2018

Fighting Evil Is Subversive Now

I went to see Wicked this weekend. Though I love Oz with the purity of a preadolescent, somehow I managed to go into the theater with only the loosest idea of what the show is about: something-something friendship, something-something misunderstood, something-something other side of the story.

It was much, much more than I was expecting, and dear reader, you yourself risk spoilers by continuing to read this post.

At the intermission, I remarked to one of my theater companions that the first act ended where I assumed the whole show did, with Elphaba and Glinda separated by a gulf of ideology and ambition that seemed forever uncrossable. And yet there was the second act to come.

The piece I was missing was the part where you have to decide whether to collaborate with Nazis because it’s advantageous and easy, or if you should sacrifice reputation and opportunity in order to do the right thing. Where you can stand up for the vulnerable or avert your eyes and let it happen since it’s not happening to you. How you have to keep making that same choice again and again and again.

Topical, isn’t it?

That means Wicked has joined such previously uncontroversial pieces of media as The Sound of Music, Wolfenstein 3D, and The Force Awakens in becoming something altogether different from what it might have been in the other timeline, the one where the election turned out the other way. I’ve always heard that the audience for a story brings as much to the table as the writer does, and now, finally, finally, I understand that.

Three years ago, suggesting that you were fighting tooth and claw for equality, justice, and compassion was at best twee and a little over the top. Like saying you were in favor of friendship. Of course you were. Who in the world is against justice and compassion? But now, so quickly I would never have believe it possible, we’ve plunged into an era when saying that all people are equal is subversive. It’s an act of resistance. 

Then again, some people think the Declaration of Independence is subversive now, too. Maybe we’re onto something. Keep fighting, friends.


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Bookburners Season 4 Is Here!

Oh, oh, hello, I — I didn’t see you there. Things have been... well... 

72,051 of 90,000 words

72,051 of 90,000 words

Yes, that about sums it up. Ahem.  We’ll get back to that in a moment.

Meanwhile... forgive my hair and the musky smell around my general person, and open your ears. Gentlefolk all, I have brought you all together here today for a very exciting piece of news. Bookburners Season 4 has begun!

Episode 1 is available to read for free (!!!) right now, and you can preorder the omnibus for the season right now, too. Where? You can as always buy individual episodes or a season subscription for the audio and ebooks from Serial Box directly. Or head on over to my Buy My Books page for the complete roundup of retailers; available at a fine bookselling website near you, more or less.

For those of you who are new around here, Serial Box publishes ebook and audio versions of bite-sized serial fiction.  It’s like HBO for ebooks, so we use a lot of ebook language — a bunch of writers work together to make a great story, and then split each season into distinct episodes which are released once a week. And Bookburners is a fantasy series about a black ops team working out of the Vatican who hunt down and confines magic.

It is alternately creepy, sweet, moody, action-packed, and deeply weird — and I can say all that because I only write two episodes a season so I can’t take all the credit. My co-writers,  Max Gladstone, Mur Lafferty, Margaret Dunlap, and Brian Frances-Slattery are the absolute best most funnest people in the world to work with. (Except for maybe all of my other teams, XOXO, I love you all equally, it’s just that it’s a LOT.)

If you’re not new to Bookburners... you guys. YOU GUYS. This season goes into some uncharted territory and I am flailing with excitement at what’s in store for you. I really can’t wait.

Finally, while I have you, I thought I’d issue a quick PSA about the ~*~super neat trick~*~ Serial Box does. You can start reading an episode on the official Serial Box app, and switch to audio — and it magically knows where you were and continues from the same page! Pretty neat, huh? I could’ve used something like that when I was a commuter. Text on the noisy train ride, but audio on the walk to the station, with seamless switching in between. Dang. (It’s only for iOS right now, but I swear the Android version is coming.)

Right. Right. So about that word count thing up there. It’s been quiet around here for the last few months because, as you may have guessed from my last post, I’ve been struggling hard with burnout and illness and kind of a hot mess. But I’ve also been plugging away at a deeply political novel for the last few months. I’m not quite there yet, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel from here.  

For a while I think I’m going to use this space as a little bit of public accountability, talking about the wild and ridiculous state of my book, my process, and myself. It’ll be a good time. Thanks for sticking around. You are, as always, the best.


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Endurance

One year ago today, Fireside Magazine published The Revolution, Brought To You By Nike. It was a wish, a prayer, my desperate hope for something that might come to pass if all of us just believed in it hard enough. In the few weeks between Fireside agreeing to buy it and the piece actually running, we saw airport protests and record-shattering donations to the ACLU. I had a strange, glorious fear that my wish might come true, and perhaps we’d see a resignation even before the story had a chance to run. That my work would be obsolete on arrival.

Yeah, so that didn’t happen. 

One year on, though, it’s become clear that we’re running a marathon and not a sprint. The adrenaline and raw terror of what America might become have given way to a sort of grim resolve. Like so many of us, I’m still angry, I’m still upset, but I no longer feel like I can’t see a way we’ll make it through as a single functioning nation. It doesn’t feel like the entire world has literally ended and all goodness and light have been extinguished, the way that it truly did a year ago.

That’s not to say that all of us are going to be just fine, because that’s decidedly not true. Great harm is being done every day, particularly by ICE — families are being torn apart, innocents harassed and deported. The great work of our nation is being dismantled, piece by piece: science, public health, civic protections. The most vulnerable among us will be paying the price for years to come.

Actual goddamn Nazis are on the national stage, as if a pair of khakis and a white polo shirt could make anything at all seem sensible. Corruption in government is all but yawn-worthy, something to expect and not to be shocked by.

But now, after a year, we know the shape of the problem we’re up against. Further, we know that the villains running this circus are laughably incompetent and lacking in anything approaching a grand strategy. We know that change can come in elections in places like Missouri, Virginia and Alabama — and if there, then surely everywhere else. We know that the courts are not going to roll over and let every horror come to pass without a fight, and we know that the Department of Justice is investigating the many wrongs of this administration — and has been for at least two years now.

Most important of all, we know — we keep seeing it, time and again — that there are more of us than there are of them. And by “us” I mean: people who think a society should take care of absolutely everybody. People who care about the struggles even of those we have never met and never will. People who think we have a responsibility toward one another.

This is an endurance game, and my friends, the advantage is genuinely ours the longer the clock runs down. We have each other, and we have the resolve to act. That means it’s not going to be like this forever.  And in the meanwhile, there’s so much to do. We have a duty to do any little thing we can and use whatever power we possess to try to make the world kinder, safer, more compassionate — or to be a thorn in the side of power, if that’s more your speed.

None of us has to save the world alone, thank god. But all of us can save the world together. It just takes time, that’s all. 


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Health, Work, Discipline, and Pandemic 2018

Yeah, hi. Hi! Hello there! I am writing to you live from my living room, which is nothing short of a miracle on several fronts: I am not asleep, I am not buried under a pile of tissues, I am upright and dressed in daytime clothes, I’m even well enough that I feel like I have spare brain cycles and words to spare for a blog post, rather than pursuing any of my more pressing interests or obligations. Whew.

We won’t talk about my coughing fits, though. 

You may correctly surmise from this that I have had the flu. This is true! I had the flu, but the cough stuck around, and something-something bronchitis plus nose and throat inflammation, something something secondary infections, no seriously are you SURE you’re not a smoker...? (I am not a smoker. I have never been a smoker. I had to assure them several times. They didn’t seem to want to believe me?) 

This blog post, then, is made possible by no less than six prescription medications because asthma sucks, and so do secondary infections following influenza. Get your flu shots, kids, wash your hands a lot, and this year, if you get a sore throat and cough three times, get to the doctor ASAP for Tamiflu. Be quick about it. Tamiflu doesn’t do much if you don’t start it within a day or so.

So I haven’t done a lot of work over the last *looks at calendar* wow, three weeks. To be sure I’ve done some work — some few thousands of words of novel-writing and light scheduling — but nothing like the volume I’d set for myself as my January goals. I’d hoped to have almost twice as many words written than I have. I’d hoped to be on top of my email. These things have not happened.

Oh, but I’ve been sick. I can’t possibly expect myself to work when I’m sick, can I? Or... can I?  Health fails us all in the end, and if I don’t find a way to work even when my lungs don’t quite work right, even when my head is full of biowaste, even when I’m tired, surely this means I lack the discipline to pursue my craft and I should...

Shh, shh, stop laughing so hard, you’ll make a scene. People will stare.

There are many true facts underpinning this spectacularly flawed logic. One is that you can’t and shouldn’t wait for everything to feel and be right before you embark in your creative work. There will always be another set of dishes to be washed, another errand you should run, another loose end you really need to tie off before you can focus. And you do have to be disciplined to write. Doing the writing inevitably means not doing something else — maybe that something is a video game, but maybe it’s also laundry.

That other thing you are not doing so you can write should not ever be “resting so that your health improves.” 

It’s also true that one of the not-very-joyful joys of age involves an increasing degree of disability for most of us, and we all eventually need to find ways to work within the framework of our capabilities. I mull over this from time to time, wondering if I’m really feeling so poorly, or if I’m just making excuses to be lazy. But this working-through-the-pain should never happen at the cost of meaningful recovery, or if that’s not the hand you’ve been dealt, at the cost of worsening what level of health you have.

I think a lot about how Jim Henson died of pneumonia. It was a secondary infection after the flu. If he had arrived at a hospital eight hours earlier, he might have lived.

Take care of yourself, blossoms, and rest when you need it, and see a doctor if you possibly can. The future needs you much, much more than right now does.

 


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Happy New Year

I love New Year the way that some people love Halloween or Christmas: deeply, fiercely, reverently. I look forward to it for months, and I put as much care into planning out the celebration as I do if I’m hosting Thanksgiving.

....But less actual cooking, per se. It’s all fancy cold-served snack foods up in here, and movies in our PJs, with our family all piled up together like puppies. This year’s going to be gangbusters — we’re planning seven kinds of cheese alone, including one we’re making ourselves!

My affection for this particular holiday shouldn’t surprise those of you who have been around here for a while. I love New Year so much that I’m even given to throwing a New New Year a few months on, whenever I feel like I need a clean slate. (Try it sometime! I highly recommend it. There is power in giving yourself a new chance to be and live the way you mean to whenever you need one.)

But I also love this stretch of days leading up to our collective fresh start. Right now we’re in the liminal space between 2017 and 2018, looking backwards and forwards in equal measure. It’s the time for weighing, judging, and planning. Time to discard ideas and practices that bring us harm and shape new ones.

This is particularly difficult as we leave 2017. It’s been a hard year, and 2018 shows no signs of being any easier on us. Unfortunately, the struggles many of us face are imposed on us by the circumstances of the world, and lie well outside of our own control. What’s the use in resolving to lose ten pounds or drink less when everything will still be on fire if you succeed?

But the point of it all is that we are still here. Our spark has not been extinguished, and as long as there is breath in us, there is always more and better we can do. So in this quiet week of reflection, I would urge you to take some time to look within and find the spark burning inside of you. Don’t undervalue what you can do with your time and your care. Even kind words can be great works if you apply them in the right time and place.

Remember that New Year is all about hope and renewal. The light is coming back. It always comes back. 

 


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