Here’s Sugar curling up with a good book, in this case the ARC of Don’t Live For Your Obituary, my upcoming collection of essays about writing and the writing life, which comes out in December from Subterranean Press. And you can win it! Here’s how:
Tell me in the comments which Beatles song I am thinking of right now.
The person who correctly guesses which Beatles song I am thinking of wins. In the case where more than one person correctly guesses, I will number the correct guesses in order of appearance and then use a random number generator to select the winner among them.
“Beatles song” in this case means a song recorded by the Beatles, and includes both original songs by the band, and the cover songs they recorded. Solo work does not count. Here’s a list of songs recorded by the Beatles, if you need it. The song I’m thinking of is on it.
Guess only one song. Posts with more than one guess will have only the first song considered. Posts not related to guessing a song will be deleted. Also, only one post per person — additional posts will be deleted.
This contest is open to everyone everywhere in the world, and runs until the comments here automatically shut off (which will be around 3:50pm Eastern time, Sunday, July 23rd). When you post a comment, leave a legit email address in the “email” field so I can contact you. I’ll also announce the winner here on Monday, July 24. I’ll mail the ARC to you, signed (and personalized, if so requested).
Kitten not included.
Also remember you can pre-order the hardcover edition of Obit from Subterranean Press. This is a signed, limited edition — there are only 1,000 being made — and they’ve already had a healthy number of pre-orders. So don’t wait if you want one.
Now: Guess which Beatles song I am thinking of! And good luck!
So, on July 21, 1997, which was a Monday, I posted the following on the alt.society.generation-x newsgroup:
Thought y’all might like to know. I’m happy, pleased, tired.
96,098 words, cranked out in a little under three months, working
mostly on weekends, grinding out 5,000 words at a sitting.
Learned two things:
a) I *can* carry a story over such a long stretch;
b) like most things on the planet, thinking about doing it is a lot
worse than simply sitting down and doing it. The writing wasn’t hard
to do, you just need to plant ass in seat and go from there.
I did find it helped not to make my first novel a gut-wrenching
personal story, if you know what I mean. Instead I just tried to write
the sort of science fiction story I would like to read. It was fun.
Now I go in to tinker and fine tune. Will soon have it ready for beta
testing. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
That novel? Agent to the Stars. Which means that today is the 20th anniversary of me being a novelist. Being a published novelist would have to wait — I date that to January 1, 2005, the official publication date of Old Man’s War — but in terms of having written a full, complete (and as it eventually turned out, publishable) novel: Today’s the day.
I’ve recounted the story of Agent before but it’s fun to tell, because I think it’s a nice antidote to the “I just had to share the story I’d been dreaming of my whole life” angle first novels often take. The gist of the story was that my 10-year high school reunion was on the horizon, and having been “the writer dude” in my class, I knew I would be asked if I had ever gotten around to writing a novel, and I wanted to be able to say “yes.” Also, I was then in my late 20s and it was time to find out whether I could actually write one or not.
Having decided I was going to write one, I decided to make it easy for myself, mostly by not trying to do all things at once. The goal was simply: Write a novel-length story. The story itself was going to be pretty simple and not personally consequential; it wasn’t going to be a thinly-disguised roman a clef, or something with a serious and/or personal theme. It would involve Hollywood in some way, because I had spent years as a film critic and knew that world well enough to write about it. And as for genre, I was most familiar with mystery/crime fiction and science fiction/fantasy, so I flipped a coin to decide which to do. It come up heads, so science fiction it was, and the story I had for that was: Aliens come and decide to get Hollywood representation.
(I don’t remember the story I was thinking for the mystery version. I’m sure death was involved. And for those about to say “well, you didn’t have to stick with science fiction for your second book,” that’s technically correct, but once I’d written one science fiction novel, I knew I could write science fiction. It was easier to stick with what I knew. And anyway I write murder mysteries now — Lock In and the upcoming Head On. They also happen to be science fiction.)
I remember the writing of Agent being pretty easy, in no small part, I’m sure, because of everything noted above — it wasn’t meant to be weighty or serious or even good, merely novel-length. When I finished it, I do remember thinking something along the lines of “Huh. That wasn’t so bad. Maybe I should have done this earlier.” In the fullness of time, I’ve realized that I probably couldn’t have done it any earlier, I wasn’t focused enough and it helped me to have some sort of external motivation, in this case, my high school reunion.
Once finished, I asked two friends and co-workers at America Online to read the book: Regan Avery and Stephen Bennett, both of whom I knew loved science fiction, and both of whom I knew I could trust to tell me if what I’d written was crap. They both gave it a thumbs up. Then I showed it to Krissy, my wife, who was apprehensive about reading it, since if she hated it she would have to tell me, and would still have to be married to me afterward. When she finished it, the first thing she said to me about it was “Thank Christ it’s good.” Domestic felicity lived for another day.
And then, having written it… I did nothing with it for two years. Because, again, it wasn’t written for any other reason than to see if I could write a novel. It was practice. People other than Regan and Stephen and Krissy finally saw it in 1999 when I decided that the then brand-new Scalzi.com site could use some content, so I put it up here as a “shareware” novel, meaning that if people liked it they could send me a dollar for it through the mail. And people did! Which was nice.
It was finally physically published in 2005, when Bill Schafer of Subterranean Press published a limited hardcover edition. I was jazzed about that, since I wanted a version of the book I could put on my shelf. The cover was done by Penny Arcade’s Mike Krahulik, who among other things knew of the book because I was one of Penny Arcade’s very first advertisers way back in the day, advertising the Web version of the book (those guys have done okay since then). Then came the Tor paperback edition, and the various foreign editions, and the audiobook, and here we are today.
When I wrote the novel, of course, I had no idea that writing it was the first step toward where I am now. I was working at America Online — and enjoying it! It was a cool place to be in the 90s! — and to the extent I thought I would be writing novels at all, I thought that they would be sideline to my overall writing career, rather than (as it turned out) the main thrust of it. This should be your first indication that science fiction writers in fact cannot predict the future with any accuracy.
I’m very fond of Agent, and think it reads pretty well. I’m also aware that it’s first effort, and also because it was written to be in present time in the 90s, just about out of time in terms of feeling at all contemporary (there are fewer and fewer Holocaust survivors remaining, to pick just one obvious example in the book). At this point I suggest people consider it as part of an alternate history which branched off from our timeline in 1998 or thereabouts. Occasionally it gets talked about for being picked for TV/film. If that ever happens, expect some extensive plot revisions. Otherwise, it is what it is.
One thing I do like about Agent is that I still have people tell me that it’s their favorite of mine. I like that because I think it’s nice to know that even this very early effort, done simply for the purpose of finding out if I could write a novel, does what I think a novel should: Entertains people and makes them glad they spent their time with it.
I’m also happy it’s the novel that told me I could do this thing, this novel-writing thing, and that I listened to it. The last couple of decades have turned out pretty well for me. I’m excited to see where things go from here.
In der neuen Folge unseres Podcasts „Besondere Umstände“ sprachen Eva, Benni und ich heute über:
Driving Lessons: Sophomore Year by Annameekee Hesik
Abbey Brooks has recovered from her end-of-freshman-year heartbreak and has vowed that this year, her sophomore year at Gila High, will be different in every way. Her to-do list: get her driver’s license, come out to her mom, get (and keep) a girlfriend, and survive another year of basketball. As always, though, nothing goes according to plan. Who will be there for her as her plans start to unravel? Who will bring her back to life after another round of heartache and betrayal? These remain a mystery–even to Abbey.
But one thing is for sure, she’s not confused about who she is. And that is going to make all the difference this time.
This is the second book in the series. Check out my interview with Annameekee on the release of Book #1, "The You Know Who Girls."
And add your review of "Driving Lessons: Sophomore Year" in comments!
Yesterday the FBI announced the takedown of the AlphaBay marketplace, a hidden service facilitating the sale of drugs, as well as other illicit products and services. The takedown had actually occurred weeks earlier, and had been staged to appear like an exit scam, where the operators take off with the money.
What was particularly interesting about the FBI’s takedown was that it was coordinated with the activities of the Dutch police, who had previously taken over the Hansa Market, another leading blackmarket. As the investigators were then controlling this marketplace they were able to monitor the activities of traders who had been using AlphaBay and then moved to Hansa Market.
I’ve been interested in online blackmarkets for some time, particularly those that relate to the stolen data economy. In fact, last year a paper written by Professor Thomas Holt and I was published. This paper outlines a number of intervention approaches, including disrupting the actual marketplaces where trade takes place.
Among our numerous suggestions are three that have been used, in combination, by this international police effort. We suggest that law enforcement promote distrust, which they did by making AlphaBay appear to have been an exit scam. We also suggest that law enforcement take over and take down marketplaces. Neither of these police approaches are new, and we point to previous examples where this has happened. In our conclusion, we stated:
Multiple interventions coordinated across different guardians, nationally and internationally, incorporating different bodies (investigative, regulatory, strategic, non-government organisations and the private sector) that have ownership of the crime prevention problem may reduce duplication of effort, as well as provide a more systematic approach with the greatest disruption effect.
The Hansa Market and AlphaBay approach demonstrates how this can be achieved. By co-ordinating the approaches, and working together, the disruptive effects of their work is likely to be much greater than if they had acted alone. It’s likely we’ll see arrests of traders and further disruption to the online drug trade.
Work by Soska and Christin found that after the Silk Road takedown, more online blackmarkets emerged and evolved. I think this evolution will continue, but perhaps marketplace administrators will have to work harder in order to earn the trust of their users.
The full Moon at the blue hour (the time before sunrise or after sunset) inspired me to observe inflorescences of onion plants on my garden apartment in Rishon LeZion, Israel. An inflorescence is the reproductive part of a plant that bears a group of flowers in a specific pattern. In onions (Allium cepa, Liliaceae) it's grown on scapes, long, leafless flowering stems rising directly from the plant bulb. Inflorescence in garden onions takes on a spherical umbel arrangement. Below, inflorescences frame the setting full Moon. Photo taken just before dawn (5:22 a.m.) on May 13, 2017.
This is a guest post by Robert Henderson, Peter Klecha, and Eric McCready in response to Geoff Pullum's post of July 10. My only role was offering in advance to post a reply if the authors would like me to. I'm a good friend of Geoff Pullum and a friend of the authors. What follows is theirs.
We were quite surprised to read the LL post by Geoff Pullum of July 10. In this post, GP discussed the suspension of Tory MP Anne Marie Morris for using the phrase “n****r in the woodpile” at an event held at the East India Club. After her use of this phrase was recorded and publicized, she was suspended by the Tories for what the Financial Times described as a racist remark. According to GP, this punishment was excessive, as the remark in question was not racist; he proceeds “reluctantly” to defend Ms. Morris, as the idiom in question was merely “silly.” While we offer no comment on the appropriateness of the specific punishment Ms. Morris received, we do find this characterization problematic on both moral and empirical grounds, together with many other commentators on social media, and we want to suggest that the author should have been (much) more careful when dealing with such an important topic.
What counts as a racist remark? The range of possibilities is broad, from direct attributions of racial slurs to covert dog-whistles, and it’s ultimately not for us as white individuals, or for anybody outside of the oppressed group in question, to declare exactly what is or is not a racist act. However, it does seem clear to us that the category of racist statements isn’t limited to saying things like “X is a [slur].” Thus GP’s claim that the MP’s statement doesn’t count as a racist remark because she didn't call anyone by the slur is off the mark. Utterances which are judged to be racist remarks even include saying positive things about non-people, e.g., "I love [slur] food!" This fact shows that GP’s definition of racist remarks is far too narrow.
Once we allow racist remarks to include more than predicating a slur of an individual, the ground for defending Morris's remark shrinks substantially. The only such defense is to argue that the appearance of the n-word in an idiom is enough to neutralize its racist meaning component. GP tries this route, but here the post runs into empirical problems given well-known facts about slurs. There is a consensus in the semantic/pragmatic and philosophical literature on the topic that slurs aggressively attach to the speaker, committing them to a racist attitude even in embedded contexts. Consider embedded slurs; imagine Ron Weasley says “Draco thought that Harry was a mudblood”, where attributing the thought to Draco isn’t enough to absolve Ron of expressing the attitudes associated with the slur. Indeed, even mentioning slurs is fraught territory, which is why the authors of most papers on these issues are careful to distance themselves from the content expressed. While we aren’t aware of work on slurs in noncompositional idioms in particular, a moment’s thought is enough to show that just putting a potentially offensive word into an idiom doesn’t defuse it; we would feel uncomfortable saying “the shit hit the fan” in formal situations, for example, although here “shit” lacks its literal meaning. Thus we should expect that the slurring meaning of the n-word survives in the idiom.
Slurs are generally words which have a history of being used to inflict serious emotional distress. Setting aside how it is that they come to do that in first place (which surely must have something to do with both their literal meaning and with their issuers’ hateful intent), they come to have a perverse second effect, as we understand it: they viscerally remind their victims of the hurt they have experienced due to prior use of the word, as summed up by the Langston Hughes quotation excerpted by Geoffrey Nunberg’s post, or by Ice Cube in his recent discussion with Bill Maher: “When I hear a white person say it, it feel like that knife stabbing you, even if they don’t mean to.” And importantly, what we have read and heard from people who have been victimized by these words suggests that any depiction can be such a reminder, whether it is use, mention, quotation, or even just phonetic overlap, as in the very obvious case of an idiom containing a slur, or less obvious cases like similar-sounding but historically unrelated words.
As an analogy, consider someone who has been the victim of repeated axe-violence — someone who has been attacked with axes over and over again over the course of their life, and has been threatened with such attacks even more often. If such a person were to come into contact with even just a depiction of an axe or axe-violence, it would be responsible to assume that the person may well become upset, and maybe even re-traumatized. And importantly, this is independent of anyone’s intent — it wouldn’t matter if I showed such a depiction to such a person with the virtuous intent of wanting to rob these depictions of their power to hurt the victim, for example — it would still very likely cause pain. There would be no reason to expect that that pain would be in any way a function of the depicter’s intent.
Likewise, any depiction of a slur creates the risk of causing hurt to those people who have been historically victimized by the slur, regardless of speaker intent. In this way, the slurring effect of a slur is more like Grice’s (1957) natural meaning than his non-natural (communicative) meaning; it is something the hearer derives from the utterance independent of grammatical convention or of their recognition of the speaker’s intent. See also this discussion of research on the physiological effects “mere words” can have.
These considerations defuse the central claim of GP's linguistic defense of Morris's remark, namely that the meaning of the idiom is "a hitherto concealed unpleasant surprise". Instead, racial slurs are terms that both predicate racial categories of people, and also denigrate those categories (technically, they are “mixed content bearers”). The idiom thus means "a hitherto concealed unpleasant surprise" while at the same time committing the speaker to a racist attitude. It is this second component that we expect to attach to the speaker, even in idiom. That this is the case is also shown by the fact that people have to keep apologizing for using the phrase. In fact, the fact that the MP was suspended and the reporting of the suspension makes use of the term “racist remark” is itself evidence that people naturally get the racist interpretation.
We think that GP's defense of Morris is not tenable on linguistic grounds, but there is a second aspect of the post in question that we find disturbing and important to address. Throughout the post, GP repeatedly mentions the n-word in its uncensored form. In a follow-up to the original post, he says that his refusal to censor is a strategy to avoid giving that word its power. If you take the standard linguistic analysis of slurs, though, the word’s power does not come from mere taboo (i.e., a social prohibition on using or mentioning the word as we see with expletives like "shit"). The word literally has as part of its semantic content an expression of racial hate, and its history has made that content unavoidably salient. It is that content, and that history, that gives this word (and other slurs) its power over and above other taboo expressions. It is for this reason that the word is literally unutterable for many people, and why we (who are white, not a part of the group that is victimized by the word in question) avoid it here.
Yes, even here on Language Log. There seems to be an unfortunate attitude — even among those whose views on slurs are otherwise similar to our own — that we as linguists are somehow exceptions to the facts surrounding slurs discussed in this post. In Geoffrey Nunberg’s otherwise commendable post on July 13, for example, he continues to mention the slur (quite abundantly), despite acknowledging the hurt it can cause. We think this is a mistake. We are not special; our community includes members of oppressed groups (though not nearly enough of them), and the rest of us ought to respect and show courtesy to them.
The sad fact is that linguistics as an academic field has severe diversity issues. These problems are not helped by the strategy above, which, while in the abstract might have its merits, in practice is only hurtful, and only serves as a barrier to those who might find its use painful or insensitive. Certainly, the taboo-ignoring strategy exemplified by GP’s original post is not going to be helpful in solving the problems our field has with lack of diversity. These problems are further evidenced by the fact, mentioned above, that we, the authors, are white, so we cannot directly understand what it feels like to be affected by the slur under discussion. Writing this post discomforts us in light of this fact, but we feel that we have a responsibility to try to further this discussion, and acknowledge that our understanding of the actual harm that comes from the n-word is indirect. For all of us who are not targeted by particular slurs, understanding can only really come from listening to those who have been harmed by them. We strongly encourage everyone to do so.
We want finally to emphasize that it’s not our intention to hang GP from the nearest flagpole, or to implicate in any way that he is himself a racist. We mention this only because some people we have talked about this issue with felt the need to defend him on this count. It hadn’t even entered our minds; we know that language behaviors are deeply ingrained and don’t always reflect our values. Indeed, one of the main points of this note is that speaker intention is not always relevant to these matters. (What’s more, we don’t even believe that debating which individual people may or may not be “racists in their heart of hearts” is a productive way to take on racism.) We are, in fact, fans of GP’s; but we are not fans of this post, for the reasons above.
We are grateful for helpful comments on this note by Carissa Ábrego-collier, Chris Davis, Mitcho Erlewine, Julia Goldsmith-Pinkham, Prerna Nadathur, and Betsy Pillion.
Hello Captain Awkward,
I have an ongoing issue that I hope you can help me with, perhaps in the form of a script. I have been married for 24 years. Our marriage is far from perfect but we have worked out some of the major kinks. So here is the issue.
My husband is an introvert, I am an extreme extrovert. We are both ok with that. He doesn’t mind if I socialize and I do not care if he takes a pass on 99% of the invitations sent our way. He is fine with family events and hanging with a few close friends. All good. The problem is the rest of the world. We get invited to a lot of events that the majority of the guests are couples. Neighborhood parties, extended family stuff, work events etc. Again, my husband hates, I really enjoy. People are ok if I attend one or two events solo, but begin to get awkward and insulted beyond that. There are just so many “Husband is sick” “Husband is working on a project” excuses I can make before it becomes obvious that he is just not going to be showing up.
I have no idea what the right approach is to this is. Do I just say to everyone ” Hey husband hates parties and hanging out and makes it a misery for me til we finally just leave early”. I have started to just not attend things myself which makes me sad and resentful.
Any thoughts on how to make this less awkward?
Somebody at the party will probably always ask you that question because curiosity is human and they think enquiring after a person’s spouse is a routine & polite thing to do. You can’t change their behavior, but you can try to approach your replies with more “IDGAF” and see if they get better at taking cues from you.
The biggest recommendation I have is: DON’T LIE ANYMORE. You may think you need to tell white lies to spare the host’s feelings, but that’s part of why you feel resentful about the whole thing. You don’t actually owe the hosts any explanations, and being forced to lie is uncomfortable, so, let it go and tell the truth. He’s not sick, he’s not at work, he’s just not here.
Scripts, which nearly all come with “+ [a subject change]!” after them:
- “Oh, he’s at home.”
- “He’s doing something else today.”
- “He’s not a party person, but I am!”
- “Oh, I like to come by myself, and he likes the quiet time at home. Everyone wins this way!”
- “We have a mixed Introvert-Extrovert marriage, so, you’re stuck with me for the rest of time.”
- “Oh, I can almost never never drag him out of the house for parties! He really loves his solo time, and I love being here with all of you.”
You say people are getting insulted, like, they might feel like your husband doesn’t really like them. That’s awkward, but at the end of the day, so what? It’s not your job to be his neighborhood friendliness ambassador. He’s not hurting anybody.
Your marriage is just fine, and their opinion of it doesn’t matter, so the worst thing I can come up with is that if they are obsessed with even numbers and couples, some people might stop inviting you to things. That would sting, but it’s not something you can actually control. Or, they might awkwardly ask, wait, doesn’t he like us? And you can say “I don’t know, he’s certainly never mentioned anything about that to me. After 24 years I do know that even when it’s his very best friends or family, big gatherings aren’t his cup of tea. It’s not personal, and it’s never gonna change! Good news, though, you’re never getting rid of me, ’cause I love it here.”
I’m gonna end with a compromise suggestion specifically for neighborhood gatherings, specifically for things that are walking distance and don’t require dressing up. Once a month or so, could your husband wander over and say a 10-minute hello to the hosts as a favor to you? Would it, like, crush his fragile spirit to drop in and say “Hey, bud, looks like a great gathering! My wife’s been looking forward to it all week! You know I’m not a party person but I wanted to stop by and say hello for a minute.” Then, he can leave whenever he wants to and you can stay all you want.
He certainly doesn’t have to do this (invitations are not commands, the neighbors are not owed 2 guests just because they invited 2 guests), but one thing I see is you doing a bunch of emotional labor around this and him doing zero. I used to think I hated “small talk” and only wanted to connect over deep truths but it turns out SMALL TALK IS AWESOME IT GREASES THE WHEELS OF THE SOCIAL CONTRACT AND ANYONE CAN DO IT FOR A FEW MINUTES, YOU WON’T DIE OF A BRIEF EXCHANGE ABOUT LAWN CARE OR THE WEATHER INSTEAD OF YOUR INNERMOST THOUGHTS.(See also: IT’S OKAY TO BE A LITTLE BIT BORED/BORING AS LONG AS YOU ARE KIND).
Your social life and relationships with the neighbors are important to you, so if him going for a few minutes would make you feel less awkward and smooth your way, I think that’s an okay thing to ask him to try out this summer.
I am howling at this story of Jenny Slate’s terrible blind date.
Like, lmk when you get to the phrase “[metal clanking noises]” if you’re not ded of laughing by then.
It’s very funny and well told, because she is funny and a good storyteller (and because it doesn’t end with her being called ‘Milady’ in a murder basement for the rest of her short life), but it’s also a deeply cautionary tale about how women are socialized to be nice at all costs and how some dudes have not heard “LOL, Nope!!!!” coming from the woman-shaped hole in the nearest wall as their date flees the scene nearly enough in this life.
Dear Captain Awkward,
I would like some advice on how to deal with this. Let’s start in the beginning. It was the beginning of the school year (8th), when a boy asked for my number. (We will call him Earl) I gave it to Earl only to wait for practically half the school year until I get a text from him. Of course, I could have talked to him in the single class we share. But I was extremely awkward and did not know how I could initiate a conversation with him. Our text conversation was very awkward. After several other conversations, Earl suddenly asked for a selfie of myself. Right after that, he sent a (unwanted) photo of himself, which made me feel like I had to send him a photo in return.
Several weeks later, I saw Earl in the hallway and was about to greet him when I saw him walk towards another girl and hug her. I assumed that she was either a family member (many students’ relatives attend our school) or a close friend. I later found out they were actually dating, that Earl was actually a player, and showed off the pictures he acquired from multiple other girls to other boys. He also asked for a few of my friends’ numbers, even when I was in the same room! I was devastated and felt like it was my fault it happened. Earl even sat with my friends and I during lunch and asked for their names (Just thought I would add that). That was a month ago. We have not talked in that time. Two days ago, he began texting me again. Once again, Earl requested a photo of myself. This time I declined. Immediately after I said no, he just (and I quote) said “K, gn”. I would like to cut ties with him completely. I’m not sure if this is a bad enough problem for you to share some advice, but I would be grateful if you could help.
I am so sorry this is happening to you. It is gross and scary and NOT YOUR FAULT. I’m glad you wrote to me, though, because you are not alone and we need to figure out how to stop this kind of stuff and how to make that process safe for kids like you.
To be clear, I don’t think you were talking about clothed selfies of the human face in your letter, is it okay if I proceed with that assumption? If I’m wrong, well, I’d love to be wrong. It would be the best wrong I’ve been all year.
You have met a predatory and manipulative jerk. You didn’t do anything wrong. “Earl” did everything he did on purpose. He does the exact same thing to lots of girls and his way of operating makes y’all feel like it was your fault and that you’re the only ones it’s happening to. The photos he sends you are deliberate – They make you feel obligated, even if you say “Ew, no” it still gives him a thrill and a feeling of power to cross your boundaries like that and get away with it. The photos y’all send him are his “insurance” that you’ll be too ashamed to tell anyone or that, if you do, you’ll be in trouble yourself for also sending a picture.
It’s time to talk about informed consent, which means, roughly, that before you take any course of action you should know clearly what you’re getting into so you can make the best possible decision for yourself based on all available information. Informed consent, not coincidentally, is what Earl denied you by sending you a photo of Earl Jr. without asking first if you wanted to see it.
There are probably going to be commenters who tell you to drop what you’re doing and “Call the police right now!” Involving the police might be the right thing to do and it might extremely not be the right thing to do, depending on where you live and what the laws are like there. It also depends on what was in the photo that you sent vs. the one that he sent. There are some places where, even if you and Earl were girlfriend and boyfriend passionately and consensually sharing these images, you could both be convicted of possessing and distributing child pornography and end up with very scary sex offender convictions. I wish I were kidding about that, but here’s a link to an article by a lawyer about these laws where I live, Illinois, USA.
What Earl is doing seems to me like a clear pattern of predatory behavior designed to trick girls into sending him compromising photos and it needs stopped, for sure, but it’s risky for you when the laws can be so badly designed. Adults are completely terrified of teen sexuality and without knowing where you live and what the laws are like and what the general “Oh well, boys will be boys, what can you do?” attitudes are like, I can’t make a clean “Oh yes, def. call the police on this pooplord!” recommendation as much as I’d like to. More like, if you want to call the police do it with the help of a lawyer who can expertly guide you and protect you in the process.
There are probably going to be commenters who insist that you tell your parents what happened immediately. Some parents will be understanding and supportive and take action to protect you but also listen to and respect what you want to do. Some will absolutely flip their lids and take action (like bringing in law enforcement without fully considering what that means for you) (or freaking out that you sent a photo, too, and punishing you) that might not be what’s actually best for you. I 100% hope that you can tell your parents, but I grew up in the kind of house where my mom would be so ashamed of and angry at me for complying that it would probably not be worth it to tell her because the “What were you thinking?” “How could you be so stupid?” cloud of judgment would be worse punishment for me than anything that might happen to Earl or the prospect of 1 blurry photo of my teenaged nubbins out in the world. You are the expert on your own parents, so, trust your instincts here.
If you do decide to tell your parents, maybe do it in a note? Sample text or script you could adapt:
“Mom, Dad (or Mom & Mom/Dad & Dad), I need to tell you something really uncomfortable that happened and I am scared that you’ll be ashamed of me or mad at me.
A boy at school that I liked asked for my number and we’ve been texting. He sent me a naked picture of himself and asked me to send one in return. I’m embarrassed to say this but I did. After I sent it I realized that he doesn’t really like me and that he does this to lots of girls. I want him to stop doing this to all of us and I don’t know what to do.
I have been scared to tell anyone about this because I sent a photo, too. Since it happened I learned that there are laws about this that could get me in just as much trouble as the boy. Before we do anything can we talk to a lawyer who knows about this stuff to make sure I won’t get in trouble for coming forward?”
One common piece of advice is that you tell a trusted adult – a family member, a teacher, or maybe a school counselor what happened. Someone who can stop Earl and get him out of this pattern. I think this is 99.9% a very, very good idea with some reservations. Teachers and school counselors and anyone at your school are probably “mandated reporters.” That means that if they know or suspect abuse of some kind is happening, they must call law enforcement. This is to protect kids, and it doesn’t mean that you don’t ever tell them scary stuff, but it means that if you say “If I tell you something, do you promise to keep it between us?” sometimes they legally can’t make you that promise. They could lose their jobs, or be charged as an accessory or sued for covering up the problem.
This is why a lot of people use hypothetical situations to have these conversations, like the classic “I’m asking for a friend” scenario. For you it might mean saying “If I thought a boy at school was sending nude pictures to girls and trying to get them to send them back so he can show his friends, what should I do?” The obvious question on the teacher’s mind is “Which boy” (or, tbh, “It’s Earl, right?“) or “Did this happen to you?” but if you give everybody a fig leaf of plausible deniability at first you might get an idea of the teacher’s approach before you tell more details. “Can you tell me what the process of reporting that looks like? Have you ever had to deal with something like this before? What happened? What would happen to the boy? Would the girls get in trouble, too?” Figure out how informed, how aggressive, how sexist* this person is before you pour your heart out.
I’m sorry that so much of what I wrote is hypothetical and not a clear recommended course of action. It’s hard to be a kid and to not have much control over your situation, and it’s hard to live in a culture that is so inconsistent in how we treat victims of this kind of behavior. It’s hard to have such a clear right answer – “Stop this dude before he rapes someone!” – and to have so little trust in the processes or systems that exist to protect you. But I think there are a couple of things you 100% can control and that will make you feel safer:
Talk to a trained counselor outside of your school & the mandated reporting umbrella. For example, here is a link to the crisis resources available at Scarleteen, including a message board for staff & peer support, a texting service, and anonymous online chats. You’ll find people will believe you, who won’t judge you, who won’t think you’re weird, who are aware of how depressingly common what you went through is. You can get a real-time sounding board while you figure out what to do. Telling more comforting strangers (like you told us) can make it easier for you tell other people. (P.S. Scarleteen is a national treasure and they run that place on love and a shoestring. If you’re a grownup reading this and looking to fund some good, here’s a donation link).
Take screen shots of everything he sent you and that you sent him, including the pictures and email them to yourself or save them somewhere so you have documentation of what happened.
Block his number, forever and always. Preemptively block him on all conceivable social media platforms. Congratulations, Earl is now dead to you. Blank his pathetic ass in the halls of academia.
Beware of his gross friends who looked at the photos without saying “Whoa, not cool, man.” Those boys do not get your phone number in this lifetime.
If he gets in some trouble, good. You didn’t “get him in trouble” or “ruin his life.” If he’s harassing the girls in his class this way, he needs to deal with some consequences, and now, while he’s still a kid, is the right time for some serious intervention. If he threatens you, harms you, retaliates against you, makes you feel targeted and unsafe, damn the torpedoes and tell an adult.
Learn the rules about sexual harassment in your school. Does your school have a policy about this? What does it say? Is it good enough? Down the road, maybe through student government or the school newspaper, you could help shape a better policy that would protect kids like you from pervs like Earl? (Part of me is like AUGGGGHHHH YOU ARE 14 YOU SHOULDN’T HAVE TO RESEARCH THIS, and part of me is like FUTURE AMAZON WARRIOR IN TRAINING!!!!!)
Tell other girls. “Hey, have you ever had anything weird happened with Earl, where he sends you pictures and tries to get you to send him one, too?” You’ll be able to tell from how they react, and you can say “Yeah, that happened to me, too. It’s not your fault!” Spreading the word about him is powerful. Reminding yourself and each other that you’re not alone and that it’s not your fault is powerful. Maybe the other girls could all go with you to tell a teacher or a school counselor as a group.
Warn other girls. When you see Earl single someone out, you can warn her – “I know Earl seems cool, but chances are he WILL send you a dick pic and try to get you to send him a photo so he can show it to all his friends.”
Be a safe landing place for other girls. Say you warn a girl, but she’s under the Earl-spell so she blows you off at first, but then it happens to her and she’s clearly embarrassed. Be kind to her. You know how she feels. Don’t blame or judge or “I told you so!” her. Don’t ever look at the photos if they get forwarded around, or make fun of her for it. Just say, “Yeah, you were kind of a jerk to me before, but I probably would have done the same thing before I knew what he was really like. It’s not your fault,” and add her to your powerful girl-army.
I wish I could build you a world without Notes From A Boner, where I never had to use the words “The next time you get some random screen peen…” but, there will be a next time and it will always kind of ruin your day a little because WHY ARE DUDES?
However, one tiny benefit of this upsetting situation it’s that your NOPE! meter will work much better from now on and it probably won’t ruin your week. The next intrusive wang you see will get a “Weird, why would you send me that?” and the cold release of the block button. Or, (true story) when you’re older and trying to sell a bike on Craigslist and some dude sends you a pathetic and revolting photo from email@example.com,” you’ll forward the email to firstname.lastname@example.org with a note saying “I got this from one of your employees today, you might want to check to see if he’s been hacked? Surely no one from your excellent company would send something like this to a stranger. I hope you can get to the bottom of this embarrassing incident, good luck!” Instead of wondering if it’s your fault somehow, Future You will let these losers reap the whirlwind of your contempt and indifference.
Sending so much love your way, Troubled Teen. We believe you. It’s not your fault.
*”Aw, boys will be boys, amirite?” = ABORT & possibly tell someone in authority “I tried to talk to [Teacher] about a sexual harassment situation and he said ‘boys will be boys’ and would not take it seriously at all.”
When biographer and historian Nat Segaloff sat down to interview science fiction Grand Master Harlan Ellison for his new book A Lit Fuse, he knew that he was in for a challenge. What surprised him about the process was how much it wasn’t just about Ellison, but also about him.
How do you write something new about someone everybody thinks they already know? A writer who is famous for putting so much of his life into his stories that his fans feel that even his most bizarre work is autobiographical? That was the unspoken challenge in late 2013 when I agreed to write Harlan Ellison’s biography, an adventure that is just now seeing daylight with the publican of A Lit Fuse: The Provocative Life of Harlan Ellison.
I wrote the book because Harlan wouldn’t. He came close in 2008 when he announced he would write Working Without a Net for “a major publisher,” but he never did. Maybe he figured he’d said enough in his 1700 short stories, essays, and articles he’s published over the last 60 years. It wasn’t as if he was afraid of the truth; he always said he never lies about himself because that way nobody can hold anything against him. That was my challenge.
When we shook hands and I became his biographer, I also became the only person he ever gave permission to quote from his work and take a tour of his life. What I really wanted to do, though, was to explore his mind. What I didn’t expect was that, as I examined his creative process, I would also bare my own.
When you sit down with someone for a conversation, it’s fun; when you sit down with someone for an interview, it’s serious. Harlan has been interviewed countless times and he has always been in control. This time, I was. I had to get him to say stuff that was new, and I had to go beyond where others had stopped.
A Harlan Ellison interview is a performance. He will be quotable, precise, vague, and outrageous. He takes no prisoners. He will run and fetch a comic book, figurine, photograph, or book to illustrate a point, all of which breaks the mood. My job was to get him to sit still and not be “Harlan Ellison” but simply Harlan.
Harlan is one of the few speculative fiction writers (along with Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, and a handful of others) who became public figures. Part of this stemmed from the quality of his work but much of it was created by his being, as I kept finding in the clippings, ““fractious,” “famously litigious,” and “argumentative.” Indeed, most of the stories I found during my research could be divided into two categories: “What a wild man Harlan is” and “I alone escaped to tell thee.”
Balderdash. What I discovered was a man who takes his craft seriously and fiercely defends others who labor in the field of words. An attack on them was an attack on him, and an attack on him was not to be deflected but returned in kind. “I don’t mind if you think I’m stupid,” he told one antagonist, “it’s just that I resent it when you talk to me as if I’m stupid.”
Even though I had final cut, I ran whole sections past him to get his reaction. He never flinched. In fact, he challenged me to go deeper. It was almost as if – and don’t take this the wrong way – I was Clarice Starling and he was Hannibal Lecter — the more I asked of Harlan, the more I had to give of myself. Both of us put our blood in the book even though I am the author.
Yesterday Sharon Klein wrote to ask about the 2010 debate on Language and Thought hosted by The Economist:
Some colleagues in other departments (notably in philosophy) have been asking to talk about the hypothesis, linguistic relativism, and the actual research around the issues. While I can (and have begun to) collect relevant papers for a casual reading group (a good way to reach out…), I remembered that the debate provided a very helpful clearinghouse for the discussion that had developed in this area.
But she found that the Economist's intro page on this debate leads only to an debate archive site that doesn't include this one; and the links in old LLOG posts are now redirected to the same unhelpful location.
A source at the magazine explained:
We vastly over-designed the debate platform (and over-thought it generally, in various ways), and when we stopped running the debates that way, we stopped running that bit of the website. The old debates are now unavailable online.
A bit of poking around at the Internet Archive turned up a copy:
Opening statements (with Derek Bickerton as "Featured guest")
Rebuttal statements (with Dan Slobin as "Featured guest")
Closing statements (with Lila Gleitman as "Featured guest")
As I noted at the time ("Shellacked by Boroditsky", 12/22/2010), the voting audience overwhelmingly supported Lera Boroditsky's argument that "the language we speak shapes how we think".
I've always been fond of Lane Greene's assessment:
If I had to sum up in plain English my conclusion would be not "language shapes thought" (much less "language restricts thought"), but probably "language nudges thought" (in certain circumstances).
Lane's final zinger in that comment:
What if silly Whorfian thinking were something we were innately prone to? Wouldn't that just blow [Lera Boroditsky's] and Steven Pinker's minds at the same time?
Or, as Lila Gleitman likes to put it, less speculatively, "Empiricism is innate".
There's a relevant (Whorf-skeptical) review article by Lila Gleitman and Anna Papafragou in the Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Psychology, "Relations Between Language and Thought" (preprint here). And for a deep dive into language and space, see Peggy Li et al., "Spatial Reasoning in Tenejapan Mayans", Cognition 2011.
Anyone who has spent any time with me will know that I am a chocolate person. I know it’s a stereotype (women and chocolate, blah blah blah), but I love it. There are so many chocolate related posts on this blog that I couldn’t even begin to link to them all.
I’m the person who will always gravitate towards chocolate as a treat rather than crisps or pizza. I will always choose the chocolate dessert in a restaurant. I make brownies upon brownies upon brownies. To truly mark the obsession, I just did a chocolate workshop. This is my bag, basically.
Now, I will very happily eat white, milk, or dark chocolate. I know white chocolate isn’t technically chocolate and so on, but a very good quality white chocolate is a thing of beauty, and don’t even get me started on caramelised white chocolate, which is the food of the gods (I will do a post on how to make it, if you are interested). But, for the sake of fairness here, I had to go for something simple, so that I could get equivalent samples. Hence, five types of plain 70% dark chocolate.
70% dark chocolate is what I use in baking all the time, so I am pretty attached to it, and always have a few bars in the cupboard for short-notice baking emergencies (happens more often than you might think). Usually, though, I go for whichever name-brand is on offer at the supermarket. Often, I end up with Lindt 70%. So I was curious to see how other 70% dark chocolates measured up.
As before, I feel I need a rambling disclaimer: obviously, I am doing this in my kitchen and not in a lab and I am not a scientist. These are the opinions of one person – that said, one person who has been trained to taste for quality. Also, the products used in this series are just examples – obviously each supermarket has, say, eight or nine different types of dark chocolate or whatever the product may be, and I’m not going to try every single one because what am I, made of money?
Finally, I should highlight that I tasted all the products blind, and at the time of tasting and making my notes I didn’t know which product came from which shop. I sat in one room while my glamorous assistant (er, my husband), prepared the samples in another. Any notes added regarding packaging and so on were only done after blind tasting, when I learned which supermarket had made A, B, C, D, or E.
The Blind Taste Test: Dark Chocolate
A – Lidl – J.D. Gross – 6/10
- Good texture – a nice snap when broken. Creamy when eaten. A fairly sharp, bitter flavour with hints of coffee. A decent dark chocolate I’d happily eat, but not surprising or very special.
B – Aldi – Moser Roth – 7/10
- Slightly softer and less bitter than the first sample, but still strong. A hint of fruitiness in the taste. A bold and dark flavour, and a velvety texture when eaten.
C – Tesco – 7/10
- Another good texture. Tasted sweeter and softer than either A or B, with a less obvious bitterness. A slight orange/fruity taste in the background, and fairly creamy when eaten.
D – Waitrose – 8/10
- Tasted somehow more chocolatey than the first three samples (sounds silly, but it did). Fruity and soft, and not too bitter – very mellow, especially in comparison to A and B. Tasted definitely different to the others, with a distinctive fruitiness.
E – Sainsbury’s – 5/10
- Very distinctive flavour: maybe a hint of coconut. Hard to describe, but not as pleasing as the first four samples. Not too bitter, and quite soft and sweet in flavour. For me, the least appealing.
This was an interesting taste test, and somewhat different to any of the others I have done so far. I don’t think any of the products I tried were bad. Even the offering from Sainsbury’s, which I liked the least on balance, was perfectly fine. Whether or not you like each type of chocolate will depend very much on personal taste and what you are looking for. Aldi and Lidl’s offerings were of a different style to the others. Neither supermarket did their own named-brand, and instead stocked J.D. Gross (made for Lidl) and Moser Roth (made for Aldi).
Even though Aldi and Lidl’s products were 70% cocoa dark chocolates, as were the rest, they were notably darker and tasted more bitter. You could even see visually that they looked darker. So, for those who like their dark chocolate to be pretty strong and not too sweet, these would be perfect. The others were all mellower, sweeter, and tasted like they were a lower cocoa percentage than the first two, even though they weren’t.
Personally, I would eat or use any of these products. Now that I have more experience of the range available, I might use the Aldi or Lidl darker chocolates for baking something rich and with a distinctive dark chocolate flavour. The others might do better in something designed to be more accessible; perhaps for people who don’t have such a taste for serious dark chocolate.
So, for the first time, I am not going to pick an official winner this week. If I was just eating the chocolate, unadorned, I’d probably go with the Waitrose offering. However, I don’t think it’s necessarily better than the others. The Aldi and Lidl products were clearly of a different genre, and trying to do a different thing. Which chocolate would be best of the bunch would be entirely dependent on your personal taste, and what you wanted to use it for.
*Prices correct at time of writing.
Ein neues, spannendes Projekt ist diese Woche gestartet: Agent*In – ein kritisches Online-Lexikon zu Anti-Feminismus. Beim Gunda-Werner-Institut werden die Hintergründe und die Idee hinter dem Wiki erläutert.
Am letzten Samstag fand in Berlin die 4. „behindert und verrückt feiern“ Pride Parade statt. Die Redebeiträge, beispielsweise von AbilityWatch und Rebecca Maskos, können jetzt online nachgelesen werden.
In der taz spricht Katharina König-Preuss über die Bedeutung des Konzerts in Themar am letzten Wochenende, nämlich die offensichtlich große Vernetzung unterschiedlicher extrem rechter Gruppierungen.
Das Leben ist so viel besser mit der richtigen Freund_innen-Crew. Bei i-D sprechen die Musikerin Ilgen-Nur (hier unser Samstagabendbeat mit ihr) und ihre Freund_innen über Zusammenhalt, Kritik und Erwachsenwerden.
Das Fuck Yeah Sexshopkollektiv will einen sex-positiven Shop mit Produkten zu Lust, Körper und Sexualität in Hamburg eröffnen. Unterstützen könnt ihr die Crowdfunding Kampagne bei StartNext.
Auch wenn Hamburgs Bürgermeister Olaf Scholz verlautet, dass bereits der Begriff Polizeigewalt gar nicht ginge, reißen die Berichte von eben dieser Gewalt bei den G20-Protesten nicht ab, so dass sogar die ZEIT nahelegt, dass man den Berichten nachgehen muss. Auch bei den G8-Protesten in Genua berichteten viele Aktivist_innen von Gewalt. Auch damals für viele Medien und Politiker_innen falsche linke Aussagen. Heute bestätigt die italienische Polizei, dass damals u.a. Folter ausgeübt wurde.
Das Videoprojekt Konsens in der Praxis hat mit unterschiedlichen Leute über (sexuellen) Konsens gesprochen. Im Interview mit der Schriftstellerin und Aktivistin SchwarzRund geht es u.a. um weiße queere Räume, Konsens mit sich selbst zu finden und das Hinterfragen einfacher starrer Regeln.
Am 07. Juli fand der 20. Fachdialog Gender von ver.di statt. Im Mittelpunkt stand die Evaluation zu 10 Jahren Antidiskriminierungsgesetz. Eine Dokumentation des Fachdialogs findet sich online. Dazu auch passend: Die gerade erschienene Studie „Out im Office?!“ zur LSBT*-Arbeitssituation.
Die großartige Autorin und Journalistin Janet Mock hat einen Podcast – da lohnt sich das Reinhöhren auf jeden Fall
Termine in Berlin, Bremen, Gersdorf, Würzburg:
14. bis 21. Juli in Würzburg: Aktionswoche Queere Kämpfe verbinden.
27. Juli in Berlin: Being queer in South Africa – Diskussion und Konzert mit Teilen des LGBTIQA Künstler*Innen Kollektivs Rainbow Riots. (FB-Link)
2. bis 9. August in Gersdorf: Das Wer lebt mit wem? Camp lädt zu Diskussionen und Austausch rund um verschiedenste Zusammenlebensformen.
Zur Mitte der Woche versammeln wir hier regelmäßig Links zu wichtigen Analysen, Berichten und interessanten Veranstaltungen. Was habt ihr in der letzten Woche gelesen/ geschrieben? Welcher Text hätte mehr Aufmerksamkeit verdient? Und was für feministische Workshops, Lesungen oder Vorträge stehen in den nächsten Wochen an?
And when they bombed other people’s houses, we
but not enough, we opposed them but not
enough. I was
in my bed, around my bed America
was falling: invisible house by invisible house by invisible house.
I took a chair outside and watched the sun.
In the sixth month
of a disastrous reign in the house of money
in the street of money in the city of money in the country of money,
our great country of money, we (forgive us)
lived happily during the war.