Terrorism and the Tricky Nature of Word Usage

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Well, we’ve had another spectacularly awful week in American ethnic relations.

On Saturday in Irving, Texas, already infamous for not knowing what a fucking clock looks like,  gunman surrounded a mosque carrying long-rifles to “protest Syrian refugees,” in the wake of the Paris attacks, exactly none of which were actually involved in the Paris attacks.

That same day, a black rights activist at a campaign rally in Alabama was beaten by the majority white crowd while the poll-leading candidate for the GOP nomination egged his supporters on. I probably don’t have to tell you which candidate, but his name rhymes with Ronald Dump.

Then, yesterday, in Minnesota of all places, a group of unarmed Black Lives Matter demonstrators protesting the shooting death of another unarmed black man at the hands of police were themselves shot by very much armed white supremacists, wounding five. Fifteen minutes later, the police showed up and pepper-sprayed the protestors, just for good measure.

Imagine, for just a second, these situations inverted. Muslims armed with assault weapons surround a Christian church in Texas to protest U.S. support of Israel. A white man is beaten by a black crowd while Barack Obama cheers. Three black men open fire on Blue Lives Matter protestors demonstrating over the death of a police officer.

What would we call any of those scenarios? We’d call them by their proper name, of course. Terrorism.

You’d hear that word repeated ten thousand times as every newscaster on Fox News slowly dissolved into a frothy puddle of rage spittle over the course of several weeks of twenty-four hour, uninterrupted coverage.

So why haven’t we heard the word terrorism attached to any of these incidents in the mainstream media? Most people I know reflexively ascribe this odd omission to latent, persistent racism permeating American culture. And while I’m not discounting that factor as a reason, I would like to offer an alternate explanation, or at the very least an additional contributing factor.

There is a particular way we think about terrorism, and the role it plays in the world’s power structure, especially in the wake of 9/11. For many, terrorism is understood as a tool or a weapon. It’s a military strategy as much as it’s a crime.

To many Americans, and I suspect people across the western world in general, terrorism is a strategy used by the weak against the strong. It’s the tool of small, underfunded, militarily inferior forces such as al Qaeda or Daesh. They use terrorism and other modes of asymmetrical warfare because they’re cheap, difficult and costly to counter or defend against, and is the only even minimally effective way they can fight against such a vastly superior force.

Since the twin towers came down, too many people have come to define terrorism in this way, even if they’re not consciously aware of it. To them, terrorism is something that those in the weak, minority position use against those in the strong, majority position. This prevents them from seeing identical events in the same light. White, Christian people can’t be terrorists because they’re the majority here in the U.S. Terrorism is for other people.

In so doing, they miss the point entirely, and ignore important, recent historical precedent. Terrorism has been a weapon used by tyrannical governments against their own citizens since the very beginning. Rome, The Spanish Inquisition, the Bolsheviks, Nazis, Pol Pot, the USSR, Saddam, and yes, here in the U.S. from the Confederacy, to the KKK, to McCarthyism, terrorism has been employed very effectively by the strong to impose their will upon the weak.

We’re seeing it again. Adjust your filters. Recognize what’s going on for what it really is and label it appropriately.

 

On Syrian Refugees and Gun Control

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“But, but, but, we can’t let in any refugees because they might be hiding t-t-t-terrorists!”

I’ve heard enough of this shit.

Yeah, they might be. It’s very possible Daesh has tried to plant operatives inside the ranks of refugees fleeing their murderous rampage, hoping to cause EXACTLY the reaction people refusing to help are giving them. They want to kill a handful of westerners so that hundreds of thousands of Muslims will feel too hopeless and afraid to try and escape Daesh territory, or will believe the lie that it’s a war between Islam and the west and join them. That was the point of the Paris attacks.

Which is why I carry a gun. I live in Wisconsin and have a Concealed Carry Permit. I carry a Glock Model 27 with a drop in barrel with compensator flutes that swapped it over to take .357 Sig rounds.

That’s what you’ve been telling us all to do, isn’t it? Buy a gun and carry it around so we’re ready in case there are bad guys, right? You’re all armed so you don’t have to be scared, yes? If the Paris attacks had happened here, we would’ve all just Dirty Harried them to death, right? That’s what Trump said, after all.

So why did Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker join twenty other Republican-held states to take the coward’s way out and promise to block Syrian refugees? States that all have strong pro-gun laws, which I largely support, (with caveats).

That doesn’t jive. Why are y’all still so scared, you sniveling pussies? Do the guns make us safe from bad guys or not? That’s been your whole justification for concealed carry, mags with unlimited rounds, open-carrying long guns, all of it. So if it works so goddamned well, why are all these pro-gun states still so fucking terrified of refugees who have to go through a twenty month long vetting process by the State Department before they’re granted entry?

Tell me, am I supposed to feel safe with a gun or not? And if not, what’s the point of tolerating all the associated risks of owning and carrying one?

Either you’re confident gun owners who feel able to handle a dangerous situation should one arise, or you’re whiney, bed-wetting crybabies who don’t want refugees resettling in your state because you’re too scared to do the right thing and treat them like fucking human beings fleeing a circus of horrors your tiny, coddled little brains can’t even begin to fathom.

You can’t be both.

THE ARK Promotional Round Up

Hello, everyone! It’s been almost two weeks since The Ark launched. Sales are going fairly well, but could always be better. Christmas is coming up, just saying’.

Anyway, it’s been a really busy couple of weeks around here. Wonderful folks all over the (primarily English speaking) world have asked me to share my thoughts, such as they are, with their readers, listeners, and viewers. Some of them were surprisingly insightful. All of them were a lot of fun, at least for me. Here are links to the highlights of my little tour of the internet:

Tor.com!

Geek Mom!

Interview with The Eisenstein Effect!

Speculate SF Podcast!

A free short story in the Speculative Herald!

A great review by one of the 100 Year Starship guys!

Sci-Fi Signal!

The Quillery!

Civilian Reader!

Tor.com’s Rocket Talk Podcast!

Angry Robot Book’s #ArkAttack Contest!

And, last but not least, The Book Plank!

Wow, when you stick them all in one place like that, it looks like I’ve been busy.  Anyway, as a parting gift, here’s a little schematic I whipped up of the Ark herself to make it easier for readers to follow along with the action in the book. Enjoy! And don’t forget to leave reviews. Feed your authors.

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The ACA and the Future of American Healthcare

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Most of you know me as either an author, comedian, or some unholy hybrid of the two. But what a lot of you may not know is that since 2002, I’ve been a licensed Life and Health agent. For the majority of that time, my focus has been on health insurance for the senior market, Medicare supplements, prescription drug plans, that sort of thing. I’ve spent more than a decade doing my best to match plans to my client’s needs and budget. I’ve worked for years learning all the ins and outs of our private, for-profit healthcare system, dealing with bottlenecks on both the insurance and provider side of the coin as I tried to be an effective advocate for my clients’ health.

It is from that experience that the rest of this blog post comes from. To all the so-called conservatives who have mindlessly oppose the Affordable Care Act for years.

You just don’t get it.

The ACA is, at its core, a thirty year old conservative proposal. Its roots date all the way back to Richard Nixon’s administration, who was the first to propose an employer mandate. It was expanded in the early 90’s by a conservative think tank known as the Heritage Foundation, which proposed the individual mandate as well as a penalty for nonparticipation and a low-income subsidy. It was embraced by Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich as an alternative to First Lady Hillary Clinton’s healthcare reform plan. And finally, a near carbon copy of it was signed into law in Massachusetts by Governor and future GOP Presidential candidate, Mitt Romney. This is the plan which in one form or another, conservatives had been clamoring after for more than three decades.

It is based on the free market, for-profit healthcare system of both insurance companies and healthcare providers. Indeed, it has empowered them both, swelling enrollment by millions and sending their profits soaring. There is nothing anti-capitalist about the ACA. It works in conjunction with the free-market healthcare system that has existed here since the beginning.

It is also the very last chance that system has to prove it can work.

On Monday, citizens of Colorado delivered over one hundred and fifty thousand signatures to place a referendum on the ballot to create a first-of-its-kind single-payer healthcare system that would encompass all citizens of the state. If passed, it would effectively end the private, for-profit model of healthcare in an entire U.S. state. And while it may seem radical now, so too did marijuana legalization, or same sex marriage a few short years ago (both of which have my full support). In the digital age, ideas like these don’t stay contained for long, and when they catch fire, there’s very little that can be done to slow their momentum.

I am a conservative. Which is why I support the ACA and want to see it succeed. Because I believe it is a reasonable compromise that curtails the worst abuses of the for-profit system, such as pre-existing condition exclusions and lifetime maximums, while encouraging people to take responsibility for addressing their own healthcare costs and stop passing costs off to everyone else through medical bankruptcy.

I worry about the expansion of government power into the private sector a single-payer system would represent. I worry about what would be an actual government take over of some 20% of the economy. And I worry about the impact it may have on competition, and therefore medical and pharmaceutical innovation in our country.

Which is why I have for so many years put my full weight behind what has always been the conservative alternative. The ACA is that alternative. And if you keep encouraging the lying, incompetent, arsonists within the ranks of the GOP to burn it down, you are the ones ushering in single-payer.

The longer you oppose it, the longer GOP statehouses try to deliberately sabotage it by refusing to set up state health insurance exchanges and refuse federal money for Medicaid expansion, the closer you bring days like this. Days when average, everyday Americans band together and demand what nearly every other industrialized, first-world nation on Earth already provides for their citizens; universal, single-payer healthcare.

Because make no mistake, the alternative the American people will accept a few years down the road will not be a return to the cruel, broken, corrupt system that existed before the ACA’s protections took effect. It will be something much more like what Colorado has just proposed.

Stop kidding yourselves.

T Minus Zero: THE ARK Launches!

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It’s finally here. Release Day! Book Birthday! Whatever you want to call it, I woke up this morning as a published author. THE ARK is available now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and independent bookstores everywhere.

If you preordered your copy, (thank you, thank you, thank you) it should be arriving today or soon thereafter. Please, post a selfie of you holding it and tag me on Facebook or Twitter. Use the hashtag #TheArk, see if we can get it trending.

If you’re in Madison, Milwaukee, or Chicago, you can catch me this week on a mini book tour. I’ll be in Madison at A Room of One’s Own at 6pm Thursday night, Boswell Book Company in Milwaukee Friday at 7pm, and The Book Cellar Saturday night in Chicago at 7pm. I’d love to see you. Come by and hear a short reading and get your copy signed!

Then, go home and read it, scroll through it, or listen to it. Once you’re done, the single most helpful thing you can do for me or any author who’s work you appreciate is to leave an honest review on Amazon and Goodreads. Reviews, more than anything else a reader can do, help to drive more people to a new book, spread the word, and ultimately boost sales.

I hope everyone enjoys the heck out of it. Now, I gotta run. This week is going to be hectic.

 

One Week Before THE ARK Launches!

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Wow, okay, it’s starting to get real around here. If you’re new around these parts, my debut novel, THE ARK, is being published next Tuesday, November 3rd. It’s a murder-mystery set on a generation ship one month from arriving at its destination.  A “Sealed Airlock” thriller, to coin a phrase.

This is, to say the least, pretty damned exciting. If you’d like a copy, please, please consider preordering one at Amazon. Preorders are a very important metric for us authors, as they help build buzz within the industry, driving larger volume sales to bookstores, bigger print runs, etc. It’s one of the best and easiest things you can do to support your favorite authors, then leave a review in places like Amazon and Goodreads.

Speaking of that, check out the Goodreads page for some great early reviews if you’re still on the fence. Or, read a sample chapter. If you’re still being difficult, I’ll even throw in a free short story! “Last Launch” takes place more than two centuries before THE ARK as a pair of survivors race to escape the dying Earth. And if you really want to stick it to me, you can even enter to win the book itself!

Okay, now that’s all out of the way, next week I’ll be embarking on a whirlwind book tour/three day bender for my fans in the Midwest.

Thursday, Nov 5th you can find me at A Room of One’s Own in Madison, WI.

-Friday, Nov 6th I’ll be in Milwaukee, WI doing a reading at Boswell Book Company, followed by the official after party at 42 Lounge downtown.

-Finally, Saturday, Nov 7th I’ll be wrapping up this leg at The Book Cellar in Chicago, IL.

Hope to see you then! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a million posts to write for this promotional blog tour. Later!

 

Scott Walker frees Ghost of Joseph McCarthy from Bondage

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Yesterday, the tortured soul of the late, disgraced U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy finally transcended into the afterlife, now that he is no longer the most embarrassing thing to come out of the state of Wisconsin.

That title passed to two-term Governor and former Republican Presidential candidate Scott Walker, whose soul will now be damned to walk the Earth upon his passing as penance for the entire, sad, humiliating spectacle of his doomed Presidential campaign and the damage it’s done to Wisconsin’s national reputation.

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McCarthy, the Cold War era Senator who single-handedly destroyed the lives of dozens if not hundreds of innocent Americans with baseless accusations of Communist sympathies during the height of the Red Scare, had spent every day since the moment of his death roaming the halls of the government buildings he used to vandalize with his hateful rhetoric as an ethereal specter, dragging heavy chains.

McCarthy has spent the last fifty-eight years desperately trying to warn the living of the threat of communist agents living among them and trying to find a single-malt Scotch his insubstantial form could drink. But now, with Walker’s withdrawal from the GOP Presidential race sending him sulking back to Wisconsin with his tail tucked between his legs, McCarthy’s decades long torment has come to an end.

As his soul faded into oblivion, McCarthy, his voice scarcely louder than a whisper, could be heard saying, “Trump is a pinkooooooo…”

One Final Thought on the Hugos

One final thought on the whole Sad/Rabid Puppies and Hugo affair.

Over the last few years, we’ve seen an explosion of new Voter ID laws being pushed in the states, including my home of WI. The reasons certain politicians introduce the laws are simple and obvious attempts to disenfranchise voting blocks such as poor, minority, elderly, and college students that tend to vote for the other party. However, if you talk to the people on the ground who support these laws, they deny the actual motivations and cling to the active delusion that they are protecting the integrity of the election process from the scourge of in-person voter fraud plaguing the country.

The only trouble is, there is no fraud. The number of actual confirmed cases is so small as to be statistically insignificant, unlike the estimated millions of people nationwide who will be barred from voting as a result of these new restrictions. But you can’t convince Voter ID supporters of this objective fact.

In Wisconsin, the only documented case of voter fraud in the last election cycle was actually a Scott Walker supporter, the Governor who signed the Voter ID law, because he was convinced that he had to “balance out” all of the minority voters who were going back to the polls like they had a revolving door.

They believe the lies that voter fraud is endemic, with millions of votes being cast by dead people, duplications, etc. Enough votes to sway entire elections, even at the national level. They believe that the only reason their side loses is because, naturally, everyone else must be cheating, not because an actual majority of the country disapproves of their policies and candidates. It’s the only explanation that they are willing to accept, instead of facing the reality that times really have changed on topics like gay marriage, healthcare, drug legalization, immigration, and a host of other issues they hold such inflexible attitudes about.

The whole SP/RP phenomenon is a microcosm of this inability to recognize and cope with shifting attitudes and preferences within the fandom community. They simply refuse to believe that the silent majority really has moved on to new things, so they concocted a narrative to explain their failures where some secret cabal is somehow stacking the deck against them. How this is accomplished, considering both the nomination and voting processes are done through public ballot, is never clearly explained.

And much like the Wisconsin voter fraud case above, the Puppy slate voting was a coordinated attack (although within the rules of the award at the time) meant to counterbalance the SJW conspiracy locking them out of the nomination process. But just like the WI case, there was no conspiracy. There was no attempt to lock them out. They just weren’t that popular among the people who follow, vote for, and attend the Hugos. They thought they’d awaken a sleeping populist dragon that would swoop down and defeat the small clique of elitists holding them back. But the beast they awoke turned on them instead.

That’s a tough pill for anyone to swallow, but the ensuing results should make it very clear where the sympathies of the actual silent majority of modern fandom lay. Now, the question is, will the SP/RP’s take the time to do some self-reflection and learn from this lesson, or will they double down and comfort themselves with even more extreme conspiracy theories? Only time will tell.

#HushPuppies

On the Hugos, Sad Puppies, GamerGate, Gay Marriage, Black Lives Matter, and the Confederate Flag.

The 2015 Hugo Award seen onstage before the ceremony.

 

“Okay,” you’re saying, “That’s the most click-baity title I’ve ever seen. He just stuffed it with hashtags.” Yeah, a little, but hear me out. It all comes together by the end, I promise.

Over the weekend, I was fortunate to be one of the handful of survivors of the 73rd WorldCon in Spokane. Between the throngs of attendees lost to the wildfires and the bloodbath that was the Hugo Award ceremony, I was lucky to escape with my life.

At least that’s the impression the rest of the web seem to have gotten.

In reality, Spokane played host to one of the most positive, friendly, and welcoming WorldCons in recent memory. Although to be honest, the smoke was a real issue. I’ve never been in a declared FEMA emergency before, so that was kind of cool.

I’m assuming that anyone reading this is already at least passingly familiar with the Sad Puppy/Rabid Puppy movement and their attempt to sabotage and vandalize the Hugo Awards this year. In short, a small cabal of fans who are totally not racist, misogynist homophobes, just ask them, tried to stuff the Hugo Awards with nominated works that more closely fit their preference for Sci-Fi that skips any mention of minority struggles, gender equality issues, or homosexuality so it can instead focus on stories about killing aliens with their shooty pew-pew laser guns, which, they claim, is what fans really want to read about.

They were not entirely unsuccessful in their attempt. In five categories, the Puppy slate dominated the nominations, ensuring a victory for classic, golden-age style sci-fi that doesn’t try to hurt our thinking meats. But then, a funny thing happened. In response, the fandom community awoke. WorldCon membership swelled, blowing past previous records by 65%. And in each of the five Puppy dominated slates, the membership voted for “No Award,” isolating and nullifying the attempted sabotage through pure, grassroots democratic action, and doubling the number of times “No Award” has been used in a single night.

Here’s the thing about that, though. It was widely anticipated that the Hugo Awards were going to be ground zero in the battle dividing the fan community, possibly creating a schism that might never heal. The reverse happened. The awards were free of acrimony, and were instead the most unifying and funny that anyone can remember. There was virtually no Puppy presence at the convention. Outside of a couple of authors associated with the movement in attendance, (who largely kept a low profile) everyone of the thousands who actually showed up to add to the record attendance was somehow a member of the tiny, secret cabal of SJW’s working to ruin sci-fi. Quite the feat, if you know anything about trying to organize nerds.

Is this sounding familiar? Because it should. It’s a pattern I’ve seen repeated over and over in our country in the last few years. In the face of changing demographics and shifting conversations about equality, a small but furious minority of people with a vested interest in defending the status quo are able to project an overblown presence on social media and in the press, claiming to represent some sort of silent majority that has been intimidated into silence at the hands of ruthless progressives who eat their young, or something.

It happened with the Sad Puppies. It happened with the GamerGate lunatics, who were so concerned about the quality of videogame journalism ethics that they accidentally went on a months long misogynistic screed online that totally wasn’t about being anti-woman. You know, like when the drive through forgets to pack a straw and you accidentally let out a ten minute, uninterrupted string of racial slurs. It’s not about your abhorrent racism, it’s about quality control in the fast food industry.

It happened with the resistance to Same Sex Marriage, which wasn’t about preserving the practice of treating the LGTB community as second-class citizens denied basic human rights, it was about protecting families from, I don’t know, flower arrangements and musicals maybe? I don’t understand how these people think.

It happened with the creation of the All Lives Matter hashtag, the resistance to the removal of the Confederate Flag from the South Carolina Capitol grounds, and a dozen other examples when the disadvantaged dare challenged the legitimacy of the status quo.

But, instead of waking the silent majority to rally around their flag, the opposite keeps happening. The Sad Puppies managed to grow and consolidate the WorldCon fanbase into a solid and historic rebuke of their behavior. The GamerGate mouth-breathers managed to wake the video game industry up to the reality of gender discrimination in employment, design, and content, leading to a slew of new opportunities for women in the field and more titles aimed at female gamers. The Prop 8 folks, and those like them around the country, managed only to crystalize support for marriage equality with their cruel tactics, forced the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court, and likely accelerated the process of bringing gay marriage to all fifty states by a decade or more. The opposition to the Ferguson protests simply drew enough attention to bring in the Justice Department whose report really did reveal an enormous racial disparity in the conduct of the city’s police department. And the protests over the Confederate flag only helped to confirm what everyone had been saying about its history and meaning, hastening the day it was brought down.

In all of these cases, the small, rabid defenders of the status quo and their ugly tactics failed to bring support for their cause into the mainstream. Instead, the opposite has happened. They’ve woken people of conscious and propelled them into action, raising the very sleeping army that rises up to oppose them. As a result, positive change is happening at an ever increasing pace, with a speed that wouldn’t have been possible without the motivation to act.

In the end, the Sad Puppies, GamerGaters, etc, have managed only to accelerate their own irrelevance. I’ll be calling them #HushPuppies from now on. They took their best shot, but now it’s time to shut the fuck up.

TRIDENT’S FORGE is Ready for Preorder!

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Hey folks! A couple of big bits of news today. The second book in the Children of a Dead Earth cycle, TRIDENT’S FORGE, is now available for preorder on Amazon. The release date of Feb 2nd is a little suspect, just so you know. Last I knew, it’ll be published sometime in April. If you’ve already preordered THE ARK, thank you, you’re my hero. If not, you can find it here. THE ARK will be launching on November 3rd for sure.

The other big bit of news is we’ve signed a deal with Audible to produce audio versions of THE ARK, TRIDENT’S FORGE, and the as-yet unnamed third book in the cycle. The audio versions will launch right alongside their paperback and eBook counterparts. So now you’re all out of excuses. Hurry up and buy!