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.



Gonna Climb Up On My Hobby Horse Here

I was recently reminded of an old criticism I’ve heard of crowdfunding, old enough that it dates back to before the word “crowdfund” was coined. It takes different forms but usually goes something like, “If you have to ask people to fund you, it’s not a job, it’s a hobby.”

Well! This is an interesting notion to me. It strikes me first and foremost that it’s a bit backwards. If you can do something and not ask anyone to pay you for it, then what you have is in fact a hobby or avocation… something that demands little enough of you and/or gives you enough in return that it’s worth your time and energy regardless of whether you can make a living at it.

There are a lot of people who write as a hobby. They write in a journal for their own edification, or post it on a fanfic site or personal blog with no monetization elements. They never attempt to make a living at it. And that’s fine. I’m a great defender of those who doodle and scribble and sketch and color and paint because it pleases them to do so, of those who sing and dance and act with no thought as to how to make a career out of it, and those who write to please themselves. I think the world could do with more hobbyists, with more people who do things because they can do them, at whatever level they can do them.

On the other hand, there are people who write for a living. Some of them seek jobs with publications or studios, saying, “If you fund me on an ongoing basis, I will use my talents to write what you want.” Is that a hobby? No, it’s a career. Some of them write things and then shop them around to publishers and periodicals, saying, “If you fund my continued writing and retroactively fund the time I spent writing this, I will let you publish and sell this.” Is that a hobby? No, it’s a career. Some people (myself included, for many things I write) take their work and put it up for sale so that people who want to read it can buy it; this is asking them to fund its creation. Is that a hobby? Not necessarily.

I mean, there are people who are self-publishing on Amazon who are doing it at a level that would be more readily recognized as a hobby than a job, but there are levels and levels to all of these things, and there are people who do pursue traditional routes of publication at what we might call the hobby level, deliberately. They have a career or calling and don’t see any need to make a a career out of writing, but it’s nice to have the recognition?

So now we come to crowdfunding, whether it’s the Patreon style pledge in advance or the slightly older busker model of “I made a thing, if it pleases you, throw a little something in the tip jar.” Is there any reason this is necessarily more of a hobby and less of a job or career than the other models? No, none whatsoever. In its current form—that is, the form involving electronic money and globe-straddling information networks—it seems unfamiliar and new, but attracting the patronage of private individuals or collecting payment by pleasing the crowd are old and storied conventions for professional artists.

Was William Shakespeare a hobbyist, I suppose? He could not have written his plays while living on the coins the groundlings might one day throw at him for writing them, if he could only somehow stage them. He had to ask for funding from powerful and influential individuals who could pay for (and smooth over the sociopolitical complexities involving) his productions.

Or how about that well-known dilettante and all-around duffer, Michelangelo? Oh, he couldn’t hack it chiseling sculptures on spec, so he had to go ask the Pope for funding! Meanwhile, Leonardo was sniffing around the de’Medici tables, begging for scraps!

But that’s ancient history! Let’s talk about the lazy layabouts clogging up Broadway and Hollywood. Listen, if this Hamilton thing was so great, why couldn’t Lin-Manuel Miranda just start selling tickets and then use that money to put on the show? Why’d he need to find backers and investors?

Or those authors who get advances.

Now, I already know what the rebuttal to this line of inquiry would be: it’s different. It’s different to go to a Florentine noble or a venture capitalist or a Hollywood producer or the Vicar of Christ and get money from them. It’s not at all the same as going to members of the general public, to your audience directly, and try to do the same thing in a distributed fashion. Just like it’s different to put a price tag and a bar code on a product and put it on a store shelf vs. putting it up on the internet with a button that says “pay what you want”.

Except it’s really not that different.

There are all kinds of different models of commerce. There are all kinds of different models of transactions. Some of them are more familiar to us and thus, to some of us, more respectable. But at the end of the day, it’s all about this: if you produce something that has value, you are entitled to receive value in exchange for that. And there’s no wrong way to do that, so long as everybody involved is willing and their rights are being respected. You have to find what works for you.

Most writers I know are working another job, or living with a spouse or partner who is and who pays most of the bills. You ask the biggest name writers you can think of what their advice for writers is, and the common thread is going to be: find another way to pay the bills. Get married. Don’t quit your day job. Inherit money. Live in a country with an adequate social safety net. Stephen King. Tom Clancy. J.K. Rowling. The people who have absolutely won at writing will tell you that you never have a chance of getting to that point unless you’re willing and able to find some other way to pay the bills during the long years that you’re not there.

Now, listen. I’m not about to take potshots at other writers because the market is what it is and it’s tough, but if you see a crowdfunded author scrabbling and you think, “They should have done it the right way. This isn’t a job, it’s a hobby,” you have to be prepared to say that about the vast majority of authors and artists.

I know authors who have cracked the bestseller lists and won international awards who would “hobbyists” in the sense that they can’t yet make a reliable living writing. I know authors who are ahead of me in their career by every measure you can think of except one: my meager income is still more than they pull in a month from their writing.

It’s not just authors and artists who struggle. Think about the vast majority of entrepreneurs and small business owners and sole proprietors, when they’re first starting out.

I don’t know if this is still true, the market has changed so much, but when I was a kid it was common wisdom in the TV industry that a show only really became profitable after 100 episodes, which is about 5 seasons, because that’s when the syndication rights became worth something. Just think about that. For four seasons, Roseanne was somebody’s hobby. Four four seasons, Married With Children was the college drop-out living in its parents’ basement. For four seasons, M*A*S*H* was somebody’s overfunded vanity project.

The bottom line is that we all—those people I mentioned and everybody else who works for a living—are “asking for someone to fund us”, in one fashion or another. Doesn’t matter if you’re an author starting out or a highly paid professional businessperson in a highly paid professional business. You’re still “asking for funding” in every negotiation you make, and in every such negotiation, your ability to get it depends in large part on what you’re offering.

That’s why value for value is my watchword as a writer. I have value. You have value. We can exchange units of value and both come out ahead. I keep telling people, if you like what I write and you’re able, pledge me a dollar. It costs you nothing until the end of the month, and I’ll bet you by the time that comes around, you’ll think it’s worth it.

Why @ianmack’s Boner is the Saddest Boner

So, over the weekend, content extortion site Huffington Post (motto: “All The Exposure You Can Eat!”) picked up a piece that had been making the rounds on Medium. This piece, entitled “Love Will Be The Death Of Us: Notes From The End Of A Relationship”, is basically everything that’s wrong with the personal essay subgenre that I call Sad Boner Confessional.

Said sad dude’s name is Ian Mackenzie. I’m going to call him by his social media handle of @ianmack for the rest of this blog, because it’s disturbing to me that both of his names are first names of major characters in my writing. His tale is the story of what one dude learned from cheating on his infertile wife of 10 years, then pressuring her to accept an open relationship as a “solution” to the problems of their relationship so that he can “explore his sexuality” without guilt, and how this inadvertently freed her to learn she was far, far happier with someone else than she’d ever been with him.

You can tell you’re reading a Sad Boner Confessional when the language suggests a high wire act where the author is trying to achieve some delicate balance between “I’m a sensitive man” and “BUT I’M A MAN” and wants you to sympathize with the contortions he puts himself through as  a result. You can tell you’re reading a Sad Boner Confessional when a man is describing the worst trauma of a woman’s life purely in terms of what it means about him. You can tell you’re reading a Sad Boner Confessional when a man is telling you everything he’s learned from the mistakes he’s made but none of those things are accountability or personal responsibility. You can tell you’re reading a Sad Boner Confessional when all admissions of past sins have a sheen of humblebragging about them.

For example: here’s how @ianmack describes the time of his life when he actively and repeatedly betrayed his wife:

“It happens again: always a different and worthy woman. Comfort for a stricken artist at a conference on the Salish Sea. Honor for a delightful dance with a soulful healer in Vancouver. Companionship for a lonely entrepreneurial Athena in San Francisco.

These interactions weighed heavy on my soul. I could not make sense of them. On the one hand, each felt appropriate, life-affirming and needed. Surely these could not be considered “cheating.” What was a kiss anyway? On the other hand, such interactions were beyond the boundaries of our monogamous partnership to which Katherine and I had vowed. In my uncertainty, I waited, hoping somehow the situation would resolve itself.

Eventually, the guilt crested and I crafted a confession.”

It kept happening, you guys. Somehow, it kept happening. He kept meeting worthy women, Athenas, goddessesses, and he kept kissing them. I mean, kisses happened. He concedes on a purely technical level that he has transgressed against a vow, but not against the person to whom he made the vow.

The only person who has ever written worse Sad Boner Confessionals than the aforementioned piece by @ianmack is Hugo Schwyzer, and that’s because Schwyzer literally wrote essays about the important moral and emotional lessons he learned from sleeping with students and raping and/or trying to murder his intimate partners (the takeaway from that last one was “Hey, we’re all human.”), and they were wrapped up in enough language that suggested he was sensitive and progressive that a lot of people with big feminist publishing platforms celebrated them for a while.

I like to think that Hugo Schwyzer’s very public meltdown and the erosion of his reputation did something to inoculate the circles of commercial feminism/progressive writing against the worst excesses of the Sad Boner Confessional.

That was probably naive of me.

Now, the thing about Medium is that it’s primarily a social media site that depends on other social media sites for circulation, which makes it easier for things to go viral within select narrow circles on it, and so first version of the @ianmack essay managed to attract a lot of positive attention for how “powerful” and “honest” it is.

I’m not sure I’d call it honest. One tick that he has is using the verb “craft” to describe the act of creating a message: he crafts a love letter, he crafts a confession, he crafts a poem. I think this is a winking admission that, as a self-identified storyteller, he is putting a lot of thought into how the messages he sends come off. Perhaps he feels—as many do—that acknowledging the artifice behind his sentiment makes it a cool creative choice on a level that makes it genuine rather than artificial.

But knowing the artifice is there just makes it more glaring why he goes so far to explain his first kiss with his future wife as something that just happened; it primes the reader to accept that in his life, a kiss is a a thing that just happens. That’s part of the frame for the narrative of everything that happens afterwards, including kisses with other women.

He also talks about his repeated infidelity and their inability to have children together in a way that weaves them together not causally (because if he were to say “Of course I strayed, my wife is barren,” he’d be an out-and-out villain) but rather in a way that encourages the reader to subconsciously conflate the two issues, so that we forget that the real issue endangering the future of their relationship is his unfaithfulness and so that we accept that his push to open the marriage up to polyamory is somehow a solution to the childlessness.

(If you haven’t read the piece, you might be thinking, well, polyamory could be part of a solution to infertility, but the conclusion of the story makes it clear that the idea they might have children together with other people was never on his radar.)

Anyway, it’s a horrible tale, horribly told, but because it initially circulated in protected waters it achieved some acclaim and some notice, enough for HuffPo to bestow upon it the highest honor it can offer (i.e., exposure). Being published in the internet’s content aggregator of record does not appear to have worked out well for Mr. @ianmack, though. While his piece is being circulated widely, it’s not exactly attracting positive notice. The comments on the HuffPo posting are pretty uniformly negative. The needle on his patreon (which is promoted at the end of the piece) has not moved at all since I first read it yesterday.

As soon as I read the piece, I knew I couldn’t leave it alone. At first I was just tweeting observations on it, likening it to (infamously bad fanfic) My Immortal and commenting on the more pretentious touches. Before long, I “somehow found myself” on Medium, “crafting” a full-length parody that highlights the more problematic, disturbing, or hilariously bad parts of the original. Family plans took me AFK for most of the day, so I didn’t publish the article—entitled Infidelity Will Be The Death Of My Marriage: The Unbelievably Brave Story Of One Incredibly Sensitive Man’s Intensely Personal Journey Towards Divorce until yesterday evening.

I had some misgivings about actually posting it. The number one question in my mind was: is this actually necessary? I mean, there are a lot of people writing self-important blather on the internet. They don’t all need this level of reply.

What made up my mind were the facts that HuffPo had picked him up, and that he’s apparently using this piece to try to launch a whole career of what he calls “new paradigm storytelling”, and it’s like, did we not learn anything from Hugo Schwyzer?

The responses I’ve received even in just the first 12 hours have convinced me I made the right call. People who were creeped out and unsettled by the original have thanked me for validating what they were feeling. People who could not make it through the original without ragequitting have thanked me for giving them something to laugh about in the whole mess. People who have friends and family who thought the original piece was “powerful and honest” have thanked me for helping them find ways to explain their problems with it.

Just overnight, the piece has already become my second-most-read thing on Medium, and probably my most widely shared thing there. I hope it keeps circulating. I hope it reaches more people. I hope it dogs the footsteps of the original until no one ever shares the saddest of the Sad Boner Confessionals without someone else seeing it and posting a link. The satirist’s curse is that the notoriety of our work will almost always be a fraction of that of what inspires us.

But if I can help turn this insipid trend in creative nonfiction writing into the laughingstock it deserves to be? Dang the torpedoes and full speed ahead.

Nice Kids With A Future (OITNB Season 4 Spoilers)

So, the end of season 4 of Orange is the New Black ended with what the writers have described as their tribute to Black Lives Matter: the senseless, brutal death behind bars of the character Poussey Washington, the most prominent Black affirmed lesbian character on the show. She was in the top tier of characters in terms of the amount of development she’s received through story arcs and interactions with others. At the time of her death, she was one of the few characters in a happy long-term relationship and she was looking towards the future, making contacts and planning her post-prison career.

Others with a more personal stake and more relevant lived experience have already written at length of the problems inherent in her death. For my part, I will only say that I am reminded of Stokely Carmichael’s speech about the purpose of civil rights bills:

I maintain that every civil rights bill in this country was passed for white people, not for black people. For example, I am black. I know that. I also know that while I am black I am a human being, and therefore I have the right to go into any public place. White people didn’t know that. Every time I tried to go into a place they stopped me. So some boys had to write a bill to tell that white man, “He’s a human being; don’t stop him.” That bill was for that white man, not for me. I knew it all the time. I knew it all the time.

I knew that I could vote and that that wasn’t a privilege; it was my right. Every time I tried I was shot, killed or jailed, beaten or economically deprived. So somebody had to write a bill for white people to tell them, “When a black man comes to vote, don’t bother him.” That bill, again, was for white people, not for black people; so that when you talk about open occupancy, I know I can live anyplace I want to live. It is white people across this country who are incapable of allowing me to live where I want to live. You need a civil rights bill, not me. I know I can live where I want to live.”

In other words: who is it that needs to be given a fictional ideal representation of a friendly, non-threatening, non-violent offender, someone highly educated and from a respectable background, who dies a shocking, senseless, and preventable death in front of our eyes in order to understand that Black Lives Matter?

That’s all I’ll say on that subject.

The purpose of this post is to address the character who was made the instrument of her death by the writers: young and naive guard Baxter Bayley. While the majority of the new guards are the military vets introduced this season, he’s a recent high school graduate who has been at a loose end, bouncing from job to job. The previous season, he was openly compared to a puppy dog and given the nickname “Gerber” (as in “Gerber Baby”).

In the same episode where Poussey died, we saw his backstory, which included a run-in with the law: on the night of their high school graduation, he and three friends climbed the Litchfield municipal water tower with beer and pot. They were caught and hauled in and spent an unspecified amount of time (certainly no longer than an overnight stay, and probably far less) before the sheriff and a deputy pull a quick “scared straight” gag on them and let them go.

Bayley, before stepping out of the holding cell, says something like, “Are you sure? Because we had reefer, too!”

The sheriff, incredulous, says, “Is this kid serious?” Bayley’s friend who shared the cell quickly says something like, “No, sir, he’s not.” and moves him along before he can say anything else.

Later on, when the private company that now runs the correctional facility is looking for a slant to give Poussey’s death in the press, we learn that she was arrested for trespass and “possession with intent” of less than half an ounce of marijuana. What was the crime Bayley and his friends were hauled in for on their graduation night? Trespassing. They also had in their possession at the time what was likely a similarly small amount of marijuana. By all rights, the trajectory of Bayley’s life could well have been the same as Poussey’s, except for one thing: when the cop car pulled up the water tower, what he saw was not four criminal, but four Nice Kids With A Future.

The sort of people who like to believe that racism is not racism but just facts loves to point out differing rates of criminal convictions by racial demographics as proof that racial profiling is not racist nor discriminatory but Just Good Sense: if a certain group of people is most likely to be found carrying drugs, then it makes sense to focus your limited time and resources there, right?

Except this confuses cause and effect. If you’re only looking in a certain place for something, that will be the place you most often find it. The effect of the lowered scrutiny placed on white drug offenders is that young white people are actually markedly more likely to offend, because they have less fear of consequences. Add to this the discretionary powers that police have when they even catch someone and the further discretionary powers possessed by judges and prosecutors, and you see how the racial disparity becomes magnified at every step of the way.

Stop-and-frisk programs like the one in New York City are a pronounced example of this discretionary power at its most naked: when possession itself is not a criminal offense but displaying it in public is, the police stop only those people they wish to criminalize and order them to display any drugs in their possession.

It’s not just drug crimes where this effect is in play. White children (especially middle class and up) left home alone while their parents work are “latchkey kids”; Black and Latino children are CPS cases. Who are “boys will be boys” and “just kids, for Christ’s sake” and who are “thugs” and “suspected gang members”?

Throughout the drama surrounding Poussey’s death, warden Joe Caputo defends the character of both her and the young guard to his corporate masters, but when the chips are down and push comes to shove, he chooses to throw her under the bus to defend the Nice Kid With A Future.

When the subject of white privilege comes up, so often the response from those among us who’ve never contemplated our privilege is, “Nobody ever gave me anything just for being white. I still have to work for things. I still run into trouble. Nobody ever gave me a pass for being white.” I bet Bayley and his friends didn’t feel like they got a pass when they got pulled off the water tower and thrown into the clink.

But if the people who dealt with them had thought they looked like criminals instead of four Nice Kids With A Future, they could have been brought up on charges. They could have been shot, if the man who brought them in had been sufficiently fearful of what four dangerous criminals might do to him if given half a chance.

You never really know when someone’s giving you a pass. You don’t know how often a cop decides not to pull you over, how often a loss prevention worker decides not to stop you and ask you to turn out your pockets, how often a cashier decides not to look closer at your check or credit card or ID, how often a bank clerk decides not to question where the money you’re trying to withdraw or deposit really came from, how often a landlord decides not to distrust you.

In Bayley’s flashback arc, we see him being fired from one of his places of employment (an ice cream stand) for theft of materials; giving out something in the neighborhood of $30 of ice cream a day to girls he finds hot. I’m sure someone reading this would use that as an example of how he doesn’t benefit from white privilege, but the extent of the consequences he faces is being fired and having his last paycheck confiscated to cover the loss.

In other words, he steals a few hundred dollars’ worth of materials from his job and his “punishment” is he has to make restitution and he’s removed from the position that allowed him to do so. He doesn’t face charges. He’s not put into the system. And his reaction is incredulity; his idea of an apology is “I didn’t know there were cameras.” I.e., “I never expected to get caught, much less that there would be consequences.”

Caught red-handed stealing, he’s given a pass.

The (I believe unintended) lesson of Bayley’s flashbacks is he’s in the position where he can unthinkingly suffocate a human being to death because he has been given passes. All of his life, he has been given passes.

Think about how often a (usually young, usually male) white offender who makes the news winds up being given a reduced sentence or no charges because the defense attorney—or the judge, or in some cases, even the prosecutor—makes the argument that the accused had no reason to expect there would be consequences. Think about how often this argument is brought up in academic settings, secondary or post-secondary, when disciplinary actions are considered. And think about how often it flies, as an excuse.

Think about how often the watercooler talk or internet commentary around young white men accused of something comes down to, “This shouldn’t define his life. He’s a good kid. He has his whole future ahead of him.”

To make a long story short, if the intended purpose of this storyline was to show the audience that Black Lives Matter, they should have stuck with showing us Poussey’s life. By making it about her death and then even more so making it about the life of the fresh-faced, friendly young white guy with his whole life (still) ahead of him, they instead told a story about how important it is to protect the Nice Kids With A Future.

In other words, what they’ve taught us thus far is that above and beyond anyone else, White Lives Matter.

Same old, same old.

Orlando: Love and Hate

The day of the massacre at the Pulse in Orlando, Jack said of it that the really insidious thing about homophobia was that it was possible that the killer himself was gay or queer. I had not thought that, but it resonated with me when I thought about the way his father had said that he had been enraged watching two men kiss in the streets of Miami.

I mean, you don’t have to be secretly gay to have a visceral reaction to that, just bigoted; the idea that all anti-gay bigots are gay themselves is a kind of backhanded homophobia itself. It gives straight “allies” a way to say “HA HA NO YOU’RE GAY!” while ostensibly defending the community.

But few rages run as hot as the anger mingled with betrayal and frustration that occurs when you see somebody enjoying something you have denied yourself at great psychological cost. It takes a terrible toll, to deny oneself and to bury one’s feelings, to say nothing of holding beliefs that say that one’s conduct or feelings or even existence is inherently sinful.

People in such positions often get by only on the strength of their ability to believe that it’s all worth it, that what they’re going through is necessary, that’s there no other way except to shoulder the burden they’ve been saddled with and muscle on.

And then they see somebody else who has apparently shrugged off that burden, and who is doing okay, and it all comes crashing down around their ears…

I’ve personally started talking more about my anxiety and depression and the ways in which it makes my life dysfunctional, and I’ve done so for many reasons, but one is that trying to “manage” these things by burying them and plastering on my best imitation of a smile makes me behave very uncharitably when other people don’t do the same. That is to say that when I’m burying my anxiety because That’s What You Have To Do, I tend to snap at people who don’t. It’s an ugly reaction, hurtful to those around me and I’m sure harmful to me.

You can see the same thing with people who adopt super restrictive regimens for their life, when they see people who can’t, won’t, or don’t do the same. People who suffer and suffer to get a body they think they’ll like often react poorly to people who dare even try to love the bodies they have. People who give up on fun activities because they think they have to in order to ascend to adulthood tend to take it really personally when they see those of us who don’t, living our lives and having fun.

To put it simply: people who have made compromises to get to where they are in life, no matter where that might be, often feel threatened by anything that makes them question if the compromise was necessary.

The more we learn about the killer, the more his supposed connections to radical terrorist groups overseas seem like lethal flights of fancy. He supposedly claimed ties to multiple groups that have deep political and ideological divides, and while the FBI had looked into him, they found no credible thread either before or after his death. In essence, his terrorist ties are likely to be nothing more than violent fantasies of power and control, much like his aspirations to join the NYPD.

Yet the more we learn about him, the harder it is to discount the possibility that he was motivated not just by hatred, but self-hatred. His trips to the Pulse have been described in some quarters as simple reconaissance, scouting trips. But he was active on at least one gay hook-up site for a year, and he’s supposed to have talked to his wife about a “past” that included sexual experience with other men.

I have no doubt that among those who see politics as a game and tragedies as a way of keeping score, there is or will be some crowing about “the narrative crumbling” and how “the SJWs can’t say it was homophobia if he was a homo himself”. No doubt at all. But Omar Mateen’s sexual orientation, whatever it might have been, does not change the calculus here. Or rather, it does not soften the impact.

This was homophobia. This was bigotry. This was hatred.

If it is true that the killer’s hatred was also self-directed, then this only makes it all the more important that we recognize that hatred as the problem. It’s all the more important that instead of shifting blame to Those People Over There, we look at the hatred that festers on the homefront.

Donald Trump, eager to use the corpses of our dead as puppets in his political theater, immediately proclaimed that his vague warnings of Islamic terrorism constituted “calling it” with regards to this tragedy. In the days and weeks and months that come, we must not let this false narrative stand without challenge. We must not let it spread. We must not let the political pressure to declare this killing—which was an act of terrorism, as all hate crimes are—signs of conspiracy abroad rather than rot at home.

Editorialist Frank Bruni wrote in the New York Times that though the targets were not random, this wasn’t really an attack on LGBT people but on freedom itself. He’s wrong. He is not just wrong, but completely wrong.

We’ll never know everything about the killer’s life or mindset or motivation. We don’t yet know all we’ll ever know. But we know enough to make the educated inference that his target was not “our freedoms” or “our way of life”.

Far more likely, what enraged him was a freedom that he felt was denied him, a way of life he could not see a clear path to but which he could not quite give up on.

And the blame for this cannot be laid at the feet of any one culture or religion, but at a society that is awash with both homophobia and privileged platitudes about equality that position homophobia as just one more sacred “opinion” which must be protected, while also positioning homosexuality as an alternative (and thus, both optional and deviant)  “lifestyle”.

The way to mitigate or prevent bloodshed on this scale is going to have to include sensible reforms to how our society handles gun ownership. It’s going to have to. But this particular type of tragedy, where one man’s life is given over to hatred to the point where he takes the lives of others on his way out? To prevent this kind of tragedy from happening on whatever scale is available, what we need is love. Love, compassion, an end to hatred.

Often calls for compassion get twisted around into calls for the hated to reach out to the haters and change their hearts through a good example. No. That doesn’t work. The compassion we need comes from the vast majority of people who are neither overtly hateful nor in the camp of the hated. Outpourings of support and conspicuous signs of allyship are fine and dandy, but what we really need is for you to challenge the hatred not just when it’s immediately lethal and not just after the smoke clears.

By the time a man opens fire in a crowded nightclub, it’s too late for words. How many acts of hatred did that man experience, encounter, witness, internalize, and/or perpetrate before then? How many times a day did he hear words of hatred on the radio or TV, read them on the internet or in a newspaper?

How many times a day do you?

Love is grand. And while love is love, love is not love if it will not challenge hatred. Then it’s only words, and while kind words are always appreciated, right now they’re a bit like blood donations after a crisis: a lot of people rush to give them all at once, and we wind up with a surplus that goes to waste, and not enough for later, when we really need them.

So cis & straight allies, here’s my request  for you: save some of those kind words you’re pouring out now. Save them for when they can make a difference. Save them for when someone makes a hateful comment in front of you, even if it’s a joke. Save them for when someone tries to make a space you’re part of safer for their bigotry by making it unsafe for others.

Save them for when we need them.

Make this world safe for the man that Omar Mateen might have been, if he’d a place to be himself in it. Don’t do it for him, necessarily, because he is far from the only one of us who succumbed to the hatred that surrounds us. He’s just the one who decided to go out with a bang and make other people suffer along with him. That was his choice, and I don’t want to diminish his responsibility for it.

But the same hatred that killed him and spurred him to kill others is killing other members of our community right now. Like high levels of background radiation or toxins in the atmosphere, it’s poisoning all of us by degrees, though not all of us equally. The healthiest and best protected among us might live full and happy lives until we die of something else.

But we all still feel it, and those of us who feel it more distantly have all the more obligation to do something about it. As more is given to us, so more is asked from us. This goes even more so for those of you who are not touched by the hatred at all.

Name the hatred that sparked this massacre. Confront the hatred. End it.

Son of a Ship’s Captain: A Parable

Once upon a time, there was a ship captain.

His father was a ship captain, and so was he.

His father had trained for many years as an apprentice, learning the ways of a ship and the ways of the sea, and and on the day he became a captain, he was given a hat so that all would see it and know he was the captain of a ship, and when his son was grown, he gave that hat to him, and that was that, he was a ship captain, just like his father had been.

So the son went out into the world with his hat, and he found a ship in need of a captain, and he said, “I am just what you need,” and because he was a ship captain and the son of a ship captain, the ship’s owners agreed. The young ship captain set out directly towards the open waters, spinning the wheel of the ship as he went, because he had seen ship captains at the wheel before and he felt quite keenly that the main thing was to turn the wheel decisively. The ship’s crew, not being captains, began yelling and waving their arms, trying to shake his resolve. The captain showed character and discipline in the face of adversity, and instead spun the wheel even harder. When the hull of the boat crunched up against some rocks jutting out of the water, the captain remained calm in the face of this adversity, shrewdly filling his pockets from the ship’s cargo before sensibly leaving the doomed vessel.

He made his way back to shore where he told everyone he could meet how only his supreme skill and instincts for seasmanship had allowed him to not only survive such an unholy wreck, but profit by it. “If you let me pilot your vessel,” he said, “you might profit by it as I assuredly will.”

And so he was given command of a second ship, and on the day it departed the harbor, he ordered full sails. Every sail unfurled, every sail gloriously billowing in the wind. The crew protested; it was a crowded harbor and the wind was not right, and full sails were not only unnecessary, they were dangerous. But they were not ship captains, nor the son of a ship’s captain, and what did they know? He had a reputation to maintain, and full sails were impressive. This was a triple-mastered schooner, not some dinky little rowboat. It was huge.

In fact, he gave orders for a fourth mast to be assembled on the spot so they could fly even more sails, and while his crew scrambled to obey, the ship collided with another one just inside the mouth of the harbor and the two became hopelessly entangled and sank.

The ship’s captain did not stop to fill his pockets from his ship’s cargo, because he now had the skill and experience to know it would be necessary to do so, and so had made a point to loot the hold before the ship had cast off from the dock. This was the kind of acumen that he brought to the job. He left the sinking ship by means of boarding the other ship, where he filled a small sack from their cargo, which he claimed as salvage under the rights of maritime law.

“It’s a perfectly valid business strategy,” he said as he left the other sinking ship.

Back on shore in a tavern, the ship captain loudly boasted of his prowess in keeping a clear head amidst the danger, that he had, while others were cursing him and trying to untangle the ships or bail out the flooding holds, calmly done the only sensible thing and got out, that he had walked away while the other ship’s captain had stayed behind trying to right his vessel, only being saved from the waters by the intervention of his crew.

“What a loser,” the ship captain said. “If they hadn’t pulled him out, he probably would have gone down with his ship!”

While the young ship captain was making a name for himself as the son of a ship captain and the man who had survived the wrecks of two vessels and come out ahead, other captains were sailing their ships out of the harbor and over the seas, carrying cargo and conducting commerce, but none of them had pockets as full as the young ship captain and none of them were in the tavern every night, telling all who would listen of their prowess and instincts as a sailor. The son of the ship captain was making quite a name for himself, and so he decided that a man of his stature deserved more than piloting a ship that belonged to another. He would build his own. It was going to be huge.

Five masts; no, six! And every railing and knob  would be painted gold; no, solid gold! And the sails would be of the finest silk, and the decks tiled in granite; no, marble!

Such a ship would be quite expensive. The money he had inherited from his father and what he had pocketed along the way might have been enough, but a man has certain expenses. Certainly there was no need for a captain of his experience to front his own money for such a venture.

So he went to his friends in the tavern, and he said, “You have all heard the stories of my brilliant seasmanship, and now it is your chance to get in on the action. It is your chance to become a part of the lesson. It is your chance to touch the greatness that is my name. If you build this ship, and you put my name on it, and you give it to me to pilot, then I promise I will use the same golden touch I have used on every ship I have piloted. I will profit by it, and you will be my partners.”

So his friends raised the money and they built him the ship, and they send him off in it with all the pomp fitting the circumstance and more, because there had never been a grander ship and he had convinced them that making it a magnificent occasion would make their business venture all the more successful, didn’t they know they had to spend money for him to make money? It was the party to end all parties, and at the end of it, the ship sailed away, and at the end of the day, the ship captain was back at the tavern, trading a piece of the ship’s ornament for a meal.

“Well?” his friends-turned-eager-investors said.

“Look, it’s not my fault you didn’t do your due diligence before getting into bed with me,” the ship captain said. “This is entirely your fault.”

“Where is our fabulous ship?”

“I ran it aground somewhere,”the ship captain said. “But! You’re welcome to it if you can find it. I hereby dissolve the partnership. You own it outright. Just see that someone scrubs my name off the side of it. I have a certain reputation to uphold, see? I can’t have my name on a foundered ship.”

The investors were unhappy, of course, but many people had seen the fine ship setting out with such extravagant celebration, and had read the name of the ship captain on its side, and so many people were eager to meet such a celebrated person who could afford such finery and command such a ship, and many of those people were eager to do business with him, to trust their cargos and their ships and their bankrolls to him, to apprentice with him and learn all he knew of the art of seasmanship, and before too terribly long the young ship captain—no longer quite so young—had grown his reputation and his image of himself to the point where he was no longer content to be captaining mere ships.

No, ship would do for him but the ship of state itself. He would run for president.

“Folks, you vote for me and I will do for this nation exactly what I have done for the many ships I have sailed,” he said. “Who else has my experience? Who else is a better captain than I am? All of my opponents are losers. They say they are the best captains, but how many shipwrecks have they survived?”

He waited for the applause that came on cue, and then he finished,

“I’m Donald Trump, and I approve this message.”

A Birthday Wish

So, it’s my birthday on Friday, June 10th. Want to do something nice for a disabled trans indie author? Drop some cash to send me to WorldCon 74, in Kansas City. This is the fundraiser that ticked off someone so badly they spread a rumor I have a “full scholarship” to the con, which put a brief hold on payouts from the page at what might have been a crucial juncture.

Who would do such a thing? I honestly don’t know. Not specifically. I do know that my satirical coverage of the Hugos last year didn’t make certain self-identified “Puppies” of varying temperaments very happy, and I doubt very much they like the idea of me on the ground at this year’s Hugo ceremony, where I can continue skewering their rhetoric with my signature aplomb and panache.

That’s the thing about these reactionary cliques: they say they’re in favor of the free speech and the free market, right up until people start saying things they disagree with or spending money on things they don’t like. Well, here’s a chance to show them what you think of that. Just think of every dollar you send as a rolled-up newspaper to bop them on the nose… not that you should do that to a real puppy, of course. The difference between actual puppies and adult human beings throwing a tantrum because they’re being told that science fiction and fantasy belong to everyone is that the humans really should know better.

Go to to help. And if you can’t afford to pitch in or you already have, you can help by spreading this!

WorldCon plans.

So, until about two weeks ago, the notion of me attending WorldCon in August, when it’s hosted by Mid AmeriCon II in Kansas City, was a pretty distant dream. This weekend, I made tentative plans to attend WorldCon 75 in 2017, when it will be in Helsinki. This possibility was not even on my radar, to the extent that I told one of the chairs of WorldCon 75 that I had supported the Helsinki bid, even though there was a close to 0 percent chance that I could make it there. This turned out to be the most awkward thing I could have said at that moment, because it turned out she had approached me to extend a personal invitation for me to be there.

Now, before certain conspiratorial tongues begin wagging, let me explain a few things about how this works in the real world. When I say that she invited me personally, I mean that she said to me, as a person, “You should totally come!”, a statement which grants me no perks or privileges beyond those of any individual who is aware of the con and its attendance policies. When I say I was invited, what I mean is I was invited to purchase transportation to Finland, membership in the convention, and food and lodging while I am there.

I say this not to shame her for expecting me to pay my own way, but because I am an adult human being who understands how things work in the real world. The chair of a convention has very little power and very much responsibility. She cannot waive the con’s fees that pay for its existence and operation. She cannot access some bottomless pool of money to pay for things beyond the con’s control, like airfare. A literary sf/f con does not have the budget of a big media con, and even big media cons wouldn’t last if they paid for the appearance of people who do not bring in even more money for the convention in return.

Yet there are people out there who don’t know how the world works, but who imagine they do, and who imagine that these affairs are endless circles of cliquish nepotism where insiders pay each other to travel and lounge around and speak as experts. Two years ago there was a trumped-up tempest in a teapot “outrage” where people who had barely heard of me and only just heard of WisCon believed I was being paid to fly in and speak about “Social Justice” because I was on a panel about internet culture. This year someone interpreted my announced plans to be at World Con to mean that I was likewise a paid guest, and that’s the charitable interpretation where that rumor didn’t start as a deliberate lie.

Now, I want to mention the fact that a chair of World Con 75 personally invited me to fly out to Helsinki and participate because, heck, let’s face it… that’s pretty cool, isn’t it? She told me, in so many words, “You’re part of this. You’re part of this world, part of the community. You’re the real deal. You belong here.” That’s cool.  Now, I don’t mean to suggest that the chair of a WorldCon has the authority to act as gatekeeper for who belongs in sf/f fandom, because she doesn’t. The chair of a convention basically only has the authority to throw a convention, and that only just barely. But anybody has the power to give another human being validation, and I got some from a person who is helping to head up the 75th World Science Fiction Conviction in Helsinki in 2017, and that’s something worth mentioning.

It’s just a shame that I can’t mention it without translating for those who fevered imaginations have overcome their grip on reality. Just you watch, come next year or even as soon as WorldCon 74 is over and I begin firming up my plans for 75, there will rumors swirling about what I’m being paid or what’s being paid for. I’d give even odds that someone even links to this post with a claim that if you “read between the lines” it says this, or there’s a “clear implication” it says that… I mean, we’re talking about the people who took David Gerrold’s ironclad (and very proper) insistence that all nominees and winners would be accorded all decorum and respect at the WisCon 73 Hugo ceremony last year as an open promise to do the opposite.

This is probably the last time I’ll bother qualifying something neat like “a WorldCon head personally told me she’d be jazzed if I were there” by explaining the real world to dedicated denizens of a carefully constructed artificial reality, for the simple reason that I know it doesn’t work. It’s more my fascination with the disconnect between actual reality on the ground and the stories that swirl based on a few glimmers of that reality and much speculation that prompts this post.

What a different world we live in than the one that is ascribed to us.

The Involuntary Firefighter

So, just before I left for WisCon, I received a notice that my fundraiser to get me to WorldCon in August had been put on hold. It’s fixed now; no action required by anybody, thank you.

It was a form message explaining GoFundMe’s position and telling me the best practices for transparency (say who you’re from, your relationship to the beneficiary of the fundraiser, how the money will be used, etc.) I expanded the text of my campaign’s profile page a bit to make sure I was fulfilling all their bullet points and sent a reply back to indicate this had been done. I also acknowledged that the name on my bank account was not the name I used in my campaign, explaining that 1) I am trans and 2) I am widely known by the name I used, and that the people targeted by the campaign were people who know who I am, not internet strangers.

I assumed—hoped—that would be the end of it.

Yesterday, minutes before our plane for WisCon was scheduled to start boarding, I received a non-form reply. They had received complaints that I was fundraising when I had—the complaints said—been granted a “full scholarship” to WorldCon, including not just admission but lodging, travel, and even a loaded prepaid debit card for my incidental expenses.

Can you imagine? I don’t think even the guests of honor get handed same-as-cash money for whatever their heart desires, but someone out there in the wilds of the internet imagined I would be granted this boon, or at least thought it a credible lie.

Now, I should emphasize again: this is sorted out. No one needs to talk to WorldCon or GoFundMe or anyone else about this on my behalf. I really want to emphasize this because yesterday, when I asked on Twitter who would be a good person to contact at WorldCon if I needed them to verify anything, at least one random Twitter person I don’t even really know took it upon herself to contact them herself.

That was unnecessary and a bit embarrassing. I told her when she asked me if I had “heard back from them” that I hadn’t reached out, as I was in transit and did not yet even know if WorldCon had been named as the entity supposedly footing my bills. I had just been asking for contact info so I could move ASAP if GoFundMe got back to me and confirmed I would need it, but this person apparently took my reply as “do it for me”, rather than “that would be premature”.

She was still talking to people nominally on my behalf and sending me updates about her progress after I had announced that the whole thing was cleared up and resolved. So, I’m really sorry to anyone involved in WorldCon who was stuck fielding inquiries from people regarding a situation I’m sure they had no knowledge of.

Lesson learned: when you’re dealing with something like this, even the people who are theoretically on your side can be draining to deal with. To make sure that everyone is getting a clear picture, you have to give the same information over and over again. I don’t know if anyone took it upon themselves to complain to GoFundMe over this, but I really hope they didn’t. Anything that takes up the time and attention of their (vaguely-Orwellian-named but ultimately not that bad) “customer happiness team” means they have less resources to process and resolve cases like thus.

But this is the thing that this kind of harassment does: it eats your time, your attention, and energy.

Before I got that notice, I knew how I was going to spend my day: roughing up and refining an open letter to Marvel about their creative decisions regarding Captain America being a secret fascist agent (I disagree, and think it is an affront to his Jewish creators and victims of fascism everywhere). Instead I was wrapped up in this. Even after it was resolved, I just felt drained. I’d lost the focus I’d had on my intended goal.

Now, my travel fund got some positive attention out of this, it’s true. But spoiler warning: I’ve never been that worried about my ability to earn $1,800 for this before August. I am a veteran crowdfunder and if I didn’t think there would be sufficient demand for my presence at WorldCon to pull this off, I wouldn’t have bothered. The only thing up in the air was the airfare, since the longer I had to wait to buy plane tickets the more expensive they would become. So I added incentives geared towards knocking that one out of the park immediately (it worked) and then it was my intention to relax and let the thing simmer on the back burner while I focused my attention on promoting other things.

I have a (successful, in the sense that it’s going to print) teespring campaign right now that would actually make me money if people buy it. I’m trying to promote my short stories, in order to attract more people to my Patreon. I have a thunderclap I need people to join to help me do so, something even people without the money to spare can do. I’ve been trying to draw attention to the e-anthology I helped put together to benefit a beloved friend and important member of the spec poetry community. I have a lot of stuff going on, a lot of stuff I could be working on or drawing attention to, but because I had to deal with this, it takes away from all of those things both in terms of where my energy goes and what people know about me.

The victimizing jerks who do this stuff love to say that their victims “love to define themselves as victims” and then use that accusation to justify further victimization. In the worst cases, they make it literally impossible for their targets to function, impacting their livelihoods and lives in huge ways… and then use that impact to justify even more harassment.

Labeling something one does not like as a scam in order to disrupt its operations and then pointing to its disruption as evidence that it was a scam is… well, it’s a scam itself, and one that has emerged as a choice tactic for these mobs. Why is Feminist Frequency so slow to produce videos? Scam! Why has the Arkh Project not progressed beyond the initial fundraiser for concept art? Scam! It’s a great way to not just throw a wrench in the works but draw in new recruits to keep the machine going. I am sure that for the rest of my life, every time I try to raise attention and money for a project, people will be repeating the story of how I supposedly got people to give me money for a con that everybody knows I was going to for free.

It’s a pretty simple principle: it’s easier to start fires than it is to fight them. For a minimum investment of time and energy, harassing trolls can burn down a good portion of someone’s life. They can take away funding, close off avenues of support, and even just cause time and resources to be wasted dealing with the havoc they’ve caused.

If you’re not in the situation yourself, it’s maybe easy to look at it from the outside and say, “Ignore it! They’re just looking for attention!” But they aren’t. Not in the positive sense that they want to receive your attention. What they want is to take your attention away from whatever would otherwise be receiving it. They want you to be running around putting out their fires while they sit back and laugh.

And if you ignore a fire long enough… sure, yeah, it will go away. But in the time it takes to do so, it might very well burn down your life.

None of this is meant to take away from the gratitude I feel for the support I received. But if you want to really stick it to the people who tried to upset my applecart? The best thing you can do isn’t throwing extra money at my WorldCon trip. I am confident that’s happening. It’s a foregone conclusion at this point that it will be fully funded by August. The best thing you can do is help me to not be defined as “the person whose WorldCon fundraiser was briefly disrupted by trolls”, by clicking those links above or the ones on the sticky “Featured Post” on the front of my blog.

It feels like a gamble saying this, because I know darn well the people who came after me will take it as evidence that they did no real harm, that I’m only profiting by their attacks, and this will be used to justify further attacks. They will lie—probably while insisting it is “SJWs” like me who always lie—to their followers and fellow travelers, saying that this appeal proves that I made the whole thing up. I

don’t care. Whatever I do, they will twist to fit their narrative. Therefore, there’s no reason for me to let their implicit threats modify my behavior.

The Plot Thickens

I am writing this post on my phone, in offline mode, while in a plane to the one convention I can barely afford to attend each year. It is possible that the situation on the ground will change by the time I touch down, and I will have to change some portion of it. C’est la vie. I have things to say right now and things to do when I land.

So, my fundraiser to get to WorldCon has been temporarily frozen due to false reports by an unknown individual or individuals that I had been granted a “full scholarship” that included a free membership, transportation, lodging, and even a prepaid debit card for “incidentals”. Imagine!

On Twitter, I described the situation as “someone lied”. I don’t actually know if the person or persons who registered the complaints knew they were repeating something untrue or not. The communities in which these kinds of accusations are born and flourish outwardly hold things like truth, facts, and evidence with a near-religious regard… to the extent that is such things are more oftem distantly believed in on some spiritual plane than seen or felt.

I wrote about this last year, the way the Pups deal in “essential” truths. It is axiomatic to their way of thinking that anyone who opposes them is a larcenous SJW huckster who is well-compensated for their SJWing. Whether it is actually true in any particular case does not matter, as it is essentially true of all of us.

I suspect that there was a sort of cult-mentality telephone game at work. Someone said, somewhere on the web, something like “Why is she begging for handouts? After her performance last year, you know she got an all-expenses paid invitation.” Whether this person was lying, speculating, joking, or earnestly articulating something they wholeheartedly believed in is immaterial. What they said was wrong, but to its intended audiences it had the ring of truth, and so it was all but guaranteed to be repeated as truth, including ny whomever repeated it as fact to GoFundMe’s “customer happiness team”.

I am looking into remedies. The GoFundMe rep requested I submit receipts showing the money is going where I say it’s going… at which point they will release the money. Catch-22! I sent a reply offering a receipt for the airfare (which I was able to withdraw before the account was held, and which just cleared today), or to have whatever agency was said to have provided the scholarship confirm it did not exist. I do not have enough experience to know whether I should be optimistic about this or not. I understand where GFM’s priority is to protect their reputation and prevent fraud.

However this shakes out, I do not expect it to be the last attack on my activities or my attempts to reach WorldCon. I have seen enough people targeted by these tactics to know that the mere fact that I do not lie down in the face of them will be decried as me ” playing victim” for my share of the “victim bucks”, an imaginary bottomless pit of money the world just hands to the targets of harassment campaigns for fun.

But if I start moderating myself to head off their predictable attacks, I will never stop until I have moderated myself out of existence. That is the end game here.

The actual (not essential) truth is that I am not wealthy, or powerful, or well-connected. If I were, I wouldn’t have turned to GoFundMe in the first place. If I were, I probably wouldn’t be nearly as appealing a target of opportunity.

The actual truth is that what I am is reasonably clever, determined, and well-regarded in certain limited circles. I believe those qualities will be enough to achieve my goal.

I have to believe that certain malcontents are stinging over the way their now-annual  campaign of hatred has backfired and made them laughingstocks among the communities they have sought to dominate, terrorize, or destroy. I flatter myself to imagine that in some small way, I helped to lead that charge  with my example last year. So I can easily imagine why I am now a target.
I will not let this stop me, not from writing my satire or sharing my observations on the emergent properties and governing myths of these reactionary hate mobs, and not from attending WorldCon in Kansas City in August. I will be there. You can count on that.

Update: GoFundMe cleared the hold. The fundraiser is back on:

Second Update: I have written a follow-up post explaining the impact of attacks like this, and the best way to respond.