I want my art to do more for the people, causes, and country that I care about. And as much as I earnestly believe in the power of any art to shape the world – I also know that direct action is also required. Protest, dialogue, education – and donation. We’re 10 days in and a lot of righteous war chests are going to need our coin to battle all this goddamn evil.
Effective immediately, I pledge to donate all of my 2017 royalties from my novel Asteroid Made of Dragons to the following:
I believe in the rule of law, I believe in the duty of the Fourth Estate. I believe in organizations that shield the defenseless. I believe in women AND health care AND allowing them to easily be in the same room without oversight. I do not believe that His Excellency’s administration will serve or protect the common good, so all of us need to pick up the slack as best we can. And arm the defenders of decency and justice.
Whatever royalties I receive on AMOD this year I’m going to evenly divide between these four groups. Like most authors I receive royalties once every quarter, I’ll post here when I get the next one in April. Now, I ain’t no Stephen King – these aren’t going to be big numbers even as I start to really flog the book in the next few months. But ‘what a person can do, a person ought to do’ as Antigone said.
If you are a supporter of His Excellency and his administration and goals – and this means you won’t buy my book or anything else I ever write – that is perfectly acceptable to me.
It doesn’t matter where you buy the book, the royalties will still come to me and get funneled to these organizations I want to support. Paperback, ebook, doesn’t matter.
I have to start somewhere. Here is as good a place as any. This dot, this sentence, this word. What did Archimedes promise?
Give me a firm spot on which to stand, and I shall move the earth.
Yes, I know. Some versions of the quote he mentions the lever or the fulcrum too. And already the sand runs through my fingers.
I’m in free fall – I built myself specifically to ignore problems like these. I left the real world to its own devices. I have always believed, needed to believe, that we beat back the darkness with art. That making makes light, makes heat, makes a calm rhythm on the street. Everyone else can go to work, go to church, go to the store and buy milk. I do some of those things, but not really, not truly – I’m a phantom in this world, or I want to be. I make enough to live, I own very little. If my girlfriend threw me out I’d be gone without even a mattress to my name. I grew up in nowhere Georgia, which is to say a place dreaming itself. I grew up in books, flinging myself further and further away through any door, through every door. The most revolutionary act is Transformation – new eyes, new lives, new skin and bone. Every time I was ripped back here it was an insult, an umbrage, a soggy disappointment.
But I grew older. A four word opera. There were things I wanted here in this world, so I learned to Appear. To Seem. When you’re a ghost pulling levers it’s easy to pull together a pleasant machine. Take this laugh and that rhythm and those lines of words unspooling across his brow and cobble together an Almost Person. And I lumbered forward and I crammed a lot of this world into my gob. Take this part and that part and this smile and that heart and the machine is without chink.
Until one day. Three word tragedy. A bullet broke the machine, right over my heart, and I remembered I was a ghost after all. And I was here again and could feel again and I was falling. Like now. Like then I wanted out and the ghost that is me remembered the trick of opening the doors, always another door, always another Transformation. And I found, to my true surprise, that other people wanted to find the doors, needed help opening the doors, would follow me through if I sang just right.
This is it, I said. This is what I’m supposed to be doing. I’m addicted to narrative, and we always want to find out we are the Hero that Hides. All the time in the mines, running through the shadow, all the time wandering on the edge of things, it was all for this. The real world has enough people watching it – I have my own worlds to tend.
But it’s not true. It wasn’t true. It was lucky and privileged and ignorant and vain. I’ve had time and peace and food and roof to scrawl dragons in the dirt. I have white skin and hazel eyes and can walk where I please in This world or That. I have lived idly on the edge of a great battle my entire life and have barely even offered to wear the colors of justice.
In my stories, though it may not always be clear, I’m trying to give something, say something – something useful. The power of the bonds of love. The nobility of the fight against the inevitable. But what good is it?
I’m a ghost and I’m falling. I can open door after door but I’m only bringing forth more phantoms. I can sing you a story about a city on fire but I can’t get more tax allocations for the fire department.
Because here. Now. I don’t know what to do. I called my Senators, I called my Congressman. It helped, it was worthwhile. But it’s not enough. The amount of my relief far outweighs the amount of good I did. I’m reading up on my entire state federal legislature, desperately trying to cram knowledge that I should have already mastered. I voted, I’ll vote every time, I’m ready to throw myself behind any true-heart champion on any level. I have some money I can donate to the right side of the important fights. It doesn’t feel like enough.
I’m not looking for absolution, I’m just stammering out a resolution. I’m a ghost and a broken machine and there are so many doors – but here is where the fight is. With people. With blood and bone and fire and stone. I’m falling like before, but this time I don’t have the lightning bolt in my belly. I don’t have the secret gift. I have no elixir and it’s getting dark.
I’m looking for that firm place to stand. The spot, even a dot where I can rally. There isn’t one, this isn’t a song or a fable or a run across the jazzman’s table. Just falling and air and fear. And this is where I was content to leave the rest of the world. No door, no light, no dancing in the twilight.
I can’t stop being a ghost or a broken machine or a sad little boy on the edge of a forest. But I can do more. I can do my best. I can keep making, I can keep opening doors, but I have to find my way into the fray. The most revolutionary act is that of Transformation – I’ve changed to suit my own purposes, I can change to better suit the times, to better suit the defense of my fellow humans.
And here we are at the end. This was mostly about me, I don’t know if I can shed that. Help me get in the fight. Instruct me. Inform me. I come from a people that love means duty. I have not done mine.
Sometimes we perceive ourselves on the sidelines — when we witness intolerance, or hate, or discrimination. When we don’t personally know a Muslim, a black person, a woman, or a gay.
I mean, those people are rare, right?
But I get it — it’s hard to get enraged when you don’t have a personal connection to the subject of abuse. They’re just concepts. Not people, not our friends, not anything worth breaking the social contract for — calling out some casual or professional racism, sexism, trans-hate, etc. etc. — or just general shitty, rude behavior.
So, here’s what I do when I find myself waffling on whether or not I should speak up or show support for an individual or group. An individual or group that is getting worked over by systemic violence, workplace discrimination, or any of the thousand-thousand petty assaults humanity heaps on the Tribe of Other.
Just mentally replace whatever person or group is being attacked with something universally good. Something that every single one of us can agree is wonderful — and would provoke all of us to righteous rage if we witnessed them being maligned or assaulted in any way.
I pretend that they’re talking about Alan Tudyk and Pikachu.
Do you have any idea how fucking pissed I would get if someone was rude to Alan Tudyk in front of me? Especially if he and Pikachu were having some sort of picnic? You know, snuggling and eating cucumber sandwiches and reading fairy tales out of a big leather book. LIKE THEY DO.
“Shut your face, man. Alan Tudyk is a national fucking treasure and I won’t have you slander his good name. Of course we all his enjoy his work in Firefly — but have you even considered his less known roles? Like in Knight’s Tale or Dodgeball? Have you even considered his voice work? His voice work? I,Robot AND Wreck-It Ralph – phenomenal work. And Pikachu is a cuddly lightning mouse. A. LIGHTNING. MOUSE. THAT IS CUDDLY.”
That’s the trick. Make it personal. Use whoever you need to inspire the Godly Wrath. [Restrained and classy wrath please — anyone who would diss Pikachu is beneath soiling your own hands with physical violence.]
Because they are people. They are real. They are [nearly] just as important as Alan Tudyk and Pikachu. If Alan and Pikachu want to get married, that is a blessed event. If some of my money will keep Alan and Pikachu from getting killed in a country I’ll never visit, then please take some — I would just waste it anyway. If Pikachu wants to evolve into a girl Pikachu or a boy Pikachu, I know Mr. Tudyk is still going to be right by their side, and I should too. If Mr. Tudyk and Pikachu want to worship in a mosque, or a synagogue, or a church, or an empty field, or on the rim of an active volcano that is their right and I can’t imagine why anyone would have a problem with it.
Because even though I’ve never met them, I know that they are awesome. They are worthy of my love, worthy of my respect. And wouldn’t it be great if we extended the same certainty to the rest of the human beings, animals and Pokemans that share this dimension with us?
Just a thought.
Can I add that it is a sad state of affairs where Google Image Search doesn’t yield a single picture of Alan and Pikachu together? If anyone more photo manipulative than I could make that happen, you would get 750 points for the Hufflepuff.
UPDATE: 750 Points to Hufflepuff for Margaret Poplin! Thanks, Margaret! She did the photo manipulation – not sure about the pic of Mr. Tudyk, but the Pikachu art came from here.
We haven’t spoken for years, probably not since college. Easily a decade. We were not particularly close, just in each others social circle. And now, of course, we are friends on Facebook.
I’m sure that, at most, I am a minor figure within your mental life. A blip on Facebook, just as you are to me. I’m sure you’ve seen my various status updates, the occasional rant or blog post. Or maybe not, you may have a lot more friends than I, so my thoughts are rarely noticed by you as you peruse the Internet Agora.
But I’ve been noticing your posts. More and more. They unsettle and confuse me. They make me realize how little I knew you in the past, and how little understanding I have of the person you are in the present. I am left with small crumbs of data – trying to extrapolate the person that writes the things that you do.
The person that I knew did not speak with such surety, such bone-certainty, such pure and righteous fervor. Did you believe these things when I first knew you? Are they beliefs that you have discovered as you have aged?
I have a belief of my own. A credo of sorts.
Do not argue with people, unless you have something to gain from it.
People with passionate beliefs are not going to abandon them due to a well-turned phrase or a cunning allusion. I can bring every drop of eloquence, and emotion, and craft that I possess; and at the end of the argument nothing has changed. I believe as I do, and you believe as you do. Most arguments – online most prominently – are simply exercises in each party shouting their beliefs louder and louder until everyone walks away in disgust. Points are tallied, victories are claimed, and nothing has changed. I believe as I do, and you believe as you do.
Since there is nothing to gain, there is no purpose in engaging in an argument.
So when people share their beliefs I listen and move on. They share them with cruelty, with derision, with simple faith, with arcane reason, with the tongues of angels, with the acumen of used car salesmen. I listen and move on. At least that is what I consider to be the course of wisdom.
I have nothing to gain, so there is no reason to argue.
If someone continues to display behavior or rhetoric that I find unpalatable, I simply choose to stop listening. Unfriend, unfollow, block — all terms for the act of ceasing to heed. I’ve done it in the past without a second thought. But with your words I find myself reluctant to do so. You have become a canker sore in my online consumption.
There is a temerity in certainty. There is an offense in self-righteousness. There is an arrogance in your words. And that is what galls me.
That your view is the only rational one, that the whole world is crumbling and only you can see it. That people who disagree with you are fools. Uneducated fools who make their own choices based on fear or ignorance or blind sin. If only they will listen, if only they will listen to the good sense that you humbly proffer.
You pick apart the words and thoughts and decisions of those who disagree with a manic glee and a permanent eye-roll. You are so happy to be right, holding each gem of your triumph high for all to see.
You take a very complicated issue and make it very, very simple. And not out of a sense of nobility, or a desire to correct the ills of the world. You just want to be right.
You need to be right.
At least that’s what I believe is the root of this. I’m a cynic. I am far too conversant with the human compulsion towards supremacy, that lizard-brain requirement to be right, right, right. To tear out the eyes of any who are wrong. The holy fire that fills our brains when we are just – smiting the blasphemers and bringing order to the universe. The smug confidence, the knowledge that the other tribe is comprised of simpletons and degenerates.
It’s an old flame in the human mind. The Other Tribe is Evil.
So, why am I writing this to you?
I do not name you, nor address the specific issue that fills me with distaste. As stated, there is nothing to gain from an argument, so I have no wish to engage in one.
I just want to know…what exactly? I want to know how you can be so sure. What do you gain? Do you truly believe that speaking the way that you do will change the hearts and minds of those who read? Is your belief so pure that you feel that you must speak out?
If this issue is truly important to you, why do you choose this method to promote it? Surely derision, arrogance, and wrath are not the most effective ways to share your thoughts?
What do you gain?
I am afraid that I know the answer. But I want to be wrong. I want to discover that you truly do not intend these words to filled with bile, that you truly care so deeply about this issue that your passion outpaces your reason.
But I don’t think that’s it.
I think you are empty and sad.
And that is not the fate I would wish for the person I knew long ago.
I don’t understand, and I don’t agree, and I fear that you are living a life of paranoia and don’t even know it. But I will listen, I will keep listening as long as I can and I will not argue.
To the person who I fear you are, I want to say this. Shut up. Shut the fuck up.
To the person who I thought you were long ago, I want to say this.
My left arm is moving. Every time I blink, it inches forward. I do not have the strength to kill this evil.
I must speak faster.
Days passed, and weeks. I slept and ate and healed and learned to speak the strange tongue of Jalyx
and his people. He was my savior, my first friend on Aufero – and I swore that his kindness would be repaid tenfold.
My left hand…it moves.
So much that happened, so many years. Must speak faster. We found the survivors of the crash and the wreckage. Both my parents were dead. I found myself made Captain of a shattered craft.
Must speak faster.
With time and skill we repaired the music hall in our ship, and called the fleet to the planet. We faced many dangers and complications, but I was determined to make Jalyx’s home a paradise — a place where we could share our knowledge with any who desired it. I should have guarded our knowledge more carefully, there were many who sought to abuse it. But the years were golden, and the songs we sang knew nothing of doubt.
Inside me the flower of evil slowly bloomed.
That was the curse, the horror of it all. I can see it now. The shining cities, the bridges of purest white, the towers of glass rose again — but everything we built, everything I built had in it a flaw. A shadow. Twisted lines carefully placed by my left hand. Note by note we sang, but each verse hid a darker chord.
And then my greatest achievement. The Machine. My left hand’s glory.
As I grew in power and fame, my people began to look to me for wisdom. In their grief the Lost could find no satisfaction in the things we built here, nor in the friends we gained. I tried to show them the wonder of our new home, but they would not listen. Their hearts grew hollow and sere — and they begged me. My own people begged me. ‘Oh, Teon – First Singer! Use your skill to take us back Home.”
‘But I cannot. The Dark One waits there, covering an entire galaxy with his malice.’
‘Then build us a weapon. A weapon of Light that can strike him down!’
I knew it was folly, but my hand itched to build it. A colossus, a pure warrior of light. I could not see…
I fell asleep. How long have I been asleep? My hand.