This picture offers a very good approximation.
Happy Saturday, folks. I hope it’s doing well for you.
This picture offers a very good approximation.
Happy Saturday, folks. I hope it’s doing well for you.
Look! Many fine new books and ARCs that have come to the Scalzi Compound this week. What here tickles your fancy? Tell us all in the comments!
Happy to say that the Hebrew edition of Redshirts (translated by Zafrir Grossman) won this year’s Geffen Award — Israel’s most notable SF/F award — in the category of Best Translated Science Fiction Novel. A fine honor! This is my second Geffen (the first was for the Old Man’s War back in 2007), and it’s as much a thrill the second time around.
My thanks to Mr. Grossman for his fine work — it’s as much his award as mine. Also thanks to my Israeli publisher, Opus Press. I hope they’re as happy as I am. And of course thanks to the fans who voted for the book!
Dear other white dudes:
Last night on the Las Vegas debate stage Donald Trump, for whom statistically speaking most us white dudes are planning to vote for, refused to say whether he would concede the election if it went against him, as it almost certainly will. He says he’s doing that because he believes the election is rigged — it’s really not — but in point of fact the reason he said it is because he’s a petulant man-child who can’t believe his manifest destiny to be president is being thwarted by a woman who he doesn’t even find sexually attractive, which means that to him she’s hardly a woman at all. “Inconceivable!” he cries, like Vizzini in The Princess Bride, while Clinton, in the guise of the Dread Pirate Roberts, comes to take what he’s rightfully stolen (who is Princess Buttercup in this scenario? Why, the US, of course).
Now, as a matter of procedure, it doesn’t matter if Trump decides to concede or not. Unless the vote in any individual state is so close as to trigger a recount (usually within half a percentage point), the individual states will tally up and certify the votes, and then in December the electors for each state — i.e., the people who actually vote for president in our wacky political system — will meet and cast their votes, and that will be that. There’s nothing in the constitution about our election system hinging on the candidates conceding.
Legally speaking, if Trump loses, he can stomp his feet and hold his breath until he turns blue, and Hillary Clinton will still be President of the United States. So this is literally a question about whether Donald Trump wants to be a yutz when he loses. And he might! The track record for Trump being a yutz when he loses anything — primaries, Emmy votes, probably a game of Yahtzee — is pretty significant. And each of those times, his being a yutz didn’t change anything. He still lost. He was still a loser.
That said, the presidential election isn’t the Emmy for Best Variety Show (or whichever category Trump’s show lost in), it’s the actual Presidency of the United States, and the people who are voting for Trump — that’s largely us, white dudes! — are invested in his winning. And if he doesn’t win, and again it’s really unlikely that he will, and he doesn’t concede the election, the question then becomes: What will the white dudes do? Will we break with Trump, decide to honor the two centuries of constitutional transfer of power from one administration to the other, or do we stick with Trump and also stomp our feet and hold our breath until we turn blue because we just didn’t get our way? Because in point of fact, if we decide to do the latter, and certainly Trump appears to be down with that, we could do real damage to concept of peaceful transfer of power here in the United States.
So, as a white dude, let me speak to all y’all other white dudes, particularly the ones of you planning to vote for Trump, and especially the ones of you who might be giddy at the idea of Trump not conceding the election if Hillary Clinton wins.
1. No one candidate is more important than the peaceful transfer of power. If you want to claim to be a real American — and I know you do, it’s kind of a cornerstone of the white dude self-image here in the US — respect for the constitutional process of transferring power from one presidential administration to another is more important than any particular candidate. Dudes, do you think I was happy when Al Gore lost to George W. Bush on a 5-4 Supreme Court vote that in my mind was fucking specious in terms of its reasoning? No! And yet when the decision came down, that was that — the constitutional process had ground out a decision that handed the election to Bush, and it was time for Gore to go home, which to his eternal credit, he did, publicly conceding the election to Bush. And I was fine with that. Not happy, mind you. But fine.
(Before anyone compares what Trump is saying with what happened with Bush/Gore, unless the actual electoral college vote in 2016 comes down to a single state that has an automatic recount procedure, there’s no actual comparison, and in any event, that’s not what Trump was asked.)
Now, maybe Trump is just being coy about having respect for the constitutional process of selecting a president, but then, he’s a thin-skinned whiner with the manners of an angry toddler, so that’s not surprising. But what about you? Will you also act as unto a screaming pre-schooler told he has to share his toys? Or will you sack up and be more gracious than the man you are statistically likely to vote for? Will you actually be the grown-up adult male that your age heavily implies you are?
For the record, if at this point the absolutely improbable happens and Trump wins the election for President, you know what I will fully expect Hillary Clinton to do? Concede the election! And here’s the thing: She will! Because that’s how it’s done. And because she, at least, is a grown-up.
2. The election isn’t rigged. Now, I know what some of you will say there — but Hillary’s a cheater! The election is rigged! The fix is in! Look at this video I found on the Internet! The media is complicit!
Guys, no. The election isn’t rigged — see the link above, which explains why it’s almost impossible to actually rig a presidential election. Your willingness to argue that the election is riggable is a good indicator of how susceptible you are to privileging your own sense of entitlement over actual and verifiable fact, something Trump, that glorious tangerine-hued ignoramus, knows all about. Be better than Trump in this regard. He doesn’t want you to be, because he doesn’t want to admit he’s losing fair and square. But you don’t have to indulge him.
As for the media, if you come at me with the latter-day rationalization that what “rigged” really means is that the media is in the tank for Hillary, I’m going to laugh at you for two reasons. One, during the primaries, Trump got so much press and used it to his advantage so well that he spent eight times less on ads than Jeb Bush, and five times less than Marco Rubio, and won the candidacy. Trump still dominates the press, because he’s a walking garbage fire of a candidate, and — here’s a news flash! — political garbage fires are good for media company bottom lines. Mind you, the press didn’t make Trump a garbage fire; he was a garbage fire all on his own. The press is merely pointing to Trump and saying: Hey, look at that garbage fire! If Trump wants better press (I mean, aside from the sycophantic bunghole tonguing he receives from Breitbart), maybe he should consider not being a garbage fire.
Two, if you want to argue that Clinton got a free ride from the press, I’ll be happy to match you up with a liberal who will be delighted to argue with you for years about how the press went after the alleged email scandal far longer than the story warranted, not to mention all the various Wikileaks and so on. You two will have fun yelling at each other!
What is true, I’d argue, and especially in recent days, is that every time something potentially damaging to Clinton comes out, Trump has to go out and do or say something stupid, like, oh, I don’t know, say he won’t fucking concede the election if he loses it. Why does that get more play than something in Clinton’s email? Because Clinton’s email is small beer, and fucking not conceding the election is actually a pretty big deal. If you think the two are equivalent, pull your head out of your asshole, please, wipe yourself off, and get a grip.
3. Donald Trump isn’t worth fucking up the US of A for. No one is, to be clear, but especially Donald Trump, who is an honest-to-God piece of shit human being who no one should ever have supported. He’s a bad businessman whose business model actively includes cheating little people out of what he owes them, which makes his support from small business people just plain mind-boggling, since they are the very people he screws out of their money for his gold-encrusted sink faucets; he’s ignorant as shit; he’d grope your wife, sister or daughter if he thought he could, and you left the room; he’d lie to your face and call you an asshole when you pointed out he was lying; he’s easily provoked into doing stupid things; and if he were a character in Red Dawn (the classic version, not the inessential remake), he’d be the one sucking up to the Russkies. He’s every boss who makes you work overtime and doesn’t want to pay you for it; every landlord who won’t snake the toilet or fix the radiator but raises your rent like clockwork; every schmuck who cuts in line in front of you and dares you to make something of it.
He’s a fucking asshole, in other words, and you’d maybe want to go to the constitutional mat for him? Why? Because he’s rich? Dudes, he’s not that rich, and the way he got rich was by fucking over other people, and if that’s all right with you, it’s time for an examination of your own sense of morality. Because he “tells it like it is?” He doesn’t tell it like it is, he tells it like he wants you to believe it is, and bullies any one who says otherwise. Because he’s not “politically correct”? Well, that’s because he’s a goddamn bigot, my friend, and it’s a bad look on him and on you. Because he’s an outsider? Aw, bullshit. He’s been a grasping social climber for years. There’s nowhere he’d rather be than inside.
Because he’s fighting for you? Oh, son. Just, no. Donald Trump never “fought” for anyone other than himself — look at his decades-long track record for confirmation of that. And when it comes down to you or him, he’ll go him every time. Just ask the GOP, who is currently living in regret. You might be signing up to be the willing tool of a dude who would kick you to the curb the moment you weren’t useful to him, and who would call you a loser when he did. It’s not if he’ll do it. It’s when.
Why the fuck would you toss everything you possibly claim to believe in as an American for this absolute cocknugget of a human being?
Well, there’s an answer, but you’re not going to like it.
4. If you’re okay with Trump not conceding, you’re signaling you’re possibly a racist, sexist piece of shit who would rather tear everything down than not to let a white dude have his way. Now, you can rationalize this any way you like, but at the end of the day, this is what it looks like, because to a very large extent, this is what it is. There will be no legitimate reason to contest this election if Clinton wins it; the way we’ve set up our elections assures she will win it fair and square. There is no legitimate reason for Trump not to concede should he lose — it really is the absolute minimum he can do, and if he doesn’t then he proves without a single shadow of doubt that he didn’t deserve the office he contested for, because he fundamentally did not understand what it was about.
If Trump doesn’t concede, there is no legitimate reason for you or anyone else to fight for Trump’s shitty little tantrum except because you’re having a shitty little tantrum right next to him. Because you don’t want to share, basically. Because a woman, who was voted into office by basically everyone who wasn’t a white male, beat out a white dude and as a white dude, you just can’t take it.
And I get that! We’ve been here before, you know — like, oh, the last eight fucking years, when the GOP dined out on the latent and no-so-latent racism of white dudes like us to illegitimize the current president of the United States as much as it possibly could. Every flower of GOP obstinacy, from birth certificates to the Senate declining to do its actual job and take a vote on a Supreme Court justice because it has a theory that a president’s term is actually only kind of around three years long has a long, hard root in the pool of racism that white dudes in particular swim around in. There are other roots — it’s not like the GOP didn’t go after Bill Clinton, after all, so it’s not all racism and sexism — but let’s not kid ourselves. That’s a lot of what it was.
And now here we are in 2016 and when it comes to conceding this election, there’s no real principle at stake here other than fuck all those people, we should have won.
Who’s we? Well, who is voting for Trump? It’s not a lot of minorities here in the US, that’s for sure. It’s not women, in general or even the white women — even Republican women don’t support Trump in the numbers they generally support GOP candidates with. The core of Trump’s support is white dudes. And as they say, #NotAllWhiteDudes, since in fact many support Clinton or other candidates (hello!). But that’s his core of support. It’s us, white dudes.
We’re the people Trump wants to “watch” the polls — the way he suggests that’s done, incidentally, sounds like a lot like voter intimidation — and the ones he expects to raise a ruckus about rigged elections if he doesn’t get what he wants. He’s relying on white dudes to be racist and sexist on his behalf before and after the election, and let’s make no mistake that if he should win the election, the white dudes who are actively and unapologetically racist and sexist intend to capitalize on that win.
If you go along with his plan, you’re down with all of this. Again, rationalize it all you want. You won’t fool anyone.
Here’s the thing: It’s not going to work. It has the possibility of making a mess in the short term, but Clinton doesn’t need Trump’s concession, and all the people who voted for Hillary Clinton (or at least, against Trump) are not going away. They’ll be back election after election, and demographics are on their side. They’re not going to forget if Trump loses and refuses to concede and calls on his supporters to make a mess. They’re not going to forget who it was who rallied to Trump’s side to say everyone else’s vote didn’t count, or didn’t count as much as the votes of white dudes and their preferred candidate. They’ll remember what that actually means.
So: Trump, or the United States. White dudes, if Trump loses the election and doesn’t concede, you’re going to have to decide which is more important to you. All us white dudes are going to have to decide. Everyone else will be watching.
The third presidential debate is in the books, and while the noisiest news coming out of it is about a petulant white nationalist blustering on stage about whether or not he’ll concede the election if he loses, as if that matters for the legal transfer of power (it doesn’t; it’s just that if he doesn’t, he makes himself look even more like a child than he already does), the most interesting thing about the debate — and all the debates, if you ask me — is how very fine a job Hillary Clinton did in each of them. Not just for herself, although she did just fine for herself in each of them, answering in detail when she chose to, and generally effectively deflecting when she didn’t.
No, her real skill was in getting Donald Trump to self-own, debate after debate. There’s the saying that one should not interrupt an enemy when he’s making a mistake; well, Clinton didn’t interrupt Trump, but she did prompt him, winding him up and then letting him spew, not only on the debate stage, but on Twitter and in rallies afterward. She wound him up and let him flail ineffectually at her, as if his onstage taunts and bluster were anything compared to what she’s put up with for over 30 years, but well aware how Trump grumbling that she was nasty or how he was going to put her in jail would play to the large majority of America that isn’t circling around in Trump’s ouroboros of denial. She positioned him to lie and lie again, not just about political subjects in general, but about what’s actually come out of his very own mouth. She made him make himself look like a fool, and she did it without breaking a sweat.
Ezra Klein of Vox has a longer piece on what Clinton was up to and how she did it, which I largely agree with, so I won’t go further into it here. Suffice to say, however, that Clinton played him, once, twice, three times (a lady!), and he never seemed to figure it out. But then, why would he? Trump is apparently mentally unable to conceive of being dunked on by a woman, which left Clinton free to dunk on him at will. Trump has no one to blame but himself — not that he would ever do that — but Clinton gets all the credit for happily exploiting his weaknesses.
This is one reason, incidentally, why the current GOP shibboleth that Clinton would have been defeatable if only she had been up against a different candidate is mostly wishful thinking. Clinton isn’t winning just because she’s up against Trump, and she didn’t cream Trump in the debates just because Trump is so very fabulously incompetent. She’s winning because she’s prepared — she knows her opponent, she knows his weaknesses, and she made him reveal them himself. And she would have done it to anyone the GOP would have thrown her way.
Honestly, now: Does anyone really think that Clinton wouldn’t have shredded Ted Cruz, that pulsating globule of smugness, in any debate they might have had? Yes, Cruz was a nationally-ranked debater in college. That’s very nice for him. Clinton would have walked him into his own wankery, the off-putting self-regard that makes everyone want to find a way to stop talking to him five seconds after he opens his mouth, and let that awfulness happen while he spewed his dominionist nonsense. And let’s not even imagine what she would have done to poor, unprepared Marco Rubio, although the words “chew toy” do come to mind.
Indeed, the only person in the GOP field who I think would have given Clinton a run for her money might have been John Kasich, whose largely-pragmatic and well-seasoned demeanor is not terribly dissimilar to Clinton’s. But the GOP’s not about pragmatic and well-seasoned anymore, and even then I think Clinton would have his number sooner than later — he’s got a temper on him, and she’d poke him until he popped. A Kasich-Clinton debate score would be closer, with no knockouts on either side, but I think in the end she’d win on points.
The fact is, Clinton is and continues to be underappreciated for her own hard-won political skills. It’s easy to say she’s not a natural politician like her husband or Barack Obama (the latter comment being ironic, considering how many comparisons to Spock he endured early on), but here’s a point to consider about “natural” talents — they can be lazy, because, after all, if you can get the “A” with almost no effort, why go for the “A+”? Trust me, I know a little bit about the laziness of “natural talent” and how difficult it is to put in the extra work to go from merely good to something better.
Clinton is not a natural politician. She works and works and works and makes a better effort than everyone around her and just keeps on coming. And if people underestimate how formidable that makes her, as Trump so obviously has, and as smarter politicians than Trump also have and continue to do despite all available evidence? Well, I suspect that’s just fine with her. She’ll do to them what she did to Trump in the debates. And then she’ll keep going.
Today I got my voting done, and to celebrate: Churros!
It’s been a good day, folks.
A reminder to you to get your voting done too — if you want to do it early as I did, great; if not, make sure you make time on November 8. It’s only possibly the most consequential election in decades. No pressure.
Don’t worry, I’ll pester you about it between now and then, too.
I live in Darke county, Ohio. In 2004, Darke county voted for Bush, who got 69.5% of the vote. In 2008, it voted for McCain, who got 66.9% of the vote. In 2012, it voted for Romney, who got 71%.
So you may not be surprised when I tell you the area in which I live is heavily tilted toward Trump in this election, and when November 8 rolls around, I expect him to win my county handily, likely gathering something like 70% of the vote.
Do I live among idiots? No. I live among wonderful people who will clear your driveway when it snows and watch your pets when you go away, who love and care for their friends and families, who are decent people in their day-to-day lives and are folks I am proud to call neighbors. Most of them will vote differently than I do in this election. They do not live differently than I do. Our lives in Darke county are rather more in common than they are different.
But they are voting for Trump! And he’s awful! Yes, he is; as I’ve noted before, he’s manifestly the worst major party presidential candidate in living memory. He’s also up against the second-least popular presidential candidate ever (after Trump himself), whom the GOP and their allies have spent decades denigrating, who even her supporters must realistically acknowledge is not overbrimming with public-facing charm, who has a raft of policy and social ideas that don’t play expansively well in a county that hasn’t sent a Democrat to Washington as its representative since the Great Depression.
This isn’t to excuse Trump or the GOP. I wish my neighbors had both a better presidential candidate to support and a better party to field that candidate, one that (in my opinion) better represented the area’s generally conservative but essentially pragmatic nature. I think Darke county is the sort of place that the GOP has been gulling for years, relying on its appeal to the area’s social conservatism to push through policies that don’t help the locals at all. There aren’t a whole lot of one percenters around here to benefit from the fiscal and economic policies the GOP (and Trump) want to promote, and particularly in the case of Trump, the people here, reliant on farming and manufacturing, have a lot to lose.
It is to recognize that the Democratic party in general hasn’t gone out of its way to make places like Darke county a priority. The local Democratic party’s outreach, as far as I can see, is a single tent once a year at the county fair; the biannual Democratic candidate for OH-8 (when there is one; there hasn’t always been) gets little if any support from the national or state parties as far as I can see. Pragmatically it makes sense to cede the district; there’s only so much money to go around. But on the other hand it might be a little hypocritical for me or anyone else to criticize the locals for voting for the GOP — even when it has a historically awful candidate, who no one should vote for — when the GOP is the only political party that’s showing up in a real and significant way.
Darke county isn’t going away — its population and demographics (97.5% white) have been remarkably stable for decades. It will likely always be a conservative area; so long as the GOP exists and at least nominally represents conservatism, it will like vote for the GOP and its presidential candidates. What will be interesting to see is how it, and the places like it, will handle the inexorable shift of the nation from white and conservative to multicultural and, if not entirely liberal, at least liberalish. It is of course already happening. This is very likely to be the third presidential election in a row where Darke county’s preferred candidate didn’t make it to the White House. Given the direction of the national demographics, it might be a while before one does.
We live in an age of technological miracles and wonders, but do the humans underneath that tech still need the fairy tales that animated their ancestors? The editors of The Starlit Wood, an anthology of new fairy tales, say “yes.” And here’s why.
NAVAH WOLFE and DOMINIK PARISIEN:
We are children of starlit woods.
From the time we were small, stories were tools we used to navigate the world. We were both voracious readers, devourers of books of all kinds—and we never stopped reading fairy tales. Kids have a tendency to translate the world around them in terms that make sense—and nothing makes more sense, feels more familiar, than the stories that we’ve been reading for as long as we can remember.
Fairy tales may start for many of us as children’s stories, but—as people love to point out, once they discover the true gruesomeness behind some of their most beloved tales—they’re in fact very adult. Indeed, we’d argue that fairy tales are meant to speak to children and adults. The world can be an unsettling, terrifying place, no matter what age or stage of life you’re in—and familiar stories can be a safe language to use to navigate the dark woods of life.
The utter universality of fairy tales can give us the necessary vocabulary to make sense of the woods, to find a path out to safety—or to claim the woods for our own. They help us identify the wolves, witches and dangers lurking in the dark. When you can name something, you have power over it—the power to change the story, to remake it, to reshape it into our own happily ever afters. They’re narrative tools that we grab hold of as children, but they remain useful for our entire lives.
And us? We devoured the original fairy tales and lost ourselves in modern retellings, often edited by people like Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow. And somewhere along the way, our roads led us to co-editing our own anthology of fairy tale retellings for Saga Press, The Starlit Wood.
And the more we explored the world of fairy tales, the more clear it became to us that fairy tales are a lingua franca for everybody. They are a language carved onto bones—bones that can be covered in any skin. Fairy tales originate from anywhere or anytime, but you always know they are fairy tales. The same tropes and themes pop up again and again–terrible parents, wandering children, fantastical animals, enchanted items, moral components—to a point where even if we don’t necessarily recognize the source material, a story still feels like a fairy tale. Side by side with classic, traditional stories, The Starlit Wood contains retellings of a few fairy tales we had never encountered before—but even though they were new to us, they felt familiar, like old friends we had just met for the first time.
And that is the big idea of The Starlit Wood. Fairy tales are malleable stories that can be reskinned over and over as long as the skeleton underneath remains the same. We approached our phenomenal writers and asked them to view fairy tales through a new prism, to discover new hides for these old bones. Some of the stories they chose are very familiar. Others are newly discovered or are from less familiar fairy tale traditions. The contributors each took fresh angles, crossed genres, and found new geographies for their tales. Writers flipped character motivations or even removed elements that one would think are essential to a particular fairy tale, making these stories feel fresh, unexpected, urgent–but still true to their source material.
The resulting stories were beyond our wildest hopes. Seanan McGuire put Red Riding Hood in the desert. Daryl Gregory let his Hansel and Gretel consume something much more problematic than candy. Marjorie Liu wrote Sleeping Beauty as a lesbian romance. Garth Nix turned The Little Match Girl into a Western revenge story. Stephen Graham Jones retold The Pied Piper of Hamelin without any music. Max Gladstone wrote Jack and the Beanstalk–with a space elevator. Naomi Novik turned the ugliness of Rumpelstiltskin into a beautiful triumph for the miller’s daughter that upturns the uncomfortable caricatures of the original tale.
From the woods to the stars, The Starlit Wood contains eighteen extraordinary journeys into unexpected territories, uncharted lands, and unforeseen adventures that are strangely familiar and startlingly different at the same time. We couldn’t be happier with these amazing journeys—so come and be changed with us. All of us, after all, are children of the woods.
I finished The Collapsing Empire two Thursdays ago, but then I had to travel first to New York and then to Minneapolis for conventions, so today was the first time that I had a chance to go through the finished manuscript with a fine-toothed comb in order to do fiddly things like standardize how names are used (and make sure names used in one part of the manuscript stayed consistent — a problem for me), fix a couple of minor plot holes, and basically buff it up so that when it’s sent off to the copy editor they don’t recoil in horror from it.
In the process of doing this, I also read the novel all the way through for the first time. Which may sound weird — didn’t I write the thing, after all? — but when you’re writing it, you’re writing bits at a time, and I don’t read what I’ve written previously in any sequential manner. I just go back to check on things that I need to remember, or have to change because I got a new idea somewhere along the line. So today was the first time I read through the whole, completed story.
So, some thoughts on the read-through and other things.
1. I’m relieved to say I think it’s good. I mean, I thought it was good before — I wouldn’t have told Patrick, my editor, that it was done if I hadn’t — but reading it through in one go confirms it’s pretty damn solid. It all works and parts of it are really freakin’ awesome. This is a mild relief; it’s nice when your initial impression of your completed work bears scrutiny ten days later.
2. I think it’s sufficiently different from what I’ve written before that it’s difficult to make a direct comparison, but if I had to, I’d say that it’s probably closest to The Android’s Dream. No, that doesn’t mean it opens up with a fart joke (there are no fart jokes in TCE. Sorry). But it has similar pacing and stakes as well as narrative tone. Also maybe The Ghost Brigades? Somewhere between the two of those books, perhaps. But what I really think it that it has its own sense of style and place. Which makes me happy.
3. At the same time, you know. It’s me, and the book sounds like it comes out of my brain. Which if you like that, great! And if you don’t, well, maybe give it as a gift to someone who does. When I started writing this one, waaaaaaaaay back in the first part of the year, I thought I might try for a different tone — something perhaps Herbertesque, to reflect the Dune-like scope I imagined this universe having, and about two chapters in I realized I had made a dreadful mistake and no one would want to read the Scalzified Herbert (or Herbertized Scalzi) that was gouting forth from my fingers. You will never see those stunted and horrifying chapters. What you will see works much, much, much better.
4. The misbegotten Herbertization is gone, but the scope of the novel is still pretty big, y’all. It’s got spaceships designed to last a decade without resupplying, massive space habitats, underground cities and civil wars. And — wait for it — pirates! Yes, pirates. You love pirates. You told me that once. I remember. Anyway, there’s a lot going on. You won’t be bored.
5. This is also the first novel I wrote knowing for certain that there would be at least a book two in the series; it’s specified in that big damn contract I signed with Tor. Old Man’s War was written as a stand-alone, for example — I didn’t know if they’d want a sequel. Likewise, Lock In (whose sequel is the next novel on my docket) was written without knowing whether Tor would want a followup. The Collapsing Empire, on the other hand, was explicitly part of a multi-book series deal.
This fact definitely had an effect on the writing, because while giving the book a full and complete arc in itself — I mean, come on, you have to do that — I also get to intentionally set up a lot of stuff that will pay off in later books. That was fun.
(What about The Human Division? I hear some of you ask. Well, here’s a secret — the arc of stories that played out in THD and in The End of All Things? When I originally plotted them out, they were all meant for one book. But then I started writing and realized how long that book would be, and also how close my deadline was — so two books it was. Which was fine, because they were two pretty good books! But even so.)
6. With that said, I plan to do here what I’ve done with the OMW series, which is to do my best to make sure any of the book in the series that starts with The Collapsing Empire is a full and satisfying read in itself. One of the things I’m happiest about the OMW series is that I have people tell me they’ve started with The End of All Things and worked backwards, and it worked for them, because I always gave them enough information so they weren’t lost. It’s intentional: you never know where someone will enter a universe you create, and you don’t want to give them an excuse to leave. I do it for the first book in a series, and every book thereafter.
7. Also, in case you’re wondering, the plan is to have the second book in the TCE series out two years after the first, so: 2019 (Head On, the Lock In sequel, is planned for 2018). It shouldn’t be a long wait.
8. I’ve noted before that for The Collapsing Empire, I created one of my favorite characters ever, Kiva Lagos, who is also one of my wife’s favorite characters of mine ever, superseded only by Jane Sagan (who, to be clear, is totally modeled on her, so, nepotism). Getting that Krissy Mark of Approval™ for Kiva makes me happy. The other two main characters (Marce Claremont and Cardenia Wu-Patrick) are pretty good too, and we have a trio of sibling antagonists who I think people are going to enjoy as well. Seriously, this is a fun book.
9. Now that the book is done, what’s next? Well, for the rest of year, I pretty much relax — I have to do a couple of short stories and some columns, and when the copyedit for TCE comes in I have to get to that quickly (on account I was a little behind on turning in the book — THANKS TRUMP AND CLINTON), but I’m mostly planning to catch up on sleep and play video games and vote (the last one only once, but only once will be enough). It’s nice to have the book out of my brain. This one was a little exhausting.
10. Exhausting, but worth it. I think you all are going to really like The Collapsing Empire. We’ll know soon enough: March 21st is not actually that far away.
I got behind on emails while I was finishing the book and then traveling the last two weeks, so:
1. I’ve returned emails on everything that I’m going to return emails on, for the last three weeks or so.
2. Everything else I archived.
3. If you sent email in the last couple of months, really wanted a response but didn’t get one, go ahead and send it again.
4. Except for Big Idea emails. For those: October is filled up, and I’m working on November and will be responding to those soon. No need to check in on those.
Having a great time, wish you were here.
And a lovely view it is.
Reminders! Tonight I am the Roseville library at 7pm! I will be reading stuff as yet unpublished! And tomorrow and Saturday I am a featured guest at Nerdcon:Stories, which promises to be even better than last year’s, and last year was pretty great. Tickets are still available! If you’re in the Upper Midwest, come on down.
The biggest idea in The Book of the Unnamed Midwife is that women are people. I have read exhaustively in the genre of post-apocalyptic science fiction and more often than not the women in those books are sex-dolls and mommy-dolls: perfect eyebrows in starvation and smooth armpits in the Thunderdome, exiting cleanly stage right after their magical boys are born.
However, the idea of women as people is too big. Better writers than I have worked to sew it firmly to the edges of our collective consciousness only to find that the original fabric is stubborn stuff that was woven to resist truth or anything like equality. So when I wrote my apocalypse (worlds without end are always ending in science fiction and fantasy) I wrote it as Margaret Atwood and P.D. James did. I wrote an apocalypse of gender, where men outnumber women ten to one, and no woman is safe.
By writing a main character who is queer and secure in herself and a midwife, I set her boundaries pretty clearly. This is a woman who exists under her own authorization. By writing her as complex and flawed and not a steel-armored bad-ass Sarah Connoring her way across the competence porn convention with a gun where a protagonist’s penis ought to be, I wrote a book where women are not objects and not stereotypes, but people. When I was reading science and speculative fiction about the end of the world, this was the thing I craved most clearly. When I could barely get a crumb, I realized I’d have to bake the thing myself.
The Book of the Unnamed Midwife starts at the end of a plague that has wiped out most of the people on earth, but was particularly brutal to women. The women who have survived still carry the sickness, and childbirth is commonly lethal in its aftermath. The protagonist hits the road dressed as a man to help the few women who survived, and to seek safety for herself. The road is not kind to her.
However, since the idea that women are people is evidently still too big, I chose a specific strategy to address the universal challenge: namelessness. The Book of the Unnamed Midwife follows the story of a woman whose name is never told. She never says it, thinks it, or writes in the journals that make up about half of the book. Instead, she gives a variety of pseudonyms to friends, lovers, and the enemies around whom she attempts to pass as male. This is partly a safety measure, but it’s also something else.
Names have power. Any child who has heard the story of Rumpelstiltskin can tell you that. The midwife herself thinks about her namelessness, her anonymity in this world where people have fallen out of their names and into savagery, and comes to the conclusion that a name is something one has for the benefit of other people. In a world where most women are property, she decides she will give no one her handle.
Nameless protagonists have always fascinated me. Daphne Du Maurier’s never-named ingenue in Rebecca seemed the best kind of literary proof: a woman is so defined by her place in the world that her own actual name is easily missed. As a child, I loved the Childlike Empress in Michael Ende’s The Neverending Story, but I saw the movie first. I could never hear the name that Bastian shouts over the thunder and I thought the author and screenwriter had wisely chosen to keep the name unknowable and preserve the empress’ power. Even if she had to beg for a new name from a boy, she could still keep it to herself.
Finding out that the name is written clearly in the book was one of the great letdowns of adulthood. I decided long ago to write a protagonist whose name is her own damned business.
The Book of the Unnamed Midwife was first published two years ago by a micropress. Almost nobody read it, but it won the Philip K. Dick Award anyway. When my new contract included a rebirth for the midwife, I reflected a little on what it is to twice debut my unnamed survivor. The book will be reborn in a time when a man who may be president has shared his views about his right to pick up an unsuspecting woman like a bowling ball, and immediately after the non-consensual outing of reclusive author Elena Ferrante. The midwife’s choice to remain nameless is my answer to these times. It was my answer to the War on Women that consumed the news when the book was first written, and it remains my answer as this tiresome year grinds torturously to its end.
My protagonist’s personhood and the violence of her story belong in 2016, just as they belonged in 2014 when the book was first published. They would have fit just fine in 1970. Or 1980. Or 1990.
I hope that one day there is an audience who doesn’t immediately recognize the unnamed midwife’s struggle as their own.
Today is the beginning of early voting here in Ohio, which means that it is a good day for me to formally make the following announcement regarding my vote for President of the United States:
I am voting for Hillary Clinton for President of the United States, and I think you should too.
And now, let me explain why, in points that go (roughly) from external to internal, both in a political and personal sense. This entry is long, but this year, I think, longer is probably better.
1. Because she is not Donald Trump. I wrote yesterday on why I believe Donald Trump is an unmitigated and unprecedented disaster as a presidential candidate, so I don’t need to do it again. But I think it’s important to acknowledge that while I am affirmatively voting for Hillary Clinton as president — I want her in the White House — I am also actively and affirmatively voting against Donald Trump. Indeed, even if I wasn’t enthusiastically voting for Clinton, this year of all years I would pull the lever for her because as the candidate of one of the two major parties, she is the only realistic bulwark against Trump being in office. It’s that important that he be denied the presidency.
However, let me go into in detail here about one thing. I want to be clear that in voting against Trump, I’m not only voting against him as an individual, although given who he is as an individual — a racist, a misogynist, a liar and a cheat — that would be more than enough. I am also voting against the people who I see as the shock troops of the Trump campaign: the racists, the anti-semites, the religiously intolerant, the sexists and bullies, the toxic stew of hate, stupidity and sociopathy that has tried to pass into respectability with the jazzy new title of “alt-right,” but which is just the Klan and the neo-Nazis all over again.
In voting against Trump, I’m voting against the alt-right and larger pool of hate in which they fester, against the people who slur women, blacks, latinos, Jews, Muslims, LGBT folks and others on social media and elsewhere, against the ones who promise them a march to the ovens or a noose over a tree branch or a rape in an alley, against the ones who glory in the fact that Trump’s candidacy lends their bigotry mainstream cover, and the ones who, should Trump win, have plans for anyone and everyone who isn’t them. I’m voting against the people who believe, when Trump says “Make America great again,” it means “Make everyone else afraid again.”
To Hell with them, and to Hell with Trump for lifting them up and giving them cover and succor. I don’t believe and would not abide the idea that every person who might vote for Trump is the sort of person I describe above. But everyone who votes for Trump has to know that these are the people with whom they ride. I will not ride with them. I will vote against them and Trump, and gladly so. The best way to do that is to vote for Hillary Clinton.
2. Because she is not the GOP candidate. First, the practical: If Trump were to win the presidency, that would likely mean that the House and Senate would remain in GOP hands. Which means that I strongly suspect the first 100 days of a Trump presidency would be a fantastic orgy of the GOP rolling back every single Obama law and policy that it could. Not because doing so would make the lives of Americans better — it manifestly would not — but because they just fucking hate Barack Obama so much that giving him the middle finger for a hundred days would fill them with glee. I’m not down with that.
Likewise, not down with the GOP plan to pack the Supreme Court with Scalia clones; there are already two, in the form of Thomas and Alito. That’s more than enough for one court, I think.
Both the legislative and the judicial issues outlined above, I would note, would be a disincentive for me to vote for any presidential candidate the GOP might have picked in 2016, especially considering the generally atrocious primary field of candidates, of whom the only one I might have been willing to consider even briefly for my vote would have been John Kasich. But Kasich was too moderate and sensible for the GOP primary voters, which given how conservative Kasich is, is a vaguely terrifying thing.
Second, the philosophical: Look, I’m not a straight-ticket voter. In almost every election I vote for more than a single party, because — here’s a wacky idea — I consider each position up for election and who among the listed candidates will be the best for the role. I expect this year I will do the same.
But not on the national level. On the national level I don’t think the GOP has earned my vote, nor has it for years. Even before the moment where the GOP primary voters appallingly selected Donald Trump as their standard bearer, the national party’s philosophical and political tenets had been long abandoned for the simpler and uglier strategy of “deny Barack Obama everything.”
To what purpose? To what end? Well, not for the purpose of actually making the United States a better place for its citizens, or to practice active governance of the nation. From the outside at least — and I rather strongly suspect from the inside as well — it just looked like “sooner or later they have to let one of us be president, so let’s just throw a fit until then.” Fortunately, if you want to call it that, the GOP has spent decades training its electoral base to reward intransigence over actual action to make their lives better, and wasn’t above poking at the base’s latent (and not-so-latent) bigotry to delegitimize the president.
Trump has given the latter part of the game away — Trump doesn’t dog whistle his bigotry, he uses a megaphone — but the other part, the part about the intransigence, I don’t see the GOP, as it’s currently constituted on the national level, ever letting go of. Let’s not pretend that Hillary Clinton will have an easier time with the GOP than Obama did. The GOP already hates her just for being who she is, and it’ll be happy to slide the bigoted setting they use to on its base from “racism” to “sexism,” even if Trump’s blown its cover on that. So I expect that the new policy for the GOP will be the same as the old policy, with a new name slotted in: “Deny Hillary Clinton everything.”
And that’s just not acceptable. I’m not foolish enough to assume the GOP would give a President Hillary Clinton everything she wanted even in the best of times. But there’s a difference between an opposition party and an antagonistic party. The former is a participant and perhaps even a partner in governance. The latter, which is what we have, reduces politics down to a football game and in doing so makes life worse for every American. We can argue about how this has come about — training the base, gerrymandering safe districts which incline toward polarization, just plain rampant stupidity — but we can’t argue it’s not there.
This year of all years the national GOP needs to lose, and it needs to lose so comprehensively that the message is clear: Stop obstructing and start governing again. Now, as it happens, it might lose comprehensively because Trump and the GOP are fighting, and if Trump is going to go down, he might as well take the GOP down with him. Which would be a delightful irony! But just to be sure, and to use my vote to make a larger point, I won’t be voting for the GOP this year for president or US senator or US representative. I don’t imagine it will matter for US representative (my district hasn’t gone Democratic since the Great Depression) but for the senate and the presidency, it might help.
3. Because I largely agree with Hillary Clinton’s platform and positions. I’ve mentioned before that had I been born roughly 40 years earlier than I was, I probably would have become what’s known as a “Rockefeller Republican,” which is to say someone largely to the right on fiscal issues, and largely to the left on social issues. Rockefeller Republicans don’t exist anymore, or more accurately, they’re best known today as “mainstream Democrats.” And, hey, guess which of the two candidates for President of the United States could be described as a “mainstream Democrat”? Why, yes, that’s right, it’s Hillary Clinton.
So it’s not particularly surprising that I find many of her policy positions congenial, both in themselves and in contrast to Trump’s positions — that is, when Trump actually has a position that’s more than “trust me, it’ll be great.” As an example, let’s take, oh, say, Clinton’s tax policy, which essentially tweaks the existing code to make those of us on the top pay a slightly higher amount for our top marginal rate on income and investments, close some corporate loopholes, and essentially leave everyone else alone (or offer them slightly larger tax breaks). It’s not sexy, but it’s pretty sensible, particularly in contrast to Trump’s, which basically gives rich people really big tax cuts and as a result adds trillions to our debt (author John Green, who laudably does public service-related videos, has a ten minute video comparing and contrasting the plans, which I would recommend).
“Not sexy, but sensible” in fact describes most of her policies on everything from climate change to farm issues to voting rights to national security, and while I don’t necessarily agree with every single thing she proposes right down the line, when I don’t, what I still generally see is that the policy is based on a cogent reason or rationale in the real world, and not just some angry bellow from a fear-gravid id, which is how a large number of Trump policies come across.
And this is good, people. I want a policy nerd in the White House, and someone who has had real-world experience with how the political sausage gets made, and who both gets the value of having policies that have some relationship to the world outside their head and has the wherewithal, interest and capability to understand and express them. I’m not under the impression that Clinton will get everything she wants in terms of policy — despite the unbridled optimism on the left due to the events of recent days, I expect the House will stay in GOP hands (but, you know, prove me wrong!) — but I like most of what she has, and will likely be happy with whatever she manages to get through Congress.
4. Because I like what I know of Hillary Clinton. But! But! BenghaziWhitewaterEmailVincentFosterBillIsSkeevy Ggggwwwaaaaaaarrrrggghhhnnffffnf —
I’m going to skip over the vast majority of this right now by noting that there are very few people in the world whose personal and public conduct has been so aggressively and punitively investigated, and for so long, as Hillary Clinton, and yet she continues to walk among us, a free woman whose errors, when they have been made, are usually of the venial rather than the mortal sort. Which probably means one of two things: Either this decades-long persecution of Hillary Clinton on the part of her enemies is largely motivated for their own political and financial benefit, or that Hillary Clinton is a criminal mastermind so good at evading the forces of justice that holy shit we should be glad that she’s finally decided to use her evil-honed skills for the forces of good. Better give her eight years, just to make sure.
I believe that the vast majority of the bullshit said about Hillary Clinton is just that: bullshit. Hillary Clinton gets shit because apparently she’s always been an ambitious woman who is not here for your nonsense. And maybe, like any human who is not here for your nonsense, but especially a woman who is not here for your nonsense (and who has gotten more of it because she is a woman), she just gets tired of the unremitting flood of nonsense she has to deal with every single goddamn day of her life. Maybe she she gets tired of being told to smile and when she’s smiles being told she shouldn’t smile. Maybe she gets tired of being called a bitch and c*nt and a demon. Maybe she gets tired of having to be up on a stage with bullies who try to intimidate her with their physical presence in her physical space, and if you think that second presidential debate was the first time that happened, look up her senatorial debate just for fun. Maybe she gets tired of it but knows she has to take it and smile, because that’s the deal.
People, I flat out fucking admire Hillary Clinton for having dealt with all that bullshit for 30 years and yet not burning the whole world down.
So that’s the first thing, and it’s unfair that it’s the first thing, but since that’s what gets shoved on you the moment you open your mouth about Hillary Clinton, that’s what the first thing has to be.
But let me also tell you that I like her intelligence, her attention to detail, her ability to speak at length about the subjects that matter to her and that she thinks would matter to you, too. I like she doesn’t have a problem being the smartest person in the room, even if you do. I like the work that she did on her own, without reference to her husband and his own ambitions. I liked when she said that she wasn’t here to bake cookies, and I liked that you could see how much she hated having to bake the cookies when shit blew up around that statement (I like that I believe that in her personal life she probably likes baking cookies just fine, just on her terms, not yours). I like that she tried things and failed at them and picked herself up and kept going and got better at them because of it. I like that she cares about people who aren’t just like her. I like that she’s ambitious. I like that she’s fearless. I like that all the right people hate and loathe her. I like that she plows through them anyway.
There are things I don’t like about her too, but not nearly as many, and none of them enough, to reduce my admiration for her for these other things.
I don’t expect Hillary Clinton to be perfect, or not to fail, or to be a president whose actions I agree with straight down the line. I’ve never had that in any president and I think it would be foolish to expect it in her. What I do expect, based on what I’ve known of her since 1992, when she first entered my consciousness, is that she will never not try. Try to be a good president, and try to be a president whose administration does the most good for the largest number of Americans. Now, maybe she’ll succeed and maybe she won’t — it’s not all up to her and even if it was, you never know what happens to you in this life. But everything I know about her from the last quarter century convinces me that she has earned this opportunity, perhaps more than anyone else who has ever run for president.
5. Because I like what she represents for our country. I have written at length about the idea that being a straight white male is living life on the lowest difficulty setting, and if you should ever doubt that it’s the case, look at the 2016 election, in which a racist, sexist, ignorant boor of a straight white male, with no experience in public service and no policies he could personally articulate beyond “it’ll be great, believe me” went up against a woman who spent the better part of four decades in and around public service, including occupying some of the highest positions in government, and who had exhaustive, detailed policy positions on nearly every point of public interest — and was ahead of her in some polls on the day they had their first debate.
If that tape in which Trump bragged about sexual assault hadn’t hit the air, the polls might yet still be close. It literally took “grab ’em by the pussy” to get some air between arguably the most qualified candidate ever to run for president, who is a woman, and inarguably the worst major party presidential candidate in living memory, who is a straight, white man. I cannot know that fact and not be confronted by the immense and absolutely real privilege straight white men have — and just how much better a woman has to be to compete.
I am not voting for Hillary Clinton simply because she is a woman — but at the same time I cannot deny, and actively celebrate the fact, that much of what makes Hillary Clinton the person I want to vote for is because she is a woman. Everything that our culture has put on her, all the expectations it has had for her, all the expectations she’s had for herself, all the things that she’s taken on, or fought against, because she’s a woman, all of that has shaped the person she is and the character she has, and has become: A person who has talents and flaws, a person I admire, and a person who I want to see in the Oval Office.
When she becomes president, as I believe she will, it won’t only be because she is a woman. But her experience being a woman will have prepared her for the job and will be integral to how she will be president. Her simply being our first woman president will make her a symbol and an icon and almost certainly in time an inspiration (all of these more than she already is, to be clear), and I am glad for those. But it’s how her life and her experiences will bear on the day-to-day aspects of presidency that to me is key, and which I think in time should be what inspires people, as much as if not more than what she represents symbolically. It’s something we haven’t had yet. It matters to our country, and it matters to me.
And so: with a full heart and with no small amount of joy, I endorse Hillary Clinton for President of the United States.
Three things! One post! Let’s get to them!
1. The Dispatcher was released one week ago today and during the week apparently a ton of people, hungering for my excellent words and Zachary Quinto’s thrilling narration (and also possibly because it was distributed for free) downloaded it — enough to make it the #1 title on Audible for the last week. Which is pretty awesome I have to say. I will take my #1 titles however they come about, and as it happens I’m really happy this one did well, since I like it so much.
If you haven’t gotten it yet then you can take part in my quest to stay in the Audible top ten for a second week by downloading it this week — it’s still available for free (and will be through November 2nd). Give it a try. It’s good. And if you like it, let other people know about it.
2. The front room is officially finished, with the shelves officially populated with books and things and the cable box for the television set up and so on and so forth, so I thought I’d show you all its final form. I have to say I’m very pleased with how everything looks and functions. I’m especially happy with the TV, which is a 4k job. Yeah, I splurged. Sue me. Oddly enough, however, when I show people pictures of the front room, the thing that they really comment on is the carpet. Yes, it’s purple. And yes, actually in real life it looks pretty great. So there.
3. While I was at New York Comic Con, I got to hang out with Adam Savage and Norm Chan from Tested (you might also recognize Adam from his Mythbusters days) and sat in on their “Still Untitled” podcast, in which we chatted about conventions, fans and the whole nerd life. Here’s the link to their site, but if you’re the super-impatient “ugh do I have to click through” sort, I’m embedding the YouTube version of the conversation below. Enjoy!
AMY S. FOSTER:
So I had this idea…This big, crazy, ridiculous idea to write a YA novel that my sixteen year old daughter and her friends would actually want to read. I don’t mean that in an “Oh My God Mom! You are so uncool why would I read anything you write?” kind of way. I mean that I wanted to write a book where the teenage protagonists acted and sounded like the teenagers who drifted in and out of my house in a never ending stream of Axe Body spray and with the moods! So many moods! Swinging from mania to indifference on a dime.
As annoying as these kids could be, they were also funny, messy (emotionally and literally,) complicated and misunderstood. Just like I was. Just like you were. Books were the thing that helped me grow up, that delivered me from my isolation. I was never alone, as long as I had a book and obviously, I still feel that way.
It was kind of amazing to me how the Media (and yes that’s a capital M because I mean it in the most all-encompassing way) pandered and courted my daughter’s demo when it came to TV and fashion and make up and one bizarre awards show after another- but somehow, when it came to literature, she felt sorely misunderstood and misrepresented. So yeah, addressing that issue for her was the first big idea.
The second big idea was creating normal acting and sounding teens when they were doing crazy, extraordinary things like policing a Rift into the Multiverse or fighting big scary monsters or throwing around tree trunks. How do I get those kids to sound like the kids in my house? I didn’t want to write Dystopian. I wanted these young people to have this weird job and then go home and watch Netflix. And I am happy to report that as far as those ideas went and according to my Beta Test subjects (who I occasionally had to bribe with dinners and Starbucks) I got it right. Truuuust…they told me when I got it wrong. Loudly. With enthusiasm.
So okay, you might be thinking, isn’t the Multiverse the big idea here? Because it’s like truly, literally, the biggest idea in the world(s). And it is…I love the science behind it. I love physics. I’m kind of obsessed with how I used sound to navigate these Rifts and as exciting a device as the Multiverse is, in my book, it ended up becoming a metaphor for something much more mundane. When you’re staring adulthood in the face, when you’re wondering who you are and what you are going to do forever, it might as well be the Multiverse. It feels that vast, that huge and that scary to navigate.
The main protagonist in my novel, Ryn, is facing this challenge daily. Sometimes she gets it right, sometimes she doesn’t. And today, at almost eighteen, my daughter is the same. I’m sure if given the chance she’d much rather fight a Snake Man (Sissnovars in the book) or a Viking (time is stable in the Rifts but depending on one small thing, think Butterfly Effect, an Earth could be thousands of years more or less advanced technologically) than take her SAT or apply to the dozen or more colleges she’s trying to get into. Like Ryn, my daughter is just beginning to understand her own power and also like Ryn it both thrills and terrifies her. But, like I say in my dedication, it was my daughter who taught Ryn how to be brave. Both of my girls will make it. Both of them will become the heroes of their own stories.
We’ve got an entire trilogy (and college!) to get through.
At this point there is no doubt that Donald Trump is the single worst major party presidential candidate in living memory, almost certainly the worst since the Civil War, and arguably the worst in the history of this nation. He is boastful and ignorant and petty, disdainful of the Constitution, a racist and a sexist, the enabler of the worst elements of society, either the willing tool of, or the useful idiot for, Vladimir Putin, an admirer of despots, an insecure braggart, a sexual assaulter, a man who refuses to honor contracts, and a bore.
He is, in sum, just about the biggest asshole in all of the United States of America. He’s lucky that Syrian dictator Bashar Hafez al-Assad is out there keeping him from taking the global title, not that he wouldn’t try for that, too, should he become president. It’s appalling that he is the standard bearer for one of the two major political parties in the United States. It’s appalling that he is a candidate for the presidency at all.
But note well: Donald Trump is not a black swan, an unforeseen event erupting upon an unsuspecting Republican Party. He is the end result of conscious and deliberate choices by the GOP, going back decades, to demonize its opponents, to polarize and obstruct, to pursue policies that enfeeble the political weal and to yoke the bigot and the ignorant to their wagon and to drive them by dangling carrots that they only ever intended to feed to the rich. Trump’s road to the candidacy was laid down and paved by the Southern Strategy, by Lee Atwater and Newt Gingrich and Karl Rove, by Fox News and the Tea Party, and by the smirking cynicism of three generations of GOP operatives, who have been fracking the white middle and working classes for years, crushing their fortunes with their social and economic policies, never imagining it would cause an earthquake.
Well, surprise! Here’s Donald Trump. He is the actual and physical embodiment of every single thing the GOP has trained its base to want and to be over the last forty years — ignorant, bigoted and money-grubbing, disdainful of facts and frightened of everything because of it, an angry drunk buzzed off of wood-grain patriotism, threatening brown people and leering at women. He was planned. He was intended. He was expected. He was wanted.
But not, I think, in the exact form of Donald Trump. The GOP were busily genetically engineering the perfect host for their message, someone smooth and telegenic and possibly just ethnic enough to make people hesitant to point out the latent but real racism inherent in its social policies, while making the GOP’s white base feel like they were making a progressive choice, and with that person installed, further pursuing its agenda of slouching toward oligarchy, with just enough anti-abortion and pro-gun glitter tossed into the sky to distract the religious and the paranoid. Someone the GOP made. Someone they could control.
But they don’t control Trump, which they are currently learning to their great misery. And the reason the GOP doesn’t control Trump is that they no longer control their base. The GOP trained their base election cycle after election cycle to be disdainful of government and to mistrust authority, which ultimately is an odd thing for a political party whose very rationale for existence is rooted in the concept of governmental authority to do. The GOP created a monster, but the monster isn’t Trump. The monster is the GOP’s base. Trump is the guy who stole their monster from them, for his own purposes.
And this is why the GOP deserves the chaos that’s happening to it now, with its appalling and parasitic standard bearer, who will never be president, driving his GOP host body toward the cliff. If it accepts the parasite, it will be driven off the cliff. If it resists, the parasite Trump will rip himself from it, leaving bloody marks as it does so, and then shove the dazed and wounded GOP from the precipice. That there is a fall in the GOP’s future is inevitable; all that is left is which plunge to take.
I feel sorry for many of my individual friends who are Republicans and/or conservatives, who have to deal with the damage Trump is doing to their party and to their movement, even if I belong to neither. But I don’t feel sorry for the GOP at all. It deserves Trump. It fostered an environment of ignorance and fear and bigotry, assumed it could control the mob those elements created, and was utterly stunned when a huckster from outside claimed the mob as his own and forced the party along for the ride. It was hubris, plain and simple, and Trump is the GOP’s vulgar, orange nemesis.
Trump will do the GOP long and lasting damage, and moreover, Trump doesn’t care that he will do the GOP long and lasting damage. Trump was never about being a Republican; he was just looking to expand his brand. As it turns out, like apparently so many things Trump does, he’s done an awful job of it — the name Trump, formerly merely associated with garish ostentation and bankruptcy, is now synonymous with white nationalism, sexual battery and failure — but the point is on November 9th Trump is going to move on and leave the wreckage of the GOP in his wake, off to his next thing (everyone assumes “Trump TV,” in which Trump combines with Breitbart to make white pride propaganda for the kind of millennial racist who thinks a Pepe the Frog Twitter icon is the height of wit — and I hope he does, because the Trump touch will drive that enterprise into the ground, and little would warm my heart more than a bankrupt Breitbart).
Trump is the party guest who sets fire to your house, gropes your spouse and drives over your neighbor’s cat when he leaves; the GOP is left to deal with the police and the angry neighbors. It’s almost piteous, except when you scrub back to five hours earlier to hear the GOP say “What, Trump wants to come to the party? Well, he’s an asshole who drove Fred Jones’ car into the pool the other weekend, but he’s always good for a laugh, isn’t he? Surely it will be fine,” and then tells him to bring his bad boy self right on over.
There is no good way for the GOP or its members to extricate itself from this mess. Trump has doomed them for this election cycle. But there is a moral way, and they should take it. When a grifter and a con man has suckered you into a shitshow, you have two options: bail out early and admit you got shit all over yourself, or stick with the con and affirmatively choose to drown in the shit. No GOP politician should ever have endorsed him; the moral hazard he presented was obvious and clear and became clearer the further he went along. But if they were foolish enough to have endorsed him, it’s not too late to bail out. He’s going to lose either way and drag the GOP down with him; these politicians might as well come out of it with their souls, besmirched but still their own.
And obviously to me, no one with sense should cast a vote for Trump. He’s not just a candidate, he is an active repudiation of what we should expect from the United States and those who lead it. A candidate who can’t open his mouth without a lie falling out — a lie that everyone including him knows is a lie — doesn’t deserve to be president. A candidate who threatens millions because of their religion does not deserve to be president. A candidate who promises to extralegally throw his political opponent into jail does not deserve to be president. A candidate who fosters white nationalism, racism and anti-semitism does not deserve to be president. A candidate who brags about sexual assault and then tries to dismiss it as mere talk does not deserve to be president.
These are not merely Democratic or Republican issues. These are American issues, human issues and moral issues. You can’t vote for Donald Trump and say you don’t know what you’re voting for. You’re voting for hate, and chaos, and the deluge. Anything else that you think you get from voting for him will be washed away in the flood.
Trump is the single worst major party presidential candidate in living memory, but he’s there because the GOP spent decades making him possible, and its base, trained for decades to look for someone like him, made him its standard bearer. He needs to lose and the GOP needs to be punished for him. Conservatism and classical Republican ideas won’t go away, nor should they. But if the GOP can’t break itself from its addiction to the bigoted and the ignorant, then it certainly deserves to die. It’s brought the country to the edge. Shame is only the beginning of what it should feel for it.
Update, 3:00pm 10/12/16: I’ve made my official presidential endorsement. It’s, uh, not for Donald Trump.
As you might suspect I have a whole bunch of thoughts on the matter, but I’m at NYCC and my brain is still defrying after finishing the book, so I finding myself not particularly able to string a thought along for more than 140 characters at a time at the moment. When I get back home I think I’ll have more to say about things, here.
Turning off comments because if I don’t have the time or brain space to write about Trump at the moment, I certainly don’t have time or brain space to field comments.
Eight years ago tomorrow I transferred the Whatever over to the WordPress VIP service because before that I was having weird outages and glitches and basically all sorts of headaches trying to keep the blog running as it had gotten more popular. Once I switched over, nearly all those problems and glitches just… went away. As if by magic. Which I appreciated! Because as much as I enjoyed having a blog, I didn’t enjoy having to fiddle with the backend to make it work. Now I don’t worry about that anymore; the blog just works — not only on the backend, but also when a flood of people come its way. I think in eight years it’s been down maybe a grand total of an hour, if that. I appreciate that.
So, as I do annually around this time, consider this my continuing endorsement of the WordPress VIP service, and of WordPress generally. They don’t ask me to make this endorsement, and they don’t pay me to do it either. I do it because I think WordPress deserves the praise for running an excellent service, and to thank them for doing such a fine job for me. If your site or business needs rock-solid hosting and service, I recommend VIP.
It’s a very New York view, I have to say.
Also: Hello, New Yorkians, I am among you through Monday. You will be most able to find me at New York Comic Con, where I am signing books and posters and hanging out on panels, and otherwise lurking about. And now that I have my book done I will be happy and cheerful and not crabby and stressed! Everyone wins!