The response to my maiden post on BadNovelist.com was surprisingly strong–and positive. Those of you who don’t follow me on Facebook or Twitter probably don’t really understand what I was talking about or why this is such a big deal to me, so let me give a little background.
I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with politics. On one hand, I’m a huge believer in individual freedom. On the other hand, “politics” as we know it is largely an exercise in a small group of people screwing everybody else and trying to convince the people they’re screwing that it’s for their own good. So while there are definite political goals I’d like to see achieved, the actual political process is so far removed from those ideals that I periodically get so disgusted that I just give up entirely on trying to influence the process in any way.
The longest of these periods lasted from around 2005 to 2011, and was prompted by my disgust with the George W. Bush administration. Here’s an excerpt from a post I wrote in 2012 on this topic:
After eight years of Clinton, I was ready for a change. I had started to drift back toward a more pragmatic conservatism by this time, but I still leaned libertarian. I fooled myself into thinking that George W. Bush was the closest thing to a libertarian that we were likely to see in a presidential campaign, and I enthusiastically supported him. Of course, whatever libertarian streak W. might have had disappeared on 9/11, and frankly I wasn’t really disappointed. I was glad we had a Republican in office who would crush terrorists and anyone who supported them with the iron fist of the American military….
I was willing to overlook excesses of the Patriot Act, Abu Ghraib, and Guantanamo because I believed that there was a serious threat to American security and because I realized that the Bush administration was being forced to improvise. I cut them some slack because no one else seemed to have any better ideas about how to handle this new threat and because I assumed that these measure were temporary: the Patriot Act was set to expire automatically; eventually we’d figure out what to do with all these terrorism suspects; and we’d put stringent policies in place about torture and the treatment of prisoners.
But none of that ever happened, and meanwhile George W. Bush was spending like a drunken sailor on new federal programs (like the prescription drug benefit) that nobody had asked for and that seemed calculated solely to get Republicans reelected. And then the housing market crashed, taking the rest of the economy with it – and of course W. reacted with more big government solutions, like TARP, losing whatever credibility as an economic conservative he might still have had.
My disgust with the Republican Party probably peaked with the selection of Sarah Palin as John McCain’s vice presidential candidate. It was like the GOP leadership was daring Americans to vote for this simpering bimbo. Say what you want about George W. Bush’s intellect; he managed to hold his own in debates with Al Gore. I’m not convinced Sarah Palin has ever uttered a properly constructed sentence.
Anyway, I abstained from voting in 2008 partly out of disgust and partly because I thought I deserved to go stand in the corner for a while after voting for Bush twice. I had also become convinced that Republican militarism and law enforcement excesses were as big a danger to freedom as taxes and regulation. Maybe it was time for a Democrat to come in and balance things out.
I started blogging in 2006. My only goal was to entertain myself and maybe a few other people. I did my best not to think about politics, and on the rare occasions I wrote something political, I generally did it in such a roundabout, facetious way that nobody could tell what my actual positions were. My blog, MattressPolice.com, grew in popularity until I had a small but dedicated fan base of a few hundred readers. I began to think that maybe I could write a novel. I finished that novel, Mercury Falls, in 2009 and self-published it.
I’m proud of Mercury Falls, but I will fully admit that as a satire, it’s aimed at some pretty easy targets: in particular, end times fanatics and Christian fundamentalists. I don’t know how much of a conscious decision this was, but on some level I was aware that if my first novel ridiculed, say, the gun control movement or liberal hypocrisy in the publishing industry, I would be limiting my future options as a writer. My plan (to the extent I had one) was to establish myself as a fiction writer first and then tackle more controversial topics. (By the way, if you’re wondering how many Christians have contacted me to complain about my blatantly offensive portrayal of religion, the answer is: exactly one, and I don’t talk to her much since her daughter and I got divorced. Stereotypes to the contrary, conservatives and Christians can take a joke. Well not my ex-mother-in-law. But other Christians.)
In 2010, Mercury Falls was picked up by Amazon’s fledgling publishing endeavor, AmazonEncore. The next couple of years were literally life-changing: Mercury Falls went on to sell around 50,000 copies, and AmazonEncore published three more books I wrote: two sequels to Mercury Falls and a tongue-in-cheek fantasy, Disenchanted. Amazon flew me to New York twice to hobnob with Amazon publishing folks and other authors. I met a whole bunch of interesting people and had a wonderful time.
I think almost every novelist suffers from impostor syndrome to some extent, the idea that I’m not a real writer and eventually these people are going to find me out. But in my case, this feeling was compounded by a couple of factors: first, there was my conservative Christian background and conservative/libertarian politics; second, there was the fact that Mercury Falls was never meant to be a serious novel in any sense of the term. It was just a bunch of funny (to me) scenes strung together with a rather weak excuse for a plot. On top of these considerations, there was the fact that because Mercury Falls was a satire of religion, people tended to assume that I was a liberal atheist. This led to some awkward conversations in which I explained to stony-faced listeners at cocktail parties that the idea for the character of the rebellious angel Mercury came to me while I was at a deacons’ meeting at my (extremely conservative) church.
For the most part, though, I enjoyed hanging out with these people, both at writing conferences and conventions and online, mostly on Facebook. I still felt like something of an impostor, but this was hardly a new feeling for me; I’ve felt like an alien on this planet since I was about five years old.
In 2012, though, I could no longer keep my mouth shut about politics in this country. To quote from my post again:
I became fascinated by the fact that while candidate Obama had urged closing Guantanamo, withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, scrapping the Patriot Act, and ending officially sanctioned torture, President Obama didn’t seem to have any interest in any of that stuff. Even more amazing was that nobody on the Left seemed to notice. Their rhetoric about peace, civil rights and due process simply evaporated, replaced with criticisms of Republican “obstructionism.” Just as Republicans managed to somehow overlook Bush’s rampant deficit spending, Democrats were now oblivious to the very abused they had been railing against just a few months earlier.
In my naivete, I thought to myself, “Sure, my new friends are almost all liberals, but they’re good people. They really care about issues of justice, fairness, and the rule of law. Surely we can find some common ground on these issues.” So I started occasionally posting political articles about how the Obama administration had let down liberal causes, often directly contradicting things Obama himself had said as a candidate. I deliberately avoided posting about economic issues like the minimum wage or Obamacare, because I knew my liberal friends and I disagreed on fundamental premises underlying those issues. I stuck to what I considered liberal causes: things like spying on journalists, imprisoning people without trial; droning civilians; etc.
To my surprise, my liberal friends either ignored these posts entirely (while continuing to share pro-Obama propaganda, naturally) or reacted with hostility. The most common reaction from liberals was the classic “Oh yeah, well Bush was worse” defense. I don’t know how many times I explained that I wasn’t a Bush fan, and that this was an irrelevant point in any case. It didn’t make any difference. No one cared.
I’ve never been a tribalistic thinker. I literally can’t make sense of the notion of rooting for one sports team over another, and blind loyalty to a political party makes even less sense to me. For me, it’s about facts. If a candidate promises one thing and then does another when elected, that’s, like, not cool. So I find myself in this weird situation where I have to try to predict the irrational tribalistic reactions to things that to me seem to be undeniable facts. It’s like walking into a room and saying, “The sun rises in the east,” only to have a bunch of people scream at you “OMG YOU CAN’T TALK THAT WAY ABOUT THE SUN THAT’S SO INSENSITIVE AND ANYWAY BUSH WAS WORSE GO WATCH FAUX NEWS YOU LOSER1!!1!”
This may surprise you, but I’m no good at this game. It’s exhausting to me to try to anticipate the irrational biases of other people. This is why I’m a novelist and not, say, a car salesman or palm reader. No matter how hard I try to be completely civil, logical and even-handed, somebody finds a way to get offended. I come from a background of computer programming and philosophy, two fields that don’t give a shit about your feelings. There’s a saying in computer programming, “Garbage in, garbage out,” meaning that if your inputs are bad, your outputs are going to be bad. The solution to garbage coming out is not to get offended by the garbage, but rather to stop putting garbage in. If you start yelling at me about how hurtful the garbage is or how my recognizing garbage as such is due to my white male privilege, to me it just seems like you’re in denial about the problem.
At some point I had to decide that people being offended was their problem, not mine. If I’m telling the truth, then you have no right to be offended. And if I’m lying, then you should be able to tell me where I’m wrong. If you can’t do that, then your “being offended” means jack shit to me. I don’t have the time, energy, or aptitude to look after your mental health in addition to my own. If what I say makes you sad, talk to your priest or your therapist. I’m not your guy.
Still, my commentary was generally limited to occasional posting snarky remarks on Twitter or sharing articles on Facebook. I rarely took the time to write in-depth commentary about politics or culture. What finally made me get off the fence, though, was the whole Sad Puppies/Hugo Awards controversy. That’s what made me realize that playing nice and staying neutral about politics were no longer valid options. I had tried to keep my politics separate from my fiction writing career, but these social justice warrior douchebags were invading my field, making a mockery of the Hugo Awards and libeling good people that I knew. I’m sure there are some good liberals out there in sci-fi land somewhere, but they’re keeping awfully quiet while folks like Irene Gallo, Brianna Wu and Arthur Chu hurl vile, vicious and baseless slander at decent people like Brad Torgerson, Larry Correia and Sarah Hoyt. It was time for me to say something, and I did.
That was over six months ago, and my Sad Puppies post remains my most popular post since the Mattress Police days. I haven’t written much substantive on this issue or anything else political since then, mostly because I simply haven’t had the time. I’ve had to hold a lot in since then, but I’m not going to be quiet anymore. The launch of BadNovelist.com is my official notice to you that the gloves have come off.
Does this mean I’m going to bitch and moan all the time about politics? No. It just means I’m going to talk about whatever I feel like talking about. That’s what that tagline “I can write whatever I want” at the top of the page means. Sometimes that’s going to be politics on a national scale, sometimes it’s going to be calling out the cultural Marxist horseshit that’s permeated the field of speculative fiction.
Since coming out as a libertarian and Sad Puppies supporter, I’ve had people threaten to boycott (or pirate) my books; I’ve had a gay podcaster tell me I’m no longer welcome on his show; I’ve had a representative from a book review website renege on an offer to review my book; I’ve been called a racist, homophobe, a rape apologist, and all kinds of other things; I’ve been blocked on Twitter by Robert Sawyer, Chuck Wendig, and many others. But you know what? Fuck those people. I write damned good books, and one of the reasons they’re good is that I say what I want to say, not what I think people want to hear. I’m not going to go out of my way to piss people off, but I’m not going to let fear determine what I say. So get ready, because this is going to be a lot of fun. :)
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