Drinking Poison and Expecting the Other Person to Die

(Warning: Further Hugo neepery. Avoid if you’re bored with it.)

A question in email about a recent post, asking whether when I said, of one of the head Puppies, “So well done him, and I wish him all the best in his career,” if I was saying it with the same tone and meaning that a US Southerner might say “Well, bless his heart,” about someone they dislike, or see doing something irretrievably stupid.

Short answer: No.

Longer answer: No, and why would I? As a practical matter, and as hard as it might be for some to believe, publishing is not a zero-sum game; the success of other authors doesn’t have a direct or material effect on my success, except with regard to the small, indirect benefit that a genre that sells well has more readers overall, and those readers are unlikely to read only one author, and thus might read my stuff, too (if you think there’s no overlap in my readership or the readership of any Puppy author you might care to name, you are, to put it politely, very likely to be wrong). So, again, as a practical matter, wishing any other author a lack of success would have no benefit to me, while wishing them the best of success might accrue some small and indirect benefit. So there’s that.

As a moral and ethical matter, I do take to heart the adage, usually attributed to Buddha, but reasonable no matter who said it first, that hating someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. I don’t hate any of the Puppies; I have cause to personally dislike a couple of them, but even then I try not to get to that point of things, either. I posit that the large majority of them are or at least have the capacity to be, decent humans. I disagree with them on many points, and think their current course of action is stupid, wrong, detrimental and childish; I think many of them have behaved poorly, selfishly and in a way that highlights their own insecurities and personal issues; I think it’s sad they try to project those same insecurities and issues on others and use them to justify their own bad actions.

But that doesn’t rise to the level of hate, or actively wishing misfortune on them. I’m mostly sad for them, and occasionally irritated, the latter of which is my problem. And while I’m fine pointing out their bad actions and snarking on their bad logic, what I genuinely hope for them is that they might find a level of success that makes them happy, without the need to view their success through the prism of how their successes stack up to anyone else’s. This whole Puppy mess is because some of them weren’t happy, and were searching externally for that happiness, either by seeking a validation in outside rewards, or by punishing people they saw (erroneously and/or conspiratorially) blocking the path to that validation. Envy and revenge, basically. They’re drinking poison and hoping others die, or at the very least, suffer. It’s why they called themselves “Sad Puppies” in the first place: it was about what they thought their Hugo nominations would make people they decided they didn’t like feel.

Which is their karma. It doesn’t have to be mine (or yours).

So, no. I wish the Puppies success in their publishing endeavors, and I wish them happiness — genuine happiness, not contingent on comparison to, or the suffering of, others. I also wish for them the capacity to recognize success, and to be happy. It doesn’t seem they’re there yet. I hope they get there, and will cheer them if and when they do.

82 Comments on “Drinking Poison and Expecting the Other Person to Die”

  1. First, and obviously, Mallet out; be nice to each other in the thread.

    Second, and I suspect just as obviously, I am not perfect in my equanimity regarding others. I snipe and I snark and I am often not nice. I do try to pair the sniping/snarking/not niceness with actions and people I see deserving of such criticism. But am I not flawless in this, either.

    All of which is to say I recognize in many ways I am an imperfect vehicle for the sentiment I’ve expressed in the entry. It doesn’t mean it’s not sincere. It does mean, possibly, that I have a few more trips around the karmic wheel.

    Third, to anyone who wants to argue that publishing is a zero-sum game, because the available total slots for publishing, while large, is still finite, a) not so much with self-publishing being a viable option, b) the number of slots in traditional publishing is still large enough for it to be effectively not-zero-sum on a day-to-day basis, c) I don’t want to talk about it in this thread in any event.

  2. People sometimes explain to me that they have enough justification to hate people. I don’t really see how that matters; the question I’d ask is whether it will do you any good. If not, why bother?

  3. Had no idea the SP name was basically “and then you’ll all be sorry!” that explains a lot and fills in a few blanks.

  4. I was all the way with you all the way to the end, then I got stuck on the word “cheer.” I agree that there is no reason to wish them ill, and that we be happy (or at least content), when they succeed, but the word “cheer” makes me envision publicly lauding them.

    Let them find happiness and be successful, but I, for one don’t think it’s worth my time to alert other people to those guys’ happiness and successes.

  5. Matt:

    I suspect “cheer” may mean something to you than it does for me. My “cheering” would be something akin to saying “Well, good for him” and then moving on with life.

    Note, however, that if any of them were moved to publicly muse on the foolishness of the Puppies action at some point in the future, I might well link to it and say “Nice he’s come around.”

  6. I sometimes say that I wish certain politicians and pundits discover a driving passion for nature photography or something else that takes them out of the political sphere. Because, while I find their opinions toxic and harmful, mostly that means I don’t want them putting them into policy. I don’t want harm to come to them as people, I want them out of my hair.

    (So, as long as people stop trying to engineer a coordinated voting campaign, or harass people, I welcome them to fandom.)

  7. I read you as well as some Puppy authors.

    It’s why they called themselves “Sad Puppies” in the first place: it was about what they thought their Hugo nominations would make people they decided they didn’t like feel.

    That is news to me.

    The notion is that some recent Hugo nominated works make puppies sad and that you can cheer them up by nominating something else. Presumably the puppies are readers. It’s an allusion to those PSAs which occupy several 30 second slots and depict mistreated animals.

  8. I don’t think that I have ever hated someone; temporarily loathe yes, hate no. It has always seemed to me to be immensely self destructive.

    But as Oscar Wilde noted, forgiving one’s enemies is the best way of annoying them…

  9. Mike:

    We have heard conflicting stories. It’s entirely possible that the explanation of the phrase has changed over time. Certainly now the Puppies refer to the actors and participants of the slates themselves.


    If they wish to believe it is entirely snark, then that is their problem and not mine.

  10. My initial reaction was hating the pups. It took a while, but I eventually swung around to pointing, laughing, and mocking.

    At this point, that’s about the best I can do with them. Wish them well? Meh, publishing may not be a zero sum game, but I sure as hell ain’t voting for any of their slated works for the Hugo.

    And as far as their works trying to push the world back to the 1950’s or earlier, again, meh, don’t particularly wish them well about that either.

    But, I can at least sing the filk and smile/chuckle.

  11. This whole thing has allowed me to knock a name or two off my reading list and a book off my leaning tower of literature, so for that, I guess, I thank them, those Sad Puppies in the mist.

  12. So for clarification, is “genuinely wishing someone well” mutually exclusive with “reserving the right to feel schadenfreude and maybe even a little glee if/when they fall on their face”? Or in your opinion, can those two positions (and the potential conflict of interest they imply) be simultaneously held by a single individual without cognitive dissonance?

  13. Robini, I suspect that OGH covered that in the first comment on this thread: “…I recognize in many ways I am an imperfect vehicle for the sentiment I’ve expressed in the entry. It doesn’t mean it’s not sincere. It does mean, possibly, that I have a few more trips around the karmic wheel.”

  14. From a purely practical viewpoint, isn’t RSHD a special case?

    I hope he has business misfortune. His particular brand of vitriol is actively destructive. The world would be a better place if he didn’t have the ability to spread his asshattery.

  15. With very few exceptions, political points of view won’t make me take someone off my reading list. Neither will antics on the internet. Usually even the combination of the two won’t necessarily do it.

    I’ve read a couple of the short-listed works, though, and that IS enough to remove them from my reading list. If this is the work their supporters think is the very best, then they are not worth my time.

  16. I do wish them well, if by well we mean they stop their racist, sexist, homophobic dipshit ways, and start writing good fiction.

    And if they don’t, then I think it’s valid to chuckle at their tiny, ineffective howls of hulk smash!

    I don’t see that as cognitively dissonant.

    Certainly, I don’t wish anyone to fall prey to becoming a racist, sexist homophobic dipshit. But if they’re going to insist on clinging to last century while trafficking in future fiction for pete’s sake, then yeah, that’s pretty funny.

  17. I’m fine with people who disagree with me. Heck, quite often I do…

    I can read and enjoy stories written by people who see the world in a different light very easily…. Until they reach the point of repeating over an over that anyone who disagrees with them is intentionally evil or hopelessly idiotic.

    3 of my previously favorite authors have used up their positive regard by repeatedly and crudely calling liberals tyrannical imbeciles in their work that they expect me to buy. All 3 caused me to change from the point of eagerly awaiting and preordering their work to eventually rewriting my reviews to give them 1 star simply so that Amazon will quit sending me so many recommendations for their work. (No, only partial success, but some reduction).

    And yet, I still find Ender’s universe worth exploring.

    Sad Puppies may not be so sad if they learn not to sh!t where they eat.

  18. I hate them and want them all to die – they’re all basically the kind of Right Wingers who called me and other Progressives “Traitors” and “Anti-Americans” during The Height of The War Criminal Bush Regime…which makes them the real Traitors and Anti-Americans in my book! I’m good with that – OTOH, I also agree with your more mature, reasoned approach.

    I think the world needs both, honestly – hard-chargers and firebrands to crush the enemy, and reasonable people to negotiate with them after they’ve been beaten severely, and make sure things get rebuilt. I sure wouldn’t want to live in a world where only those looking to crush and punish run things – but I think a world where one side’s trying to be reasonable all the time is looking to get bulldozed by the bullies.

    Basically, I’d be a horrible long-term leader – I couldn’t even be a good evil despot, because I don’t have the energy for the job. Now, if you have an opening for a slacker despot….

  19. sez todd stull: “I hope he has business misfortune. His particular brand of vitriol is actively destructive. The world would be a better place if he didn’t have the ability to spread his asshattery.”
    Business misfortune? VD’s got it, in spades. He created the Warmouse, a ludicrously over-buttoned input device which was a complete commercial failure. He’s also responsible for a Christian video game called The War in Heaven which was a complete commercial failure. It would be nice to think that his current venture, Castalia House, will also be a complete commercial failure, but sadly, there is a nontrivial market for VD’s brand of dipshittery…

  20. @lar – great point. I read a lot of Military SF, so many of my favorite writers are more politically conservative than I am – including a few who are also personal friends. (Like Jimmy Stewart and Henry Fonda, we just don’t discuss politics….)

    When they behave like a dick outside of their writing, though? I find it hard to continue to support them – though I have to confess I didn’t like Orson Scott Card as a writer long before I discovered I didn’t like this politics either. But I continue to read S.M. Stirling, David Weber, Walter E. Hunt and William H. Keith, Jr., all of whom are openly conservatives – though Bill Keith and Steve Stirling have a few curlicues to their conservatism that I find…interesting. And Baen remains one of my favorite publishers – partly for their writing stable, partly for their open-source view of eBooks, and partly for being the one outfit to publish Newt Gingrich and Eric Flint!

  21. The puppy posts on file770 get 100s of responses per day. 70 percent of them are the same people having the same fights. They dont even try to be creative. The forum fight over puppies has jumped the shark. I suggest that the two sides have epic rap battles to see who can rhyme better.

    Points if you can find things to rhyme with scalzi and correia (other than gonorea).

    Man up and issue a throw down to a counterpart.

  22. I think there is a middle ground between hating someone who you think has behaved egregiously – which, as you note, is often more destructive on the hater than on the object of the hatred – and actively wishing them well. If someone has acted in a manner that is beyond the pale of acceptable behavior, I think it is appropriate for society to indicate that their actions are unacceptable and to shun them and their works. (I often long for the bygone Regency-era solution of the cut direct.)

  23. The most that I will say is “I hope that RSHD is roundly ignored by every living thing for the rest of his natural life”. Because the world would be a better place if he didn’t spread his toxic bile around.

  24. But – that’s exactly what we Southern USA types mean by “bless his heart.” That we are sad for the person’s misguidedness and sincerely wish they’d overcome it. Or at least, I do.

  25. Damian Trasler: “I’ll just file this in the dictionary under “class”. Very nice.”


  26. @marion – I’m not taking them off my reading list because of their politics. I’m taking them off because of their public asshattery. I don’t have a problem reading conservative or libertarian authors.

  27. Dana A: “But – that’s exactly what we Southern USA types mean by “bless his heart.” That we are sad for the person’s misguidedness and sincerely wish they’d overcome it. Or at least, I do.”

    Well, bless your heart.

    (Sorry. That response was a moral imperative.)

  28. There was one of those Blank & Blank animated interviews on Boing Boing yesterday. It was with Ray Bradbury.

    A few things he mentioned about writing really struck me though…

    The important thing is to explode with the story. To emotionalize the story, not to think it. If you start thinking the story is going to die on its feet…. All the great stories are emotional experiences…. I’m a dedicated madman, I can’t resist…. You write to please yourself. You write for the joy of writing. And then your public reads you, and it begins to gather around your selling a potato peeler in an alley…. When the joy stops I’ll stop writing.

    It’s worth watching the whole thing. (It’s only 5:15)

    It feels like the SP’s have somehow lost their joy. They seem to feel like others were actively conspiring to steal their joy. And their actions seem to demonstrate that winning an award was more important to them than all their writing, publishing and gradual gaining of readers and fans.

  29. http://file770.com/?p=22200

    (I won’t link direct to VD’s blog as that would be impolite).

    4/28 – people are stealing my schtick! First it’s our host with that promo shot wearing red paint, now VD is claiming to be the “Supreme Dark Lord, Evil Legion of Evil and calling themselves members of the EOLE. Which is a little different from his Legions of Light, but there we go.

    So now we’ve got two of them, on the same side (*ahem*), swearing allegiance to other powers!

    But seriously guys, this type of comedy is better left to the pros. Get off my lawn and all that.


  30. @Corby –I wasn’t singling anyone out. I was just describing my process. Really, some of the works that were put forward just aren’t very good.

  31. Certainly seems a more reasonable response than VD’s unmitigated hate-on for you.

    His currently stated goal over on File700 is to become more popular than GRRM. I wouldn’t recommend holding your breath waiting to cheer him on when that happens….

    Poor chap seems to have finally jumped the shark, it must be all the mustache twirling…

  32. I made my first book sale 27 years ago (I was a zygote at the time) and have been making my living as a writer ever since. You see a lot in this business in 27 years–though still much less than the many old-timers I have been fortunate enough to know, and I listen when they tell me what they’ve seen and been through.

    I’ve known New York Times bestsellers who’ve had to reduce their lifestyles substantially (and some who lost their homes) and find other ways to pay their bills after the market changed so much they could no longer earn a living from their writing, had to start over under new pen names, found themselves making 4-figure or low 5-figure advances if they could sell at all (some could not). I’ve known writers who spent decades losing publisher after publisher and agent after agent…. who suddenly hit the NYT list with an oft-rejected project that gathered dust in their trunks for many years because no agent would submit it and/or no editor would acquire it, and who subsequently found themselves with busy and lucrative careers in their 60s after decades of struggle.

    I’ve seen writers who had a really good start–early recognition, nominations, good sales, and a steady stream of contracts from book #1 onward–throw it all away with bad decisions, bad behavior, or puzzling (or sometimes self-destructive) choices. I’ve seen very likeable, committed writers lose their careers through creative paralysis, which has been incredibly painful for them (they suddenly couldn’t write one day, and some of them have remained that way for 20 years).

    I’ve seen mediocre writers with bloviating, narcissistic, nasty, unethical personalities succeed in their careers, as well as incredibly professional, generous, gracious, talented, hardworking writers succeed. I’ve seen whiny, self-absorbed jerks (oh-so-many of them) complain year after year about not succeeding (or seldom selling, or not selling at all) without ever seriously examining the quality of their own work or (more to the point) whether they’re investing the effort and persistence to achieve the success they whine about not getting; and I’ve seen ver hardworking, professional, talented, persistent writers go years without getting any of the breaks or recognition they merit–and, indeed, with just getting shovel after shovel or shit dropped randomly on their heads.

    There are writers for whom I wish all good things, though I don’t think my doing so has any effect. But I stopped wishing ill on any writers some years ago, because based on what I’ve seen in 27 years, ill is probably going to befall them anyhow, without me expending energy worrying about what it does to me as a person to wish ill on someone else.

    With very few exceptions, the jury is always out on where a writer’s career will go next or what sort of professional conditions a writer will wind up in 3-5-15 year up the road.

  33. I don’t hate them, but I don’t feel any pressing need to give them money in exchange for their work.

    I also feel that attempting to bring in the creepy hash tag people was a profoundly unpleasant thing to do.

  34. I’ve done a bit of Zen over the years, and yes, Zen Mastrers have been known to get more than a little bit Snarky. Hey, The Buddha himself recognized the people are human. I’m not sure he actually came out and said that some of them sometimes act like assholes, but if he’d known the Sad (&ct) Puppies (and some of their opponents) … ummm… .

    So, in agreement with you, I wish all of them well –and with that they’d all clean up their acts a whole lot.

    Personally, I look at the whole Puppies thing as a way to prevent me and most of the Independent people I know from voting for the people we think (rightly or wrongly) deserve the Hugo, I consider that Bad.

    AFAIK, the last time anything like this happened seriously in fandom was well before my joining it (in c. 1958) — by something like ten years… the Michellists tried to get fandom to back the Communist Party of the U.S., and were pretty much Excluded from a WorldCon. I think this is the first time since then that there has been any serious attmpt to Politicize Fandom, and I’m not going along with it. (Mind you, “Sex and Science Fiction don’t mix’ has never paticularly appealed to me, but… errr.. mumblety-mumble…. )

  35. We have heard conflicting stories. It’s entirely possible that the explanation of the phrase has changed over time. Certainly now the Puppies refer to the actors and participants of the slates themselves.

    It turns out to go back as far as January of 2013 and Sad Puppies One, long before I ever heard of it, so I think the idea about making people they didn’t like feel like sad puppies looks pretty much like speculation that took on a life of its own.


    Now you raise another point that Sad Puppies is now used to refer to the organizers, nominees, voters, etc. Quite a few commenters on various blogs have wondered why they call themselves the Sad Puppies. I don’t think they did in the beginning. It wasn’t until the thing grew large enough to be noticed that people started casting about for a name and there was nothing handy but Sad Puppies.

    The Warmouse? Really? That’s just…..wow.

    I think it looks like something ThinkGeek would offer for sale on April 1st.

    So for clarification, is “genuinely wishing someone well” mutually exclusive with “reserving the right to feel schadenfreude and maybe even a little glee if/when they fall on their face”? Or in your opinion, can those two positions (and the potential conflict of interest they imply) be simultaneously held by a single individual without cognitive dissonance?

    Isn’t that part of being human?

  36. @siera21: “I don’t hate them, but I don’t feel any pressing need to give them money in exchange for their work.”

    As a reader, I agree. And, as it happens, without direct reference to what I think of campaigning for a Hugo slate, or gaming the Hugos due to personal vitriol and professional resentment, or repeatedly insulting past Hugo nominees, winners, voters, and fandom.

    Just reading Puppy commentaries over the past couple of months has made it quite clear to me, as a reader, that I have no interest in buying any of their fiction–because when someone’s blog writing is that inarticulate, sloppy, ignorant, poorly reasoned, rambling, incoherent, and clumsy, it ensures that I have so little interest in attempting their fiction writing that I’d honestly rather clean my oven than try to wade through a book penned by such a bad writer. (I think this whole “try to separate the art from the artist” philosophy that some people preach doesn’t take into account that, in our era, various people reveal through their online commentaries that they’re bad at writing–and THAT isn’t something I believe a reader should be expected to ignore, overlook, or “separate” when deciding what fiction to read.)

  37. For the record, I’m a huge fan of both Scalzi and Correia as authors. And don’t really agree with either one of them on politics, though I’m probably a bit closer to Correia than Scalzi. So yes, there’s no shortage of overlap in the readership.

  38. …and THAT isn’t something I believe a reader should be expected to ignore, overlook, or “separate” when deciding what fiction to read.

    I’d respectfully disagree. I’ve mentioned the author before, but Joyce’s personal letters, full of farts and crude sexual innuendos rather disprove this. If he were modern, I can fully see his personal blog being a riot. Or inciting riots, you get the drift.

    I took the time to read some of the offerings – what’s presented damns itself. (Although I’ll probably splash for three or four of the works).

  39. Good on you. You seem like a sensible kind of guy but also fun – and I’m glad for your good fortune.

    I’m much more like the other kind of Sad Puppy – maybe a Forlorn Foal – I wouldn’t try to bring someone with better fortune than myself down. I much more likely to try and get close to the **successful so maybe some of that good writing and publishing savvy could rub off on me. Usually what happens is I end up becoming internet friends with the fortunate and find that they are just regular people who’ve worked hard to get where they are, and maybe had some luck along the way too. I often find that I like them as people and their success becomes something they’ve earned instead of a magic formula they could pass on to me. (I’m really not that naive, but when things are going wrong even the strongest will sometimes latch on to magic thinking. Oh all right, not the strongest, but me. I will.)

    And actually, while being a hanger on may seem pathetic and certainly not as glamorous as being a trail blazer, I’d rather be pathetic than mean and small minded.

    ** You are exempt from being “the successful,” not because you aren’t, you are and as far as I can see you deserve it, but because you don’t write in my genre. I don’t hang about here hoping for a ride on your coat tails, but because a friend of mine shared your blog with me and I got hooked.

  40. @Guess, way back there: Scalzi is ballsy. (Also palsy, but no.) Correia is harder; you’ve already knocked out one strong contender in gonorrhea, and the homophone Korea doesn’t lend itself to wit. Uh — Rodgers and Hammerstein?

    “What should we do with a problem like Correia?”

  41. Cthulu, I was at a reading of some of Joyce’s letters once (which letters were, yep, contained a lot of bulgarity and crudity). And so I don’t think we -are- in disagreement, since the relevant point is that Joyce’s letters did not display clumsy, rambling, incoherent, incompetent writing. Rather, they displayed ribald sentiments in a stylish, articulate way.

  42. I really appreciate you saying that bit, and hope this means that you’ll be consciously trying to tone down the snark directed at the Sad Puppies moving forward.

  43. Regarding hating: If you call yourself a Rabid Puppy, you shouldn’t expect to be loved. You have decided to refer to yourself as something diseased and dangerous, and there’s only one proper response to them. And you certainly shouldn’t claim to be surprised when people decide to treat you like a Rabid Puppy.

  44. @laura resnick if i was an editor you just sold me on a book deal based on your experiences as a writer. That would be a book I would buy. Note…. My tastes are often not in line with others.

  45. @Laura: I’ll make this a little more extreme then: I quite frequently blatantly act the fool and so on, AND OF COURSE I DO THIS ANNOYING THING.

    Of the VD clan (or rather, the meta-clan that VD is coat-tailing on, there’s far harsher zones out there, he’s merely a poseur in a velvet jacket, I won’t link you to the real ones – let’s just say, his blog posters read like “SJW hipsters” to me compared to certain places, and no, it’s not 4/8chan or places you’ve even heard of), there’s a considerable element of disguise inherent in the written medium, as they actually know about the iRobot spiders reading their every word. (No, really).

    It’s not an accident that State department people play EvE (or Russian aluminum magnates) or that 4chan had the highest amount of spooky-spooky members until recently. (Question: was the purge of #gamergaters or was the real purge of the Zoniks! brigade? People were fairly pissed at )

    Basically – if it’s in print, you can only evaluate it to a certain amount of accuracy online. And that level is faaaaaaaaaaar less than you’d imagine. Anyone who states “your online ID = your real life ID” is running their own racket at this point – personal blog posts? Maybe, but not complete – comments sections, forget it immediately.

    Which is part of this whole mess. 10-20% rule, remember?


  46. At first, my initial, raw, feeling, was saying, “Screw this guy..who does he think he’s fooling..he probably DOES wish ill upon the ‘Puppies’..he’s just trying to sound wise and intellectual..wanabe Buddha..” Then, I realized it matters not one bit if this is so or not. I acknowledged that the core of what you were saying is indeed true. I noticed my own immediate, core feelings and thoughts that had previously caused me so much emotional suffering and interpersonal conflicts were returning; and I was proving, actually, the point of drinking my own poison. Then, I winked at you sir. Peace.

  47. I just re-read much of Correia’s SP stuff, going back to SP1. It was interesting in that at first, he was just lobbying for a Hugo nomination. There was a bit of resentment there, but mostly it was just him trying to get something he really, really wanted.

    SP2 had a lot more resentment in it. “Literati heads will explode” kind of stuff. And there were more suggestions of what to vote for. SP3, when it turned into a full slate, was all about resentment and bitterness. Dripping with it.

    So it really was like your cup-of-poison analogy. The more they drank, the sicker they got, but the more they thought they were attacking you (and “the literati”). I really hope they switch to a healthier beverage soon. Resentment is an evil emotion.

  48. (And since there’s a no ancient Greek accommodation been asked for):

    ‘I understand’, he said, ‘we can and must pray to the gods that our sojourn on earth will continue happy beyond the grave. This is my prayer, and may it come to pass.’ With these words, he stoically drank the potion, quite readily and cheerfully. Up till this moment most of us were able with some decency to hold back our tears, but when we saw him drinking the poison to the last drop, we could restrain ourselves no longer. In spite of myself, the tears came in floods, so that I covered my face and wept – not for him, but at my own misfortune at losing such a man as my friend. Crito, even before me, rose and went out when he could check his tears no longer.

  49. Well this blog just made me Google Sad Puppies, as I have been perplexed by the random mentions of sorrowful young canines throughout the blogosphere lately. I promise, I have not been living under a rock, just very busy.

  50. @ Guess: “if i was an editor you just sold me on a book deal based on your experiences as a writer. That would be a book I would buy. ”


    And (yes, really; no, I am not making this up)… the publisher ran off with my royalties.

    I since then got the rights reverted and released it as an ebook. :)

  51. At Marscon this year (and maybe other Twin Cities cons in the last couple years, I don’t remember), Bruce Bethke was giving away Warmouses (Warmice?). I seriously considered taking one (FREE!!!), and then put it down and backed away. I didn’t realize who behind it.

  52. @lar, I think there’s a box you can check… probably under Your Recommendations, or possibly Your Past Orders… that says “Don’t use this book for Recommendations”. That should fix your RWNJ problems. I had to do it to mine when various Christmas gifts caused Amazon to recommend to me things I do not grok, like crafts and sports. But do keep putting up those one-star reviews — I find those (in all genres) much more useful than the 4 and 5 star ones, for reasons I won’t blather on off-topic about here.

    There’s a very subtle difference between “bless your heart” meaning “gosh, this person is a pain and I hope they get better” and it meaning “this person should die”. I don’t think it can be conveyed in writing, and IMO it can only be conveyed in speech by Southern women above a certain age and of a certain dignity. John being none of those, he meant the former. (Sure he looks great in a Regency dress, but he’s not cotillion material.)

  53. ‘Fame or one’s own self, which matters to one most?
    One’s own self or things bought, which should count most?
    In the getting or the losing, which is worse?
    Hence he who grudges expense pays dearest in the end;
    He who has hoarded most will suffer the heaviest loss.
    Be content with what you have and are, and no one can despoil you;
    Who stops in time nothing can harm.
    He is forever safe and secure.’

    — That old guy Lao Tsu

  54. Oh, I totally hate them myself. I don’t wish them permanent and immediate physical harm–I save that for actual violent offenders and/or friends’ horrible bosses*. But I kind of hope they fail at everything, lose everyone they love to accordion players from Des Moines, and then step in dogshit while wearing expensive new shoes. Ideally the sort with those waffley treads that you can’t get anything out of ever.

    On the other hand, I won’t get fussed if that *doesn’t* happen. As long as they can’t do any more harm…well, like I said about a recently-moving asshat I know personally: I’d *prefer* the fourth circle of hell, but at least New Hampshire is further away from me. And I definitely don’t think it merits taking action to make them suffer. Either the universe will do it, and ha, good riddance**, or it won’t, for reasons, and whatever.

    So sort of similar, in that I think active vengeance is a waste of time and effort and also tends to fuck everything up, but I’m more comfortable with my relaxed version of hate. Probably a basic worldview difference: only thing my mythology says about forgiveness is that, you know, sometimes you gotta chain a guy under the earth and drip poison in his eyes forever.

    Also, I suspect “God love him,” is the Boston Catholic version of “Bless his heart.” Thoughts?

    *There are two, for the record, who should get eaten by bears. Or sharks. Or horrible mutant bearsharks.
    **I may drink champagne if I hear about it, but hey, any excuse.

  55. I believe there is frequently a second half to that phrase (sometimes implicitly, sometimes explicitly); “God love him, because nobody else will”

  56. Ha! I love it. It’s the thing my mom always tends to say about various relatives–and sometimes, usually in driving-adjacent situations, my dad. ;)

  57. isabelcooper: “*There are two [former bosses], for the record, who should get eaten by bears. Or sharks. Or horrible mutant bearsharks.”

    Oh my, we had the same boss? Did yours put you in the ICU?

    re bears and sharks, you might enjoy this: Cowboy Space Bear Riding Rocket-Sharks. (I liked it so much, I bought the t-shirt from Threadless.)

  58. Hee!

    And yow, I’m sorry to hear that.

    My bosses weren’t so bad, except for the one who never wore pants and sent me out in 20-degree weather to try and sell his condo. My friends, however, have and have had some doozies.

  59. “Points if you can find things to rhyme with scalzi”

    There’s a guy, goes by “Vox Day,” and everyday all’s he
    seems able to do is obsess about Scalzi

  60. And here I was told by my Southern interpreter (who was assigned to me shortly after moving to the Carolinas) that “Bless his heart” was most useful as an addition to an insult that would be mortal, had the speaker not opened (or in some cases closed) with “Bless his heart.” It signaled that what was coming was insulting but now socially acceptable.

    Examples: “Bless his heart, he’s dumber ‘n sack a wet mice.”

    Can be used in conjunction with “Well, she just doesn’t know any better,” (bless her heart) to construct devastating combo attacks.

    Clearly there may be regional variations, though, and certainly degrees of nuance that I will never achieve as a non-native.

  61. I wonder if it’s contingent on whether the blessing is a clause or an independent sentence. “Bless his heart, he’s a backbiting little son of a gun.”


    “She drove into a ditch on Saturday. Again.”
    “Bless her heart.”

    I am also curious where the I-think-British “bless her/his/their/its little cotton socks” falls into this schematic.

  62. At that point, maybe it’s a shorthand? “Bless her heart….” with implied “…she can’t drive stick and won’t let anybody teach her, the idiot,” except that both parties, presumably having some familiarity with the woman in the ditch, don’t need to spell it out, and the blesser maintains plausible deniability.

  63. I have heard “Bless his/her heart” used in the ways described here, but I’ve also heard it used differently, especially by Southerners. It might go something like this:

    Person A: Aunt Sarah is sick with her heart trouble and can’t get out of bed.
    Person B: Bless her heart.

    It’s a very useful and flexible phrase, and both the context and the relationships of the people in the conversation and the person who is the subject matter. Just as “Oh, my!” can mean a range of different things, depending non tone and context, so can “Bless his/her heart.”

  64. Eek, I didn’t mean the “Bless her heart” to be directly related to the heart trouble. It could just as easily have been Aunt Sarah’s arthritis or the flu. It’s a sympathy thing in that situation. I’m just trying to say that the phrase doesn’t always convey polite or affectionate snark or the like.

  65. Let me assure y’all, on my honor as a Girl Raised in the South, that the oral tradition of “bless his/her heart” and the fine distinctions in meaning thereof are alive, healthy, and gleefully persisting into the younger generations. “Above a certain age and dignity” is entirely optional, though a fine description to which to aspire.

    (I will often shorthand it to just “Bless,” which has an even wider range of meanings.)

  66. Nicole, do folks in the south still use “mercy” or “mercy me” to express a non-opinion? Y’know, “George got arrested for shooting at cars again”. “Well, mercy me!” – let the listener put a good spin on it, even if the speaker is thinking “Well, he deserved it”.

    I may not be phrasing my example well, but my momma was from Kentucky and she had this down to a fine art.

  67. I did not personally run into “mercy” or “mercy me” so much growing up, but then the New Orleans area is in many ways a different southern animal. I also didn’t grow up hearing many stereotypically “southern belle” mannerisms, and one of the few women I knew who came even close to the description was in fact from Arkansas. And when, while I was in college in Seattle, classmates said to me, “You don’t sound like you’re from New Orleans,” while it’s true I never picked up the “y’at” accent, they were erroneously expecting Scarlett O’hara.

    So… could be? Probably? My husband heard it a bit growing up in Texas, mostly from his grandmother. (He heard “bless their heart” a lot more often though, and from all ages.)

    The one I did grow up with that I heard even more than “bless his heart” was a use of the term “special” which Dana Carvey’s Church Lady skewered almost perfectly:

    “George got arrested for shooting at cars again.”
    “Huh. He’s special, isn’t he?”

    Means, more or less, “Well, isn’t that just like him?”

    (Has nothing to do with the modern, toxic, ablest use of the word as a euphmism for the R word, btw.)

  68. In sermons over the years, I’ve heard a similar sentiment. “One of the reason you forgive someone is not for their benefit, but for yourself. Walking around with hate is hard on you” You don’t have to be perfect at forgiveness (None of us are); You don’t have to trust them like you did; but let the emotion go.

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