The First Bumblebee of Spring

The crab apple blossoms this year are a little on the underwhelming side, due to a late freeze killing a fair number of them, but there’s enough for this bumblebee to work with, and she’s working on them indeed, in the late afternoon sun.

Hope your weekend was a good one.

Zeus, 4/15/16

Because it’s been a while, and while the Scamperbeasts get most of the photographic attention these days, Zeus is still a mighty beast. Enjoy him in all his majesty.

Other than that, for those of us in the US, celebrate that today isn’t tax day (for federal, at least), and that you get the whole weekend to try to jam through your forms and deductions. If you haven’t already filed, I’m wishing you the best.

(Yes, we filed before. And yes, we owed. I, uh, made some money last year. The taxes on that income were not trivial. It actually hurt to see the sums. But we paid them, because on balance we’re not overtaxed and also the roads don’t pave themselves, etc.)

Have a great weekend, folks.

Boycotts Are Supposed to Hurt

In North Carolina, the legislature passed an absolutely appalling discriminatory law, and the effect was that companies started rethinking upcoming business in the state and some notable creative folk, including Bruce Springsteen and Sherman Alexie, pulled out of upcoming events. This has prompted articles like this one and this one, where people are making the argument that when creative folk pull out of doing events in North Carolina, innocent people like children and business owners are punished.

My thought on this is: Yes? And? Boycotts are by their nature designed to cause economic and social distress, are they not? In order to create economic and social pressure to change whatever it is that is being protested, in this case an absolutely unjust law that among other things singles out a particular group of people for discrimination? And if in this case the boycott is of the state of North Carolina, because the state itself passed the law, then yes, causing distress to the children and businesses of North Carolina by depriving them of things that they would otherwise have if the state didn’t have that unjust law is pretty much directly on point. Children have parents who vote. Businesses are owned by people who vote and who can also pressure state legislatures.

This is what a boycott is and does. The bookstore owner in the NY Times article says “we’ve had authors’ backs when their books were challenged or their events protested. We need authors to have our backs, too.” As much as I sympathize with the bookstore owner who complains that she’s being punished for a law she personally abhors, the target of the boycott is the state, not her. The state will be happy to fill its tax coffers equally from the people who have the “right” sort of views as it is from the people who have the “wrong” ones. If the state can look and see that a boycott is having no real net effect, economically and socially, it’s not going to be particularly effective. As a tool of change, it’s a failure.

Boycotts are meant to hurt. Strikes, which are a similar action, are meant to hurt, too — and again, that’s the point. These sorts of tactics are not designed to spare the people who don’t think they’re involved (or shouldn’t be); they’re designed to remind them that they are involved, whether they like it or not, and that their participation is required, again, whether they like it or not. I’m sorry for the bookstore, and for the kids of North Carolina, but Bruce Springsteen, Sherman Alexie and anyone other creative who decides that their conscience does not allow them to go to North Carolina are not wrong.

I understand the bookseller would like their boycott to pass her by; I understand why the other writer wants authors to think of the children. Let us also make space for the argument that those authors are thinking of the children and are leveraging what they have — their notability and the desirability of their presence — to make sure some of those children are not actively discriminated against by the state. Let us also make space for the argument that they are using their influence so that they can “have the backs” of people who the state has just declared to be second-class citizens, and that at the moment, those backs have priority.

And yes, in both cases that might hurt. But again, that’s the point.

A Slow Week In My Brain

I’m having one of those weeks (so far, anyway) when I sit down to write something here and all I come up with is… meeeeeeeh. Which is to say I don’t feel I have anything of particular interest to say on any particular subject, so I’m unmotivated to try to pretend that I do. Even that thing about Stephen Hawking and the Russian billionaire planning to send tiny robots to Alpha Centauri using lasers has me all “I’ll wait ’till they actually build something to get excited.”

This would have worried me more in the past, but these days I’m pretty sanguine about it. Have nothing to say? Cool, when I do have something to say I’ll post about it. In the meantime, I’ll post a cat or sunset pic, it’s all good.

On that note:

I’m not saying I got the Scamperbeasts so that I would have pictures to post when I couldn’t be bothered to think of things to write here. But I will admit they do come in handy.

Sunset 4/11/16

It’s dramatic!

In other news, I’m back from LA, where I had a lovely time and saw many fabulous friends and fans. How was your weekend?

A View From A Hotel Window, 4/7/16: Los Angeles

There’s construction going on, the president arrived today, there was a car chase that locked up the freeways and it was raining. All of this explains why it took me a better par of an hour to travel fifteen miles from the airport to my hotel, and why it would have taken longer if I hadn’t taken surface streets. Los Angeles, I’m telling you.

Anyway: Hello, LA! I am here, for three days. My first order of business: A nap.

Doing the Travel Thing

I’m on the road as of tomorrow morning through Sunday so it’s likely I won’t update here until I get home. Sorry. Hopefully this picture of a kitten will be suitable compensation:

DSC_0005

And remember, if you are in Los Angeles, I will be among you soon!

And Now, an Incomplete List of Women Writers Who Inspire Me

Click on the picture to be taken to the story on Jezebel.

“Incomplete” because I’m doing it off the top of my head. Also, in no particular order. Ready? Here we go:

Dorothy Parker
Molly Ivins
Elaine May
Madeleine L’Engle
Nora Ephron
Susan Cooper
Hannah Arendt
Ursula Le Guin
N.K. Jemisin
Beverly Cleary
Sheri Tepper
Jenny Lawson
Kelly Sue Deconnick
Emma Thompson (Yes, she’s a writer. Won an Oscar for it, too)
Caroline Thompson (no relation to above)
Amy Wallace
Melissa Matheson
Erma Bombeck
Mallory Ortberg
Pauline Kael

There are more, but as I said: Off the top of my head. And these are just the ones I find inspiring — that is, the ones whose work I looked at some point or another in my life and came out of the experience wanting to write and/or to have my own work to be better. If you were to ask for the list of women writers who I like, enjoy or admire, well. We’d be here all day. And that, again, would be for the ones I could list right off the top of my head.

Which is the point. Gay Talese couldn’t think of a single woman writer who inspires him or whose work he loves. That unfortunate man. Maybe he needs to read more widely. For a start.

Update: Mr. Talese attempts a clarification.

What I’m Doing in Los Angeles This Next Weekend

Los Angelenos! This next Saturday — that’s the ninth — I will be in your fabulous town, not just to eat all the In-N-Out animal style Double Doubles that I can shove down my gullet but also to do a few events tied into the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. What are they and when can you see them? Well, let me answer those questions right now.

11:30 AM, Ronald Tutor Campus Center, USC Campus: I and Charlie Jane Anders are in conversation. Among the things we’ll no doubt talk about are Charlie Jane’s fantastic new book All the Birds in the Sky, the new things I am working on, the state of publishing, life, the universe and everything, and of course cupcakes vs. muffins. Our conversation is ticketed, and the tickets have a $1 service charge (sorry) but otherwise it’s free. Here’s where to reserve your tickets.

Immediately after our conversation, Charlie Jane and I are signing books! And probably anything else you want signed. So bring your signables!

3 PM, Mysterious Galaxy booth: Miss the signing right after my conversation with Charlie Jane? I’ll be here to sign some more books — and as it happens Mysterious Galaxy will have lots of my books on hand to sell as well. Convenient!

7 PM, Nerdmelt Showroom, 7522 Sunset Ave, Los Angeles: I’m one of the featured performers at The Objectively Hottest Authors On Earth LIVE!, which is being presented in association with the Festival of Books. During the show, hosted by artist and comedian Sara Benincasa, I, Maris Kreizman, Cecil Castellucci and Isaac Fitzgerald will be saying and/or doing funny things, and being interviewed by Sara. It’s going to be fantastic. Tickets are $8 in advance and $10 at the door, and if you want to show up, don’t wait — the room is, uh, not huge, as I understand it. I can’t say what anyone else has planned but I will be reading an recently-written funny piece that hasn’t been published anywhere yet (although I’ve read it in a couple of places and it killed), so the only place you’ll be able to enjoy it is live, and the only place I’m planning to read it live in the foreseeable future is here, at the Nerdmelt Showroom.

See you there! I apologize in advance for the Double-Double breath.

The Tesla 3 (and Why I Probably Wouldn’t Get One)

Like nearly every nerd I know, I’m excited that the Tesla Model 3 has been unveiled and that in about 18 months it will be a reality. Between it and the upcoming Chevrolet Bolt, reasonably affordable all-electric cars are becoming an actual thing and not just a weird quirk for eco-geeks, and/or status symbols for rich people. The nation needs electric cars that can go reasonable ranges, aimed at people who have less than six figure incomes. Now we’re on that path, and it makes me happy.

But this doesn’t mean I’ve plunked down $1,000 to reserve my own Model 3, either. For as much as I like the idea of the Tesla 3 (and the Bolt, and other electric cars), I’m not their market, their market being people in relatively dense urban/suburban areas, whose driving needs allow them to do all sorts of things within the 200 mile recharge radius of the car. I live in rural America, and my driving needs are generally a) almost nothing because I work from home, b) long trips because I’m going somewhere far beyond my usual environs. I have almost nothing inbetween. Also it means that right now, “fast-charge” stations near me are very few and very far between.

Which means that a car like a Model 3 or a Bolt, both with an about 200-mile range (longer if you pay more, less when it gets cold), fits perfectly into my “range anxiety” sphere. Driving the thing would probably make me twitchy all the time. In ten or fifteen years, when the average electric car has a 450-mile range (i.e., enough to get me to Chicago and back, Chicago being the furthest I would drive before buying a plane ticket instead) and fast charge outlets are at every gas station, this won’t be a problem. Right now, though, it’s a big nope for me.

Here in 2016, the perfect electric car for me isn’t a Tesla model or the Bolt, but the Chevrolet Volt. It has an electric engine with a range of about 50 miles and then fires up a gas powered generator for a 400+ mile total range, which means that it works perfectly as an electric car for my local travel, and then doesn’t make me freak out about finding a place to charge when I’m on a long trip. I’m not going to get one of those right now either — we have two cars and they run just fine — but I’m pretty certain the next car we get won’t be gas-only. Unless something else comes out to fit our driving profile, the Volt’s in pole position for the car I’m most interested in next.

Which possibly means I need to turn in my Nerd Card, as Tesla is the official automobile manufacturer of the Nerd Nation. But that’s fine. I’m a nerd, but I also live in the non-nerd world, out in the sticks. Here in the sticks, for how I live, the Tesla’s not practical. Until and unless it is, I might be a Chevy man.

My New Writing Gig

So here’s a cool thing: I, along with nine other folks, am one of the Los Angeles Times’ book section’s “Critics at Large.” This means from time to time in the pages of the Times, I’ll be writing about books, the universe and everything. I’ll be joined in this endeavor by Marlon James, Laila Lalami, Susan Straight, Viet Thanh Nguyen, David Kipen, Alexander Chee, Rigoberto Gonzalez, Rebecca Carroll and Adriana Ramírez. They are deeply impressive writers and it’s an honor to be in their company.

I’m mildly geeking out about this gig because I grew up reading the LA Times and it remains one of my favorite newspapers. When I was a full-time journalist it was one of the three papers I hoped that I might one day write for (the other being the Washington Post and the NY Times). And now I get to! My younger, newspaper writer self is asquee. This will be fun, while it lasts.

My Review of Batman v Superman, and Its Reviews

Note: This piece will have minor spoilers, so if you haven’t seen it, be aware.

First, I had a good time at Batman v Superman, a fact which is probably seated in the fact that a) I don’t appear to care much about whether either Batman or Superman occasionally kill the people who are actively trying to kill them, b) I’ve already built into my worldview that Zack Snyder films are pretty but empty, and undernourished in the script department. That BvS is all of these things is, well, unsurprising to me. There’s something about Snyder’s visual aesthetic that I enjoy enough that I’m willing to deal with his films’ generally hypoxic storytelling and other flaws; I mean, Jesus, I enjoy Sucker Punch, and that film’s pretty much a shitshow from top to bottom. But it also gives me images like this:

And my brain goes coooooooooool.

It’s not (just) because Emily Browning is in a creepy babydoll get-up, although that does point directly to the key to Snyder’s aesthetic: He’s tuned into what a 13-year-old, newly-pubescent, white male comic book and video game geek wants to see — or thinks he wants to see, anyway. He wants to see Spartans kick-ass, shot-for-shot recreations of graphic novels and sexy-child killbots in a boss fight. He also wants to see Batman and Superman punch the shit out of each other, and then team up for a boss fight, too. That’s who Zack Snyder is as a filmmaker; that’s the baseline you work with. Everything else is incidental; anything else you get is kind of a bonus.

Apparently I’m okay with that. And yes, we can argue about whether we should be entitled to expect more from Zack Snyder when he’s put in charge of a beloved franchise of cultural icons (or what the fact that I’m apparently perfectly okay with the Zack Snyder aesthetic as described above says about me). But at the end of the day, I think Snyder is who he is as a filmmaker. The dude’s 50 years old and has been massively rewarded for this particular aesthetic and workflow of his. The idea that he would change it at this point is a little much. He would, correctly, ask you why, when it’s all working out so well for him. I get what Zack Snyder is about; he is an utterly known quantity to me. I found BvS to be standard-issue Snyder, and it turns out I like standard-issue Snyder just fine.

Which is not to say much of the criticism of BvS is wrong. The story telling is a mess and the motivations for everyone in this film are thin as the pages of a comic book. The characterizations are all pretty good, I’ll note, which is what happens when you get good actors and you let them act (say what you will about Zack Snyder, he’s hugely better with actors than, say, George Lucas ever was). But you know that thing people say? About how they could watch their favorite actor read a phone book? Well, they come very close to getting their chance here.

For all that, I didn’t find it difficult to follow why people were doing what they were doing; the storytelling is messy but it has a throughline. Bruce Wayne feels protective about his Wayne Industries workers and then they die when Superman fights Zod, triggering Wayne’s PTSD about his parents’ death, so he decides to protect the Earth from Superman. Superman can’t help himself from protecting Lois Lane at any cost and begins to see that this makes him vulnerable to manipulation. Lex Luthor wants to take over the world, realizes Superman is a hindrance and creates a scheme to get rid of him, with plans B and C if things don’t work the way he wants. Wonder Woman is here to set up her film.

Which is the other thing: BvS is clearly Act II of a multi-act epic, of which Man of Steel was the first act. BvS assumes you saw MoS — if you didn’t none of this makes sense (or, if you like, makes even less sense) — and it clearly assumes you know, because you’re a citizen of the real world and read many entertainment web sites and magazines, that several more films in the DC universe are coming. That being the case, the film doesn’t even attempt to tie up several loose ends, or explain things which (probably) Snyder and the rest of the Warner/DC brain trust know will be addressed in other films. This film sets up films for Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Cyborg and the Flash (these aren’t really spoilers, these films have already been announced and are on a schedule), as well as an overall Justice League film (two, actually).

Does this work? Maybe a little. Other people have noted that thanks to this film, Man of Steel makes a hell of a lot more sense, which is to say, Superman and Zod wrecking Metropolis in that film has concrete consequences in this one, not the least of which is whether Superman can actually be trusted. So perhaps the things that don’t make a whole lot of sense in this one will be explained later. The question here is whether a person paying their money now should have to wait for another film, years down the road, for things in this film to make sense. There is the idea that films should generally be self-contained.

But then again, Snyder and company are also aware that you’re already in it for the long haul, no matter how much you whine and moan. For all the griping about the film, it made $420 million worldwide in its opening weekend. While people, including me, are having fun playing the backend calculus about whether the film was really all that successful, given its production and marketing costs, and whether it make it into the black in theatrical release (my prediction: Yup, it sure will, or come close enough not to matter in the grand scheme of things), you’re already ensnared. You already want to see the Wonder Woman film (justly, as she was pretty cool in this film, and Gal Gadot does a fine job with her), and you’re already hoping Snyder will just goddamn lighten up, already, for the Justice League film (he won’t. You’ll see it anyway). Warner Bros will make the same amount of money whether you hatewatch or not, so long as you watch, one way or another, and you will. Nerds always watch.

Or if you don’t, that’s fine too, because, again, this is a multi-stage, multi-year project, and theatrical release grosses are just one factor. Just as Disney/Pixar keeps making Cars sequels and spinoffs not because they make a lot of money theatrically (they don’t) but because the merchandising of the Cars universe is ridiculously large, so too does this iteration of the DC universe offer Warner Bros all sorts of other ways to make money. Hollywood accounting doesn’t just run in one direction, you know. It doesn’t just try to amortize the costs of its failures on the backs of its hits. It also spreads the economic benefit of its hits across all its divisions. BvS will make $800 million to $1 billion worldwide — or won’t — but it will help bring billions into WB though merchandising and licensing and ancillary markets for the films (as well as helping to prop up and drive interest to WB/DC’s junior league of properties on television).

But they could have made so much more money if the film was good! I hear you say, and you know what, in theory, I’m with you. If BvS were a better film, which is to say, one where the story was tighter and hung together better, there’s a chance it might make more money in the long haul than the “merely” $800 million to $1 billion I expect it to settle in with when all is said and done. But then again it might not. There’s not a huge correlation between great story and massive grosses. Avatar is a punching bag for its story and it’s the highest grossing film of all time with $2.7 billion worldwide. Other billion-grossing movies include two Transformers films, two of the terrible Pirates of the Caribbean sequels, and the grossly underwhelming first Hobbit film. Oh, and The Phantom Menace. BvS might have made more money with a better story, or less — no one knows, and it’s hard to say. And in any event, as noted one paragraph above, the money from the box office is not the only money under consideration here.

Much of the tsuris about BvS comes from the fact that a certain segment of fans just don’t like the Zack Snyder interpretation of the DC universe, which is fine, but the specifics of their complaints I sometimes find a little odd. For example, there’s the complaint about the fact that in Man of Steel Superman kills Zod, who is actively trying to murder some people with his laser eyes, by breaking his neck:

Superman doesn’t kill people! is the refrain here. Well, but he does. In fact, he’s killed Zod before:

And if you ask me, that time Superman didn’t look particularly anguished about it. Sure, Superman didn’t snap his neck, he just shoved him into an icy chasm and let him fall to a splattery death tastefully obscured by fog. But dead is dead. And Zod wasn’t even trying to murder people at that moment!

Likewise, the complaint that Batman doesn’t kill people, especially with guns and bullets —

Oh. Uh, well.

But later on in the same story he breaks a gun and says guns are not the Bat Way! So, what you’re saying that Batman and his writers are kinda inconsistent on their whole stance about guns, and killing people, depending on the situation at hand? Tell me more.

Both Superman and Batman have been around for coming up on 80 years, and in that time have been rebooted so many different times and in so many different incarnations it’s difficult to count them all. The current Snyderverse iterations of these characters aren’t extreme in their portrayal, they’re just desaturated and fairly humorless. Because that’s kind of where Zach Snyder is at, basically. I’m not sure I want to see Zach Snyder attempt comedy or sustained humor. In fact, I’m vaguely terrified at the idea.

All of which is to say that I think it’s perfectly legit to dislike the Snyder take on Batman and Superman and the DC universe in general, but I don’t find the arguments that Snyder is somehow subverting the characters in his underlit-yet-still-somehow-very-teal-and-orange version particularly compelling. The good news for such complaints is that as far as comic book properties are concerned, nothing lasts forever. Hell, next year there’s gonna be a LEGO Batman movie, which, by this trailer at least, looks pretty damn amusing. Not to mention that DC itself is rebooting its entire universe, again, like, this very week or something. Who can keep track?

Personally, and again, I think the Snyderverse iteration is just fine — not amazing, but perfectly serviceable with some great visual moments and an underlying (if not especially well-developed) ethos about the responsibilities that those with great power have to those who look to them for salvation, or fear their wrath. It’s good enough, in other words, to keep me interested in what comes next. I’m not hatewatching these films. I’m just watching them, happily enough.

Reader Request Week 2016 Wrapup

If you missed any of last week’s Reader Request Week entries, here they are in one handy spot. Just click the link to go to the specific entry.

Reader Request Week 2016 #1: Living Where I Do

Reader Request Week 2016 #2: Will Humans Survive?

Reader Request Week 2016 #3: How, and If, I Will Be Remembered

Reader Request Week 2016 #4: Autonomous Cars

Reader Request Week 2016 #5: Pronouns

Reader Request Week 2016 #6: Why I Don’t Drink or Use Drugs

Reader Request Week 2016 #7: Writers and Ego

Reader Request Week 2016 #8: STEM and STEAM

Reader Request Week 2016 #9: Short Bits on Writing

Reader Request Week 2016 #10: Small Bits

Thanks again, everyone, for great topics and questions!

How to Take Four Pretty Cool Shots of Lightning

It’s simple!

1. Point your camera in the direction of an active thunderstorm.

2. Take five hundred pictures in a row.

3. Sort through them to find the ones that have lightning in them.

4. Of those sixteen, pick the four best.

5. You’re done!

Next up for me: Learning how to take long exposure pictures on this camera. Might, uh, make this process simpler next time around.

Life, Resurrected

For those who celebrate it, happy Easter. For those who don’t, may your day be joyous and full of the celebration of life. It’s a good day here. I hope it’s a good day for you wherever you are.

Reader Request Week 2016 #10: Small Bits

And now we’ve come to the end of another Reader Request Week! Let me scroll through the questions quickly and see what topics I can answer briefly:

Steve C: Has there ever been an artistic field you wish you could pursue if you had time enough? Have there been things you tried and then realized that as attractive as it may have seemed, it really wasn’t for you?

Mostly no, because the artistic stuff that’s attractive to me I keep doing as hobbies; currently that’s photography and music. Now, with those two things, if I spent more time with them I suspect I could get better with them, although the learning curves on each are different — music is harder for me, and I’m at a point where the time investment to improve substantially is much greater than it is for photography. Will I have the time? It’s a good question. The answer right now is: not now.

Mythopoeia: I recently was reading your “Waiting for Athena” chapbook, where you wrote that you expected during Athena’s teenage years, you would have “world’s most embarrassing dad” status.” You then noted that real life was probably going to be quite different from your expectations. Now that Athena is a teenager, how is your relationship with her different from what you once thought having a teenaged daughter would be like? How is it not so different?

I don’t think I’m the world’s most embarrassing dad, mostly because on a day to day basis I’m not constantly cluelessly goofy, and because my daughter, strangely enough, seems to enjoy who I am as a person (I could be getting this wrong and you’d have to ask her for total confirmation, but I think it’s accurate). We do play at me being clueless and embarrassing on social media when I talk to her there, mostly for the comedy value for people reading along. But honestly, I just really like my kid and who she is now, and I think she feels the same way about me, and I think we both just respect and trust and love each other. Those are things I’m pretty sure I always wanted, so in that respect our relationship is what I always hoped it would be.

Berimon: What percentage of Trump voters just want to watch the world burn? How many want a revolution, and how many just want off the merry-go-round?

I suspect that the largest percentage of Trump supporters are (very reductively put) people who feel the system has failed them and who want to change and/or punish it, and see Trump as the person who has the best chance of doing that. Hardly any of them actually want everything burned to the ground, or want a real revolution. In both cases, if they knew what that would mean, they would be horrified. It wouldn’t fix the problems that made them gravitate toward Trump in any event.

Kendersrule: Raisins. Glorified rat poo, or succulent grape-nuggets?

I like raisins in oatmeal (either the cookie or the breakfast food) and in some other strategic deployments. The operative phrase here is “strategic deployment.” But then I feel that way about most dried fruits. You gotta know how to use ’em.

Marc Moskowitz: What needs to change in the world of entertainment contracts to keep a situation like Kesha’s from happening again?

Good entertainment lawyers who understand the implications of the contracts, and the willingness on the part of artists not to sign contracts that put them at a substantial disadvantage to a corporation that has the willingness to let them hang. Entertainment companies are not (necessarily) evil but they will by nature and by fiduciary duty do everything they can to take every single advantage possible in a deal. You get what you negotiate for. Now, are you asking if there should be laws that prohibit something like what’s happening to Kesha? In fact there are all sorts of laws pertaining to personal services contracts; whether these apply to Kesha is something I don’t know. I suspect they do. I also suspect that the contracts were then written in such a way to minimize the impact of the law(s) that pertain to personal service. Which again means good entertainment lawyers are needed, as well as a willingness on the part of the artist to walk away from a deal.

GiantPanda: Share a few things on your bucket list please. Preferably things that are unlikely to happen?

I don’t actually keep a bucket list, and in any event I’ve done most of the things I want to do in my life that would be considered “bucket list” material. Rather than keep a bucket list, I prefer to keep myself open to experiences and to appreciate them when they happen. That way, when I look back on them, I realize they are things I’m glad I got to do in my life.

Gary Tyson: What do you think of the upcoming wave of consumer VR (Vive, Rift) and are you planning on buying one to try out?

I think they’ll be fun toys, and I like fun toys, so, yes, I will probably try one out, although I don’t know which one yet. I’m not entirely sure I want to walk about with a ViewMaster strapped to my head on a constant basis, however. I do hope they figure out the aesthetics of these things sooner than later.

Matthewcaffrey: Do you think Anonymous is a legitimate anti-institutional force that can help keep individuals in line who are able to escape prosecution through traditional means, or do you think they are a bunch of 13 year olds who spend most of their days playing MMORPGs and watching porn?

I’m not sure why this is an either/or.

rbgibbons: In light of the rise of automation, the concept of a universal basic income seems to be becoming a topic of conversation. Do you think a universal basic income is feasible? Is it desirable?

I think right now for most discussions on universal basic income have a bright and shiny “here’s how we get to utopia/stave off dystopia” feel to it which makes me wary. Is UBI feasible? Sure; “money” is at this point a construct wholly made up of candyfloss and Tinkerbell clapping, so if we wanted to give everyone, say, a base rate of $30k or so just for existing, there’s no reason why we couldn’t. Is it desirable? Not without a huge amount of modeling and preparation. I mean, shit. Off the top of my head I can think of five potential horrible consequences of UBI, the first being unspeakable runaway inflation. And of course there’s the point that the reason we’re thinking of something like UBI at all is because we take as read the idea that capitalism is best economic model for humans to live under. I love me some capitalism –it’s worked out great for me! — but I would want to at least question the premise. In short: It makes me wary, and I would want to know a lot more.

Erica: You and your wife obviously adore your beautiful confident daughter. Why did you choose (or did you? that’s probably way too personal) to only have one child? Do you and Krissy have siblings?

We both have siblings, yes. And we both like our siblings, which is even better. As for why we have one child, well, we were open to more than one but it didn’t take, and after a certain point it wasn’t an issue anymore for us. I should note that we never had a target number in terms of children; one was good, more would have been fine, and none would have been okay too, if it had gone that direction. Our life as a family has been a pretty good one, so I’m pleased with what we have and don’t worry about how it might have been different, one way or another.

Mary Baumgarner: How does one hold a peaceful, yet thought provoking conversation about a subject, with a person who holds the opposite view? How can one learn about another’s ideas, or explain one’s own, without generating anger or hurt feelings that snuff out the joy and possibility of learning?

If such a conversation is indeed your goal, start off by just listening and maybe asking questions, I’d say, rather than waiting for your turn to speak and make points. Likewise, don’t go into the conversation with the idea that you are going to change minds or that the conversation is meant to be, or must be, adversarial. Note well that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with adversarial discussions, nor do I think I (or anyone else) needs to politely listen to every bullshit idea out there, particularly if you’ve heard the bullshit and all its variations before. But sometimes you don’t want that, and sometimes it’s not useful. Sometimes conversation is better. And when it is: Actually listen.

Renee: The more I read about climate change, the more I wonder if humanity (as a species) is doomed. Our governments seem incapable of meaningful action and I doubt that my small personal efforts (recycling, taking public transportation, using less energy) are going to save the world. The pace of change has become frightening. My questions for you are: Do you ever worry that humanity is doomed? If so, how do you cope with those feelings?

I don’t think humanity is doomed, no. I think it’s unlikely but possible civilization, at least as we’re used to it, might be doomed, but that’s an entirely different thing. But in the unlikely case civilization is in fact doomed, I don’t think it will be doomed over the span of time I will be alive, or probably over the span of time anyone I know will be alive. That being the case, meh. In the time I’m alive I’ll support shrinking the amount of damage humans make to planet. When I’m gone, I suspect strongly I won’t worry about it anymore.

Theyis: Every election you hear people saying “If Barack Obama/Donald Trump/Hilary Clinton/etc becomes president, I’ll move to Canada.” What would make you leave the US and move to Canada (or any other country)?

If my personal safety or the safety of family members was under active threat by the government, basically. Short of that, I suspect I’ll be fine; the scales are generally tipped in my favor even when they suck for everyone else. If I did move anywhere, I imagine it would be Canada, although New Zealand or Australia is a possibility.

JZS: Clearly there are great benefits to your success (cons/cruises/a comfortable life) and you’ve hit the family lottery in a loving home but how do they feel the feel about the public exposure? As someone who was a very shy teen and still prefers solitude, I’m amazed by Athena’s confidence and Krissy’s nonchalance. Are they naturally confident, gregarious people? Do they ever find the spotlight uncomfortable? Do they ever worry about it? And how do they deal with it all? Of course answers to these questions are a further intrusion in their lives, so…

I think people overestimate the intrusion of fame into our world, actually. I have a (relatively speaking) small measure of fame, which is not enough that it becomes onerous on a daily basis, nor particularly onerous to Krissy or Athena. If it did become a problem I’m pretty certain they’d let me know and then we’d work on fixing it.

Bettie Pager: I’ve often wondered about Krissy’s career choices and how the two of you have worked together in this arena given that writing as a career can be uneven (to say the least) in terms of income. Has Krissy ever taken or kept a job she might not otherwise have done to support you as a writer? Have you ever put off a freelance goal and held onto a “regular” job to ease career transitions for her? Now that you have achieved moderate success in your field (ahem), is Krissy now exploring any projects or activities she may have deferred earlier on?

We’ve been fortunate in that there’s never been a point where I was not gainfully employed as a writer, and not contributing the majority of income to the family, so, no, Krissy was never in a position of taking a job she didn’t want on my account. Neither have I had to take a job I didn’t want for her sake. So, yes. We’ve been lucky. The question at this juncture is at what point does Krissy retire, and what she does with her retirement, because unlike one of us in our relationship, she’s not of the “sit around all day and fart about on the Internet” disposition.

Mitchell Hundred: The Marx Brothers or the Three Stooges?

Marx Brothers, and it’s not even close. Which is not to say Three Stooges fans are wrong. They just like what they like.

Beatrice: A few years ago you signed a petition about not attending any convention that did not have a harassment policy. A couple of months ago I heard about a convention, Conquest, where one of the guests of honor was harrassed. After two years of nothing happening, the guy had to publicly shame the convention to get any traction on his … case…. or whatever you call a report of harassment. Since you signed that petition, how do you, as a potential guest of honor at Conquest reply if they ask you to be at their convention? Also, have you and the other singatories of that earlier petition have an idea of how to deal with a convention that has a harassment policy but doesn’t enforce it?

I didn’t just sign that harassment pledge, I made it! I was a guest of honor at ConQuest several years ago and had a simply wonderful time, and made a number of friends I plan to keep with me for the rest of my life. That said, by all indications ConQuest really fucked up this particular incident, nor is it clear to me future incidents will be addressed in a timely, committed manner. I can’t speak for anyone else, of course, but for me ConQuest is off my list of conventions to visit for a while, until I get a sense they’re actually going to stand by the policies they say they’re going to stand by. Anyone else signing the pledge has to decide for themselves what their response is, if any. But for me, it’s not enough to have a policy. You have to take it seriously, too.

Nikitta: I have come to the conclusion that all of USA is either 1) A cleverly made and very convincing fictive world or 2) An elaborate, well made piece of performance art. Which one is it?

Again, I’m not sure why this is an either/or scenario.

Thank you everyone for your questions this year! They were pretty excellent. Let’s do this again in 2017, shall we?