October 31, 2004

Samhain 2004

Now is the hour. Now is the night.
Close thou the circle, speak thou the rite.
The doorway is open; The veil is thin.
Now is the time. Begin, begin.

October 28, 2004

Cat Vaccuum Go!

So it's nearly that time again.

Which would make this my third (!!) year participating - which was a horrible shock, let me tell you, when I went to the Maryland initial meet-up last Friday and realized I was the scarred and grizzled veteran. (Nobody should be getting advice on how to be resolute and responsible from me.) And now that I've finished two for two on wordcount without actually managing to reach the end of a damn storyline, I've made a couple of decisions this year to, as it were, increase the weight a bit.

First, just to get this out of the way: I won't be writing a Jenny Haniver story this year. I'll miss her, but I think comics is her natural medium, and I don't want to tell all her stories before we have a chance to get Adeptus off the ground. (Rest assured there will be future prose Jenny tales - though I think they may be shorter forms for a while. The big plot arcs I've outlined are graphic-novel ones.) And, too, I want to be sure that her first-person voice isn't any kind of crutch for me; I know I can write pages and pages of that, and I'm ready to try a different path this time around. And, besides, if all goes well, this year's tale will be so relentlessly cool that it won't be an issue.

Second, I likely won't be sending it out in installments as it happens. It's likely to be a much rougher draft this season, and I'll probably want to give it at least one revision before it's fit for human eyes. I may change my mind about this, depending on the demands of my Fawning Acolytes, but even then it'll probably be choice excerpts rather than the whole thing.

And this is because - Third - I'm really hoping to finish this one. As in, actually finish the story this month and not leave it hanging for frigging ever. Now that I know for certain I can write fifty thousand words in thirty days (with only minimal bouts of logorrhea and adjectivitis), this is obviously the new bar to set myself. So I'm very seriously considering writing from an outline, starting with a skeleton of plot and adding more flesh until it becomes, well, a novel. I've never done that before, and I don't know if it will happen as planned, but there's only one way to find out. This part frightens me more than anything else, but if it works, it may work better than anything else I've tried to produce a Real Novel with a beginning, middle and goddamn end.

So that's pretty much my November. I will, as usual, be giving updates here, and I apologize in advance if they make little sense. I'll be spending a great deal of next month's time with Moira Connor as she uncovers the mysteries of the city Night, and with Greyden Peregrine, the Brown Mug, Tass the Bravo, and the magician Caltaign, and probably forgetting in the thick of it that no one else has been there or met them yet.

October 22, 2004

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

If you caught yesterday's illuminating glimpse into Bizarro-World, and could bear with it any length, you might have spotted that a comment by "Your father" included the line: "Just like the administration that you pompously rail against, you don't accept contradictory evidence."

You caught that, right? It's really an admirably packaged sentiment: It's bad to be like the Occupying President, and it's bad to speak out against him. Or maybe just bad to be pompous about it; it's sort of hard to tell.

Leaving aside for the moment that I'm being given a lecture on the tone of my discourse by a man who told his wife she was too fat to deserve an indoor toilet, or the well-nigh poetic pot-and-kettle nature of that "pompously" (obviously a new favorite word), this is a sterling example of the man in miniature, and of the kind of head-scratching comeback you get all too often in an argument with someone who has no higher agenda than being righter than you.

Scroll through the comments of any lefty blog that's prominent enough to get freeper trolls, and you'll recognize the same sort of thing immediately. It's a particular kind of tactic that's beloved of the intractably stubborn and contrarian, a combination of ad hominem and psych-out that, for a fleeting moment, warps reality just enough to create the illusion of plausibility. It grabs whatever material's at hand in the service of "Oh, yeah? Well, so are you!" and hurls it, willy-nilly, like a stool pitched in a barfight. It's not even really an argument, just a seized opportunity to break as many things as possible while the battle's on. Sometimes it's a rant, sometimes it's condescension and head-shaking, but don't be fooled; it's always bullying, no matter what veneer it puts on.

Now, let me be clear: I have been wrong about lots of things in my short lifetime, and mule-headed as I often am, it's even possible, every so often, to convince me to admit to them. But I don't care if your argument has all the good sense of the Dao De Jing, I will not hesitate to name you as the ridiculous creep you are if you present it like a second-grader with a schoolyard taunt. (Shorter yesterday: "Hey, if you think about it, this guy's a lot like Dubyah." "Nuh-uh! You are! And you're a sissy mama's-boy, and your mother wears army boots! And you're pompous! Pompous, pompous, pompous!")

I promise, this will be the last I spend words on this subject, and normal pontificating will presume shortly. But it's obviously time to make clear, this being a public blog where (as you can see) any asshole can wander by and put in their two cents, that there's a minimum level of civility that's expected here in my playground. This was Dennis blowing his second chance to at least pretend to pass muster. And so I think there's some benefit in leaving up a couple of heads on pikes hereabouts, with the sign beneath, "Here may ye see the rude."

October 20, 2004

"And to Him, We No Longer Speak"

For the morbidly curious, the "private feedback" to the previous post is as follows:

Your amoral, manipulative, misogynist father has a point of view, too. A point of view you don't have the decency or guts to recognize. Who took you to your first musical? Who bought you your first book of Shakespeare (over your mother's objection)?

I never tried to be the perfect father--just a whole lot better than mine. You and Tony, who have had the benefit of many good role models, exposure to art and literature, and the freedom to develop as individuals, never seem to have acquired the basic human virtues of compassion and forgiveness. Not the decency to attend you grandfather's funeral or to return your grandmother's love. Neither of you has had the decency to respond to my efforts to reconcile our differences. You fancy yourselves good people who will save the world by virtue of your own high standards, but you're incapable of returning the love of those who loved you most. Real men!

I've never seen such self-righteous hypocrisy.

Good night, sweet prince.

I'd leave this as an "I rest my case" for the Real Man debate, but there are a couple of things worth pointing out here. Note that nice touch of gratuitous poor-put-upon-male in there ("over your mother's objection"). Note the mention of compassion and forgiveness from a guy who sued his twenty-years friends and neighbors over the rights to a strip of driveway, "not ground enough and continent to hide the slain," causing rifts that will never heal. Note the mention of "decency" from a man who tried to use his wife's private sexual fantasies as evidence in his divorce case, and denied a grieving daughter access to her late mother's personal effects. "Self-righteous hypocrisy" is especially funny after all that.

While we're at it, it's worth noting how he cut off helping to support me in college when state law no longer required him to do so, which should give you some perspective on just how deep his Real Man fatherly devotion runs. And that's not even touching on his constant, palpable disapproval - of the time I devoted to the theatre, of my queerness, of my hobbies, of anything that wasn't in the service of Getting Ahead. Don't be fooled - if we had "freedom to develop as individuals," it was very much in spite of his best efforts, and because my brother and I had the good sense, eventually, to learn to ignore him and listen to the role models who'd earned our respect.

These last may seem like small failings, and probably alone they would be; certainly many parents worthy of love share them. But it adds up - the solipsism, the creepy head-games, the willful disinterest in his family's lives unless something benefitted him, the constant martyrdom. And I might well have even forgiven all that, if not for his cruelty, his vengefulness, his willingness to make people suffer because they won't play the game his way. I won't trouble you with more of the gory details; all you really need to know is that, unless you've proven your loyalty to him, all conversations, all relationships with him have the feel of his rant above. He talks a good game about love, but no kindness from him ever came without a price. You see it here: I was so good to you, see how you repay me, you owe me. It's Pete Seeger's shorter "Greensleeves": I gave thee this, I gave thee that, and yet thou wouldst not love me.

Those of you with a lot invested in what a nice guy I am, assuming you're out there, may want to cover your eyes now.

Dennis, once and for all, go the fuck away. You and your nasty guilt-trips aren't welcome in my life, by this backdoor or any other, and if you come back and pull this poisonous nonsense again you'll get ignored like the troll you are. If you ever had a chance at redemption and reconciliation, you sure blew it now. (What, this was supposed to convince me to come back? Or just be some penance-and-grief-inducing revelation? It worked as neither.) You've shown me that you'll never comprehend how deeply you hurt me and my loved ones, or why you're not wanted - that you just don't get all that you have to atone for. If I hadn't done so clearly enough before, I denounce you: Liar, adulterer, sower of discord, pathetic, misogynistic, self-centered sociopathic petty tyrant. You're not my father any more, and honestly, you never truly were. I'm here to disabuse you of the notion that a well-timed orgasm makes you a parent, because Heaven knows that's about all the effort and sacrifice you ever truly put into it. For all your claims of everything you did for me, my life is fuller and richer and happier with you out of it. You didn't even leave enough of a mark on who I am for me to hate you; you're not worth the effort. Mostly I just don't give a shit about you, and maybe that's the most fitting repayment of all.

(So why, then, do I drag this out in the open here? Well, for one, this whining manipulator deserves to be exposed to the world for what he is, especially when he comes onto my blog (not having taken the hint at any time previously) and makes a fuss about how wronged he is - and any of you who might have wondered why I want nothing to do with him now have some concrete, right-from-the-bastard's mouth evidence. And too, to draw a contrast between his twisted model of what a family is - what he needs it to be - and the one I'm surrounded by here. You folks are "the ones who loved me the most," and you're the family I truly cherish, the ones I'd lay it on the line for. You earned it, and that is clearly a thing he will never, ever understand.)

October 15, 2004

The Desert of the Real

I've been following, over the last couple of weeks, the discussion on Alas, A Blog about Real Manhood (for which start here, and continue here and here, with many links therefrom) - or, if you must, Ideal Manhood or Authentic Manhood or whatever the sensitive-yet-masculine term of choice for the moment is.

If you don't feel like wading through all that, the thrust is this: many men, guided by the Men's Movement that came into the popular consciousness anround the early '90s, feel that it's become necessary to redefine what "manhood" is, because the culture's default setting is destructive and toxic - and I have to pretty much agree. I've certainly been witness to the effects of testosterone poisoning enough times to see that the current system is broken, and I'll be the first in line to agree that macho posturing, unchecked aggression and stalwart emotionlessness are fucked-up yardsticks by which to measure personhood.

The Men's Movement and I part company, however, when they begin to assert that what's needed is a new way to frame what a "real man" is, rather than dispose of that kind of terminology altogether. I'm just not convinced that it's constructive to say "a real man can cry" or "a real man is good to women" - or at least I'm not swayed that it's better than saying that a good person does these things, without loading everything down with gender-role baggage in a better-tailored coat.

But these guys feel very strongly that only a man can teach a boy to be a man, and they've got all kinds of arguments from Jungian mythopoeticism to Evolutionary Psychology to back them up, often with great force. They believe that men and women are so fundamentally different (as opposed to being affected in different ways by a gender-divided culture) that the only way to solve the problem is to work, as it were, within the system rather than subverting it altogether. And I don't buy it at all.

Now, I'm as mythopoetic as the next long-haired guy with Sandman on his bookshelves; I read Iron John in college, and nodded in recognition at much of it, right about until I read Women Who Run With the Wolves and found lots of the wildish-woman stuff as resonant as the hairy-man stuff, and realized that about 95 percent of what I was encountering needed no gender qualifier at all. (And it's been a while, but I seem to recall Pinkola-Estes saying as much at one point in the text.) Here was a whole bunch of self-affirming metaphor I'd be missing out on if I were hung up on Maleness, however progressive, however sensitive. I think I turned my back on all of needing to be a Real Man by whatever measure about the same time I stopped feeling the need to reconcile with my amoral, manipulative, misogynist father; I wonder what Robert Bly would make of that.

So I'm going to go out on a limb and say that we probably should quit dividing up what we teach our children - what we want them to become, as Good People - along gender-role lines unless the lesson in question actually involves a particular set of genitals. (Okay, it's probably better to learn to shave from another male - though if Queer Eye for the Straight Guy is any measure, most Real Men don't know how the hell to do that, either. But I digress.) I don't believe that only a Man can teach a boy how to treat women (or vice versa); indeed, do we really want those kinds of decisions being made by males off on their own? A boy learns how to treat women by talking (and listening!) to his mother, his sisters, his girlfriends, his women friends. He doesn't learn it by some Real Man role model taking him aside, any more than he'd get a lesson on how to make love to his girlfriend from the guys in his locker room.

(This is not to discount the good influence male role models can have, and I think it's immensely valuable for young kids of all genders to see the good example set by adult males who aren't assholes. I'm always happy at Swampstock when my mom takes a moment at the firelighting to thank the good men in attendance for being positive examples of nurturing, gentle, kind people. But I bet none of the guys she's talking about are wrapping it up in some bullshit New Ideal Real Authentic Man image, and lots of us figured it out when we stopped playing the Boys and Girls game altogether.)

The trouble, as Amp points out, is that setting a new standard - Real Man or Ideal Man or whatever - sets up a heirarchy, however good the intentions. And it's too easy for the opposite of Real Man to be Woman, and there we are back in the same quagmire again, where the worst thing you can do is call someone some female name: girly-man, lady, sissy, pussy, cunt. Real Manhood advocates protest that the opposite of "real man" is properly "boy" and not "woman," and I think their hearts are in the right place, but it's still reinforcing that Female-As-Other problem and I don't think it's tearing down the right walls. Because when you build the standard up to what Men Should Be, rather than how People Should Be, you're leaving a whole lot of folks in the cold.

Like me.

See, I've already failed the Ideal Man test. I didn't have some conscientious male role model to teach me Authentic Masculinity (and though I did grow up being exposed to some kind and gentle and good men, their influence was much less direct). I learned most of what I know about being a good person fom the women in my family - how to compromise, how to listen, how to share, how to fight and still love each other, how to be a gracious winner and a good loser, how to value the worth in other human beings. How to be understanding. How to be strong, how to be angry without being hateful, how to be responsible. How to drive and cook and do math and do laundry and make art and put the seat down.

So - what am I missing? What's wrong with me? And if my ambiguous, genderfucked, androgynous sense of identity is short some vital, authentically masculine component - why am I so content?

October 05, 2004

Flesh, Feit and Fugue

Will you show these pages to the world, so that every wanderer may find their way home?

Happy birthday today to Clive Barker, who's now had 52 years in a life dedicated to the fantastique, the subversive, the outrageous, and the delightfully queer (in every sense of the word).

If you only know his work by way of his more terrifying creations - Books of Blood and the Hellraiser films being the best-known examples - you may be surprised at what you're missing. He's spent most of the last two decades trying to shake his reputation as a Master of Horror with an impressive catalogue of genre-bending books, from the psychedelic urban fantasy of Weaveworld to the dimension-spanning spiritual quest of Imajica to the supernatural Romeo-and-Juliet romance of Galilee. And he's now halfway through his illustrated YA series The Abarat Quartet (which he described at its inception as a combination of Harry Potter, Narnia and Cirque du Soleil), full of beautiful, surreal paintings to which he's dedicated years of his life.

The first Abarat volume is also notable for being the first book for kids I've encountered that openly mentions the author's same-sex partner on the bio page. Among the other things I admire about Clive is the way he's been entirely, unapologetically open about his sexuality for the last decade. His accomplishments as author, artist, filmmaker and storyteller are inspiring, but it's the way he's made himself a good example in the public eye that really stirs me to do the same.

(My favorite Clive Barker moment may be the time he was on Politically Incorrect about five years ago talking about gay themes in cinema, and Bill Maher quipped that, you know, Clive, there are some straight people in the world, and Clive without blinking replied, "Yes, but are they talented?")

Many happy returns, Maestro. Long may your Art endure.

October 01, 2004

Woven in Lead, With Little Specks of Silver Showing

Resurfacing here just to let all and sundry know I'm alive and okay. Sorry for the long silence; it's been harder to get in the writing spirit of late. But all your good thoughts and encouragement have been a great help. Thank you.

My grandfather's doing alright, for a fairly generous value of the word. He's being treated for depression, which is the biggest risk to his life if he undergoes surgery at this point. He'll probably never be really okay, but that's no great surprise after two strokes and a heart attack. I remain hopeful, in a guarded sort of way.

The lesson here: Don't wait until you're 80 to get drugs and therapy, kids.

Otherwise, things aren't too bad, though the stresses of job hunting and election-year political overload are wearing on me. Also found myself up on the roof the other night with a caulking gun full of tar, clinging like a gecko to the tiles and searching desperately for the source of our brand-new waterstains, all no doubt looking much funnier than it felt at the time. (Thanks a lot, Jeanne.) Fun. Still better than renting, though.

And I'm wicked excited about the Small Press Expo tomorrow, even if it means an extra commute to the City over the weekend and hauling around a huge sack of Stuff I Need Signed. This is the sacrifice we make at the altar of geekdom.

And I also got a kick out of this week's Durtro News mailing, wherein David Tibet opens by briefly transforming into Warren Ellis:
This is 28 IX 2004; I am sick with a cold and drinking Italian chardonnay wine and am delirious. My cats are my HALO. I was reminiscing about how often I went to see Adam and the Ants in their early years and talked with myself a lot about it all. They were amazing. Adam Ant was the best man at the marriage of Nick Saloman (Bevis Frond) as they went to school together; I believe Adam also suggested the name Bevis Frond to Nick. At one point in the late 80s Rose McDowall, Douglas P. and myself were planning a group consisting of us three called STRAWBERRY DEATH CURRENT, which must be one of my favourite names ever… I don't believe any recordings were ever made however. I miss punk rainbow beauty.

I know just how he feels.