The Desire to Kill: Blood Fantasy, Guns, & the Song of the Week (4/20/2015)

monkey-with-a-gun

A while back, I was watching a discussion about gun control on Facebook. One commenter identified himself as a gun owner and said, “If anyone comes into my home without invitation they aren’t coming out alive.”

It was, of course, the typical overweening and simplistic power-fantasy posturing we see from so many gun owners. I was curious about the guy, so I glanced at his wall, where I saw him complain that both pro-gun and anti-gun folks couldn’t argue reasonably on the issue. And yet, all he brought to the discussion where I encountered him was his “I have a gun, I am powerful, I will kill the wabbit” comment.

I started to ask him if shooting a prowler non-fatally would be enough, doing just enough to stop them from their dread and fearful action but not actually taking their life. But I’ve been in such discussions, and the answer is always that if they’re on the gun guy’s turf, they’re dead. It’s not just a matter of using the gun as a practical tool in order to do what is necessary to protect yourself. It’s a matter of violent punishment: you’re on my turf, so you die.

And, you know, that’s a different sort of mindset than we want with gun owners, really. We allow police to carry guns, and we train them how to use them properly and responsibly (whether they actually do is, alas, another matter). Do we tell them, “If someone is involved in a crime, use your mighty boomstick and slay them?” No. We teach them to (hopefully) do the minimum violence necessary to solve the problem.

You don’t see that mindset in gun owners, or not very often. They harbor this violent power fantasy in which their gun is their talisman against evil and they are victorious (and unerringly accurate and effective) heroes in the dark and bloody moment. It’s not just that they might have to kill in certain circumstances, it’s that they want to. And that very critical difference ought to be enough to make us wonder if they, as a group, really have the maturity to wield these powerful weapons, or if their very stated desire to wield death is reason enough to question allowing them to have them.

Here’s a look at what letting them costs us.

And here’s the Song of the Week…

“Whenever Kindness Fails” (live) – Robert Earl Keen

Super Girls, Chocolate Men, and My Very Own Misogyny

Supergirl

[NOTE: I may be wading into perilous waters with this post, but I hope, whatever your feelings on these matters, you’ll read it all the way through and not just reflexively dismiss me as an unworthy ally. Your comments are welcome, preferably here rather than on Facebook or elsewhere.]

A few days ago, I saw an artist post a Supergirl drawing to his feed on Facebook. It was definitely cheesecake, so some folks would react to it like it was an assault on all that is holy, but it was just a simple pinup with an old-style sweet sexiness to it.

The first comment under the picture was from some guy who wrote, “More like SuperBITCH!!!”

I was taken aback. I’ve seen stupid. I’ve seen misogynistic. But what the fuck was in this asshole’s head when he wrote that? Did he think he was complimenting the artist’s work somehow? Did he think he was making a boisterous positive statement about the hot superhero in the drawing? Did he think what he was saying was edgy or cool and made him look good? What the fuck was he trying to communicate? Surely it wasn’t “I’m a pathetic shithead,” which was what I saw him saying.

I don’t know if the artist was annoyed, if he let the comment stand on his page, or if he might have even agreed with the comment (whatever weird message it held). But all of that was secondary to my confusion about what was in that guy’s head and the bleak disquiet I felt seeing him express it.

§

I posted the above on Facebook. Ironically, my very next post was apparently so misogynistic that it inspired another writer (whom I share real world friends with and have a good amount of respect for) to kick me off his friends list: Continue reading

Writers Who Kill Kittens

Don't lets the mean writer killz me...

Don’t lets the mean writer killz me…

So, I’m reading a discussion about how we should or shouldn’t let a writer’s politics affect our enjoyment of their fiction, and I see this:

“I don’t give the yuck cut of a rat for any writer’s politics. Can they tell a story that I’m going to enjoy and read over and over? Then I’ll damn well read them despite their politics. The only reason I won’t read Pournelle isn’t political, he stapled a kitten to a door. Once you start torturing cats…we’re done.”

Holy shit. Jerry Pournelle stapled a kitten to a door? That’s a horrible thing to do. What an asshole.

Oh, someone clarifies that the poor kitten was actually just in a story. Whew.

Then, the original commenter digs in: “Anyone tortures a cat in their fiction and I won’t read them again. Yeah, it was in one of Pournelle’s novels. But for it to be in one of his novels, he had to think of it.”

Good grief. I just had this argument (again) with people who think that George RR Martin is a monstrous woman-hater because terrible things happen to his female characters in books in which terrible things happen to everybody. (Never mind the fact that the women in Martin’s books are strong and fierce and smart and competent and complex…)

People, fiction is fiction. It is not real life. Depiction of terrible things is not endorsement of terrible things. Depiction of terrible things is drama. It is the fuel of fiction. The first rule of good drama is to mistreat your characters. And maybe even the occasional kitten.

Hating on a writer for what happens in their story is stupid. It’s no better than hating an actor as a person because she played a terrible person in that movie you saw and therefore must be a terrible person.

This isn’t to say that awful people don’t sometimes lace their awfulness into their work, or that they shouldn’t be taken to task over it. Some writers are racists and sexists and nazis and maybe even kitten killers. I’m not gonna defend The Turner Diaries for its very clear agenda (though I will fiercely defend its author’s right to write it any damn way he wanted to).

And if an author states vile opinions outside of their fiction which resonate with themes in their fiction, they’re inviting criticism on those terms so they’re fair game. If you want to peek inside the brains of some truly awful folks, read the blogs written by the “Sad Puppies” and “Rabid Puppies” groups who’ve hijacked science fiction’s Hugo Awards this year. Writers like Theodore Beale aka “Vox Day”, Tom Kratman, and John C. Wright are writers you can comfortably read knowing that they’re the very worst sort of person. Here’s some reasoned debate I saw from Kratman, on Sad Puppy Brad Torgersen’s blog, when some guy mildly disagreed with him:

Kratman

He went on like this for a while, threatening to track the guy down and hurt him. So yeah, douchebag. Sling all the brickbats.

But, in general, assuming that a writer condones terrible things because those things happen in their stories is not just simple-minded, it’s anti-art. Have some goddamned perspective, for pity’s sake. Fight the good fight, not just any possible fight. Don’t like an author’s work? That’s fine, don’t read it. But leave the poor author alone.

No kittens were harmed in the writing of this post.

The Sharp Knife of a Short Life

Mom

My mother died.

I don’t remember her, not on any conscious level. But her absence has been a void in my world that I…

I can’t even begin to express.

But the love she gave me, in her short life, all she got to live, before I was even really aware…

Has kept me alive.

Has made me a man who truly loves, and who can accept love.

Has kept me alive.

Has nurtured hope, even when I can’t make myself stand.

Has kept me alive.

I don’t even have a photograph of her. But I feel her smile in me. Life with her would have been so much goddamned better.

But she has kept me alive.

Mom, this song of the week is for you….

The Band Perry – “If I Die Young”

I’m Back. Ish.

Tim, with hat

Hi.

Nice to see you. Yeah, I know, it’s been a while.

I’ve been largely offline for months, and so socially out-of-touch that calling me a shut-in would be sadly appropriate. In that time, I haven’t accomplished much to speak of, either; I was in almost full retreat from the world and I let most of the things I’d been juggling crash to the ground.

I stopped doing social media. I rarely answered the phone. I mostly left my cave only to get the mail (about once a week) and to go grocery shopping (every week or two). I even stopped reading my personal email for the most part, and as a result I now have over sixteen thousand unread messages in my inbox to dig through.

Basically, my motivation and energy collapsed into a black hole and I went with it. It was a surrender to fear and failure, but also a release I needed to keep breathing. At first, I thought that I’d get back to things tomorrow, or the day after, or the day after that…but as time passed, I was more and more weighed down by my own indolence, and I came to see that this break from responsibility, and from the world, was very possibly necessary for my actual survival.

How did I get to this dark and dreary place?

I had some physical health problems. Nothing major, but enough to wear on me. I felt weak and, because of the depression, unable to care for myself as well as I need to.

People close to me had health problems, including someone who is now fighting cancer and relying on me for help as she undergoes treatment.

My beloved cat, Scamp, was killed by a coyote.

I ran into professional obstacles. My indie-published version of Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom, beautifully illustrated by Gary Chaloner, wasn’t exactly selling like gangbusters in spite of great reviews and responses from people who read it. As I write this, the book has a 4.6 stars out of 5 rating on Amazon, and it has had rave reviews from Kirkus, Publisher’s Weekly, and folks like Daniel Pinkwater and Zack Stentz (a screenwriter of Thor, X-Men: First Class, Fringe, and other notable productions). But it has only received 17 new reader reviews since its release in May 2013 (the rest were from its earlier edition from Putnam), and that’s not enough activity to help it rise in Amazon’s algorithms to be seen by more potential readers. I wanted very much to continue the series as planned, in fully illustrated volumes as nice as this one, but I was losing faith that the market would support that.

Also, as some of you know, Gary had to leave the series because of scheduling concerns, and when I hired artist Tess Fowler for the second book, she ripped me off. This was a blow to my budget but even more to my confidence. With that unfortunate trauma fresh in mind, I was faced not only with finding another artist but with the fear that this sort of thing could happen again. And, as noted above, I wasn’t even sure whether I should stick with the plans for illustration at all.

And all that was stressing me out like crazy.

So, I sank. I disappeared. I hid. I hibernated. As much as I could, I recovered.

My only real joy during this time came from my son, who is now away at college and thriving and who is an exemplary human being who makes me very proud, and my hot tropical sweetheart, Nydia, who is always there for me and ever understanding of my battle. (Happy Valentine’s Day, baby!)

Thank you, also, to those of you who may have messaged me, worried by my absence. I’m deeply touched by your concern and hope this post answers your questions. It’s times like this that you find out who your friends really are.

Now what?

Now…I drag myself back into the light and try to rebuild.

On the personal level, I’ll be tentatively reacquainting myself with the world at large. I’ll be back on social media. I’ll start digging through my email. I’ll keep fighting the ever-hungry darkness that is my depression, and I’ll try to start taking better care of myself again.

On the professional level, I’ll ease myself back into writing, and I’ll be putting a great deal of thought into how best to expend my energy and resources.

As for Doc Wilde…I remain committed to the character, and to his fans. I remain committed to the folks who supported us on Kickstarter, and to the promises I made to them. I’m sorry it’s taking so long, but I’ll make good. The ultimate state of these books will depend on how the market continues to receive them, and if I am able, I will deliver fully illustrated volumes to match the first book. If the market remains soft, I may be forced to settle for nice covers. Regardless, the books will come. (In the meantime, friendly word-of-mouth and honest reviews on Amazon and other sites could be very helpful, and would be very appreciated).

So, onwards and upwards. I’ll be around.

TESS FOWLER: I Let The Artist Have Her Say

As many visitors to my blog are aware, last year I had the misfortune of hiring artist Tess Fowler for art duties on my second Doc Wilde book. I paid her a thousand dollars and received nothing but a handful of rough character sketches, and I don’t even have the originals of those.

I detailed the disintegration of the deal and both my and Tess’s behavior in extreme detail, using our actual correspondence,  in this post.  It tells everything you need to know about our entire working relationship, and about Tess’s choices at the end.

As someone commented on the one followup post I wrote, there are two sides to every story. I agreed and stated, “Tess is completely welcome to share her side here.” Of course, she never took me up on the offer.

She did, however, post a lengthy diatribe on Facebook. I didn’t see it on her page because Tess has me blocked (and I have better things to do than monitor her behavior), but several of her friends sent me the information pretty much immediately. A couple even provided actual screenshots of the post and its resultant discussion.

I’m going to share those screenshots with you. This is the closest thing to Tess’s side of the story that she has provided, and I feel no compunction about showing it to you because it was posted publicly. I’ll offer commentary as we read it together.

1

First, everything I have ever posted on this matter is demonstrably true. There’s a reason I used our actual emails and was so thorough in my account; I wanted folks to have all the information they needed to come to their own conclusions about what happened. There are no emails I refuse to show publicly, and you may notice that she says there are but never shows them to anyone.

And yeah, based on my experiences, I’d definitely recommend nobody else hire her. I’m not running a smear campaign, but I damn sure can’t give her a good reference.

2

Bullshit. I stand by the post I linked to at the start of this one as a rebuttal of what she says here. I in no way abused Tess, and since my feeble attempts to contact her to ask that she resume work (attempts she completely ignored), I have made no other attempts to contact her. It’s easy for her to claim that I am “stalking” her, but I challenge her to prove that very libelous charge.

Further, since shutting me out as described in the original post, she has neither tried to discuss matters with me nor in any way offered in any way to continue the work. She blew me off entirely, kept my money, and I’ve had no contact with her of any sort since she did, not even these mythical emails she references yet again without producing them, except that the day I first saw these screenshots I emailed her, offering to get back to work whenever she was ready. She never replied.

I, however, was very public about the fact that I was willing to get back to work with her. She is a talented artist, I liked her take on my characters, and I was already out a thousand dollars so it was fully in my interest to try to get my money’s worth, even after the trauma I’d already suffered.

For the record, that offer no longer holds. I’ve accepted the loss of my money and the lessons learned and there’s no way in hell I’d work with her again.

3

Again, the emails she could produce, but doesn’t. Ever. Whereas I shared damn near every meaningful correspondence we ever had.

And again, bullshit that she ever offered to continue work after communications broke down.

And note here that I am “a madman.” What she means is that I suffer from depression, and she’s trying to use that against me. In a very libelous way.

4

I’d really like to see those emails. If called on it by someone, at most she could produce (and possibly misrepresent) emails I already quoted in my original post, because there has been nothing since. Again, I tried to sweet-talk her back to work after the communications breakdown, and then I’d have jumped on the chance to get back to work on the book because I had, after all, already paid her.

Now, the discussions began:

5

Again, portraying me as crazy because I’m depressed, and the continued insinuation that I’m stalking her via email and phone.

6

You know what? I do know exactly what I can get away with, because I’ve talked to a lawyer too. For something to be considered libel, it has certain criteria it needs to meet, chief among them the stated information has to be untrue. I’m not worried about her lawyers because I have no reason to be worried about her lawyers. And I’m pretty sure that the three different lawyers she spoke to all pretty much told her that.

7

I think that may be my favorite bit.

8

Ironically, the message I received from Tess blocking me and not responding to my emails or calls was very much “Sit down and shut up.”

9

Tess knew I suffered from depression the entirety of our working relationship. I’m very open about it, and about my battles with it. It’s even all over this blog.

And yes, Gary Chaloner, the original Doc Wilde artist, left the series (he didn’t think he could keep up with the workload), but he remains very much a part of the Wilde family, as well as a friend. Our working relationship was always professional, I was thrilled with the book we turned out together (Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom), and I have nothing but respect for him. We had delays and the book took longer to do than we’d planned, but Gary was never anything less than a trooper and I’d recommend him in a heartbeat to anyone who wants a talented, reliable artist. I invite anyone who thinks Gary left because of interpersonal dynamics to contact him directly and ask.

There was more discussion under Tess’s post, but the topics drifted away from me, so  there’s little point in sharing it. For the record, her post was made way back at the end of January, and there’s been no contact or any activity of any sort between Tess and me since. I intended to post this message ever since, but she’s no longer any sort of priority; the only reason I’m going ahead and posting now is because I want transparency for Doc Wilde supporters, so they know what happened and why the second book is delayed. This was also a way to let Tess tell her side of things.

I honestly wish things had gone differently, that Tess had actually been open to continuing the book. She’s a gifted draftswoman and I think the book we produced would have been beautiful.

Now, I wipe my hands of her.

UPDATE: Another of Tess’s victims has come forward and let me share his account. Read it here.