Friday, August 29, 2014

A Beginner's Guide for Reading Mark Finn

You may have noticed this year that I've had a few books re-issued, published, and reprinted. So far, there's five new books out there and three more on the way. You may be thinking to yourself, "But Mark, you've written so many books, I can't keep up! I might as well just go outside and play with my dog."

Don't pick up that leash yet, Sparky. Sure, modern living forces you into doing these you don't want to do, like Jury Duty, or math. I get it. So, for those of you who want to support your old buddy/school chum/lover/cellmate/personal trainer Mark Finn, but you don't have time to read brief descriptions to gauge your interest levels, here's a quick and easy guide to help you select the book that's right for you. Just click on the links below and you will be whisked to Amazon.com where you can make a fast, painless transaction. And if you still can't decide, you can always buy two books. I promise, I won't tell.


"I don't like all that sci-fi and fantasy stuff. Except for True Blood. And Game of Thrones. Oh! And Twilight. And of course, the Harry Potter books. And American Horror Story. But other than that, I'm not really into that weird stuff."

Newsflash: Yes, you are. And you'll love Year of the Hare. Sam Bowen is one of my most popular characters and he's a normal guy who learned magic to try and reverse a family curse that's been placed upon him. This is the first of two books that will collect all of his stories together from the Clockwork Storybook shared world of San Cibola.





"I like fantasy and sci-fi, but I'm not real familiar with it. I'm new to all of this. Also, I like romance and love stories."

If this is you, then you want to pick up Empty Hearts, my collection of short stories that all deal with love, loss, and desire in a modern-day city where magic is an everyday occurrence. These stories take place in San Cibola, as well, and are a kinder, gentler introduction to that world. Well, mostly... Expect some ghosts and some monsters mixed in with the romance and intrigue.



"I love modern fantasy, and I also think Quentin Tarantino is a hoot! And if you've got something with Elvis in it, well, that would be a personal hat trick aimed right at me!"

Say no more, Bwana! Road Trip is just what you need. Brash, violent, over the top, and best of all, it's chock-full of profanity and adult situations, just like an R-rated movie! Elvis and Cupid are on a Road Trip to South Padre Island to find Cupid's mother, Venus, who is hiding out amongst the mortals. Really, that's all you need to know. Anything else will spoil the story.



"I'm really into this geek-stuff. I love it. I have strong opinions about all sorts of things that are, in fact, completely outside of my control, like every casting decision made in Hollywood. Got anything for me, Smarty Pants?"

You betcha! The Transformation of Lawrence Croft is tailor-made for you. Follow four super geeks as they make their way to MagicCon, a three-day comic and sci-fi convention in San Cibola. What could possibly go wrong, right? Plenty, is what. It's a romp through geek culture at the intersection of magic and make-believe. And it's also the first part of a trilogy of stories starring the four Con-Dorks.



"Well, I don't know about any of that. But I am curious about this mysterious story you just sold to Vertigo. What's that all about? Can we get a hint?"

I can't really give you a hint, since the book hasn't been announced or solicited yet. However, if you want to read something that's 100% in the wheelhouse of what I wrote, let me show you The Adventures of Sailor Tom Sharkey. This is a collection of historical weird humorous boxing stories written about real-life Golden Age boxer Tom Sharkey. These stories are very much in the tradition of Robert E. Howard's Sailor Steve Costigan stories, so if you like those, you'll probably like these, as well.


"Robert E. Howard? Now you're talking. Aren't you supposed to be some kind of Robert E. Howard expert or something like that?"

Yeah, something like that. Here's the biography of Robert E. Howard that I wrote. It's called Blood & Thunder: the Life and Art of Robert E. Howard. If you like biographies of literary people mixed with Texas history, then you'll enjoy this book. It's probably what I'm best known for, and a number of people have read it who were not fans of Howard or his writings who said they enjoyed it a great deal. It moves fast, and has a lot of information packed into it. The book was nominated for several awards when it came out. This is the updated and expanded second edition.

"Yeah, so, none of that's really working for me. Anything else you want to show me, Mister Writer Guy? Or can I go play with my dog, now?"

Boy, you're a tough nut to crack. Why don't you just head on over to my Amazon Author Page and browse the other things I've got listed there? I've got stories and essays and introductions in several books, and there's even a couple of comics for you to purchase if you want to go that route. For example, in The Apes of Wrath, I wrote an essay about the guys who play gorillas in the movies. It's a fun romp through that specialized world. And the rest of the book is really good, too! Fun Fact: Many of my books are also available as ebooks.


Granted, this isn't everything. I've got some projects in development, some stories to appear in books coming out later, and some novels in various stages of completion. If you'd like to keep up with me and you're not bored with Facebook, I've got an Author's Page you can follow. I'll keep on writing, if you keep on reading.

Monday, August 11, 2014

O Captain, My Captain: Robin Williams (1951-2014)

I watched this show religiously for Mork's antics.
Bonus: I had a thing for Pam Dawber, too.
If you were in grade school in the late seventies/early eighties and your name was Mark, and if you happened to be the class clown, then you were "Mork" until middle school.

Robin Williams was my first comedian. "Mine" in the sense that I took ownership of him. Sure, I listened to my mother's comedy albums (Kids: Google "album"): Lily Tomlin, Flip Wilson, and especially Bill Cosby. Great stuff, all, and very funny. But Robin Williams was the comedian that I discovered myself, first on Happy Days and then in Mork & Mindy. My god, he was funny. I don't know if the act holds up, but at the time, there was nothing like him to be found anywhere else.

Because of Williams' performance as Mork (and mostly any other comedy role he ever took) I learned about improvisation, the art of the ad-lib, and best of all, he re-introduced the world to Jonathan Winters.

I was fascinated by him. That stream of consciousness babble of ideas, each one spilling out on top of one another... Of course, later, I found out that was the cocaine talking, but even when he quit doing blow, he was whip smart, and his observations were sharp and funny.

Over the years, his vast movie career has been a series of ups and downs. Lord knows, I haven't liked everything he ever did (Kids: Google "Hook"), but it's only because when he was on, he was brilliant. It made the lame projects stand out in sharp relief.

Some of the movie is very good. Loved the boxing scene.
I kind of want to talk about Popeye right now. I know not everyone liked it, and it lacks, well, a lot in terms of what people were expecting to see. But as far as recreating Thimble Theater (E.C. Segar's strip in which Popeye appeared) goes, it was pretty good. For recreating the Famous Studios cartoons where Bluto is always grabbing Olive and saying, "Hey Doll, Howzabout a Kiss?" the movie was a flop. However, when I'm in the right mood, I love the movie. The art direction is brilliant, the characterizations are fantastic, and to my chagrin, I even like the songs. Mind you, if you ever ask me my favorite comic book movies, it will never be on the list. When I watch it, it's because I'm feeling nostalgic for the early 1980s.

So much of how I approached being funny was tied up in trying to figure out what made Robin Williams tick. Dropping instantly in and out of character and being able to sell a bit onstage are about as far as I got. No one put stuff together like him. His timing, along with his ability to economically cut out everything that didn't look like the joke, was his singular gift.

I was there for all of it. His HBO specials, his early critical acclaim, his later critical acclaim, his transition to elder statesman, all of it. I hated it when I didn't like a movie he was in, or the film was bad, or whatever. I wanted to like everything he did. And looking over his incredible resume, I liked way more than I didn't like, and you can't ever say that a .500 batting average is a bad thing.

Mime Jerry, from the Cult Classic Shakes the Clown.
These smaller, art house movies he did with Bobcat
Goldthwait and others are among my favorite things he
ever did. You must watch World's Greatest Dad.
In the back of our minds, I think we all knew there was something wrong; he was laughing to keep from crying. We could certainly see it in his sobering film roles, or the occasional interview where he's not climbing over the furniture. That razor sharp observational humor cut both ways, and sometimes, you'd see it nick a wrist. I've seen a lot of references to the old joke with the punchline, "But Doctor, I AM Pagliacci," and I think that's apt, and sadly, very prescient for a lot of performers, writers, and actors. Some people need the energy to thrive, and some need the energy to just keep their heads up.

I don't know about all of that, really; it's pure conjecture, and I don't know that we'll ever really know the whole story. I don't know if I want to. In the last few years, I had noticed when he had a heart attack, got divorced, and then very recently, went back to rehab. Those things were happening a little too close together, and I was actually saddened and concerned. Then this. It feels like someone just slammed the door on my childhood. I never met the man, but he's a part of my humorous DNA.

I hate that he felt he was out of options. I don't know if anyone knew how much pain he was in. All the laughter--the belly-aching, side-splitting, howling and crying laughter, and all of the cathartic tears and genuine anger, rage, and sadness, he brought out in everyone over the years, and it still wasn't enough.

Dammit.

Go listen to Marc Maron's very poignant eulogy and rebroadcast of his interview with Robin Williams on his WTF podcast. He really nailed down a lot of things for me, and if you're struggling to cope with this, his words may help you, too. 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

My Thoughts About James Garner

One of the best-written TV westerns of all time.
He was one of my all-time favorite actors.

The L.A. Times wrote a cogent and, I think, really well-nuanced obituary of Garner. Dennis McLellan is clearly a fan, as he made the point several times that Garner was an amazing actor. He never looked like he was acting, and everything that came out of his mouth was natural and pitch-perfect. As I've gotten older, I have come to really appreciate the guys who don't look like they are doing anything, but they end up saying everything.

My first memories of Garner are tied directly to my grandfather, who used to watch Maverick and The Rockford Files religiously. He liked other TV westerns, like Gunsmoke, but he loved Maverick. Specifically, he loved James Garner. And who could blame him? The wise-cracking, laconic gambler who gets in over his head with the ladies and outfoxes the bad guys at every turn. What's not to like? As a child, I never understood it when Bart Maverick was in the show instead of Bret. I didn't realize they were supposed to be brothers, or why that was interesting. All I know is that when Bart was on, Pappy drank more read the paper.

Thankfully, Jim Rockford didn't have a brother. Mike Post's theme song is a permanent groove in my mental jukebox. I can't ever see a picture of Garner from the seventies without that music cuing up, an autonomic response borne out of years of conditioning. I've been rewatching The Rockford Files on Netflix these past few months--one or two a week, more or less as they were intended to be watched, and it's a joy and a treat to see Garner in action in his heyday.

My grandfather died when I was fifteen. I went to his funeral and didn't quite know how to say goodbye to the man; it was my first experience with loss on that level. I have spent years of my life picking through the memories I have of "Pappy" as I called him. I collected stories about him, from anyone who'd tell them. I don't know my grandfather personally--that is to say, he was different when he was around me--but I am pretty certain that he envisioned himself to be the kind of character that James Garner liked to play on TV. More mischievous and less anti-hero, maybe, but no less charming. He played cards, drank like a fish, had a positively caustic wit, and even pulled the occasional "heist." When he needed lumber for some project that he and his friends had cooked up, my grandfather would put on a coat and tie, grab a clipboard, and a yellow hard hat, and drive out to a construction site in a battered blue pick up truck and order some lackey to load two by fours, plywood, and anything else they might need into said truck bed. My grandfather owned a shoe store, but apparently, he was a pretty convincing actor, as well.

From the inimitable opening montage to The Rockford Files.
The show does an excellent job of deconstructing the P.I.
and then building him right back up again.
I don't know if my grandfather would have gotten along with James Garner had they met, but it doesn't matter, really. Pappy had his romantic notions, and I had mine. Because my grandfather is little more than a sketch to me, I've taken on some of his likes and dislikes over the years in an effort to bring myself closer (in head space, if not heart space) to the man. Just as my grandfather is in my style book of What Constitutes Manhood, so too is James Garner. The funny tough-guy or in some cases the tough funny guy, is a pose I could never pull off. 

But Garner is right there in my Frankenstein Monster's Version of Masculinity, alongside Steve McQueen, John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Captain Kirk, Captain America, Errol Flynn, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Lee Marvin. Watching him over the years in movies like Support Your Local Sheriff and The Great Escape (one of my all-time favorite movies, a movie I have to compulsively watch if I stumble across it on television) only reinforced that idea of the fast-talking trickster in that mix of blistering testosterone. The eternal charming rogue. His scenes in The Great Escape with the hapless guard, Werner the Ferret are among the best scenes in the movie. The way he could put the pressure on someone, and still be so likeable, is a trait that people have been writing into his characters for decades.

I always felt a little guilty that I didn't watch 8 Simple Rules for Dating my Teenage Daughter. I was happy that Garner was still getting work, but I just didn't want to watch him as the grumpy grandpa. I much preferred (and still do) the "I do my own stunts" James Garner, or the "I race cars on the weekends" James Garner. The guy I grew up with. Even Space Cowboys or The Notebook James Garner was preferable to that.

I never got to grow up with my grandfather. I never got to drink a beer with him, and listen to him tell me about being a tail gunner in World War II. So I take what I can get. I watch James Garner and I go right back in time to that house, with that huge-ass console television, and the smell of roast beef and scotch, and the sounds of laughter in the kitchen of my mother and grandmother talking about something else. Not this. Me and Pappy and Dad are watching The Rockford Files. They're laughing about the answering machine message. It goes over my head. But one day, I will get the joke.

Rest in Peace, James Garner. Say hi to my dad, and my grandfather, if you see them.

My Lengthy Absence and an ArmadilloCon Schedule

My apologies for the lack of regular updating. I've been grinding away at my stated goal of 500,000 words in one year, and I'm also in the middle of a work-related project that is taking all of my free time, most of my concentration, and the majority of my will and effort. Most days, it's all I can do to scoot around on Facebook for ten minutes.

I've got some larger thoughts I'd like to articulate, and I'll put them here just as soon as I can get out from under one or more of the rocks overhead.  Oh, and of course, I'm still publishing my back list via Monkeyhaus Books. If you bought one, I thank you. If you liked it, please tell someone, or throw up a quote on Amazon.com about it. The reviews really do help with getting eyeballs on the books. So far, I've got the following available:


Road Trip
Empty Hearts: Stories by Mark Finn

And Coming Soon:

Year of the Hare: The Sam Bowen Chronicles Volume 1

Chance of a Lifetime: The Con-Dorks Saga Volume 2
 (First time in paperback!
Thanks for your patience and also for your support! Now, here's my ArmadilloCon Schedule. As you can see, I'm going to be on a lot of faboo panels. Also note: I will have an HOUR for my reading this year. This is huge, and I fully intend to kick out the jams, as the kids like to say. It'll be a real Tour-de-Finn of new stuff, upcoming projects, and maybe, just maybe, I'll drop a chapter or two from Replacement Gorilla.

Friday
Autographing
4:00 PM-5:00 PM Dealers' Room
Chiang, Denton, Finn

Hollywood vs. Everyone Else
5:00 PM-6:00 PM Room F
Finn*, Crider, Hardy, Sullivan
Comparing American film noir with other countries' productions.

True Detective
6:00 PM-7:00 PM Room D
de Orive*, Cupp, Finn, Johnson
WTF did the ending mean?

40 Years of D&D
9:00 PM-10:00 PM Room F
Benjamin*, Finn, Maresca, Marmell, Sarath, Wright
How did D&D inspire authors?

Saturday
Build the Perfect Thief
11:00 AM-Noon Room E
Finn*, de Orive, Foster, Sheridan Rose, Sullivan, Wright
Thieves can make delightful characters, but what does it take to create a great thief?

Gorilla Playing Saxophone with Balloons
Noon-1:00 PM Room D
Finn*, Crider, Klaw, Johnson
Some of the strangest, craziest, weirdest stories about apes ever written.

Fannish Feud
4:00 PM-5:00 PM Conference Center
Finn*, Babcock, Eudaly, Chiang, Close, Law, McDonald, Orth, Walsh, Weisman, Wilson
The classic game show reworked for ArmadilloCon. Fans vs. Pros—which family is smarter?

Charity Auction
Sat 6:00 PM-7:00 PM Conference Center
Finn*
Spend money to support GirlStart and promote math and science for girls and teens.

Sunday
Reading
11:00 AM-Noon Southpark A
Finn

Writing Pulp Paced Stories
2:00 PM-3:00 PM Room F
Reisman*, Finn, Hardy, Johnson, Nevins
Writing fiction that has heft, depth and aspirations of greatness with the energy and pace of the adventure.






Saturday, May 31, 2014

Desperately Seeking Someone to Punch #YesAllWomen



I held off for a week from commenting on the Santa Barbara shooting, and with good reason: I was in no place to make any grand, sweeping pronouncements about anything. I’m glad I did, and I’m also humbled and angry, as a result.  It goes without saying that the shooting was senseless and horrific, and absolutely could have been averted, if not avoided. While I applaud that the response time for the ancillary concerned parties has advanced from “We had no idea he was capable of this” to “We knew he was troubled, but we never thought he was violent,” to finally “We were on our way over to stop him when this happened,” it’s still not much comfort. I think the Onion’s recent stance on the issue, while bitingly satiric, is still very relevant. I’ll just leave that right there and move on.

Instead, I want to talk about the fallout from the tragedy. The #YesAllWomen hashtag has been a kind of wake-up call for the rest of the Internet, and while it’s good to finally have a discussion about this, it’s been like bricks on my head for five days as I read about all of my friends who had these horrible experiences, and I never knew about it.

I haven’t seen hardly any of the detractor’s responses, other than noting from other people that there seems to be a line in the sand being drawn in the big Internet Sandbox, and again, I have to ask, who would even want to be on the other side of the line? Mostly, I’ve just been reading, trying to make some sense of it all. Here’s some of what I have been looking at, and I’ll tell you what conclusions I’ve come to afterward.


Chris Roberson’s confessional polemic, while not quite as broad shouldered as John Scalzi’s, was very refreshing to read for its honesty. I don’t disagree with either of these guys; on the contrary, I admit my culpability in the entrenched hegemony, as well. This is something I’ve been looking at for the past couple of years, ever since the controversy over Cosplay participants and “fake fans” reared its head in the Geek Nation. I’ve been very mindful of it and spoken out against “nerd-misogyny” before. But this was...too much.

One of the 1980's best worst people. Look at this guy. Now
go look at the shooter, with his smirking face and his
squinty eyes and his clothes and his hair and if you can't
see the resemblance, I'll be very surprised. Of course,
the shooter would probably admire this Douche-Nozzle
for the way he handles his girlfriend, but that's not the point.
I mean, there was something about this shooter, aside from his disturbing resemblance to Nick from the 1985 cult classic movie Tuff Turf (a character who was also a mentally unstable misogynist, by the way), that felt very “been there, done that,” and by that I mean, I don’t think there’s an eleven to thirteen year old male in America who hasn’t gone through a phase that looks something like, “One day, I’ll be rich/powerful/famous/a porn star/have super powers, and then they’ll all be sorry they laughed at me!” Depending on your peer group and how quickly you discovered Dungeons and Dragons and/or masturbation, this phase can last anywhere from ten minutes to six months. 

And then we grow out of it. Most of us, anyway.

Those few guys that don’t tend to skitter backwards into the darkness wearing their Members Only jackets and then we don’t see them too much after that. I’m not saying they aren’t there (obviously), but they become sort of "out of sight, out of mind" for the rest of us. I think it’s scary, and sad, for grown-up people to have those kinds of resentments and anger and rage. That is the extent of my sympathy with any man who feels mistreated at the hands of others. We all caught a snowball in the face. All of us. Deal with it and move on.

What’s even scarier and sadder to me is this idea of “a Pick-Up Artist” Community forum, wherein all of these guys who want to learn how to “get with” women go to lick their wounds and build themselves back up again, followed immediately by another Community Forum wherein the guys who tried this approach failed, and now they hate the Pick-Up Artists, too! Talk about victim-thinking... Amanda Hess wrote a sobering article about their response to the tragedy  and then she followed it up with why it’s so hard for men to see misogyny. Again, I have no argument for this. But as we all started to try and find a reason for how this became a sub-culture in modern America, there were a couple of false steps. A film critic went so far as to suggest that the comedies of Judd Apatow were to blame for the mass murder, prompting a rebuke from both Apatow and frequent collaborator Seth Rogan.

She’s wrong, of course, but I can see that she was picking at the edge of something. Then I read Your Princess is in Another Castle: Misogyny,Entitlement, and Nerds, by Arthur Chu and the light bulb went on. He’s dancing around the idea, as well, but he’s a lot closer to the hows and the whys.

Here’s what I think: There is a generation of people for whom it is difficult to discern reality from fantasy. I first noticed it years ago, in the mid-90s, when I was watching a show on Cartoon Network and a Barbie commercial came on that showed the doll water-skiing using the magic of Stop-motion animation (probably actually CGI, but let’s not quibble; you know what I mean). Flashed across the screen in the midst of this crass consumerism was the disclaimer, “DOLL DOES NOT ACTUALLY MOVE.” Wow. I thought we’d gone round the bend, but we were just getting started.

This? It was a Male Idyll. A fantasy.
A wishful indulgence. And it was
fake, and we all knew it. It was
never real, and it never will be.
We all grew up surrounded by stories. Myths. Legends. George Washington chopped down the cherry tree and said, “I cannot tell a lie.” Legend. Any American who works hard can pull themselves up by their boot straps and become millionaires. Myth. “They lived happily ever after.” Stories. We are inundated by fantasy at an early age, whether it’s that “all girls are princesses and deserve to marry a prince,” or “Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.” You get it as soon as they start reading stories to you. You get it as soon as they plop you down in front of the television. You get told things, over and over again, repeating endlessly over and over again. And it sticks, or at least, it stays until another story takes its place. And stories that get told over and over stop becoming stories and start to become beliefs. Truths. They become how you see the world, instead of a way to look at the world differently.  And that’s what I think is happening here.

Let’s take a benign example. We were all told that Santa Claus is real; we all got that story. And we believed it, earnestly, diligently, and without question, until we were, what? Six? Seven? Eight? Do you remember how you found out? For most of us, it was the other kids. There was always some kid who figured it out, or whose parents didn’t practice Christmas, and they spilled the beans about Santa. Despite your mother and father’s efforts, when you saw that enough people didn’t believe it, either, you had to come to the conclusion that yeah, Santa wasn’t real.

So, why is there a generation that seems to have trouble discerning fact from fantasy? How is it that there’s more people who believe in conspiracy theories than ever? How is it that even with hundreds of thousands of women sharing their stories, there’s people who fervently believe it’s some sort of “feminazi plot?”

I think we can lay the blame right at the Internet’s feet. See, when you were eight years old, your peers taught you that Santa wasn’t real. When you were a teenager, you learned from the people around you that life wasn’t fair, and that we all had the same kinds of problems (Okay, you might have learned that from The Breakfast Club, but still). We used to all watch the same news programs and have something to discuss around the water cooler the next day. Sixty Minutes used to be a going concern. So was 20/20.

We don’t have that, now. Now we have the Internet. And while it’s true that it brought people together and formed new friendships and relationships and has been a major impact on art, commerce, and society, it’s true that it also united every lone freakshow, socially retarded troglodyte, sociopathic misogynist, and backwards-thinking assbug in the country. See the above “Pick Up artist forums” for examples of this. Now, you’re not the only guy in high school with no sex life. You can get online and connect with every other trenchoated loaner in America, where the stories they tell themselves are very different from the stories in the real world. Or even, the real world itself.

Now, anyone with a grievance can simply unplug from society, the real world, and their personal environment and go into whatever nurturing cybercave they choose to visit, where everyone agrees with what they say, because they all think and feel the exact same way. The internet has become the mysterious cave in the story of our lives. Sometimes, there’s treasure, or magic, or knowledge in the cave. But most of the time, there’s also monsters in the cave.

I know a great many of you around my age and older had a childhood had an adolescence similar to mine. I was told that the music I listened to would turn me into a devil-worshipper. That the cartoons I watched would make me a sociopath. That the role-playing games I played would turn me into a paranoid schizophrenic. None of that actually happened. We all had parents who either grounded us in reality, or anchored us in place. We had peers with similar experiences. We were all still somewhat connected to one another, even if it was only through the umbilical cord of shared popular culture. After all, weren’t you a little leery of the kids who didn’t like Star Wars? I sure was.

All of that’s changed. I don’t want to whole-cloth write-off the Special Snowflakes of the world for their helicopter parents and their overly-developed sense of entitlement, but we’re not doing Generation Y any favors, not at all. The Santa Barbara Shooter felt he was owed beautiful women, that he was entitled to them. Says who? What on Earth gave him that idea? Well, a lot of things, apparently. Look, I think any crazy person can get a crazy idea from anyplace, and there’s no telling what they will latch onto—movies, video games, a Pick-Up Artist website’s bullshit, you name it—but I’m just wondering if that idea would have stuck in his head so firmly if there was a group of real people around this little monster who shouted him down every time he tried to bring up the “bitches be tripping” rhetoric? Or parents who took him aside and said, “Yeah, son, you’re being a douche right now.” Something, anything, other than The Internet.

Granted, it sounds like I’m picking on Generation Y, but to be sure, there are members of Generation X that have fallen into this pit trap, as well. Again, I don’t see them very often, because they aren’t engaging with regular people in the real world.  And that’s the problem, isn’t it?  I’ll wager there are very few of us who have studied the actual psychological effects of long-term online communication, and how it’s different from actual live person social interaction. I sure don’t know very much about it. I don’t know anything. But I do know this: talking to people online, even on FaceBook, is very different from talking to someone on the phone, or sitting across from me. Maybe, just maybe, when someone is a borderline narcissistic sociopath, or has tendencies along those kinds of lines where it seems easier to pick up a gun to solve your problems, maybe that person would get more positive results from talking to humans in the real world instead of “ImBobaFettBitches1974” on some message board that’s connected to the thing this person obsesses endlessly about.

I told you all of that, to tell you this: I want to start trying to do something about it. The sexism, I mean. The misogyny. I want to start making a change. I don’t want my friends to be scared anymore. I don’t want to hear about another woman’s stalking incident. Only, instead of going into my little cyber-cave, I want to stand out, in the middle of society, and say, “Okay, let’s do this! Who among you is a shithead? Come forth, and let me smack you!”

Yeah, that approach probably won’t work. I know that. Ever since the cosplay controversy, I’ve kept my eyes open at the various shows and conventions I attended. I paid more attention. I checked in with people more frequently. And you know what I discovered? Nothing. Nada. Bupkiss. Mind you, I was ready to step in, to intervene, to sweep the leg, even, if necessary. But I saw nothing, heard nothing, and experienced nothing that was actionable. I’m not saying nothing happened at all, but I am saying, I was looking for it, and personally saw nothing. Maybe if I had my telepathy helmet on, I could have scanned the whole convention and found the two or three skeeves and pointed an accusing finger at them and scared them off. But I have limits.

I’ll keep looking. And I’ll keep trying. But I want to know: how do we as men start to apply peer pressure to people who need it when they are keeping their mouth shut around us, hanging back, and in general slinking around because they know we’ll call them on it? And worse, how do you keep that lesson from transmogrifying into “the popular kids beat me up and stuffed me in a locker today because I tried to talk to one of their girlfriends” in their brain-damaged heads? Because at night, online, that’s exactly what it’ll turn into.

I don’t know what the answer is. I don’t know where we start. I only have one idea to put forth. It’s probably not going to be well-liked, but that’s that, really. Maybe the Internet shouldn’t be wide open. Maybe anonymity online is a bad thing. Maybe if you want to comment on blogs, message boards, or send private messages, you have to provide your real information, instead of goofy screen names. Maybe I’m looking at this the wrong way, and if so, please tell me. I’m willing to be educated.  I’m just thinking in terms of how to curb some of the bad behavior. Anonymity tends to bring out the worst of us, instead of the best of us. Now there's studies that show trolling online is psychologically in the same head space as Narcissistic tendencies and sociopathic behavior. And also, the people who troll more often than others are (surprise surprise) sociopaths. Why give them the platform to disrupt? 

I don’t think registering your real name, I.P. address, or other measures will change the minds of ingrained misogynists, but if more women feel comfortable taking to the Internet, and there’s a mechanic in place that allows anyone who gets threatening messages to shut the other person down with extreme prejudice (and maybe even fines or penalties), then more voices can be inclusively heard (and agreed with) and that is in and of itself a kind of peer pressure.

My stance hasn’t changed. If I see something happening, I’m going to butt in. If you come up to me at a show or anywhere else for that matter and tell me someone was being a creep, I will help you. But these whiny, abusive, self-absorbed creepshow guys are scattering like cockroaches when the kitchen light comes on, and until we can all be in the same room together, it will be difficult for the rest of us to police our own. I'm open to suggestions.