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Posts Tagged ‘darkest timeline’

Carrying the Weight of the World

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about being “visibly invisible.” A lot of folks complain about being overweight, and talk about how much they hate themselves for it, but frankly I enjoy the invisibility of it. I don’t like getting hit on by strangers, harassed in the street, or even complimented on my looks by folks who aren’t my close friends or spouse. While being fat doesn’t end these things by any means, being fat and older has reduced these instances by a large margin, for me, and I love it. It’s reduced it enough that I’m often surprised when I realize I’m being hit on or followed by some creep. Like, really, don’t you have something better to do?

Being so very visible now at conventions and online means that I value being invisible elsewhere all the more. I’m an introvert, and I don’t want to be stared at or sized up. I just want to be left alone in the world to write my books and live my life. I’m already under a lot of pressure when I’m online, which is, frankly, exhausting. As someone in a monogamous relationship that we both dig, I also dread those awkward conversations at cons when you get tested out about whether or not you’d be interested in a threesome or something. And I just want to yell, “LEAVE ME ALONE WITH MY DRINK!” like 800% of the time (I still remember a weird conversation at a convention years ago in which I told an inquiring mind that “S&M really isn’t my scene” and the look of SHEER DISAPPOINTMENT on his face was priceless. My work is fiction, people!). While I also now get less of those, they haven’t totally gone away, either. Being fat doesn’t “protect” you from people any more than being skinny or awkward or whatever. But it makes me FEEL better, I have to admit, to be outside of norm.

And when I AM noticed in the wider world it reminds me that weight as a cushion against the world is no better than shelling off weight to fit “correctly” in the world. My drinking in particular had gotten rather out of hand after the election last year, and it’s taken some time to curtail that. Eliminating the drinking also helped me lose a few pounds, which to be dead honest, has become necessary for me to continue flying coach on airplanes. I’ve dropped about 20 pounds simply to make it easier to fly. The world does not like fat people in it; everything is designed around you fitting into a narrowly defined box.

Releasing that weight did get me back into healthier habits, and led me to consider why I found the weight itself so comforting in this uncertain world. I’ve put on about 100 lbs since 2011, which is also, COINCIDENTLY the same year my first novel, God’s War, came out, and I started a super high stress but well paying day job. This is a rough business, and you’re continually wondering what it is you’re either doing wrong or will do wrong. Sales are fickle. Your audience takes decades to build but can be lost overnight with one dumb tweet. Add in the fear and anxiety around losing health insurance if I was laid off, and honestly, being fat feels like a suit of armor most days. And fuck knows I feel I need it. It’s like I’m carrying the very weight of all of my responsibilities around with me. The weight of my health, my need for health insurance, the mortgage, the need to save for retirement, the tax bills, the novel deadlines, the credit card bills, the medical debt, the word deadlines, the commitments I’ve made to conventions and anthologies and other writers for various things. Literalizing that weight feels right, to me. It’s heavy.

I have been plowing forward full steam ahead with my novels and day job and patreon, and that doesn’t leave time for much else. But I’ve taken tentative steps now, at least, to stop numbing the world so much. This also means understanding when to say no to opportunities and travel. I had to cancel a few more things this year and early next because it just wasn’t healthy or realistic for me. My doctor had started making concerned noises the last year or so, as my blood pressure was going up for the first time (it has since come down) and my blood sugar was suffering (it has since gotten better). Bad habits pile up, and if I want to be around to write more books, I need to alter those habits… and stop carrying around so much of the weight of the world on my shoulders. However safe it feels, it’s an illusion, just like the drinking.

Traveling to Sweden at the end of May was a lovely trip, and I found myself relaxing, eating and drinking reasonably, and walking endlessly, just enjoying the incredible weather and the wonderful people. I imagined what it would be like to live in a country without feeling like so much was weighing me down. Imagine knowing that your healthcare is paid for, and you’ll have enough care in your old age. Imagine having six weeks off a year, and sick leave. Imagine all this weight you’re carrying, all this fear and anxiety, being mitigated.

Certainly every place has its downsides, but getting outside our bubble here for the first time since 2013 was really valuable, to me. It reminded me that there are other ways to live that aren’t the hard grind of the American system, the one that encourages one to overwork until you fall over. I’ll never forget an old boss of mine telling the story of a coworker who was literally still working on things as he was hauled out on a stretcher by paramedics because he’d had a heart attack. This wasn’t told as a horror story, but a story of grit and persistence. A very American story. But that’s the story that results in us dying a lot sooner than people in other Western countries. And I’m not keen on dying for a long time yet. I have a lot of fucking books to write.

I want to learn to work smarter, not harder, the way that I know is possible. I don’t want to carry as much of my fear and anxiety and disappointment around with me. I want to believe in a better life. I know I have to build it, sure. What’s tough is in realizing that sometimes building that life means that you do nothing. You rest. You sleep. You paint. You walk. You laugh. You take your time. And that, the doing nothing, is the toughest part, for me. When you do nothing, you must feel everything.

 

Apocalypse Nation: Nowhere to Run

I once watched an episode of Doomsday Preppers in which the Preppers included two women who had type 1 diabetes. They talked about how they would keep their insulin cool in bags in streams. They never once addressed the fact that if society collapsed, even a stockpile of insulin wouldn’t be good for more than a year, maybe 18 months if you stretched it by using the less reliable expired stuff as long as possible.

Heading for the hills during violent political upheavals only works if you’re in good health and have someone with mad medical skills with you, and it means leaving everyone else down in the valley to die. Something as simple as an infected scratch can kill you. How long are your iodine pills and antibiotics going to last? The truth is that millions will die during the long collapse.

One of the things that always bothered me about the apocalypse scenarios is how they focused so hard on surviving. I mean, is all of society really gone, or just yours? And with 6 billion other people in the world, do you have a species imperative to survive, because really – life goes on. Ya’ll wonder why I like Russ’s We Who Are About To so much, and it’s this honest acknowledgement that becoming a broodmare to “save humanity” is a con. Survival isn’t everything.

I’ve been trying to figure out my options since Wednesday morning. Heading out into hill country is a great idea if you don’t actually need access to modern medecine. Canada may seem like a good option for now, but when fascism comes, it tends to swallow and swallow and swallow. Remember that we’re handing over the nuclear codes to a vindictive narcissist with sympathetic ties to Russia. I’ve been watching the media headspinning, telling us we should hope this guy is “successful” and I’m like – successful for who? Did you all forget the stuff he promised to do? Have you read his plan for his first 100 days? The willful way Americans are looking away from what somebody actually said he’d do, the things he campaigned and ran on, is bizarre. Ok, not bizarre, I admit, because I’ve seen it before in a lot of countries that find themselves with a crazy guy in power. “Maybe it won’t be so bad,” they all say, because they want life to go on as usual. But the changes are going to start happening very quickly now. The Obama years postponed our 80’s apocalypse future, but it’s here. Willfully trying to unsee it is just living in a fantasy novel. Now I’m watching a lot of fellow lefty folks eat each other over safety pins and whether or not Bernie would have won while a conman gives his children and business allies cabinet positions and is celebrated by the KKK – a guy who told people throughout his campaign that he was keeping an enemies list and who threatened to jail his opponent. Folks are talking about organizing for elections in two years and four years and I’m like, “You are very confident there will be elections.” You can try rewriting the story, folks, but it doesn’t change the fact that we’ve seen this road before. If we avoid it, great! I will happily be wrong. But I have made my peace with what’s coming. Spare us your “wait and see” and “maybe it’s not that bad.” Those empty platitudes help no one prepare. They lull them back to sleep.

Anyway, as I’ve said elsewhere, I’m done trying to convince people that yes, what you see is what you’re going to get. Smarter people than me, those who have studied fascist regimes in far greater depth, are giving the same warnings. In fact, have been giving the same warnings for a year. Like many, I didn’t listen, because I believed in America. And while it’s true that most Americans are still good – Hillary is set to win the popular vote by a million votes, millions of voters were suppressed by the dissolution of the Voting Rights Act, decades of Republican gerrymandering came home to roost, and there’s been interference from Russia related to this election the whole cycle – I’ve also studied South African history, and I know how brutally a white minority can rule over a majority.

And after examining all the options, I’ve come to realize that there is no running away from this. There is no “better place” in this global economy. Countries are shifting far-right faster than we can keep up, and with the US and Russia both moving together now, we’re looking at powers with huge numbers of nuclear weapons who will be spreading this agenda outward. There is no where to run that they cannot reach.

I stayed up watching the last two Hunger Games movies and realized the point at which things turn is when people realize the capital is going to kill them anyway. This is why I have reiterated and accepted early that this is the new normal, and that it’s following a typical fascist rise to power narrative. Because once you accept that you are among those on the chopping block, you realize you have nothing to lose. And it becomes easier to throw yourself into the fray as willing cannon fodder so the folks with the battering rams can come in behind you if you know you are going to die anyway.

And if you can’t run, and if, like me, you’re likely to die under this regime anyway…. you might as well stay and fight.

I have nothing to lose that isn’t already in jeopardy.

I Rebel

My grandmother was born and raised in Nancy, France. Germany invaded parts of northern and western France in May of 1940. This included my grandmother’s hometown of Nancy. Over the next four years, she would live under a nationalistic and antisemitic puppet government, the Vichy regime, which openly collaborated with the Germans. My great-grandfather, her father, was a member of the French Resistance, the Maquis, and spent a good chunk of time tortured by Gestapo. She remembers the Gestapo coming to her house, and I have used stories of those events to flesh out a lot of the war stories I write, including “The Women of Our Occupation.” I also relate a story here about her and her friends finding a severed foot in a Nazi boot, and note what the consequences could have been for that. My grandparents met during the war. He was an American GI of German descent. He spent a good chunk of his post-war time trucking out bodies from concentration camps.

I grew up knowing all about the very worst that people could do to other people, and also how it came about: in incremental shifts, in normalization of the outrageous, and then suddenly, all at once. I became fascinated by history, especially the history of resistance and revolution. I know too much about tyrants and dictators and the fear that fuels the minority who bolster their ascent to power.

Rebellion is in my blood.

I saw the distinct possibility of this regime change coming, but honestly believed we could preserve the path we’ve been on, the path toward that more hopeful future. Instead, we got close enough to see the glimmer of the light and then watch the darkness fall again. If you ever thought, “What does it look like when fascism comes home to roost?” Like, this is it.

The fascinating part has been watching all of the rationalizations and “Maybe it’s not that bad” and normalization of what is happening now in the wake of a self-identified rapist, racist, and narcissistic demagogue with confirmed ties to a Russian dictator being elected president of a country with more nuclear weapons than any other. I expect it was that way for France, too. “It’s not like we’re REALLY invaded by Germany! I mean, we have a government! It’s not THAT bad. I mean, we just need to give them the Jews and they’ll leave us alone. Ok, and the Roma. And the disabled. And the rebels. And our grandmothers who immigrated here and…. oh shit.”

Oh shit indeed.

We are going to hear a lot of rationalization over the coming days, months, years. The normalization of the things done and said by this regime is going to be fast and furious, because things are going to move so quickly that we won’t be able to keep up with everything. And you are going to hear, as things escalate, a lot of rationalizations. “Yes Muslims need to register but it’s not like they’re going to camps!” and “Yes all immigrants need to go to camps but at least they aren’t being murdered outright!” and “Yes they got rid of ACA but they will totally fix healthcare some other way” and “Yes abortion rights are gone but you can just go to Canada.”

You will hear this a lot.

It’s the same in every country. We rationalize because if we didn’t then we’d have to admit that we need to do something, and that we’ve made a mistake. A lot of voters for this regime, just like those who voted for Brexit, are working furiously to tell us things aren’t that bad and we aren’t giving it a chance when in fact from the very beginning this candidate has told us exactly what he is going to do and exactly what his vision for this country is. There will be no surprises or reversals. This is it. They have stated very clearly what they plan to do, and it will dismantle decades of progressive policy and human rights initiatives. It could also very well lead to the economic breakdown of this country.

I have a chronic illness, and I can tell you right now that as you are all bunkering down preparing for apocalypse, I simply don’t have that “Run away and live in the woods” option anymore. If inflation hits, healthcare regulations are lifted, and trade tariffs destroy access to my meds, I will die. There’s no “Maybe I can wait it out” or “This will be just like Fallout!”

A lot of us are going to die if this goes down the way they have stated they want it to go down.

I am one of them.

So this is very real for me.

Folks have been asking what to do besides despair. I have a solid narrative of rebellion to look back at. It helped me rally and get up Wednesday morning. I imagined my grandmother standing in the streets of France while the tanks rolled in. I imagined my great-grandfather risking torture and death because he knew what was right despite all the people around him saying it was going to be fine, that it would work out and there would totally be checks and balances and hey just give them the Jews or the Muslims or the immigrants…

You get up. You move. You rebel.

So start calling other people out on this. Yes, this means your families, too. Like many, I have demurred during family political squabbles, but we’re no longer talking about tax rates, we’re talking about people’s lives. The repeal of ACA will kill tens of thousands of people a year, and it’s already been stated as high on the list for repeal in January. It’s coming. Conversion therapy for LGBT folks is going to cause suicide rates to skyrocket. And the hate groups have legitimacy now. They will feel emboldened, and they will be attacking and killing people on the streets. This is not alarmist. It’s already happening. When you see members of the KKK out in their full hooded regalia celebrating the election of the new regime, well, you know what? It’s alarming. It’s fucking time to be alarmist. All you need to do to see what they want to do is to go to the regime’s website and look at their stated platform. Watch the recordings of what this guy has said. He told you exactly what he’s going to do. There are no surprises, and this is not hyperbole. This is me stating that they now have the power to act out all the things they intend to do, and as they know, it will be devastating for millions of Americans.

So here’s some stuff you can do:

  • First, protect yourself online and off. If you’re targeted by the actual government, this is moot, but my biggest concern on a day to day basis is the regime’s supporters. And all those hate groups and trolls are going to hit and hit hard in the coming months and years. Lock your shit down.
  • Second, if you see someone being harassed – especially if you’re white and male – step in and shut it down. Make it clear this is not OK. I have a healthy sense of “fuck you” and have been doing this myself for a decade now, but I know not everyone feels comfortable doing it. But the alternative is your silence, and silence says, “What I see happening is OK with me.” And it will embolden more attacks.
  • Third, if he wants to register Muslims? Then let’s ALL register as Muslims. They will have to take all of us.
  • Fourth, don’t become despondent. I promise, other countries have gone through things like this and survived. I have been thinking about my grandmother a lot. That said, yes, the danger here is real. Not just from the regime but from all the hate carried by the people who his win have legitimized. This is not a joke, it’s not funny, and it’s very real. Take it seriously. That’s not being alarmist: this shit IS alarming, and it’s going to get worse. So prepare yourself and your loved ones and look out for each other.
  • If you are someone who needs help, reach out now and connect with your allies immediately. Have an escape plan and know who to turn to if you are in trouble. If you are someone who can offer a bed to sleep in or a place to go for someone who’s likely to be targeted, raise your hand. We need to take care of each other.
  • Finally, if you choose to be loud, accept that bad things may happen to you. I’m well aware that depending on how bad this goes, I am toast. I also know that I can’t sleep at night just running away to Canada or hiding in my house and not speaking up in defense of others and myself. It’s safer to stay head down while other people suffer, and some of you may need to do that, and no one judges you for that. But understand the risks.

There’s going to be lots of people saying everything is fine, including, enragingly, the very Democrats who saw this for what it was too. They keep trying to treat this like a normal election. This is not normal.

Folks. It’s not fine. And you are not crazy for thinking it’s not fine.

This. Is. Not. Fine. 

Hold onto that, and get ready.

Epilogue: My Wish for You

This is excerpted from the epilogue to The Geek Feminist Revolution

My gift to you today:

——

My goal is to change the world. Change it into what, though? Into a better place, I’d hope. Into a place where we don’t have to fight as hard to be heard. Into a place where we have not equal opportunities, but true equality that lets us all start out our lives on the same footing. I want the world to be a demonstrably better place when I leave it than it was when I came into it. Not just for me, or for people like me, but for every one.

The truth is, though, that I don’t know how to do that. All I know how to do is write (and drink, to the limit my illness allows). I know how to persevere in the face of bullshit. I know how to not be afraid. I know how to live. Sometimes living, and speaking aloud, is the most subversive act one can manage.
That, perhaps, is enough for me. But is it enough for you?

I am getting older, and though some may scoff at that, the fact is that death and I have danced before, and though she did not win that time, each day I can hear her breathing in my ear, with every shot of medication I take and every low sugar reading I get while hiking out in the woods alone, and I am reminded that she will get me eventually, as she gets us all, because her dance card is long, and she is more persistent even than I.

I have no children, and no legacy but my work— and you.

I have the power to reach back to you long after I am dead, through these spidery marks on paper or pixels, and remind you that you have a voice, you have agency, and your voice is stronger and more powerful than you could ever imagine, and long after I am gone, you can pick up this beer beside me and carry on the work we are doing now, the work we have always been doing, the work we will always do, until the world looks the way we imagine it can be.

I am a grim optimist, and this is my hope for you: that you will be louder than me, and stronger than me, and more powerful than me, and that you will look back at me as a relic, a dinosaur, as the minor villain in your own story, the rock you pushed against in your own flight to fame, to notoriety, to revolution.

That is my wish for you.

 

 

It’s Morning in America

“The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.” – Hermann Goring

It’s morning in America.

I laid in bed with my spouse a little longer this morning after checking 538. My spouse and I lay pressed back to back; a bit of mammalian comfort to get us both through the day ahead. I got up and I petted my dog and told him he was a good boy and everything was OK and I turned on the coffee maker. I took the dogs out on a walk in the darkness of the pre-dawn. It was so, so quiet. We walked, and walked.

It was so quiet.

Nate Silver said the chance of the darkest timeline was one in three. No one wanted to listen to those odds.

I would like to say something soothing and hand you the rest of my bottle and pretend it will be OK. But it won’t. History teaches us this, as it taught us the dangers of going this route.

But white people never listen.

All the progress of the last eight years will be rolled back. Financial markets are already crashing, as they did with Brexit. America has been careening into the end times for awhile now, but just like with climate change, we’ve finally reached the tipping point.

On a personal level, gutting healthcare is going to ruin my family. Instability in the markets will hurt my job prospects, my freelancing ability. We’ll need to cut back and hunker down. All those crazy fringe people, all those racist uncles on the internet, have free reign now. A lot of vulnerable people are going to suffer horribly, and a lot of people who thought they weren’t vulnerable are going to find out otherwise. Already, we’re all casting about trying to figure out how fucked we all are, turning inward. All that energy we projected outward to make things better is sweeping inward. I want to tell you that talk of the apocalypse is hyperbole, but that was the problem: we told people this would be the apocalypse and no one listened. Now it’s here, and it’s not a joke, it’s not a reality TV show, it’s not just liberals calling everybody Hitler.

Living in the end times of an empire is pretty shitty.

It’s that bad. I’m not going to sugarcoat it.

I have a sign up in my room that says, “In times like these it’s important to remember that there have always been times like these.”

Other people have gotten through fascist regimes, including my grandmother, who lived in Nazi-occupied France. We always wondered how that shit happened, but this is how: fear and lies. It works every time. Other people currently live in fascist regimes, and in war zones. America liked to pretend it was a shining beacon of hope and light against the darkness, but it’s not. We never really were. It was a beautiful story, though, pushing down the story of fear and racism and writing a new one. But all it takes is a megalomaniac to bring out the worst in people, the truth in people.

History is not the story of progress. Far from it. History is eight steps forward, ten steps back.

This is our story.

 

Wait, is the Apocalypse Cancelled?

Rubbed my bleary eyes this morning while sucking down coffee only to blink once, then twice, when I saw that the Cubs lost… wait, the Cubs WON the world series for the first time in 108 years, breaking the Billy Goat Curse (and probably a million others), and the UK courts announced that the government can’t leave the EU without actually getting Parliament’s OK on their plan and I was like, what the fuck, what happened to my Darkest Timeline?

Have we cancelled the apocalypse?

Only time will tell.

Buck up, folks. Not everything is shit.

WE CAN DO IT.

GO VOTE GO MAKE THINGS FUCK IT UP BURN IT ALL DOWN BUILD IT ALL BACK UP.

I will head back to the word mines.