The Perfect is the Enemy of the Good

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Photo © SARAH HOBBS

Or in my case, maybe, of the mediocre? I’m not really all that superstitious, but at this point I don’t really want to jynx anything by getting too far ahead of myself.

This is something that all writers have to figure out how to come to terms with, I think; at least, I’ve bumped up against it in academic work, and I’ve heard a number of published authors talk about it with regard to their novels, so I think at this point we’re in “truth universally acknowledged” territory.

That is: the thing you’re writing is never going to be perfect. It’s not even going to be close. In his intro to the 10th-anniversary edition of American Gods, Neil Gaimon referenced an old saying: “a novel can best be defined as a long piece of prose with something wrong with it”. In the last apartment I was in, I remember I actually printed that out and pinned it to my corkboard as a reminder.

Unfortunately, looking at an inspirational phrase is not the same thing as really believing it.

I managed to successfully finish my 0-draft – what I’m calling my “Sketch” – of my novella during NaNoWriMo, and pulled together the courage to send that off to friends and also to my mother and my mother-in-law for feedback. The good news is that nobody said that I was horrible or that I should go and die in a ditch somewhere.

Not that I was really expecting anyone to say that.

Not really.

The other good news was that everyone had some really constructive things to say, and they all seemed to have heard my explanation that this was just a quick scribble draft, and no one got too hung up on the writing.

The bad news is that the deadline for submissions at Tor is January 12th, which is only 21 days away, and 21 days is not a lot of time!!!

Of course, I knew I wasn’t going to have a lot of time to do this. My last entry here was about pretty much just that. But there’s a difference between knowing it and feeling it, and right now I feel like I’m all but drowning in the understanding of how little time I have and how much I need to do.

The problem is that there’s more feedback than I can act on in the timeframe that I have. I only had a month to conceptualize this entire thing, and that definitely shows in some areas that are underdeveloped. I knew I had areas of weakness, and I thought I was okay with that, but having readers come back and point them out to me makes me want to sit down and try to rework everything from the ground up, and I don’t have time to do that.

On the other hand, it feels irresponsible to blithely continue going when I know there’s a problem. My brain’s super-helpful solution to this dilemma is to just stop functioning; if I can’t write the perfect thing, clearly I shouldn’t write anything at all.

Well, that’s obviously nonsense. The only thing worse than writing a flawed story is not writing a story at all because it’s flawed. You don’t learn anything from holding back. If you wait until you’re perfect before you try something, you’re just never going to do anything, ever.

So, with that said, I’m trying to push forward. It feels like I’m running in molasses and I’m fairly sure I’m going to be disappointed by the result, but I’ll be damned if I let that stop me.

Still, it’s a challenge.

December means Go!

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So a friend of mine told me in mid-October that Tor is accepting open submissions for novellas until 01-12-2017.

Great! I said.

I’ve never written a novella, and I’ve only read a handful of them; I like my fantasy series to have a dozen books, so I can really roll around in the universe. A 20,000-40,000 word limit is more intimidating to me right now than a 10,000 word History essay ever was in high school.

Well, comfort zones are for getting out of, right?

They’re looking for stories that are either: epic fantasy, sword and sorcery, high fantasy, or quest fantasy.

Great! I said.

I’m sure there are people who can write a 20,000 word Epic fantasy masterpiece, but I’m pretty sure I’m not one of them. Similar problem with high fantasy. Sword and sorcery is fun to read, but I’ve never really been the type to play a fighter or a barbarian. Clashing shields and fireballs, not so much my thing.

Good thing I’ve always wanted to write a quest!

That is a lie. I have never wanted to write a quest; I find them frustrating a lot of the time, mostly because my life never follow such neat paths and I have a hard time believing it for anyone else. But that thing I was saying about comfort zones is no less true now than it was four paragraphs ago, and with NaNoWriMo looming, I figured it was at least worth a shot, right?

I honestly wasn’t sure I was going to be able to make it through NaNo. The story I had was unlike anything I’ve ever tried to play with before, the format was short and strange, and of course life had no intention of pausing for a month to let me get my feet under me, because life is a jerk. I spent most of the month 7,000 words behind quota, and realized half way through that one of my three characters had about as much personality as cardboard. Thanks to the never-ending support of my wife, my cat, and my Appa plushie, I managed to push through and get the first draft finished on November 30 at 8:30 pm.

Cue celebratory hot chocolate, kitten snuggles, good night sleep.

Spend a couple of days getting caught up on schoolwork, groceries, the whole post-nano deal.

And then, of course, I wake up and realize what I’ve done: written a first draft.

Right!

So now I guess it’s time to roll up my sleeves, get the big mug in off the shelf, and see how quickly I can turn a first draft into a decent second draft, and a second draft into something that’s worth submitting to a publishing house.

Honestly, one of the scariest things I’ve ever contemplated doing, but if I can get it right, it’ll be worth it.

Fingers crossed! Here we go!

Quickie – One Salt Sea

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Just finished One Salt Sea by Seanan McGuire, and I’m falling more and more in love with each brutal gut punch she writes.

Anyone interested in my thoughts should feel free to wander over to my review on Goodreads. Anyone interested in a good book should consider checking out my review of Rosemary and Rue, which is the first book in the October Daye series, and then should go and pick up the book and read it themselves and maybe even let me know what they think!

 

Unlikely Sources …

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A friend of mine is starting an Estonian class, and she amused herself tonight by reading through the glossary at the end of the book. We aren’t quite sure when the textbook was made, or by whom, but the words they evidently think are crucial for a potential student to know are endearingly bizarre.

She pointed out that they might make some entertaining writing prompts, so I’m writing them down before I lose them all in a blurry facebook messenger haze.

  • Nighthawk || Grey-black grouse
  • Grammofon
  • Bat
  • Mink || Sable
  • Emerald
  • Smoking jacket || Tails
  • Displaced person, exile
  • Offer of marriage || Single, unmarried || Honeymoon
  • Ancient fortified stronghold
  • Harvest festival
  • Danger of drowning
  • Brassiere || Panties || Petticoat
  • Rye bread || Sauerkraut || Head cheese || Sandwich || Christmas sausage
  • Potato
  • Large quantity or amount
  • Lipstick
  • Gentleman || Woman, wife || Girl, maid
  • Weather bureau
  • To pound or nail
  • Milk store
  • Stallion
  • Carnations

Possible prompt: A young unmarried woman (dressed in her panties, mink bra, and sable petticoat) hopes to lure a gentleman into making an offer of marriage by cooking him sauerkraut and potato and Christmas sausage at the Harvest festival.

I’ll link to the results if I ever actually follow through with this.

R&R

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I’ve been thinking.

I haven’t been writing much lately – and by “writing much lately” I mean “writing at all since the beginning of December” because things came up, as they probably inevitably do, and sometimes I can fight back and get work done anyway, and this time I couldn’t.

have been reading, though. Kindle and Audible have a sharing system between them that means you can bounce back and forth between reading and listening to a book, and that apparently solves the problem I’ve been having about not having enough time to either exclusively read or exclusively listen to things. I took the chance to read a few old favourites, because nothing makes me feel better when I’m having a tough time than going back to old universes and reliving old stories.

But I just realized that just because I’m rereading old things doesn’t mean I can’t still use my brain. There are a lot of things that I read that I never reviewed at the time that I first read them, so for the next while, I think I’m going to turn my attention to fixing that problem. I won’t go as far as to retroactively review everything I’ve looked at in the last three months – surprisingly, I actually got through quite a bit.

What I will do, though, is chronicle my adventures through the Wheel of Time the second – second and a half? – time around. I read up to about the 9th book a decade ago, and then I read the entire thing three years ago, and it’s a really different experience rereading the first books with such a recent memory of the last ones in my head. I’ve never tried to do a rereading review, so it will be an interesting challenge, and it will also have the added benefit of reminding me that just because I’m not doing all of my proper work, I’m not actually sitting around like a useless lump the way I feel like I am. If they’re any good, I may post them here. Otherwise, though, at least my Goodreads account will be able to feel a little bit more loved  than it has in a while.

On Specificity

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I was thinking today about a problem I have sometimes. It’s come up in pretty much everything I’ve ever written, throwing wrenches around when I’m least expecting it: I’ve got this interesting scene going on, with characters I’m interested in and a plot that’s going somewhere nifty, and all of a sudden I look at what I’ve been producing and realize that it’s terrible.

Which, all right, there are a lot of things that can result in bad writing. Most of the time, it probably has something to do with the fact that I’m tired, or I haven’t planned things out very well, but a lot of the time I think it has something to do with specificity. The thing is, it’s fairly easy to come up with an interesting protagonist, home base, sidekick, fortress of solitude, whatever. The A plot and the B plot are usually fine too – that’s why I’m writing the novel.

But I find that no matter what story I’m telling, I ultimately end up at a point where I have to have characters going somewhere I wasn’t explicitly expecting, moving around in a large social setting, referencing past events, and all of a sudden, things start getting generic. A tavern with a bartender and wenches and ale, a manor with fastidious servants, uptight noblewomen who’d rather die than step in mud – or if you’re not in fantasy, maybe a girlfriend who assumes her guy’s cheating on her every time he looks at another woman. Whatever, it’s all the same thing, the kind of character tropes that show up everywhere, the kind of backdrops that get rolled in and out any time someone gets lazy. All of a sudden I’ve got my characters hanging out at Ye Olde Random Bar, talking with That Old Man With The Sword and the Wench With The Sad Brown Eyes, and there’s a reason I didn’t design those two in the first place. And then “the two of them bond” turns into “the two of them have the same conversation everyone has”, and again, there’s a reason I didn’t set out to write that when I was planning it at the beginning.

I think part of getting over that is just getting better at writing … but I’ve also developed a new rule to work with. Every time I’m setting out a scene, I’m now trying to explicitly say what makes my version of it different than the versions I’ve seen before. What about this bar’s design makes it My Bar as opposed to Anybody’s Bar? What makes this person distinct? What does that street smell like? The books that make the biggest impression on me – I’m thinking right now of Mistborn and The Lies of Locke Lamora – are the ones that take me somewhere I hadn’t been before. They’re the books that hand-paint each detail, the ones that put something surprising around every corner, even the corners that aren’t plot points.

If I’m going to make an evil empire, I’d probably better not give it a name that has lots of Vs and Ks and Js in it, because those are the letters everyone seems to throw around when they’re trying to make something kind of evil sounding, and I don’t want to get lost in the crowd. Meetings should maybe start happening in factories or warehouses or quays, instead of in the same five taverns. Not every town needs to have a square with four folksy buildings and a fountain. There’re probably a dozen more things I should start paying attention to, that I won’t notice until I realize I’ve gotten it wrong. In the meanwhile, I’ve got some noblemen to redesign.

Limbo time

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Second drafts are hard.

Well, back that up.

Getting to second drafts is hard.

I’m not sure if the stage I’m looking at now is the second draft, or maybe the first draft – I’ve heard a couple of writers refer to their utterly horrible first bits of writing as “zero drafts”, and that actually seems pretty fitting. I’ve got however many tens of thousands of words written about this place and these people and their plot, and absolutely none of it is useable – I mean, literally, none. I have a couple of scenes whose ideas might be reworkable, but I went into this idea half-cocked (NaNo may be great for putting words on pages, but it’s not particularly conducive to making sure you think everything through) and it turns out that my grand plan of “throw a couple of characters into a situation and see if they sink or swim” resulted in a lot of drowned characters.

Which is fine, I think.

There are probably as many ways to write a novel as there are aspiring novelists, maybe more – Neil Gaiman offered a lovely insight in the introduction of American Gods, in which he learned that rather than having figured out how to write a novel, he’d really only figured out how to write that novel. I’ve started a fair number of stories so far, some of which made it to the end of a draft, some of which never actually got words on pages, and I can safely say that I don’t yet know what’s the right way for me to go about it. In this case, I went with “take an idea, try to write it, discover in the writing of it that you were woefully underprepared, try to fix it before you write the next draft.”

Which is where I am now, where I’ve been for the last six months.

And it turns out that for me, this is a really scary place to be.

First drafts – zero drafts, what have you – are kind of like skiing for me. I’ve got this idea out in front of me, all pristine white snow and pretty little evergreens and a lake at the bottom, and I get to push off and all of a sudden there’s wind and excitement and no limits! Mistakes don’t matter: that’s what editing is for! Don’t know what to do? Hit someone in the head with a shovel! Kill someone! That doesn’t make sense with the original plotline? Whatever. Say it with me: that’s what editing is for.

Except that somewhere down the slope I start realizing that this isn’t so much a black diamond as an uncharted pocket of Mt Everest, and actually, I was never all that good at skiing anyway, and it turns out that that terrifying pixel yeti from that ski game back when I was a kid is looming over my shoulder and it doesn’t want to go away until editing. So I keep frantically writing, tying up threads everywhere I can, padding things out where they feel skimpy, until I finally make it gasping and half-dead in a heap against the tree at the bottom.

Stand up, dust off hands, go into the chalet for a nice hot chocolate, and get ready for that carrot I’ve been hanging in front of my nose for that entire terrifying glorious ride: editing.

The problem with editing is that there doesn’t seem to be one right way to do it, especially not for an aspiring first-timer. There’s probably a good reason for this – professional writers have agents and editors and publishers and people with jobs I’ve never even heard of, all working together to turn an idea into a printed volume, so the author isn’t working alone for the entire thing. Maybe most professionals have people they can turn to when they need to iron out kinks … maybe they don’t? The only way I’ll know is by getting there myself, and each experience is surely going to vary, and anyway, that’s not the point for me right now.

Right now, what matters is that while I can look to my role models to see how many hours a day they spend writing, or how many words they write per day, but I haven’t seen anything about what they do when they look at their first drafts and find something they’d be embarrassed to feed their dogs. As far as editing goes, as far as hail mary’s are concerned, I’ve been on my own.

I’ve done pretty well, I think – though I won’t really be able to tell until I start writing again and see what the slope looks like this time around. I’ve found plot holes and filled them, rounded out characters, fleshed out world elements and, above everything else, doubted.

It turns out that it’s a lot harder to feel like an author when you’re not writing. My family is incredibly supportive of my literary aspirations, but my mother hasn’t appeared to know what to do with a daughter who’s spent the last six months thinking furiously. My birthday wishes this year came with hopes for a lovely year – and a book, hint hint, and I can’t blame her, because I feel the same way. The urge to open up a new document and start writing has been almost more than I could handle, even though I’ve known that the story wasn’t ready. Every time someone’s asked me how the writing’s going, I’ve shrunk a little bit deeper into myself.

“I have no idea how the writing’s going, I’m not doing it anymore.”

Where I used to spend X hours a day writing Y words minimum, I’ve been spending the last six months staring fruitlessly at my computer screen trying to figure out someone’s motivation, or something’s power structure, only to have the latest piece fall into place while I’m in the shower, or in line at the grocery store, or trying to fall asleep. I get to my computer as soon as I can, write it down, look at the new plan, and stare at a wall some more.

I feel like I’ve done good work. I also feel like I haven’t been doing anything at all. The longer it went on, the more I’ve felt like I’m doing something wrong. Writers write, according to the inspirational background image I found however many years ago. If I’m not writing, am I not a writer? If the story I wanted to tell was a good one, was worth sharing, would I really have had to spend six months pounding it out of the horrible wreck I first wrote? My ideas are derivative. Nobody’s going to want to read a story I can’t even manage to think out properly.

I’m writing this down in part so that I have something I can look at when I next find myself here – because I’m pretty sure that this will happen again, though hopefully not quite the same way. I couldn’t find a rule book for this part of the process, so I’m setting my own mistakes and fears out so that next time, maybe I won’t feel quite so alone.

I think it’s normal to be scared – and I think that really, that’s what all of those doubts and voices really are. A bit of doubt is an important part of not being an arrogant ass, but doubt is also what fear looks like when it wants to be taken more seriously. Writing easy. It comes with an immediate payoff, a sense of gratification in the form of word counts that a planning phase simply can’t offer. But just writing isn’t enough, at least not for me.

The last six months have given me what I needed to turn something I could barely stand to look at into something I’m proud of again. When I turn the story over in my head, it holds up. I know there will be flaws, some of which I”ll catch in editing, some of which will probably make it through.

The point, though, at least for me, is that it was time well spent. The fear wasn’t a great use of my time, but the thinking and the planning and the questioning and the challenging were all important, because today I’m doing a runthrough of the outline with one of my first readers, and if that goes well, tomorrow I should be able to start writing.

Hopefully, the result of the next pass won’t tangle me up for as long as the first one did. With any luck, a lot of hard work, and a fair amount of skill, I’ll have something by the end of this that I’ll be able to share with people, that will help me get where I want to go.

Or maybe it won’t and I’ll have to do this a bunch more times before I get anywhere, and I’ll have a whole new set of theories and philosophies to spout by then.

Either way, I’m learning.

NaNoWriMo 2014 pt 1 – New Year, New Novel

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Well, it’s the end of October, and since I loathe Hallowe’en with an unholy passion that means that while everyone else gets to worry about costumes and parties and social lives, I’m plotting a new novel!

hammersboon

As always, I seem to be approaching it this year in a completely new way. The first time, I wrote randomly without a plan; then, I made a meticulously detailed plan that fell apart almost instantly. Last year, I gave myself a month to come up with as much detial as I could, treating it as seriously as I did my non-NaNo novels, which was an absolute disaster.

This year, I wasn’t even sure if I was going to do a NaNo novel at all, or if I was going to just rebel and just count 50,000 words towards my current project. And then one day I was watching a movie with a plot I’d seen before – businessman finds himself re-evaluating his life and his priorities after meeting the right sort of free-spirited dreamgirl – and I wondered how it would fit with my style of storytelling, if I could work it into a fantasy story at all.

About a week later, I had the urge out of nowhere to try and tell the story of an evil tyrannical fantasy regime, where the point of the story was something other than the heroes’ attempt to overthrow the villain. I understand, obviously, why so many stories with dynamic horrific villains make those villains the point of the tale, and just because you can write something doesn’t mean you should … but I don’t care, it sounded like fun.

I held the two ideas in parallel for about a week, and then all of a sudden things clicked together, and now apparently I’m writing the story of Minion Number 5, Assistant Chief of Personnel Distribution for the Divine Forces of the Lord of Dusk and Dawn. For the first and probably only time, I’m going to be introducing fantasy races into the story, and I’m going to bring in a merry band of heroes. None of it’s my style – I hate elves and dwarves, and the fighter-rogue-wizard setup is boring, and I’ve never found myself compelled to write the life story of an upper-middle class man struggling with upper-middle class angst.

But one of the things I’ve come to realize is that every story is worth telling – it’s just a question of telling it the right way. Anything can be interesting, and everyone has something worthwhile about them. If the story seems uninspired, it’s probably a good sign that I’m not looking at it the right way.

And all of a sudden I’m super psyched! I love my main character, a half-dwarf trying to pass as human, desperate to distance himself from the marginalized life of his father. The free-spirited elven tavernkeeper has a past, and if I write her right, she’ll have a purpose in the story beyond helping the main character find his true destiny. I want the leader of the band of heroes to be a boring jerk, which probably means I’ve got some work to do on his characterization – but I’ve got a week to make that happen.

I have absolutely no idea what’s going to come of this! It might turn out as bizarrely as last year’s, or maybe I’ll do it right this time and end up with a full novella when this is done. Probably somewhere in the middle, but what I do know is that I’m really excited!

What about everyone else? Is anyone else doing NaNo this year? Have you got your stories figured out? Anyone who wants to is welcome to add me – http://nanowrimo.org/participants/persekore

Good luck!

Thursday Quotables – A Memory of Light by Brandon Sanderson and Robert Jordan

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I’ve been waiting for this to come up ever since I first discovered Thursday Quotables, hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies! The name of the game is to highlight an awesome quote or passage you’ve found in the last week, and this is kind of cheating, because I actually found the quote the first time I read the Wheel of Time series. But I didn’t know about the meme back then, and I’ve come back around to it now, so it’ll just have to do!

This one really speaks to me as a writer. Words are powerful, and they’re so easy to take for granted.

A Memory of Light

‘Exquisite’, Thom thought. That is the word. Unexpected, but true. Majestically exquisite. No. Not ‘majestically’. Let the word stand on its own. If it is the right word, it will work without help. If it’s the wrong word, adding other words to it will just make it seem desperate.

Gamergate, Women, and Unpopular Opinions

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It should surprise very few people who know me to hear that I’ve been keeping up with Gamergate. I’ve been trying to follow the story ever since I first heard about Zoe Quinn and the campaign that was started to ruin her life, and I keep feeling like I should be saying something about it.

I feel like I’m letting myself down every time I see another story about what a group of people are willing to do to terrorize the women they disagree with and stay silent. What’s going on right now is incredibly important, and incredibly brutal, and it’s not so much that something needs to be said – because people who know more than I do are already saying things – as that those things need to keep being said by as many people as are willing to say them, or nothing will change.

At the same time, I find myself struggling to figure out where to begin, because for me, Gamergate feels like it’s just one part of an ugly puzzle.

I’ve always known that the Gaming Community contained pockets of anger, hatred, and vitriol. It’s why I’ve only ever tried to play a multiplayer game once. The results didn’t surprise me, they won’t surprise anyone, though they hurt me deeply; from nearly the moment I joined the game I found myself subject to a torrent of verbal abuse on account of my newness. My team tried to kill me to keep me from ruining their game, told me to leave (though I had thought I was in a new-to-the-game zone). When someone messaged me, sounding friendly, asking for my A/S/L, I told them that I was a 21-year-old Canadian girl.

And wouldn’t you know it, people stopped calling me the “f%cking noob” and started calling me a whole lot of other things, of which “whore” was probably the nicest.

The take-home message: Being a new player in a multiplayer game is a sin; being a female gamer is even worse.

So it doesn’t really come as a surprise to me that these people who responded so angrily to my moderate-incompetence, which served to only inconvenience them, have taken that anger and let it boil over into death threats against women who actually challenge the status quo. It hurts me, though – particularly, oddly enough, because in many ways I have more in common with the gamers who do the threatening than I do with the women who receive the threats.

I’m a feminist, but I don’t really participate in what I think of as feminist appreciation of culture. I read books about men going on adventures, I watch movies with minimal plots in which the women are dressed to look sexy, I play games where I run around shooting things whose only real crime usually amounts to ‘working for the wrong person or getting caught up in the wrong toxic disaster’. I frequently wish that women were doing more things in these pieces of entertainment I consume, and I’ll object to the use of rape as a tool for character development until I’m blue in the face, but from the outside, my feminism and my recreational pursuits seem fairly segregated from each other.

And fish. Sometimes I shoot fish.

I play violent video games. I’ve never played GTA, but I’ve played games that were similar. I play big-name big-ticket games, the same ones enjoyed by the men who want women out of their pastime. Most of my self-indulgent spending is split pretty much evenly between the buying of video games, and the buying of fashion dolls. I don’t think we’re so very different, the men and I, or at least I don’t think we have to be (except for the dolls).

But evidently they do – or, some of them do, because while we may all be getting tired of the contractual obligation to acknowledge that yes, #notallmen send death threats, I think I’d still rather err on the side of polite, open communication than risk seeming generalist.

Evidently, some men think that women don’t belong in their treehouse, and that a woman who dares to enter should be on her best behavior, that failing to do so in an online context should be met with abuse, the threat of violence, and real-world harrassment.

treehouse

Okay, if this is their treehouse, I can understand not wanting to share.

That’s bad enough. Really, that’s enough bad right there. I’d love to be able to say that it doesn’t get worse, but I can’t.

The problem isn’t just that a fragment of the gaming community has taken upon itself the mandate to ruin the lives of the women it doesn’t like. The problem is that as far as I can tell, this phenomenon itself is being viewed by the rest of our society as a little fringe problem.

Gamers have a history of being picked on. It’s only fairly recently that 58 percent of Americans have started playing video games (45 percent of those players being women). When I was a teenager, a “gamer” was someone who played Dungeons and Dragons, and there was a lot of media hype at the time wondering about the psychological dangers that D&D posed to its players. Gamers are still viewed with suspicion in the media; when someone kills people in a school or a theatre, the media starts wondering how many violent video games they played. Many people who play games today remember what it was like to be mocked for their hobby. Gamers were a minority, they were marginalized and persecuted.

So it must be hard have to set aside that mantle of oppression. It must be difficult for those people who can now celebrate their social power by playing Call of Duty or Assassin’s Creed or Halo with their coworkers, who can exercise their financial power by purchasing a constantly-cycling series of systems and games, to realize that being a gamer doesn’t represent the same things that it used to. And it seems to be incredibly hard for the rest of the world to understand that this group of people they used to eye sideways now occupy more social space than the people who don’t like to unwind by throwing birds at pigs, or decapitating pirates.

Hard as it is, though, both sides need to understand that the world is changing. The subset of gamers who used to make up the entire group are now just a part – and while the opinions of the people who helped shape the culture are important, “I got here first” can’t be allowed to hold sway in the real world the way it did in the schoolyard.

And the opinions of a caustic, aggressive group of people shouldn’t be treated as the mutterings of a few angry nerds, no matter how small a percentage of gamers they make up.

Gamers aren’t the Other anymore. Gamers are people too, and when a group of people starts launching systematic attacks against another group of people, when someone in a group threatens violence or murder, we can’t afford to trivialize it.

I was thinking this morning about a story I read, about how Anita Sarkeesian was warned against speaking at Utah State University with the threat of a mass shooting, and how she eventually had to cancel because adequate security measures would not be provided for her. Guaranteeing that students can’t bring a concealed weapon into a room wherein mass murder has been explicitly threatened is, apparently, not something that we can do.

I wonder what had to be going through the minds of the people who made that decision. They couldn’t have believed that the threats were credible, or else how would they allow a room full of people to face that kind of danger. Did they think that an angry person has never before decided to murder women for what they dared to think?

I wanted to remind people about the Montreal Massacre, where in 1989 a young man walked into a school, separated the men and the women, and then shot the women in an attempt at “fighting feminism”. I wanted to say that this kind of manifest hatred has already taken the lives of at least fourteen people – but then I saw that I didn’t have to. The person who made the threat against Sarkeesian signed with the name Marc Lepine, the name of the shooter in the Montreal Massacre. Evidently, deliberately invoking the identity of a man who murdered women because of what they were doing in a school was insufficient to convince law enforcement to protect a woman, who was being threatened because of what she was doing in school.

montrealmas

These fourteen women were victims of the fight against feminism. Je me souviens.

I can only imagine how different the response might have been, if a Catholic organization were to have received threats from an individual identifying themselves as part of an Islamic hate group. Would concealed weapons still have been permitted in that context? I have an incredibly difficult time believing that they would.

What it boils down to is that somehow, society doesn’t seem to think that violence against women is a problem. Oh, people are aware that it happens – but not as much as women like to claim it does. Maybe it ties into an attempt to be positive? Accepting that a group of people are out to get women would require seeing women as a distinct group, rather than seeing them as part of ‘people’. I’ve heard it suggested that to single women out as the victims of specific violence is exactly the kind of thing that feminists are supposed to fight against, as though in order to be a good feminist I’m supposed to sit by and pretend that people weren’t out to get women just for being women. I’m supposed to accept that Facebook pages dedicated specifically to violence against women are “controversial humor“, not hate.

They’re not.

It’s not in our heads.

People are out to get women.

I follow John Scalzi’s blog, because he thinks a lot of interesting things and he’s not afraid to talk about them. I look at him and I see a part of what I want to achieve – he writes good novels, and he thinks good thoughts, and he puts himself out there when he thinks it’s important. I’ve seen what he gets in response: he seems to be mocked on a regular basis, for daring to speak for feminism, and he handles it with incredible grace. He also posted a picture of his house today, something my brain tells me would be an incredible risk for any woman with a controversial opinion. It feels like another part of the puzzle: men who provoke with what they say get derided, insulted, yelled at, threatened – women have campaigns launched against them. Men are hassled, women are forced to flee their homes for their own safety.

Women get attacked.

It’s hard not to think about this, as a woman who wants to write books. It’s hard not to see what a small but violent group of gamers is doing to the women who cross them, and wonder what might happen to me if I dare to speak my mind after (if? after!) my first book hits the shelves.

I want to work in an industry where it seems to be tacitly understood that men write books, and women write books for women and children. I want to work in an industry where the product is as much about the ideas as it is about the way they’re packaged, and almost as much about the author of those ideas as the thoughts themselves. I read Seanan McGuire’s explanation for why she won’t write rape, and how the simple fact that none of her female characters have been violently abused is interpreted by a reader as a lack of respect for her craft, rather than a sign of respect for her creations.

My characters will not get raped.

My characters will not all conform to social norms. I began the novel I’m currently writing with no intention to create an ‘alternative’ cast, and ended up with an asexual woman, a homosexual elderly man, a bisexual frat boy, and a heterosexual young woman as my four main protagonists. How many people will take issue with that?

How many of them will decide that I deserve to be punished for subjecting them to it? Or if I choose to speak my mind about why I make these decisions?

Somehow, if I ever achieve the level of success that Scalzi has earned, I doubt I will be in a position to feel safe posting pictures of my house.