself how many goals I crossed off in the first two weeks of June, and that the “big” thing for the month (the short story) was knocked off before the start of the month. I can do this. I didn’t promise anything that I can’t do.

Financial Outlook

Until I really hit the next level in my audience-building and crowdfunding efforts, I think I’m going to have to used to the idea that the middle of the month is going to be a little tense. We’re doing muuuuch better than we were mid-June, mind you. As a household we’re fine. I’m just personally feeling a bit insecure with the adjustment from “mainly dribbles of income throughout the month” to “large infusions of income at the start/end of the month”. I’ll get over it in time, especially as each month of growth means that I have more left over after regular monthly expenses.

In terms of the longer term: things are going well. My Patreon is just a smidge shy of $400, really believe we’ll cross that line before the end of the month. The Tales of MU Patreon hasn’t grown much at all this month. I still have a lot of anxiety connected to that project and my inability to write on a consistent basis for so much of the time since my move, which means I’m not pushing it as much as I probably could or should be.  There is going to be a point where I need more people kicking in to it for it to be worth it to keep the project going, though. If it actually did average out to $50 a chapter ($55 is the official tally right now), I’d be sanguine if not ecstatic. But I basically only see that on

The State of the Me

I feel loads better than I did last week, even than I did yesterday. I’m taking a lot of naps and drinking a lot of water, going to bed early even if I can’t immediately sleep, just to make sure that I’m not staying up all night and getting plenty of rest. Monday’s my usual cooking day and I have opted for a crockpot specifically so I won’t have to stand around in the kitchen near a heat source. This will also help me manage the end of my day a little more easily.

Plans For Today

Going to be focusing on creative stuff today, to try to kick off a week of high-gear writing. There’s a Tales of MU draft due. I’m going to be working on a chapter of my Patreon serial, Making Out Like Bandits. I would like to a Monday Monster, but none of my ideas are really gelling.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one.

There’s this group of scientists, mavericks, their work widely derided and discredited. They’re interested in not just investigating the supernatural, but examining it, scientifically. They think they’ve figured out a way to use advanced particle physics to fight and even contain ghosts, if only they can get anyone to believe them.

At the same time, supernatural activity is on the rise in New York City (of course it’s New York, where else would it be?) because a man who believes this ruined earth is wicked and in need of a hard reset has built devices to collect and amplify psychokinetic energy until things reach a boiling point.

Drummed out of academia and out of other options, our “ghostbusters”, if you will, go commercial with their operation and enjoy some local success and celebrity as the artificial supernatural surge creates high demand for their services, though they run into problems with unsympathetic local and federal government officials, which results in some serious setbacks for them until the apocalypse is actually at hand, transforming an iconic creepy old building into a gateway to another realm as the amplifiers go critical.

In a pitched action climax, our heroes wind up ineffectually fighting a giant monster set on cleansing the world by force until they decide to focus their energies (metaphorically and literally) on the portal that allows it to operate on the physical plane. It’s a desperate plan, but this is a desperate time…

That, of course, is a rough outline of a lot of the major plot points of the all-male version of Ghostbusters that came out in 1984. It is also serves the same purpose for the 2016 version.

Oh, spoiler warning? Sorry! But not really. Because telling you this isn’t the same as telling you the story. If you’ve only seen the male version, and I told you that’s how the 2016 version goes, you’d probably be imagining something a lot more similar than it actually is. You might be reading it right now and thinking you’ll know how it goes, and still be wrong.

And honestly, chances are that if you’re even a little bit interested in this movie, you know the premise, and chances are you have an idea what the climax is going to be, at least in terms of the broad strokes approach I took above.

There’s been a lot of breath and ink and screen space expended over the past couple years about the precise difference between a “reboot” and a “remake”, and what the merits of each are, and sometimes how they compare to “retcons”. Frankly, that conversation bores me.

I think it also misses the point by a wide margin. Telling a story over again in a different way is not some new Hollywood fad. It’s a basic part of what storytelling is.

I told a dude on Twitter who was complaining that this movie wiped out the original that it hadn’t, that the boy version of Ghostbusters (and its sequel and all the spin-off media still existed). I told him I checked. Twice. Nothing was wiped out. His response was to say that is interesting and ask me if I’d heard something from Sony about a “DC-style multiverse”.

I told him no, that’s just how storytelling works.

The new Ghostbusters movie shares an outline and some phlebotinum and iconography with the guy one, but it is telling its own story. You could take the same basic premise and the same pile of elements and turn a dozen filmmakers or writers loose with it and ask them to tell their own version, and get a dozen different stories.

Which one’s the real one? They’re all stories. They’re real stories. But they’re stories. None of them is what happened. Unless you believe in the Sandman version of the multiverse, where all stories are true somewhere, in which case: all of them are what happened, somewhere. But that question honestly doesn’t interest me. They’re stories. They don’t have to be true, only true enough to themselves for you to get lost in them.

Are they all good? Is one of them best? That’s a matter of perspective.

We’ve already been down this road before, most of us who were kids when the male version of Ghostbusters came out. We watched the movie and accepted its reality, and then the cartoon came out, with all the same names but not the same likenesses, and a lot of the same gadgets and gizmos, but other ones, too, ones that didn’t quite fit the logic of the movie, and a lot of little elements here and there that made it hard to believe we were seeing a continuation of the story we’d seen on the big screen (or on VHS, or whatever).

And then the sequel came out, and it was very clear early on that as far as it was concerned, the cartoon did not exist. Had not happened. Yet the cartoon was still airing at that point, and it went through shifts as it went that made it harder to accept that even the cartoon was a single coherent story.

There have been Ghostbusters cartoons (plural) and comic books and video games and roleplaying games, all of which tell the same basic story or similar stories in different ways. A comic book of the cartoon might act like the cartoon (or parts of it) happened, but the cartoon doesn’t return the favor.

If you’re of a certain turn of mind, you might be pumping the air or slamming your desk and thinking, “Yes! She gets it! That’s so annoying. Why doesn’t anyone care about continuity?” But this? This here? These aren’t complaints, they’re observations.

I honestly don’t think being shackled to continuity does much for art. I honestly do think that looking for a single definitive telling of a story and elevating it to the point that we can’t try to tell the same story a different way hurts the art, hampers it.

So, irrespective of what I think of the Ghostbusters movie I just watched (and the short version is: it was amazing, and I will write a proper review by and by), I want to say right off the bat that I’m glad that it exists. I’m glad it got made. I’m glad that the story was told again, a different way.



Ligature Works is now open for submissions.

Ligature Works, the new venue for speculative fiction and poetry, is now officially open for submissions. See for details on the venue, then click the link for “submissions” in the sidebar. For our first issue, I will be seeking between 1 and 3 pieces of short fiction and 5 and 10 poems. The exact number selected is going to depend in part on what the submissions look like and how much I can afford come September. If the response is much bigger than expected, I might add some dedicated fundraising to purchase more pieces, but I’m looking for a modest start.

I’m not going to repeat the information that’s over there over here, but I would like to take the opportunity to talk about why I’m doing this and why now. Ever since I got into the world of speculative poetry, I have been impressed by how many different venues there are that publish such things, each with their own distinctive characters and styles.

However, it’s hard and not very profitable work to run such a thing, and the people who do so must frequently take breaks, official or not. The result is something that seems like a bit of a quantum superposition between an renaissance and a retreat.

For a long time, I’ve considered offering my services to some of the struggling venues to reduce their workload, but ultimately it seems like adding another person to the mix in a small, deeply personal operation might require more additional work than it relieves, at least at first. If someone is overwhelmed, they can’t exactly be holding my hand or constantly explaining what they’re looking for or how they do things. And however confident I am in my skills, I don’t exactly have a long resume in the area of editing or publishing.

So my contribution is to create a new venue to take up some of the pressure and ease some of the load. It’s something I would have wanted to do eventually anyway, but right now a lot of my favorite poetry venues in particular are either on hiatus or between submission windows. This doesn’t mean that poets have stopped poeting, though, just that they have fewer places to poet at.

Even after the other venues return… well, I think there are always going to be more poems worthy of publication than there are places to publish them, so rather than trying to compete with anyone, I would rather look upon it as joining a vibrant and growing community.

I’m very excited about this project, and more than a little bit scared, but that’s part of the point… well, it’s actually parts of a couple of points. It’s about me not being afraid to do new things, and showing that you don’t have to wait for permission or a sign from above to do things.

At its core, the loftiest literary magazine ever published is still just basically there because somebody decided it was okay to publish a magazine. I mean, no one has access to some special intrinsic particle of legitimacy they sprinkle over their pages to make them “real”.

My main goal with Ligature Works is just to publish things that I like and that I think other people will like. But in doing so as someone who has been relentlessly indie and primarily self-published, I think there is a more subtle point to make about how thin the line between self-publishing and trad-publishing is.  And that really gets into the overall (or underall?) theme of Ligature Works as explained on the front page: exploring the lines and spaces between things.

STATUS: Thursday, July 14th

The Daily Report

I’m having a really hard time coming to grips with the way my week is going. At the start of June, I was just back from WisCon and I hit the ground running, kicking of an amazing month of writing and accomplishing things. Here I am back from vacation and I feel like my wheels are spinning ineffectually. I didn’t get much done Tuesday beyond posting the chapter I’d already written. Yesterday, I wrote a satirical news story that was about a week past its prime, but it was stuck in my head and I needed to get it out.

I had a similar experience with a long essay I wrote this morning, responding to some of the more baffling criticism I’d seen around an open letter released yesterday under the heading of “We Are The Left”. It wasn’t really something I wanted to devote two hours to, but until I got it out, I found my attention kept wandering back to Twitter where I could shake my head and wonder how people were getting something so twisted.

This is part of my basic advice to any writer: write what you have to write. Sometimes what’s in the pipeline isn’t what you want to say, but until you get it out, you’re not getting anything else past it.

Financial Status

Outlook basically good.

The State of the Me

Up and down. Wibbly-wobbly. Emotionally and physically, I’m on way shakier ground than I like, to the point that I kind of just want to shut myself away from the world for a few days with nothing to do and no responsibilities, no pressure, just a chance to rest and find my equilibrium. Life doesn’t work like that, though. Even if it were an option, even if I didn’t have responsibilities, I don’t currently have a real space set up to do that. So I will muddle through as best I can, at half speed or quarter speed.

Plans For Today

The one thing that absolutely has to happen is a draft of Tales of MU. That’s all I’m focusing on.



The Crowdfunder’s Dilemma

I was just tweeting about this, and I decided to make it into a blog post.

I acquired two new patrons today, one at $5 and one at $1. The $1 happened in between when I noticed my total had gone up by $5 and when I finished posting about it this morning. Obviously I appreciate both of them, but I think many people would be surprised to know how much I appreciate the $1 patron.

It rarely fails that when I draw attention to my Patreon, I’ll get someone telling me “I’d love to support you, but I couldn’t afford more than a dollar a month and I’m sure that [would be insulting/would devalue your work/wouldn’t be worth it after the fees].”

As I said on Twitter, I think if everybody who had ever read any of my work and thought about giving me a dollar but then thought better of it for one of those reasons had done so, I’d already be rich.

In Sir Terry Pratchett’s Making Money, the ever-astute Moist Von Lipwig makes the observation that there are a lot more poor and struggling people to do business with than wealthy ones, even if as individuals they can’t afford to do much business each. There are certainly more people who can afford to tip the occasional dollar or sponsor an author to the tune of a dollar a month than there are ones who can drop a hundred dollars or pledge ten dollars a months.

The simple fact is that the fees taken out of an online transaction are never going to cost more than the transaction itself grosses, and whatever is left over is more money than a crowdfunded artist would have without the donation. This is true whether we’re talking about recurring sponsorship through Patreon, or one-time transactions such as PayPal tips.  The fee structures we deal with are also often different and usually better than the ones you’d be using as an individual on a personal account.

And far from being insulting, the simple receipt of a dollar is very rewarding. It’s an almost tangible reminder that the work we do has value, that it is valued. We know—or at least I do—that if someone gives a dollar as opposed to five or ten or even two, then a dollar is probably what they have to spend at the moment.

And honestly? I don’t think a dollar is a bad price to pay for the type of entertainment I’m typically peddling. You can buy a lot of songs and some TV episodes for a dollar. I’ve tried to sell short stories for a dollar, with somewhat mixed results, but I think it’s a good price point for such. I need to ultimately make more than $1 total for a short story to be “worth it”, but that doesn’t mean any one person has to give more than a dollar. Or even that any one person has to give a dollar.

This is the thing about crowdfunding, and I’m saying this a lot lately because it needs to be said, but the “crowd” must always precede the “fund”. The only thing worse than people not giving $1 because they’d feel guilty is people not reading my work because they feel guilty. If you’re part of the crowd, be part of the crowd and know that I welcome and appreciate you.

So be very clear, when I talk about this whole “I assure you, a dollar is worth it” thing, I’m addressing people who have a dollar and are on the fence about plonking it down because they can’t convince themselves it will be worth it or appreciated. If you don’t have a dollar or aren’t sure it would be worth it in the sense that you might need it yourself, all I can say to you is: thank you for reading. I hope you continue to enjoy my work, and tell your friends if you think they’ll like it.

Don’t worry if your friends can’t afford to pay, either. This isn’t a pyramid scheme. You don’t have to recruit paying members to move up the ladder. If I post something in a place the public can see it, I’ve made a decision that the public can read it. No guilt. No shame. Enjoy, and spread the word.

But for those of you who have the dollar: please, trust me when I say that it’s worth it. It’s super worth it. Believe me when I say that there is more security to be found in several thousand appreciative fans paying a dollar each than in a single wealthy party like a publisher an advance of several thousand dollars. If I had my choice of either scenario, I would go for the multitude of individuals with their individual dollars every single time.

Simply put, a large number of small patrons accords more security and independence than a small number of large ones. That’s part of why I chose this path.

The problem is getting people to realize and believe it. As exciting and helpful as it is to get a notification that says I have $10, $25, or even $100 waiting for me as a token of a reader’s appreciation, I think if we can normalize the idea of the $1 tip as a standard nod of respect to the creator of something one has enjoyed or learned from, there will be a lot more security in being an independent creator online.

How to get there is really the challenge.

Writing and blogging about this topic is part of how I’m working towards this. Pitching my Patreon as a one dollar bet or dare is part of it.

If you want to help? Throw a dollar into my jar, or someone else’s. Join my Patreon as a $1 donor. And tell people you did it. Nothing draws a crowd like a crowd.

STATUS: Wednesday, July 13th

The Daily Report

Well, my snap decision to push ahead with my publishing plans even though my Patreon wasn’t yet at the level I’d wanted is seeming more and more like a good decision. At the rate things have been going, I’ll be at the $400 mark (the first benchmark set for my publishing venture) before the end of the month, and it’s not so hard to believe I’ll be at $500 by the end of August. If so, I’ll be coming into September right on target for my initial modest plans.

When I started restructuring and refocusing my work back in May, I was inspired by the success of several more traditionally published authors who made the jump to Patreon, as well as by others who were making plans. At the time, my small cadre of dedicated detractors tried to stir the pot by suggesting I was or should be jealous of their out-of-the-gate success. I wasn’t. These are my peers and friends, and I can be happy for them. I’m also aware that they aren’t actually just out of the gate, that they are doing and have been doing the work.

I would <em>love</em> to just instantly have thousands of dollars a month of income coming in, believe me, I would. But I know that’s not likely, and that’s part of why I laid out a year-long plan for myself to begin with. June 2016 to June 2017, age 36 to 37. My year of awesome. The plan’s not going to end next June, and I’m not going to stop being awesome next June.

On the subject of plans and their evolution: while I’m sure I couldn’t sustain a rate of an original short story a week without dropping something, I’m kind of feeling unfulfilled by the one a month, and I also have the perpetual dilemma of “Do I keep this for my patrons and possible publication elsewhere, or make it public as advertising/performance?” So I’m going to start aiming for two, one that can be locked up on Patreon and one that can be flung to the winds.

Financial Status

Feeling pretty good about where things stand right now, how things look for the rest of the month, and where I’ll start the next month if things proceed more or less apace. The con funds are now all in place for August and while that’s earmarked money, it’s nice to have some digits in my bank account and know that if something unexpected came up in the next couple months, it wouldn’t put me negative. I could cover a number of small to medium family emergencies by borrowing from myself. It’s amazing how much background anxiety this relieves.

At the same time, I feel a little bit of a “walls closing in” sensation because during most of June I had stuff coming out like *snaps fingers repeatedly in rapid succession* and so I had all this miscellaneous money coming in from it that continued through last week. But here I just came back off a week’s vacation, I’m getting in the swing of things, that’s not happening. Not a complaint! Just a reminder to myself that nothing’s gone wrong, things are just normal and it’s time to get back to work.

The State of the Me

I’m very “swingy” lately. I figured out yesterday that after my vacation detox/reset, I made a fairly classic mistake of resuming my previous doses of everything without the accumulated tolerance. In layperson’s terms, I spent the past two afternoons high as particularly high balls. I was functional Monday, less so yesterday.

I’m also physically very tired. I’ve been getting moderately into Pokemon Go… while I’ve played and enjoyed the Stadium series and I love Pokken Tournament, I never got into the core series or watched the anime, but Jack’s very into it, particularly as it came out at a time when he’s consciously being more active and getting out more. I’m very heat-susceptible, though, and prone to exercise intolerance in the best conditions, and I think even my modest efforts to “catch all of them” (as I believe the saying goes) may have been too much.

Plans For Today

My plans for today have actually changed since I started writing this post, as an external thing was canceled for external reasons. So I think I’m actually going to spend the day just doing random writing, see how many of my goals for the month I can knock out.

Interesting note about stats.

So, last week I wasn’t watching my Medium stats (a thing that pretty much consumed me the week before that) nearly as closely, because vacation. I was watching and cheering as July’s short story “The Numbers Game” crossed the 1,000 hit mark pretty early on. It both hit that mark more quickly than I expected and slowed to a trickle more quickly than I expected after that, but not by much on either count.

What I really didn’t expect is that when I got home and dived into the referral stats, I found a whole lot of nothing. Most of the incoming links are from social media (Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook) or internal to Medium. My quick search for such shares/mentions suggests this was mostly done on a personal level, with few big pushes from big names. My previous Medium hits, both the unqualified runaway viral smash and my other short story that did respectable numbers and generated some nice tips, both had some clear “turning points” where you could see them catching fire, and both had referrals showing up from unexpected places (such as Ravelry). This story didn’t have any of that.

Now, this is not a lament. I’d love it if everything I did caught fire the way “Infidelity Will Be The Death Of My Marriage” did and then some, but if everything I did had to catch fire to be worth doing, I would never do it. And also, just because something doesn’t immediately catch fire doesn’t mean it has no value over the long term. It did generate tips (immediate money) and possibly got some more patrons (though there’s more guesswork there). It did provide value for my existing readers. It’s something I can sell. And I think it forms an important part of the body of my work, along with other recent longer pieces “Infidelity” and “Women Making Bees In Public.

It’s also not a lament because I see many positive indicators here. This story did not catch fire. It did not go viral. It did not receive a strong push from any particular quarter. Yet it reached the benchmark of a thousand hits very quickly, it generated revenue. It was, by every measurement, a successful story.

So that’s a good sign. There’s an audience. There are people watching, looking for my stuff. They don’t need to be told it’s there. I can just release it with the usual fanfare and it will be read.

The other takeaway is that it’s always better to give a story a distinctive title than not. I can very easily figure out how often “Women Making Bees In Public” or “Infidelity Will Be The Death Of My Marriage” was mentioned by name on Twitter or discussed in a particularly public forum. “The Numbers Game”, not so much. The phrase crops up on Twitter several times an hour, usually in conjunction with sports.

This isn’t to say that you should never use a common phrase for a story title. My time travel short “Those Who Fail To Learn” has the perfect title for itself. I’m less happy with the title of “The Numbers Game”, though. The phrase does appear in the story and the action/conflict at the heart of it involves a phone number, but I don’t think it really describes what is happening. I suspect if I hadn’t been in a hurry to finalize it before I went on vacation, I might have come up with a better title.

I don’t think think I’m likely to change it, though, unless and until I package it to sell in a different format (like an anthology). Whatever marginal value would be created by giving it a more unique or better-fitting title would be erased by the confusion it would create.

Again, not really a lament so much as an observation: giving something a distinctive title makes it easier to track, but that should really not be your sole or main criteria when naming something. The DigiPen class that would go on to create the game Portal named their class project Narbacular Drop specifically because they could track mentions without getting false hits, but the much more popular and successful follow-up game was called Portal, a common noun that is used heavily in sf/f games and as a term of art in web architecture. Yet calling it Portal was undoubtedly the right move.

If you want to swat a fly…

…you don’t actually have to think like a fly does, as some would have it. I wouldn’t advise doing so if you could. I don’t advise trying. While animal cognition is a good deal more complex than a good deal of us like to think, I don’t put much stock in trying to think the way a fly does, particularly if your goal is to swat the sucker.

Among other problems with this proposition, I don’t believe your average fly to be particularly good at swatting flies.

If you want to swat a fly, though, what you need to do is think about how the fly sees the world.

Perceives, I should say. I mean, they do see. They have a field of vision like you wouldn’t believe, and couldn’t understand. They have other senses as well, though. Their senses of smell are quite acute. I don’t know that they hear, exactly, in the way that we do, but they can sense vibration and motion in the air. They’re highly attuned to motion in general. Some scientists believe that their ability to process motion visually is equivalent to that of a human, which is an accomplishment given the relative size and simplicity of their nervous systems in relation to ours.

We’ve been trying to swat at flies for as long as our genuses have known each other, which is significant because this means we’ve been helping flies to evolutionarily select themselves for at not being swatted for several million generations. Flies aren’t just good at processing motion, they’re excellent at detecting danger and are always, always calculating possible angles of attack and escape vectors. Peter Parker’s famous spider-sense would make a lot more sense if we were to understand that the spider that bit him had just finished feasting on a radioactive housefly.

So if you want to swat a fly, you have to understand that you’re dealing with a creature that has evolved specifically to not be swatted by you. Every instinct in its tiny little head is screaming out warnings from the moment it detects your scent. Every instinct in its head is plotting against every instinct in yours, and evolutionarily speaking, it’s no contest. If you rely on your instincts, you’ve lost.

So if you want to swat a fly, you can’t rely on instincts. You have to take what you know about it, and extrapolate from there. Its field of vision. Its sensitivity to air currents. Its knowledge of aerodynamics. Its endless internal catastrophizing and wargaming.

When I was a child, I always took a fly swatter and swung it like a lightweight hammer, like you see in cartoons. Line it up and swing for the fences. Swing for all you’re worth. That’s what we all do, isn’t it? And sometimes we get lucky. Sometimes it works. Usually, though? You might catch a mosquito or a moth that way, but a fly is nature’s perfect swat-evader.

But it doesn’t take that much force to kill a fly. You can do it with your hand, without the extra leverage afforded by the length of the swatter, if only you can catch it. The advantage of the long handle isn’t that it lets you swing hard. It’s that it lets you move in to an optimal position and come at the fly from a different angle.

A fly will always see a threat coming, always. It has a 360 degree field of vision. And from the moment it sees the threat, it’s working to counter it at lightning speed. It needs far less than a tenth of a second to detect an incoming threat and respond.

If you Google for scientific tips to kill a fly, you’ll learn that there’s a science to the fly’s initial reactions, how it adjusts its posture and jumps and takes off in response to a threat from certain angles, and if you’re coordinated enough, you can use that information to improve your odds of actually hitting the fly, by “leading” your swat to take into account its initial counter.

Of course, if you fail, it’ll be on the wing and in its element, and good luck hitting it out of the air. Oh, I know some people can do that, and I applaud them for their prowess. I can’t. I have real difficulty tracking rapidly moving objects. It’s a mitochondrial thing.

If you can’t reliably swat a fly out of the air, then your best bet isn’t to guess the fly’s initial move and try to lead your shot, it’s to hit the fly before it knows anything is happening, before it takes off, before it even tenses to jump.

It’s going to see a swat coming, but it’s not necessarily going to care about a swatter being moved near it. Do it slowly. Take care that neither your shadow nor that of the swatter falls onto the fly. Inch it into a position where a simple flick of your wrist will be enough to hit the fly, and then… do that. You might want to practice the motion a few times before you actually try it in the field. You might also have to practice the slipping into position a few times.

A caveat: while this method is really good for killing flies, they’re almost certain to evolve past it if it catches on. So, you know, enjoy it while you can. Your descendants might not be so lucky.

As for why I’m writing this post?

Well, it’s useful knowledge to have, and I’d like to share it. I do have another purpose, though.

Every once in a while someone stumbles across one of my parodies like “Infidelity Will Be The Death of My Marriage” or the Sad Puppy Book Reviews or my definitive takedown of Vox Day’s inexplicably commercialized grudgewank and says something to the effect that they don’t envy me for the time I spend getting into the heads of such malcontents and miscreants. I got some indirect feedback on my red pill horror story “The Numbers Game” that ran in that direction, too.

I just wanted to reassure all those concerned for my mental well-being that, while it I have spent a lot of effort in researching and understanding the mindsets that I riff on, critique, or otherwise write on, it’s not actually that hard on me in the sense that you might think.

Because if I want to swat a fly, I do not bother with trying to think like the fly does myself.

It is sufficient—necessary, even—to understand how the fly thinks.

All else follows naturally from that point.