When you have something to hide

…like I do, then the prospect of anyone getting access to my computer is pretty horrifying. I hope the NSA likes porn at least.

So I heard the story this morning of a woman in Long Island who had her house raided by a goddamn SWAT team because she searched for ‘pressure cooker’ while her husband was also searching for backpacks. Sound familiar? Well how the sweet fucking hell did the cops know her search history?! Does anyone else find that creepy as shit?

What the hell, America.

Give us your poor, your tired, your huddled masses? Not any more, we hate immigrants, even though we’re all descended from them.

The land of the free? No. We throw more people in jail than any other country except maybe the worst dictatorships. We have no free speech that isn’t censored by a spineless, sycophantic mass media, or litigated into the ground by trigger happy copyright lawyers.

The home of the brave? Holy fuck, no. As soon as someone whispers the word ‘terrorist’, we damn near wet our collective pants in fear and break out the guns. There are some truly brave people around, but let’s be honest – they are in the fucking minority.

I can’t believe this place, really I can’t. Lots of countries deal with terrorism without losing their mind, and the best we can do is sink the entire fucking economy, screw over our own people, and kill thousands of foreigners, all in the name of fighting an enemy that can’t be fought.

The relatives of those foreigners, by the way, now largely have nothing to live for other than hating America. Because American troops just bombed the shit out of their homes and cities. I can’t believe anyone is surprised that they want to blow us up in turn.

Anyone who says shit about America being the best place in the whole world is either deluded, ignorant, or wilfully blind. And I’m pretty sure that every other first world nation is watching all the shit we do and wondering if America is the same.

Ask a European what they think. The polite ones will sidestep the question. The honest ones will say what they’re all thinking, which is this: are Americans totally fucking insane, or are they just very, very dangerously dumb?

Don’t tell me we haven’t earned that reputation.

//shay

Fandom dreams

I was going to call this post ‘fandom drama’, but my ever faithful phone corrected it to ‘dreams’. Coincidence? I think not.

Fandoms have drama the way water has wetness, and my chosen fandom is no exception. Most of it is not exactly earth-shaking stuff. Which character ships are considered canon, which tropes are verboten… Two things generally jump out at me about it, every time.

The first: that people take offence to a particular pairing, on the grounds that it is not canon or out of character. They then say something along the lines of ‘hey, author! Why are you writing that? Don’t write that!’

Leaving aside the fact that it’s kind of a dick move to order someone to write stuff, what’s the problem? It’s not as if there’s a finite amount of creativity in the fandom, and one story being written with this pairing means that other pairings are lost. Fandoms are infinite things, like human stupidity and David Bowie’s hair.

So, y’know, I don’t get the whole railing against certain pairings. Makes no sense. It’s like shouting at the wind.

The second thing is how people seem to regard fandom drama as a reason to leave the fandom. This baffles me completely.

So if you turn it on its head for a minute, forget about the nuts and bolts of it – think about what it means. It means people care, deeply, about the fandom. It means they’re deeply invested in the thing around which the fandom formed. It takes a lot of emotional commitment to want to write, to draw, to film, to cosplay. Fans who want to do this get a bad rap for being too into it, after all.

So drama is really a sign of a healthy fandom. Yeah, it feels sort of shitty if you’re in the middle of it, but the bystanders shouldn’t take it too seriously. Let’s have some perspective, I guess.

We have to remember that we are part of the fandom for the same reasons – for love of the game, the book, the film. For love of a story. We all find our own things there. And we all dream together when we create things inside it.

//shay

If you think about sex

…as much as I do, you inevitably start thinking about gender.

Mostly it annoys me.

The problem I always have is that the world seems designed to be harmful to everyone as a result of their gender. It forces them into pre-defined roles that inevitably take something from them.

Women lose their autonomy. They lose control over their own lives, their own bodies. They lose the right to be seen as full people with their own preferences and desires.

Men lose their inner selves. They lose the ability to show a whole range of emotion. They lose the right to be seen as full people with their own preferences and desires… when those preferences and desires lean towards things that are feminine.

And those outside the binary… well, they lose their lives, period.

It’s so arbitrary, isn’t it? Why is this one facet of our selves so important that the lives of complete strangers must be disrupted or ended to heal our discomfort at their very existence? Why, say, is the fact that abortion happens such a major problem for pro-lifers, more so than the millions who die from war in Africa? Why is the fact that trans women exist such a big deal for a certain type of white male in the South?

Such silly, stupid things. Nonsensical things. And they would rather inflict pain instead of dealing with their moral outrage, and live their own broken half-lives never fully accepting the complete range of human experience.

Change happens slowly. There is a lot of pushback. But we have an obligation to keep trying, because how long can we expect the most vulnerable among us to wait? How many more lives twisted and shattered because we didn’t fight as hard as we could?

How many more men emotionally scarred and stunted?

How many more women who lose the chance to be full people?

And how many more trans people simply dead?

I said once that writers have a particular obligation to write the stories of the world as it should be, not what it is. We must write men who feel and display emotions other than anger. We must write women who are in control of their lives. We must write trans people as being normal and accepted. Stories change the world, my friends. Stories tell the world what it is and what it can be. And the loudest stories should be ones that make the world a better place.

Yes, even if they’re all about people getting laid.

//shay

Of Swordfights and Magic

So I was thinking about swordfights recently, and it seemed that I was writing action scenes that didn’t really have the right level of blood and sweat in them.

I asked my most esteemed friend, of course, for her opinion on such things, as she’s read my other work.

“Really, Shay, I’m not sure there is a right level. Does this bother you?”

Maybe, I replied. I want it to be believable, of course.

She laughed at me. “Don’t be silly. You write anime style fighting. It’s not going to ve believable anyway, and that’s okay, trust me.”

After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I asked her to elaborate. And the final verdict is this: I tend to write fight scenes as if they’re in something like Dragonball Z, with lots of dialogue and successive stages of powering up.

This baffles me, no matter what she says about it being good.

Something tells me I may have to learn sword fighting to get it right.

//shay

Thank Odin

Thanksgiving is such a weird holiday. Let’s all be thankful for having enough to eat and all that, on the day when our ancestors basically acted like dicks to the natives… Yeah. Bizarre.

Still, let’s get into the spirit of the season, shall we? All gratitude to whatever deities care to be listening. I’m thankful for being able to write again, and for having this sweet new laptop. I’m thankful that Obama got re-elected because, let’s face it, we were so incredibly screwed otherwise. I’m thankful that today is a little less shitty than yesterday for me.

What I’d really like to be is thankful that I can make a living off my writing, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. Maybe next year, eh? Enjoy your turkeys, my friends.

//shay

So I heard today

…that another successful self-published writer had been picked up for a high six figure deal by Harper Collins. I bet they’re living the dream now.

It’s the done thing now, isn’t it? Self-publish, get major deal, laugh all the way to the bank. And it got me thinking, as I tend to do, on what this means for the publishing industry.

I bet you’re really interested now.

/sarcasm

Okay, for all two of you that haven’t closed the browser tab yet – I think it’s a sign.

Of what, dear Shay?

Of the fact that the publishing industry are basically clueless, of course.

Think about it. These arbiters of taste, these keepers of culture, would have you believe that they know what the public wants. They certainly want their investors to believe this. But it’s clear that they really don’t know anything; they rely on “surefire” hits, like books written by celebrities and well known authors, and others that have already become popular due to the unknown author’s hard work or blind luck.

I was thinking about this because I want to see what books are being released by, say, Harper Collins, that were neither self-published nor written by someone well known. I want to know which books were real risks for them, and how they measured up to the big sellers.

I have some research to do, but I suspect I will be proven right… we already know they’re a business, don’t we? A profitable business isn’t in the habit of taking risks.

//shay

Ideas, I have them

All kinds of ideas. It’s a side effect of being really smart. I have more ideas than I know what to do with, whether for stories or for stuff.

Today I got an idea for a social network that could behave a little like Tumblr, with the functionality of the pre-Google+ version of Google Reader (before they make it crap) and the monetization potential of Facebook.

I’m an inventor of things in another life, up to and including web services. And backpacks. Long story.

It’s always the same question: here is a problem. If I were going to solve this problem, how would I do it? If I were going to write a particular kind of story, how would I do it? What choices would I make?

This is what being really smart is, not what you see on The Big Bang Theory. I certainly don’t look anything like Sheldon in real life, and you wouldn’t notice me on the street. I could still do quantum mechanics, if I had any interest in it (I don’t). But the principle is the same – being really smart means you don’t need to be told what the next step is or how the next scene should play out. You just know, by making the intuitive leap from one stage to the next.

It is very, very weird, though, to be sitting quietly on the bus on your daily commute while planning out the technical details of something like Facebook but without the bloat and godawful interface.

It’s even weirder when your idea is completely derailed by your libido. Which reminds me – I have porn to write. Or finish. And I’ll make everything free when I publish this one. Then we can all go out for cocktails and celebrate me getting my groove back – and possibly becoming a millionaire.

//shay