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 WeBundle.it

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: http://somafm.com/defcon/ 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

Thursday, February 13, 2014

RadCon 6b Schedule

If you're in the Tri-Cities, WA (my hometown), come see me at RadCon this weekend! Their tagline is "The big con with the little con feel", and that's true.

I'm on many panels this weekend and am also manning the NIWA book-selling booth in the Small Press room.

Here is my schedule:

Friday: 

2pm – Indie Professionalism in Self-Publishing
2205
Do you have what it takes to be a successful indie? Selling your book to hundreds of readers requires more skill than selling it to a single editor (not less). Discussing professional behavior in networking, PR, and dealing with rejection.
With: Willich, Dameon      Thornbrugh, Kaye      Chinakos, Mike      Boop, David

4pm – Picture This!
Fan Suite
Everyone has a mental movie that plays as we read. Our writers bring bits of story to share for artists to sketch to.  Beginners and experts welcome!
With:  Jones, Peter     Sturgeon, Jeff     Townsend, S. Evan
          Tayler, Howard,    Gray III, John    Hall, Vandy      Leonhard, Herb

6:30pm – Reading "Touch of Tides" 2209

8pm – Polyamory Revival
2205
Polyamory is returning to mainstream consciousness with hit shows like “Polyamory: Married and Dating” on Showtime and feature stories in major news outlets. There are several misconceptions about polyamory, the first being that it is a “new” type of relationship model.  Learn how polyamory is from times of old, how agriculture and property ownership changed family dynamics, and how certain polyamory models are especially empowering for women. Enjoy the discussion, and walk away with suggested readings to further your knowledge on this fascinating subject.
With: Jones, Peter     Goldstein, Ari     Baldwin, Amanda  Thomas, Johnathan   Lindsey, Roland

9:15 – 50 Shades of Consent
2205
With the success of books like 50 Shades of Grey, more people than ever are reading about BDSM. But when writing about it, what are some misunderstandings or common errors to avoid? How can writers present it in ways that are safe, sane, and consensual?
With: Jones, Peter     Thomas, Johnathan     Baldwin, Amanda  Lindsey, Roland

Saturday:

11am-4pm – NIWA Booksales Booth - Small Press Room (2209?)
Emerald City Dreamer will be available for sale in print the whole weekend. Come during this time and get it signed!

8pm – Gender and Sexuality
Fan Suite
How do the gender roles society places on us affect our behavior and steer morality, self-esteem, even legal code? How about sexual preferences, gender identity and asexuality? Be prepared for a lively and open discussion!
With: Foster, Voss     Excell, Tamra     Lindsey, Roland   Louve, Rhiannon

Sunday:

11:15am – Getting into the mind of the Religious Fanatic
2203
Uber villain or bit player, what are they like? Are there any useful generalizations? Are they likely to be suicidal and does that depend on the religion or the person?
With:  Louve, Rhiannon     Guizzetti, Elizabeth  Letourneau, Guy

12:30pm – Writing Neurodiversity
2203
Creating neurodiverse characters with autism, Aspergers, ADHD, bipolar, OCD, and synesthesia, can give your writing new dimensions. Come learn the right way to represent these unique strengths and weaknesses.
With: Berry, DiAnne     Freeman-Daily, Janet     Townsend, S. Evan     Wacks, Peter

As you can see, it's a very busy con. Come see me!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Label Me, Illuminate Me

The label-debate rages on, and now that I know I have autism, I have firmly come down on one side: I am in favor of labels.

Labels can be used to dehumanize, to misconstrue, to overgeneralize, and to blind us to a person's humanity and individuality. As Wayne said, "If you label me, you negate me".

Preach it, Wayne.
Then party on.
Actually, it was the philosopher Søren Kierkegaard who originally said this. "Butterflygirl" on Yahoo Answers summarized Kierkegaard thusly:
Once you label someone you cancel out their own individuality and replace it within the boundaries of that label, so their individually has been restricted within that label and therefore, for all those who accept that label for that person they have no longer accepted that person for who they really are but understand them only to the limit of that label.
And I know all too well from my research into mind control that loaded language combined with us vs. them techniques can indeed leverage labels to negate an individual and render her selfless. It can be used to dismiss external points of view. Labels can make a group insider feel benevolent and normal while demonizing outsiders as inhuman and evil.

Many people fairly point out that labels, particularly psychological labels, can divide people. Labels can become truth. We are all individuals, but dumping thousands or millions of people into the same bucket removes some sense of self. Being labeled in school can make kids a target of bullying, not just from other kids but from teachers as well. It can impose expectations in education and in the workplace and among peers. Labeling can trigger tribalism and hostility. When people are unfairly labeled, they end up filling the role others expect of them.

I've met people in person and read blog posts from people who hate all labels. Here's a dude summing up this line of thought:


These are certainly valid drawbacks, but like The Spork of Truth, it has four tines. Hm, no I need something else... Like the Spoon of Truth, it has two edges. The same aspects that make labels problematic also give labels power. And when your label has power, you have power.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Persuade the Bystanders

This post has to do with social justice – you know, topics like privilege, racism, sexism, classism, ablism, and all the other ignorant and/or hatey "isms" worth railing against. I'll get to those in a second.

In the late 90s, while arguing politics on BBS message boards, I realized an important truth that I've carried with me always:

When people argue in public, they will almost never convince one another. But they do influence the lurkers. 

WWIV message boards
My view of the world when I
learned this important life lesson 
Sometimes the persuasion is instant. Now and then a lurker will timidly post and reveal that their minds have been changed. But most keep this fact to themselves. More often, the change is slow. These lurkers continue to follow similar arguments, until eventually, they are swayed by whichever side has collectively made the best case. I myself have drastically changed my mind on deeply held beliefs in this way, both by debating and merely watching debates. I've also seen it happen to other people. But it's rarely instant.

It's hard to know that these neutral and persuadable lurkers exist. They are, by their nature, quiet. Very often, though not always, the more vocal a person is, the less likely they are to be convinced. So we tend to think everyone who doesn't use a megaphone is just like everyone who does. This is not true.

I think about the topic of persuasion alot. I'm a writer. It's my job to persuade. I also love debate, a casual pastime since childhood. Roland makes a wonderful and challenging debate partner to help me better understand what works and what doesn't. On top of all that, I've studied mind control, otherwise known as "coercive persuasion" – the ability of manipulators to convince people against their will.

Monday, January 13, 2014

2013 Accomplishments - 2014 Goals

What a year. In reviewing my goals from last year, looks like I got way off track, but I'm very pleased with what I accomplished.

This year, I:
One reason I didn't accomplish all of my 2013 goals is because of that little sidetrack. It's a book I had thought about writing based on my mind control website in 2005, forgotten about, and then on a whim decided to crank it out "real quick". The effort took 7 months (with distractions in between). It is currently out to alpha readers.

Emerald City Iron made it through the writer's group, and is ready for the next round of edits, when I can get to it.

I have a bunch of stories to submit, and one in particular is totally publishable. It's been rejected twice, both with a personal note from the editor, so I know it will sell. I just have to get it, and the others, out there. I set the bar pretty high for myself. I currently only submit stories to pro-paying markets until those venues are exhausted, and then I might send it to semi-pro markets. My time and splines are fairly limited, so I'd rather spend time aiming at high targets, being a perfectionist, and working on totally unplanned projects. ;)

So my goals for this year:
  • Publish Recovering Agency in print and ebook.
  • Market Recovering Agency, including launching a new website and giving interviews.
  • Be a panelist at Radcon again.
  • Be invited as a visiting pro at another con for 2015. Norwescon would be nice.
  • Speak at Defcon.
  • Speak elsewhere, either a seminar, or Exmormon Foundation, or some convention related to cults or religion, on the topic of mind control.
  • Write a whole bunch of blog posts on autism and mind control.
  • Release Emerald City Iron.
  • Complete a major step in a novel: Either write the first draft of the next Dreams by Streetlight book or the second draft of The Sun Never Rises.
  • Sell two stories to pro-paying markets. I'd really love to sell to an anthology.
If that seems like alot, it's because it is. So we'll see. :) There's a significant chance I will be caught up in marketing Recovering Agency for many months. It's already generated plenty of interest. I need to be okay with dropping many of the above goals in trade for promoting a book that could really help people. And maybe pay some bills in the process.

So here's to 2014. May it be a very good year for all of us.