Story Acceptance for “After Death…”

I’ve known about this for a couple months, but at last I can announce it: I sold a short story to Eric J. Guignard’s anthology “After Death…”, which will be published by Dark Moon Books in Spring 2013! The full announcement can be read over at Eric’s blog.

What makes this even cooler is that each story will have an illustration done by Audra Phillips, an amazing artist of dark fantasy and horror. My story is titled Someone to Remember; I’ve seen the picture for it, and it’s awesome.

After Death… will probably be out around March or April of next year– needless to say, I’ll let you know when it’s available.

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Post-Election Advice, from a Liberal to the GOP

Obviously, I’m violating my no-politics rule here. But since we only have a Presidential Election once every four years, and I need to get this off my chest, I’m granting myself a waiver.

This election season has been long, expensive, and emotionally draining. As someone who leans left on the political scale, I have to admit, I’m pleased with the results. We re-elected Obama. Pretty much all the social conservatives who shared their views on rape were soundly defeated. Marriage equality, having gone 0-for-32 in previous elections, went 4-for-4, including in my own state of Washington.

To any conservatives who happen to be reading this, I’m not posting to gloat. The issues are too important to treat the way you would a college football game, rooting for one team or another and trumpeting over the folks who you “beat.” The governance of three hundred million people is at stake, and it’s in everybody’s interest to have at least two parties, motivated by different philosophies, working together to overcome the challenges we face.

The GOP is already trying to come to terms with this loss, figuring out what happened and how to avoid it in the future. With that in mind, here’s a few tips from this side. (Not that I think Karl Rove will ever actually read this or anything.) Believe me when I say this is honest advice, offered in good faith, from one American to another.

Appealing to minorities: A lot of GOP pundits seem to think that inviting Marco Rubio to give a speech at the RNC counts as Latino outreach. Or inviting Condoleeza Rice counts as outreach to African-Americans (and women).

Let me give you a tip: it’s not the color of your spokespeople that matter; it’s your policies. If Tom Tancredo and Kris Kobach are setting policy behind the scenes, it doesn’t matter if Marco Rubio’s your face. Minorities, like most people, aren’t stupid. They vote primarily based on policy, not skin color, especially here in the 21st century. And when you suggest otherwise, you’re just adding insult to injury.

You want to improve your appeal to minorities? It’s not enough to find a member of said minority group to be your face. You have to listen to them, too, and pursue policies that broadly appeal to them.

Appealing to women: I can’t count the number of times a Romney surrogate got on TV and belitted issues related to the so-called “War on Women” as “small”, “distracting,” or “shiny objects.” Regardless of whether or you agree that there actually is a War on Women, the fact is there were millions of women (and millions of sympathetic men) who were very much worried about women’s access to pre-natal health care, birth control, and reproductive rights. Belittling the issues they care about is not a good way to get their vote. If you honestly think your approach is better, then by all means, have that argument. Being argumentative is far better than being dismissive– at least the former shows you care.

Also, the note on minorities applies here, too. You can’t just nominate women and expect other women to automatically vote for them; policies matter.

Don’t blame Chris Christie. If Hurricane Sandy had struck when an election wasn’t going on, then nothing Chris Christie did would have so much as raised an eyebrow. He did what we expect of competent government officials: put aside politics and focused on the important task at hand.

Two major crises erupted in the final months of the campaign: Hurricane Sandy, and the attack on the consulate in Benghazi. Here’s the thing: Americans like it when our leaders transcend politics during crises, as Chris Christie and Barack Obama did. It’s how Democrats and Republicans reacted after 9/11, after all: they put aside politics (at least for a little while) and sang God Bless America on the steps of Congress. It’s how Reagan responded to Carter’s failed attempt to rescue the hostages in Iran.

Mitt Romney steadfastly stayed political. He had a political statement out about the Middle East unrest even before the actual Benghazi attack, and after Sandy, he co-opted a political rally for a cheap photo op. Imagine if he had, say, taken a day’s worth of advertising dollars and donated it to the Red Cross… or made some sort, any sort, of actually meaningful gesture. He’d have fared much better. He’d have looked like a President, not just a Presidential Candidate.

Over and over again, Americans have shown that we like our leaders to transcend politics in times of crisis, to show that even though we disagree, we’re still all Americans, and we support each other. It’s what happened after 9/11; it’s what didn’t happen after the Benghazi attack or after Hurricane Sandy. And that’s not Chris Christie’s fault.

Liberals Aren’t Just Looking For Handouts. Over and over, conservative pundits insist that liberals, and democratic voters, are just people looking for government handouts, people who see government as “Santa Claus,” as Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly put it. Um, no, that’s not it at all. I’m a white male middle-class voter with a good job who’s never been in debt or gotten any meaningful sort of government assistance in any way (except for, like every other American pupil, a free grade school education). If that situation continues for the rest of my life, I’m fine with that (okay, I would like to see some of the money I’ve put into Social Security and Medicare back at some point, but that’s money I paid into the system, not a handout).

I admit, I vote out of compassion, and empathy. As I said in my pre-Election Day post, I see government as a tool for addressing society-wide problems, including poverty and health care. I believe that we as a society have a vested in ensuring that children don’t go hungry, and that they get health care and a good education. I believe we have a vested interest in keeping our air, water, and soil clean; in keeping our bridges, roads and airports in good condition; in funding scientific research for the sake of improved medicine, technology, and quality of life.

You may not agree with me, and that’s fine. But don’t belittle me as wanting “government handouts” because I see government as a useful tool for addressing society-wide problems. If you can honestly examine why I vote the way I do, then you’ll do much better against me. In the words of Sun Tzu, Know thy enemy.

Don’t blame the media. There is a whole industry, from Fox News to Rush Limbaugh to the right-wing blogosphere, that has made a very successful business out of telling conservatives what they want to hear. And while we all like to be told we’re right, and to have our beliefs validated, this election took it to an extreme. Many conservatives who were genuinely expecting a Romney landslide were surprised and shocked when Nate Silver and the mainstream polls turned out to be correct after all. Reality burst the bubble of conservative punditry, and rather than take a step back and self-reflect, many conservatives are now mad at the media. To me, this argument sounds like:

Person A: Two plus two equals three.
Person B: Two plus two equals four.
They look it up, it turns out Person B is right
Person A: It’s all your fault for not agreeing with me!

Um, no… that’s not how reality works.

If you think the media is really liberal, consider the response to the first debate. It was virtually unanimous, even among liberal pundits, that Romney won. Now consider the other debates, particularly the Town Hall debate. The general consensus, among everyone but the conservative pundits, was that Obama won. In every case where Mitt Romney performed poorly, the conservatives tried to spin the facts to match the reality they wanted. Liberals spin, too, but (as in the first debate) they were generally faster to acknowledge reality as well.

Look, there’s definitely a place for spinning, and putting the best light possible on the facts. Everyone does it. But spinning the facts should not be a total replacement for self-reflection. After the first debate, liberals engaged in a lot (possibly an excessive amount) of self-reflection. Conservatives never did, and by and large, they aren’t doing it now.

After this loss, I see a lot of finger pointing at others: the media; Chris Christie; greedy liberals who just want a government handout. It’s all spinning, none of it’s self-reflection. But when you’re belittling and dismissive of the things people care about– be it immigration reform, health care, access to birth control, gay rights– you’re never going to win their votes.

Final Summary: You want people to vote for you? Listen to them, don’t just dismiss them. You’ll do much better if you try to convince them that your approach is a superior way to address their concerns, rather than telling them that their concerns are invalid, or that they’re stupid or greedy for placing importance on them.

This is a video of my neighborhood in Seattle Tuesday night, celebrating marriage equality and the re-election of America’s first African-American president. You may not agree with it, but this is our country, and I am mighty damn proud of it, both now and always. Political tides come and go, and there will probably be elections in the future where you’re dancing in the street and I’m crying into my beer. But America will go on, and if we treat each other with respect, if we work together honestly, to solve our problems, we will be so much better off for it.

When it comes to America, whether your side lost or won, it’s no reason to stop believing.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xpg6aWF-v9U%5D

A Weekend at the World Fantasy Convention

Amongst the various conventions I’ve attended over the past few years, World Fantasy was an unusual one. There were no cosplayers, no fan panels, no Masquerade. In the dealers’ room, only books and a few pieces of jewelry lined the tables– no massive displays of T-shirts, or board games, or steampunk regalia. World Fantasy’s focus is squarely on the world of speculative fiction literature. There are no superheroes here, unless you count the writers, editors, and publishers responsible for a sizable chunk of the sci-fi and fantasy books out there today.

So there are no stormtroopers wandering the hallways… big deal. Where else can you stand amongst a small crowd and watch Brandon Sanderson and Patrick Rothfuss shoot the shit while coming up with dream projects? Or chat one-on-one with L.E. Modesitt Jr. for fifteen minutes at the hotel bar? (That actually happened.) Sure, some folks who are there are more famous than others, but ultimately, everyone who attends World Fantasy has one thing in common– a love of speculative fiction, and of telling and reading fantastic stories. And that’s really the important thing, as I found out over and over again.

Like at any convention, there were author panels and readings. The panels that I went to were good ones, well-attended and often diving more in depth than the writing panels at other conventions I’ve seen. I attended a few panels on fantasy archetypes (including the eternal wanderer and the changeling), one on fantasy mapmaking, and several readings, all of which were extremely good. (David Levine’s impression of a mad scientist stands out in particular amongst the readings.) And– a highlight of the con for me– I got to do a reading of my own. On Friday night I signed up for the flash fiction readings, in which 18 different writers read over the course of the hour, and I read The Taste of Failure, my story from Flush Fiction. It was my third time reading the story for an audience, and each time my delivery improves (in my opinion). It went over well, and got a good laugh from the audience. I enjoy reading out loud more and more every time I do it.

In the end, though, WFC wasn’t about the programming. At least, it wasn’t for me. It was about spending time with friends, and folks with common interests and obsessions, not even necessarily talking about literature– mostly just hanging out and chatting over meals, drinks, or for no particular reason at all. The room parties were fun, if occasionally a bit crowded– at times the size of the crowd made me lock up in full-introvert mode– but all in all, it was fun. I hung out at the bar plenty (highlights included a Star Wars geek out with Andy Romine and Aliette de Boddard, and a long chat with James L. Sutter), saw some old friends who I hadn’t seen in a long time, and met plenty of new ones.

My only major complaint about the con was the location, about half an hour’s drive outside of Toronto, which I would describe as “urban congestion, without the urban convenience.” Lots of construction and closed sidewalks in the area made crossing streets (for example, to get to restaurants or other hotels) nothing short of an ordeal. All of the interesting Toronto attractions were far away– which may have been part of the point, as it kept the focus on the con, but it was still kind of disappointing.

Luckily there was a well-stocked con suite, which served meals and drinks and generally kept me fueled on caffeine and snacks throughout the day. In fact, all in all, the con was fairly well-run: the dealers’ room was well-organized and laid out, the con suite was excellent, and the programming was good (although some of the panels were repetitive). There were some flaws– handicapped access at the hotel was terrible, and often nonexistent; there were only two elevators in the whole building that led all the way up to the tenth floor (where the con suite and all the room parties were); and at one point a funeral reception was held in an area of the hotel that essentially divided the con in two. There was a little suburban mall with a tiny food court attached to the hotel, which ostensibly provided some eating options, but was mostly just creepy whenever I walked through it, with most of the stores closed and the halls generally empty.

All my nitpicks were minor, though. In the end, this con was one of my favorites that I’ve ever been to, mostly just because I got to hang out with and talk to so many awesome people, both old friends and new ones. That alone made the trip worth it, and it reinforced to me why I love the writing community so much, and why I want to be a part of it. (Pic to the left is me and Folly Blaine, con roommate and former writing group compatriot.)

For those who are interested, here’s my full WFC photo set. There aren’t many pictures, just a few of readings, friends, and the like. To everyone who was there, thanks for making WFC awesome.

And now, it’s time to get back to writing.