Down a Street That Wasn’t There . . .

cover art for DOWN A STREET THAT WASN'T THERE by Marie Brennan

Hard on the heels of announcing the (extremely belated) pre-order window, I now announce the publication of Down a Street That Wasn’t There! Another novella-sized collection of my short fiction (joining the ranks of Ars Historica, Maps to Nowhere, and The Nine Lands), this one collects my urban fantasy to date. You can buy it from Book View Cafe (the publisher), Barnes and Noble, Google Play, iTunes, Kobo, or Amazon US or UK.

But I want to reiterate what I said before: if you have not yet donated to some organization fighting for racial justice and an end to the rampant police brutality in the United States (or elsewhere), then please take the money you would have spent on this book — or more! — and do that first. I don’t want to think anybody bought my collection instead of doing that. Both is fine! Both is excellent! But if your finances are tight enough that it’s a choice between one or the other, pick that one. It matters far more.

#PublishingPaidMe

It’s always been weird to me that in the modern United States, we will readily tell our friends and even totals strangers about our medical problems and our sex lives . . . but talking about how much money we earn? How crass.

Well, there’s a hashtag trending on Twitter, #PublishingPaidMe, that’s aiming to examine whether there’s systemic bias in the industry against writers of color. You can certainly quibble with the methodology there — are you getting a representative sample? — but let’s face it, we know the answer is probably “yes,” because the alternative would require publishing to be some magical place that escapes the systemic bias permeating our society, and that seems unlikely at best. And since every past look at the stats of who gets published, and even what kind of characters the published ones are writing about, has revealed that bias is alive and all too well, I think it’s safe to assume the same is true here.

Having said that, transparency is good. My agent once went about seventeen rounds on my behalf with a publisher, fighting against a confidentiality clause that would have prohibited me from talking about the terms of my contract; in California (where I live) that kind of thing is illegal in employment contracts, and while a writer selling work to a publisher is not an employee, the underlying principle holds. Barring the people being paid from talking about how much they’re being paid — or any other terms of their contract — is a move that only benefits the company, never the individual. So it makes me sad to see how many writers posting to #PublishingPaidMe have at least one contract where they can’t disclose the advance; it means that poison is threaded through the industry much more deeply than I thought.

Anyway. I posted my numbers to Twitter, but if you missed that and/or want a less cryptically concise version of them, here’s what the life of this particular full-time writer looks like, with footnotes:

  • 1st contract (Warrior and Witch): $5000/$6000 [1]
  • 2nd contract (Midnight Never Come and In Ashes Lie): $6000/$6500 [2]
  • 3rd contract (A Star Shall Fall and With Fate Conspire): $25,000/$25,000 [3]
  • 4th contract (A Natural History of Dragons, The Tropic of Serpents, Voyage of the Basilisk): $12,500/$12,500/$12,500 [4]
  • 5th contract (In the Labyrinth of Drakes, Within the Sanctuary of Wings, Turning Darkness Into Light): $30,000/$30,000/$30,000 [5]

After that, as I noted on Twitter, things get squirrelly in a variety of ways. For Born to the Blade, for example, I was paid on a per-episode basis, and each episode is basically a novelette’s worth of words, plus there was payment for the weekend where we all got together to hash out the story and break it into those episodes for writing. Driftwood, being a fix-up of short stories with additional material and also coming out from a small press, had a lower advance ($5000), which is entirely to be expected. For The Night Parade of a Hundred Demons I’m pretty sure I would be in the clear to name the advance, but since that contract does have a confidentiality clause (not unexpected when you’re working with existing IP and proprietary information), I’ll play it safe and say that it’s on the lower end of my range, but not the bottom, because Aconyte is just getting into those particular waters and nobody’s quite sure how things will play out. The Rook and Rose trilogy is $30,000 apiece for three books, but that’s split between me and Alyc — they’re buying the book, not the authors, so they don’t pay extra because there’s two of us.

Footnotes:

[1] These earned out in no time flat, and in fact went on to be the Little Novels That Could; they stayed in print for nearly a decade and earned me roughly ten times their advances in the long run. In case you are wondering, this — not a huge advance — is often how you make a living as a writer.

[2] Although I put the book titles there for clarity, in fact this contract was signed for “two books TBD” on the basis of how well the Doppelganger series was shaping up to do. So it had no bearing on the nature of the books themselves, which wasn’t decided until much later. They also earned out quite rapidly.

[3] This was where I shifted from what had been Warner Books and was by then Orbit to Tor. To this day I’m astonished my agent managed to get that much of a hike in my advance when I was moving in the middle of a series.

[4] I could have had $15,000 apiece for two books, but I accepted a lower per-book advance in order to make it a three-book contract. My reasoning was that I really, really wanted to make sure I’d get to finish the series, and getting Tor to commit to three books gave me more time to build enough momentum to make that happen. (Which wound up being completely unnecessary, as I seem to recall they offered for the rest not long after the first one came out, but I don’t regret the decision.)

[5] Technically the third book in this contract wasn’t Turning Darkness Into Light. It was originally “book TBD,” but I wanted to make sure I had at least a tentative agreement with my editor as to what the third book would be; said tentative agreement wound up being written into the contract, which didn’t stop us from swapping it for something else when we agreed that what I originally had in mind wasn’t the best direction to go in next.

If you’re wondering how I feed myself on an income like this, the answer is threefold: first, the advances aren’t the whole story. Many (though not all) of these books have earned me royalties, and/or have had separate audio deals or translation deals that bring in additional money. Second, I do other things like my Patreon and short fiction and the stuff I publish through Book View Cafe, none of which is earning me money comparable to those advances, but it does add up. And third, I have a husband who works in tech. For the last several years I’ve been bringing in enough money that if I lived somewhere cheap and didn’t mind a bit of financial uncertainty in my life I could probably survive on my income alone — but I live in California. So yes, like most full-time writers, I pull it off in large part thanks to the cushion of a spouse with a stable and lucrative job.

I don’t know how the numbers crunch for marginalized writers, except to repeat that I wouldn’t be surprised at all to learn that they don’t do as well on average. We won’t get properly analytical results from a Twitter hashtag — but even so, I think transparency is good. So here’s my share of it.

Upgrade Pasta

I occasionally post here about my adventures in cooking — which are, on a 1-10 scale of impressiveness, probably aspiring to a 2, but hey, for me that’s an improvement. The most recent adventure involves what we have dubbed Upgrade Pasta.

Yesterday my sister and I were discussing possibilities for dinner, and she mentioned that in the days when she lived alone in a San Francisco apartment the size of half a shoebox, she would sometimes fry up some kielbasa and dump it over pasta with some spinach. And to my surprise, the thought “huh, that sounds fairly tasty” was followed immediately by “I wonder if I could upgrade it?”

The answer is that yes, I could. With some sauteed onions and some salt and some garlic and tossing the spinach in at the end to wilt it a bit. And what makes me proud enough to post about this is, I assembled the whole thing purely on the knowledge I’ve accumulated over the last few years about what order to do things in and for how long and at what heat. There’s nothing earth-shattering about the result . . . but having that knowledge and the confidence in it? That’s a landmark for me. I have other recipes that I’ve modified in various ways (and which have acquired interesting names along the way: our meal planning sometimes lists dishes like The Transitive Property of Marjoram or Forgotten Pasta or Lorem Ipsum Salad), but this is the first time there really hasn’t been a recipe, just an understanding of basic principles. And the result was not only edible, but moderately tasty.

So, go me?

Does it still count as “pre”-ordering?

I’ve set this up very much at the last minute — as in, it’s coming out Tuesday. But I’m putting out a new short story collection! Down a Street That Wasn’t There pulls together my urban fantasy to date — seven stories set in the real world or something very close to it.

Here’s the thing, though. I scheduled this before the most recent round of inexcusable police brutality took over the news (where it well deserves to be), and . . . I feel weird saying “hey, buy a thing from me!” when there are much more urgent needs out there. So let me say this: if you have already donated to a bail fund or Black Lives Matter or the ACLU or some other organization fighting for badly-needed justice, or if you’ve made purchases to support some local Black-owned businesses, and you want to pick up this collection, then thank you. But if you haven’t, I ask you to instead spend that money where it will do more good. I could say “all proceeds for now will go to X charity,” and there’s a sense in which that will be true, because my household’s been making a lot of donations lately and isn’t done yet. There are two reasons I’m not framing it in those terms, though. The first is that I don’t want to feel like I’m using a good cause to promote my book — it should be the other way around. And the second is that I think it’s more valuable to encourage lots of people to interface with these organizations, to take action directly rather than indirectly (i.e. through me).

So: please put the needs of the vulnerable ahead of this book. I’m still putting it out because I don’t want to leave Book View Cafe with a hole in its publishing schedule and because even when the world is on fire, we still need stories and diversions and entertainment; in some ways we need them even more badly in such times. But I really mean it. Donate if you can.

And if you’ve already done that, well, I have a new short story collection for you!

DOWN A STREET THAT WASN’T THERE

Step beyond the ordinary . . .

Beneath the surface of our reality lies a world of magic and danger — a world where buildings have guardian spirits, shapeshifting coyotes prey on the hopeful and the desperate, and ancient traditions prepare for an apocalyptic future. These seven urban fantasy tales from award-winning author Marie Brennan paint the everyday with a layer of wonder, inviting you to imagine what could lie just around the corner.

cover art for DOWN A STREET THAT WASN'T THERE by Marie Brennan

Rook and Rose Book 2, Chapter 11

. . . what was that about a chapter in two days?

Admittedly, and as I mentioned before, we already had one scene more or less pre-written. More than that, if I count the portion of a later scene that got lifted more or less wholesale from its original version, and the tiny (<200 words) coda that follows it. So we had a bit of a leg up on this one. But still! That makes this a two-chapter week, which is excellent momentum to have.

We’ll have to slow down before the next bit, though, because we haven’t fully planned it out. Chapter 12 is currently looking like a grab bag of “uhhh, we need some stuff that will do XYZ” without a lot of specifics or shape to it. Really, the underlying unity of that chapter will be that it puts some key pieces into place for what follows — but that won’t be super apparent while the reader is going through it. So we’ll see what we can do when we actually sit down and work out the specifics.

In the meanwhile, though, this is overall the sweetest chapter we’ve written in a long time. There are multiple fuzzy animals in it! And characters taking naps! . . . sure, there’s also that horrible moment where somebody gets told to do something abhorrent, but even that works out in the long run. We needed a quieter moment in here for some healing, before things accelerate again.

Word count: ~83,000
Authorial sadism: That order.
Authorial amusement: Basically everything to do with the fuzzy animals. And also our mutual love for the line about turfing somebody out of bed.
BLR quotient: This is definitely a love chapter. We go squish for unbreakable loyalty and unexpected acts of kindness.

Rook and Rose Book 2, Chapter 10

You know what’s a good sign? Writing a chapter in two days. (That’s apparently what happens when it’s literally caper from one end to the other.)

With this, we’ve finished Part 2. In fact, we’ve even technically started Part 3 . . . or rather, we started it back in July of 2017. As some of you know, this book grew out of scenes Alyc and I wrote as side stories for the game they’re running. While the bulk of those are not actually going into the novels as anything more than loose concepts (if that), there’s one we’ve been able to port in with only minor revisions.

The same cannot be said of this chapter. It does have its roots in a game scene — but that was 3500 words of us nodding vaguely in the direction of “I suppose prisons ought to have some kind of security” while mostly concerning ourselves with banter. For a novel, we feel obliged to provide more than token amounts of difficulty for our protagonists to overcome. And also to make this caper do something more load-bearing for the plot, in ways that involve other significant characters. So now it’s a 3-4 person caper with about two dozen supplementary minions and an assist from someone who would be in SUCH deep shit if anybody ever realized he had something to do with this. But he’s not telling, and neither is anybody else.

The characters will get a bit of a breather for the next two chapters. (By the standards of our plotting, anyway.) They’d better enjoy it while they can, because after that comes a three-chapter rollercoaster that is going to be everything we love about this series.

Word count: ~75,000
Authorial sadism: Figuring out the most awkward possible arrangement of the sardines*.
Authorial amusement: “I need nothing more to blow the shit out of the cosmos.”
BLR quotient: I’m honestly not quite sure where this kind of caper should go! Combo blood + love? It’s got several Unlikely Team-ups piled atop each other, which is one of my favorite tropes, but it’s all in the service of preventing something horrible.

*That . . . sounds so much more suggestive than I meant it to. But such is life when you’re trying to avoid giving spoilers.

Books read lately

I didn’t have a lot of time for reading during March and April because I was so busy finishing the draft of Night Parade. But my household placed several large orders with various bookstores, and since May began, I’ve been plowing through things at a good clip. So here’s a big catch-up post.

Beauty Like the Night, Joanna Bourne. I was delighted to see a new book in this series (the one romance series I’ve ever really gotten attached to). Unfortunately, this one didn’t really work for me; I’d put it down with the second book as very much the weak installments in the series. It says something that at this point, a couple of months on, I can’t even tell you what didn’t work about it for me — the whole thing basically faded out of my head the moment I was done with it.

The Fires Beneath the Sea, Lydia Millet. Hey, do you like Madeleine L’Engle? Lydia Millet clearly does. Which isn’t a bad thing, and points to her for real creepiness with the Pouring Man . . . but yeah, it reads a lot like L’Engle, so if that’s not what you’re looking for, this probably isn’t the book you want.

Daily Life in China on the Eve of the Mongol Invasion, 1250-1276, Jacques Gernet. The English translation of this book was published in 1962, so . . . it’s a little dated. (Dear M. Gernet: I suppose sweeping positive generalizations about The Character of the Chinese People are better than sweeping negative ones, but still, not so great.) However, I very much appreciate that Gernet goes out of his way to situate his details in their historical period: he will not only say “this is how they did it in Song times,” but also “this is how that’s different from what they did in Tang times.” For somebody like me, who’s still working on getting a good sense of the change between one historical period and the next, that’s valuable.

Ancient Magic: A Practitioner’s Guide to the Supernatural in Greece and Rome, Philip Matyszak. The tone of this book is very breezy and pop-culture, but on the other hand its citations are all from primary sources, so it isn’t the kind of book that’s just rehashing warmed-over New Age interpretations of the past. And serious props to Matyszak for pointing out that a certain class of “love magic” is identical in form and intent to cursing, and if it had worked, would be straight-up magical roofies. It’s one thing to pray to a god that you hope so-and-so might notice you and smile, but quite another to ask the god to make it so that person has no choice but to crawl to your feet and submit.

Lent, Jo Walton. I made the mistake of glancing at the Afterword when I was only partway through the book, whereupon I chanced to see a line that spoiled the big reveal of this book. That didn’t ruin it by any means — Walton’s too good of an author to have her books ruined because you know where they’re going — but I do wish I’d hit that reveal fresh. Anyway, historical fantasy about Savonarola, very steeped in Catholic theology and the politics of its time period. I quite enjoyed it.

A Master of Djinn, P. Djèlí Clark. Read for blurbing, and not coming out until (I think) 2021, so it was sent well in advance of publication and I don’t even think you can pre-order it yet. But it riffs off Clark’s short fiction set in an alternate history fantastical Cairo, with interesting worldbuilding around how supernatural creatures fit into everything, and plenty of attention to the diversity of religion and culture within Cairo itself. There came a point where I saw the answer to the mystery, well in advance of the characters figuring it out, but that didn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the ride there.

By the Fire: Sami Folktales and Legends, Emilie Demant Hatt, trans. Barbara Sjoholm. Recommended ages ago by Marissa Lingen. Stories collected in the early part of the twentieth century by a woman whose methods anticipated a lot of the advancements in anthropological fieldwork that wouldn’t become widespread for some decades afterward — though still not perfect in some ways, as it was the decision of the translator to include the names of the individual storytellers where known, drawn from Demant Hatt’s notes. (Demant Hatt herself mostly only named off the region of collection in the original publications.) These of course read very much like folktales rather than modern short stories, but if you like that kind of thing, this is a good one.

The Unkindness of Ravens, Abra Staffin-Wiebe. Epic fantasy novella in a setting with some distinctly African-derived elements. I’m not sure if it’s me as a reader, the genre collectively as writers, or a bit of both, but I keep feeling with novellas like their pacing is frequently off? That length is having a resurgence right now, but it seems like that means in part that we’re having to re-invent the best ways to structure them. I liked the ending of this one, but the beginning felt to me more like it was paced for a novel, and then when it got rolling faster it went a little too fast. This is the first in a series, so there’s more to come, but the shape of this installment felt a little lopsided.

Falling Angel, William Hjortsberg. Supernatural noir from the seventies that was made into a film whose voodoo elements eventually inspired Jane Jenson to create Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers. I enjoyed some of the prose quite a bit, and it did a decent job of making its non-white characters meaningful agents in the plot — Epiphany in particular, who is both quick-thinking and much better educated than the protagonist — though the visual descriptions of them fell into many of the usual traps (and the protagonist definitely objectifies women’s bodies in some uncomfortable ways). When all’s said and done, though, the ending is bleak, which is not really my thing.

Chaucer’s People, Liza Picard. I recently discovered that there is one nonfiction author for whom I’m enough of a fan that I will squeal in delight, “oooh, she’s got a new book out!” Picard was an invaluable resource for me when I was writing the Onyx Court, because she has books about daily life in London during every century from the sixteenth through the nineteenth; well, now she’s added the late fourteenth century. This one is a little different because she uses the characters of The Canterbury Tales to structure it, grouping them into “Country Life,” “City Life,” “Religious Life,” and “The Armed Services,” and discussing topics that would be relevant to each character — so that, for example, the Wife of Bath’s chapter talks about both the wool trade and religious pilgrimages (because the Wife of Bath has been on many). In a few instances this leads to some unfortunate repetition, e.g. the Merchant’s chapter repeats the previous information on the wool trade, and you get reminded something like four times that the Black Death had recently decimated Europe’s population. It’s also less strictly focused on London, and more on English life in general. But I still love Picard’s books and find them incredibly useful as well as entertaining. (I wonder if I could bribe her to write one on Roman London?)

Whispers of Shadow and Steel, Mari Murdock. Legend of the Five Rings clan novella, focusing on the Scorpion, i.e. the clan that specializes in secrets and blackmail and so forth. The main character of this, Yojiro, is referred to as “the Honest Scorpion,” because unlike everybody around him he really wants to be honorable, and since he’s investigating a mystery, this is very much the kind of setup where you have the honorable detective working within a corrupt system. I found some of the corruption to be over the top, but the way it all fell out was pretty satisfying — I’m used to thinking of Aramoro as basically just an asshole in the other L5R fictions, and while that’s not wrong, I liked seeing him be kind of a good Scorpion here. (Which is not the same thing as an honest one.)

The Fire Opal Mechanism, Fran Wilde. Second novella in a series where I haven’t read the first, but the plots are separate; they just share a setting. The beginning of this felt very Jo Walton-y to me, with a librarian trying to save books from the destructive movement sweeping the land. Some of the descriptions felt to me like they were operating on a different wavelength than my brain, though, which meant I had difficulty in places following quite what was going on.

Daily Life of the Aztecs, Jacques Soustelle. I’ve had this on my shelf for ages and thought I’d read it before; I picked it up now because I needed to refresh my memory on this time period and culture. But it shed little bits of excess paper from the binding as I read, in a way that strongly implied I’d never so much as opened it before, so . . . ? Like the Gernet above, this is an older book, but fairly well-done despite its dated aspects. Soustelle gets very specific about the history of the Triple Alliance and its leaders, which is good because I know more about the culture than about the actual events and people. And he does a really nice job of showing how the mismatch between Mexican and Spanish ideas of war meant that, despite being a highly militaristic society, the Aztecs were wildly unprepared for the war they wound up fighting.

A Bond Undone, Jin Yong, trans. Gigi Chang. Second book of the quartet that Legends of the Condor Heroes is being broken into for translation, read for review. The beginning was a bit of a slog, since nearly the first hundred of its five hundred pages are taken up with a rolling series of battles all in the space of the same twenty-four-hour period as the end of the first volume. But after that it picked up and started doing some richer things with the characters and their history — along with a notable amount of humor.

A Murder of Mages, Marshall Ryan Maresca. Set in a world the author has written in before, but it’s the first in a new series. Mostly that worked, though I felt like I was missing some context regarding Circle mages — what they’re for and how they operate — that might have been in the other books. That aside, this is a fun fantasy murder mystery, with a team-up between two characters I really liked (and no, not just because “fantasy cop” and “con artist” rang some Mask of Mirrors bells in my head). In particular, I appreciated that both of them had families who are important to the story: in Satrine’s case, a badly disabled husband and two teenaged daughters, and in Minox’s case, a giant clan of relatives who are all mostly in one branch of the police/military/etc. or another. Also, if you’re tired of inevitable romances between the two leads, there isn’t one here. Satrine is married, and there are indications that Minox might be gay, though it’s underplayed enough in the first volume that I’m not sure.

The Perfect Assassin, K.A. Doore. Epic fantasy with a Middle Eastern-inspired setting whose economy and politics are heavily based around water. The most frustrating thing about this book was that on page 68 the main character hears someone say a thing which is very relevant to the plot . . . and then proceeds to not remember that he heard that. Even when he’s trying to find the answer to a question for which that thing he heard is the answer. Even when he’s trying to figure out how two people could be connected and that thing he heard would explain it. 166 pages later, somebody repeats to him that thing he heard, and even then, he doesn’t remember it. I know this happens in real life, but when it happens in a book, with a character who is not forgetful or scatterbrained but rather highly intelligent and trained to be observant, it grates really badly — all the more so because I think the author could have cut that bit where the thing got said without any harm to the story whatsoever, and a great deal of benefit. I spent most of my time reading this being annoyed that the obvious answer was sitting right there, rather than enjoying the story as much as I might have otherwise.

4thewords, Fan Art, and Pride!

For nearly two and a half years now, I’ve been using 4thewords, which is a writing gamification site. You queue up monsters and defeat them by writing — or, if you’re me, by copy-pasting the words I’ve written elsewhere — which gives you XP and various item drops, which you then use to complete quests and progress in the storyline.

I think I’ve mentioned this site here before, but I’m bringing it up again for three reasons:

1) I know a lot of people are having trouble writing right now, and if gamification and pretty graphics are the kind of thing that can motivate you, this might help.

2) The people who run this site (a very small cadre based mostly in Costa Rica) are really good about trying to make things inclusive and welcoming. Case in point: right now we’re in the middle of a 25-day special Pride event, amped up from the usual 10 days because so many in-person Pride events have been canceled. There is all kinds of related gear to customize your avatar with, including no less than fifteen palette swaps to represent a bunch of different Pride flags — not just the most well-known rainbow but flags for bisexual, non-binary, polyamorous, and other identities. This year they also wrote code for a virtual Pride parade, which you can choose to have your avatar march in; mine is there, decked out in straight ally gear (and a giant feather butt fan I picked up during the Carnival event a while back).

3) AND THEY GAVE ME AND ALYC ROOK AND ROSE FAN ART

Ahem. What I mean to say is, they’ve also responded to the pandemic by helping to support site users whose book releases may be affected. I tossed my name into the hat back when I thought The Mask of Mirrors was going to be coming out in November, so this is now more in advance of the release than I expected it to be, but . . .

4thewords promotional image

They made a wardrobe item that’s inspired by a mask in the novel!

That is our first public piece of fan art for this series. And the Festival of Reading is going to continue for 44 days (not counting the eight teaser days they had in the weeks preceding the Festival itself), each of which comes with its own special reward.

So basically, it’s a really wonderful and supportive community, and a fun way to motivate yourself for writing, with a story about questing to save the world from a corrupting Dust. It says quite a bit that I’ve stayed active there for two and a half years, alternating between normal quests and the regularly-scheduled special events. I would link you to neat features like the Pride parade, but I think you have to be a subscriber to see those; however, the subscription cost isn’t very high, and there’s even a community pool where people who can manage a little extra donate subscription time to be distributed to users who might not otherwise be able to afford it. If it’s something that might be useful to you, I encourage you to check it out.

“A Riot Is the Language of the Unheard”

I make my living with words, but some things are so large and so awful, they leave me at a loss. The death of George Floyd, and what’s happened as a result, is one of those things.

But I should try anyway, because from the outside, you can’t tell the difference between silence caused by an inability to articulate, and silence from a lack of care. And even if my words are going to be inadequate, it’s my responsibility — it’s the responsibility of all those who care, but especially white people who care — to say something anyway. Because just sitting here feeling bad about things? Gets precisely jack shit done.

One of the things that really struck me in reading Ijeoma Oluo’s book So You Want to Talk About Race was her metaphor of the abuse victim, replicated on a society-wide scale. It’s easy to look at many things abusers do in isolation and think “well, that wasn’t good, no, but it wasn’t that awful, so why are you making such a big deal out of it?” But looking at them in isolation misses the point. If my husband says something hurtful to me, I can cope because he doesn’t usually say such things, and I know he didn’t mean to hurt me, and I’m confident that when I say “hey, that bothered me,” he’ll listen and apologize and avoid that in the future. In the case of an abuser, though, it’s yet another blow landing atop an existing bruise landing atop deeply-buried scar tissue — and all of that damage is also the abuser’s work.

In this situation, the abuser is society as a whole, white society most particularly, and the victim is marginalized people. Particularly marginalized ethnic groups, but others as well.

Jim Hines posted a good quote from Martin Luther King, Jr., and I’ve taken my lead from him in using part of that quote as the title for this post. What we’re seeing right now is the result of centuries of abuse, and centuries of America — white America — refusing to listen. Of white America making changes here and there, sometimes big ones (abolishing slavery), but more often small, grudging ones . . . or no changes at all. Read Jim’s post for the statistics on what institutionalized prejudice looks like. If you’re white, imagine raising your son knowing there’s a 1 in 1000 chance that he will die at the hands of the police, and ask yourself how okay you’d be with that. Imagine this has been happening to your people for decades, and before that it was Jim Crow, and before that it was slavery. And the genocide of Native Americans and everything else white America has done to people who look different.

Imagine those blows hitting, again, and again, and again, and again, while people around you say “why are you making such a big deal out of this? Why are you angry? If you want to see things change, you should ask politely.” While continuing to ignore the polite requests you’ve been making for years and decades and centuries.

And let’s be clear: if you’re thinking right now “we’ve got to vote Trump out of the White House in November,” you’re not wrong . . . but you are woefully undershooting. We can’t wait five months to start doing something, and we can’t pretend that swapping who’s at the top will be enough to fix things. Change needs to happen everywhere. And it needs to start yesterday. Right now, do you have a little money to spare? Donate to Black Lives Matter, or the NAACP, or the ACLU. Write to your local lawmakers — city, state, and federal — to push for change where you live. Ordinarily I would encourage you to find a local protest and join it, but in these times of plague, I don’t think in-person action is the best idea.

And speak up. Say something. Even if your words are inadequate. What I’ve written here certainly is — but it’s better than writing nothing.