“It’s a trap!”
I’ve just spent the last two days off the island, not writing. Sitting down to write this morning I was dismayed to discover I needed to hit pause. The blog post I was going to write was fast becoming a polemic which bordered on a diatribe. Something is wrong on the internets.
What I had wanted to say was that toxic masculinity is dangerous and that it probably shouldn’t be used to market coffee. I’d seen an ad, and yeah, I was perturbed. But here’s the thing, a couple of hundred words into my denunciation I became mindful of what I was doing.
Sinking Sensation May Proceed Realization
Fuck! Mindfulness is hard. This morning, on the way to the coffee shop, A-bear and I had a discussion about taking responsibility for our mistakes so that we can move on. During our meandering discussion, he said “All I want to be is a good guy with a secret place. Only I can get in there.”
“What are you going to do when things don’t look that way? When you don’t feel like a good guy?” I asked.
“Listen to my tummy,” he explained.
That realization we have when we first become aware of what we’re doing. It feels a lot like falling in my experience. The blog post began as an act of anger. I was angry that someone bothered to create a toxic ad, chocked full of misogyny and faux tactical dick-bluster. My guns are bigger than your guns. ‘Merica! Additionally, I was angry at a friend and former Army buddy, who bothered to post this masterpiece of douchebaggery in my social media feed. Given the crowds that he runs with and how they socialize, this is predictable behavior. It’s a habit, his habit.
Additionally, I was angry at a friend and former Army buddy, who bothered to post this masterpiece of douchebaggery in my social media feed. Given the crowds that he runs with and how they socialize, this is predictable behavior. It’s a habit, his habit.
Finally, I was angry with myself. For not knowing better. For not catching myself before jumping into someone else’s toxic cease pool. And I let that anger push my words.
Brad Torgersen coined this insulting little acronym to describe all the people he loathes in genre fiction. It stands for Cliquish, Holier-than-thou, Obnoxious, Reactionary, Fanatics and I suspect that he misses cognizance that his critique of other’s could be most commonly applied to himself. But that’s Torgersen’s karma, not mine.
The practice of detachment is about letting go of our need to control outcomes, our attachment to our desires, and – perhaps most difficult – our need to control other people. I am responsible for the blackness behind my own eyes and nothing else. That’s enough.
I bring up this term and Torgersen at all because I see so many of my comrades in fiction fulfilling his definition. Given the opportunity I too have felt compelled, uncontrollably, to object to the toxicity of the Puppy’s poo. But I also realize that in doing so, I’m also aware that I’ve allowed them to change the conversation. Instead of discussing the merits of any given story we end up exchanging insults. I’d say it’s childish behavior, but for the fact that my five-year-old listens carefully to his tummy.
The direction I see SFF headed does concern me, so don’t misunderstand, but what I’ll call Competing Dogmas of Story (CDS for short) method of resolution is predictably resulting in little more than a tide of ad hominem. And this concerns me more than just about anything. It’s no longer a productive exchange of ideas, no one’s mind is changing, we’re locked in an endless Coke vs. Pepsi argument.
There’s a lot of desire wrapped up in the Rocket. Back in 2014, when Larry Corria’s “Warbound, Book III of the Grimnoir Chronicles” nabbed a nomination, but not an award he chose to take it personally. A consummate storyteller, he created a complex mythology which justified his desire. “He was robbed, I tell you! Robbed!” And his reaction to his loss led to the creation of the Sad Puppies and their derivatives.
All that pent up anger poured into a blind, multi-year campaign of simple dominance.
My recent rise on Amazon is posted above for a reason, I invest a lot of hope in the idea that if I can climb that ladder, I’ll find new readers, they’ll buy my stories, and all my chickens will hatch. The contemporary version of Jack London’s rise is a mashup; the recombination of epic, serial fiction, and electronic distribution. Who wouldn’t like to see that kind “success?”
Even after a lot of hard work and some great promotion my bump from Alt.Chronicles Legacy Fleet topped out at #225. Follow on sales, page reads, and new Patreon subscriptions we’re weak. It makes me feel like a zombie that made it to the fence only to have a stake shoved through my eye. All those tasty brains, just out of reach. The good news is that I’m not angry. Maybe it would be more accurate to say, while I sometimes experience anger as a consequence of my circumstance, I remain aware of myself enough to recognize those moments. I can refuse to let them push me around. This isn’t a fatal failure. My attachments are visible, and that frees me to work on things that will help. I’ll write more stories.
There is a lot that the SFF community can learn from this practice, I think. Refusing to respond anger — discovering and acknowledging the struggles of others — is the way forward. Torgersen and Corria are angry that they’re not on top of the heap, that their moment in the spotlight didn’t happen on their schedule, and that’s their struggle. I don’t have to make it mine.