Reader Request Week 2017 #10: Short Bits

Happy Easter! Let’s close out Reader Request Week by running through a bunch of questions I didn’t otherwise get to, shall we?

Tracy Benton: If you were falsely accused of a minor crime that would ruin your life, what would you do? (By ruin your life, I mean cause you to lose the trust and respect of your family and friends, as opposed to put you in jail.)

Well, I mean, I’m regularly falsely accused by malign dopes of a major crime that would absolutely ruin my life, lose me friends and put me in jail, so being falsely accused of a minor crime at this point would be an upgrade. And I would respond to it like I do with this other nonsense, which is to point out it’s entirely false and that the people who promote it are assholes, and then move on with my life.

Catherine N.: Have you ever considered running for office? We definitely need more POC and WOC but we also need men who are willing to listen and learn and admit when they are wrong.

I have no plans to run for office, no. One, I think I’m more effective politically doing what I’m doing. Two, I live in a highly conservative part of Ohio and it’s unlikely I could get elected. Three, Krissy doesn’t want me to. Four, I have contractual obligations for the next decade. Five, I would have to take a pay cut. Six, the constant cycle of having to suck up to people for money would depress the shit out of me. Seven, I suspect the job would make me unhappy. Put it all together, and, no. Probably not a thing I will do.

Sam: What are your thoughts on assisted dying?

For me: Not yet, please. Otherwise, I think it’s fine for other people to decide when to check out, and to do so without violence, and with the help of others, if they so choose.

YuriPup: How do I take a good picture?

Take about a hundred pictures of whatever you’re aiming at. One of them is likely to be pretty good. This is how professionals do it (and me too). There are other things, too, but this is a pretty big part of it.

Topherman: Have you ever participated in meditation or mindfulness practices, or did you do some other something to cultivate such a strong sense of your own emotional range and how to manage or direct it?

Well, one, remember I look like I have it together all the time because you’re seeing me through this blog, which is (generally speaking) a highly mediated experience — I can edit to make it look like I’m a cool and composed cucumber. In real life, I’m a bit messier. Two, in a general sense I have enough life experience to know what things are going to have an actual impact on my life, and knowing that makes it easier to calibrate my responses (after any immediate emotional flush). So no, no formal meditation or mindfulness exercises, but I am mindful in an overall sense. Which I think helps.

Jayglickman: Are we Americans, as a population, significantly dumber than we were 50 years ago, especially since we started relying on increasingly sophisticated machines to help us think?

I don’t think we’re dumber, no, although I do think there’s been a decades-long push, particularly from the political right, to make us less critical of fact and more reflexively tribal in our political affiliation. That makes us feel like we are dumber than we might have been otherwise, as reflected in who is our current president. I don’t think the complexity of machines have anything to do with it, although the machines have made it easier for those who wish to spread disinformation (and therefore distrust in actual fact).

Jill Q: If you could witness one historical event, not interact, just witness, what would it be? So you can’t kill Hitler, but you also won’t die if you go back to the Great Fire of London.

It being Easter, it’s a fine day to note I’d be interested in seeing Jesus’ final week, to learn, among other things, if the resurrection was an actual thing. To be clear, I suspect very strongly it was not; Jesus had many fine qualities (at least as reported, and assuming he actually existed at all), but I doubt that actually being divine was one of them. I suspect he stayed dead. Be that as it may, as an agnostic I have to admit the possibility that I don’t know and that my opinion, based on actual physics as it might be, could nevertheless be wrong. I’d like to know.

Captain’s Quarters: Ahoy there matey! When I hear Walk the Moon’s song “Shut up and Dance,” it makes me think of how you met yer wife. Any particular thoughts on this specific song? Do ye two scalawags even have a song?

In this specific context, ours would be “Friday I’m in Love,” by the Cure, that being the first song we danced to when we met. I think the “Shut Up and Dance” song is pleasant enough, and otherwise its general lyrical content is not inappropriate to thinking about how Krissy and I met. Although, honestly, Krissy doesn’t really have to tell me to shut up and dance. We like dancing.

Don Gilstrap: Is the accepted disdain for the Star Wars prequels a bit over the top?

Nah, they’re actually pretty terrible movies and they deserve their criticism — and more to the point, George Lucas deserves criticism, because he did a terrible job with them. I disagree they’re rewatchable; I don’t particularly have an interest in doing so. I should note that my problem is not the general story line, which is fine, or the overall design of the prequel universe, which is cluttered but fun to explore. The problem is in the execution of the films themselves, which is leaden (and that rests on Lucas’ shoulders as writer and director). The smartest thing Lucas did was sell the universe to Disney and walk away; it clearly wasn’t fun for him anymore, and Disney is doing a much better job with the universe than he was doing the last several years. So, yes. The disdain is earned. Fortunately the new films are pretty darn good and all the ancillary material (novels, games, etc) is chugging along nicely too.

Meg Frank: What do you think is the most urgent domestic threat facing the US population?

At this very moment, I think an administration of corrupt, incompetent bigots and its enablers in both houses of Congress is a clear and present danger to the well-being of the country, held in check at this point mostly by the fact that they have no idea how to actually do things. But that’s not a great restraint, if you get my drift. Mind you, they are just the end-game manifestation of other, more existential threats to the commonweal of the nation, but those would take more than just a paragraph to talk about. So yeah, right now, I think Trump and his pals are an actual threat that needs to be addressed and dealt with (through legal, non-violent means, to be absolutely clear).

Mike Marsh: How do you feel about the increasingly prevalent use of anonymous sourcing in news reports? Do you think it damages the credibility of the newspaper? Do you think it is necessary for getting to the “real news?”

I dispute it’s “increasingly prevalent”; it’s been a common practice for decades. I don’t think it particularly damages the credibility of a news organization to use them if the information is accurate (and the news organization otherwise has rules about how they are used, and when). And yes, they can be useful in terms of helping the press perform its role. Now, I’ll additionally note that there are particular news organizations I would trust more than others when they report using an anonymous source, and (perhaps against expectation) that trust is not necessarily along the axis of perceived political orientation of the outlet.

David Foster: Why do you seem to be enthralled with cuss words in your novels?

I don’t particularly think I am. I have at least a couple of novels (Zoe’s Tale and Fuzzy Nation come to mind immediately) that are pretty low on the cuss meter, the The God Engines, which is my bleakest and most graphically violent story to date, I’m pretty sure has no cussing in it at all. Otherwise, I have cussing in my books roughly analogous to the amount of cussing I hear in my life, so, I don’t know. Maybe I know people who cuss a lot (note: Kiva Lagos in The Collapsing Empire is definitely an outlier).

Vonneanton: Your thoughts on Journey’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and Steve Perry’s decision not to sing with the band. Classy and humble, or persnickety?

I’m pleased with Journey’s induction and I think it’s entirely appropriate; Journey represents a sub-genre of rock (specifically, album-oriented rock) that was often critically maligned but undeniably popular and influential in terms of pop music. As the most popular band of that type of rock, they deserve a spot in Hall. As for Perry’s decision not to sing with the band, well, you know what? The dude is 68 years old, and as far as I know (indeed I think as far as anyone knows), he’s not been singing regularly for at least fifteen years. Anyone who’s expecting a basically retired near-septuagenarian to be at peak form for one night — a night where people would be expecting him to be perfect — may have been expecting too much. I trust Perry’s instinct not to sing in that case. I do think Perry’s induction speech shout out to Arnel Pineda, who has been singing with Journey for the last decade, was super classy, and I’m glad he did it.

Sistercoyote: Do you consider yourself a Hamilton (“I am not throwing away my shot”) or a Burr (“I’m willing to wait for it”)?

Burr in the streets, Hamilton in the sheets. More seriously, I don’t think the two concepts are mutually exclusive; I think there are some opportunities that require immediate action (i.e., not throwing away one’s shot), and others that are better cultivated until they are ripe (i.e., worth the waiting for). The secret, I suspect, is knowing which are which.

Aaron Dukas: If you were to do your life over on the condition of not being a writer (in any form), what career do you think you’d like to explore?

I used to say “history teacher” for this, and it’s still a top alternate life choice, but in the past decade I’ve really been into photography and I think maybe I’d do that. I think I’d be pretty good at it. Recently I took a bunch of photos of the final concert of this year’s JoCo Cruise, and I think that they’re some of the best pictures I’ve taken, in terms of capturing the moment and energy of the event. Between stuff like that and portraiture, which I also think I’m pretty good at, I think I could be reasonably artistically happy as a photographer.

(Also, to answer another question that was asked: Currently I’m using a Nikon D750, usually without flash, and Photoshop and Camerabag 2.)

Patrick V: Which Scamperbeast plants its butt in your face more?

Spice, and it’s not even close. Sugar likes to be cuddled more, but she doesn’t do a lot of early morning butts in face.

Sam Brady: How do the celebrity and fame parts of your career affect your family? Meaning–people say things (both positive and negative) about you on the Internet, you travel quite a bit and devote a lot of other time to your career apart from just the writing, and I’m sure people recognize you in public from time to time. How do your wife and daughter react to all of that? How do they feel about it?

My fame is specific and low-wattage, so on a daily basis it doesn’t affect the family at all. Krissy once got recognized in an airport, which was odd for her, and from time to time outside the specific venues of my fame (conventions and book fairs), someone will connect Athena or Krissy to me (the unusual last name helps). So far, both of them have taken it in stride and with some amusement. In general it’s low key and not too much to worry about.

Lym: Have you and Krissy given much thought or made any preparations or plans for your upcoming empty nest?

Well, Krissy has a job, and I have to write books, so I expect immediately our day to day lives won’t change too considerably (also, Athena will be an hour away, so we’ll probably still get to see her more than if she went to school across the country). As for the rest of it, well. We’ll see! If suddenly we adopt sixty more pets, you may assume it’s gotten to us.

Thanks everyone for another great Reader Request Week. Let’s do it again in roughly a year!

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