Novelist given psych exam, locked away by police for work of fiction he published at 20

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[UPDATE: According to the L.A.Times, McLaw was not removed from his job and taken for treatment because of the novels. Apparently, he wrote a four-page letter that alarmed authorities, and they've known about the novels for a couple of years.

It's frustrating, because I heard about this story a week ago when it first broke, and I was waiting to see what would shake out before writing a post. If I'd waited until this afternoon instead of this morning, I wouldn't have relied on the ridiculous early news report, which was disseminated widely and which explicitly linked his books to administrative action.

I'll leave the original post below, for the obvious reasons.]


You may have heard about Patrick McLaw, a twenty-three year old teacher in Maryland who has been kicked out of his job, is being investigated by the county sheriff, has had his home searched, had the school where he taught searched, has been forbidden to go onto county property at all, is being given a psychological exam in a location that the police will not name, and is not free to leave, according to the cops. Has he been arrested? Authorities will not say. Try not to be surprised when I say he’s black.

His crime? Three years ago he self-published a science fiction novel, set 900 years in the future, about the race to stop a school shooter.

You can read about his story at The Atlantic. I encourage everyone to read it; it’s short and it matters. If you’re curious about the book, not only is it still on Amazon, but the publicity has bumped it quite high in the sales rankings.

I guess it’s possible that there’s something else going on here beyond administrative freak out, but I would be surprised. This sort of over reaction from a school administration is all about the fear and power of petty bureaucrats who are terrified of being seen to have done too little. Any possibility, however slim, that they might be dissected in the media, post-catastrophy, about what they knew and why they didn’t act, drives them like fanatics.

It doesn’t help that so many school officials seem ready to accommodate the most paranoid parents in their district. It all feeds the little voice inside them that says thinking up the plot of a book is the same thing as fantasizing about it.

Based on the news reports we’ve had so far, Patrick McLaw has broken no law. It’s possible he’s being told that he has to do everything he’s told to keep his job, but I can’t understand how a sensible member of the judiciary thought publishing a novel three years earlier was probably cause for a search of the guy’s house.

It’s disgusting.

In which I invite another author to kiss my fat ass

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Usually, when I see a stupid thing on the internet, I laugh and maybe tweet about it. “Look! Someone spilled a pile of dumb on the internet!” Then we’ll all share a laugh together and I’d go back to blocking “Emergency Cat” accounts. If I think the source of this particular piece of blockheadery is a pernicious sort who is actively courting the attention, I won’t bother.

But some things are annoying enough that I feel moved to blog about it. Here’s the deal: When Guardians of the Galaxy came out, a lot of people were talking about how upbeat it was, as though it was this bright, cheerful thing. They were also contrasting it favorably with Man of Steel, an objectively terrible movie no matter how thrilling the special effects were.

Me, I didn’t think GotG was all that upbeat. In fact, I thought it was pretty dark (without being grimdark) and said so.

You don’t have to click through on that link. Basically, I embedded a Kameron Hurley tweet about the movie’s success being the “sound of grimdark being over”, then I talked about the actual darkness in GotG, why it was a welcome contrast with MoS, and the piece ended like this:

So, don’t expect GotG to be light, cheerful fare. It has more than its share of darkness. The difference is that it also has clever, dedicated protagonists who are capable of prevailing in the end.

That’s it. That’s the whole deal.

I don’t know how that got interpreted as As fantasy authors Kameron Hurley and Harry J. Connolly observed, the success of Guardians of the Galaxy heralds “the sound of grimdark being over. over on io9. If I’d agreed with Hurley’s tweet, I would have just retweeted it, not written a fucking blog post. Anyway, I tried to clarify this in a comment over there, but it didn’t go and I’m too busy to fuss with blog comment systems.

And now I have this shit, in which Richard K. Morgan links to my post (and only my post) and responds to it as thought I’m personally calling for the end of the grimdark subgenre.

As anyone who’s read the actual post (rather than the io9 summary) would know, I’m not. Maybe Kameron Hurley would like it to go away forever; I’m not her so I wouldn’t know. Personally, I’m happy to see grimdark on the shelves, because I read it. Not only that, but anyone who’s picked up my short fiction collection knows I write it, too.

In fact, I have never felt the urge to call for the end of any genre. Some I read. Some I don’t. It’s no big deal. When I go into the supermarket, I see vanilla AND chocolate ice cream in the freezer. I get to choose the one I like and leave the other for someone else to buy, maybe. I don’t require everyone to want what I want. In fact, I don’t really care what you like (unless it’s my books, in which case why not buy some, please).

But all I have to do is point out that MoS was deeply muddle-headed in its attempt to be serious and grim, and suddenly I want to take away people’s favorite ice cream.

What is it with that shit, anyway? Why do these guys reflexively read any criticism at all–even of something dumb like MoS–and interpret it as “You’re trying to ban something I love!”

Anyway, that’s the stupid thing, what I would normally just tweet about for a laugh. This is the annoying bit.

Is this a constituency so totally bombproof resistant to cultural shift that they want to go back to a fictionscape dreamed up in the middle of the last century, back when women and coloured folks still knew their place, the cop on the beat was a lovely cuddly (white) guy, war was a glorious endeavour undertaken against dastardly foreign foes, and real men walked like John Wayne?

Hey, Mr. Morgan, you can kiss my fat ass for this. And if this wasn’t meant to be addressed to me directly, you should have linked to someone else at the start of your post.

Anyway, I’m sure regular readers (both of you) will be startled to discover that grimdark is totes progressive. You know those olden days, when everyone’s art was all about capital G good and capital E evil, no nuance need apply!

Please.

For the record, the only work of Mr. Morgan’s that I have read was a trade collection of a Black Widow comic, which I thought was excellent. In fact, I thought it should be the basis of the character’s first movie. The blog post he wrote is still as dumb as a sack of ice cubes.

Also, the short fiction piece of my own I consider grimdark is the title story in my collection: “Bad Little Girls Die Horrible Deaths” even though no girls (bad or otherwise) die in the story. #spoilers

Yes, I realize that last link is basically an invitation for punitive one-star reviews. So be it.

Helicopter parent? We mock you. Not a helicopter parent? Handcuffs.

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One of the trends the media has been enjoying for *years* is making fun of so-called helicopter parents–parents who constantly hover around their kids, standing guard over everything they do. What worry-worts, right?

And yet, what happens when a parent lets their kid play outside in the park without a helicopter? They get arrested.

Is there any other developed country that hates its working poor as much at the U.S.A.?

What if the government provided your vehicle?

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I saw this tweet from Matt Yglesias (@mattyglesias) a few days ago, then read the linked blog:

Recommended. The LA Times follows up here, pointing out that we’ve reached “Peak Freakonomics” where our two authors seem to have run out of innovative ways at looking at subjects and should probably try to find a new niche to market.

But I was thinking about Yglesias’s proposition: What if the government bought your cars for you? How would that work? So here’s a thought experiment for that:

First, no frills. No leather seats, no iPhone dock, no super-quiet engine. There’s nothing wrong with those sorts of luxuries, but taxpayers won’t swing for them, so they’re out. If you want a DVD player for your kids to watch a movie, you have to spring for that yourself.

Second, how much will you be using your vehicle? Look, the government will be happy to give you a car to transport you places, but does it need to be idle all night while you sleep? Do you need to have it sit on your corporate campus for nine hours while you’re at work?

It would probably be cheaper for the government to pay for a chauffeur who would drive you to work, then go drive other people who needed rides, then pick you up after your shift. In fact, it doesn’t even need to be the same chauffeur!

Third, what if it’s not a one-person vehicle? Why should the chauffeur drive you and you alone to your destination when there are probably quite a few people who work where you work, or who would like to shop at that mall? Single-occupancy vehicles are wasteful and cause traffic jams. The government could streamline things by carrying several people at once.

Larger vehicles would be called for, ones with the capacity to move lots of people around. Perhaps some sort of schedule could be devised (and routes established) to maximize the movement of users.

Fourth, what about free-loaders? Obviously, there are those who want a car just for the thrill of driving. Would the American taxpayer be willing to subsidize that sort of purely-pleasurable but unproductive pastime? Considering how they act when food-stamp recipients buy soda, I doubt it.

Perhaps some sort of small co-pay could be required to discourage joy riding. We could call it a “fare.”

And you know where that takes us? To public transportation, which is certainly not perfect but is still used by millions of people every day. How would the Freakonomics guys feel if we increased its funding? I wish my transit system had more dollars.

Because the government is never going to allow people to walk into a car dealership and pick out any car they like. It’s ridiculous to even offer that as a thought experiment. But if the government thinks it’s important for people to have access to a minimum standard of health care, they will work that out. And if the government thinks people should be able to move around a community without driving a car of their own, they’ll work that out, too.

It won’t be extravagant, but it might make your society run better.

Randomness for 2/21

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1) Classic movies painted as Ottoman miniatures.

2) The six male characters women never get to see in movies. so many story ideas here.

3) Credit card company’s new terms and conditions allow them to show up at your home or workplace, or disguise their identity when they call.

4) Facial expressions of Olympic figure skaters. G forces take quite a toll.

5) Using two colors, this map shows where 50% of the GDP of the USA comes from.

6) A comic about economics and trade agreements. TW: mixed in with a lot of good information is some shitty treatment of Tea Partiers.

7) Ten Travel Tips for Japanese People Visiting the USA.

Randomness for 2/11

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1) An alternate history of “Flappy Bird” a successful game that was pulled from sale because of the gamers abused its creator.

2) Marvel opens its image archive and api to the public. I’m pretty sure this is cool, and if I were ten years younger I might understand why.

3) Calvin and Muad’Dib. Calvin & Hobbes cartoons with quotes from Dune to replace the dialog.

4) Teddy Roosevelt’s 10 Rules for Reading. Sensible guy.

5) Male artist creates art show with woman’s art, doesn’t feel he needs to name her.

6) An Infinity of Alternate Batmen.

7) Deleted.

Randomness for 2/6

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1) Supervillain lair in Joshua Tree for sale. So incredibly gorgeous.

2) Here’s that bad advice you were looking for.

3) Frito-Lay crowdsources potato chip flavors, with the expected results.

4) Scientist who took on pesticide finds his reputation under assault from the corporation who makes it.

5) “Motherfuckers live in places that don’t exist, and it comes with a map. My God.” Ice-T records the audiobook for a Dungeons and Dragons novel.

6) The case for a big budget Hawkman movie. Video.

7) How to sneeze in ten languages.

Photographer goes to Kiev to get the real story (translated to English)

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It’s obvious the guy writing this is a photographer, but I’m not sure if he’s a journalist, activist, or curious citizen. In any event, his own words:

I came to Kiev. I came to see for myself what is happening here. Of course, an hour after arriving at Maidan, you begin to understand that everything what you’ve read in dozens of articles, saw in TV news reports is total crap. In the upcoming reports I will try to, as objectively as possible, to sort out this new wave of Kiev revolution.

via Sherwood Smith

Randomness for 1/6

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1) A 1600-Year-Old Viking Board Game.

2) Thor is the New Superman. Yet another screw-up by DC.

3) 160-Year-Old historical documents deliberately destroyed in North Carolina. Covering up old crimes? There are followup posts.

4) 4 Things I Learned from the Worst Online Dating Profile Ever.

5) The top 20 most annoying book reviewer cliches and how to use them all in one meaningless review.

6) Here’s Exactly How Much the Government Would Have to Spend to Make Public College Tuition-Free.

7) “There’s a book inside of you. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

Randomness for 12/24

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Not Christmas-related. Isn’t that a relief?

1) Skyrim mod replaces dragons with Thomas the Tank Engine. Video. Maybe that should be in a story seeds post.

2) Mountain goats climb nearly vertical dam for the salt.

3) Iron Moon. Video. via Kurt Busiek.

4) The world’s largest mall has an occupancy rate of less than 1%. via Fred Hicks.

5) How long it takes a typical worker to earn as much as their company CEO makes in an hour.

6) Story Corps, Animated. Video. If you have been listening to Story Corps here and there, you’ll know why this is something not to be missed. If not, Story Corps is a project where two people sit with a microphone to permanently record (for the Library of Congress) a personal story from their lives. If the news has you thinking people are mostly awful, Story Corps will change your mind.

7) Chief O’Brien At Work.