In or near Baltimore? Come see Fluid Movement with us!

If my summer had gone a little more smoothly, I would have talked about this more. I’d hoped to even do an interview with some of the people involved to sharpen my semi-journalistic skills, but I just didn’t have the time and spoons to make that happen.

Anyway! Last year, Jack, Sarah, and I had the pleasure of attending GOLDBLUM, a quirky water ballet by Baltimore-area aquatic performance group Fluid Movement. I livetweeted the experience (scroll to the bottom, then read up.) I intend to do the same this year with their current show, SCIENCE FAIR!.

We’ll be attending the 5 P.M. show on Sunday, August 7th, at Patterson Park Pool. If you would like to join us, you can get your tickets online at Don’t wait to long. They sold like hotcakes last year. I should be easy to recognize: look for the giant floppy sun hat and rainbow hair. I will also likely be one of the few people covered pretty much head to toe regardless of the weather. My skin does not stand up well to the sun.

If you’re a fan or follower of mine and going, please give us a holler at and also let us know if you’d be interested in some kind of offsite meet-up with me beforehand. We might go out early and hang out at a coffee shop or something, if so. I don’t get out to Baltimore very often, so this might be a good chance for that sort of thing. Otherwise, we’ll just see you at the show.

What happened yesterday.

Yesterday was surreal. The first thing that happened in the morning was that I saw the news about Charles Kinsey, the Black man shot in the leg while in a state of complete compliance and surrender. He wasn’t the police’s target: they were aiming at his autistic patient, sitting curled up on the pavement, legs crossed, clutching a toy truck that is not only clearly visible as a toy truck but has been identified as such by the helpful Mr. Kinsey.

When the links first started popping up on Twitter and Facebook, I read “shot” and thought “killed”. When I caught a reference to Mr. Kinsey speaking to reporters, I was so relieved. And then I read what he said about it, and I started putting it together with a lot of the more brutal things that have come out through recordings of police: people on camera giving execution-style finishing shots or ignoring and withholding medical attention from a victim who is bleeding out on the ground, the rash of gun deaths ruled “suicides” involving fully restrained prisoners who had been checked for weapons, the recordings and eyewitness testimony involving captains and other officials issuing shoot-to-kill orders and advising their officers not to leave a victim alive to testify, etc.

And I wrote a series of tweets. I was conflicted beforehand and throughout, about the utility, necessity, and appropriateness of a white woman talking about the absolute callous disregard the police as an institution hold for Black lives and the deadly consequences this holds. I went ahead and did it because I thought the things I had to say did need to be said.

I’m not going to rehash it all here, as it’s all been said already. I storified the tweet thread, to make it easier to share and read. The reason I’m making this blog post is to describe what happened next, as the tweets have resonated so much and spread so far that many of the individual tweets have been retweeted over a thousand times, the rest several hundreds. I have gained more than 300 followers on Twitter, meaning that more than 10% of my current followers came along in the past 24 hours. My notifications are utterly flooded if I don’t keep them on the friends-only setting. The Twitter app on my phone crashes if I try to check them. I think I’m getting something like a hundred notifications a minute, almost 24 hours later.

I had been having an emotional week for personal (and, to some extent, physiological) reasons already. I was tired when I made those tweets. I was exhausted afterwards. I tried to have a normal wake day, but I didn’t make my status post and I didn’t even take my morning pills until 3:30 in the afternoon.

Because it needs to be said: none of this is a complaint about the attention. It was not my goal and when I realized my tweets were blowing up, I added a link to Black Lives Matter’s donation page to the end of the tweet thread rather than trying to profit off it myself. I suspect that there will be a net gain for me either way, whether I sought it or not, even as I kind of suspect a lot of the new followers will bounce within a few days. It’s just the nature of things.

This is not a complaint, but a report: what happened yesterday, why I didn’t make a status post, why there was no chapter draft. I don’t regret that my day was taken over by this. But for those who don’t do Twitter or don’t follow me there, I believed an explanation was in order.

Today, I’m going to do my level best to have an ordinary work day, trying not to get distracted by a still climbing follower count or people’s responses, which includes a growing amount of negative backlash by people who want to debate me using racist and erroneous assumptions about crime statistics, or who want to read my tweets as a generalization about all police as individual officers rather than statements about the police as an institution. Having my notifications set to “only people you follow” is all kinds of help there, though regrettably it means I’m likely missing attempts to contact me.

…well, I just wrote this paragraph about an ordinary work day, and then got a text about a family member and a medical emergency. I don’t know the nature or extent of it, and can’t guess what affect it will have. Ah, well. No one ever knows what the future will hold.

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.

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.

So, when the smoke settled and the dust cleared…

…my total earnings on Patreon, between my personal Patreon and the Tales of MU one, simultaneously exists in all four categories of “things which are not too shabby”, “the most money I’ve ever made specifically on Patreon by a wide margin”, “a good start”, and “not enough in the long run”.

One of the reasons it was up in the air is that the MU one is pledges per chapter, but patrons quite sensibly have the option of capping their monthly commitment so that it doesn’t overrun their allotted budget. Patreon’s dashboard doesn’t show what an individuals limits are, and it doesn’t show how much money is pledged per entry until the end of the month when they process. So it’s only today that I’ve learned that while I have upwards of a dozen MU patrons pledging a total of about 50 per chapter, for the last several chapters of month I was making only $15 from five of them.

I’m going to have to work on bringing that number up.

Now, to be breathtakingly clear, I would much rather have people use the caps to pledge what money they can than think things like, “If I’m not supporting every chapter, it’s not worth it.” or “If I’m not paying for the whole month, I’m not a real patron.” Nope! You do what you can, because you must. I’d rather have a thousand people paying a dollar a month than one person paying a thousand dollars. There’s a lot more security the first way.

I’ve just been on tenterhooks about this because I couldn’t do much financial planning until I saw how things shook out. And how they did shake out: not as well as I’d hoped in my wildest dreams, but about what I expected? I mean, I cleared around $240 from Tales of MU patrons this month, and $200 was my most conservative estimate for what it would be.

So, definitely in the range.

As big as the growth has been, I’d be in bad shape if my current Patreon money was my only source of income, but while it’s my largest stream, it’s not my only one. Even ignoring the GoFundMe money that’s either been spent or is earmarked for specific things and the emergency grocery money, I had a good month. My ebook revenues always nosedive in the summer, but since those payout on a slow schedule I am currently reaping the benefits of a fat spring bolstered by Hugo news, and hopefully my patronage will continue to grow through the summer and fall to avoid the shock.

Now, while this has been a good month, I do have some hefty one-time expenses to pay for, so a good chunk of it is already gone this morning. But still, I’m going to start this month with more money in my account after bills are paid than any previous month for longer than I can remember.

My One Dollar Dare (Bet You I’m Worth It)

Hello, internet and all the ships at sea! If you’re reading this, then chances are good you either know who I am and what I’m about, or you’ve read my recent viral rebuttal to a terrible essay. In the first case, hi, how are you doing? Great to see you again! In the second case, let me tell you a little bit about myself, and then make you a proposition.

My name is Alexandra Erin. I’m an author. I started doing crowdfunding and micropatronage before we had the words for those things, much less the tools we have now. My life has had its ups and downs. I wrestle with severe anxiety, intermittent depression, chronic insomnia, and a mitochondrial condition that produces chronic fatigue symptoms.

I’ve always been good at writing. The real challenge of my life the last few years has been learning how to do that while other things are happening. In April and May of this year I started to really hit my stride with this, and in May I made some bold plans. June—the month of my 36th birthday—would be the month I started my year of being completely awesome.

Way back before anyone knew who I was, the few people who had heard of me were calling me the most prolific author on the net. I don’t know about “most”, but I was certainly up there, and I meant to get there again. After struggling for years to more narrowly define the focus of my work, I decided to embrace the breadth of it and think of my output as being more like a magazine: you get some humor, you get some commentary, you get some fiction, you get some poetry, you get something of everything.

So I made a checklist of the bare minimum I would produce each month (one work of satire or other humorous piece, one piece of flash fiction or poetry, some amount of commentary, one short story, and a continuation of a longer story). Some of this would be posted for public consumption, some would be reserved for my patrons, but all of it would be rounded up after the end of each month and put out as an actual zine.

I decided I would do this separately from my longest running project (Tales of MU), as that has its own established following and enough backstory (about a thousand chapters of it, and counting) to be daunting for newbies. As of this month, its funding is separate.

I’m writing this at the end of June and despite some personal upheaval and setbacks including illness, my first month has gone better than I could have expected. I’ve met or exceeded every goal I set for myself, in terms of producing work. Getting attention for it has been a bit harder, at least until I had the dubious fortune of encountering the infamous sad boner confessional piece I so recently satirized.

So here I am, with hundreds of new sets of eyes on me, setting aside my insecurity to put myself forward. Are you here because you liked something I wrote? Well, I bet you’d like other things I’ve written, and things I’m going to write in the months ahead. How much do I bet? Well, I’ll bet the time it takes me to write it all, against a a dollar. One thin dollar.

Here’s how it works: you go to my Patreon ( and pledge as little as a dollar a month. That pledge does not get processed until the end of the month, so if you do this any time between July 1st and July 31st, you won’t even be charged. But as soon as you’re pledged? You gain immediate access to anything I post to my Patreon stream.

Now, I bet you that by the time the end of the month rolls around, you will agree that the entertainment and insight you have gained from my writing will be well worth your dollar, but if I’m wrong? Heck, you cancel your pledge, and it costs you nothing. I still wrote what I wrote, and you still read what you read, but you’re out nothing. How’s that for a fair shake?

Of course, you might not have a dollar to bet, and you know what? That’s fine, too! I don’t want you feeling like my work isn’t for you just because you can’t pay. A lot of what I put up in June was free for the public to read and so will some of what I write in July, and through successive months. There will be times when my patrons see something early that everybody else gets to read later. The entirety of Tales of MU is available to the public, and I have no mind to change that.

See, the “crowd” part of “crowdfunding” is as important as the “funding” part. You can’t have one without the other. I don’t much mind if you enjoy my work and you’re not able to pay anything. I don’t want you to feel the least little bit of shame about that. Shame is not a productive emotion, as far as motivators go. If you like my work, I want you to be proud that you read it. How proud? Proud enough to share it. Proud enough to tweet links and recommend it to your friends you think might enjoy it, too. Nothing draws a crowd like a crowd.

To my way of thinking, if one reader in a thousand is able to pay me a dollar for my work, what I need to do isn’t find the other nine hundred and ninety-nine and shake them upside down for spare change. What I need is thousands and thousands of more readers! There’s no such thing as a freeloader. Just by reading you’re giving me a little boost. If you have it in you to tell a friend, you’re giving me a bigger one.

But if you’ve got a dollar?

Pledge it.

I bet you’ll think I’m worth it.


Having a good couple of days here.

Well, I’ve mentioned that yesterday I lost some work, but I wound up finishing the short story that was damaged by it, and posted it as my story for June. Today I had a very similar thing happen… not the exact same error, since I was guarding against that, but another in the same family. And again I recovered and powered through and finished the short story I was working on.

So, that’s two short stories in two days. Both of them started with a single germ of an idea but were written in their entirety in a single day. The first one, “Women Making Bees In Public“, is already available to read online. The second one (working title: “The Numbers Game”) will go up next week as my short story for July, while I’m on vacation.

“Women Making Bees…” has only been read by around a hundred people so far, but I’m quite proud of it and it has already attracted some nice comments from people whose opinions I value. I am hopeful that it will find a wider audience, particularly as I believe it has the potential to resonate with many of those who enjoyed my most recent satirical post.

In addition to writing an entire 3,300 word short story from the ground up today, I also wrote a 3,300 word chapter draft for Tales of MU. I call it a draft because that’s what they are until posted, but honestly, it’s pretty well finished. I’ll take a look at it again before I turn it loose to non-patrons tomorrow, but I would be comfortable posting it as is.

I feel super good about this because Tuesday’s chapter was such a slog to write and (as is often the case when the words aren’t flowing easily) I’m not 100% confident I hit my goal for it, which was admittedly a bit esoteric and not likely to pay off soon either way.

Before I got sick the other week, I had really hoped I’d be working a week ahead on MU stuff by this point so I could be confident of a vacation posting schedule. I’m not, but at the same time… well, I can remember when being sick would scuttle weeks or even a whole month for me, and now it’s more like a hiccup. I’m sure a lot of you can remember that, too. I also remember when losing work would make it impossible for me to proceed on a project until some indeterminate point in the future, if ever. I’ve come a long way.

If I have a day tomorrow like the last two days… and I’ll mention that these days have not been free of inconvenience, interruptions both good and bad, and emotional ups and downs… but if I have a day tomorrow like the last two days, then I’ll finish it up with a couple solid chapter drafts for Tales of MU and my vacation will just mean that I’m blogging less for a week. If not… well, there will be the short story. I’ll miss the money that comes from MU chapters, but I think the schedule and my renewed work momentum will survive.

I mean, travel used to disrupt my writing, too, but I started this steamroller of a month off the day after I got back from WisCon.

Okay. So. Wow.

I thought that thing I wrote this weekend was slowing down, but it crested 10,000 views this morning. The referral notes on it and on my related blog posts are showing traffic spikes from all kinds of places. The Nashville Scene was one of the earliest outliers; they included both the original and my parody without comment in a miscellaneous link round-up. There’s apparently a thread on a ravelry board that have sent a few hundred readers. There’s a thread on metafilter.

The weirdest and most concerning was a couple of errant clicks from the most bigoted corner of the anon image boards. For a moment I was concerned that they’d found common cause with me taking potshots at a man they’d consider a “beta cuck”, but I followed it back and found that no, their take on all this is that I’m jealous of a straight white man’s “success”.

Listen, as I said on Twitter last night: I do resent the fact that his privilege allows him to get away with having such a mediocre hustle, but that’s not that all that particular to him? But in terms of success, I’m not sure what there is for me to aspire to. He wrote one thing that went viral and got picked up by Huffington Post. My most successful viral hit has still likely been read by a hundred times the audience his reached, and it paid exactly the same (i.e., nothing).

Actually, it was interesting reading that and then seeing some of the discussion on metafilter. Among the fringes, there seems to be two emerging narratives of what’s going on: I’m either a big bully established author stomping down on a plucky underdog with spirit, or he’s the established, well-respected professional and I’m a nobody scrabbling to grab his shoelaces.

Both opinions seem pretty firmly in the minority, so I’m not really worried about either wildly distorted view taking root. According to this guy’s CV, he’s had some success in the field of pointing cameras at things and convincing people to look at the footage. I’ve had some success in the field of writing things and convincing people to read the words. Trying to figure out any kind of 1:1 comparison is hard enough between two artists taking different paths through the same field, much less wildly differing paths in completely different fields.

My one piece will never reach as large an audience as the original did. That’s the nature of the beast. Its target audience is a subset of the people who read, saw, or heard about his. And only a subset. The people who read his and see a man talking about feelings and are willing to accept that this makes him honest, sensitive, and mature even when the specific feelings and circumstances reveal the opposite aren’t going to get my piece. The response is never going to have the same legs as the original. I could write a broader piece that takes down the general concept in more general terms, and it might take off, but that’s not what I felt the need to do.

I say this all not as a lament. I’m not bothered by any comparison in the numbers between one piece of mine and anybody else’s. My earnest wish is that everybody who read the original and recoiled from it would know that my response is available, but I never write anything longer than a chat post on Tumblr or a single tweet and think “I want literally everybody to see this.”

Everything I write has an audience. I don’t write anything for everybody. When I write a thing, I want for it to reach as much of its potential audience as possible, but I hate the idea of shaving bits off of something to widen its appeal.

I looked at the dude’s Patreon page a couple of times during the first day I was aware of his work. At the time, I was doing better than he is on that one metric, even before you add in my other revenue streams. I still might be. I don’t know. I’m not tracking that. A little while back when N.K. Jemisin and a few other trad-pubbed authors either made the jump to Patreon or upped their efforts in using and promoting their Patreons, I had a bunch of people in my social media inboxes trying to stir up some kind of feud by asking me if I was jealous.

It didn’t work for a variety of reasons (including the fact that these people are my peers and friends, which makes it pretty easy for me to be happy for them), but chief among them is the fact that I don’t measure my success against other people. I didn’t do it when I was the only person I knew who was using micropatronage. I see no reason to start now that it’s a legitimate phenomenon.

I will admit that the petty part of me that saw that the guy’s Patreon pitch revolves around inviting people to be part of “The First One Thousand” (i.e., his initial funding milestone is $1,000 a month) thinks it would be hilarious if I make it to a thousand before he does, but, I mean, reality check: I want to get there anyway, regardless of what he’s doing and whether it works or not; we’re not competing for the same dollars, so if I’m at a thousand I’m not making any more or less based on what he’s doing; and above all, basing a business model around spite is just not all that sustainable.

I’m sure that my takedown piece seems kind of mean, but I didn’t write it to hurt the author or spread hatred. I wrote it to provide joy and relief and mirth to the people who felt anger or pain over his writing. There have been a few times on Twitter when my frustration with his entitled cluelessness has boiled over, but ultimately, the reason I write parodies is to give people something to laugh about in the middle of a mess. That’s bringing something positive into the world.

I said on Twitter last night that everybody has a hustle, and I try to keep mine simple: I provide value in exchange for value. I’m not going to write a hit piece or hate piece for the purpose of stirring up outrage or a sense of righteousness in the reader. I can. It’s not hard for someone of my talents to do that kind of manipulation.

But it’s not very… to borrow a word from the original piece in question… worthy.

On Boundaries, Personal and Experiential

Someone who read my status post yesterday decided to let us know (by means of messaging Jack through social media, which by the way is a totally not creepy way to respond to something I wrote, as well as something that doesn’t happen way too often) that if I didn’t want to go out grocery shopping myself and couldn’t send my card along with him, then we should just have our groceries delivered, an option that exists in this far-flung year of 2016.

The problems of grocery shopping when I don’t drive is quickly becoming my new insomnia, in terms of how many people are quick to chime in with the same completely useless and unasked for advice. If you have a grocery delivery service you like, then I’m happy for you, but take it from me: the odds that anyone you meet on the internet who has difficulties getting to the grocery store has not thought to check for online shopping options are vanishingly low.

Grocery delivery services are regionally limited and often prohibitively expensive. Outside of something like a personal concierge service, there is nothing in our area.

If you happen to learn that a grocery delivery service that is dirt cheap and not reliant on an uber-exploitative and uber-dangerous company like Uber has just opened or expanded into an area that specifically includes western Maryland and I haven’t said anything about it? Sure, let me know!

But if you’re the next person to tell me that Grocery Delivery Services Exist or that Some Grocery Stores Deliver Now on a day when I happen to have developed intercontinental psychokinetic powers, then I am very sorry for what happens next, and I will be happy to return the favor by recommending a good carpet cleaning service to your bereaved next of kin.

What I’m saying here is don’t.

Just don’t.


Someone actually just replied to this post on Twitter to give me advice based on what they imagined my issue with getting to the grocery store was. They were wrong, but their response to having it pointed out what they were doing was to insist they weren’t “giving advice”, just “sharing solutions”, and to defend their right to “have a personal response” to what I wrote. Note that the medium they chose for “solution sharing” was a medium that meant I was the primary, if not only, audience for their solutions.

To repeat what I said above:


Just don’t.