Monthly Archives: May 2017

Great Power, Great Responsibility

It wasn’t that long ago when being a geek was something to hide. Or at least not something to advertise. I was a Star Wars an as a kid, but I didn’t talk about it growing up, nor did it come up as a young adult. And I didn’t explore much else in the way of sci-fi or supeheroes.

And then the first Iron Man movie happened. I don’t know if that was the catalyst for everyone – likely it had been building for a bit – but it was for me. Suddenly, there was a quality film about superheroes with a big star. And there was the promise of more to come.

And did it ever. In the past 10 years, the world of geekery has exploded like never before – we can make or break a movie in a single weekend. More than that, we can make or break a franchise. The most anticipated movies, the biggest summer blockbusters, all involve superheroes now.

So what do we do with this power? Is it not time to use it for good?

Imagine if we worked toward fixing the problems in our community as readily as we jumped to debate the merits of Marvel vs. DC or Star Wars vs. Star Trek.

There is rampant misogyny, lack of consent, exclusion of people of color, exclusion of people of size. And there’s no reason for any of it.

Are men so fragile that their masculinity cannot withstand a quality, female superhero? Are men so weak that they can’t leave a woman alone, regardless of what she is wearing as cosplay? Are white people so insecure that they can’t share space with people who don’t look like them?

Unfortunately, yes, those things are all true.

But we have the power to stop it, to turn ourselves around, police ourselves, and make the geek community better. We have to be better than this. We have to be more inclusive. We have to make our spaces safer. We have to talk about our problems, and then do more than simply acknowledge them.

We have a lot of power, we geeks. We also have a great responsibility.

 

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As Long as It Lands

A couple of weekends ago, my girlfriend and I attended a local musical written by someone she has been friends with for years. He and I are Facebook friends, acquaintances  at best.

He came out after the show and stood to talk to us for a few minutes. Based on some complicated local history, the show was often uncomfortable to watch. There was ugliness unearthed, and characters based on real people with pasts that were difficult to reconcile.

“There’s always an awkward conversation after,” he told us. “I want to ask if you enjoyed it, but it’s not all enjoyable.”

“It was well done,” I assured him.

“As long as it landed, that’s enough,” he said with a¬† smile.

I loved the phrasing. Maybe it’s commonplace elsewhere, among artists, but it’s not something I’ve heard before. It struck me that good art doesn’t have to make us feel good. It doesn’t always have to be fun.

Certainly mine isn’t. Despite the inherent sexiness in much of my subject matter, there are scenes in every book that are difficult to get through. Arguments, strife, predators. These make up real life. And I include them all. There are scenes that continue to hit me like punches to the gut, and I wrote them. Every time I read a draft of a book for editing, I see them coming, and I still can’t help getting emotional.

My hope is that, if I can read these scenes and still be affected, surely they will affect my readers as well.

I hope they land.

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Goodbye, Sweet Lady

My previous attorney was the best. That’s not hyperbole. I’ve worked for my share of attorneys over the years, and she was the only one I’ve ever truly liked.

An ex-nurse, she had seen everything and judged nothing. She was at least as liberal as i am and every bit the agnostic, despite or perhaps because of her Catholic upbringing. We often talked politics. In fact, the last time we spoke was last Fall because she was campaigning for Hillary and trying to recruit me.

One day, I walked into her office while she was cleaning out her desk in preparation to go on medical leave. The book Fifty Shades of Grey was sitting out on her desk. While I was still trying to figure out how to react, she looked up and asked if I had read it.

So many decisions. I had confided more to her than one usually does with a boss. But there were lines I was unwilling to cross at work, even with her. “I tried,” I admitted.

She admitted that, for her, good writing can get in the way of a good story. I couldn’t agree, but left her to her opinion. Much later, after she had retired, I gifted her a copy of my first book, but still said nothing. We had too much else to talk about.

Post retirement, she would call occasionally just to say hi and that she missed me. I suspect she was also a bit bored and missed working. But these calls always made my day. During one call, she told me she had enjoyed the book. Being at work, I couldn’t spill the beans then either.

I always planned to later. Because there is always later, right? Some mythical time with just the right circumstances, setting, and mood to make any subject broachable.

That time won’t come for us – she passed away this week. Though sudden, she’d had a number of health issues these past several months, so it wasn’t entirely unexpected. There are so many happy memories, but of course what is sticking out most are the things I never said.

Maybe it’s enough to know that I could have said them. Things I can’t say to my own mother, I could have said to her. How amazing is that?

And there’s so much else to remember. I can still hear her calling out from her office that the Supreme Court had legalized same sex marriage. Although she was an older, straight woman, she was as proud as anyone that it had finally happened.

She constantly had NPR playing on a radio in her office. Having met my girlfriend, and because she knew it was important to me, she would notify me when a program came on that focused on transgender people. Other times, she would alert me because a favorite author was going to be interviewed.

Throughout several years of working together, I never felt like I worked for her. Rather, I worked with her. It made all the difference. She was fair, flexible, easygoing, and I am unlikely to find anyone so incredible again. I was so lucky to have known her at all.

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