Monday, March 7, 2016

2015 Accomplishments, 2016 Goals

It's a little late for the traditional writer's New Year post, listing my prior accomplishments and this year's goals, but I figure this way I'm at an advantage. Because I've already accomplished some things this year!

In truth, these posts are more for my own sake than yours. They help me look back and see that I'm actually getting things done, even when in the moment I feel like a miserable failure.

What did I do in 2015? I survived. And for me, for this year, that is quite an accomplishment. 2015 goes on record as being one of the worst years of my life. I left my two life-partners under extremely painful conditions, put myself in the hospital to prevent my suicide, lost my means of support, moved twice in two months, considered my limited career options, and began my recovery from the brand new case of Complex-PTSD that I developed over 7 years in a trauma-inducing environment.

This has left me with an unimaginable level of anxiety, depression, and cognitive impairments which make work extra difficult and discouraging. But I'm recovering, even if slower than I'd like.

So I survived. A great big check off the list!

That said, I didn’t let myself off the hook too much. Even though I didn't accomplish as much as I wanted to (see last year's post), in some ways I accomplished more. And I crossed some significant goals off my list.
  • Sold one short story, Theogenesis Gimmick, which just came out in the Truth Beyond Paradox anthology, which you can purchase at the link.
  • Another of my previously published stories (Meltdown in Freezer Three) became SFWA qualifying (one more till Active Member!)
  • Wrote two posts that were published on the SFWA blog.
  • Had fun speaking on Radcon 6C panels.
  • I was a Norwescon panelist for the first time! Huge bucket list accomplishment.
  • Presented at Sunstone Symposium for the first time. An amazing experience that I would like to repeat.
  • Presented at an International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA) conference on Helping Former Members and Their Families in Santa Fe.
  • My talk was selected to present at the big ICSA conference in Dallas next summer.
  • Created a number of video podcasts analyzing LDS Conference talks, with Jonathan Streeter.
  • In spite of the financial challenges getting there, I helped launch the first year of the DEFCON Biohacking Village, and committed to running their CFP Review in 2016.
  • Attended Rainforest Writer's Retreat.
  • Wrote a large number of Recovering Agency blog posts, including in-depth conference talk analyses
  • Participated heavily in the outrage against the LDS LGBT Exclusion Policy, and helped comfort (and allowed myself to be comforted) those who were impacted by this decision.
  • Moved to a wonderful new house.
  • Learned an unbelievable amount about life and grew in ways that's really difficult to quantify.
  • Had a number of significant spiritual experiences which are difficult to quantify or even explain.
In short, I have no idea how I did all of that, given where I've been. Even though I'm an atheist and a skeptic, I did feel my feet being guided often this year, like I was being placed in the right spaces at the right times, and carried through rough patches that I wasn't sure I could navigate. For this, I am grateful to The Universe for the wonders I've been shown.

Now to 2016!

The future is so uncertain. And because of that uncertainty, these goals are more squishy (less specific) than I prefer. But it's important to write these things down. It helps make them true.

  • Keep surviving (because some days it’s still hard!)
  • Continue trauma recovery and be happy with where I'm at.
  • Release the Recovering Agency audiobook.
  • Submit more stories, publish more fiction.
  • Write more fiction.
  • Make more income.
  • Successfully run the CFP for the DEFCON Biohacking Village.
  • Speak at Sunstone Symposium on multiple topics.
  • Speak at ICSA Dallas (already accepted!)
  • Panels at NWC and Radcon (already did Radcon!)
  • More blog posts and mind control analysis of LDS Conference Talks.
  • More writing for the SFWA blog.
  • Complete my first paid speaking gig (already accepted!)
  • Publish a few more short ebooks using material I've already written.
  • More guest posts. Stretch goal: maybe even a big one on a well-known and possibly paying blog, like HuffPo, MarySue, Jezebel. Bonus points if it pays!
  • Stretch goal: Write and/or publish a new book, either fiction or nonfiction.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Radcon 7 and Norwescon 39 Panel Schedule

It's con season again! I'm so excited to announce my panel schedule for Radcon 7 (Pasco, WA) and Norwescon 39 (Sea-Tac, WA March 24-27). These are some really awesome topics at two of my most favorite cons. I hope to see you there!

Radcon Feb 12-14, 2016

The Science of Believing
Lots of people believe in things that are, or aren't, real. Not everyone can be right, but everyone thinks they are. As humans, we cling to our convictions as if they were life preservers. Why do we believe things, even when those things are strange or unpopular? And why is it so hard to face being wrong? Science has studied these questions and come up with interesting answers. Come learn about cognitive dissonance theory, cognitive biases, the levers of influence, and mental shortcuts that leave all of us ready to defend our beliefs, sometimes even to the death.
Fri 1:45-2:45p – Rm 2205 
With: Peter Jones, Rory Miller

Empaths, Synesthetes, & Other Super Powers
What does science tell us about empathic abilities, synesthesia, and other multi-sensory ways of perceiving - and interacting with - the world? Explore the benefits and challenges experienced by people with these "super powers". Be ready to share. Excellent opportunity for writers crafting a character with one or more of these traits.
Fri 5:30-6:30p – Rm 2201
With: Alma Alexander, John Alexander, Joyce Reynolds-Ward, Tamra Excell

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

DEFCON 23: Putting the Confidence in "Con"

I left DEFCON last year wondering how I could give back. This year, I realized that I've always been giving back.

I almost skipped DEFCON 23. I lost my means of support in May and my savings is running out. The wise thing would have been to stay home. But I justified how I should throw caution to the wind and find the means to go, and I'm so glad I did. DEFCON never disappoints.

Highlights of my DC23 experience: 
  • Brought my own phonograph so I could listen to the badge
  • Helped run the first-year Biohacking Village
  • Socialized and made new friends and contacts
  • Networked and pursued job opportunities (this is how I justified the expense)
  • Enjoyed Queercon 12 events and Queercon's sweet badge
  • Attended the Telephreak party

But the real highlight wasn't any single event; it was something I carried within me through the series of mind-blowing events that made up DEFCON. It really is all about "what you bring to the party." This is such a huge ridiculous lifecoachy cliché… but you don't really grok these tidbits of wisdom until you've experienced certain angles of life and succeeded at taking the right kinds of risks.

For the last few years, I've been developing social confidence. These are skills I've been trying to learn my whole life, but confidence cannot be taught. It can only be learned. There is no secret recipe, and describing my path to this point would fill it's own blog post. But I can distill the core of what I've learned into simple phrase:

You have something to give.

Once you grok this concept, not just on the surface, but on a deep level, it becomes easily to have faith in your strengths and talents. Then the social confidence just follows. 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Norwescon 38 Schedule

I'm so excited to be on panels at Norwescon for the first time this year. This is something I've dreamed of since attending Norwescon in the 90s – being an author and sitting on panels talking about smart things. And what a great year to start, with George R.R. Martin as the guest of honor!

Here's my schedule of the smart things I'm going to talk about, along with my reading.

If you're at the con Thursday night, there's actually not much going on, so please come see me read! I need two people in the audience, and one of those people could be you! I will most likely read Touch of Tides, hard science fiction about a woman who uses her synesthesia to make an exciting discovery about life under the ice on Europa. This story is particularly themed towards many of the panels I'll be speaking on. It's a good example of alien communication, women in SF, expanding the sciences in SF, writing about lifeforms outside of our experience, and even, yes, even invisible disabilities to some extent.

Official schedule, April 2-5, 2015:

Writing the Other
Getting into the heart and head of someone or something you’re not, and how to do so with authority.
Thu 4:00pm-5:00pm - Cascade 10

Reading: Luna Lindsey
Probably: Touch of Tides
Thu 9:30pm-10:00pm - Cascade 1

Invisible Disabilities
Not every disability is apparent at a glance, nor is anyone’s personal health anyone else’s business. From mental illness to chronic disease to a variety of syndromes and impairments too lengthy to list, we’ll discuss the difficulties of living with chronic health conditions, the stigmas associated, what progress has (or hasn’t) been made in reforming public perception, and strategies on getting other people to mind their own blasted business.
Fri 11:00am-12:00pm - Cascade 10

Giving Good Alien
It’s pretty darn hard to write about a life form completely outside of our experience. No matter how good an SF story is, if you come across an alien that’s either “just a guy in a suit” or too far from out current understanding of physics, it can throw you out of the story. So what does it take to create a believable alien?
Fri 1:00pm-2:00pm - Evergreen 1&2

Diversity in Spec Fic Publishing
Whitewashed covers, hyper-sexualized female characters, and the all-straight-cis-white-able-bodied cast… how can we make our genre genuinely inclusive, both as members of “otherized†groups or as allies?
Fri 2:00pm-3:00pm - Cascade 3&4

Women In Science Fiction
It’s 2015 and most films (and many books) still fail the Bechdel test. Are there any good female role models in science fiction? Or are they still relegated to being damsels in distress? A discussion of both weak and strong female science fiction characters in modern SF and how authors can (and do) give them life and agency of their own.
Fri 7:00pm-8:00pm - Cascade 7&8

Level Up Your Indie Skillset
How can you tell if your cover design’s a winner? What’s your pricing strategy? Do you format, or pay a service? Self-publishing requires that you pick up secondary skills beyond writing books and Tweeting — we’ll tell you how.
Sat 6:00pm-7:00pm - Cascade 9

Expanding the Sciences in Hard SF
What scientific fields deserve more attention in fiction besides quantum mechanics, biology, genetic engineering? Kim Stanley Robinson has done a wonderful job using geology and climatology, for example. We’ll discuss the best exceptions to the rule, and talk about cutting edge science that has yet to be explored in fiction.
Sat 7:00pm-8:00pm - Cascade 5

Geek Policing: Don't Do It
Geek Policing happens when someone evinces interest in something of the nerdy persuasion, and someone else starts quizzing them on it like nerddom is the Ivy League. It’s not okay. And we, all of us, nerds of all genders, need to stop it. Period.
Sun 12:00pm-1:00pm - Cascade 6

Alien Communication
Humans cannot engage in meaningful conversation with other Earth life, despite centuries of trying. What makes us think that communicating with aliens will be so easy?
Sun 3:00pm-4:00pm - Cascade 3&4

The full Norwescon schedule can be found here:

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Benny, Joon, & Me: An Autism Movie Takes On Ableism & Soundly Defeats It

In 1993, my 19 year old brain latched on to a movie character and wouldn't let go. Now in 2015, I rewatched to find out why. 

In 1993 autism was considered a rare condition that was little understood. Few English-speaking mental health professionals had even heard of its higher-functioning form, Asperger Syndrome, because it wouldn't be in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistics Manual) for another year.

Nevertheless, writers and actors excel at capturing the human spirit. That year, a movie came out that accurately depicted high-functioning autism and directly combated ableism (harmful beliefs about disabled people) in unambiguous terms.

Benny & Joon is unique. How often are two disabled people allowed to fall in love with each other on the big screen? This may be the only autistic romance movie in existence.

If you are autistic, Benny & Joon offers validation, empowerment, and positive self-image. If you know an autistic adult or child, this movie should add depth to your understanding of them. And if you never expect to meet an autist, well, statistics are against you, but at least watch it to have your heart warmed and your awareness expanded.

It saddens me, however, that certain critics somehow found Benny & Joon problematic. Throughout this post, I will directly answer the points made by one of these reviews. 
Spoiler warning: This review reveals plot points and thematic arcs, but don't worry. The formulaic storyline is already somewhat predictable; the joy is in seeing it played out on screen by interesting characters. You might even enjoy it more by having this autistic lens to view it through.

Why My Brain Latched On and Wouldn't Let Go

When I first saw this movie, I didn't know that 18 years later I would be diagnosed with Aspergers. But my subconscious knew that Joon was like me. I loved Joon. I admired her. I related to her. 

I identified with her odd little mannerisms, and knew that, deep down, I wanted to hold the same flat affect on my face and make those jerky, birdlike motions. Her descriptions of the world mirrored my own strange ways of thinking. Her outbursts and unusual speech patterns reflected an inner persona I was holding at bay, like I had this little bit of crazy locked up inside that escaped sometimes when no one was looking. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Meaning of Dreams

Stories are metaphors. From the moment they arise from the author's deepest dreams, to the second they enter the reader's mind, a story is a form of telepathic communication that conveys images, ideas, and philosophy in a way that no other medium can.

The message may become garbled. The reader may experience something other than what the author intended. And that's okay. Because the reader can only take in what she is ready to take. She can only comprehend what she is prepared for, and for what every unique moment in her individualized life experience has set her up for. She may feel completely different feelings than I've sent to her, but if she feels something that is personally meaningful to her, then the cycle of communication is complete.

Fantasy, science fiction, and horror, otherwise known as "speculative fiction", is the most ripe for conveying messages on this wavelength of metaphor. Because anything can happen, because fantastic worlds are built with rules that differ from our own, those rules can better represent the wispy, intangible form of language our subconscious minds speak: the language of symbols.

The Legends and Dreams story bundle contains eight such stories. What will pop into your subconscious when you experience a world in which entertainment conveys not only light and sound, but also touch and sensation, as it does in Tonya Macalina's Faces in the Water?

What speaks to you about a human boy capable of turning into an aquatic being of myth, like in Roslyn MacFarland's See No Sea?

What is most intriguing about a society of masked political maneuvering and courtly subterfuge as depicted in E.M. Prazeman's Masks?

Where will your mind take you when you read about a girl born with a spectral limb in Ripley Paton's Ghost Hand?

Or more down to earth, will you connect to Courtney Pierce's protagonist, who hunts for a killer and deals with her mother's death, in Stitches?

Perhaps a tale of traveling to magical realities will speak to your psyche, like Pamela Bainbridge-Cowan's The Butterfly.

If that doesn't call to your inner Jungian archetypes, there's another world you can travel to via the two characters in Crystal Doors: A steampunk world of science and magic by bestsellers Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta.

As the author of Emerald City Dreamer, also included in the bundle, I can speak to the metaphors I hoped to convey. But perhaps you will have a different take away. I wanted to show the struggle between reason and hope, between cold logic and creativity. It is dedicated to those of us who have worked corporate day jobs, but wanted more; those of us with dreams bouncing eagerly (or scratching menacingly) just beneath the surface, struggling against reality to finally escape.

So I wrote about faeries living in the modern world, and about the two women who desperately want to kill them.

Is this a sales pitch? Yes, it is. I want you to experience the Legends and Dreams bundle because I believe in the power of books and in the majesty of the dying art of reading. Catch a dream. Experience a legend. All eight books are available in one bundle, and you can simply name your price.

What's even better is that all but one of these authors are women. And all but one book has female protagonists. #WeNeedDiverseBooks? Yes.

Legends and Dreams story bundle at

Friday, February 6, 2015

Career Crossroads

Instead of working on Emerald City Iron like I was supposed to, I've spent the last month soul-searching. That's a rose-colored way to say "being existentially depressed wondering about the purpose of life and being totally unable to get any work done." I'm sure either sounds glamorous, but I assure you, it's pretty much not. Though now that I'm putting it this way, and looking back, it does seem a bit more dramatic and interesting than it really was. But maybe that's how lived stories are. They aren't really all that fun until you reach the end and know that everything is going to work out. 

For now anyway.

I suppose I imagined I'd coming out the other side all psyched up to finally finish Emerald City Iron a couple of months late. Instead, I've learned that perhaps I will never finish ECI.

TL;DR: I'm taking an extended hiatus from writing novels so I can focus on nonfiction books, short fiction, and nonfiction blog posts.

I'm going to steer my ship away from writing novels for awhile. And in writer-time, awhile means years. 

Instead, I'd like to write another nonfiction book, more nonfiction blog posts (particularly about autism and social justice), and continue to write and publish short stories.

There are lots of pros and cons to this choice. The most painful part has to do with all the novels I had planned. And worse, those poor novels I've already written that are impatiently waiting for edits. And worse, worse, worse, the five or six people who have let me know very plainly that they are sick and tired of waiting for the sequel to Emerald City Dreamer, and if I don't finish it, they're threatening to never read it. Which is fine, because I won't let them. Bwaha. Or something. At any rate, it ensaddens me to let down my loyal readers.

It's also sad that I've got these great moments in ECI and Emerald City Hunter that no one will get to see. (A cow-car chase... How fun is THAT??) This is a major drawback to the decision, but also one of the drawbacks to novelling overall – incredibly delayed gratification – that I'll get to more in a bit. 

Those are the cons. The pros far outweigh them. (Protip: That's how you know it's a good decision.)

Thursday, January 8, 2015

2014 Accomplishments – 2015 Goals

Wow, what a year.

I struggle to live in the moment, because in most moments, I fail to recognize what I'm accomplishing and what I have accomplished. My wishlist is always much longer than my completed list. So it's important to sit back and take stock, lest my self collapse under the weight of might-have-beens and ought-to-dos.

  • Of course my biggest accomplishment was publishing Recovering Agency: Lifting the Veil of Mormon Mind Control. This has been on my bucket list for nearly ten years, and "write a nonfiction book" has been on the bucket list forever. It was the culmination of 15 months of concentrated effort, in addition to the years of research I'd done prior. It's sold over 650 copies, and sales are still steady. Reviews have been overwhelmingly positive, with eighteen 5-star reviews on Amazon, and a glowing review by Richard Packham, who is a prominent voice in the exmormon community. It's helped hundreds of people. I've been personally told by dozens of people about how it's helped their struggle after leaving Mormonism.

    So for all my doubts about interrupting my fiction career to veer off in a completely different direction, this is one of those things that I was meant to do. And so I did it.
  • In the midst of promoting Recovering Agency, I had a few accomplishments that would be worthy of note all on their own:

2014 Awards Eligible Stories

This year, I have two stories eligible for the Campbell Award:

Meltdown in Freezer Three came out in the November issue of The Journal of Unlikely Entomology. It's about an autistic woman who runs an ice cream truck business, with the help of her beloved insect service animal, Macy.

This story is also eligible for the Hugo and Nebula awards.

Touch of Tides came out in Crossed Genres in the August 2013 issue. It's about a scientist studying life under the ice of Jupiter's moon, Europa, and using her inborn synesthesia to make a historic breakthrough discovery.

This is my last year of Campbell eligibility. So please read, and thank you for voting!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

What's at Stake: A Letter to My Family

Last night, I sent an email to my white, predominantly conservative family. My partner, Jocelyn, forwarded it to her white, predominantly conservative family. One of her family members was touched and asked me to post it publicly.

I realized that it was hypocritical to protest to strangers both online and on the streets of Seattle, while ignoring just a single appeal to my family. I can be just one more sign-holding body in a crowd, but I am more likely to influence those who know me. That thought stuck in my brain until I wrote and sent the email.

After I wrote this letter, I heard an additional, chilling statistic. Death by police is the second leading cause of homicide in the state of Utah, where I was born. In the state where Darrien Hunt was killed for wearing a samurai costume. More citizens are killed by police, than by gang members, drug dealers, and child abusers. What could scream police state more than that?

SUBJECT: What's at Stake...

I wouldn't normally send a political email to family. But this is personal. I don't need you to agree with me, I don't want you to argue with me. I don't need you to do anything except consider these deeply felt concerns from a member of your family. 

Sending this is is a little scary. I'm writing this with shaky hands. But I feel impelled, because this is perhaps the most important cause going on in my lifetime.

I was raised in a certain political environment, one in which I learned Martin Luther King, Jr. was a communist, an instigator, an anti-American. I was taught that the protests of the Civil Rights Movement were drummed up by communist thugs trying to overthrow our American way of life. I learned all the reasons why the marches and riots of the 60s were unneeded and unjustified.

But I also learned that I had the right to protect my life and property, with force, if needed. That if the state began to infringe on my rights, I should be willing to fight to the death to protect my liberty. I learned about the power of the Bill of Rights, especially the First and Second Amendments. 

At home, I learned that freedom wasn't free. That sometimes, it had to be fought for.

So on Monday, I protested the fact that Darren Wilson will not stand trial for killing a black teenager, Mike Brown, in Ferguson, Mo. I held up traffic. I stood before a line of impatient drivers, held up my hands, and chanted, "Hands up! Don't shoot!" 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A Moment of Silence

I was not planning to make a Thanksgiving gratitude post. My thoughts of thankfulness this year are summed up here. And I am thankful that my children are alive.

Now, a moment of silence.

Donate to the Ferguson Public Library.

Donate to the Ferguson Defense Fund.

Donate to Saint Stephen’s Food Bank.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Double-Standards: The Irony of Empathy and Autism

From I, Robopsychologist in Discover Magazine
I sat on the bed across from my partner, tears in my eyes as I prepared to share with him an insight I'd had at therapy that day. I felt incredibly vulnerable, ready to open up this secret part of me I'd kept defensively hidden, even from myself, for many years.

That afternoon, I had become aware that my aloof exterior obfuscated a deep well of emotion and caring. I had blocked myself off from what would otherwise consume me. I'd learned as a child that if I thought about anyone's pain, I'd fall into the vortex. I'd lose myself in a trippy, altered state of consciousness, and not in a good way. 

For example, I once accidentally saw a short video about the maltreatment of animals in the Chinese fur trade, and I couldn't get the horrible feeling or the images out of my head for months. The experience came unbidden, and I couldn't stop imagining what it was like to be those animals. When this inadvertent exposure happens, my only defense is to keep trying to forget, to try to switch off all feeling, to stop caring about anyone. Even as I write these words, I'm fighting off the flood. The result is a hardened exterior, an unfeeling facade, a sort of clinical detachment that I apply to any expression of pain. 

So when I had this insight, I was eager to share it with my partner, who always thought I'd been too distant, too cold. Who had encouraged me to try to open up more, to feel more empathy for others. 

I opened my mouth to speak…

Thursday, August 14, 2014

DEFCON 22: The Con That Keeps on Giving

Load up this soundtrack while reading this blog post: I'll wait.

Alice in Hackerland by Tess Schrodiner
Winning artwork for DEFCON 22

Redefining The Experience

I began my seventh DEFCON looking for a way to give back.

There's only one other con I hold in as high esteem, and that's my hometown science fiction convention, RadCon (this year was my 18th RadCon). Over the years, I've been to dozens of other cons, some regularly (like PAX Prime and Norwescon), but if I miss them, no big deal. DEFCON is a pillar of my year, drilled 100ft into the earth and rising up to the clouds, and it would take one hell of a real-life tragedy to keep me from it.

And like RadCon, I can no longer just attend. I've been a panelist at RadCon for the last two years, and I'm driven to figure out how to participate in DEFCON. Not only because of how much I've gotten from it, and how much I continue to get from it, but for the selfish fact that there are diminishing returns in terms of what I can learn as a non-participant audience.

The few talks I attended were unremarkable. Since I no longer work in IT, I avoid highly technical talks, which are no longer useful to my career. I know enough security theory to write fiction; readers don't want to hear the tech details anyway. If a story is set in a far-future, 2014 tech won't matter, and if I need something current, like safe-cracking for Through a Shattered Tumbler, I can look it up online. 

As a curious person, I often enjoy hearing about new exploits, but even those have started to blend together. The message is always the same: All things are pwned or pwnable. This is a very worthy message, but for me, it's ancient news. It's not as likely to give me a dopamine "ah-ha!" or "holy shit!" feeling anymore. After "holy shit did you know you can stop someone's pacemaker?" and "holy shit all of Boston's transit is owned!" and "holy shit the Russian cybermob, the nets are all gonna DIE!" ... You can only get excited about the sky falling for so long before even that becomes normal. The sky is falling, and it's already fallen, and Situation Normal All Fucked Up (SNAFU).

This screenshot circulated on Twitter
of a hacking tool itself being the vector for mass pwnage.
Amusing, but totally unsurprising.
I don't mean to make DEFCON sound unexciting. I had an amazing time this year, as always. But as a neophile, I crave new experiences. Moreover, I'm writing for neophiles who also crave new experiences, and you don't want to read a recap that's a recap of last year's recap. So this isn't a regular post describing the talks or hallway shenanigans.

Mostly, this year was about seeking my place, teaching others, and enjoying the synthesis that comes from mingling knowledge. i.e. making friends and having conversations. This is the true value of any con, because we can learn the rest online. We can watch all the talks on YouTube. What we can't do is talk and wave our hands about and toast to a point that everyone agrees on.

This year, mingling came easy thanks to my autism diagnosis and anxiety medication. This was my second DEFCON since my DX. Last year, my SSRI prescription was brand new and I was still adjusting. I noticed the improvement then, and all the more this year. The power of technology has made social anxiety a distant memory, and I have better coping mechanisms and a higher sense self-acceptance since I know that there is a medical basis for my quirks.

However, the meds don't fix everything. The distracting and painful sensation of anxiety is quelled, but it doesn't fix my awkwardness, the times I'm not sure what to do or what is appropriate. I'm still combatting 38 years of overcompensating, learned behaviors I used to avoid anxiety. The extra serotonin doesn't cure my autism or sensory processing disorders. Sometimes the background noise is too loud and I can't tell what people are saying. Sometimes I'm not sure how to engage in conversation with people I want to talk to, or leave conversations with people I'm no longer interested in.

Sometimes I lock up and don't know what to say, so I stay silent when I should be talking. Or the opposite, a more recent coping mechanism where open my mouth anyway, and let words pour out without any filters. Which works until it doesn't, and I say the wrong thing.

The meds really help in all these cases, because when I do make mistakes or face uncertainty, I'm not assaulted with waves of anxiety that pull me under onto the hamster wheel of self-assault. I'm much more resilient and can keep rolling.

Why Spot the Fed
when you can bring the Feds to you?
This has all improved my experience at DEFCON a hundredfold. It's a much more social event than it has been in years past.

I'm-Poser Syndrome*

* - Attempted pun

When I arrived at the Rio on Wednesday, I felt pretty wobbly and low, and I wondered what right I had to be at DEFCON at all. I'd submitted a talk to CFP, which summarized my several years of research on unethical persuasion and group mind control (which all culminated in my book Recovering Agency: Lifting the Veil of Mormon Mind Control). The talk got rejected, partly because it was non-computery and partly because the religious criticism it contained was potentially too controversial. I would be attending as a non-participant once again. And in absence of a tech career, with less hands-on computing in my hobby life, with my interests shifting more to psychology, neuroscience, and writing, I really wondered why I belonged at DEFCON at all. Impostor Syndrome had set in pretty hard.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Reflected in Ice: An Aspergers Review of Frozen

The following movie review contains mild spoilers. I try to tread lightly, but can't avoid addressing a few in-movie moments or thematic elements.

There are two measures of good art.

The first is anything that can make me feel strongly. The other is that which holds up a mirror to the viewers, in which, each sees herself.

Frozen accomplished both of these goals with resounding success.

Secret Wish - Tami Vaughn
I had this printed on a mousepad I used for years.
Good mirrors are composed of metaphors and character traits and plot in the right combination of vague and specific to reflect a broad range of life situations and personalities. Many types of people see themselves in Frozen: girls who are raised to be perfect, sisters who struggle in their relationships, women who are deceived by those they trust, those who have secrets, neurodiverse people, anyone who is misunderstood, and anyone who is rejected for all the wrong reasons. And like the second trial in The NeverEnding Story, a mirror which reveals the viewers "true self", Frozen's mirror can reflect the ugly parts of some people, like the blogger, "Well-Behaved Mormon Woman", who calls Frozen part of the "gay agenda to normalize homosexuality" and who says it's terrible we're letting kids get the message that rebellion is better than obedience.

Can you hold it down, please?
I'm trying to make history over here.
Whatever, lady. I have an entirely different view when I look at myself in art.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

RadCon 6B Report

What an amazing RadCon was at its best this year. It's not just me saying that, but all the blog posts and Facebook reviews say the same. I was left yesterday being completely exhausted, that type of bone-weary you feel in every cell, like when you're sick, only without any symptoms. Today, after resting up, I'm bursting with post-con energy.

I was a panelist again this year, but this time it wasn't a last-minute thing, so I had participated in the programming process from the beginning. Liz was trying to keep everyone with a maximum of five panels to avoid wearing us out, but I'm greedy. I like sitting around a table talking about things I know and am passionate about. So I asked her for more. I ended up with eight, including my reading. On top of that, NIWA scheduled me for five hours running the table in the small press room. Even though this meant I had zero time to see the rest of the con, I don't regret it for a second.

Luna Lindsey reading Touch of Tides
from Crossed Genres magazine.
Photo by Andrew Williams
This is the first Radcon where I never stepped one foot inside the dealers room or the gaming room. There simply wasn't time.

Friday began at 2pm with a last-minute panel because someone else had canceled. It was Professionalism in Indie Publishing, in which I met or re-met some great fellow indie authors and publishers, Kaye Thornbrugh, Mike Chinakos (former president of NIWA), and David Boop. We talked about the importance of presenting a professionally written and formatted book, acting professionally, and the differences between individual self-publishing and independent publishers.

At 4:30, I moderated my first panel ever, Picture This! This is an unusual panel, and my second time doing it. It's a really fun exercise. Three authors (myself, Peter "Frog" Jones, and S. Evan Townsend), read some fiction, while pro authors and audience members (if they want), draw a sketch inspired by the reading. The Pro artists included Howard Tayler, Herb Leonhard, and John Gray. It's a really great way for artists and writers to mingle. Our two creative crafts can play off one another so well. I've been inspired by art, and as they proved in the panel, it works in the other direction.

I read a draft of my as-yet unpublished story, "Meltdown in Freezer Three", which included vivid images of ice cream trucks and praying mantises. Here are the three different interpretations of my story:

Howard Tayler - Meltdown in Freezer Three