rachelmanija: (Sakura)
( May. 12th, 2017 01:19 pm)
My plane was stuck on the runway in LA for over two hours, because the pilots were reassigned, I suspect in error; the airline people all seemed baffled. But I did finally arrive in Vegas! Photos below.

I was greeted at the Las Vegas airport by a giant iguana.

Read more... )
An absolutely lovely memoir by Oliver Sacks' boyfriend, a love story about Sacks and New York City: each equal objects of Hayes' affections.

Hayes, a writer and photographer, moves to New York City after the unexpected death of his partner. A lifelong insomniac, he wanders the city by day and night, sometimes striking up conversations with New Yorkers and asking if he can take their picture, sometimes simply observing. As a lover of cities and being a stranger in a new city, I found this to be one of the very best books I've read for capturing this state of mind. It also made me really miss New York, which I have not visited in many years.

The other part of the book is Hayes' account of how he met Oliver Sacks (when Sacks wrote him a fan letter), how they fell in love, how they stayed in love, and how Sacks died. It's heartbreaking but a lot more about life and love than it is about death. Love stories, even true ones, often feel generic: the emotions are real but not individual. This one makes both Sacks and Hayes and the particulars of their relationship come to life. Oliver Sacks is exactly as charmingly odd in love as one might expect from reading his books; Bill Hayes is a very different type of person (and an extremely different type of writer) but they share a wholehearted delight in observation, in other people's perceptions and experiences, and in the small details of life that make it an endless source of fascination and joy.

I recommend getting this book in hardcover. It's a very beautiful physical object, with the dustcover cut away to show snippets of the image below, as if peering through apartment windows. It also contains photographs which may not show up well in e-book.

Insomniac City: New York, Oliver, and Me

Thanks to Rydra Wong for the rec!
rachelmanija: (I wrote my own deliverance)
( May. 6th, 2017 02:12 pm)
Spoiler: For the first time in two years, I have good news!

I hesitated over how to write this, partly out of superstition (if I say I’m better, I will immediately relapse) and partly because I wasn’t sure how many details to give (no matter how much I say I don’t want advice, if I give any details whatsoever, I get advice).

So please: NO ADVICE. If you find yourself writing, “I know you said you don’t want advice, but I just couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t advise you to…” delete the goddamn message. I have gotten hundreds of them, and 100% are 100% useless. Unless I’ve asked you for your advice, I DON’T WANT ADVICE.

As some of you know, since July 2015 I’ve had a horrific mystery illness that made it extremely difficult and often impossible to work, have fun, socialize, enjoy life, or do any normal life activities. I lost more than a quarter of my bodyweight, could barely leave my apartment, and looked like I’d just gotten out of a POW camp. I started out thinking it would be cured at any moment, then thinking that it was permanent but treatable. By the end of the year I thought I was probably going to die. Then I hoped I was going to die.

I am not giving details to avoid advice, but I will say that while the illness was legitimately mysterious, it was not bizarre in any way. There was nothing about it that should have provoked the reaction it did from doctors, which was to call me a liar, say it was all in my head, and accuse me of being a drug addict. I don’t mean that they implied those things. They outright stated them. Here are some verbatim things doctors told me:

“You’re a liar and I want nothing to do with you.”

“You’re just looking for drugs.”

“There’s nothing I can do for you. See a psychiatrist.” [I got this and the variations below at least 30 times.]

“This is caused by anxiety.”

“This is caused by stress.”

“See a therapist.” [I was already seeing a therapist.]

“Your story doesn’t add up.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“You’re not underweight. Your BMI is normal.” [I got this multiple times when I said that I’d lost over a quarter of my body weight. This shows the problem with using the BMI as if it's some kind of Word of God, with zero reference to the individual patient. In my case, I am on the muscular side and so I could lose that much and still squeak into a "normal" range if you don't consider any fucking context whatsoever.]

“My diagnosis is based on the fact that you’re female and in your forties, and this illness is common in people in that demographic.” [I got this at least three times, from doctors who presented a diagnosis after I’d said about two sentences about my symptoms, in response to me asking what the diagnosis was based on. You cannot, in fact, diagnose based solely on demographics.]

“No, I’m not going to treat you. No one can treat you without a diagnosis. There’s an 80% chance you’ll never be diagnosed in your lifetime.”

“Maybe you thought you were happy, but you were in denial of some deep emotional issues.” [This was a surgeon who had met me for the first time five minutes ago. Five minutes later, he told me that he was involved in a love triangle and advised me to study the Kabbalah with Madonna’s rabbi. He was one of the more amusing of the terrible doctors I encountered, but was otherwise typical in his unprofessionalism and total lack of helpfulness.]

“There’s nothing wrong with you other than that you’re worrying about being sick. See a psychiatrist.”

I did see a psychiatrist. He said that anyone in my situation would be anxious and depressed, and that it would be abnormal if I wasn’t, and advised me to see a good diagnostician. (They do not appear to exist in the US.)

In short, hysteria is alive and well as a diagnosis in modern America. I had both good insurance and plenty of savings to spend on medical expenses, and my medical “care” was still absolutely abysmal. I am not at all surprised by America’s wretched statistics on health. My only surprise is that I thought that was due to poverty, lack of good medical care for poor and uninsured or underinsured people, and racism. It turns out that it is additionally caused by sexism and the prevalence of absolutely terrible doctors.

I spent 50% of my total income – out of pocket – on medical expenses last year. Nearly all of it was completely useless, and two-thirds was literally me paying to be verbally and emotionally abused.

In the meantime, I was deluged with useless, obnoxious advice from people who did want to help me, but were unwilling to do what I told them would be helpful (that would be anything but giving me medical advice.) I got advised to jump on a trampoline, pray to gods I don’t believe in, take about a billion different supplements, eat nothing but bone broth, not eat anything heated in a microwave, go on every bizarre diet in existence, (all of this when they knew I was drastically underweight), and see a quack doctor in Mexico who treats AIDS by shoving magnets up your ass. (Fucking magnets, how do they work? Cancer in its malignant form is caused by the infection with the leprosy bacteria. By placing magnets that eliminate the pathogens, Dr. Goiz claims that cancers should resolve by themselves.) I am not making any of this up.

However, I also had people who were actually helpful. This is a long story which I may tell at some point, but with a little help from my friends—okay, a lot of help—I travelled to Bulgaria where I stayed with Egelantier and had tests and surgery performed, gave the results to several other friends who did research for me, obtained medication in shall we say various ways, and had another friend impersonate my fiancee. (Yes. There was fake dating.)

As a result, I am now feeling much better, am working and eating and exercising again, and most importantly, am actually enjoying life again. Photo proof!

The price of this is a medication which costs $100/week and is not covered by insurance. However, since I can now write again and so make money again, I should be able to keep taking it indefinitely. Mildred of Midgard found it by researching medical journals—only part of literally hundreds of hours of research she did on my behalf—and probably deserves another doctorate for it. I don't want to give the actual probable diagnosis because of the advice issue, so I'll just say that it's a physical, non-psychological, non-psychosomatic illness which was not caused or affected by any psychological issue whatsoever.

To everyone who helped me, whether in those concrete ways or just by respecting what I said about what would and would not be helpful, I am forever grateful.

Meanwhile, since I had no fun for the last two years and feel like I need a year-long vacation, I am going to Las Vegas this weekend! I haven’t gone in over ten years, but am certain that I will have much-needed fun and relaxation.

Once again: NO ADVICE. Unless it’s advice on what I should do in Las Vegas or do for fun in general. I don’t have any restrictions on diet or activities. Any unasked-for diet advice will be killed with fire. That’s “diet” as in “restrictive and/or supposedly healthy diet.” Advice on delicious things I ought to eat for enjoyment would be welcome.

Maybe later I will come up with something deep to say about the whole experience. Mostly I’m extremely angry at the medical system, individual doctors, and the toxic social beliefs which made an incredibly awful experience even worse by blaming me.

But for now, all I really have to say is that I didn’t think I’d live another year (and definitely hoped I wouldn’t), and now I’m hiking and seeing plays and going to Vegas.

So have a poem instead. It’s “The Moment,” by Patricia Hampl.

Standing by the parking-ramp elevator
a week ago, sunk, stupid with sadness.
Black slush puddled on the cement floor,
the place painted a killer-pastel
as in an asylum.
A numeral 1, big as a person,
was stenciled on the cinderblock:
Remember your level.
The toneless bell sounded:
Doors opened, nobody inside.
Then, who knows why, a rod of light
at the base of my skull flashed
to every outpost of my far-flung body—
I’ve got my life back.
It was nothing, just the present moment
occurring for the first time in months.
My head translated light,
my eyes spiked with tears.
The awful green walls, I could have stroked them.
The dirt, the moving cube I stepped into—
it was all beautiful,
everything that took me up
I waited in line for nine hours yesterday, starting at 6:00 AM, and emerged triumphantly with Hamilton tickets... for my birthday, no less. (October 29.) I hadn't intended that, but couldn't resist when I finally got to the end of the line and saw that it was one of the available dates.

It was a surprisingly non-annoying experience. I was luckily standing with a very cool person, with whom I ended up exchanging phone numbers, a former aerialist who shared my taste for youtube videos of cute animals. We spent some time screening videos of sugar gliders, bats, hedgehogs, etc, until we realized that we were going to be in line for longer than we had thought and had to save our batteries, as we were also trying to get tickets online in case they ran out by the time we got to the head of the line.

While in line, I read Red Havoc Rebel (Red Havoc Panthers Book 2), a paranormal romance by T. S. Joyce (enjoyable but would recommend her hilariously titled and covered but actually quite good Lumberjack Werebear (Saw Bears Series Book 1) over it) and Gail Calwell's New Life, No Instructions: A Memoir (well-written and interesting memoir about having a hip replacement after having polio as a child, but I'd recommend her outstanding first memoir, Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship, about her friendship with another writer, Caroline Knapp, over it). And then my Kindle ran out of battery and that was it for reading. (I did have a backup paper book, The Other Ones by Jean Thesman, about psychic kids, but went back to chatting in line after a chapter or so.)

It soon got very hot (90 degrees) and they moved the line inside the theatre, where they had air conditioning and were playing the soundtrack. When we got inside it was at "The Election of 1800," and by the time we left the audible area it had played all the way through, stopped for a while, then begun again by popular request and was on "Guns and Ships."

I also chatted for a while with a guy who was in line for his eleven-year-old daughter. Who knows, but that might be an experience she remembers fondly for the rest of her life. I told him how I'd somewhat randomly decided to go on a school field trip to see Shakespeare at Ashland, Oregon, and it changed my life. I went in intending to be a biology major and become a veterinarian, and I left intending to be a theatre major. I've never regretted it.

I then went to Thai Town and grabbed take-out Thai food for me and Sherwood (pad se-ew (stir-fried rice noodles with dark soy, egg, and greens), rice with ground pork and dried olives, and greens with crispy pork), and for just me, sticky rice with coconut milk and fresh mango and Corvette-flavored cupcakes (rice flour cupcakes in three somewhat mysterious floral flavors, the color of a pink Corvette (probably rose), a green leaf (probably pandan) and yellow (God knows.) Then Sherwood and I saw Baahubali 2, which was amazing and epic and amazingly epic. I highly recommend it. Here's her review and here's the trailer.

Me in line, 6:00 AM.
The opening paragraphs of the introduction by a psychologist with an alphabet soup of credentials, for Survivors.

This is a book about survivors, that is to say, those who continue to live when others have died. Looked at from one point of view this is very positive, in the sense that anyone who has a brush with death is lucky to survive. However, looked at from another point of view it is profoundly negative, in that one need not have had a brush with tragedy anyway.

It reminds me of the immortal Suicide by Cop: Committing Suicide by Provoking Police to Shoot You.
An account of the making of Tommy Wiseau’s cult classic terrible movie, The Room, by the leading actor, who was also Tommy’s roommate, Tommy’s friend, and one of Tommy’s five credited assistants on The Room, two of whom never appeared on the set and one of whom was dead.

You can get a sense of The Room by watching this thirteen second clip: the unfathomable choice to shoot on unconvincing green screen in a parking lot rather than use the actual roof or studio they had available, Wiseau’s peculiar costume (chosen by himself) and even more peculiar line delivery (“I did not hit her, I did nawwwt! Oh hai Mark”), and most peculiar of all, Wiseau’s acting, which goes beyond mere woodenness to give the impression of an alien or robot attempting to imitate one of those strange “human” creatures.

Those thirteen seconds, Sestero tells us, took three hours to shoot due to Wiseau’s inability to walk, talk, hit his mark, or emerge from the Port-A-Potty-like outhouse without whacking his head.

The Disaster Artist is both an account of the making of a world-class bad movie and a character study of the world-class oddball who created it:

Even today, a decade later, I still can’t unsee Tommy’s outfit: nighttime sunglasses, a dark blazer as loose and baggy as rain gear, sand-colored cargo pants with pockets filled to capacity (was he smuggling potatoes?), a white tank top, clunky Frankenstein combat boots, and two belts. Yes, two belts. The first belt was at home in its loops; the second draped down in back to cup Tommy’s backside, which was, he always claimed, the point: “It keeps my ass up. Plus it feels good.”

Sestero may be a decent actor when not directed by Tommy Wiseau, but based on his lack of other credits, I suspect he’s a much better writer. His prose is a pleasure to read, and his depiction of the doom-laden hilarity of the making of a truly terrible movie is dead-on.

Tommy Wiseau is a strange, mysterious, lonely person who won’t say where he came from or how old he is, and has apparently unlimited funds. He connects with Sestero in a relationship that starts off casual and ends up taking over his life.

Sestero is a struggling actor who is inspired by Wiseau’s ability to be totally himself (he has pens printed with “Wiseau’s Planet,” which he may have beamed down from; that would explain a lot); Wiseau seems to be attempting to figure out human interactions by studying the one person willing to be his friend, with a side of spooky fixation a la The Talented Mr. Ripley. It’s all fun and games until Sestero is lying awake and seething at 4:00 AM while Wiseau is hanging upside down like a bat from the pull-up bar he installed on the door to Sestero’s room.

I tried to imagine Tommy's mind from the inside out. I saw burning forests, blind alleys, volcanoes in the desert, city streets that plunged into the ocean, barricades everywhere, and all of it lit in the deep-cherry light of emergency.

The book is dead-on about the way you can slip into a friendship with someone you like at first, who then reveals more and more clingy weirdness until you suddenly wake up wondering how the hell you put up with it for so long and run for the hills. Once Sestero is no longer rooming with Wiseau, he’s more able to appreciate Wiseau’s peculiar brand of charm. Which does exist, but is best enjoyed from a distance.

The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made (currently $1.99 at Amazon).
rachelmanija: (Default)
( Apr. 13th, 2017 04:12 pm)
The Good Place is a half-hour sitcom/serial; it doesn’t have standalone episodes but tells a single continuous story in thirteen episodes. I have no idea if this is now a common format for sitcoms, because I almost always dislike the genre and so don’t usually watch it. It’s not because of humiliation humor, it’s because I almost never find them funny. I also dislike the weird stagy way they deliver dialogue. Also, I generally dislike stories set in the afterlife.

The Good Place is a sitcom with that annoying stagy way of speaking, set in the afterlife. And yet I liked it a lot.

I found it very funny, with likable characters that I got invested in and a compelling storyline. It also did some things with the writing that I have never seen done before in exactly that way. Unfortunately, it’s hugely spoilery what they are, and the show is definitely best enjoyed unspoiled. Every single episode concludes with some kind of twist or revelation or cliffhanger, so even discussing what happens after episode one will spoil some of the enjoyment of episode two. So I will just explain the premise and a little bit of what I enjoyed about it, and put the rest of the entry behind a cut.

Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) dies and wakes up in the Good Place, a candy-colored Heaven bearing a suspicious resemblance to American suburbia. She’s immediately greeted by Michael (Ted Danson), the angel who designed the Good Place. She has a perfect house made specially for her, and her very own soul mate with whom she can be together forever.

There’s just one problem: she’s the wrong Eleanor Shellstrop. Due to some mix-up, Michael thinks she was a do-gooder who saved starving children in refugee camps. In fact, she’s a selfish, shallow person whose life of misdeeds is shown in hilarious flashbacks. But she’s not stupid, and she definitely doesn’t want to be sent to the Bad Place. So after she’s shown to the house designed for the right Eleanor Shellstrop (decorated with giant paintings of terrifying clowns, because that Eleanor Shellstrop loved clowns), she confides in her assigned soul mate, Chidi, a sweet ethics professor. Can he teach her to be good before she gets found out, so she’ll actually deserve to stay in the Good Place?

The acting is across-the-board stellar, but I especially enjoyed Ted Danson doing a world-class job of a role that’s always fun, the inhuman being who likes but doesn’t really get humans, and Kristen Bell walking the tightrope of making Eleanor likable but not nice.

You can watch the entire thing on the NBC website.

Don’t read past the cut unless you want to be spoiled for literally everything. Read more... )
rachelmanija: (Default)
( Apr. 2nd, 2017 10:44 am)
After not watching much TV for two years, I actually caught up on a couple shows. However, all are best left unspoiled, in some cases for everything but the premise.

Which shows would you like me to make spoilery discussion posts on? Feel free to talk about or rec/anti-rec them in comments to this post, but only in a non-spoilery manner.

Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 76


Which TV show would you like me to post on?

View Answers

Legion
18 (23.7%)

The Good Place
34 (44.7%)

Better Call Saul (Season one)
7 (9.2%)

Killjoys
14 (18.4%)

11.22.63
3 (3.9%)

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A couple nights ago I attended a meeting of the city council on whether to declare my city, Culver City, a sanctuary city. It was already acting as one, but the measure made it actual law.

Culver City is its own city within LA county, with its own police force; I live on the dividing line, which means that if I observe a crime being committed on my side of the street I call Culver City police, but if it's across the street it's a matter for LAPD. Culver City police is the police force I volunteer with. It practices neighborhood policing, in which police are assigned to a specific neighborhood for years and sometimes permanently, so they can get to know who lives there and what's normal and what isn't. They also believe in de-escalating situations rather than charging in with guns blazing, and I have seen this in action. No organization is perfect... but they're really good.

One of my neighbors emailed me to inform me of the sanctuary city vote, and so I showed up. I live in a fourplex, and found at the meeting that all four apartments in my building had at least one representative at the meeting: a 100% building turn-out! I'm in the first row in the black jacket. The guy on my right is my downstairs neighbor.

It was my first city council meeting. There was a huge turn-out consisting of hundreds of Culver City residents and eight or ten non-resident paid Trump agitators. The Trump agitators were next to me, against the wall.

Because of the huge turn-out, the council had other matters go first. I was charmed by the multiple Farmer's Market vendors who spoke to urge the council to re-hire a guy named Emanuel who had been running the market for nine years, all eloquently praising him, often mentioning "despite his youth." When they were done, Emanuel himself spoke. He mentioned being 29, so he started when he was 20! Impressive. He was voted in. I was also intrigued by the several vendors who made references to the previous manager leaving under what were apparently mysterious circumstances ("Emanuel took over after [I forget his name] left... for whatever reason," and "Since [Whover] went... wherever he went," etc).

Then we moved on to the main matter. 79 people spoke, at two minutes each. All but one of the actual Culver City residents were in favor of the sanctuary city resolution, which is pretty amazingly unified. It was cool to hear everyone's stories - immigrants, descendants of Holocaust survivors, lawyers making lawyerly suggestions, teenagers, pastors, veterans, and a hilarious number of parents of exactly two children, many of them attending the same high school. (Culver City has the fourth most diverse school population in America - 25% African-American, Asian American, Latino/a, and White.)

The Trump agitators loudly booed and cat-called Every. Single. Speaker. This despite the council members repeatedly telling them not to. A high school student from an immigrant family made a very moving speech, and started crying when he spoke about his family's struggles; the Trump agitators loudly mocked him. At that, the entire audience got up and gave the student a standing ovation.

The agitators' speeches were clearly meant for some audience other than their actual one; Trumpers on youtube, I think. They threatened and insulted the council members and audience, yelled, "Sessions is coming for you!" invoked strange Biblical conspiracy theories, and said, "They're gonna rape your women!" and "They're gonna kill you all!" Culver City is extremely liberal and this did not go over well.

The meeting started at 7:00 PM, and ended at a quarter to 1:00 AM. By around 11:00, the heckling and booing was getting pretty old. A Muslim speaker who was calling for peace and brotherhood got called a murderer and terrorist. At that point, I snapped, "SHUT UP!" and a council member had the loudest yeller evicted. When he was allowed back in about half an hour later, he brandished and set off a taser. He was then escorted out by the cops and not allowed back in.

The remaining agitators got bored and left before the actual vote. The council members spent about an hour debating the actual provisions of the measure, with input from the chief of police and the city attorney. In the end, the measure passed 3-1 (the dissenter also voted for sanctuary, but as a symbolic measure only without specific provisions), with one provision stricken (providing funds for immigrants' legal defense) and a few others reworded. Victory!

The whole thing got me interested in city politics, which I haven't been involved in previously in that sense. It was also nice to do something as a part of my community, after mostly living under a rock for the last two years.
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In honor of the upcoming release of Rebel (Book 3).

Ask me anything about the series, the characters, the world, etc. Sherwood will be popping in too!

This post allows spoilers for both Stranger and Hostage.

Ask questions here in this post!
In honor of the upcoming release of Rebel (Book 3).

Ask me anything about the series, the characters, the world, etc. Sherwood will be popping in too!

This post allows spoilers for Stranger but not Hostage. There is a spoilery post which allows spoilers for both books that are out now.

Ask questions here in this post!
Welcome back to Las Anclas, a frontier town in the post-apocalyptic Wild West. In this perilous landscape, a schoolboy can create earthquakes, poisonous cloud vipers flock in the desert skies, and the beaches are stalked by giant mind-controlling lobsters.

The tyrant king Voske has been defeated, but all is not peaceful in Las Anclas. Ross's past comes back to haunt him, Jennie struggles with her new career, Mia faces her fears, Felicite resorts to desperate measures to keep her secrets, Kerry wonders if Las Anclas has really seen the last of her father, and shy Becky Callahan may hold the key to a dangerous mystery.

In Rebel, long-held secrets of past and present are revealed, family ties can strangle as well as sustain, and the greatest peril threatening Las Anclas comes from inside its walls.

Rebel (The Change # 3)

If you would like to review it, let me know and I'll send you an advance review copy (ebook only).

The LJ version has the cover image.
rachelmanija: (Default)
( Feb. 22nd, 2017 12:26 pm)
For the Chocolate Box exchange, which focuses on romantic or friendship pairings, I wrote The Gift for [personal profile] aurilly's request for Emeth/Tirian from The Last Battle. If you don't remember him, Emeth was the honorable young Calormene officer, who made a disproportionate impression in a very brief appearance, at least on those of us who like noble warriors.
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This post is about the blackmailer, harasser, bully, and maker of death threats known by the remarkably apt name of Requires Hate. She has a ridiculous number of other socks and pseudonyms, such as Winterfox (her former LJ handle), Benjanun Sriduangkaew (her pro writer identity), Lesifoere (spewer of repulsive transphobic slurs), and at least four or five more. There may be others which are still unknown. It would not surprise me in the slightest if she had a second career threatening people in, say, the hamster fancier community, under twenty different vicious sock identities.

She harassed me for years and is still doing it; she carried on elaborate campaigns to destroy the careers of other pro writers in her genre; she befriended people and then blackmailed them; the list goes on. As far as anyone can tell, she's devoted her entire life to being horrible, online and off, for a minimum of twelve years now.

I have encountered a lot of mean people in my life. But Winterfox is the only person I've ever known who makes people miserable as a full-time job. I literally do not know how she finds the time to bully as many people as she does, as constantly as she does. She could afford to bankroll organizations protecting human rights or rescuing orphan kittens. She could create her own publishing house. She could go on really awesome long vacations. But no. She just hunches over her computer 24-7, spewing vitriol in all directions.

I think we need a word that means "pathetic and a little bit darkly funny, but also genuinely harmful." I suggest "winterfoxy."

So why am I posting now? What's new?

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Winterfox is still doing everything she used to do, as far as I can tell. She still makes death threats. The people she blackmailed are still being blackmailed. She still harasses me in the exact same way she always did: I review a comic book about gay men in Iran, she accuses me on Twitter of being a child abuser.

At least, I assume she's still attacking me. I have asked (and still ask) people to not inform me if they see her saying anything about me. Since I don't do Twitter anyway, this means I miss about 99% of her activities and so only randomly and occasionally hear about it when she lies about or abuses me. Last time was about six months ago, so I imagine I'm due. Bring it, Winterfox. If you tweet about me a thousand times, I'll probably hear about one of them. I'm sure you'll find that motivational.

I am writing about her again for a couple reasons. One is to link to a surprisingly funny (considering the subject matter) essay by my friend, fantasy author Zen Cho, Being an Itemized List of Disagreements . Another is a thoughtful and heartfelt post by another friend, artist and writer M Sereno, A Letter to Apex Editors . Both were written to protest the embrace of a vicious and destructive bully, protect vulnerable people from her, and alert people who might not know exactly who they're dealing with to her past and current activities.

That's also why I posted. (So linking is fine.) Winterfox doesn't scare me any more. She's way too much of a coward to risk hiring a hit man, let alone confronting me in person. Anyone who believes I'm a child abuser or pro-rape or whatever because some rando on Twitter said so is not only not someone whose opinion I care about, they probably don't even know who the hell I am. I don't go to science fiction conventions, so she can't get me ostracized there. There's really nothing she can do to harm me.

But there are other people she can harm. There are people she is harming right now. She and her supporters make the science fiction world unwelcoming to her targets, who are disproportionately women of color. They also make it unwelcoming to onlookers who see people like them getting abused with impunity and even applause, and decide to go elsewhere. Not fucking okay, Winterfox supporters!

Sometimes life hands you difficult and complex ethical problems in which the right thing to do is genuinely unclear. This is not one of them. If you are endorsing someone whose big contribution to your field is to tell women of color that they should be raped by dogs, you are not one of the good guys.

I'm not calling for a boycott of her fiction. I'm not even saying you should stop being buds with her, though if you are, for God's sake don't email her anything she could hold over you later. What I am saying is that you should not ostracize people on her account, join in on bullying, believe anything she says about anyone without checking it yourself, brush off her death threats, or invite her to a roundtable on intersectionality. For instance.

Also, if you see someone interacting with her who doesn't know her history, you might want to warn them. I told her once to stop verbally abusing people, and I have now been harassed by her for six years and counting. Others thought she was their friend, and are still being blackmailed by her. If people know about her and choose to interact with her anyway, that's up to them. But if they don't know, a heads-up might save them a world of trouble.

If you already totally agree with me and would like to get Winterfox's goat, I have some suggestions for ruining her day.

You could donate to Outright Action International . They do stellar work in international LGBTIQ rights. I raise money for them, and Winterfox attacks me every time I do it online. So clearly, donating to them would really annoy her.

You could buy some art from M Sereno. It's gorgeous, and I bet it would really piss Winterfox off to know that people are financially supporting and appreciating the work of someone who had the nerve to speak out about her. Especially, to continue the theme of queer rights, the lovely print "To Live."

You could buy Zen Cho's awesome books, ditto: Sorcerer to the Crown, The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo, Spirits Abroad, and The Terracotta Bride.

You could buy or review books by people she harasses and whose careers she's tried to destroy, and also by people who supported them. That list is very long so I'll just link to a few: The Grass King's Concubine by Kari Sperring, Serpentine by Cindy Pon, Glass Houses: Avatars Dance by Laura Mixon, To Shape the Dark (Feral Astrogators) by Athena Andreadis, Rosewater by Tade Thompson, The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin, Shadowboxer by Tricia Sullivan, The Red Tree by Caitlin Kiernan, Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord, Mindplayers by Pat Cadigan, and What Fates Impose (includes a story by Rochita Loenen-Ruiz).

I initially wasn't going to post more than just links to the other two posts. I'm seriously ill and didn't think I had the energy for either the writing of or the fallout from a post like this. But when I started, I realized that in fact, I'm sick enough that I really don't give a damn. Also, apparently thinking about Winterfox gives me some energy. The WTF factor alone could launch a thousand ships.

I realized something else, too. No matter how bad things get for me, I will always have one thing to be grateful for: at least I'm not Winterfox.
In a future world, cancer has been all but eradicated. Jimson Alleca can live another 20 years with drugs and a peaceful lifestyle -- if he stays in space-normal. But he's willing to risk it all to make the jump into the Hype, the shimmering "not space" for one year among the stars.

I have a huge thing for choosing a short time of glory over a long stretch of not-so-great, so this premise was right up my alley. I also love the trope of "space will kill you but let's go anyway."

This book is and is not that. The blurb is correct as far as it goes, but the tone and content are not what I expected from it. It's much quieter, the emotions are far more low-key, and what Jimson actually does with his one year before leaving the planet kills him is nowhere near as dramatic as I expected. I liked it for what it was, though the beginning is stronger than the rest, but I'm still looking for the book the blurb promised.

Jimson is an artist with bone cancer under control with treatment, so long as he never goes into space; if he does, it will metastasize and kill him within a year due to radiation exposure. His art is acclaimed in worlds he'll never see, and he's still hung up on Russell, the boyfriend who bailed on him for outer space fourteen years ago and hasn't contacted him since. Jimson has gotten increasingly depressed, bored, artistically blocked, and trapped. Then Russell sends him a photo of himself with no note, and Jimson decides that he's had it: he'll take his one year and go look up Russell.

My favorite part of the book was this part, where Jimson is making his decision and taking interim steps toward it. There's some really beautiful writing and imagery. It's also, despite the sound of it, less about Russell (who has not yet appeared) and more about what Jimson wants to do with his life in general.

Then Jimson finally goes off-planet. I was expecting a desperate, defiant grab at glory and wonder in shimmering not-space. What he actually does is plonk down in a town on another planet, have a low-key affair with a woman pilot, and hang out in a bar. For months. And months. He has ONE YEAR TO LIVE, because he went off-planet, and he spends a whole lot of it not doing anything he couldn't have done on his own planet. I'm not sure if this was the point or what, because eventually Russell shows up and things take a different turn, but also, unfortunately, into anticlimax.

Russell is a giant bag of dicks. Again, I'm not sure if he was supposed to be or not, but I really disliked him. (I did like the portrayal of sexuality - most characters are bisexual and this is unremarked-upon - I just disliked Russell.) He's a space pirate, and realistically they would probably be jerks, but seriously? JERK. He ditches his doomed boyfriend and doesn't contact him for fourteen years, then sends him a photo and nothing else. The vanishing was because he was flipped out over Jimson's illness, and is understandable. The fourteen-years-late space selfie with no note attached? JERK. He then proceeds to be a dick for the rest of the book, though at least Jimson gets to be with him and is at least somewhat pleased about that.

Again, given the suggested delicious melodrama of the premise, Jimson is an incredibly low-key character and so is the book. There's one scene that sort of lives up to the "shimmering hyperspace" bit but Jimson's experience of hyperspace is that it's kind of reddish, and he spends most of it wandering around the spaceship making sure the characters who are doing exciting stuff don't forget to eat.

There's some mild space adventuring which is nowhere near exciting enough that I'd give up my whole life for it, followed by an ending which you may or may not read as a cop-out. Read more... )

This is at least the second book I've read in which someone chooses to go into space for a brief period of glory before it kills them. The other is Emma Bull's Falcon, which I like a lot but which skips most of the "period of glory" part, jumping from the moment right before the hero goes into space to several years later, when his time is about to run out.

Does anyone know of any more books with that premise? Especially if they actually write it the way it sounds like.

Only $4.00 on Amazon. A Different Light
This is the memoir of the guy who went climbing in an isolated part of Colorado without telling anyone where he was going, had an 800 lb boulder fall on his hand, and was trapped in a narrow canyon for six days with one day’s worth of food and water before he finally saved his life by amputating his arm with his multi-purpose tool, then climbing out and hiking for miles.

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

I saw this book when it came out, but never picked it up as I assumed that it would be a poorly-written “as told to” with a magazine article’s worth of content telling the story I bought the book for plus a book’s worth of boring padding about where he grew up, who he dated in college, etc. rmc28, who gave it to me, assured me that it was not that. She was correct. Thank you very much! It is indeed very good and I liked it a lot.

I was pleasantly surprised by what a good writer he is. He’s also, at times, a genuinely original thinker. He was a mechanical engineer, and he didn’t just sit there under the boulder, he devised several MacGyver-esque mechanical solutions to get himself out, including a remarkable system of ropes engineered to try to lift the boulder off his arm. They didn’t work due to 800 lb boulder vs. ropes without pulleys operated by one man stuck in one position and only able to use one hand, but it was one hell of a good try and makes for fascinating reading.

This originality comes through in other places too, like when he speculates that the “life review” memories that sometimes flash through people’s minds in extremis are a last-resort backup system to fight-flight-freeze, and are there to provide motivation to make one final effort for survival on behalf of their loved ones or their possible future, when otherwise people might just give up and die. I never thought of it that way before, but it’s a fascinating idea and he convinced me.

The only point where the book falls flat is at the very end, where he visibly sees the end in sight and rushes through “Recovery sucked but I was back rock-climbing two months post-amputation and I went on Letterman and my family is awesome and I learned important life lessons from the whole thing, bye!” in about two pages.

Otherwise, it’s a well-constructed, thoughtful, page-turning read, with lots of suspense and surprises. If all you know is the news accounts, there was a lot left out; at least, there was a lot that I hadn’t known. For instance, why he waited so long to cut off his arm; it turns out that the obstacles went way beyond the obvious and into seemingly not even being physically possible, as did how/why he finally did it.

Ralston can also be pretty funny, sometimes in a dark way but also more casually. There’s some beautiful nature descriptions. The depiction of how one’s mind works under imminent but prolonged threat of death is extremely well-depicted and absolutely accurate to my own experience and what I’ve heard from others. If this isn’t something you’ve experienced yourself but you want to write about it, his book would be an excellent resource.

Obviously, it contains an account of an amputation (not that long but quite vivid). Also a color photo (easy to avoid if you read in paper copy— it’s toward the end of the second photo section).

Getting back to the original news story, I suspect that a lot of people had the same two thoughts I did when it first came out: “Holy shit, that guy is hardcore,” and “Why the hell didn’t he leave a note saying where he was going?”

People who enjoy risk for its own sake tend to divide into two groups. There are the ones who take meticulous precautions to decrease the risks that they can control, and spend a lot of time contemplating “What should I do if…?” so when they need to take action on a split-second’s notice, they won’t waste precious time thinking, “What should I do?” or rush into foolhardy action.

Those types of people, by which I mean me, find it very annoying when non-risk-takers call them reckless, because in their minds, they are the opposite of reckless. When they hear “reckless,” they don’t think of NASCAR racers or bomb defusers. They think of Aron Ralston. Not because of the boulder, which could have happened to anyone. Because he didn’t leave a note.

The other type of risk-taker is impulsive, doesn’t take extensive (or sometimes even basic) precautions, and trusts in their skills and strength to get them out of trouble. At best, they’re jaw-droppingly badass; at worst, they’re living out their own personal Jackass. Based on his own book, this is indeed Aron Ralston. At least, it was at the point when the boulder fell on his hand. (He becomes much more level-headed once it is literally impossible to not spend some time sitting and thinking.)

When I first heard his story on the news, after my first uncharitable thought, I figured maybe he’d gotten lost and people were searching the wrong area, or he normally told someone where he was going but just hadn’t that one time. Nope, it was exactly like it sounded like: he went climbing in a dangerous and extremely isolated area alone, without telling anyone where he was going. Moreover, getting trapped with no one knowing where to search for him (or even when he was supposed to be back) was not an isolated incident, but the latest and most dramatic of a series of wilderness accidents either caused or exacerbated by his own actions.

But here’s what makes his book interesting: I’m just repeating what he says himself. Without either bragging or breast-beating, he recounts his history of recklessness, how he kept getting into accidents which he was then able to extricate himself from because he really was strong and brave and skilled, and how that reinforced his belief that he could do anything and get himself out of anything.

To write a good memoir, you have to let go of the desire to make people like you, and be honest about yourself to the best of your ability. Ralston’s memoir feels very honest. He was a bit of a privileged hipster dude who did a lot of reckless stuff, some of which affected others as well as himself, and kept on doing it out of ego and a lack of belief in his own mortality. But he’s aware of that dynamic. And that’s a big part of what makes his memoir, which cuts back and forth from the bottom of the slot canyon to his life up to that point, unified and compelling rather than padded and dull. It’s not a random collection of anecdotes, it’s a character portrait leading up to the ultimate in-character story.

Back to those two types of risk-takers, death by stupidity is one of my ultimate horrors. I have never doubted my mortality. I totally believe that the world has teeth. Death is inevitable, but I don’t want to meet it thinking, “Why the hell didn’t I leave a note?” I take precautions largely so when I do, I’ll at least be able to think, “This could have happened to anyone.” If my car gets trapped in the bomb zone (this has actually happened), I want to be able to say, “I underestimated how far that was likely to extend, next time I’ll park farther away, but it was an easy mistake to make and the majority of us made it, including our team leader.”

But what’s that really about? Ego. I want to feel good and look good to others (as opposed to wanting to be liked), just in a different way from the reckless kind. I want people to think, “She went in with her eyes open and did everything right, sometimes life just hands you the short straw.” Ralston wanted people to think, “Man, what a badass, that guy lived to the fullest and followed his dreams without fear.” Neither of us were motivated to avoid the slot canyon and the boulder, we were motivated to avoid thinking badly of ourselves and imagining others thinking badly of us once we were sitting at the bottom. We just had different ideas of “badly.”

But that’s not why he was climbing mountains and I was going to crime scenes, it’s just how we approached the question of personal risk. The actual “why” was how it all felt to him, and that sounds a lot like how it all felt to me. He liked adrenaline, he liked nature, he liked using his body skillfully and pushing it to the limits, and he liked being the guy who lived dangerously. He was doing some stuff to show off, but that was mostly the careless parts; climbing itself was something he did because he loved doing it.

It’s hard to feel lucky in more than a very abstract way when you’re in the bottom of a canyon with a boulder on your hand. But there’s worse things to regret than not leaving a note. He could have never climbed at all, and kept his hand and skipped the trauma. But then he would have skipped his entire life.

No matter how hard we imagine it and wish they would, God and the Devil never come down to offer us a deal: your life if you devote the rest of it to good works and always leave a note, your life for your right hand, a takeback on the entire boulder incident if you also take back all the climbing you ever did. In real life, all we can do is evaluate what we would have chosen if there had actually been a choice. It always seems to come down to your actual life with the worst parts included, or an entirely different one with both the worst and the best parts left out. Ralston says he’d have taken the life he did live, exactly as it was.

I believe him. He still climbs.
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