I’m only bleeding, man

Today was rough. I have tendinitis in both my wrists, the product of working eight hours a day at a computer with no other duties but to edit the copy. Spent a year with doctors and physcial therapy before they decided, meh, you just have to live with it.

And today my wrists hurt. BAD. And this is before I’ve even left for work, and eight hours of wrist torture.

Days like this, when I am in pain and angry and frustrated and just so fucking tired of it, that all I want to do at work is put on headphones and not interact with anyone, just do my job and go home.

But copy desks don’t work like that. It’s a big collaborative process. You need to be able to hear what is going on; people need to be able to get your attention. You can’t tune it out, because you can’t do your job.

And so days like this are the rare ones that I am glad I have a long drive to work in traffic, because I can listen to music, cranked all the way up, and sing at the top of my lungs and just vent. And 45 minutes later, I arrive at work, and I am calm. I am still aching and angry and frustrated but now it’s at a simmer, not a boil, and I can do my job.

Today I just put The Gaslight Anthem, my favorite band, on random. I know all the words. I know all the notes. I can rock out completely, which is what I need. And one song popped up, “We’re Getting a Divorce, You Keep the Diner.” One verse, an echo of the Dylan song “It’s All Right Ma, I’m Only Bleeding,” was perfect for how I was feeling, the perfect mantra for days like these:

It’s all right, man.
I’m only bleeding, man.
Stay hungry, stay free,
And do the best you can.

WE DID IT!!!!!!!! (Man do I love typing those words)

While I slept, the Kickstarter hit its goal to publish Issue Two of Fireside, my fiction and comics magazine! We now stand at $6,037 with 250 backers. Thank you so much to each of you who pledged and helped spread the word. We had an amazing amount of boosting going on on Twitter yesterday, and we raised $821 by the time I went to bed.

There are now about 13 hours left in the drive. Every dollar we raise now goes toward Issue Three, with stories by Daniel Abraham, Elizabeth Bear, and Mary Robinette Kowal, and a comic by @racheldeering. It will also be our first issue open to short story submissions, and we’ll have one story from those submissions.


A secret in the night

Newspaper copy editors — and other people who leave work after midnight — get to see a world most people sleep through. The streets are different deep in the night. Quiet and empty, many nights it’s like you are almost alone in the world. It’s especially apparent in a big city like Boston, where the daytime traffic is usually wall to wall, every car occupied by an angry person doing their best to get past the guy in front of them or smash trying.

It’s nice, at night, when there is more than enough room for the few cars on the road, to just sail home on the asphalt current. Your mind can wander, just a little, as your muscle memory carries you from the office to your front door.

You see things that most people don’t. The crews doing maintenance on the roads we all rely on. The teenagers out walking, breaking curfew alone or clutching hands with a boyfriend or girlfriend  or traveling in clusters, heads huddled close together as they puzzle out the world. The homeless guy wobbling along in an ancient wheelchair at 1 a.m. A coyote slipping into a marsh.

The very best secret night thing I saw happened only once, when I was living in Louisville. There was a terrible wind storm one September, and it knocked out power to half the city — half the state, too. And the first night, when the power company was reeling and no one had gone out to buy generators, there was no artificial light on my drive home. But there was an almost full moon. I drove home on streets and past houses bathed in this pale ghostly light. And I thought,  this is what it was like, every night, for millions of years. It was beautiful. And it’s something I will probably never see in a city again.

There’s magic in the night. You should see it. Stay up late. Past midnight, at least. Get the keys. Drive. And if you see a beat-up blue Chevy pass by, flash you high beams for me.

Words of Others | The ABCs of Alien

One of my more recent follows on twitter is author Damien Walters Grintalis. I enjoy her tweets, but she outdid herself on Friday, with the Alien ABCs (from the movie Alien):

Used under CC license from teachernz's Flickr photostream.

A is for Alien, who lives out in space,
B is for Burke, who is a disgrace.

C is for Crew, they get all eaten up,
D is for Drake, whose guns aren’t enough.

E is for Ellen, Ripley’s first name,
F is for Facehugger, not easily slain.

You gotta read the whole thing on her blog.

The violence of hate

I read an article in Rolling Stone, One Town’s War on Gay Teens, during my downtime at work last night, and I was truly ready to vomit on my desk by the time I was halfway through it.

The heart of it is that a Minnesota school district had a policy that led to teachers being so afraid of talking about homosexuality that they didn’t talk about it at all, even to do anything about homophobic bullying. The result? A staggering rash of suicides.

Sam’s death lit the fuse of a suicide epidemic that would take the lives of nine local students in under two years, a rate so high that child psychologist Dan Reidenberg, executive director of the Minnesota-based Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, declared the Anoka-Hennepin school district the site of a “suicide cluster,” adding that the crisis might hold an element of contagion; suicidal thoughts had become catchy, like a lethal virus. “Here you had a large number of suicides that are really closely connected, all within one school district, in a small amount of time,” explains Reidenberg. “Kids started to feel that the normal response to stress was to take your life.”

There was another common thread: Four of the nine dead were either gay or perceived as such by other kids, and were reportedly bullied. The tragedies come at a national moment when bullying is on everyone’s lips, and a devastating number of gay teens across the country are in the news for killing themselves. Suicide rates among gay and lesbian kids are frighteningly high, with attempt rates four times that of their straight counterparts; studies show that one-third of all gay youth have attempted suicide at some point (versus 13 percent of hetero kids), and that internalized homophobia contributes to suicide risk.

The article is full of really wrenching details about the horrible shit the kids in this district go through, all because there is a powerful bloc of people who hate anyone who doesn’t fit their idea of moral sexuality. These people, who hate so much in the name of Christ, whose message was almost entirely about compassion, are perpetuating evil.

They create a climate in which it is OK to belittle and assault people because of who they love, and they prevented the teachers from even being able to say, “Stop.”  That is evil.

They teach a hate that leads to violence against LGBT kids. That is evil.

They say that the gay kids didn’t kill themselves because of the bullying, they killed themselves because they were sinful gays, or that if they had never come out of the closet, they never would have been bullied, and then they wouldn’t have killed themselves. That is both evil AND insane.

Hate is evil. Period. It doesn’t matter who you hate, be it gays or Muslims or intolerant fundamentalists who teach hate. The world is too dark and painful to carry on this way. To borrow a line from Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Legacy series, “Love as thou wilt.”

Practice love. Pursue happiness. Don’t hurt other people. That’s it. Those are the only commandments you need.

A wild ride through Pennsyltucky

Growing up in Philadelphia, it was always out there, lurking at the edge of geographic awareness, an unknown, scary and mysterious.

Pennsyltucky. Also known as Penslybama. The rural stretch of the state between Philly and Pittsburgh that has more in common with Kentucky (and Alabama) than it does with the cities that bookend it.

(Of course, let’s face it, Pittsburgh isn’t too great either. ‘They could really just call it East Cleveland. *ducks*)

But back to Pennsyltucky. My best friend and I would venture out into it in high school. It is a good place to buy knives and gunpowder. Not that we did. Nope. Just … looking. It really was a whole different world from grimy, liberal, crowded Philadelphia. Old barns, meth labs, gun shops, and old men hanging out outside the gas stations who looked like they’d been drying out for at least a generation. Driving through Pennsyltucky at night, it could be downright creepy. Long stretches with no lights at all. For someone who lived with a streetlight outside his bedroom window his whole pre-adult life, this is a little disconcerting.

It is in this place, which after spending five years living in Kentucky I can say really does share a lot of things with the Bluegrass State, that Chuck Wendig has set his crime novella, Shotgun Gravy. It’s a world of mobile-home drug dealers, neo-Nazi gun clubs, and casual racism.

It’s into this world that Chuck dumps Atlanta Burns, a high school student with a scary reputation for violence and a soft spot for people in trouble. She helps them even though she knows it’d go easier on her if she just walked away. Even if Chuck hadn’t mentioned it in the note at the end of the book, I couldn’t help being reminded of Burn Notice, but with a messed up teen heroine in backwoods Pennsylvania instead of a cool ex-spy in eye-candy Miami.

I love Burn Notice, and I loved Shotgun Gravy. I mean, the title alone is enough reason to pick up this book. As in his other books and stories, Chuck writes with a bag and a half of attitude and never lets up off the gas, and your brain is just chained to the bumper for the ride. I started reading it the other night, intending to get to bed early, but instead I found myself blinking at 2 a.m., book finished, wondering where the last couple hours went.

There’s a reason I wanted Chuck to write for the first issue of my magazine.

Shotgun Gravy is dark, but it needs to be dark to tell its story. And it’s dark with a hint, a smidge, of hope shining around the edges. Atlanta Burns has a lot of problems, but she is trying, and she is helping people who can’t stand up for themselves, and maybe helping them grow a little spine while they are at it. Bad people get what’s coming to them, but like in real life, putting people in their place, pissing them off, has blowback.

I’m not much for spoilers, so I’ll leave it at that. I’m excited for the next Atlanta Burns story.

You can buy the Shotgun Gravy ebook from Amazon here.