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Posts Tagged ‘darkest timeline’

SIRENS 2018 Keynote: History, Storytelling, and Narrating the Future #Sirens18 #Sirens2018

This is the base script of the keynote I gave at the Sirens 2018 conference in Beaver Creek, Colorado. It’s missing my FUNNY AND GENIUS asides, but this gives you the core message. It seemed to make people happy!

Go forth, friends!

NOTE: I opened with an extemporaneous anecdote about my Spanish book tour, and how so many women journalists were asking me questions about whether or not I still believed in a hopeful future. It was then that I realized how much young people, in particular, were craving hope right now.  So I wanted to talk about hope, and how we can change the world for the better no matter how dark it gets.


So, it’s been another special week out there in the wider world, but…

I’m still here.

We’re still here.

I say this to myself every morning now. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older. Maybe it’s the breathless pace of the news cycle; the burden of knowing more of what’s happening in the wider world than any previous generation.

Whatever the reason. I’m here. You’re here.

And as long as we’re here, we can help create what comes after us.

As both a science fiction writer and someone with some historical training, I think a lot about the future. Mostly by looking at the past. I’m still not sure if that gives me an edge, or if looking backwards for too long will sour my grim optimism for the future of humanity.

I grew up in the 1980s, the era of Central American wars, liberation movements across Africa, the Cold War, the ascendance of Reganomics, the AIDS crisis. The rich got richer. The poor got kicked out of public health and welfare institutions. It was a dark time; I knew it even as a child. It forged my interest in war, resistance, and dark science fiction dystopias.

But even then, I fervently believed we had improved upon the past. I believed we could keep improving. Logic, I figured, would overcome our baser, socially warped programming that led us to fear of the other, the hoarding of wealth, and Ayn Rand. What I realized, decades later, is that humans aren’t swayed to change themselves, their beliefs, their attitudes, their societies, based on logic. We are creatures of pure emotion.

It’s been found that people who have damage to the part of their brains that process emotions can no longer make decisions. Oh, certainly, they can tell you logically what they SHOULD be doing, but they have difficulty deciding what to eat, what to wear. Apple or banana? If you have no emotional reason to choose one over the other, you will find yourself unable to decide.

Smart negotiators understand this. If you’ve ever tried to argue with someone on the internet, bringing with you all the facts and figures and thinking that will win over the other side, well… you’ve seen this phenomenon in action, too.

There’s an anecdote about a hospital in the 1800’s before the adoption of germ theory where in one wing of the maternity ward, midwives did all the assisting with birth. In the other wing, these young hotshot male doctors assisted with birth. It turns out the wing with the male doctors had a 40% higher maternal death rate than the one with the midwives.

When the head doctor dug further into this, he had this wild idea that maybe women were getting sick because these young doctors generally came to visit the maternity ward right after their anatomy classes, where they were cutting up corpses. And of course, you know – nobody washed their hands between corpse class and the maternity ward.

One would think the numbers would speak for themselves, but the young doctors were absolutely irate about this. How could this doctor even IMPLY that these rich pricks were UNLCEAN IN ANY WAY?? It took years to change this practice, even in the face of overwhelming evidence, because young rich white men were horrified at the idea that they were in some way harboring germs on their bare hands and murdering their own patients.

Logic doesn’t rule. Emotion does.

And the best way to evoke emotion is to tell stories.

The theory goes that what we call awareness is simply our ability to form stories out of stimuli. This is why most of us don’t have any clear memories until we’re two or three years old. We are not truly conscious until we learn how to construct a narrative.

We find ourselves connecting seemingly random events every day. I was out of milk, so I drove to the store. It turns out my best friend was at the store too! She invited me to dinner. At dinner I learned about a new job opportunity from one of the dinner guests. I got the job and that’s where I met my partner. Amazing! The world really does connect us all in mysterious ways!

But the only thing that actually connects any of these events in any spooky way… is you. You experienced them. You gave them meaning. To anyone else, viewing from outside, seeing you bump into your friend, or another guest at that dinner, those interactions had little to no meaning. We created the meaning. We crave meaning.

This is why I started blogging. I wanted to take all of these events I was experiencing as I traveled, and came into this awareness of who I was after high school, and create meaningful narratives out of them. What was I learning? How could I tie these events I experienced to my understanding of the greater world? I actually started my essay writing my writing long emails to friends from Clarion, this weekly or monthly updates that I spun into narratives. I switched to blogging after awhile because I worried that maybe I was spamming their inboxes too much. So I switched to a blogging platform and honed my storytelling there. These stories I made about my experiences were telling ME who I was. It was creating MEANING from all of these random experiences.

We must create these stories – whether written, spoken, or simply as narratives in our heads –  because at its most basic level, our stories ARE who we are. They ARE consciousness.

This is why, when you argue with someone’s story of the world and “the way things are” or “the way things have always been” they defend that story so violently. They have lived with these stories for so long that attacking them feels like an attack of the self.

There’s a fascinating series of studies that presents two groups of students with static images. These are simply random black and white images of what we might call television static, speckled nonsense patterns on a piece of paper.

One group of students is primed to think about a time when they lacked control over a situation. Another group is asked to write about whatever they want.

When both groups are shown these same random images, the group that was primed to evoke the feeling of being out of control is more likely to believe they see patterns in the random noise than the other group.


It turns out that when we are fearful, anxious, and stressed out – when we feel we have no control over our lives – our brains are more likely to find images in random noise, from correlations in stock market information that isn’t there, see conspiracies in unrelated events, and even develop superstitions.

The more out of control we feel, the more we want to assert structure to the universe around us. The story is the structure. The story is the emotion.

Control the narrative, you control the emotion, you control the future.

Every time we change the world, for better or worse – we do it by tapping into primal human emotions. My day job is in marketing and advertising, so I’m especially conscious of this.

Anti-smoking campaigns were a failure when they focused on the harm smokers were doing to themselves. Smoking, drinking, drugs – many of us view these vices as a vacation from our otherwise exhausting and frustrating lives.

What shifted the smoking conversation in this country was focusing on what it did to the people around you, especially your own children. I remember this shift happening in my own household, when my father stopped smoking inside after intense messages about how secondhand smoke would harm his children.

To change the world, we have to tap into emotions.

Fear works great. Fear of harming your children, sure, but also….

Fear of an Other; fear of immigrants, of your neighbors, of your government. Insurance companies, the media, the government, fear is the stick they wield. Fear of death. Fear of leaving your loved ones with nothing. Fear of losing everything you worked for. Fear of a loss in status.

What I didn’t understand for a long time was what emotion we could use besides fear to motivate people. I went into marketing and advertising because I knew how to write, I understood storytelling, but I also wanted to learn how to change the world. How do you change peoples’ ingrained behaviors?

Advertising teaches the tools of persuasion. It teaches us how to rewire our habits. Toothpaste existed for a very long time before it became a habit. What advertisers understood was that they needed to provide a trigger that compelled people to brush their teeth, and a pleasant payoff when they did it.

Ads invited us to roll our tongues across our teeth, notice the slimy film that builds up there, and brush our teeth. Peppermint was added to the formula so that we had a nice, fresh, tingling sensation afterword that made us feel clean, fresh, healthy, and confident.

A new habit was born. A lot of toothpaste got sold.

This trick – a trigger, a habit, a reward (generally an emotional one), is why people like me constantly check Twitter. It’s why Facebook continues to thrive. The hit of serotonin we get when we see we have a like, an email, a comment, taps directly into our primal pleasure center.

We’ve seen this formula used well for evil, or, at best, nothing super good. But we’ve also seen it used to reduce rates of drunk driving – the mothers against drunk driving campaign, where mothers shared the stories of children who’d been killed by drunk drivers humanized what many saw as an individual vice. Seatbelt campaigns – very similar approach. It wasn’t just save yourself, but – protect your kids; and it was backed up by some gory images of crash test dummies in accidents with and without seat belts. Pro tip: use logic to BACK UP your emotional appeal. Emotion first, bullet points second.

Now, how do we harness these same techniques to promote a better world, a more progressive world, one where, to paraphrase NK Jemisin, there’s “no voting on who gets to be human”?

We do it one story at a time. We do it by embracing change. We do it through holding onto and promoting hope.

Change is the only constant in our lives. Octavia Butler built an entire religion out of this fact in her Parable Duology. She set her novel in what could easily be our present: the last gasping days of the disintegrating United States as it sank into authoritarianism.

It’s a dark duology about the dangers of religious fundamentalism and fanaticism. And yet from this darkness, emerging from the ruins of a gutted civilization, a young woman founds a pacifist philosophical and religious order that transforms those who follow her.  From the ashes, a savior. In even the darkest times: a ray of hope. A glimmer of light.

The knowledge that there is a better world that comes after.

Because it is our stories of hope that have sustained us through each period of darkness, after which we emerged into brilliant flashes of light, and someday, perhaps someday, that brilliant dawn.

It’s stories of hope that made us believe we could fight for marriage equality. I remember an interview with someone who was at the Stonewall Riots being asked if they ever believed they would see marriage equality in their lifetime and they said HA HA absolutely NOT.

And whatever happens next, it doesn’t take away from that great victory.

My mother doesn’t believe so much in hope anymore, and that’s informed her activism, or lack thereof. “Why are these women marching?” she asked me during the women’s march, “like that’s going to change anything.”

Eating up stories of despair, believing the world can never change, that fighting for change is hopeless, is how regressive regimes grind us down. It’s how they win.

It is hope that helped us make sweeping policy changes that protected the most vulnerable among us, and extended the rights of citizenship to all people, no matter who they love.  That hope and that future are not dead, but they are set back once again, in that long and ancient war we have fought and written about as futurists and fantasists and dug into and examined as academics and historians. The long war between the light and the dark, between our better selves and our darker natures.

Our hopeful stories, our ability to tell different futures, and look back at the truth of what came before us, will sustain us through this darkness as they have in the past and as they will in the years to come. That is not to minimize what we will face; we won’t all survive it. But it is a reminder that there is a future, however dark, to push through to the world on the other side.

Each generation has its moment to discover who it really is. We have found out who are friends and colleagues are at their very core, and it has shaken many of us (yes, especially white people). But as with every story of war and suffering and hope and despair we will also discover who the heroes are.

“The real hero is only a hero by mistake,” said Umberto Eco, “he dreams of being an honest coward like everyone else.” (I sure do!)

Each of us can be a hero – on this timeline – in our own way.

We can do it by telling another story. By surfacing another narrative. Not one of fear and anger,  and cruelty, but one of radical kindness and hope that inspires action.

So, the habit:

Our trigger – thoughts about the future. Our habit – my habit, certainly – telling myself that it’s the Robocop future all the way down. The pay off? Nihilism. Staying in bed. Drinking too much.

Ok, that’s me again.

What I found is that I needed a different habit to replace how I thought about the future, one whose payoff got me out of bed, got me back to work, got me to the gym like a damn adult – and spurred me back into action.

The trigger – thinking about the future. The habit: imagining the Star Trek future that could come after this. Socialist America! Eating the rich! Healthcare for everyone! Abolishing ICE! No more security theater. The payoff: getting out of bed and getting to work toward that future.

Because, remember, the stories we tell about ourselves create who we are at this fundamental level. They are at the very core of who we become and who we perceive ourselves to be.

It’s why those days where we sit around berating ourselves about how dumb and worthless we are can be so dangerous.

But it also means the days we talk ourselves up hold extraordinary promise.

Author Steven Erikson once described a theory of reality at a panel I was on. He said his approach to worldbuilding was to create several characters and show the world through their eyes, because in our own lives – reality is this thing at the center of a circle of human observers, and we are all standing there describing what we see. Together we come to a loose consensus about what it is we’re looking at.

Reality is what we can agree on.  It’s the stories we tell as we stand in that circle.

We can tell a story of human greed, that our neighbors are out to take all our stuff. Or we can tell the story of human compassion and collaboration, that our neighbors want to help us; that kindness is a benefit and not weakness.

What we choose to write about, to speak about, to purchase, to recommend – stories about violent matriarchies, benevolent patriarchies, anarchist utopias, capitalist dystopias, cannot help but take a position on which narrative wins out. Hierarchy is good. Capitalism is bad. Binary gender is natural. Bisexuality is natural. Or not.

Freedom of information is bad. Freedom of information leads to terrorism. The state is benevolent and should be trusted to protect its citizens. The state is corrupt and must be abolished.

Intentional or not, our work – what we write about, whether as academics or novelists – expresses a certain set a values. It’s informed by the questions and expectations we have. When I was working on my Master’s degree, I was shocked to find a document that asserted that 20% of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the militant wing of the African National Congress in South Africa, was composed of women. I thought that was astonishing, in part because… well… how many movies or books about resistance have you consumed where one in every five fighters was a woman? How could this be true, I thought, if I’ve never seen it? But there it was, stacked up in the archives like it was no big deal.

I knew then that I needed to write about it.

Cal Newport’s book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You, which argues that some of the world’s most happy and successful people choose careers which are driven by a personal mission. These missions don’t spring full-formed from their brains at age twenty or thirty. Instead, they are missions that they explore, define, and refine in the first decade or two of their careers. They come back to their missions when they feel they have achieved a significant goal or milestone, and adjust it as necessary. It is this mission, then, that drives them forward when the grind gets them down.

As human beings, we need to believe that our lives have meaning. What drives us when we despair? More often than not, it is our personal mission. And if we don’t have one, it can be easy to get stuck in a rut and lose focus and purpose… and get dragged down by someone else’s fearful nihilistic narrative.

Trolling reality – because that’s what trolling has evolved into – is both a political force, a moneymaker and a game. Getting people to cry on camera, to talk about how afraid they are, to leave the internet, to stay home in fearful silence, or, to flee from their homes altogether, to sow confusion and promote terror, is actually the end goal of this game.

It inspires a community of professional trolls to keep at it. Fear is the desired result. Public pain and misery triggers the jolt of serotonin that is their reward. Habits, right?

So I can hear the concern, now. Ok, Kameron. I have this hopeful narrative. I’m speaking up about better future. But the trolls aren’t just people yelling on the internet any more. They bring guns and send bombs.

Well, sure. Also I could get hit by a bus tomorrow. I could die of carbon monoxide poisoning in my house.

All of us have different situations. But this is what I think whenever I’m invited to speak at an event like this, or whenever I pick up an unknown package on the porch:

I could die on a plane. I could die from taking too much insulin. One of my aunts learned that she had a brain tumor a few years back, and was dead three months later. I could have a blood clot, or an aneurysm.

Death is coming for all of us, eventually. Yes, we are all going to die! Yes, I think about getting shot or bombed or SWATed or whatever. But that’s been my reality as a woman speaking publicly since, like 2004 when I started my blog.

The truth is it wasn’t so much what I was saying that people didn’t like – it was that I was allowed to speak publicly at all, as if there was a test one had to pass, a lofty measurement or set of traits or a bestseller list, or some gender requirement.

But  the alternative, for me, is to be quiet, and to die quietly, hit quietly by a bus.

And that just sounds very… quiet, to me. I like being loud.

But I get that everyone’s mileage is going to vary.

Just remember that as long as you’re still here, I’m still here, you’re still here, we win.

One of the reasons no one can silence me is not just my profound stubbornness and indifference in the face of rage mobs, nor my ability to be able to find the signal in the noise. I stay in this game because I get 1,000% more fan mail than hate mail. I get fan mail of the “You changed my life,” variety.

People who came out to their parents because of something I wrote, folks who found the courage to leave an abusive partner. Folks who moved across the country. Changed jobs. Went back to school. People read things I write and it gives them hope and inspiration and comfort, too; comfort that they are not so different. They are not alone. That the world can be really different.

And it’s that love, that profound love, that will keep me here, that will keep me speaking, that will keep me carrying on, long after the hate speech has been buried in an explosion of fragmented pixels.

Love. Radical kindness. A rejection of nihilism. These are the alternative narratives we must surface and share.

I take storytelling seriously because I understand that storytelling is how we make sense of the world. It is, quite literally, how we build the world. What we dream, we create. What we imagine, we make truth. It is how we can share the same world with billions of people and thousands of other cultures and yet all see this world and our place in it so differently. Story is also how we can begin to change our own view of the world. As Ursula Le Guin said in her National Book Award speech:

We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art – the art of words.

Resistance begins not only in art, but in the passionate pursuit of the truth. The truth that there is no monolithic way to be human, now or in the future. That how we organize ourselves has changed significantly over the hundreds of thousands of years we have been on this planet. That we don’t have to be ruled exclusively by fear.

My mom often apologizes to me for the women of her generation. “We thought we changed it all,” she says, but you kids still have to deal with the same shit.” But I’m more optimistic than that. What I see is every generation making incremental progress. Three steps forward. Two steps back. Five steps forward after that, then six back, ooops, damn, okay, get back up, keep going!

Fall down seven times. Get up eight.

Nihilism is the greatest enemy of change. Nihilism tells us that we are all going grubbing back into the darkness from whence we came, and that nothing we do here matters. Nihilism keeps the old abusive systems puttering along. Nihilism convinces us that nothing changes, when in truth – the world is changing all the time.

People like us are just as equipped to change it as anyone else.

As long as we are still here, we are still part of building that narrative.

Someone once asked me why I write and I said, “I write to change the world.” That’s not bullshit. I believe that. You, me, all of us in this room, we are each of us an integral part in a greater whole.

What stories are we telling? With our research, our writing; with the thoughts we share, both ours and those we spread across our social and personal channels.

Every reality is shaped by story. Greed is good. Rich is good. Capitalism is good.

But I come at this world every day now armed with a different story. Compassion is good. Kindness is good. Socialism is good. Looking out for each other is good. Hoarding wealth is obscene. Greed is despicable. Capitalism is a crime against 90% of human beings on this earth.

Say a thing often enough, loudly enough, and you start to change the narrative all around you. Take a look at the news. At the talking points. Who is setting the conversation?

I no longer seek to react to the horror around me. Instead, I state boldly that no one gets to vote on who is human, that each of us is entitled to good health, that unions are a public good, housing is a human right, higher education should be free, corporations must be heavily taxed and regulated, and the government should be afraid of the people – people should not be afraid of the government.

I state these things as truth, without apology.

I speak my narrative. And I force the wider world to defend itself from a narrative of pure human decency, where each and every one of us has no more or less value on this earth than another.

Because the truth is human beings can create incredible things when they work together. When they see each other as human.

We can create incredible things.

We spend so much time fighting the darkness that we forget there’s another way to go about it. Building the future isn’t just about fighting the darkness. It’s about bringing the light.


Radical kindness. Empathy. Humanity. A positive, progressive vision of the future THAT INSPIRES ACTION.

That is the revolutionary future we can assert, promote, and protect.

That is how we’ll win. Not by simply fighting what we hate, but by protecting what we love.

(C’mon, you didn’t think I’d get out of here without a Star Wars reference??)

So, while I’m here, and you’re here… for as long as we’re blessed to be here…

Let’s go build the future.

One story at a time.

Saving the World One Dog at a Time

We picked up our new rescue dog, Pepper, last Wednesday. He is a good boy. Pepper is a loveable, happy mutt, about four months old. He loves to climb up on the highest point inside the house and survey his domain. He enjoys stealing Indy’s toys and eating Indy’s food. Most of all, he enjoys sleeping up in the big bed with my spouse and I, snoozing and farting all night long.

A good boy.

Pepper was at a rescue in Indiana run out of a young woman’s house, called Underdog Salvation. I drove out there after we viewed some photos of him on Petfinder and my spouse said, “That’s the one.”

The day after we picked him up, the rescue owner received her official non-profit organization status from the IRS; she posted about how creating an animal rescue had been her lifelong dream, and how that letter was a huge step toward expanding the rescue. All she’d ever wanted to do was rescue animals, and now here she was, doing what she loved, making that shit happen. And you know, reader, I had a good cry over it. There are still people out there trying to do good in the world, trying to save what we have, one piece at a time.

I have tremendous amounts of respect for people who are not only passionate about something, but who put in the hard work and take the long, slogging steps toward making that dream happen. Animal rescue folks know better than most that yeah, they can’t save everyone, but to this pet, this single animal, it getting saved sure does matter.

This is how you save the world, one life, one act, at a time.

I’ve been thinking a lot about saving the world, or not saving it, lately. Folks overseas look on America now with a new emotion, something we’re not used to: pity. People are, rightly, leaving this country in order to ensure their children have a better life. The dystopia is here for everyone, the 80’s megarich Robocop 1984 cyberpunk future that’s totalitarian and heartless, a mad government pitted against its own people. This is our reality, and it’s tough to acknowledge that reality every day while still living within it. Like many, I get tired by the endless onslaught of terror, the newest debacle, the latest demonstration of our government’s lack of empathy.

But there is always hope, of course. It’s what we’ve been writing about, all this time, the people who fight back. The ones who challenge what’s broken, those who understand you have to save the world one life at a time. 

I am imperfect. I am tired. But there are folks who have survived their government trying to kill them here in America from the very beginning. I’m just newer to the party. Many of us lived with this story, this idea, of the America we lived in. We believed it would get better. I believed the backlash would come later, maybe another five years. I was wrong. I forgot that progress is not a straight line. I forgot the power of story and media. I forgot the power of human fear and ignorance. I assumed the best in all people.

But while I may have undertaken a transformation in my life, one I call “learning how to be an adult,” other people haven’t shared that journey. I get it. They didn’t learn empathy and compassion. I want to give in to my darker, selfish side all the time. But I don’t. Because I believe that creating the future we want, that utopian Star Trek future where no one wants for anything and we are united in our goals and aims, requires that we become someone different. That scares people. Fear is powerful. I know.

Yet… hope is powerful, too. Hope that there will be a future. Hope that one life can be saved. The realization that saving that one life means everything to the one living it. We are not all collections of numbers and statistics.

I am not hopeful for the immediate future, but I am hopeful for the future that comes after it. I keep trying to imagine that future, to set it down in my mind, to imagine how my grandmother endured under the Nazis, to imagine that maybe she was looking out at her own future, at the possibilities, not immediate, but someday… someday… and living for that day. And in the mean time, you know, to get to that future, you must hold tightly to your goodness, your better self. You must continue to be kind. To save these small bits of the world around you. 

I live for small kindnesses now, and simpler pleasures. The company of a happy dog. A good glass of gin. A walk out in my yard. The satisfaction of a completed story.

Someone on Twitter noted that when we write about time-traveler stories, we are always writing about a single person coming back to the present day and changing just one small thing that will completely alter the course of history. Yet, as we live here in the present – we don’t believe that small actions can change anything.

Folks, the little things still matter. I’d argue that they matter more now, as the country we know embraces the sort of regime that we once pretended was the enemy of everything we hold dear. Mourn that world, that belief, yes, but keep saving those dogs. Keep treating others with kindness. Keep taking those long walks. Keep creating. Keep calling your reps. Keep surviving. We are here. We may not survive to the future that comes after. But these little things? They all help us get there.


If you would like to donate to Underdog Salvation, donations can be made directly to their vet account, under their name, at Southway Animal Hospital,  or purchase an item from their Amazon Wishlist.


Ongoing National Horrors Can’t Be Unplugged, But We Go On

Scalzi wrote recently about the struggle to write during the current burning of America. It may seem like a droll thing, compared to all the horror happening elsewhere, but the fact is that many of us rely on our writing income in order to eat and pay the bills. A state of constant horror and anxiety of the sort created by this administration is negatively impacting the entire country. I’m white, and I was born here, and in that I’m privileged. But I also have a chronic illness that will murder me if I lose health insurance, and I’m a woman. And we all know what this admin thinks of women and sick people, especially those that don’t vote for it.

I drank my way through the first few months of the new reality while I came to grips with it. I explored a lot of different options. And then I had to get back to work. I tried unplugging social media. I limited my use of Twitter. I relied more on Instagram. I only read the news, the real news, once a week. But as the months dragged on and I was calling my state reps almost daily during the ongoing healthcare nightmares, the cold hard truth was inescapable: I couldn’t unplug this reality. I could not get away from it.

I’d hear people talking about the latest horror while at lunch. While at work. Two women at Disneyworld got into a rant about how football players should be grateful for what they had and not create controversy (it took every bit of willpower I had not to lean over and ask what they’d think about the men’s protest if they were protesting against stricter gun laws). What happens online isn’t staying online any more than the trolls did. Trolls grow up to be president.

You can’t unplug when you’re in danger of being deported from the only country you’ve ever known, when you’re worried about gathering for a concert because you’ll be shot, when you’re in fear of your life over a traffic stop, when your access to health insurance is just one or two votes away from being rescinded, when your president is constantly threatening nuclear war because he feels his dick isn’t being sufficiently sucked.

There was some comfort in knowing that even if the worst happened, you felt the leader of your country, at least, had your back. That we were working toward transparency and accountability, even if it was all a lie. There is no filter now, though, no pretense about what America is and who it serves and what it’s for. And it’s funny to realize just how much that thin modicum of “pretending” meant to my feeling of – if not safety – then security. Obama was a smart, good, carefully calculating dude. I trusted him to make the right decision, even if I didn’t always agree with him, even knowing we, as a country, committed atrocities at home and abroad in the name of “security.”

I live in Ohio, and after the election, it was as if racists everywhere felt even more emboldened. It’s gotten worse here; I listen to them drawling on loudly now at lunch tables, without shame, just like their glorious leader. Maybe it’s easier now, that all the racism is out in the open. There’s no pretense. No pretending that America is anything else but the boiling cancer that was scabbed over with pretty words and noble ideas and great speeches. I believed things were getting better because, like many, I believed in the America that Obama talked about. I believed in an America that could be better, even knowing our history, our present.

I’m now living in a country “led” by the very worst of us. He represents everything that is awful about America; all the entitled nonsense, the white supremacy, the robber baron mentality, the staggering ignorance. I’ve looked for a lot of ways out of this timeline, but I don’t think we’re going anywhere positive. People talk about 2018 like it will be some magic parade, but I’ve seen how white minorities keep their power, and they are gerrymandering and vote-suppressing like mad to keep this future. They like it here. It’s comfortable. It’s what they know. It makes them feel powerful in a world that is changing faster than they can keep up.

Much of my malaise, then, is simply knowing that there’s so fucking much of this left. 2018 is not an out. Civil war remains a possibility. There will be more shootings, increasing surveillance, and possibly a nuclear war. These are all very real possibilities, far more probable than some magic 2018. And here’s why: If you put somebody “less bad” in power in 2018, these other people are still here. They haven’t gone away. And they will have tasted power. The only way to overcome that will be to confront it. And it’s very likely to be a violent confrontation. I don’t like that any more than ya’ll do. But I’ve seen this play out elsewhere, and the deeper we go, the more the doors close behind us when it comes to other options.

So that’s the cloud that hangs over my head as I’m writing. It’s not just the daily horrors, even, or seeing the worst in my neighbors and my family come bubbling to the surface; it’s knowing that we’re on a path for a confrontation that we haven’t seen in this country for awhile. And it has yet to be seen whether it will rival what happened in the 1960’s or… the 1860’s.

But something is going to burst.

And while the world as we knew it is breaking apart and sliding into the sea, the reality is that we still have to work. We still have to eat. We still have to get up, after a mass shooting at a concert, and go dance in the street. We still have to live. Because to cease living and working is to give in to the ultimate in despair and terror, and check out of this timeline completely. Which is precisely what all of this horror is meant to achieve. It’s to ensure that good people do nothing. It’s to ensure that good people go away.

My win today, and every day that I get out 500 words or finish a story or review a contract, is that I’m still here. I’m still working.

I’m not going away.

And if we’re not going away… we must go forward. Ever forward.

The only way out is through.

A Open Letter to All My Bullshit Relatives Cheering on My Impending Death

Dear bullshit regime-supporting relatives;

Hi, it’s me! It occurs to me that we have very different ideas about how health care should be managed in our country. This is no doubt due to the fact that I have a chronic immune disorder (inherited, even! Shit, as my relatives, you too could some day get the same condition!) and you don’t. You haven’t had to actually engage with what passes for health care in this country, especially prior to the passage of the ACA in 2010 when it was a fearful nightmare.

Currently, my medication without insurance – the medication keeping me alive and typing these words – is $1500 a month. When the regime you support removes protections for pre-existing conditions and allows health insurance providers to hike up rates for people like me, and reduce Medicare spending, I wonder who will pay these costs if I lose my job and the health insurance program I have. Will you? Gosh, it sure would seem appropriate for you to do it, since you are so upset about the idea of the government regulating this industry the same way it regulates the safety of our food and water. Remember how bad things were before the government regulated those things? I hate to break this to you, but there is only one law of the absolute free market, and that’s short-term profit. If you like your vacation days, your work hours, your work safety, your roads, safety features in your cars, and countless other protections via regulation that have likely saved both your lives and the lives of your children a million times over, then you might find that you actually prefer regulation to complete anarchy. People are shitty. You know this because your base instincts are some of the shittiest out there. It’s why you believe in the worst in people and why you believe that “those people” should just die if they can’t pay for their drugs. Why help people like your own niece, sister, daughter? You know: people like me?

Thank you for supporting my impending death.

Thank you for supporting the dissolution of the safety net I have known was there since 2010. The net that said, “Hey, if you lose your job, or you decide to write full time, no health insurance company can deny you coverage. You’ll be able to live.” See, I’ve been there before. I’ve lost my job and lived on expired drugs and ran up credit card debt to try and save myself. I did that, and it was a reality I never, ever want to go back to. I feared it so much that when the election happened, despite having a great job, a great spouse, a great life, I wanted to fucking kill myself. I wanted to end it all right there, because I didn’t want to go back to those days, to that huge fear that was always tapping at my shoulder.

That’s how bad those days were for me. 

Do you understand?

Do you have any fucking clue what it is, to live that way?

The truth is, you can’t afford my $1500 a month in meds. Neither can my parents (nor should they. I’m 37 years old, for fuck’s sake!). There are two ways to make healthcare even better in this country: further regulate health providers and insurance companies so that they can’t charge obscene rates for things we must have and which don’t cost them very much, and raise taxes on the 1% to ensure our country has more equal distribution of wealth.

That’s it. Easy!

But I known you don’t want that. You won’t support that. And neither will this regime.

So unemployment is death, for me. That’s exactly what they are planning to build. That’s exactly what you have supported, and I never want you to forget it.


This is why I want you to fuck off. Fuck so far off your high fucking horse. Fuck off. I wish you the absolute worst of everything. A cancer upon your house.  A long and lingering illness for which you need constant care, for ten, twenty, thirty years. I want you kicked out of a hospital because you can’t pay. I want you to feel the full brunt of exactly what you have voted for. I want you to experience your Ayn Randian future to the absolute fullest. I want you to reap what you have sown here. And, more importantly: I want you to understand that you chose this for yourself. 

Because it’s not “those other people” you consigned to death and fear and anxiety, which would have been bad enough.

No, it wasn’t “the Other,” to you.

It was me.

Your daughter.

Your sister.

Your niece.

You are a motherfucking monster.

And I will never, ever forgive you for that. 



Let’s Talk About the Future

Once again into the breach, the current bumfuck governing body that 62 million people voted in has failed to come to a consensus about just how much they should fuck over the people who voted for them (and everyone else, but also those 62 million).

Yet they carry on, because of course they do, despite the fact that nobody who voted for or against them agrees with what they’re doing. My best guess is that they believe they are ordained by God to make these poor decisions, as if Jesus murdered lepers instead of healing them.

But I digress.

The reason we keep calling, and we keep trying to save even the current mess that is the ACA, is that many of us would die or struggle without it. Many knew that this is exactly what current admin would try and do, regardless of who it hurt. It’s why some with chronic conditions and issues turned to a dark place after the election, and I could not blame them. I was in that dark place for a long time. I have a great life, a great spouse, a roof over my head, a job, but I despaired too. I drank too much, and I lost a lot of time. Because I knew the truth. I knew how hard this was going to be. I knew we’d fight a long time, and that even if we fought, we would probably lose again and again and again, because all those things we think are laws in this country are tempered absolutely by the conscience and decency of one’s leaders. Elect incompetent people who have no shame, and pair them with incompetent people who want power and/or feel they are Ordained By God to Rule, and you are fucked. It’s the same in every country.

I have written about what life was like for me before the ACA, and the feeling of relief I had when it passed. It’s a relief I’ve been living with for four years, and that relief has helped give me the courage to pursue my writing without undue worry. I knew I’d never, ever have to go through the fear and terror of being uninsured, living on expired insulin, ever again, no matter what layoffs headed my way.

But the repeal of ACA will bring us back to that dark time. I understand why people feel despair, because I feel it too. I hustle like hell, even with health insurance, to pay for my meds and my premiums. I can guarantee Congress that I “pay my share” at about $12k a year in premiums, deductibles, and co-pays. How many iPhones is that, Chaffetz?

Saving the ACA is pretty personal, for me. And whether or not many in my family realize it, it’s vital to them as well. I have a niece and nephew with chronic conditions. My dad has chronic issues, and both my parents are nearing retirement age, and with Medicaid under the gun and Medicare next, I have no idea how they will pay for their healthcare after they are no longer able to work.

If we save the ACA I keep my “in case I’m laid off/fired” healthcare safety net. If we save ACA I could be a full-time writer someday. If we don’t save ACA and I lose my job for any reason, I’ll probably die. Meds are $1500 a month to keep me alive (not counting premiums).

When I went to pick up my latest round of meds and the pharmacy tech asked if I knew the bill ($500) I said “Oh yes. But I’ll die without them. So they kind of have me over a barrel.”

And she said, “I guess I would die, then. That’s more than I make in a week.”

This is America. People work hard. There’s a narrative among many in this country – even my own family! – that the problem is that people don’t have jobs, or don’t work hard enough. This is an insidious lie. The truth is that care is unregulated; hospitals have no formal pricing list; capitalism is a shitty way to run a healthcare system; it’s inefficient, and the government says hospitals must pay for everyone who comes to ER, but doesn’t reimburse them for it (best they can do is claim it as a loss on taxes). Our healthcare system is overly complicated, and the truth is that what’s going to help fix it is a regulated system and a giant Medicare-for-Everyone option that forces places to agree on pricing structures and streamline them. Our current patchwork capitalist system is murdering people; it’s not providing the best care in the world. Far, far, from it.

I hustle like hell at a day job, with the Patreon, and with my novel writing to both make ends meet and live a good life. And I’m desperate to keep making money because I don’t know when it will stop and everything will turn back to what it was. Don’t tell me I don’t deserve expensive care. The whole fucking POINT of civilization is that we work together to make a better world.

We are all affected by this one way or another. Some more than others. Some later more than now. Some now more than later. It’s what health insurance and health care systems are for. If something terrible happens to you, as it happened to me, then you can rely on insurance to help you manage it. But with out of control costs and unregulated insurance carriers, you end up with a Wild West hodgepodge of scammers and incompetents. No one is there to hold them accountable. They know that.

Many fear the government, and the over-regulation of the government. I get that. But the truth is, we ELECT our governement. If they are shit, kick them the fuck out. The government works for US. They should be afraid of US. We should not be afraid of them.

Everyone deserves care. I don’t care if you work or don’t work or you’re citizen or not. We are all humans. We should care about other humans. If you think people deserve to die because they don’t have money to pay for life-saving treatment I can’t help you.

What has made humans successful isn’t our brains or standing upright. It’s that we care for each other. We cooperate. Together, we are better than one. Libertarianism sounds like a real fun idea until you break your legs in the woods. Who the fuck is going to save you then, huh?

People. People will fucking save you. Because we work together. We take care of each other. We ensure that even those who are born with the least are given enough resources and opportunities to compete with those born with the most. THAT is equality. That’s the American story we tell ourselves, but still haven’t been able to make true.

It’s working together that has led to every single success humanity has achieved over these 200k years. To survive, we must work together. And yes, that means caring for those among us who are most vulnerable. You, me, your kids, your neighbors, your friends, your future.

We can have our Star Trek future. But we have to believe in it. And we have to shine a light on it. And we have to build it. Together.

I have talked a lot about fighting. Fight the future, fight the darkness. But it’s fighting that got us here. It’s fighting that makes the 62 million so desperate and fearful. I understand, now, that this isn’t just about fighting. It’s not a war that requires guns. This is a war of stories, and to de-escalate requires more than having a bigger gun. It requires being the very best people we can be. It requires compassion. It requires cooperation.

Most of all, getting to the future we want isn’t about flailing around in the darkness, punching walls. Getting the future we want is about bringing the light.

We must be the light in the darkness.

And each of us, every one of us together, all those little pinpoints of light – that’s what will secure this future. Hope, coming together, bringing the light.

Be the light.

Believe in that future.

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.