That is also the feature that I appreciate most in relationship advice, whether it be general advice (but for poly folks), relationship anarchy, or navigating relationships that are not on the relationship ladder.
Unlike the "conventional wisdom", all of these share the characteristic of not being the default, of questioning the default, and really evaluating it if it works for you and whatever kind of relationship(s) you're in.
That's an important distinction there: I think these sources of relationship advice are excellent, whether you're in the most experimental non-traditional relationship structure EVAH or if you have 2.5 kids, a spouse, and a literal white picket fence.
Because where you and your significant other(s) are going to trip up are with your assumptions.
With your defaults.
For your relationships to be successful1, the folks in them don't have to be on the same sheet of music - but you do have to be aware of the tune everyone else is playing... and if you're playing the same song, or something completely different.
This is not easy. It's a lot of work to really examine the assumptions you have. I still get blindsided by my own sometimes.
But at the same time, it doesn't have to be stressful. If we strive to discuss our feelings, our thoughts, our defaults, and our assumptions without assigning value judgements2, then we can actually work with them... even when we disagree.
So it's important to question our defaults and our assumptions, both on our own and with those that we're in relationships with.
By questioning those defaults, by determining where our shared strengths and goals are, we can make our relationships better, stronger, and saner.
1 And I'd argue that's regardless of how you define "successful"
2 I recommend NVC, or Non-Violent Communication as a good starting point for this.
I also started explicitly asking people to send me pictures if they took some of me at panels or elsewhere. Too often at conventions, I'm busy and simply forget to take pictures.
So many of the pics below are not by me (the photographer is credited on Flickr, where the pics are hosted). And if you have pictures of me at Penguicon (or other conventions in the past!) please don't hesitate to tag me!
When You Create A Safe Space, It's Safe For All People: A Reflection on Penguicon 2015 And Rachel Bryk
I was at Penguicon last weekend. After years of attending conventions (and even helping run one), I'd forgotten why I like going to conventions.
Penguicon reminded me.
Because while I was there, I saw all sorts of people.
All ages. All colors. All over the gender spectrum.
And it was glorious.
And it was intentional.
I had the pleasure of sitting in on a talk about creating safe spaces there, and the efforts that the convention had taken to make sure there were good policies, signage, and enforcement mechanisms... up to ensuring that even con staff paid entrance fees like everyone else to reinforce the idea that everyone's - EVERYONE'S - con experience was as important as anyone else's.
There were clear consent signs with examples:
There were signs apologizing about the gendered signage of the bathrooms, as well as an explicit callout to "I'll go with you" volunteers:
And there were even "communication stickers" where congoers could indicate how open they were to interaction with others:
This last got some commentary on Facebook when I posted the above picture. To paraphrase: "What if you have your badge somewhere where it's hard to see?"
And the thing is, it doesn't matter if you can't see the badge. Because these signs were all over the place at the convention. Even if you couldn't see someone else's badge, you knew they probably had a sticker.
That changes the default.
It changes the default from "I do whatever I want" to "I should consider what someone else wants". It means you can't pretend you didn't pick up on a social cue. It means there are no excuses for being an inconsiderate boor.
You know - even if you can't see the badge - that there's a chance they've clearly expressed whether or not they want to talk. And it forces one to stop and think.
So when I heard that a con staff member was told "Where is the safe space for conservatives?", I had a hard time not getting angry.
These measures do create a safe space for all people, regardless of their political (or religious, or, or, or) preference.
Because these measures are very clearly and explicitly about protecting everyone's boundaries. They're not about making you do something.
But they might be about keeping you from doing something to someone else.
They're about living and letting live.
And that brings us back to Rachel Bryk.
Because the online trolls, the people too insecure and afraid, they will still exist.
But maybe if Rachel had been able to see more examples of a community that considered her as important as anybody else, she and so many other trans folks would still be with us.
And if you can't deal with the fact that you can't harass anyone you want to, whenever you want to...
...then you're evicting yourself from the safe space.
And good riddance.
I'm on my way to Penguicon, and stopped for a quick snack at a McDonald's somewhere between Toledo and Detroit. And to use the facilities.
I'm finishing up, and notice, far too late, there's no toilet paper.
Multiple possible courses of action go through my head, all of them crappy. (Not sorry.). I had my phone, but how would I know what number to call? I don't even know what town this is.
Then I remember. This is the future.
I get my phone. Pull up Maps, which quickly shows me at McD's. Tap once more, and it offers store details, including a phone number. A quick call later, and one of the staff helps me out of my sticky situation. (Okay, sorry for that one.)
Not that long ago, I would have (at best) maybe gotten a 411 operator to connect me. Now...it all came out all right. (Not sorry!)
It really took this mundane thing to make me truly realize exactly how much our phones have transformed everything in our lives.
And as authors, it's going to be fun trying to keep up.
This isn’t the first time I’ve seen this particular complaint. It is often paired with the one of authors who obsessively use examples from their own work when discussing the topic at hand.
Both are always in the context of condemning authors who are overeager to sell their works.
And both comments make me cringe.
Because I do put books in front of me on the table. And I do use examples from my own work.
This might be the difference, though: I’m not doing either explicitly to sell my work.
I put books up because I’ve just barely begun to hit the point where people have heard of a book I’ve published (let alone anything I’ve written). My experience is what differentiates me from the people in the audience – that’s why I’m on the panel, after all – and those books serve as a sort of bona fides.
Likewise, I use my own work when it’s the best suited example. When fielding a question about the process of writing, I almost have to use an example from my own work. But again, it’s not because I’m wanting to sell books… it’s because it best serves the goal of the panel.
But – and I think this is perhaps most important – I don’t think there’s anything wrong with an author on a panel letting people know their books are for sale at the dealer’s room, or at a particular table. A quick mention to let people know at the top and bottom of the panel, and that’s all.
Especially in speculative fiction circles, it’s rare to get any kind of a speaking fee. We’re usually only getting a comped badge to the convention – and not always that.
Those panelists are there offering up knowledge and expertise. In return, giving a few seconds for an author to simply say “My books are available at X” is no big deal.
There are plenty of bad examples - such as this guy I talked about back in 2013 - so I'm not going to harp on them here, other than to point this out:
There's a difference between sharing what you've done and promoting what you've done. That difference is the key.
Penguicon is a three-day event where we all learn from each other (as well as from our Guests of Honor) about hacking, building sci-fi universes, soldering, painting miniatures, gaming, coding, music, incredible costumes, and more.
Our two pillars are Science Fiction and Open Source, but we cover as many diverse nerdy interests as possible. We have a consuite with free soda, coffee, munchies and other real food, which makes it easier on your budget. You can find all kinds of original artwork and non-commodity crafts in our enormous Maker Market.Yeah. ::swoon::
I'm on a number of panels:
1000 Saturday: How To Do Dystopia
1300 Saturday: How To Make the Fantastic Believeable
1700 Saturday: Rejection - Dealing with the Dark Side of the Creative Arts
1900 Saturday: You Can't Kill the Undead
1100 Sunday: Marketing Online Content
1300 Sunday: Reading
If you'd like to meet up, twitter's always good to get a hold of me and arrange something.
Because I've caused myself a lot of grief and heartache over the last... well, a while. Over different things.
And really, it's all this kind of heartache:
It's easy to focus on not being able to clap your hands.
And don't get me wrong. That lack of something you want can be really hurtful. It doesn't matter what it is that you're wanting - a particular job, a particular relationship, a particular convention invite, a particular award, a particular person's respect - they all share one thing in common.
They're all based on wanting something particular. And something that you can't directly control.
It's hard to remember that things you can't control ... are things you can't control. It's even harder to remember that the harder you try to get the things you can't control, the more off-the-reservation you get. Even to the point where you act in ways where you don't recognize yourself any more.
Again, this is regardless of what "kind" of particular you're chasing.
For example, this is what makes both the Sad and Rabid Puppies (see GRRM's roundup or Jason Sandford's thoughts if you don't know)... well, sad. Pathetic, really. Because they've all but said (and may have actually; I don't care enough to hunt for a quote) that they're upset because they aren't getting this particular award. And so they're throwing a tantrum and feeling sorry for themselves... and possibly destroying what they claim to want.1
Everybody does this kind of behavior. About all sorts of things. You want a thing, a goal so freaking bad that it seems reasonable, even logical, to try to do anything possible to get it.
Except it never, ever, works out that way. Even if you "achieve" your goal, you'll have done it with so much drama that you'll have poisoned the well.
This is hard to remember. There's a reason I keep writing posts like this almost every year - it's to help myself remember.
And if I need remembering, I bet someone else out there could use it too.
So here's permission:
IGNORE THAT THING YOU THINK YOU WANT.
Stop struggling to make something be what it doesn't want to be. That convention doesn't want you as a panelist or publisher is ignoring you? Screw 'em. That person doesn't want to date you? Find someone who is actually excited about the possibility of dating you. Somebody doesn't like or respect you? Find those who do. You're not winning a particular award? Start your own.
Realizing that is the difference between this:
1 The Sad and Rabid Puppies are synonymous in fact, if not in name. Again, Jason Sanford has excellent analysis on his blog with this post.
The key is disassociating goals (or needs) from specific actions.
I know, this sounds like the opposite of every bit of self-help and efficiency advice out there. Stick with me for a second; I'm not advocating some wishy-washy mealymouthed wishful thinking here.
The best example would be the advice I gave my son over Christmas about choosing a career.
Think about the things you like doing. Not the specific things, but the quality of those things that makes them enjoyable. Do you like working with your hands? With numbers? Figuring things out? Seeing lots of people? Seeing few people? Being outside, or being inside?Makes sense for someone who's just starting to look at colleges, right?
When you've determined what qualities a job would need to be satisfying, then you start looking for jobs that offer those qualities.
But I think this makes sense in pretty much any situation.
Please note that I'm not saying to compromise the need or goal. But consider that there might be multiple ways to meet those needs than whatever first specific action comes to mind.
A practical example (mostly fictional): Two people are deciding where to go to eat.
1: "I don't like spicy food, so we're going to Golden Corral."This example is a little over-the-top, but the exact same principle applies to all the rest of your needs and goals. Is the goal to get a PhD, or to teach? Is the goal to be a neurosurgeon, or to help sick people?
2: "But I can't stand buffets."
1: "Don't you care that I don't want spicy food?"
By taking the time to examine your actual goals, needs, and desires - separate from the potential paths to reach them - you will open yourself up to many more possibilities... and a lot less conflict in your life.
For us old-school gamers, we remember the original X-Wing fondly. And then we remember Tie Fighter even more fondly... not because the dark side had cookies, but because the game fixed a lot of frustrations about trying to play the game. Likewise the difference between Descent 1&2 and Descent Three - the devs spent a lot of time trying to make learning curve something that was more hill-like than vertical-line like.
The difference between X-Wing and Tie Fighter is the difference between the best of them and Star Conflict.
Star Conflict is a next step in space flight sims. And to boot, it's a free-to-play and cross-platform game. And it's easy to learn, hard to master, AND gorgeous. (All images in this post are taken in game from my system.)
What's held my attention with this game is that the reticule (y'know, the "aim and shoot crap" thing) is controlled by the mouse... and is not completely tied to ship movement. Enemy flying over your right shoulder? The guns completely naturally track with your mouse as the ship slowly yaws to follow.
(Yes, that's right, you console peasants. Mouse and keyboard FTW.)
This is seriously the best-designed space sim control UI I've encountered. The learning curve is there, yes. ("Lock onto enemy targeting me" is one keybind you'll want to customize.) But you can jump in front of this thing and be blasting at aliens (or other players) fairly effectively in a matter of minutes.
What really stuns me more than anything else is the effective and gorgeous graphics. I'm running integrated graphics on my linux laptop, and there's not a single bit of hesitation or lag. The load on my system is far less than that from L4D2 or TF2, even in a heated 20-ship PvP combat.
The free-to-play options are pretty effective and balanced; I bought a DLC upgrade to support the devs.
The one big frustration is that I can't effectively link FB accounts - for once, I want to, so that I can share the referral link so everybody gets some cool free stuff. I'm not sure what's wrong there; it could just be the excessive security I have around that stuff. So if you can, here's the code:
Check out Star Conflict on their web page: http://star-conflict.com/ or just install the thing FOR FREE on Steam at http://store.steampowered.com/app/212070/
And send me a friend request; I'm SenorWombat .
As Lucy Snyder reminded friends on Facebook, it's tax time. Which means that many publishers (myself included) may send or recieve your identifying data through e-mail.
Heck, I ask for it on all contracts anymore - because sometimes things change during the course of a year, and I'd rather be prepared come tax time than be surprised.
But how can you send that information through e-mail securely? (Note: USPS mail is a different level of security, but that's a whole other thing.)
First, make sure that you have SSL encryption turned on (it's on by default for Gmail). That encrypts your mail between your computer and the server.
That does not guarantee that your e-mail is encrypted between your ISP's mailserver and the recipient's mailserver. Or between the recipient's mailserver and the recipient themselves.
An analogy: You put your interoffice mail into an envelope and hand it to the courier. That courier might forget to use the envelope between buildings. The other building's courier might not use the envelope either.
So you need end-to-end encryption.
Perhaps the most widespread (and easiest to implement now) standard is GPG (which used to be PGP) encryption. I mentioned the possible use of GPG back here when it comes to digitally signing contracts.
But really, what the system is best at is encrypting communications.
You know, what we're talking about here.
There's a really good guide at setting up GPG on your system (regardless of what OS you run) over at Lifehacker:
and there's even Mailvelope - a way to easily use GPG with the web interface of Gmail. (Guide to using that here: http://lifehacker.com/5966787/mailvelope-offers-free-easy-to-use-pgp-encryption-for-gmail-outlook-and-other-webmail-services )
I'm not saying you should use encryption for all of your e-mail (though there's a good argument for why that makes everything more secure). But I argue that everyone should have the option for using encryption already set up on their system... before they need it.
And remember, if you want to get my public GPG key:
gpg --list-keys 0xDD2F731F
gpg --verify FILENAME
or you can find me on the MIT keyserver.
If you have a GPG key, I invite you to let me know so I can add you to my keychain. There's a tool to auto-add keys for OSX; I thiink I'm going to work on one right now for myself.
How capital R is your relationship? Does sex automatically make it more important than other relationships?
Consider this: A person can have a best friend, someone they share every little detail of their life with. And they can also have a lover.
And there will be times that the emotional strength and depth of the relationship with the friend will be as strong as - if not stronger - than that with the lover.
There's nothing wrong with that. Not at all.
But there's a default in our society that adding any romantic component automatically makes that relationship as important as all friendships - if not assumed to trump all friendships.
So I'd like to suggest the following as a two-part thought experiment to the world at large.
1. The significance of a relationship can be shorthanded to the "capitalization" of the word. So you've got the range from relationship to relationship to Relationship to Relationship.
So maybe you have a relationship with the barista you see every day and chat with, your Relationship with your best friend of twenty years, and your relationship that's getting to be a Relationship with the person you're dating.
You get the idea.
2. The capitalization of the relationship is independent of what you do in the relationship.
I kind of give this away in my examples above, but it's worth mentioning again separately. The emotional strength and connection in the relationship does not require physical intimacy or a romantic component.
I personally find this model extremely ... freeing.
By using the same word - relationship - to note the connection between two people, it gives proper respect and importance to deep, close friends. By utilizing the idea of capitalization, it can signify intensity without dealing with the bazillion other arbitrary labels of "best friend" or "FWB" or "girlfriend" or "fiancee" or "significant other", all of which have connotations that you may not want.
And more importantly, by recognizing that physical intimacy (yes, I mean sex) is not necessarily tied to the strength of emotional intimacy, it can let people be a lot more honest about their actual relationship.
Its flexibility also means that you are completely free to choose to tie the level of emotional connection to what you do in the relationship. So if you want to say that sexually intimate relationships inherently have a deeper emotional connection for you, you absolutely can do that.
You just have to put some thought into what your relationships are - and how important they are - for yourself.
What do you think?
1 This is not just my idea; I'm synthesizing a lot of stuff from a lot of people...enough so that I can't begin to credit them all.
Like, for example, the scammy Global eBook Awards. (And yes, I include the word "scammy" in the link on purpose). They made the mistake of contacting me directly.
Here's the thing, folks. Before you think about introducing your book to an award, you want to read Writer Beware's guide to Awards and Contests. To quote:
And lo and behold, what does it cost to get involved with this scam?
Similiar to the contest mills are the awards mills, which also feature high entry fees (anywhere from $60 to $80), and dozens of entry categories. Awards mills tend to focus on small press or self-published authors, who face major challenges in getting their work noticed, and hope that an award will help.
1-6 entries: $79 USD each (per title, per category); normally authors, the copyright owner.And what do you get for this honor of paying them almost $80 a title? A nominated "sticker" and... wait for it... exposure.
Special Offer! – Order 7 entries and get 15% off entire order; normally publishers, the ISBN owner.
Oh sure, there's other "awards". Let's break them down.
- Putting an official “sticker” on your ebook cover, pbook cover, blog, website, Amazon page, and promotion materials.
- A free listing in Publishing Poynters Marketplace offering review copies for reviews in prestigious ebook dealers’ sites such as Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble.com, and others.
- Winners will be announced to the media in news releases.
- A chance at a one-year scholarship award for Dan Poynter’s Para Promotion Program.
- Six ebook Promotional “Lessons”
- Everyone receives an official “sticker” for their ebook cover or for other use.
- Winners will be listed on the official Global Ebook Awards site.
- Winners will be eligible to purchase Global Ebook Award certificates attesting to their honor.
- Discounts on video trailers for YouTube, Amazon and your website.
- Discounts on other services for authors and publishers.
I mean, folks, there are times I wonder if I'm doing this the wrong way. It would be so easy to be yet another scammer. And it would definitely be a lot more profitable.
But no. I love books. I love reading. That's why I am a writer. That's why I am a publisher.
And scam artists like this, taking the dreams of other authors and simply profiting off of them show a huge disrespect to the thing I love.
As I've done with others, if you would like to link to the contest, make sure you do so using the term "scam" or "scammer" or "scam artist" as I have here, so that we can make sure that search engines reflect what they're doing effectively.
(Side note #1: Any threats to their lives should be fully and thoroughly investigated by law enforcement. K? K.)
Still, this is pretty much the reaction I would expect also happen if a business said they wouldn't cater a [insert ethnicity] wedding as well.
(Side note #2: So if this is a religious issue for them, why not say they would only cater weddings in the faith tradition they happened to practice? Hmmmm?)
So this is the free market in action. Seriously. Your business practices and brand are part of your product. Some of your customers will value it more or less than others - and some will view it as reducing the value of your goods and services entirely.
So let's go one level deeper. On social media another Indiana businessowner publicly linked to very conservative coverage of this event. (When the headline includes the words "liberal bullies" and the site is "Chicks on the Right"... yeah, it's biased.) His initial comment was "This is just a shame. The LBGT [sic] community, and their supporters, should be ashamed of themselves."
This business owner (listed as owner on his profile) then apparently continued to defend the pizza joint, while others went straight for Godwin's Law:
Yup, you read that right. The people who want to refuse service to a specific group - whom they incidentally blame the moral downfall of the country on - and want that enshrined in law with no repercussions somehow think that they would be the persecuted group in that comparison.
Now, here's the thing. Remember, the guy who made the post (which I'm not linking to here, even though it is a public post) is a business owner and clearly identified as such.
His business Facebook page lists clients in not just Indiana, but across the United States.
And that brings us to the big point:
His personal social media statements could be interpreted as policy for his company. His statements defending another business for refusing to serve LGBT folks could be interpreted as his wanting to refuse service to LGBT folks.
At this point, anybody who has seen his public post on Facebook probably assumes he'd refuse service to LGBT people... whether he would or not.
And his business may have to deal with the ramifications of that.
While I'm using this guy (and this issue) as an example, this brings up a much larger point.
When you make public statements, especially as the owner of a business (that includes you, authors!), your business is going to be judged by those statements.
Even if it's just a stupid Facebook post.
If you'd like to update your Facebook privacy settings, there are guides at Lifehacker and Techlicious.
In pure economics, a sunk cost is when you've already spent money that you can't get back. A classic example is continuing to invest in a crappy company so you don't "lose" the cash you've already invested.
But that isn't how relationships work.1
If you try to avoid this "fallacy" in economics, you'll stop investing in a company when things go south. To quote Wikipedia:
Traditional economics proposes that economic actors should not let sunk costs influence their decisions. Doing so would not be rationally assessing a decision exclusively on its own merits.And that makes sense when you're talking about economics.
But it's complete and utter bullshit when you're talking about people.
Obligatory disclaimer time: Just because you've been in a relationship a long time does not inherently give it value. Especially if there's a recurring pattern of problematic behavior.
In a typical relationship, there's going to be tough times. There may even be horrible times. It doesn't matter why that is - perhaps one partner lost a job, perhaps there's a chemical imbalance that got out of hand, perhaps someone got ill, perhaps there's a stressor that completely freaked out someone.
In those cases, when there's not a consistent, ongoing pattern of problematic behavior, the sunk cost fallacy saves relationships.
Try this on for size: You are with a partner because they're... well, for lack of a better word, fun. It's good to be around them.
And then they get sick. Like, seriously sick.
And they're not fun anymore.
Traditional economics - or some pure rationalism bullcrap - would have you dropping that partner like a hot stone. After all, they're not making your life better right now.
Which is a hugely sociopathic and selfish way to behave.
The sunk-cost fallacy fails when it comes to most relationships because sometimes there's really, really rough spots. It's not merely an averaging out of how things are going in the relationship; it's knowing how good things can be.
Armed with that knowledge, it's possible to then address the rough patches as rough patches instead of some kind of traumatic disruption.
Yes, the cardinal rule of relationships applies. Without that cardinal rule, you should DTMFA.
But a rough patch - even a massive disruption in the relationship - doesn't mean you should suddenly ignore everything that came before.
1 Nevermind that the idea of quantifying the value of relationships by what you gain by them is abhorrent to begin with. Just stick with me here.