My question today is about academia and/or job opportunities and being single. I am a PhD candidate in a Very Good University in the US, and I will be on the academic job market in a year. I have a very good publication/presentation/committee/topic situation, so I should be doing fairly fine. However, my field is totally dominated by men, mostly from quite conservative countries/cultures. It’s even worse in industry (I have work experience pre-PhD and an internship).
Now, I am absolutely sure I don’t want to get married or have a cohabiting partner or “serious” relationship of any sort. If anything, I identify with relationship anarchy. I am happy like I’ve never been, and I feel like I’m thriving and my best self arises when I am alone and free. I do have many short and long romance stories with like-minded folks who are in the same line of thought, but I don’t have or want any “boyfriend” in the sense that other people seem to want me to have (focused on dating – getting engaged – moving in – marrying).
Usually, in academic conferences, in the informal networking events, or in my department, I get asked when I will be on the market, and if I prioritize going back to my country or staying in the US, this kind of things. I think it’s all fair game and I am thrilled some Big Names in the field show interest in me! But sometimes they ask things such as “will you have a 2-body problem?” or “well, eventually you’ll want to marry, right?” or “our school is in a city with plenty of young men!”. Or more bluntly “how come you are not married yet?” (my age – early 30s – is not a secret). I know those (mostly old, mostly men, mostly conservative) professors may just be trying to be nice(?), but I can tell by the way they look that I don’t fit in what they think is “a good woman” or “a normal person”.
I have told some (younger – some younger than me) professors in my department that I don’t want to marry and they all reply condescendingly “you’ll change your mind!” But they are not the ones who’ll make my hiring decisions (although they’ll write me letters of recommendation) and so I am not that much concerned. What about those from other schools who may want to hire or not hire me a year from now when I am on the market? When I have 5-minute interactions and they ask me topic/advisor/ideal placement/marital status. Should I tell them “I don’t want to marry” and out myself immediately as not-their-idea-of-good-woman? Should I tell them “oh I haven’t found anyone yet” and then lie (or risk that someone will try to set me up – it’s happened before!)? Should I just smile awkwardly and say “I don’t know!”? I also feel that, when I say I don’t want to marry, the person in front of me thinks I am lying. What if I tell them “no, I don’t want to marry, but I do want to have kids and I am very well informed about sperm banks and adoption agencies”. Will this kill forever all my job opportunities because of the single mother stigma?
It’s all a paradox, because they don’t like women because of the whole marriage and maternity thing, but they don’t like it either when women don’t conform to their standards of womanhood (wifehood?).
How can I navigate this? I do want to have a good academic placement but I want to know who won’t be supportive of my lifestyle to avoid their departments. But also, you know, academia is sometimes hard and there isn’t much choice of placement for a candidate. So at this point I mostly want to say something that won’t close all the doors but will make my point clear enough.
Any help will be welcome! Thanks so much!
Future Professor Badass
Dear Future Professor Badass,
As tempting as it would be to say a robotic “That is a sexist question” or give a long rambling Boring Baroque Response involving your theories of Relationship Anarchy whenever this comes up, here is the strategy I actually advise:
Them: “Will you have a two-body problem?” (For people outside of academia, this means will you need the university that wants to recruit you to also factor in a job for your a fellow-professor spouse) or “But surely you intend to marry someday?” (Ugh) or “Good thing there are lots of young men here!”
You: “Thanks for asking. I’m lucky that I don’t have to consider that right now in my search and can just look for the best fit for my work.”
Them: “How come you are not married yet?” (This is a weird, rude question but I too have had older people from outside the US ask me this as if it’s a normal question. Then again, we in the US ask people what they do for a job right away, for this week’s Manners Are Relative reminder).
You: Smile awkwardly and say “I don’t know!“, as you suggest! Or, “It just hasn’t been a priority!” or “Search me!” or “I love being single” or “Has my grandmother been talking to you? It’s a question under much discussion in my family, believe me” or “Haven’t felt like it, I guess!”
Whatever you say, keep it light and vague. The more you can answer calmly and confidently, without apology, the more people will take your cue in how they react.
I know all of this is sexist and invasive and weird and assumes heterosexuality when it should not but the individual people who ask you this think they are being kind and even helpful, especially if they are trying to recruit you to their campus. They want you to be happy and anticipate issues that they might have to work around so that you will want to stay forever at their school. They want to figure out if they have the budget to hire you and a spouse if they want you badly enough. They don’t want you to take the job and then leave in a year because it’s a romantic and sexual wasteland or because there’s no industry in the town except for the university and your (theoretical) partner can’t find work. It can be awkward attempt to mentor you, at least in some cases, so if you can find a way to be vague but positive and deal with the intentions (rather than the effects) of the question it will help you connect.
I wish it were not so, but right now you need a job so someday you can be the colleague who doesn’t ask newcomers these questions (or asks in a way that is actually helpful).
Answer with your vague positive statement, some version of “It’s not my biggest priority right now, which makes me feel very lucky! I have the luxury to just think about finding the right fit for the work I want to do. I know not everyone has that. ”
Then ask them questions about their lives.
- “When you moved to [City Where University Is Located] what was it like to get your bearings?”
- “Any advice for settling in in [City]? Where do the people who love it here shop/eat/hike/live?”
- “Was it a difficult adjustment moving from [Country of Origin] to [City]? What was the biggest surprise?”
- “What are the things about [City] that really make you feel at home?”
- “Were you married when you moved here? How does your spouse like it here? What do they do?”
- “How did you and your spouse meet?”
- “Did you have to deal with a two-body problem? What was that like? How does the university generally deal with those?”
- “What do you remember most from your first year of being a professor here?”
You can turn the conversation to their research or their teaching or questions about the students or the department, too. People like to be asked questions about things they are experts on, and in my experience professors like this even more than most people. Use their weird question as an opportunity to make a human connection and find out more about them as people and the place as a place to live and what you’re getting into. Be remembered as someone pleasant to talk to, focused on her work, and someone who asks good questions and is a good listener.
You’ve got this and you don’t need to make excuses for something that isn’t actually a problem. Good luck in your search.
And being an “Audible Deal of the Day” means you get to spend very little to get the book — in this case something like $3. The deal as far as I know is limited to the US and maybe Canada, and it’s only for today. So if you want it at this price, you need to jump on it. It’s perfect for the folks who love audiobooks, or for the folks who have never tried audiobooks but would be willing to give them a chance at a low price point, or for the folks who simply want Wil Wheaton to read to them in those dulcet tones of his.
Here’s the link to the audiobook. Enjoy!
Memo to the right: EVEN SCIENCE KNOWS YOU’RE RACIST.
When confronted on the Internet, racists on the right often claim that accusations from the left have no meaning because they’re directed at people with little provocation. The possibility that the left is calling them racists all the time because they’re being racist all the time never crosses their mind, because it is a thing, and things do not cross their minds. And now we have science backing us up. SPASTIC TOPIC MONKEY FRIDAY!
I know things have been hectic, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t take a few moments to point out that yes, science proved Trump supporters are racists. Which, yes, is an oversimplification, and no, it’s not as much of an oversimplification as you think it is.
What scientists did is they got a whole bunch of people one of two pictures. Both pictures had a house. Both pictures had a FORECLOSURE sign. Both pictures had the homeowner in a tan jacket and red shirt. Both pictures illustrated a policy to assist homeowners facing foreclosure, which the people in the study were asked to support. In one picture, the homeowner was white, in the other, the homeowner was black.
What happened is exactly what you’d think happened. Trump supporters who saw the black man got angry and opposed the policy, Trump supporters who saw the white man supported the policy. Didn’t matter what their economic status was, their stated political affiliation, or their ideology. The one group that consistently got triggered by the color of a man’s skin were Trumpites.
Luckily, because it’s science, Trump supporters can just dismiss it and continue to think they don’t harbor hate for black people. But for the rest of us, we can take comfort in science doing what science does - taking a thing we think we see due to anecdotal evidence, subjecting it to rigorous testing, and in this case, proving it right and stating the results in a way that’s devoid of value judgments like “racist as fuck”, which we can then reapply after reading the results.
In other news, now police are murdering deaf people for not responding to verbal commands. And by “now”, I mean a latest instance has broken through the news cycle and people are defending the cops on the grounds of their job being hard.
There are a lot of difficult jobs. But there’s only two where, if you fuck it up so badly that you kill someone you weren’t supposed to, the entire ideology of one of America’s political parties is dedicated to making sure you face no consequences. One’s cop, the other’s soldier. And the only acceptable response from the right is to blame the victim and deny the existence of the problem, because most of the victims in both cases have something in common. Something I’m sure a scientific study could corroborate.
And I can’t wait for six more, because, much like Daredevil Season 1, are origin stories. Not of The Tick, but of Arther, and of "Tick And Arthur", hero and sidekick.
In the final episode specifically, Arthur is pulled in three very specific directions - the ultraviolence of Overkill and Dangerboat, the pure heroism of The Tick, and his own desire to just let the system work. Needless to say, he ends up with The Tick, after a bus rescue that establishes them as The City's new heroes.
The celebration is short-lived, though, because, as Arthur suspected, The Terror isn't dead. He collects Lint, as it were, kidnaps Arthur, and shouts CLIFFHANGER! at him as the last line of Season 1. And just as Arthur learns his suit is part of a weapons system designed to kill the Tickverse's Superman-equivalent.
Overall, I'd have to say this is my second-favorite iteration of The Tick, after the riginal comics, but just edging out the cartoon. And while I like the original live-action series, it suffered from both what could be done on a moderate budget at the tiem, and for mostly being knockoffs of the cartoon's supporting cast, a pitfall the Amazon series totally avoids. Crazy Jeff may want his own Game of Thrones, but he should find happiness in his own The Tick.
|Like the gun, the fire of the season leaves characters unchanged SIMILE!|
What they're going for, I believe, is a deal where The Grail tries to manipulate Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy (mostly the first two) based on their observations of who they are via the surveillance of Denis' apartment. The only problem is, they're not actually those people. Jesse is a badass with an unshakable moral core, Tulip takes no bullshit from anyone, and Cassidy is, well, OK, Cassidy, but they aren't manipulating him so they can't mess it up.
The problem with that is, for it to seem remotely plausible, the characters have to act out of character for this entire sequence. So we get monomaniac Jesse, mopey, vulnerable Tulip, and, well, Cassidy killing time with his son.
In this episode, the wheels come off the manipulation plan. Tulip comes to understand why Jesse lied about the Saint. Jesse, even after being confronted with his horrible past with the L'angelles (through recordings of his prayers obtained by Starr). These changes come largely out of nowhere, because the plot has decided it's time for everyone to return to their primary character traits to head for the finale, but it's a welcome change.
In service of this we get a really entertainig argument between Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy. We also get lots of flashbacks to Jesse in the underwater coffin his grandmother used as punishment. And we get the stupid and pointless revelation that God was probably the weird man in the dalmatian suit from like the second episode of the season. And we get, in Hell, the full version of Hitler's Worst Moment, which tells us nothing we hadn't already extrapolated from what we saw of his worst moment five or six episodes ago. And some entertaining threatening of a smelter, albeit threatening that Betsy DeVos would like.
But, at least, the episode ensd with Jesse and Tulip acting like Jesse and Tulip, and Starr deciding that ultraviolence is the only workable solution. Sure, that ultraviolence just consists of letting The Saint loose again, but at least the finale should be exciting.
(And thanks to all those who sent me cards and emails. You're very kind. Love you all).
I had a good day with family and friends, but...
How did that happen?
Seems like only yesterday I was one of the Young Turks of Science Fiction.
What a long strange trip it's been...
And I still have a ways to go, I hope. Lots of stories still to tell.
(And yes, Mr. Prufrock, I still eat peaches).
Memo to Graham, Cassidy, Grassley, and et al: SORRY THE SYSTEM DIDN’T ACCOUNT FOR YOU.
Zombie Repeal And Replace Version Four is upon us, and its very existence exposes a great many things about how the amazing American government system you learned about in Schoolhouse Rock, or you learned about when your parents forced their retro nostalgia Schoolhouse Rock DVDs on you, is in fact incapable of coping with a critical mass of complete assholes.
The latest version of Trumpcare, which Trump doesn’t understand and had nothing to do with but will sign anyway because it’s a version of “repeal and replace” is just block granting Medicaid and taking away all the regulations associated with the block grants. Keep in mind that “block grants” are how Republicans destroy federal programs. They take the money the federal government would have spent, then send a fraction of that to the states. States can’t run deficits, so they can’t make up the difference on their own through deficit spending, so the programs get cut and it’s the state’s fault.
Passing it on to the states without any federal control means they can also avoid the blame when the states inevitably do all the things the Graham-Cassidy bill doesn’t stop them from doing, like letting insurance companies jack up rates on people with pre-existing conditions, deciding not to cover any damn thing they don’t feel like covering, or forcing cancer patients to battle to the death for one vial of chemo.
The one thing they will make states do is impose caps. Including lifetime caps, which are basically upper limits of how sick you’re allowed to get for your entire life. Get really sick as a baby, then get hit by a car when you’re 19? Sorry, no coverage for you. Your parents should have thought about that before they had a baby with a birth defect in the first place.
Nobody wants this. The only people supporting it are rich asshole lawmakers who it won’t hurt, and poor asshole MAGA-ites who don’t understand it and think any explanation of it that makes it sound bad is fake news. So why is it even up for another vote, and why does everyone have to yell at their Senators again to remind them nobody wants this? Well, here’s the thing.
Most of the rules that govern the Senate (and, to a lesser extent, the House), are set up in such a way that the only thing stopping senators and representatives from abusing them horribly is shame and personal restraint.
Basically, legislative rules are the equivalent of a “take a penny, leave a penny” dish at a cash register. Enough assholes, and the only things in the dish are a used condom and a note that says “SOSHALIZM SUCKS”.
So they’re basically trying to use the cover of multiple hurricanes devastating the southeastern US and the exhaustion of the direct action forces to get something, anything, passed because they said they would, a fact Chuck Grassley inexplicably admitted yesterday. ACTUAL QUOTE TIME!
”You know, I could maybe give you 10 reasons why this bill shouldn’t be considered. But Republicans campaigned on this so often that you have a responsibility to carry out what you said in the campaign. That’s pretty much as much of a reason as the substance of the bill.”
Simply put, the American system wasn’t designed to handle the election of 268 people this fucking venal, opportunistic, and stupid. But that’s what we have, and then some.
Because yesterday I got to hang out a bit with Alison Moyet, who if you didn’t know is one of my absolute favorite singers, both in Yaz, and with her solo work. We’d become Twitter buddies in the last couple of years and when I mentioned to her Krissy and I would be at her Chicago show she suggested we have a real-life meet. And we did! And it was lovely! And brief, as she had to prepare to entertain a sold-out show (and she did; the concert was excellent), but long enough to confirm that she’s as fabulous in the flesh as she is in her music. Which was not surprising to me, but nice regardless.
(Alison has also blogged about our meet-up as part of her tour journal, which you can find here. Read the entire tour journal, as she’s funny as hell.)
I noted to some friends that I was likely to meet Alison this week and some of them wondered how it would go, on the principle that meeting one’s idols rarely goes as one expects (more bluntly, the saying is “never meet your idols.”) I certainly understand the concept, but I have to say I’ve had pretty good luck meeting people whom I have admired (or whose work I admired). I chalk a lot of that up to the fact that while I was working as a film critic, I met and interviewed literally hundreds of famous people, some of whose work was very important to me. In the experience I got to have the first-hand realization that famous and/or wonderfully creative people are also just people, and have the same range of personalities and quirks as anyone else.
If you remember that when you meet the people whose work or actions you admire, you give them space just to be themselves. And themselves are often lovely. And when they’re not, well, that’s fine too. Alison Moyet, it turns out, is fabulous, and I’m glad we got to meet.
(Which is not to say I didn’t geek out. Oh, my, I did. But I also kept that mostly inside. Krissy found it all amusing.)
Anyway: Great Tuesday. A+++, would Tuesday again.
Truth be told, we've had five scripts in various stages of development for months. Which I believe I mentioned...
But now at last all the deals are signed, and it can be told. BRYAN COGMAN has come on board to pen the fifth of the successor shows. James Hibberd broke the news on ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY.
Bryan Cogman should need no introduction for any GAME OF THRONES fan. He's been part of the show since the beginning... since before the beginning, actually, since he was first hired as assistant to David Benioff and D.B Weiss way before the series got on the air, before even the pilot had been filmed. From those humble beginnings, he advanced to staff writer, to story editor, to co-producer and producer and supervising producer. Less formally, he has also been GOT's "Keeper of the Lore," the guy who knew the canon better than anyone (except me, though sometimes I am not even sure of that). He's written more episodes of GAME OF THRONES than anyone but Dan & David... including some of our very best ones. If D&D have been the kings of Westeros for these past seven seasons, Bryan Cogman has surely been the Prince of Dragonstone.
I'd love to tell you more about the series Bryan will be working on... but we haven't done that for the other four successor shows, so we shouldn't for this one either. All in good time.
I can say that, like the other pilots, it will be a prequel rather than sequel, a successor rather than a spinoff. Bryan's series will be an adaptation, and one that will thrill most fans of the books, I think, set during a very exciting period of Westerosi history. And I'll be working with him every step of the way; we're going to be co-creating the show.
Meanwhile, Jane Goldman, Brian Helgeland, Max Borenstein, and Carly Wray are all at work on the other four successor shows. I've been working with them as well (some more closely than others), and I'm excited by some of the ideas they're coming up with. HBO should have a wealth of material to choose from. (And that's not even counting the four weird-ass series concepts I've come up on my own, just for the hell of it. There are eight million stories in the naked city, and maybe ten times as many in Westeros and the lands beyond the narrow seas).
You should not expect to see all five shows, though, at least not immediately.. much as I might love the idea, HBO is not about to become the GAME OF THRONES network... but we could possibly see two or even three make it to the pilot stage, with one series emerging on air in 2019 or 2020... and the others maybe later, if they come out as well as we all hope. Then again, maybe... but I should not speculate, you folks get WAY too excited. Truth is, no one knows. Least of all me.
For now, suffice it to say that Bryan Cogman has signed on, and we're thrilled.
It was a great show this year, I thought. Yes, even without GAME OF THRONES. Stephen Colbert made a terrific host. I especially enjoyed his opening number.
A strong lineup of nominees this year gave us some great winners... though, as always, that also means some equally deserving finalists wound up as losers. WESTWORLD especially was robbed, as was STRANGER THINGS. But it IS an honor just to be nominated, and the time will come for both of those shows, as it finally did for GAME OF THRONES. The big winners this year were Hulu's HANDMAID'S TALE (adapted from the novel by Margaret Atwood) and HBO's BIG LITTLE LIES (adapted from the novel by Liane Moriarity). ((Notice the common denominator there? BOOKS! Do a faithful adapatation of a great book, and you can't go wrong)). I was also pleased to see BLACK MIRROR get some love, especially for its brilliant "San Junipero" episode.
GAME OF THRONES, of course, was not eligible this year, having shifted from April to August. Which meant that, for the first time in seven years, I was not actually at the awards in LA. Instead Parris and I watched from home. It felt kind of strange not to be there, truth be told. Not bad, just strange. It was actually sort of relaxing. The Emmy weekend can be very exciting, but it is also exhausting, even the parties... the heat, the crowds, the noise. The red carpet seems to get longer (and hotter) every year. Maybe that's an ordeal that should be left for the younger and more photogenic members of our television community.
Will I be back next year, or the year after, or the year after that? Time will tell. Emmy is a fickle goddess who bestows her kisses where she will. But either way, I'm good.
((Comments on the Emmys welcome. Off topic comments will be deleted)).
Over the last year, a once close friend of mine and I have been experiencing the African Violet of broken friendship. We had been through a very intense multi-year creative work project together, and after the project finished and she moved onto another job, we kind of drifted apart. For my part, I felt that sometimes she could say very unkind or cruel things. I noticed about two years ago that I was working very hard to win her approval, and felt very anxious if I didn’t get it and recognized that this friendship had become a bit unhealthy. I still valued many things about my friend, and thought that by setting some boundaries I could change the dynamic. After any incident where she said something unkind (for example, that half of the work on my part of the project was not my own work, which really hurt my feelings) or been judgmental (for example, negatively commenting on the dynamics of my relationship with my partner or how much I was eating and snacking during the intense project), I would take some space. Over the last couple of years my confidence has grown, not just in this area but in many other areas of my life, and I have been able to deal with some anxiety issues I had and learn how to set boundaries.
She started mainly hanging out with some different friends, and although we were still in touch, our conversation was becoming more and more surface-level. Anytime I suggested meeting up she would be really vague or say no. I was quite hurt at the time that she didn’t seem to want to hang out with me anymore, but I knew that we had just been through a really intense period in our lives and maybe she needed her space. There was always room for our friendship to get renewed further down the line. Before yesterday, we hadn’t been in contact for about four months. There wasn’t anything particularly negative about our last contact, it just tailed off.
I recently got a new job that I am very excited about and yesterday, in a whatsapp group she is also part of, someone congratulated me on my new job. About an hour later I got an feelingsemail from my friend. It’s not a nice email. It’s basically a bitter rant about how I have changed as a person. She said she didn’t recognize me anymore and how she had become fed up of what she perceives as my faults, and me being distant, over the last two years. She said that she didn’t deserve this kind of behavior from me and that she had never thought I would cut her off like this, although she had seen me do it to others (I don’t know where this comes from, I haven’t cut any one off apart from one girl back in high school which was 15 years ago!). In her mind, I am the bad guy, and it doesn’t sound like she is open to listening to anything else. She did say congratulations about the new job at the end.
I want to reply in a kind and compassionate way, because there were many things I valued about our friendship. We were so close, and I miss her. However, I don’t know what to say or how to respond to this email. I understand she sent it in a fit of overwhelming feelings, and underneath the accusations and manipulative statements, really she’s just sad about the loss of our friendship. I am open to being friends again, and rebuilding our relationship but it can’t be like this. I want to acknowledge the email, but I don’t want to get caught up in back and forth about who did what, or act in a way that says I think this email is acceptable, or apologize for things I haven’t done. How should I respond to this feelingsbomb? Should I even respond? How can people respond kindly and compassionately to feelingsmail in general?
I’ve got feelingsmail
Dear Feelingsmail Receiver,
Your friend is projecting all over the place and all over you, a behavior where you take the stuff you are doing (especially stuff that you feel guilty about or ashamed of or upset about) and assign that behavior and the blame for it to someone else. Like the thing where you kept trying to make plans and she rebuffed you is now all about how you’ve abandoned her. Interesting.
Also Interesting: The less time you spend with her, the happier and more confident you’ve become over time.
Interesting Indeed: A really happy moment for you (congratulations on your new job!) has become the catalyst for her to criticize and accuse you of being a bad person and a bad friend. Not cool.
I don’t know how you repair that. It sounds like the way you’ve been drifting away from each other has been organic, with you taking care of yourself by taking space when you need it, and her choosing the company of other friends over you when she needs that.
Now she wants you to apologize and accept all the blame for the fact that your friendship isn’t as close as it was, and she also wants you to chase her. Do you want to do any of those things?
In your shoes I might just write back “Wow, okay??? Thanks for the good wishes at least. As for the rest, I miss spending time with you, too,” and just ignore the steaming pile of Feelings and Accusations. And then I’d let the ball be in her court to follow up, either to apologize or to suggest a time to get together.
I predict she will find this answer from you somewhat maddening and not see it as the face-saving mercy that it actually is, but that’s not your fault or your work to do to deal with. You don’t owe her a point-by-point response to her projection or the emotional catharsis she sought at your expense. (Note: You don’t actually owe friendship or any response at all to someone who sends you such a mean, rude message!) If she comes back with an apology or invitation to grab lunch or coffee, that will give you some useful information and if she comes back with renewed vitriol about what a terrible friend and person you are that will also give you some useful information.
If you do eventually sit down and address the issues in the friendship someday, you could say “Well, I’d been feeling like you didn’t want to hang out with me, so I stopped pushing and gave you space. I guess we’ve been mirroring each other.” It’s true and is neither an accusation nor an apology.
You can also ask her “Well, in a perfect world, where we have exactly the kind of friendship you want, how would you like this to work out?” and see what she says. In a difficult conversation where there’s a risk of getting stuck in a back-and-forth “It’s your fault”/”No it isn’t” about the past, this question can prompt people to stop and articulate a positive vision for the future. What’s the best case scenario where you get to recover a friendship that works for both of you? This “workable” version may be a very tiny, small-doses thing or no friendship at all, but I think this is your best chance for finding out if anything here can be saved.
Today, award-winning author Fran Wilde has a shocking confession to make! About something she said! Here! And yes, it involves her new novel, Horizon. What will this confession be? Will there be regret involved? Are you prepared for what happens next?!?
Dear readers of John Scalzi’s blog, for the past three years, I’ve been keeping secrets.
I’m not sorry.
Trilogies are a delicate thing. They are a community of books unto themselves. They inform and support one another; their themes and actions ripple and impact one another. They have their own set of rules. Among them: Write down the main character’s eye color or favorite food so you don’t forget it. You’ll regret using that hard-to-spell naming convention by the middle of your second book. Destroy something in book one, you’re not going to magically have it to rely on in book three — at least not without some major effort. Everything gathers — each choice, each voice.
Trilogies are, by intent, more than the sum of their parts.
And, when brought together, a trilogy’s largest ideas sometimes appear in the gathered shadows of what seemed like big ideas at the time.
In Updraft, book one of the Bone Universe trilogy, what began to crumble was the system that upheld the community of the bone towers. It didn’t look like it then. So I didn’t tell you when I wrote my first Big Idea.
Instead, the first time I visited this blog, I wrote: “At its heart, Updraft is about speaking and being heard and — in turn — about hearing others…”
That was true – especially in the ways Updraft explored song as memory and singing and voice. But it was also kind of a fib. I knew where the series was headed, and voice was only the tip of the spear.
I planned to return here a year later to write about leadership, and I did — and, I wrote about demagoguery too, and abut having a book come out during a charged political season. That was September 2016, Cloudbound, the second book in the series was just out, and wow, that post seems somewhat innocent and naive now. But not any less important.
Again, saying the big idea in Cloudbound was leadership was true on its face, but it was also a an act of omission. And again, singing came into play — in that songs in Cloudbound were being adjusted and changed, as were messages between leaders.
With Horizon, I’m going to lay it all out there for you. Horizon is about community.
Structurally, Horizon is narrated by several different first person voices — including Kirit, Nat, and Macal, a magister and the brother of a missing Singer. These three voices come from different places in the Bone Universe’s geography, and they weave together to form a greater picture of the world, and its threats. A fourth voice appears only through a song — a new song — that is written during the course of Horizon, primarily by one character but with the help of their community. That song is the thread that ties the voices together, and, one hopes, the new community as well.
And, like Horizon, for me, the big idea for the Bone Universe series is also community. How to defend one, how to lead one, how to salvage as much as you can of one and move forward towards rebuilding it.
In my defense, I did leave some clues along the way. I shifted narrators between Updraft and Cloudbound in order to broaden the point of view and reveal more about the lead characters and the world, both between the books (how Nat and Kirit are seen each by the other vs. how they see themselves), and within them. I shared with readers the history of the bone towers and how that community, and the towers themselves, formed. I showed you the community’s [something] – that their means of keeping records and remembering was based on systems that could be used to both control messages and redefine them. I made the names of older laws and towers much more complicated to pronounce (and, yes, spell SIGH), versus the simpler names for newer things. This community had come together, then grown into something new.
The evolution of singing in the Bone Universe is, much like the idea of community, something that can be seen in pieces, but that resolves more when looked at from the perspective of all three books together.
Remember that solo voice — Kirit’s — singing quite badly that first book? In the second book, Nat’s voice joins Kirit’s — a solo, again, but because we can still hear Kirit, and because we know her, it becomes a kind of duet. In the third book, three voices present separate parts of the story, and when they all come together, that forms a connected whole.
When you listen to a group of people sing, sometimes one voice stands out, then another. Then, when multiple voices join in for the chorus, the sound becomes a different kind of voice. One with additional depth and resonance.
That’s the voice of a community. That drawing together of a group into something that is more than the sum of its parts. It is an opportunity, a way forward, out of a crumbling system and into something new and better.
That’s the big idea.
Memo to Donald Trump: THERE'S MONEY IN CIVILIZATION.
I remain convinced that civilization, at least, will survive the Trump administration, mainly because there's a lot of money in the continuation of civilization and that's the only factor that motivates anyone with power to do anything ever. That said, Donald Trump's speech to the United Nations seriously makes me wonder if HE knows that. IDIOT SAYS THE DAMNDEST THINGS!
"The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime." - Donald Trump, making the UN fondly remember Kruschev's shoe-beating.
Now, I know Donald Trump just threatened to break Andrew Jackson's presidential genocide record, but let's ignore that for now. Assuming civilization survives, I hope the secret history of the Trump presidency includes lots of details on how Trump's staff negotiated with him over stuff like this.
For example, "Rocket Man". There are a lot of things about Trump's presidency that are demonstrably awful, and yet thought brilliant and wonderful by Trump, but this nickname has to make the top three. It doesn't. It only saves one character in a tweet over Kim Jong Un's full name, for fuck's sake. But Trump loves it, and the discussions beforehand over whether or not he gets to say it, or will say it no matter what his advisors suggest, would be fascinating to find out about. Again,from the standpoint of a hypothetical post-Trump America.
"Major portions of the world are in conflict, and some, in fact, are going to hell. But the powerful people in this room, under the guidance and auspices of the United Nations, can solve many of these vicious and complex problems." - Donald Trump. Full disclosure: Time's transcript of the speech capitalized "hell", which is some style guide bullshit I fixed because unlike Time, I respect my readership.
The sad part is, the supporters Trump has left after his DACA deal? The ones who either didn't set their $40 MAGA hats on fire or regretted it and bought a new one despite their "economic insecurity"? They think this paragraph is an example of the kind of plain-speakin' anti-establishment attitude they signed on for. Because they don't know the meaning of the word "gibberish".
Even here, ostensibly praising the U.N., Trump can't help but engage in some of his trademark braggadocio. Or "talkin' nice 'bout hisself", for any Trump supporters out there. I mean, I agree he's a vicious problem the United Nations could help solve, but I don't think he's a particularly complex one. Also, and again, assuming civilization survives, I hope there are transcripts of the arguments over whether or not Trump should tell the UN that the world is going to hell.
"The problem...is not that socialism has been poorly implemented but that socialism has been faithfully implemented." - Donald Trump, to silence and light snickering from the audience.
I understand why Trump felt the need to take a cheap shot at socialism, using Venezuela as the jumping off point to do it. Well, OK, I don't think Trump felt that way per se, but one of his writers did, and it contained enough Sean Hannity trigger words for Trump to say it with conviction, like the Frankenstein of the Overton Window. SOCIALISM AND FIRE BAD!
The only problem, of course, is that there are more than a handful of successful, thriving socialist democracies in the United Nations, and every single leader in that room not standing behind a podium making a gigantic pants-load of himself knew it. If you have a chance, watch Trump stand there, waiting for the applause that line would get from one of his campaign rally audiences, trying to figure out if maybe they didn't hear him and should he say it again or just move on? You can almost smell the brain-smoke.
I am a 35-year-old straight guy. I met a nice lady through the normal methods, and we hit it off and have grown closer. I think we are both considering "taking it to the next level." We are on the same intellectual wavelength, enjoy the same social experiences, and have a lot of fun together. So what could be the problem? My friend decided it was the time to inform me that she is transgender, pre-op, and will not be having gender-reassignment surgery. This was quite a shock to me. I'm not homophobic, though I've never had a gay experience. I'm open-minded, yet there is a mental block. I like this person, I like our relationship thus far, and I want to continue this relationship. But I'm in a state of confusion.
Confused Over Complicating Knowledge
Lemme get this out of way first, COCK: The nice lady isn't a man, so sex with her wouldn't be a "gay experience" and homophobia isn't the relevant term.
You're a straight guy, you're attracted to women, and some women—as you now know—have dicks. Are you into dick? Could you develop a taste for dick? Could you see yourself making an exception for her dick? It's fine if "no" is the answer to one or all of these questions, COCK, and not being into dick doesn't make you transphobic. Evan Urquhart, who writes about trans issues for Slate, argues that in addition to being gay, straight, bi, pan, demi, etc., some people are phallophiles and some are vaginophiles—that is, some people (perhaps most) have a strong preference for either partners with dicks or partners with vaginas. And some people—most people—want their dicks on men and their labia on/vaginas in women.
"There's no shame in it, as long as it doesn't come from a place of ignorance or hate," Urquhart writes. "Mature adults should be able to talk plainly about their sexuality, particularly with prospective partners, in a way that doesn't objectify or shame anyone who happens to be packing the non-preferred equipment."
Some straight guys are really into dick (trans women with male partners usually aren't partnered with gay men, and trans women who do sex work typically don't have any gay male clients), some straight guys are willing to make an exception for a particular dick (after falling in love with a woman who has one), but most straight guys aren't into dick (other than their own).
Since you're confused about what to do, COCK, I would encourage you to continue dating this woman, keep an open mind, and keep taking things slow. You've got new information to process, and some things—or one thing—to think about before taking this relationship to the next level. But don't drag it out. If you conclude that the dick is a deal breaker, end this relationship with compassion and alacrity. You don't want to keep seeing her "to be nice" if you know a relationship isn't possible. Because letting someone live in false hope is always a dick move.
A few months ago, I started dating someone. I made it clear early on that I didn't feel comfortable being in a nonmonogamous relationship. They said that's not usually what they're into but they weren't interested in seeing anyone else and they had no problem being monogamous. It's not that I don't trust them, and they've never given any indication that they're unhappy with our arrangement, but I can't shake the fears that, though they won't admit it (maybe even to themselves), they'd prefer it if our relationship were more open and I'm taking something important away from them. Can someone who usually doesn't "do" monogamy feel fulfilled in a "closed" relationship? Can it work out, or will they just slowly grow to resent me for this?
Deliriously Anxious Monogamist Nervously Inquires Today
If you stay together forever—what most people mean by "work out"—your partner will definitely grow to resent you. It could be for this reason, DAMNIT, or for some other reason, but all people in long-term relationships resent their partners for something. If it’s not monogamy, it’ll be something else. And if monogamy is the price of admission this person is willing to pay right now, let them pay it. There are a lot of people out there in closed relationships who would rather be in open ones and vice versa. And remember: What works for you as a couple—and what you want as an individual—can change over time. Resentments too.
My relationship with my husband is bad. We have been together for twelve years, and we were married for eight years before getting divorced last year. We have small kids. We reconciled four months after the divorce, despite the affair I had. I have a history of self-sabotage, but in my relationship with him, it has become near constant. Everyone thinks I'm a smart and kind person that occasionally makes mistakes, but I'm not that person with him. With him, I'm awful. I make promises I don't keep and I don't do the right things to make him feel loved even though I do loving things. We have been in couples therapy a number of times, but I always derail the process. I have been in therapy solo a number of times with similar results. I always get the therapists on my side and no real change happens. I want to change but I haven't. I want to stop hurting him but I keep doing it. He doesn't feel like I have ever really fought for him or the relationship. Why can't I change?
My Enraging Self-Sabotaging Yearnings
It's unlikely I'll be able to do for you in print what three couples counselors and all those therapists couldn't do for you in person, i.e., help you change your ways—if, indeed, it's your ways that require changing. Have you ever entertained the thought that maybe there's a reason every counselor or therapist you see winds up taking your side? Is it possible that you're not the problem? Are you truly awful, MESSY, or has your husband convinced you that you're awful in order to have the upper hand in your relationship? (Yeah, yeah, you had an affair. Lots of people do and lots of marriages survive them.)
If you're not being manipulated—if you're not the victim of an expert gaslighter—and you're awful and all your efforts to change have been in vain, MESSY, perhaps you should stop trying. You are who you are, your husband knows who you are, and if he wants to be with you, as awful as you are (or as awful as he's managed to convince you that you are), that's his choice and he needs to take some responsibility for it. By "stop trying" I don't mean you should stop making an effort to be a better person or a more loving partner—we should all constantly strive to be better people and more loving partners—but you can't spend the rest of your life on a therapist's couch. Or the rack.
If you truly make your husband miserable, he should leave you. If your marriage makes you miserable (or if he does), you should leave him. But if neither of you is going anywhere, MESSY, then you'll both just have to make the best of your messy selves and your messy marriage.
On the Lovecast, Dan chats with Slate writer Mark Joseph Stern about left-wing anti-Semitism: savagelovecast.com.