Coca-Cola and Nuclear Bombs

After the smashing success of my last post on the government shutdown, I’m steering back away from the political and returning to talking about writing, anticipating an accompanying and deeply depressing drop in web traffic as a result.

Still, I’ve learned something exciting and really want to shout about it, so here goes. As my first two novels cool their heels in editor limbo, I’m in the active phase of research and outlining of my third book. Research can be tedious and time-consuming, but sometimes your efforts are rewarded with amazing little gems of knowledge. So let me tell you, in my own words, about Project Orion:

For anyone who doesn’t know, Project Orion was a serious attempt to build the first interplanetary, even interstellar spaceship. As best as I can determine, the core concept was first suggested as early as 1946. It used a completely new and untested method of creating thrust called Nuclear Pulse Propulsion. Sounds a little dry, right? Well, let me flesh this out for you.

Basically, what we’re talking about here is a Giant pogo-stick powered by a chain-fed, nuclear bomb-shooting machine gun. The idea is you detonate a series of nukes in rapid succession directly behind the ship, which is protected by a giant ablative metal plate that both blocks much of the radiation and thermal energy from damaging the ship and its nuggaty human passengers, and acts as a pusher plate to transfer the energy of the exploding bombs into forward momentum. This plate is fixed to the ship by a ring of two-stage shock absorbers, working exactly like the shocks on your car to transfer the force more smoothly, again mainly for the benefit of the meatbags strapped to their chairs inside.

Legend has it that the whole concept for Orion came about after Wernher Von Braun, the imminent German rocket scientist we sort of confiscated from the Nazis, and Robert Oppenheimer, one of the fathers of the atomic bomb, hooked up at a rave and dropped acid, then woke up in the desert outside Vegas three days later surrounded by plans frantically scribbled into bar napkins. The historical accuracy of this legend is dubious at best, but that’s how I chose to believe it happened.

The truly ridiculous thing about this is that not only did the physics work out, but several different projects run by the Air Force, NASA, and even the British all went well past engineering feasibility studies. So serious were we about building one of these things that not only had scientists designed a shaped-charge nuclear bomb using a uranium containment chamber to maximize the propulsion efficiency of each explosion (because a normal nuke isn’t scary or powerful enough) but they actually brought engineers from Coca-Cola into the program as consultants to basically up-size a soda-can vending machine to shit these things out the back of the ship once a second. How badly do you want to be in on that conversation?

Coke Engineer (being held in a basement in Area 51): “So, you want us to build a vending machine that can throw out several thousand, 300lb, 6 inch diameter ‘Soda cans’ once a second?”
Air Force General: “Yes, my airmen are very thirsty.”
CE: “You’re building a nuclear bomb machine gun, aren’t you?”
AFG: “No!”
CE: “AREN’T YOU?”
AFG: “…yes.”

Several designs were considered, everything from a small prototype massing a few hundred tons, all the way up to an eight million, yes MILLION ton behemoth that could hypothetically act as a habitat for a manned mission all the way to the nearest star. Which you would reach surprisingly fast, because the upper speed limit for one of these babies is around 0.05c, or 5% the speed of light, and that’s if you want to slow back down again when you reach your target. An unmanned probe could cook twice as fast. Nor was all of this mere conjecture. A proof-of-concept vehicle using conventional explosives actually flew. Here’s the footage, from 1958!

And it wasn’t just kooks who got wrapped up in this idea. The famous physicist Freeman Dyson was heavily involved in planning it all out, in fact here’s his son George giving a TED talk back in 2002 on the subject. Carl Sagan had said at one point that an Orion drive probe or starship would be a very handy way to get rid of our nuclear weapons stockpiles, a sentiment I tend to agree with.

So what happened to Project Orion? Well, like all great ideas involving nuclear weapons, there was some resistance. At first, NASA wanted nothing to do with the project, so the USAF took charge of it and, naturally, classified everything so the public never knew we had designed this amazing thing. Funding was also an issue, because the design had to compete with traditional chemical rockets just as both were literally getting off the ground in a serious way. There was also some hippie shit about radioactive fallout and the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1963. But the fact remains that Orion is the only design we have today capable of attaining such high velocities that will not only work, but will work with readily available technologies, indeed technologies that have been available for more than forty years already.

There’s a way, all that’s needed is a will. Now what might give us the will, I wonder… [returns to his new novel outline]

On False-Equivalence and the Government Shutdown.

Hi. My name is Patrick, and I’m a conservative. And as a conservative, I’m furious at the behavior that has led to the shutdown of the U.S. Federal Government. But even more than that, I am positively livid at the weak-kneed media and the larger population that continues to believe that both parties in our system of governance are equally responsible for the current situation.

Let me explain this to you simply. This is a Republican shutdown. It was completely unnecessary. The only members of Congress who forced this issue were entirely Republican. Only the Republicans have spent the last three years boasting to their base about how they were going to shutdown the government.

And further, let’s look at the sequence of events that led to this nonsense. A law the GOP didn’t like (despite being a conservative law with 20+ years of history inside the movement, indeed born from within the movement itself via the Heritage Foundation) was passed with majorities in both chambers of Congress, thus meeting the approval of the Legislative Branch. It was then signed into law by the duly elected President in the Executive branch. It then went on to survive a lawsuit filed by members of the GOP in the Supreme Court, despite the Judicial branch being currently held by a Conservative-leaning majority, including Bush II appointee, Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote an opinion in support of the constitutionality of the law in question.

The law has therefore gone through the entire Constitutional framework of checks-and-balances as designed by our founders. Not only that, but the engineers of the law then went on to face the voters once more in the 2012 election cycle. Guess what? Not only was the President reelected, but his party won more seats in the Senate, AND gained more seats in the House, (while actually winning a majority of votes nationwide in the House, but were unable to take the chamber due to extremely skillful gerrymandering on the part of the state-level GOP, but that is another post).

The ACA is the LAW. It has withstood all of the tests it needed to in order to be called a law. Now, if the GOP wants it to be repealed, there is a mechanism available to them written into our Constitution which has served us for over two-hundred years. That mechanism is elections. If they want the ACA repealed, all they must do is go to the American people with a compelling message and get themselves elected to a ruling majority by retaking the Senate and Executive Branch. From there, they can repeal the ACA through the exact same Constitutional process that passed it in the first place.

Here’s the problem. They tried that in 2012, and failed. No matter how the country feels about the ACA (which is an open question for any number of reasons I’m not going to take the time to get into here) they were given the choice to let the GOP take control on the promise of rolling back the law. We, as a country, declined. As President George W. Bush said in 2005, “Elections have consequences” and one of those consequences is the duly elected ruling majority gets to set legislative priorities and domestic policy. The GOP, being the losers of four out of the last five election cycles, and for good reason, have decided that such Constitutional niceties don’t apply to them, and have taken the historically UNPRECEDENTED step of shutting down the government with the demand that the sitting President undo his signature domestic policy achievement as the ransom for agreeing not to destroy the economy.

THAT is why this is the GOP’s shutdown, and THAT is a far, far bigger threat to our democracy and our Constitution than the ACA could ever be. And anyone who doesn’t clearly see that is a fucking idiot.

After the Draft: Episode IV, The Waiting Game

Good morning, everyone. It’s been two weeks since I came home from WorldCon San Antonio. It was a productive convention, and in the aftermath Any Port in a Storm was sent out to an agent and an acquisitions editor (my friend Michael R. Underwood has some smart things to say about attending conventions as an aspiring author, btw). The invitations to submit meant my little novel needed a query letter. There are many good resources online that can help you write a solid query letter, but I thought it might help if I included what I drafted up for my little novel that might:

 

Mr. [Name omitted],

[Name omitted] introduced us at WorldCon. I had a blast talking with you and everyone else over the weekend, and hope you did as well. As I mentioned yesterday morning, I’ve recently finished a new fantasy novel named Any Port in a Storm that I think compliments [Publishing House Omitted] already impressive line of sci-fi and urban-fantasy titles. So here goes:

Katagida is just another small-time smuggler plying Icarna’s vast and unforgiving seas. Alone in the world except for Zephyr, her faithful Seabat companion, Kata’s horizon never extends beyond finding the next job. But when the dark clouds and thunder of war threaten to engulf everything she knows, Katagida finds herself thrust into the eye of the Storm. As specters from her murky past rise from the depths, can Katagida keep her wits and her skin intact while the weight of unimagined worlds press down on her shoulders?

Any Port in a Storm is an epic fantasy novel weighing in at 108,000 words, including a short glossary and character list. It was written with Adult fans of fantasy and swash-buckling adventures in mind, but would also be a great fit for NA audiences.

My work has appeared in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, The Crimson Pact Anthology series, and The SFWA Bulletin. I’ve also written tie-in fiction set in the BattleTech universe for Catalyst Games, and am an active member of SFWA. I hope you enjoy the book, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Patrick S. Tomlinson

 

And that’s it. I’ve reminded them of our shared conversation, explained why I think my work might be a good fit for their company, (which also shows that I’ve done a little market research) given a short summary/pitch for the book, given it’s length and intended market, then a short review of my past accomplishments. Query letters/emails should be short and to the point. Much longer than this and you risk an agent or editor glossing over your letter or skipping right to the next one entirely.

It’s been two weeks since I sent this letter out, and since then, nothing has happened. Well, nothing on my end. There has been no reply from either person, nor would I have expected one yet, or for many weeks or months more. Typically, you can expect that your novel manuscript is going to spend anywhere from ninety days to an entire year in the hands of an agent or editor before you get an answer. During this time, there really isn’t anything you can do to help the process along.  After ninety days or so, it’s not considered impolite to drop a brief note reminding the recipient of the manuscript and gently asking if they’ve had a change to review it, but that’s about as far as you should push it. The waiting game can be the most nerve-wracking part of the job.

However, there is one thing you shouldn’t be doing while your manuscript cools its heels, and that is sit around waiting for the phone to ring or your email notification to beep. You’ve probably been writing and revising for a year, perhaps more by the time your book is in good enough shape to send off, so take a break if you feel it necessary, but don’t let that vacation stretch on too long. There isn’t much down time if you want to be a writer, and the best way to increase your odds of success is to get on to the next project.

As of right now, I have two novel manuscripts in the hands of two different editors. Since sending Any Port in a Storm out, I’ve also sent a short story to the Writers of the Future contest, written another short story and submitted it for an upcoming anthology, outlined two additional shorts set in the BattleTech universe, and started working up character studies for a third novel. The BattleTech shorts I’ll have done by next week. The novel I plan to have finished by the end of the year. This is not to brag about my work-ethic or boundless creativity. There are many writers that crank out far larger volumes than I do, of better quality. The point is to drive home the importance of not waiting around. Not only will the next project get your mind off the fate of your manuscript as it works its way through the Labyrinth that is the journey to publication, but it will give you yet another chance to wow someone and get that all important ‘Yes’.

If you put enough torpedoes in the water, you’re going to hit something eventually.

After the Draft: Episode III, Getting CONned

Hello gang. I’m back home and ready to step back into my ‘regular’ life. This installment of After the Draft was supposed to focus on writing a good query letter and synopsis for your novel, (an exercise I’ve previously compared to editing the complete Director’s Cut Lord of the Rings trilogy into a gif file), but as often happens in life, events didn’t adhere to my carefully planned timeline.

I spent the weekend in San Antonio at WorldCon. For those of you who do not know, WorldCon is short for The World Science Fiction Convention. It is home to the Hugo Awards, often called the Nerd Emmys. At six to eight thousand people, WorldCon is a medium-sized convention by today’s standards, but as opposed to the throngs of fans tens of thousands strong at places like ComicCon, WorldCon is a haven for industry professionals and amateurs, veterans and upstarts. Here, you’ll find authors, agents, publishers, editors, podcasters, artists, and illustrators all cavorting through whichever series of bars or pubs happen to be close by. It is, in short, exactly where you want to be if you’ve just finished a novel.

Granted, I hadn’t written a synopsis yet, or even a query letter, and I had only heard back from one of my Beta readers by this point, but I had a first draft (finished the read-through and line edit in the hotel room the first night of the con, actually) and it would have been silly to pass up the opportunity to network, shake hands, and talk to the Key Masters of the publishing industry face-to-face. Now, I’m not saying that new writers trying to break into the industry MUST attend conventions. This kind of dynamic social environment isn’t for everyone, and the ranks of writers have more introverts among them than society at large. Conventions are expensive, and can be both physically and emotionally draining.

My excellent roommate and I described going to conventions as an aspiring author like this: Imagine going to one of those speed-dating nights at a local hotel bar… for five days. Just like speed-dating, you have to dress up, remain witty and charming, not appear desperate, needy, or creepy, and basically maintain a polite lie about your true intentions. Just as you can’t sit down across from someone you’ve just met and say “Hi, I think you’re attractive. We should go have sex now,” you also can’t just come right out to an agent or editor and ask them to take a look at your shinny new manuscript and sign you to a multi-book deal. Social norms insist that some lubrication is required to get the wheels spinning first. Oh, and speaking of lubrication, you’re probably going to be drunk and sleep-deprived for the majority of the time.

So, not for everybody, and there are plenty of authors who have broken through and gotten their work published without ever attending a professional con. However, if you’re one of the more socially-capable among us, these events certainly don’t hurt either. Let me be very clear, after seeing what I have and watching several friends break out into amazing debut authors, I do not believe this is a who-you-know industry. Talent and hard work are absolutely critical. Without them, you’re not going to get very far.

But there are many thousands of talented people out there shouting into the void, and you need to find advantages, no matter how small, that will make you more visible to the people making the decisions so your talent has the opportunity to be judged in the first place. One of the best ways to do that is face-time. We are a social species, and in the age of vast networks of virtual-friends, the simple act of shaking hands and sharing a laugh over a drink has more power to connect than ever before. Human beings are just going to show preference to people they actually know. Fair or not, that’s just how it is folks.

Once you’ve decided to go to Con and network, there are some things you must do to prepare. First and foremost is to work up an elevator pitch. This is nothing more than a short, thirty second spoken commercial for your book. There are many dozens of sites and blogs that can help you write one, but you MUST practice it. Say it out loud many times so you can hear yourself saying it. Just like speed-dating, you must be ready to whip it out smoothly and confidently when the time is right. Fumbling your presentation probably isn’t going to get you the results you want from either situation.

I failed to do this, which with my stand-up comedy side project, is a rather inexcusable unforced error. I found myself in the embarrassing position of having my book pitched better by the friend who introduced me to the acquisitions editor of an important house than I ended up doing myself. Fortunately, it was the last day of con and everyone was exhausted, so there may have been a little more wiggle room given.

So, as of a couple hours ago, Any Port in a Storm has been read by one Beta reader, line-edited, formatted, and submitted to exactly one agent and exactly one editor. And there it will remain until I get word back from them. I have previously learned that it is very bad etiquette to submit a partial or complete novel manuscript to more than one editor at a time. Doing so will not make you friends.

Warning, Social Commentary Ahead

M’kay, for anyone confused or complaining about the different reactions to the Trayvon Martin shooting and the recent murder of Christopher Lane, let me explain why the comparison is a false equivalence.

First, no one is saying that white-on-black crime is more serious or less forgivable than the reverse. Anyone who thinks this is the root issue here is missing the point entirely. Any death is a tragedy, regardless of race. But what made the Trayvon Martin shooting different from the murder of Christopher Lane wasn’t the race of the shooters, but the reaction of the police.

When Christopher Lane was killed, the police came and immediately arrested the three suspects. Then in a very short amount of time, the DA filed formal murder charges against them. That’s how this is supposed to work. Someone is killed, the person responsible gets arrested and charged.

That didn’t happen with Martin and Zimmerman. In that case, an unarmed teenager was shot and killed by a man who had been chasing him in his car. When the police arrived, they performed a perfunctory investigation, asking only a few questions, then simply left. Zimmerman killed an unarmed boy, just as Lane was, but instead of being arrested on the spot, he was let free. It was over a month before public pressure mounted to the point that the police and DA did their jobs and arrested and charged Zimmerman.

THAT is the difference, the perception of unequal treatment by the police on the grounds of race. When you understand that, you understand that the public reaction to the Christopher Lane shooting isn’t an example of some double-standard, but simply confirmation that white victims and suspects receive preferential treatment from the police in this country.

And that perception is born out by everyday reality. In every meta-analysis that has been done, blacks are arrested at a far higher rate than whites, charged at a far higher rate, and convicted at a far higher rate. When making direct comparisons when the same crimes are charged, whites are more likely to have charges dropped, more likely to be offered favorable plea-bargains, more likely to be acquitted, and when they are convicted, are given more lenient sentences on average. Whites are also far less likely to face the death penalty, even for the same crimes.

These are the facts. Our Justice system has a race problem, and right or not, the Trayvon Martin case became a rallying point for many generations of frustration and anger. That’s the difference between these cases, so please stop pretending they are in any way equivalent.

After the Draft: Episode II, The Beta Factor

Okay, my day of celebration is over and it’s time to start polishing up this manuscript. The first time you finish a novel and go back for a read-through can be a little strange, at least it was for me. There were parts of the story that I hadn’t read for over a year. Enough time had passed that I didn’t even remember writing some passages. It’s important at this stage not to get distracted.

In the first read-through, you’re looking for the obvious errors; spelling, missing words, punctuation, sentence structure, and blatant errors of continuity.  You’re also trying to cut out unnecessary or redundant words, sentences, even paragraphs. When a professional editor gets their hands on your book, it’s not unusual for them to red-out ten or even twenty percent of your word-count. Help get that process started.

At this stage, I try not to get into major restructuring of plot, characters, etc. Before that process starts, it’s been my experience that fresh eyes need to take a crack at it. We call these folks Beta Readers. The job of a Beta Reader is to read through your draft, taking notes and making corrections as they go along. They are your first editors, and they are your first impressions of how your manuscript will read to your audience.

Therefore, selecting the best people to be your beta readers is important. First of all, immediate family probably isn’t a good bet. Chances are, they have emotional attachments to you, and some investment in the book itself because they want to see it succeed. This makes it difficult for them to have the distance to judge your work dispassionately.

Instead, try to find 2-4 people who have experience as writers, editors, etc. People you’re close with, but who don’t have a vested interest in the manuscript. I’ve lined up three people as Betas for Any Port in a Storm. All of them are professional authors, and one of them also works as an editor. Diversity is also important. You want a spread of backgrounds, age, gender, etc in your Betas. This will make their viewpoints closer to that of a real audience. My pool includes people from different parts of the country, two men, an honest-to-goodness woman, varying ages, two parents, a single guy, etc.

Beta readers almost always do their work on a volunteer basis, so be patient with them as they take time out of their lives to help your manuscript. Often, this can be a long process, but then, so is everything else in this business. Often, writers find a handful of good, reliable Betas and stick with them for years, creating a little circle of support. If you ask another writer to be a Beta for you, it’s very likely that they will ask you to return the favor later on. Do it, not just because it’s polite, but because editing the work of someone else is one of the fastest ways to learn to identify the same problems in your own writing. After doing the process a few times, you’ll find your own manuscripts come out cleaner, saving you time editing later.

And for the love of God, do not put all your Betas in one bowl. Beta Readers are extremely territorial. It doesn’t matter how big the bowl is, they will seeks each other out and fight to the death almost immediately. Keep them in separate bowls and out of direct sunlight.

After the Draft: Episode I

Yesterday, I finished the first draft of a high-fantasy novel I’ve been working on titled Any Port in a Storm. Hooray me! This draft came in at 107,324 words, and took about eight months to write in total, not counting several long breaks I took to write a pair of unrelated novellas and several short stories. This is a big improvement over my first novel, which took eighteen months to write. Still, it is never an easy task cranking out a couple hundred pages of text, and the overwhelming response I received from my non-writing friends was (along with several rounds of free drinks) something along the lines of, “Well, the hard part is over.”

While I understand what they’re trying to say, the truth is, finishing a draft is just the start of the journey. Now that there’s a book to try to sell, the real work begins, the part where other people step in. This is the point where forces almost entirely outside of your control determine the direction and ultimate fate of this little manuscript you’ve been slaving away at in the privacy of your head for so long. This is the part where opinions other than your own carry enormous weight, especially early in your career.

However, do not fret. As with everything in life, there are steps you can take to maximize your chances at success. And so I’m starting a new, ongoing blog feature called “After the Draft”, where I’ll do my best to catalog all the steps Any Port in a Storm goes through on its quest to land in a bookstore near you. I’ll report on the process of revisions, finding beta readers, writing query letters and synopsis, and the inevitable march of rejection letters, all with the goal of getting that elusive “Yes.”

Along the way, I hope to find guest-bloggers in the forms of other authors who can relate tales of their debuts, agents who took a chance on an unknown writer, and editors who took the red pen to someone’s first novel. I have no idea how long this series will go on. For comparison, my first novel, A Hole in the Fence, has been looking for a home for more than two years.

I hope you’ll come back to witness this little book’s epic journey, come what may. As for today, I’m going to go wash and detail my car and motorcycle, because I’m all written out at the moment. Tomorrow, however, it’s back to work.

Coming Attractions

It’s shaping up to be an exciting month around here. Next week, I’ll be performing at GenCon as the opening act for some very talented friends of mine, The Damsels of Dorkington. They are an improv comedy group of three hot girls and a man in a dress, with a predilection for the very nerdy. They’ve given me ten minutes to warm up the crowd for their Thursday and Saturday night shows. I’ve been busy writing and practicing the geekiest set I can think of, so buy your tickets now!

And for those of you who didn’t know I abuse myself on stage, here’s a taste of what’s in store, albeit with a set written for a more mainstream audience:

Comedy Cafe Open Mic 7/31/13

 

Orson Scott Card and Cognitive Dissonance, revisited

So Orson Scott Card is in the news again, this time because his most famous work, Ender’s Game, is finally coming to a theater near you. As happened a few months ago when D.C. tapped Mr. Card to write a Superman Issue, calls for a boycott have started to ring out from pro-equality and LGTB groups across the country. In a direct response, Mr. Card published the sort of self-serving non-apology usually only seen by politicians running for national office after royally pissing off a major block of potential voters. And his plea that we all tolerate his intolerance only works to deepen my amazement over the cognitive dissonance he has been unconsciously displaying for at least the last thirteen years.

In the wake of the last boycott threat, D.C. bowed to pressure and cancelled their plans to have Mr. Card write for Superman. While it is nearly impossible that this new boycott campaign will stop the studio from releasing Ender’s Game, it could have a very large impact on its performance at the box office, (although it will be interesting to see if a counter-protest in the same vein as the far right’s reaction to the Chick-Fil-A and Hobby Lobby scandals ends up offsetting the work of groups like Geeks OUT).

This is obviously a very emotionally charged topic, and the question of whether or not one should boycott the work of a creative because of political disagreements is in many cases a very personal one. At Convergence last weekend, this very topic came up on a panel I sat on called “The Top 100 Sci-Fi books to Read Before You Die” with Ender’s Game being mentioned by name. One panelist was concerned about keeping any of Mr. Card’s books on his shelf because of the message it might send to his own LGTB friends and family members, while a gay audience member said he had at least three of his books in his living room, because he believed in judging a work on its own merits.

My personal answer to the question is a little more complicated, as I tried to explain during the panel. I will probably go and see Ender’s Game for myself, but have no issue with others making a different choice. I wrote a blog post about this topic a few months back that outlines my reasoning in greater detail. You can find it here.

 

On Hecklers

Behind-Mic

I’m taking a moment here to change topics from writing books to writing and performing comedy. As many of you know, for the last year or so I’ve been practicing my stand-up chops in the Milwaukee and Madison area.

There have been some high-profile incidents over the last few years with comedians trying to deal with hecklers, such as Michael Richard’s infamous N word meltdown, or Daniel Tosh’s run in with rape jokes. But one that probably hasn’t caught the average person’s attention just came out of a court in British Columbia. This one was simply a bridge too far for me personally.

Here’s the thing to remember about comedians dealing with hecklers. First off, the hecklers are in the wrong. Period. No one came out and paid the cover charge to listen to self-righteous assholes in the audience add their two-cents. The came to listen to the self-righteous assholes on stage.

The job of comics is to get in front of a darkened room full of strangers, stand under a spotlight straight out of an interrogation room, and push the line. The ‘line’ changes with every audience. Safe comics are lame. No one laughs very hard at them. They tell easy jokes that don’t challenge anyone. Real comics push the line and get the biggest laughs. Sometimes, inevitably, we misjudge where the totally arbitrary line is for that group of strangers on that particular night.

Occasionally when that happens, some self-appointed ambassador of all-that-is-pure-and-righteous will stand up and make a fuckin’ scene instead of just not laughing when we aren’t funny.

Let me make this clear. Your job as the audience of a comic is to not laugh when we aren’t funny. That’s more than enough for us to get the point. Nothing hits us harder while on stage than a room quietly staring back at us. We’ll go back and tweak the set, or drop the joke entirely. We’re experimenting every time we get in front of you. We KNOW when we’ve failed.

But as soon as you start heckling, you’ve assumed that you can do our job for us. You’ve stepped into the limelight and tried to steal the precious few minutes of experimentation we’re given each night. Guess what? You’re now on equal footing. We’re going to fight you for our territory, without mercy, because you haven’t earned the right until you’ve actually put yourself on stage with us.

Don’t like it? Stand up at an open mic and see if you can find the line.

Now, this is not to say that once the gloves come off, comedians can’t end up in the wrong also. Kramer’s response was obviously off the charts, for example, and we can debate to death, (as has already happened) Tosh’s choices in how he dealt with his heckler. But remember that when you interrupt, you’re pushing us off script and out of our rhythm. We need to improvise very quickly, shut you down, and get the audience back. That’s our job, and often the best way to do our job in that situation is to be brutally rude to you. It’s a skill that requires a lot of practice to find the balance, like mental tightrope-walking.

So the next time you’re out supporting your favorite comic, or checking out the local open-mic scene, please just sit back and let us kill or bomb on our own merits. When we’re not funny, don’t laugh. We hear the silence far more clearly than anything else you could say.