Stand up. Be counted. Scream until your lungs give out.

On Saturday, I plan to attend a Families Belong Together protest. You can find your nearest one here.

If you are at all capable of attending, please do.

Because make no mistake: we in the United States are currently under the aegis of a white supremacist government. Not one that is merely bigoted (“merely”), not one that’s politically incorrect. A government that is morally incorrect. A government that thinks it’s being generous when it says, fine, we’ll keep the children with the parents when we incarcerate brown people for taking the Statue of Liberty at her word.

White supremacist. There is no more accurate label.

And the Republican Party is openly, unabashedly, even proudly the party of white supremacy. #NotAllRepublicans? It doesn’t matter anymore. Right now, support for the Republican Party is support for its white supremacist agenda. It doesn’t matter if you try to asterisk that part and say you opt out; they don’t give a shit. They’re still getting what they want out of that transaction. If you can honestly say the same, then either you support white supremacy, or you’re willing to accept it in order to get what you do want. And there’s not nearly as much daylight between those two things as you might like to believe.

This isn’t hyperbole. Various countries have gone down this path before; it is the path of genocide. The fact that we haven’t gotten that far yet doesn’t mean we aren’t headed in that direction. And we aren’t even at the top of the path — we passed that quite a while ago. When you throw due process out the window, when you start incarcerating people wholesale, when you start tearing children away from parents and inflicting lifelong trauma on them, you’re halfway to the bottom.

We have to turn around. Not at the midterm elections; now. March in the streets. Call your officials. Is there a “Trump hotel” near you? Picket it. And then get ready for those midterms, because we need to democracy so fucking hard at these people that there’s no way they can steal the election without resorting to corruption so blatant even our usual apathetic electorate won’t stand for it.

The blogger Slacktivist pointed out the other day that Abraham Lincoln talked of the United States as being a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” We are the people. We are the government. Jess Sessions’ twisted quoting of Biblical scripture gets it wrong; he thinks we the people owe our unquestioning obedience to our elected officials. It’s the other way around. They serve us. They serve at our sufferance.

And we will not suffer this. Enough people have suffered already.

I have no words

I’ve been trying for days to figure out a way to say something about the United States’ new policy of tearing families apart, imprisoning children, telling the parents their kids are being taken away “to have a bath,” dosing them with antipsychotics to ensure compliance.

I can’t. The sick horror I feel won’t go into words. This is the best I can do, and it falls short.

I know this is not the first such atrocity my country has committed. From slavery to Native American genocide to Japanese internment camps, we’ve done shit like this before, and worse. But that doesn’t make this one any less gutting.

At least there’s outrage. We aren’t yet so numb to unspeakable cruelty that people are taking this lying down. But — some people are. CNN quoted a guy saying “Quit trying to make us feel teary-eyed for the children. Yes, I love children a great deal, but to me, it’s up to the parents to do things rightfully and legally.” Empathy is dead in that man. Whoever he is, he has the shape of a human being, but inside he’s hollow.

We can’t become like him. We cannot let the human soul of this country — a soul we have been trying, slowly, painfully, to build for nearly two hundred and fifty years — be scraped out and cast away. We have to stop this, and then take steps to prevent it from happening again.

It couldn’t happen here?

It is happening. Right now.

We have to make it stop.

If You Ain’t Got That Zing

There are a lot of TV shows I try and just sort of drift away from, because they aren’t doing enough to hold my attention. The latest in this series is Black Lightning, which surprised me, because there are a number of things I like about its characters and its story. But in the end, its dialogue doesn’t have much of a particular element for which I can find no better term than “zing.”

Thanks, brain. “Zing.” That’s a real helpful way of describing it. >_<

Zing is not the same thing as witty banter — though many shows have mistaken the one for the other, and fill their scripts with dialogue that’s absolutely leaden in its attempt to be light. You can have zing in a deadly serious conversation (as Game of Thrones has proved). It’s a cousin, I think, of Mark Twain’s comment about the difference between the right word and the almost-right word being the difference between lightning and a lightning bug: it’s the lightning lines, the ones that leap off the page or the screen, the ones that don’t just get you from Narrative Point A to Narrative Point B but make the journey between them memorable. You see it in The Lion in Winter, which along with Twelve Angry Men made me wonder if this is a quality especially possessed by older stage plays — I haven’t seen enough older stage plays to be sure. At its apex, it’s the feeling that no line has been wasted or allowed to do the bare minimum of work. Think of The Princess Bride, and how many lines from that movie are quotable. It isn’t just because the lines themselves are good; it’s because there’s almost no flab in the script, every word simultaneously developing character and furthering the plot while also being entertaining.

Zing gets my attention, in a TV show or a movie or a book. Without it, my attention wanders a bit; I scrape a general sense of the story out of the mass of words used to tell it, but don’t engage on a moment-to-moment level. With it, I lose track of the world around me because I don’t want to miss anything in the tale. Zing makes me decide, before I’m two scenes into the first episode of a show, that I’ll give the second one a shot. Zing is what makes me plow through thousands of pages of Neal Stephenson making an utter hash of his plot, because he can describe a room in above a tavern on the seventeenth-century London Bridge in such riveting terms that I wind up reading it out loud twice, once to my husband and once to my sister.

I think this is what some people, when teaching the craft of writing, describe as “voice.” I’ve been known to rant about how I find that term completely unhelpful . . . but, well, here I am talking about “zing,” because my alternative is to wave my hands around in the air and make inarticulate noises. That thing. Over there. Do you see?

These days I’m reaching for it more in my own work, especially in one of the things I’m noodling around with right now. A character is hiding in a palace full of baroque decorations and complaining about the discomfort. There’s something jabbing into my back. No. There’s a carving jabbing into my back. No. There’s a gilded carving grinding into my kidney. Better. There’s a gilded figure of the South Wind imprinting itself on my left kidney. Better still.

Doing that for every sentence is exhausting. I have no idea how Stephenson keeps it up, especially while writing books that could double as foundation stones. But I suspect that, like many things in writing, after you’ve pushed at it for a while some parts of it just settle in as habit. I hope so, anyway, because I’m going to keep trying.

New Worlds: Superstitions

It’s Friday, which means it’s time for a New Worlds Patreon post! This time we’re discussing superstitions: what they mean, why you don’t see them more often in fiction, and how to go about including them.

I’ll note, by the way, that if you’re not a patron then you’re missing out on some of the content. Every patron at the $1 level and above receives a photo each week — one that’s themed to that week’s post, if I can manage it, though some topics make that easier than others — along with a brief discussion of it and how it relates to worldbuilding. Today, for example, I sent out a photo of a gargoyle and talked about the architectural and apotropaic roles they play (and why it’s so interesting to find them on the Natural History Museum in London). Patrons at higher levels get free ebooks, the ability to request post topics, bonus essays, and even the chance to get private feedback from me. So if you’ve been enjoying the series, consider becoming a backer! Or recommend it to friends — that also helps!

Swan Tower’s privacy policy

I put this up last month, but since I was busy traveling, I didn’t have a chance to mention it publicly until now.

Swan Tower now has a privacy policy page. It’s modifed from WordPress’ boilerplate suggestions, so it’s a little clunky, but the short form it this: I gather almost no data about visitors to my site, use only data which is necessary for the purpose (e.g. email address if you sign up for the mailing list, IP address etc for comments), and will delete your data if you ask. It may take me a little while to do the latter, depending on the scale of the request and whether I’m on a trip or something at the time, but I will do my best to respect any such wishes as promptly as I can.

On a less site-specific note, it’s been interesting to watch the privacy updates roll out across the web. Turns out to be a fantastic way to find out what I’m subscribed to that I had utterly forgotten about — which has led to a lot of unsubscribes, as you might imagine. And I have taken great pleasure in telling certain sites that no, they may not do XYZ with my data. So on the whole, I’m glad that GDPR has pushed the web in general and U.S. companies in particular toward being more careful with such things, even if there was a mild panic as everyone realized the deadline for compliance was coming up fast.

Ridiculous Legends of Monkey

Just inhaled the first season of The New Legends of Monkey on Netflix, and I wholeheartedly recommend it.

It’s loosely based on Journey to the West, insofar as it has the recognizable characters of Tripitaka, Monkey, Pigsy, and Sandy, and characters heading vaguely west in search of some kind of important written thing — and that’s about where it ends. The setting makes no attempt to be Ancient China; it’s best described as “vaguely post-demon-apocalyptic wherever.” The show was filmed in Australia, and about half the characters have distinct Australian accents. The main actress (because Tripitaka is female here) is of Tongan ancestry; Monkey’s actor is of Thai ancestry. The cast overall is mixed enough that I’m pretty sure the show’s creators had no pre-set notions of what ethnicities they wanted in which roles, and just cast whomever appealed to them.

If so, it was a good decision. The central characters are mostly great (the exception being the villains, who are a little weak) — I particularly adore Sandy, likewise female, who strikes the note of being a little off-kilter without obxiously “look at how crazy I am!” The setting is 500 years after the gods disappeared; demons rule the earth now, and humanity’s only hope is to find and free Monkey, and then get him to show them where he hid the seven sacred scrolls. But the way Monkey is remembered may not be exactly what he’s like in reality . . .

The show is ten episodes, each less than half an hour. You can watch the whole thing in a long evening — I know because that’s what we did. It’s fun and good-hearted, and I hope they do more!