Protecting Faith or Legalising Discrimination?

IMG_7249Anyone keeping up with American news lately may have noticed the things going on here are a little … crazy.  Indiana, North Carolina, Mississippi … these ‘bathroom bills’ and ‘religious freedom bills’ and what have you, yes?

First, let me just chastise both sides a little bit:

LGBT • just because a business has the right to do something doesn’t mean they will.  There’re too many getting a little too carried away here.  Histrionics and hyperbole are fine in satire, like a SNL sketch, but it’s not good in an otherwise simply rhetorical article that’s trying to explain the problem unless you clearly indicate that you are following this to its extremity of possibility.

Anti-LGBT • I would like to mention that there has been protection for religious beliefs since the adoption of the US Constitution‘s first ten amendments, it reads thusly:

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

(via https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/first_amendment)

So, now, on to what I have to say.

It’s bullshit.  I’m sorry, but it is.  It’s all complete crap.

If this really had to do with people being upset about their sincerely held religious beliefs then where are the following:

  • People rallying behind a photographer who refuses to take a Buddhist wedding
  • The bakery that refuses the interracial couple
  • The clerk turning away the Jewish couple
  • The judge who won’t officiate the atheist couple
  • The restaurant that won’t serve a Mexican family
  • The auto repair shop that won’t accept black customers

I could go on.

Thing is this.  First to the photographer, clerk, and bakery:

You’re not part of my wedding.  You supplied a service.  You are not participating in the wedding itself, you are feeding it and you are taking pictures of it, and you are handing me a license that records that it took place.  End.  You are not, in the strictest sense, actually invited to the wedding.  You’re not participating.  Even if you were an actual guest asked to come watch the wedding take place, I’m not sure it counts as ‘participating’, more like watching myself and my wife engaging in a ceremony that is taking place between ourselves, the officiate, and (if we should have them) our maids of honour.

To the judge:

You’re a public official.  You are serving as the representative of your governing body.  You are not participating in the wedding, your position is.  You are filling it.  Swallow your pride, buttercup, or get off the bench.

To everyone else:

Your doors are open to the public.  You want your religion to guide your life, bravo, but you want to be able to pick and choose your customers based on that religion you need to stop being a public business and become a religious organisation, instead.  Then you can turn away to your religious heart’s content.

Thing is, people once did turn away religions, genders, races, nationalities, and such on everything from ‘I don’t want that kind around here’ (which is, at least, honest and therefore somewhat respectable) to ‘the Bible says so’ (which, if you twist things enough is probably true … or if it’s outright true it’s probably right next to a passage you violate sixteen times every day, so please just shut up while you’re already behind).

Look.  According to the IRS I’m a private business.  Even if I were through a traditional publisher … well, there’s a reason I’m a self-published author.  The difference between traditional and self publishing is traditional is smaller royalties and usually offers me a cover artist (who I usually have absolutely no input in the selection of nor the artwork finally chosen); beyond all that, I’m still a small business in business with a larger business.

So, that said, let’s look at the universe from my business’ point of view.  According to the new laws that keep wanting to be passed I could say I don’t want to sell my books to heterosexual or cisgender or to Scientologists.  Now the waters get really muddy when you point out that there’re state and federal level protections against my discriminating against Scientologists, because that’s a religion.  But, that’s where things get fun.  While these laws are in place, legal enforcement must decide whether to enforce the existing non-discrimination laws or the new law which says that, if I hold that it is my sincere religious belief, I can deny them services.  XHamster (link very NSFW) is apparently having fun with that one (should be SFW).  True, in those states I can discriminate against gender identity and sexuality – so, if I were this hypothetical bigot (yes, bigotry works both ways, folks!), I could merrily discriminate to my heart’s content even before these laws were enacted and now that they have been the state won’t hear a single word against me and the local government councils can’t enact ordinances to make me behave myself.

Now, here’s the thing.  A lot of folk wonder what the big deal is.  “Just get your cake somewhere else”, they say.  “Get a different photographer!” they cry.

Ah, but dearies, spoken like people in very large urban centres or like people in very very small countries.  Let me paint you a picture:

Let us begin with Atkins diet and several other fads that have long since put many bakeries out of business.  Even in your moderately urban locations there are few bakeries to select from.

Now we move on to a place that is not Boston, Chicago, Atlanta, Los Angeles, or San Francisco.  Let us move, instead, to Little Rock, Knoxville, Memphis, or Montpelier.  Or better yet, let us move down to Coon Rapids (yep, it’s a place, my daddy went to school there),  Moose Point, Crabapple Cove, Barrow …

Here’s the thing.  The smaller the place you live the further you may have to go just to find a bakery in the first place, let alone an alternative one.  Secondly, if there’re only two bakeries in town, odds are good that you chose the one you did for a good reason.  Maybe the other one is too expensive, or is really terrible.  Now you’ve been turned away by the one that you want to go with.  And, I’m sorry, but Kroger?  Big Y?  Publix?  Stop & Shop??  Seriously, who that can afford otherwise (and even those who can’t, sometimes) goes to the grocery store for their wedding cake?!  (Okay, once upon a time, my home town, but in fairness the bakery in the local grocery store was a local bakery – the store was an IGA not a big chain supermarket … kind of different, and it was tiny town in north Arkansas for crying out loud).

Photography offers a bit of choice, but still not always a lot.  And certainly one must still balance quality and price which will winnow some of the options away.

You see?  A couple who tries to go to “Mary Catherine’s Catholic Baked Goods” which is a convent bakery and affiliated with St Lucas’ Cathedral … if they’re refused service, the answer to the couple is to tell them to suck it up and move on, and to wonder what they were thinking.  “Billy Bob’s Olde Time Bake Shoppe” on the other hand, is Billy Bob’s store that is open to the public and affiliated only with Billy Bob and his whopping twelve and one half shares in King Arthur flour.  If Billy Bob wants to tell our fateful couple that he doesn’t approve of miscegenation he’s slapped with fines and things for discrimination based on race while being berated by most of the world … under a few new laws he gets embroiled in a long complicated legal battle as the courts get to decide if the non-discrimination law is unconstitutional or the religious freedom law is (one of them actually was clever enough to limit itself against existing non-discrimination laws, but I forget which that is … not Mississippi’s, I’m pretty sure, so this can take place in Oxford, MS).  But if he wants to say “no fags allowed!”, no problem.  Until recently he, technically, already had that right since sexuality wasn’t a protected status anyhow, but the couple could still have tried and, with luck, got somewhere despite this (maybe go with sex discrimination suit), now however Billy Bob is armed with a law and his ‘sincerely held religious beliefs’ (which, apparently, state that cake is a very sacred substance and may only be served to those deemed worthy) while Lawrence and Jeffery have absolutely no legal recourse whatsoever and must now make the long trek to Tupelo before they find Sue Anne’s Country Bakery which will happily make their cake for them, but will need to charge $75 more due to the very long drive to where the wedding will be taking place (back in Larry & Jeff’s childhood home of Oxford, of course!).

See?  Gets fun doesn’t it?

And it’s not just about LGBT.  These laws hurt a lot of people.  The ones that makes the government unable to act against ‘religious beliefs’ mean that there is very sticky and complicated legal turmoil when a restaurant refuses to seat a Sikh family; when miscegenation gets you refused service at the tire shop … laws should protect people.  It’s not protecting anyone.  A person’s religious beliefs aren’t being protected, there are existing ways they can be exempted from non-discrimination for religious reasons, and if that place doesn’t want to help an unwed mother, well that’s their business then.  But the place open to the general public shouldn’t have that kind of power.  An unruly unwed mother who is wont to not paying her bills, that’s another matter.  But to see a woman holding a child, not wearing a wedding band, and who says “I haven’t got a husband” when asked what sort of work he does and say “I’m sorry, but you’ll have to go elsewhere”.  Just, no.

Why #MerryChristmasStarbucks is Everything Wrong with American Christianity

A few days ago, former pastor Joshua Feuerstein posted a video announcing a campaign against Starbucks due to their switch from festive holiday cups in previous years to a new plain red look for the 2015 holiday season. In the video, Feuerstein claims that Starbucks wanted to “take Christ and Christmas off of their brand new cups” because, […]

https://nathanielscottlake.wordpress.com/2015/11/08/why-merrychristmasstarbucks-is-everything-wrong-with-american-christianity/

Who cares?

I’ve reverted to generic non-biography bios.

This is because I realised something:  I can’t be representation.  I could be a perfect fiction.  Even if I had a picture of my face instead of that faerie, how’re you to know that’s my face?  Okay, see me at a convention?  Does romance fiction have conventions?!  See me at the market?  What’re the odds?  Too, what’re the odds you’d recognise me?

Authors, once they’re in the hands of a reader, are not people.  We’re a collection of letters following the word ‘by’, commonly referred to collectively as a by-line.

I have books I love I couldn’t tell you who wrote them.  If I can, I can’t tell you if that person is black, white, male, female, gay, straight, human, or other.  I also don’t care.  I have books I love, I can’t usually remember the titles of.  Because it doesn’t matter.

True, if I were to borrow the book from a library the author’s name, the series title, and/or the book title would be a big thing to remember for the finding of the book again or for the going to the bookstore to purchase myself a copy.  Once I’ve memorised its location and appearance in the library, I need never remember another detail about the book.  Once I own a copy, I only ever have to remember where I put the damned thing or what the cover image looks like in my iBooks library.

I strongly believe my life growing up would have been affected in important and positive ways by better representation of those demographics to which I belong.  Some far more so than others.  But that’s the job of the characters in the stories, in the movies, in the TV shows.  The only people who matter as people themselves are the faces of the advocacy.  Jazz Jennings matters because she isn’t a character, she’s a person who puts a name and a face to trans-youth rights.  Ms Cox is a couple of things, so who she is matters in myriad ways.

Do I care that the person playing the trans-woman in The Dutch Girl wasn’t trans?  Nope.  Would I care if I learnt the director refused to consider/audition trans-women? Probably.  Would I care if I learnt that trans-actresses auditioned, had better auditions, but didn’t get the role?  Absolutely.

The character matters, not the person playing it.  The actor is not the character and vice versa.  The actor may put some of themselves into the role; conversely they may take away part of the character when the final scene is finished, but they’re not the same person.  Exceptions exist.  An all male cast of A League of Their Own isn’t automatically horrible, but it’s automatically highly suspect and had better damned well come with a damned good explanation.  If the explanation is that every female actor who showed up stunk, genuinely sucked, and the only way the movie was going to exist was to take these male talented folks and put them in a whole lot of makeup … weird, very very very weird, but okay, whatever.

The average reader doesn’t follow the authors they like.  I’m not even an average reader and yet I follow authors I’ve never read a single book or short story by and never intend to; I don’t follow almost every author I do read … the majority the few I do I could count on the fingers of my left elbow how many blogposts/twits/FB posts by them I’ve ever once seen.

I’m going to keep the blog because it’s a good outlet for my thoughts and feelings.  It’s got links to my work, on the off chance someone finds it before they find me in iBooks/Amazon/etc.  But I don’t expect people to read my books as a result of reading my blog, nor do I expect people to read my blog because of my books.  And so far not only are those assumptions correct, but they hold true to the norm for other authors and their social media presences.

I’m on Tumblr, Twitter, and here.  The former two are almost entirely auto-posts of this blog, but if you like subscribing to things from those rather than separately subscribing through my blog I understand and it’s why they exist.  I do sometimes put other things I find interesting, or things I want to say on those that I don’t put here.  That’s because they’re a better media for saying something quick and offhand than an actual blogpost is; and they’re better equipped for sharing things I find interesting from other people’s shared content.

I’m not going to make any secret of anything about myself, I’m just not going to have bio sections that advertise anything about me because I do not want people to read my work based on my sexuality, gender, etc.  I want you to see the cover, notice the book, read the blurb, check out the sample, then (I pray) purchase it.

Where’d Facebook go?

So a few of you may have noticed I don’t have a Facebook page anymore.

That’s why.  Only a few people had it liked, Facebook’s algorithms meant even I never saw my posts, and I really don’t like Facebook for a number of personal reasons that meant it was foolish to keep it.

Really, I would keep it if Facebook acknowledged that people who like a page might actually want to see its posts.  I mean, plenty of automated methods of posting, after all (clearly as I never actually use my personal FB account which was the admin for the Author page).  But they don’t, so I shan’t be bothered about it.  That’s one less thing in the universe I have to keep up with.

[Reblog] 50 Years of Stupid Grammar Advice

50 Years of Stupid Grammar Advice

APRIL 17, 2009 

April 16 is the 50th anniversary of the publication of a little book that is loved and admired throughout American academe. Celebrations, readings, and toasts are being held, and a commemorative edition has been released.

I won’t be celebrating.

The Elements of Style does not deserve the enormous esteem in which it is held by American college graduates. Its advice ranges from limp platitudes to inconsistent nonsense. Its enormous influence has not improved American students’ grasp of English grammar; it has significantly degraded it.

The authors won’t be hurt by these critical remarks. They are long dead. William Strunk was a professor of English at Cornell about a hundred years ago, and E.B. White, later the much-admired author of Charlotte’s Web, took English with him in 1919, purchasing as a required text the first edition, which Strunk had published privately. After Strunk’s death, White published a New Yorker article reminiscing about him and was asked by Macmillan to revise and expand Elements for commercial publication. It took off like a rocket (in 1959) and has sold millions.

(Continue)

Rant over modern series writing

(Sarah is a cuckoo—a breed of human-looking cryptid that’s biologically more like a giant wasp than any sort of primate, and telepathic to boot. Evolution is funky sometimes.)

Excerpt From: Seanan McGuire. “Midnight Blue-Light Special.” iBooks. https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/midnight-blue-light-special/id592216584?mt=11

So, at the moment, I’m rereading Midnight Blue-Light Special.  And it made me have to say something about why I don’t read a lot of newer series.

There are 3 fundamental approaches to series.

The Discworld Model:

This is for series like Bernie Rhodenbarr, the Rita Mae Brown & Sneakie Pie Brown mysteries, Discworld, Mithgar, and similar.  In these (and Mithgar is, quite possibly, the most amazingly perfect example) the books stand alone.  There’s little reference to the prior events, or they’re referenced in off-hand manner if relevant to the moment in the same way you or I will make off-hand references to our own pasts.  Other than that the book of the moment is pretty thoroughly divorced from the books before and after.  You can literally pick up at any point in the series and not be missing anything besides the fun of the other books … which you can just pick up and enjoy as you go.

The Serial Model:

This is the classic Book 1, Book 2, etc model.  This is Now & Forever, this is Harry Potter, this is – frankly – most series.  This is “To Be Continued” through to “The End”.  Sometimes you can muddle through if you pick up part way in.  Harry PotterLittle House, and others aren’t nonsense if you pick up later than the beginning, but it helps.  Well … Little House might be more of a Discworld Model, now I think of it, but humour me.

The thing with these is that you write them assuming that the person reading book 2 read book 1.  If you write something that was explained in book 1 you don’t explain it again, you move on because you’re not worried about confusing anyone because they read book 1 or bloody well best have done.

The Modern Model:

This is one I really don’t like.  I’ve read things, namely InCryptid, that use it.  But it annoys the hell out of me and the stories have to be very good for me to let it slide and keep going … or you have to not do a very good job of it, thus begging the question of why the author bothered instead of sticking with the Serial Model (possibly the actual case with InCryptid … I’m not actually 100% certain).

In this you try to do the bastardisation of the Discworld Model and the Serial Model.  Your books are very “to be continued”, and rely heavily on what came before, but you try to accommodate the ones who are coming in a bit late.  Now, some series are a blending of these. Mithgar has Serials (duologies, trilogies, etc) tossed in amongst the larger tapestry of things.  Shannara too.  But series of Serials is a whole other kettle of popcorn.

I don’t like this one as a reader, nor as a writer.  It’s this philosophy that your Serial should be accessible to any and sundry who walk in 5min before the closing credits.  That really doesn’t work.  You have to insert little obnoxious infodumps that irritate those who have been there since the curtain went up, and unless you want to make your books exponentially thicker by basically reprinting the prior book into the following books –building them into an omnibus edition as you go – you’re going to annoy the mid-streamer who is like “well, she explained this, but why doesn’t she explain that?!”

There.  Was I going anywhere with this?

No, not especially.  Just saying that I don’t grok the modern method of serialising and it irritates me when I encounter it.  All the other crap about the other 2 methods was to illustrate what I meant.  Now, back to the book; it has Aeslin Mice in 😍

Ted Cruz, Dominionism and Jesus

Fantastic

JONATHAN TURLEY

Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger

Ted_Cruz,_official_portrait,_113th_CongressAs a Jew who is familiar with “The Gospels” there is something perplexing about some Christians in America who have risen to power in our political process within the last four decades. Much of Jesus message, as detailed in “The Gospels” has been one of sympathy to the poor, enmity to the rich and love for humanity. I can give you the time tested quotes but just about everyone is familiar with them. Indeed through my childhood and formative teen years Christmastime every year would yield endless repetition of “Peace on Earth, Good Will to All Men”. Sometime in the 1970’s people like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell gained prominence and political power preaching their version of Christianity. These Christians became Kingmakers as it was assumed and actually true that their millions of followers would vote as a bloc. The Christianity that they preached…

View original post 1,918 more words

The Ultimate Mary Sue Test

I got to seriously thinking about some of the discussions around the internet about this movie character is or isn’t a Mary Sue, or this TV character, or this, or that, etc.

A pattern emerged quickly among the discussions that, according to these conversations, makes a Mary Sue test exceedingly short and simple.  So I present one.

The Test

Instructions:  keep 2 columns of tallies for answer a or answer b.

1) What is the character’s gender identity?

a) Male
b) Female

2) Is the character competent in more than 1 thing not traditionally a feminine role/activity/interest?

a) No
b) Yes

3) Is the character attractive?

a) No
b) Yes

Time to tally up!

Continue reading

2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,300 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 38 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.