2013: Year of the Asshole

It’ll be up to historians to decide whether 2013 actually reached a sort of Peak Asshole event, from which there had to be an inevitable decline, or whether it was simply another new high before year another new high, as Complete Asshole levels rise in correlation with global temperatures. Whatever the historians decide, however, from the inside it certainly seemed like the assholes were out in force in 2013, mad to leave the streak marks of their existence all over the pages of the year. What’s terrifying is it wasn’t even an election year. This makes me want to hide under a blanket for the whole of 2014.

Who’s on my finalist list of complete assholes for 2013? Well, let me tell you — and then you can vote for which one of my finalists you’d choose.

Barack Obama: Surprised? Don’t be — between the NSA stuff and the complete bungling of the Healthcare.gov Web site, he’s earned the spot. The NSA issues are the more existentially troubling items, but it’s the Healthcare.gov thing that makes me want to smack the dude upside the head. It’s like, Jesus, man, you just crushed the GOP on the government shutdown thing, now all you have to do to rip out their spines for the whole next election cycle is just have a fucking Web site that works. It’s like his finishing move was tripping at the finish line into a flaming pit of spikes and alligators.

(And no, he didn’t code the thing. But you know what? If I were president and the way that people were going to connect with the one thing that will cement my legacy as the leader of the nation was through a Web site, I would have damn well made sure the thing actually functioned. And yes, I know about the DDoS attacks. If Obama’s team didn’t know those were coming after everything leading up to the site going live, that’s indicative of a larger problem).

Look, I think the ACA is a good thing. So when even I am exasperated with this fuck up, there’s a problem. His saving grace with me is that I think he’s less of an asshole than others on the list. But at this point, five years into your presidency, not being ready for prime time makes you an asshole, period.

Rob Ford: You know, down here in the United States, we have a surplus of asshole politicians, so it really takes effort for one from Canada to not only impinge on our consciousness but also to impress. And partly that’s our fault; if the Harper administration has shown us anything it’s that Canadians are just as capable of electing assholes into office as we are. So, sorry, Canada. But on the other hand Rob Ford really is something special. It’s like if Chris Farley lived, lost any shred of loveableness, dropped 30 IQ points and started bragging about his oral sex skills. There’s nothing there that doesn’t scream “asshole.” So thank you, Toronto, for letting us know this uptick in assholes isn’t just a US thing.

Tech Dudes: 2012 had comic book and science fiction dudes front and center as assholes of the year, but this year they got tapped out of the ring by tech dudes, who have more money and apparently even more social entitlement, whether crapping on women or the homeless, or pushing to break up an entire state of California so they don’t have to deal with, you know, the dirty dirty people who do other things they don’t. Sure, they apologized (except the one trying to break up California, who is still at it). That’s nice. You shouldn’t need the whole Internet to drop on your head before you realize you’re being a jackass.

You know, I love tech and I have many friends and fans who make their living in tech-related fields — hell, I’m working on a video game as we speak. And not nearly everyone in tech is an asshole, thank God, just as not nearly everyone in comic books and science fiction are assholes. But there are some days when what I’d really like to do is tell all the ones who are that we’ve approved their sea-stead, let them float out into the Great Pacific Trash Gyre and then watch their pocket nation of assholes burn once they figure out some of them will have to gut fish and clean sewers, and then fall in on themselves in an utterly vicious game of “not it.” Don’t worry, in their absence Silicon Valley would be fine — turns out you don’t actually have to be a smug, fake-meritocratic libertarian in order to innovate and code. Funny about that.

Justin Bieber: Who knew that being young and rich and famous with no one on your payroll to tell you “no” would turn you into a complete asshole? Well, in point of fact, nearly everyone knows that, since it’s a tale as old as time. Justin Beiber is the one who got to tell it in 2013, just in time for his teen idol shine to transfer over to One Direction, who should enjoy their next couple of years. Save up your money, guys! Justin can tell you why. Let’s hope in a decade he’ll re-emerge as not a total tool of a human being.

Ted Cruz: This guy, I tell you. He’s like the Platonic ideal of an asshole. He’s the poster child of assholes everywhere, the one that young ambitious assholes look at and say, wow, he’s not about anything other than himself and wants what he wants because he wants it and I wish that was me. It take a special sort of asshole to talk for 21 hours on the Senate floor and have it not be filibuster but to pretend it is and also pretend that it did anything other then self-aggrandizement, but that’s Ted Cruz for you.

Likewise, there’s only one name for the sort of asshole to maneuvers to shut down the government without an end game planned out, and again, that’s Ted Cruz. He’s like Newt Gingrich minus the charm or political saavy, which is saying something absolutely terrifying. Gringrich is famously known as a “dumb person’s idea of a smart person”; Cruz is an asshole’s idea of a principled statesman.

(This is the spot where I’m supposed to insert a joke about Texas, but at this point I feel mostly sorry for Texas. Maybe they intended to elect an asshole to the Senate, but I don’t imagine they understood the magnitude of the asshole they actually sent along. Some things are too big even for Texas.)

What really burns me about Cruz is that he’s one of my generation — a Gen-Xer, and it embarrasses the shit out of me that the two most prominent national politicians in my age cohort are him and Paul Ryan, i.e., the current poster boy for the GOP’s Intellectual Poverty. Seriously, Gen X, what the hell.

Also: Cory Booker, speaking to you as a fellow Gen-Xer, you have a lot to make up for here. Get to it, please.

And now, a poll:

If you want to nominate someone else as the biggest asshole of the year, go ahead and do it in the comments. Do me a favor, however, and limit it to actual public personalities, i.e., don’t nominate a co-worker or some random dude you saw online. Thanks.

The Big Idea: Shannon Page

Oh, look at that, we have just enough time to get one more Big Idea in under the wire for 2013. The honor for the year’s final Big Idea goes to Shannon Page, with Eel River, which combines 70s communes with horror — one of which, at least, was experienced by the author directly…


“You should write a book about that!”

Who hasn’t heard such words, upon telling someone about their childhood on a commune, with goats and naked hippies and a pot garden and no electricity or indoor plumbing and…

Oh, is that just me?

I did indeed have an interesting childhood on “the Land,” and I am a writer, so of course I found the idea tempting. But there are plenty of really good hippie-kid memoirs out there, not to mention some really amazing fiction, such as Drop City by T.C. Boyle. And anyway, I’m a genre writer. I love a creepy story, something with a strong dose of unreality in it. Bizarre as the hippie lifestyle was (and don’t think we didn’t know it at the time), it still actually happened. So I really wasn’t sure how to write my own “true” story.

After a few false starts, I put the idea away and wrote other novels and short fiction filled with witches and fairies and demons and monsters. You know, good stuff.

Then one year I wanted to do NaNoWriMo—the National Novel Writing Month. My writer friends had all these great ideas for their own NaNoWriMo projects, but I was still dithering. Then, in one of those blinding moments of insight, I thought, What about “the Land” story…but with a monster?

And I was off and running. In NaNoWriMo, the goal is to write 50,000 words in a month—a little too short for a novel, but it would make a good start, if it was working; and I’d have only wasted a month, if it wasn’t.

The words poured out. With the barest of outlines, the whole story came alive for me, like no other fiction I’ve ever written. Having the world-building already so well taken care of, I was free to concentrate on the characters and the story. I reached 80,000 words and “the end” before the month was over, and the novel has needed very little editing since then.

Yes, I grabbed the setting and all the colorful details I could from my own life—but it is not, after all, the literal story of my childhood. It is, however, a true story. A story doesn’t have to be “true to life” to tell the truth about life. Genre fiction—fantastical fiction—can be an easier way of exploring and understanding real life than “mundane” fiction with its “factual” details in all their obscuring complexity. Eel River is about danger and fear and betrayal; about a little girl learning to confront uncertainty, and that grownups don’t always have all the answers. It’s about the failure of great ideas when confronted with on-the-ground realities and real people. It’s about the real issues of my childhood, even though these parents are not my parents, that brother is not my brother, and, of course, the actual Land did not contain a monster.

Well, not that monster, anyway.


Eel River: Amazon|Morrigan Books|Smashwords

Visit the book’s page. Read the author’s LiveJournal.