Sunday, March 08, 2009

What does silence mean?

While spending a few minutes checking my lj friendslist yesterday, I came across Jim Hines's post about some big race discussion that's apparently been happening right under my nose and I wasn't paying attention.

I've seen this mentioned in passing elsewhere but given that I was on two deadlines and am trying to make heavy progress on a new project, AND have agreed to participate in a Mentoring program at the Romance Divas forum (yes, I am a mentor now; scary, huh?), my internet time has been even more limited than it usually is. Well, hell, I don't have to tell you guys that; I've been blogging regularly for, what, three years now?, and missed two scheduled posts last month because I simply didn't have time.

So I don't know what all this is about. I've spent some time following links but am still rather confused about the whole thing. And frankly I'm not sure I want to know; I avoid internet drama whenever possible, so generally when I see posts that seem to be referring to such things, at best I skim them.

There are subjects we don't approach here on the blog. We don't generally discuss politics, as you know; and if you're new to the blog, you might want to check this short post about keeping the blog light and fun, or, especially, this post about why politics are not a part of my blog and never will be. (Interestingly enough, I discovered a link to that post a while ago from a gentleman who referred to me as "that person" and said I was wrong because those of us who are educated and know the facts have a responsibility to educate others. Which amused me highly, it really did; I especially liked his bland and arrogant assumption that people who disagree with him or anyone else do so because they're stupid and uneducated, and not because they simply have different values or ideals or, you know, their own minds. And thus need to be lectured by someone who views himself as so much more clever and informed and valuable than they are; another one who must be a real hoot at parties. Which illustrated to me the point I made in that post perfectly. Anyway.)

In fact, that political post is pretty helpful as background reading here, I think. Because again, the purpose of this blog is to be fun. To have fun. To entertain. Yes, I do posts about writing and publishing, and those are meant to educate--but hopefully in an entertaining fashion. I don't see it as my job to tackle big issues or be some sort of guru (even if I actually thought myself capable of being such). I don't see this as a place to expound my political or religious or moral or whatever views--we do dip into morality on occasion, yes--because I want the blog to be an inclusive place where everyone feels welcome. Everyone. Because you are. I think and have long thought that my readers are awesome; smart, friendly, fun people, and that we're always happy to see someone new pop in and comment. There are too many places where that doesn't happen; where new commentors are ignored, where commenters who disagree with the blog's admin are ripped into and made fun of, are called names, are followed back to their own blogs and picked on there. Where questions are answered with vitriol and respectful comments with insults. This is not one of those places and it never will be. I hate those places. No matter who runs them I have never liked them, and avoid them.

All this is my way of saying that I genuinely had no idea all this drama was happening everywhere.

And I say that because in following some of the links left in Jim's posts I noticed several people bemoaning the lack of comments or support by fantasy writers.

I hardly think I'm important enough to count. I am essentially unknown; I'm not a "big voice" in any genre--I'm hardly a voice at all. So I really don't think anyone is watching me or my blog and being disturbed by my silence, but I'm going to break it anyway simply so there will be no doubt.

And really, my link-following has only skimmed the surface. I don't know how the discussion started or who did what to whom and why; I have an idea based on the bit of reading I did but how it all snowballed and blew up everywhere I don't know. And I'm not posting this in order to take sides or join the fray.

And I will say this as well. I love this blog and I love my blog readers. They are wonderful, warm, intelligent people. I'm not going to tolerate people coming here and starting shit with them. I doubt that will happen. But I'm saying it anyway.

So here is my basic statement. It's based on what I've read and it's based on seeing readers wondering why more fantasy authors haven't spoken up (and to be fair, I am certain that the vast majority of my pals have no idea this is going on either). I don't want there to be doubts and questions about why I haven't said anything. It's because I didn't know. And now that I do I am going to say something, but again, this isn't a topic I wish to have endless discussions about. I'm not joining anything. I'm just saying my piece, because even the small ampount of reading I did showed me that some truly horrible things have been said and done and I don't want there to be any doubt that I disapprove of such things.

Judging people or stereotyping them based on the color of their skin is wrong. Implying, even if you mean it kindly, that all people of a particular color or ethnicity think or feel the same about any given issue is wrong; there is as much diversity in minorities as there is anywhere else. Because we're all people.

Treating people like shit is wrong. Treating them as though they are less than human, as if they exist for your personal gratification, as though their feelings don't matter and you can just do whatever you want to them, is wrong. Ignoring the possible consequences of your actions on another person's life and/or livelihood is just wrong.

Threatening people is wrong.

Taking petty revenge on people is wrong.

Refusing to listen to other people is wrong. Discounting them and/or their veiwpoints because you don't agree or don't like what they have to say is wrong.

Judging people or calling them names simply because they don't agree with you is wrong.

We're all human. And being human means we're kind of scummy. We all have thoughts of which we are not proud. Whether it's socialization or simply the fact that at heart we all still have a greedy little "Mine! MINE!" baby who is jealous and hateful, we ALL sometimes have thoughts of which we are not proud. The human mind is a bizarre and wonderful and terrifying thing.

When I was three years old I grabbed a metal spoon from a kitchen drawer and bashed my brother over the head with it. For no reason, at least not that I can recall (I actually don't remember the incident at all). He was just sitting in a chair watching TV.

What was going on in my mind? I don't know. What I do know is, I had a thought--to bash Ray over the head with the spoon--and I acted on it. Today, I might still have the same thought; one of those crazy things that just pops into your head, like wondering what would happen if you walked up to a stranger in public and said, "You know what? I fucking hate you," and walked away, or if you pushed someone for no reason, or any number of crazy things that pop into my mind and I am pretty sure pop into everyone's minds at one time or another. But today I would not act on it. I might be secretly amused or horrified, but I wouldn't act on it. Because I'm not three anymore.

I believe racism, sexism, discrimation or whatever in any form, among reasonable people, are the same thing. We ALL have unpleasant, embarrassing, or downright hideous thoughts from time to time. Hopefully not many; hopefully not too bad. But you can't control the crazy, unlike-you thoughts that pop into your head, any more than I can control the fact that once every few years I dream I kill someone and am trying to hide the body, and the sick, horrible sense of shame and despair that dream engenders, and the intense relief on waking and realizing I have not in fact killed anyone (this generally leaves me feeling great for days: I didn't kill anyone!)

What you CAN and SHOULD control is the expression of those thoughts. And what you can and should control is how you react to having something you said commented on. You offended someone? Just apologize. Why do we all need to be right all the time? What difference does it make, really? Even if that's not what you meant. Even if you think the people interpreting your words are batshit crazy for thinking that. Just apologize. Try to figure out how or why you offended them. And let it go. Period.

It's easy. It doesn't matter. You can still think you're right, even, if you insist. But just apologize. It's not being a doormat. It's not admitting you're a racist or sexist or you discriminate against unattractive people or mice or Weeble-Wobbles. It's just apologizing, and everyone gets to move on. And I think if we all consider it we'll realize that most of the big problems in our lives could be avoided if we'd just quit having to be fucking right all the time and allow other people to think and feel their own thoughts, in their own wacky brains, where they are at any given moment probably contemplating running naked through the office or fucking the elderly receptionist or peeing in the hallway, because those are the kind of loony uncontrollable musings their brains create. (What? I can't believe I'm the only person in the world who's ever wondered what people would do if I peed in the hallway. You know, acting as though nothing was wrong and everyone does it; just lean against the wall, lift my skirt and push my panties to my knees, and have a go right there on the floor. I'd never actually do it, of course. But I can't be responsible for the bizarre fantasies in my head--as long as they remain in my head--and neither can anyone else.)

It's not pleasant to be called on those thoughts. It's not pleasant to be called a sexist or a racist or a sizeist or anti-gay or whatever else, when you firmly do not believe you are and do not want to be. But it's also not pleasant to be the one on the receiving end of a comment or action that hurts or offends you, or makes you feel less than human. So in that situation you have two hurt and confused people, and the best thing to do is for the one who did the hurting, no matter how inadvertent it was--and we've all hurt people inadvertently, every one of us--to apologize. "I'm sorry. I really didn't mean to hurt you." It's very easy. Note that there's no "I'm not a purple-jean hater!!" outrage attached to that. It's simply "I'm sorry."

And it goes both ways. The one receiving the apology could also apologize thusly: "I'm sure you didn't mean it that way, and I didn't mean to hurt or insult you, just to point out that your comment could be construed in a way you didn't intend." See? Again, it doesn't matter who's right or wrong, or what anyone meant. What matters is both people have been accorded the dignity every human being should be accorded, and both parties have a chance to move on with dignity, and reach a new and deeper understanding.

This is what being an adult is, to be frank.

And that's basically it. Like I said I'm not aware of the whole discussion. And to bring myself up-to-date would take hours and hours of time which I frankly do not have. In fact, not only is it time I don't have, but I get the distinct feeling that those hours would be spent growing more and more upset and disillusioned and frustrated and sad, and would leave me unable to focus on work or anything else, and I still have two books to finish and a website to build and an apprentice to mentor. ("Apprentice" is the term the program in which we're participating uses.)

And really, does it matter if I know the whole story or not? I've said my bit. I'm tired of anger and entitlement and the idea that other people don't matter. I'm sick of seeing it everywhere. I don't want to see it anymore.

Every person sitting in front of a keyboard and typing out all those words with which you disagree? They are people. Human beings. Maybe we could all remember that? Just try to keep it in mind, is all. There's no excuse for treating them like they're something less than that. Less than you. Less than anything. I avoid blogs and forums where people are treated that way. I avoid blogs and forums where being vicious to other people is encouraged. Those are not places I want to spend my time.

I write about pain. I write about isolation and disillusionment and the utter and complete lack of belief that life is worth living. I write about blood and magic and filth and evil and death. I write about abuse and hatred. I write about loneliness and misery and secrets and the uncertainty of life and people who have nothing but honor, people who can't connect with other people, people who bleed rivers of pain if you cut their skin.

Quite frankly, my worldview is already twisted enough; there's plenty of misery floating around in my head already. I don't need to go find more. That's why I try to keep the blog a positive place and that's why I avoid getting into arguments etc. online, and avoid visiting websites and blogs where people are regularly turned into cannon fodder.

And I guess that's it.


writtenwyrdd said...

Apologizing and moving on is so simple yet so difficult for people in general. Because we like being right. At least in the American mind, one must WIN, and to apologize is to LOSE. Stupid, but that's the undercurrent going on behind our thinking, the assumption we grow up with. And I think it's getting worse becaus kids are being trained over here to feel both entitled and that they never lose at anything because everyone gets the trophy, winners, losers or whatever.

BernardL said...

With the number of people searching desperately for ways to be offended, running a purely opinion based blog on anything would be very difficult. Apologizing every time someone takes offense to an opinion stated in a polite manner reinforces troll-like behavior. Taking the time to state a reasoned opinion is nothing to apologize for. 'The Offended' flit around all over Blog World being offended - that's their problem. :)

December/Stacia said...

Oh, I don't think it's a purely American trait in the slightest, Written; I've found people much more reluctant to apologize and much more eager to turn everything into a Big Issue here than I ever did there. That's not to say all of England is like that, it's just been the case with the people I've met.

TOTALLY agree with you about the "Everybody wins" garbage though. That attitude makes me literally ill.

Oh, I agree, Bernard. And I think there are a lot of cases where people are simply so eager to take offense that they see it where it doesn't exist. But I still think even then it's no skin off my nose to just say sorry and move on, you know? I'm still free to disagree, I'm just averting an argument. I think most reasonable people don't take offense to reasoned disagreement. It's the unreasonable ones we need to watch out for. :-)

Charles Gramlich said...

I try not to do political posts either. Anyone who thinks they accomplish anything is deluding themselves. The people who agree with you won't have their beliefs confronted, and the people who don't agree with you will probably only strengthen their own positions, meaning you've accomplished nothing.

December/Stacia said...

Exactly, Charles. All it does is alienate people. I can think of a few writers I either used to read or might otherwise have read, but stopped or never will start because I simply don't like the way they treat people online. And it's really not about sales for me; it's just that I don't feel the need to act as though I'm superior to other people or put them down in such a way.

That's not to say I can't be a total bitch, because I can. But I do that privately. :-)

Anonymous said...

"Judging people or stereotyping them based on the color of their skin is wrong. Implying, even if you mean it kindly, that all people of a particular color or ethnicity think or feel the same about any given issue is wrong; there is as much diversity in minorities as there is anywhere else. Because we're all people."

Excellent. -V95

laughingwolf said...

i have no idea what's going on, but get a bit of the drift

the only ones i refuse to allow to post on my page are those selling something [though i think i have, once or twice]...

the only ones i make fun of are lying politicians, or wannabes, of ALL stripes

no one has attacked anyone, nor will i allow that, either

kirsten saell said...

I think John Scalzi said it best:

"The reason I haven’t is for the same reason I don’t regularly stick my head into a bag filled with angry, feral cats."

I'm all for a good debate, but I went and read a fair amount of the brouhaha, and I honestly can't imagine I'd make it ten seconds in that fray before I found myself sporting several new anal orifices--probably by both sides at the same time. And it's a shame, because this issue need to be discussed, and few of those participating on either side of the debate are doing it any kind of justice. It's all just devolved into a pissing match on who's less privileged than whom, and how "you couldn't possibly understand what it's like to be oppressed because you have more privilege points than I do."

It does make me nervous about maybe one day getting my big project published, populated as it is by lots of people of lots of different colors. Is someone going to be flinging my book at the wall and sending me hate email because I didn't accurately portray their cultural experience--even allowing for the fact that all the cultures in my fiction are, well, fictional?

Anonymous said...

"Is someone going to be flinging my book at the wall and sending me hate email because I didn't accurately portray their cultural experience--even allowing for the fact that all the cultures in my fiction are, well, fictional?"

The fact that (authors) have to even think about that says a lot, Kirsten. Fictional fiction. Wow, what a concept. -V95

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Hi, December!

Two things: Thanks so much for your nice comments on Janet Reid's blog! Lovely. Fun.

And ... Big favor ... My nonfiction writing partner is teaching creative writing to some very young writers. I'm running the class blog and helping as I can. I posted one of the student's rough drafts on the blog [ ].

Would you mind dropping by and leaving a gentle critique. Remember she's quite young and inexperienced. Include your name and what you write. Parents and school administrators read it. Might as well plug your books.

Anyone else who wishes to help is welcome too. Just remember, our students are young and inexperienced.

Please? And thanks!


December/Stacia said...

Thanks V95! :-) And to your later point...hell, yeah, we have to think about that. Kind of sad, but true. :-/

And see, Laughingwolf, that's one of my favorite things about my blog. You guys are all such great people and I always have such fun reading your comments. I don't always get to respond the way I used to but I always read them and they always make me smile. :-) And as for the way you run your blog, yep, I wouldn't expect anything different.

I agree, kis. It's sad that a discussion that important has become obfuscated and that it's created so much tension. I can't blame any of the people feeling marginalized and victimized for feeling the way they feel or for expressing it the way they have, but I do wish it hadn't gone that way.

Hey Rachael! {{hug}} Done and done. Thanks for inviting me to come comment! I hope she likes what I said.

Robyn said...

This is why I don't like to wander out in shitstorms. I get filthy, and I didn't even contribute material.

I have been so turned off by certain authors' behavior online that I can't seperate their writing from the drama. Kind of sad, I guess. But I've been wonderfully surprised by a number of them, too.

laughingwolf said...

thx... being libran, i try to be balanced... not easy these days :O lol

Addison Avery said...

I agree that apologies are important and as adults, we should give them and move on. You're right on so many points here. It's that win-lose factor that often stands in the way of an apology.
Then again, I'm often amazed at what people will say to one another and without any compassion at all, feel they're justified in those expressions, regardless of whether or not they've hurt someone's feelings. Some people couldn't care less. They're the
folks who won't apologize because they don't understand they owe one in the first place.

Anyway, I'm glad to find you. I haven't followed the other post you mentioned and won't but I do plan to visit your blog again soon.

Best wishes,

Addison Avery

December/Stacia said...

Very true, Robyn, and that's another reason I stay away from things. My job is to write books; my internet activities are in part an effort to promote those books. There's a lot at stake for me; as I said in the post, I want everyone to feel welcome here, no matter what their religion is or who they voted for or what color they are or who their favorite ANTM contestant is. That's actually not for promo, it's because that's the way I like it, but hopefully it has the side effect of pleasing others as well. :-)

Oh, yeah, Laughingwolf, I do know what you mean. :-)

Thank you, Addison, and thanks for the comment! I know what you mean about the things people will say to each other; it shocks me on a semi-regular basis how people can be so totally unconcerned with the effect their words might have on someone else. I mean, just stop and think for a second, just one, you know? We've seen so many scandals online where people really got hurt or people really died--that bitch in Missouri who drove a young girl to suicide; the boy who killed himself while people watched and egged him on... It's just sickening, and I don't want any part of it. Sigh.

windy said...

Please report the new site they are still piracy ebooks again on is there new domain site and all ebooks are still being piracy

December/Stacia said...

Windy. Again, I had NOTHING TO DO with the take-down of Viprasys. NOTHING. DMCA law stipulates that ONLY the copyright holder of the work being pirated may file a claim. None of my work was being pirated; I therefore COULD NOT and DID NOT file a claim.

I suggest that you find some of the authors whose work is being pirated there and contact them. I suggest you contact their publishers as well, especially epublishers who are usually quite eager to deal with such situations.

I do also suggest you only contact those people in ONE area or place, rather than sending several message in several different formats, okay? And give them time to respond, or actually check your email, before going to another venue and contacting them again. Okay? :-)