Keen-eyed readers will note that my site looks a little different now. Weebly stopped updating or supporting my previous "theme" so it started to have annoying problems like the menu icon being invisible on the mobile version that most people use. This theme is working out better but will take some fine-tuning to get exactly the way I want it, or as close to exactly the way I want it as I can get without the bother of learning to code.
I am profoundly fatigued from my eternal sleep deprivation, which has robbed me of the stamina to complete the much better post I had planned for this weekend. Nonetheless, yesterday was the first truly happy day I've had since the incident that I keep going on about. The weather here in Logan, Utah was so gorgeous that it felt like a sin to not spend every moment of daylight outside, so I, limited by my unusually tired legs, took several brief walks punctuated by resting on benches and in grass. I also learned two very welcome pieces of information: that I've been accepted for graduate school here at USU, and a family matter that I suppose isn't my place to publicly announce at this time. The graduate school thing comes as no surprise because a. God has been pushing me to do it and b. honestly, if I wasn't good enough to make the cut, they'd only have like five graduate students at most. But having it confirmed gives me one fewer thing to worry about until the reality of what I've gotten myself into sinks in.
With higher brain functions and meaningful accomplishments like my Indiana Jones fan fiction off the table for the time being, I've lapsed into one of my music addiction phases. During these periods I rarely take my headphones off except to charge them, but even more so than listening to the songs I already know and love, I become obsessed with acquiring more and building playlists. The Spotify playlist I'm on now, "Gimme Some Space" - a spacelist if you will, a love letter to astronomy and science fiction and pretentious crap like the yearnings of the human heart - is, for better and worse, easier than some to expand. This list is arranged by topic rather than genre. Obviously it leans a lot toward electronic music that people associate with space but I try to make it as diverse as possible. So at any time I can search out more musical candidates by entering keywords associated with astronomy and/or science fiction, listen to each one time, and if I don't hate it then onto the list it goes. I spent more time than I'd care to admit on this pursuit yesterday.
As of this writing, without consciously setting out to do so, I've ended up so far with eleven versions of David Bowie's magnum opus "Space Oddity" - the original version and ten covers. I also have sixteen versions of Peter Schilling's unauthorized sequel "Major Tom (Coming Home)" - the original German version, two remixes of the German version, a cover of the German version, the official English version, two remixes of the English version, four covers of the English version, four remixes of one of the covers of the English version, and a French cover. I'm way more excited about this than I should be. Probably the only song on the list that outnumbers those ones is the Star Wars theme, which comes under so many different titles ("Star Wars", "Main Theme", "Main Theme from Star Wars", etc.) that I can't be bothered to quantify it scientifically. But I could do worse than to keep replicating three of the best compositions in the universe.
The major downside of these phases is that I go to bed after a day of being obsessed with music, and my brain is like a radio that I can't turn off. One song after another after another. It makes getting to sleep even more difficult than usual and as a result I'm even more fatigued today than yesterday. Of course I know this will happen and try to be responsible and limit myself, but I am weak and subject to all manner of temptations of the flesh. Especially when I'm tired. Which is always. I've loved space stuff for a very long time and I think I've latched onto this playlist because of the spirit of escapism it embodies, which is also something I wrote about in my declaration of intent when I needed some pompous academic language to explain why I should be accepted for graduate school, and it worked. Anyway, here's the playlist in case I've sufficiently piqued your curiosity.
It's a month almost to the day since the nasty incident with my neighbors, and though I've put it behind me as much as possible, and though by objective measures little else has developed, of course I still remember it every day and have had plenty of time to think about it a little more. It's for my own closure more than anything and I'm sorry if it bores everyone else (insert your own quip about all my posts boring you here).
The next day, open enrollment began for summer and next school year, and I went to sign up. I love my current location, and I had to move thrice last year and I would be damned if I was going to do it again so soon. If my neighbors had a problem with me then they could leave, and I've since heard that they will, though I don't know if it has anything to do with me. I also soon returned to opening my blinds for most of the day as I've always done to maximize natural light and minimize my electricity bill (though most of it is still blocked by trees and recycle bins) but now to also send the message I'm not afraid of you, I mean I am, but I won't let you intimidate me out of living my life. While sitting in my living room on a Sunday morning I've seen them look in my living room window at me before scurrying past like anxious little rodents. Like they're literally scared of me when all I ever did was be nice to them. Such idiocy is so unreal I don't even know how to feel about it.
I've been able to avoid more than occasional glimpses of them, with one notable exception. One Sunday evening I walked into the Spectrum, the basketball stadium on campus where the annual Joseph Smith Memorial Devotional was being held, and there C stood not three meters in front of me, in her campus employee uniform, facing a perpendicular direction. Terror paralyzed me for a moment that seemed like an hour, but I quickly realized that if she turned her head to the left and saw me she would probably call a SWAT team, so I bolted past her, through the crowd, at least halfway around the stadium, not slowing down when I heard some guy behind me say "Hey, there's Nick! Hey, Nick! Nick! He's got headphones on. Nick!" Of course I knew he was talking about/to me because Nick is second only to Christian on the list of things that people think my name is. I found a nice isolated seat close to the action where I could relax a little and process the unwelcome moment.
Now, I was unfairly biased the first time I saw her, as I was trying to close off my heart to the opposite sex entirely, and I thought she looked plain, homely, awkward, and forgettable. I've since come to realize that she is in fact widely regarded by humans as "cute", and I can accept that. But she's no Gal Gadot by any means. She looks like an upside-down exclamation point with glasses, hair, and possibly the worst case of Resting Bitch Face Syndrome I've ever seen. Our first encounter held not the slightest foreshadowing that soon, the slightest hint of a smile on that face would be sufficient to turn my internal organs into jelly. It was what I thought I knew of her mind and personality that transformed her into God's most beautiful creation. This, I thought, is one hell of a woman. This is one of the most mature, intelligent, genuine people I've ever met. This is someone I could have deep, intellectual conversations with for hours. It's not even an issue that she's four and a half years younger than me even though most girls that young don't appeal to me because they look and act like high school students and I'm just not into that.
And then she showed her true colors and I completely lost respect for her, along with faith in my ability to judge character at all, and I was/am embarrassed that I wasted so much emotional energy on someone so unworthy. And then I saw her up close by accident with this new frame of reference and she was still, inexplicably, God's most beautiful creation. So that added another layer of confusion and fear which I was in no position to assuage.
Another little act of bravery was attending home evening even though they're both assigned to my group, and neither of them were ever there so it was fine and for once I was glad I didn't let fear hold me back. After three weeks of going elsewhere on Sundays I decided to return to my ward altogether when it became apparent that few people had heard about the incident and those who did were on my side. Even with C's and T's garbled version of events, it seems, the general feeling from others is that they overreacted to whatever I was or wasn't doing. To their credit, I've obviously told far more people about it than they have, but not so much to their credit, my version isn't dishonest and totally irrational. So I went to church, they sat a bit in front of me with their arms around each other and I realized they make the cutest couple ever.
The final deciding factor was learning that one of their own roommates had stood up for me in a meeting, saying they had jumped the gun, that I wasn't a threat, and that they resented me for treating their dog better than they do. (Guilty as charged. I do have an unfortunate track record of being nice to dogs.) I was surprised to hear about this because, while I knew the complaint had to have come from the two of them, I just kind of assumed all five roommates were on the same page about it. The cop they sent to harass me just kept saying "Your neighbors" this and "Your neighbors" that and made it sound like I wasn't allowed to communicate with any of them at all ever. And I barely know this particular roommate, but on the rare and brief occasions when I talked to her, usually when I knocked on the door looking for someone else, she always seemed to think I was strange and have this What are you doing? kind of look on her face even though I wasn't doing anything. I assumed that when C and T announced I was a stalker she would have just been like I always knew he was sketchy. It warmed my heart very much to hear otherwise.
My friend Jen sent me cookies. She sends me cookies on my birthday but now she doesn't have to for my next three birthdays.
Another friend suggested, "That one girl (the one who saw visions) sounds like a pathological liar."
I asked, "Literally, do you think?" Because I've used the phrase "pathological liar" perhaps a bit too casually in my day, but now I was really intrigued by the possibility of a legitimate pathology here.
"Yeah," she said. "Every person I know who claimed to see visions or auras turned out to be a compulsive liar. (Not that there aren't people who can see visions, like the prophets in the Book of Mormon.) There is a hierarchy of who can have revelations for who. Like parents can have revelations for their children or the bishop for his ward. I bet she got uncomfortable with you asking questions because she couldn't keep her lies going without exposing herself. But I wasn't there and I can't read minds. That's my guess."
You know, I think she's right. I never suspected anything amiss about T's "gift" because she didn't seem to use it for her own profit or self-aggrandizement, or have any intention of usurping someone else's authority. I just thought, well, this is unusual but cool, whatever. I may seem like a colossal idiot to those who don't believe in anything like that to begin with but we'll just have to agree to disagree. Looking back I can maybe see a few inconsistencies in her claims, and how she moved the goalposts and always had a little too quick and easy answer for everything. If she could really read my aura or see the color of my heart she wouldn't have been so very, very wrong about me in the end, and if she were really as wise as she pretended (though always putting on a show of humility when I pointed it out) she wouldn't have reacted like a fifth grader. And she demonstrably did lie to me at least a couple of times and had no discernible qualms about breaking her promise to me in a heartbeat.
Part of me wants to believe that she has a toxic influence on her best friend C, that everything is her fault and that C really is at heart the kind of person I thought she was. Who knows? I never likely will. But I received more support for this hypothesis from my old friend Marie, a character whom only long-time readers of my blog will remember.
Incidentally, a couple months ago she delighted in pointing out to me that C's lovely name is a sacrilegious swear word in Quebec. If I hadn't been so blind, I would have recognized that as a massive red flag.
I've thought a bit about my story in relation to Joseph Smith's First Vision. In this event, to which The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and all breakoff sects trace their founding, and which celebrates its two hundredth anniversary this year, Joseph Smith reports that at the age of fourteen he went into the woods to pray and was visited in person by Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Over the years he wrote a few firsthand accounts, and a few more were written by associates who heard him talking about it. There are two main perspectives on these varying accounts. The critical perspective is that because they aren't identical in every detail, Joseph Smith must have made the story up as he went along. The faithful perspective is that he emphasized different aspects of the event at different times for different audiences. Now obviously I'm biased, but I think the critical perspective is pretty infantile, and that only one of these differences (the number of heavenly beings mentioned in the 1832 account versus the other accounts) even comes close to something that could rationally be considered a discrepancy.
I've thought about it because, though it's only been a few weeks as opposed to Joseph Smith's twelve years, I've told my story to several people and I haven't told it the same way each time. I haven't consciously adjusted the story for my different audiences but of course in each case finite constraint on people's attention spans and I have to select what strike me as important, representative details. I've often just started with a simple statement like "My neighbors thought I was stalking them and called the police" or "I had to go to the hospital for being suicidal" and let the ensuing comments and questions guide my additional exposition. I've even gone back to my original post - which was already too long - and, through the power vested in me by George Walton Lucas Jr., revised a few word choices and added details that I didn't include the first time around. There are still more I could add but I don't want it to become so long and rambling that nobody on the planet cares to read it.
Does that make me dishonest? Of course not. All it means is that it was a really big, emotionally impactful event and that I can't think of or include everything all at once, let alone every time, nor would anybody actually want me to. The First Vision was much bigger and much more emotionally impactful, albeit in an altogether more positive way. That's not even taking into account how memories are reconstructed from scratch every time we access them based on our current perspectives and emotions, or the obvious evolution in how Joseph Smith would have viewed the event's significance as his life continued and more events followed. I only hope that the significance of this event for me will turn out to be more than God giving me the finger. Listen to a very long but well worth it historians' podcast on the historical context of the First Vision.
And speaking of church history, Saints Volume 2 is out now and I'm a few chapters in and I intend to binge-read the rest as fast as possible.
I'm not surprised in the slightest that Trump's impeachment ended with him facing no consequences for his actions. The orange blob has built his entire political career off of facing no consequences for his actions. And regardless of which side you're on, it's really really obvious that the whole trial was a sick farce and that the evidence never mattered, since the voting split exactly along party lines like we suspected it would all along.
Oh, except it didn't quite go exactly along party lines. One of the two hundred fifty Republicans demonstrated an ounce of integrity. Willard "Mitt" Romney sided against his own party, against Trump, and cited his Latter-day Saint faith as the driving force behind this act of conscience. Fully aware of the persecution he would face for standing up to the the Republican cult's wicked god, Romney quoted a song that I, having grown up in the same church as him, heard many times: "Do what is right, let the consequence follow."
This church, due to the historical circumstances surrounding Utah's admission to statehood, leans rather conservative / Republican (notwithstanding those terms are all but mutually exclusive nowadays) in the United States (unlike everywhere else in the world where members' political leanings are indistinguishable from the general population). This wouldn't be so much of a problem if it hadn't led to the existence of a substantial number of morons who are only Republicans because their great-great-grandparents were, yet wrongly believe that they're Republicans because the Republican Party platform is the only one compatible with the gospel, and in practice elevate it to the level of scripture itself. And these morons are very angry at Romney (in addition to the same reason that other Republicans are very angry at Romney) for embarrassing them by bringing their shared religion into his act of treason against their true god.
Well, all I can say to those people is deal with it. If I can tolerate sharing my religion young earth creationists, anti-vaxxers, and Trump apologists, then they can tolerate sharing it with someone who actually lives by its precepts. I can't speak for Romney's experience, but the church I grew up in did not teach me to downplay, rationalize, and/or straight-up defend corrupt, dishonest, lecherous, and/or rabidly xenophobic behavior. It taught me not to judge hearts, but it did not teach me to pretend that a repugnant human being is an example of character and leadership because worse people exist. It did not teach me to abandon my principles at a moment's notice for political expediency. I'm not sure where these other Latter-day Saints picked all that stuff up.
So the Republican cult wants to censure Romney for doing what he (correctly) believed was right. It wants him to face actual consequences for not mindlessly voting along party lines. And the harassment from rank-and-file cultists will probably continue for a good while. But the best part is their god's passive-aggressive pronouncement, "I don’t like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong." I mean, this statement is itself so wrong, asinine and completely backwards that it's actually hilarious. In fairness, Trump has never needed justification for doing what he knows is wrong, because his worshipers bend over backwards and fall over themselves time and time again to provide it for him. But one would be hard-pressed to find a more obvious example of the biblical warning, "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!" Yeah, I went there and I'm not sorry.
Oh, my mistake.
Though I have a much smaller platform than Romney and would hardly seek to portray myself as a shining specimen of moral rectitude, I'm somewhat familiar with the price of honesty. It really pisses people off. Speaking the truth as I understand - not to say that I'm always right by any means, but that I follow my own intellect and conscience the best I can instead of pandering to what other people consider acceptable and want to be true - got me hit by my parents and bullied by my peers as a child, and has alienated scores of former friends and counting as an adult. But I've also been informed that others find it refreshing and love my blog and Facebook posts for that reason. So my blog would be a lot more popular if more people weren't fake and shallow. Oh well, that's life.
Of course, this joke of an impeachment trial and the backlash against Romney are symptomatic of the nauseating polarization of American politics which in turn is a direct result of the impossibly stupid two-party system. Why am I even wasting my time writing this? I've talked about it before and it didn't make a difference then and it won't now. I feel like I'm talking to a nation of lobotomized tree sloths. You don't have to choose between Republicans and Democrats. There are other options. There always have been. You saying "They have no chance of winning" is literally the only reason they have no chance of winning, you ******* imbeciles. Cripes.
Sorry about that. I feel better now.
To say that Hitler's Nazis killed eleven million people doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of how evil they were. Murder is bad and all, but in my view, there are many, many things worse than death, and the Nazis did most of them to people. I assume most people have learned at some point in detail about the atrocities of the Holocaust, yet it seems to me that in American popular culture we typically represent Nazis as one-dimensional stock villains who just want to take over the world for vague unspecified evil reasons. This glaring discrepancy is why Steven Spielberg could no longer use Nazis as Indiana Jones villains after making "Schindler's List", and in recent days has also caused me some discomfort as I'm revisiting an Indiana Jones fan fiction based on a rejected screenplay that I started over a decade ago. The truth is awkward. I don't believe all my suffering in the past decade, considerable though it is, would measure up to even a week in a Nazi concentration camp.
And of course, the Nazis' atrocities against the Jews should never ever ever be downplayed, but they do tend to get all the attention, with other persecuted groups who together constituted their other five million victims all but forgotten from our collective memory. This week an excellent op-ed appeared called "Why Nazi Atrocities Against Gay Men Must Never Be Forgotten". (Specifically men, yes, as the author briefly notes that "they viewed lesbianism as a temporary condition so they suffered less", and I in turn note an interesting parallel to what I've read about medieval views of homosexuality, in which female same-sex crimes were given much more leniency because women were stupid and emotional and less responsible for their actions. Yay for misogyny?) Ironically, given how little attention this subject has received, the first time I heard the word "homosexuals" (though I'd already been called "faggot" several times a day for a few years by that point) was in sixth grade when a teacher listed off groups of people that the Nazis persecuted.
Alan Keele likewise noted in his review "Mormons and Nazis", "While visiting in 2007 the Villa Wannsee, outside Berlin, site of the infamous planning meetings for the 'Final Solution to the Jewish Problem' presided over by Adolf Eichmann, I was intrigued – and, frankly, shocked – to learn from a display there that from within Germany proper – not counting places outside its borders like Poland with much larger Jewish populations – the Nazis actually murdered more homosexuals even than Jews.
"I am convinced that the sobering fact of the existence and extent of such homicidal Nazi homophobia, if more widely known and better understood among Mormons today, could have an important tempering effect on current thinking about how disciples of the Prince of Peace should speak about and behave toward members of the LGBT community, especially recalling how homophobia was falsely viewed in the Third Reich as a lofty moral position, the taking of a righteous religious stand against sinful monsters portrayed by Fascist hate-mongers as an imminent danger to society....
"This is by no means an abstract concern. I have witnessed several things, some quite recently, that both shocked and horrified me. In my High Priests’ meeting in early 1994, a retired Seminary and Institute teacher, a man I very much admire, a war hero seriously wounded during the Battle of the Bulge, worked himself into a rage over the fact that President Clinton had invited gays to march in his inaugural parade. Growing more angry by the moment, he opined that gays should not be allowed to take employment or find housing. When someone asked him how he expected them to live, he finally sputtered that all queers should probably be taken out and shot."
In fairness, taking them out and shooting them would be much nicer than what the Nazis actually did to them.
An older but very educational article that also came to my attention outlined "In Germany’s extermination program for black Africans, a template for the Holocaust". Besides showing how the "Final Solution" for Jews and others directly evolved from Germany's genocide against black Africans in what is now Namibia, it explores the intertwining with eugenics and the civil rights movement in the United States. The concept of exterminating "undesirable" types of people really was born in the United States from brilliant minds like Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger, but it was mostly about not letting them reproduce, and Germany watched these developments with interest and decided to improve on them by adding unspeakable torture and mass murder. When the United States saw that, they were all like "Woah, guys, we're as racist as the next country, probably more so in fact, but too much is too much." It forced more than a little bit of soul-searching.
Tangent: The United States' history of forced sterilizations is not ancient history. The article notes that in North Carolina they "continued into the 1970s, long after Hitler fell", but I also remember less than seven years ago when doctors in California were exposed for sterilizing at least 148 women in prison between 2006 and 2010. I was immersed in right-wing Facebook pages and news sources at this time and I remember well that this was pretty much the only thing California ever did that they agreed with. Typical comments from self-proclaimed conservatives ran along the lines of "I don't see the problem here!" and "They should sterilize the men too!" A self-proclaimed conservative myself, it nonetheless made me sick. There are few times when it's okay to compare people to Hitler, but this was one of them.
Hitler said a few nasty things about black people in his book. But the Nazis themselves, unlike their predecessors in Namibia, never got around to an orchestrated campaign against black people because there weren't very many in Germany or nearby. They had a relatively low number of young mixed-race people in the Rhineland (descended from black French troops) whom they sterilized in 1937, and as horrible as that is, it remains one of the least of their atrocities. And when black American athlete Jesse Owens totally humiliated them in the 1936 Olympics, they were nonetheless PR-savvy enough to treat him better than the United States did. Though by no means oblivious to the Nazis' animosity toward him, he famously opined, "Hitler didn’t snub me; it was our president who snubbed me. The president didn’t even send a telegram." If the Nazis had won World War II, though - which was never much of a risk given Hitler's incompetence at military strategy, but if they had somehow, it wouldn't have been long before they swept over Africa and added a few tens of millions more mutilated corpses to their resume.
This actually has some relevance to my aforementioned fan fiction which, as per the screenplay it's based on, has Nazis as the villains and takes place in black Africa in 1937. Back in tenth grade or so I made a point of playing up the racism aspect that the screenplay completely ignores (and adding a bit of American racism as well, because they don't deserve to get off the hook either, though the protagonist himself is canonically established as way ahead of his time on racial equality). But revisiting it now, I still feel uncomfortable because that still doesn't come close to adequately conveying how evil Hitler and his ilk truly were. It's even putting a bit of a damper on my longtime love for the Indiana Jones franchise.
It bears repeating that if there is no God and no afterlife, Hitler and his Nazis won, and their victims lost in a very big, very permanent way.
The referendum against Utah's recent tax reform ended on Tuesday, having collected an estimated 150-170,000 signatures out of the 116,000 that were required. It would have taken some time to verify the final count, and some would have been rejected, but we were pretty dang confident we had this in the bag. Then it became moot because the Legislature was so scared by this upswelling of resistance that they repealed the tax reform altogether. Now, instead of being put on the ballot in November, it's simply ceased to exist. Of course I hope Utah will still remember in November exactly which people voted for that train wreck in the first place, and I hope this will leave a lasting impression on anyone currently in or planning to enter politics. I have to admit the referendum would have most likely been a flop without the endorsement and enthusiastic participation of the Harmon's grocery store chain, where I would happily shop if they had a location in Logan, and the conservative think tank Sutherland Institute who encouraged people to sign by running radio ads telling them not to sign.
I finished submitting the supplementary materials for my graduate school application. The requirements use all this pompous academic language, of course, and it's intimidating and it makes me feel like I'm way out of my depth when I just want to write fun science fiction stories. Realistically, though, and I'm not trying to be cocky, but realistically, I'll be very surprised if I don't get in. I think the skill exhibited in my writing sample will speak for itself, and I also know the professors giving me recommendations will speak very highly of said skill, especially the one who urged me to consider graduate school and teaching in the first place. By my estimate I was the third best writer in his class the first time around and the second best the second, but of course that's kind of subjective and when I told Stormy she was probably the best she said "No, you definitely are." I think my biggest strength is that I fill a different niche than most. Nobody else in any of my writing classes over the years has focused on fun science fiction stories.
I recently lost a substantial chunk of one of my teeth, substantial enough for me to see the sensitive core with my naked eye and touch it with my naked finger, which I only did once. I assumed the remaining chunk would have to be pulled out and I was surprisingly quick to accept that. It's way in the back where nobody would notice, and I've already learned to chew without it, and I figured this life is mercifully short and I'll get it back when I'm resurrected so whatever happens to me in the meantime doesn't matter. I was far more concerned about the cost. I just got Medicaid but it doesn't cover anything dental because the US government has decided those things aren't super important. Imagine, then, my relief when the dentist said he can repair my tooth in half an hour and it will only cost $254.84 if I pay the same day. He might have to follow up with a root canal, but there's no sense worrying about that yet.
The situation with my neighbors... hasn't changed at all, but after the initial shock, I surprisingly don't much care. Their wrongness is their own loss. It will also make my memoir that much better.
This review of my site on Webwiki, the first one from somebody who isn't me, isn't new, but I just noticed it the other day and it made me happy.
Thank you, Jason. Now I'm all like
and I hope to continue putting out the same level of quality, but no promises.
I've had a few bits and pieces of writing on this site in the form of embedded word documents and downloads that don't really work on mobile devices and would be too tiny to read comfortably if they did. I don't think search engines can go through them either. Since these are mostly unfinished pieces of crap from my middle and high school years, moving them into the twenty-first century (which my middle and high school years were already part of, but I'm speaking metaphorically, in a self-deprecating remark about my own lack of technological prowess) hasn't been a priority, but in the last few days I've been finally doing it, transplanting the text from these documents into actual web pages.
The most horrifically painful thing about some of my early writing is the godawful attempts to straight-up copy Douglas Adams' one-of-a-kind writing style. In fairness, he left us much too soon and I would be doing a legitimate service to the world by providing more works in his vein if they were of equal quality and not just pathetic knockoffs. And I guess I don't regret the experiment because I believe that it had a lasting impact on the evolution of my actual genuine writing voice. I think I can see a bit of Douglas Adams in my writing voice, but just a bit, thank goodness.
Anyway, I was skimming through this unfinished sci-fi epic "The War" as I moved the text over - I had intended to read it all straight through, but that was too painful - and this little bit stopped me in my tracks. When I wrote it as a teenager in 2008 or 9, it was just a silly attempt at humor with virtually no real-life subtext intended, but anyone reading it today would be unable to avoid what TV Tropes calls Unfortunate Implications. It's - well, I'll just let it speak for itself.
[Beginning of excerpt. The setting is a party/dance with members of many alien races present.]
“All right,” Hok announced, leaping to the nearest hovering microphone on ridiculously long gangly legs. He was a short, skinny green man with a gargantuan head and pointy ears. “All right,” he repeated, “hang on to your kramblotches, because it’s pippiks’ choice!”
There was a slight groan from some of those assembled, elicited by the fact that there was only one pippik present, a suddenly rather confused-looking Troikot.
There is a simple pattern followed by many species throughout the universe, and that is this: male, female. The reason this is followed by many species is that it’s simple, it works, and if you believe in an all-powerful Hand guiding it somewhere along the line you can imagine Him wanting to keep it consistent. For those who like to keep it even simpler, the options of hermaphrodite and null were made available. However, the Universe being the humongous place it is, some species are bound to be dissatisfied with these perfectly reasonable choices, and choose to come up with their own fancy alternatives. Pippiks, then, are only one of thousands of relatively obscure genders to be found throughout said Universe. Kramblotches, on the other hand, are completely unrelated organs found in some species for the purpose of throwing at predators.
When it comes to interstellar travel, this also brings up the problem of gender pronouns. The language of a species with its own special genders will have developed its own special pronouns, of course, but usually any being from a normal male/female/hermaphrodite/null species will not want to bother memorizing all of the pronouns for the thousands of relatively obscure genders that exist. As a result, most choose to lump them all under the “it” category. Some find this offensive, but, others argue, they should have thought of that before their species decided to create its own genders anyway.
“Ask that cute farfel over there,” whispered a Queezik.
“I don’t swing that way,” the Troikot timidly whispered back.
Hok’s keen ears picked up their exchange and he grinned in spite of himself. He knew, of course, that there was only one pippik in the room, but he was trying as best he could to be fair and tolerant of everybody. Sexism, of course, was unseemly even by this society’s standards.
[End of excerpt]
So. Much. Cringe.
I've avoided talking about all the sex and gender controversy (except that one time, which I won't apologize for) because it's surprisingly complicated and I don't want to say ignorant things. I know that chromosomes are complicated and there are several - not percentage-wise, but numerically - demonstrable exceptions to the "XY = male, XX = female" dichotomy. Externally female bodies may have only one X chromosome, or even XY chromosomes and useless internal testes in place of ovaries, to cite a simple and surprisingly common example. I do think a lot of other people don't know as much about it as they think they do either, even when citing "science" as their authority. A couple months ago in the Mormons Building Bridges group someone posted an article about a study that had allegedly found that, marriage expert Mark Gungor's hilarious routine notwithstanding, there is no difference between men's brains and women's brains. And more recently in the same group someone posted an article about a study that had allegedly found that transgender children's brains matched the gender they identified as, not their biological sex.
I may be missing something obvious, but I can't help feeling like it's fundamentally impossible for both of those claims to be true. Of course it's not my place as a non-scientist to reject either or both of them without being able to explain why, but neither is it the place of other non-scientists to imbue either of them with more authority than it actually has. Scientific truth is not established overnight by one scientist or team of scientists. A study may be interesting but means very little unless and until its results are replicated in additional studies. This often never happens. There's also the issue of news outlets and other lay people misinterpreting studies to mean what they want them to mean - for example, this happened a few years ago:
Study from BYU: We found that religious people who use pornography are more likely than non-religious people who use pornography to describe themselves as "addicted" even if they show no signs of addiction.
Almost Everyone Else: This study from BYU found that pornography addiction is a myth created by religious guilt.
These people seemed to believe they were objectively reporting the study's results, when in reality they were doing something else: making crap up. In any case, I'm going to reserve judgment on most of these issues for the foreseeable future. In the meantime, it costs nothing to be kind.
I do still consider it plausible that the vast majority of alien races would fall into something recognizably analogous to the male/female dichotomy, just as the vast majority of advanced organisms on Earth do even with chromosomal arrangements that in many cases radically differ from ours. Sexual reproduction is weird and gross but it works because, by mixing and recombining parents' DNA, it drastically boosts the genetic diversity of the species, which in turn makes it far less vulnerable to being suddenly wiped out by disease, climate change or whatever. This obviously requires at least two parents. Three, four, or a dozen would create even more diversity, but the exponential difficulty of actually pulling it off in practice would more than nullify that benefit. Of course, there may be aliens out there who aren't even made from DNA as we understand it, but that's also too complicated for me to think about right now.
Ugh, I need to get the taste of that excerpt out of my mouth, so here's another from the same scene that I don't hate.
[Beginning of excerpt.]
“Let’s go find a seat,” said Bert. They turned around and nearly bumped into the nine-foot tall hairy mass behind them. It reacted slightly less than a tombstone, but the purple snake coiled around its neck reared up and hissed at them violently.
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” said Alicia, who had spilled soda all over her clothes in response. “Er, nice pet,” she said to the hairy creature, hoping to make light of it.
“How dare you speak that way of my fiancé?” demanded the snake.
[End of excerpt.]
It's a dumb joke, but I find it amusing. At least I was supportive of interracial marriage long after it was cool.
Why do I put these garbage writing samples, these "sins of my youth" as Hergé would call them, on the internet instead of burying them forever? First of all, because when I'm famous everyone will be fascinated to see how my writing has evolved. Joking but serious at the same time. Second, because despite how bad they are, they're actually not that bad. Oh sure, they're too painful for me to read, but they have their moments of brilliance and I can see in them the potential that my teachers saw and urged me to cultivate. They're better than some Legend of Zelda fan fiction I've read. Heck, they're better than some things I read from some of my undergraduate English classmates. Not singling anyone out but just being honest. And maybe some people who hold me to a lower standard than I do, who aren't personally embarrassed by the existence of this old writing, can actually enjoy it. I enjoy the Star Wars Holiday Special, which shouldn't be possible for a carbon-based life form, so it's not that far-fetched.
While I was skimming through "The War", I laughed out loud at a part where (spoiler alert) one character who's just learned English as a second language refers to puppy love as "dog lust". Maybe I'm just an idiot, but I think that's one of the funniest things I've ever written.
"Guys. Chris's blog is the stuff of legends. If you’re ever looking for a good read, check this out!"
- Amelia Whitlock
"I don't know how well you know Christopher Randall Nicholson, but... he's trolling. You should read his blog. It's delightful."
- David Young
C. Randall Nicholson
This is where I occasionally rant about life, the universe, and/or everything. I'm a white cisgender male and a Latter-day Saint, so you can hate me without guilt, but I'm also autistic, so you can't. Unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual.