Performance review 2017

Since writers don’t have employers we don’t get handy annual performance reviews to tell us how we’re doing. So I’ve decided to do one for myself.

My primary focus for the last year has been to move toward getting published. So that’s a fail then. I have queried some agents. Not as many agents as I could have so that’s something that I could improve on next year. All the ones that have replied have said no. There’s still one I’m waiting to hear back from but I don’t expect to hear anything now until the new year. I did pitch my finished novel at Bloody Scotland and while I got some useful feedback to improve my query letter it hasn’t led anywhere.

Since my main focus is about being a professional writer rather than simply publishing one book I’ve also been writing. I’ve been re-writing and editing a sequel to my finished novel. I wrote the first draft of a novella and for NaNoWriMo I wrote the first draft of a straight crime novel. That’s pretty good but there’s room for improvement. I think I should aim to write at least one first draft and move at least one novel to the completed stage every year.

My secondary focus was to build the skills I need if I have to self publish. I’ve have been moving in the right direction but not nearly far enough. I’ve taken up calligraphy, which can be used to do cover art, and I’m improving my design skills. If I absolutely have to I could probably create a professional looking front cover.

I also wanted to build up this blog. I think that’s been fairly successful. There are more people reading it regularly, I’ve been posting at least 3 times a week most weeks since the beginning of April. Hopefully if I do publish a book at least one of you will actually be willing to pay to read it.

Since July I’ve been trying to get something, anything, done about my Lipoedema. After 4 Doctor appointments and 2 nurse appointments at my local practice, a trip to the leg ulcer clinic in Dunfermline and another to the Lymphoedema clinic in Kirkcaldy I may be only a couple of weeks away from trying on my first compression garments.

Since September I’ve been dieting because apparently you have to if you want to get your Lipoedema treated even though calorie restriction isn’t a treatment for Lipoedema. I’ve lost 11.5 kg and I’m hoping to get back into weight training. I’m just waiting for my equipment to be delivered.

So I haven’t been entirely useless this year but it still feels a bit unsatisfying. Perhaps that’s not surprising given that this year has felt like someone raised the corpse of 2016, decked it out in leather and spikes, stuck it behind the wheel of a steamroller and then pointed it at democracy.

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The myth of the irristiable powerful older man

A while back I had a bit of an epiphany about the rising tide of #metoo allegations.I was watching an interview with British MP Diane Abbott on the subject of sexual harassment and abuse in UK politics.

She was asked why there hadn’t been any allegations of female politicians abusing their staff and after pointing out that there are a lot fewer women politicians and that allegations against women tend to be treated less seriously she gave a truly fascinating answer. She said something like “In general middle aged women tend not to be convinced that much younger men are irresistibly attracted to them.”

Bam! There it was. The interviewer should have passed her a mic to drop.

Powerful men have got used to the idea that sexual access to women is part of the reward package of power. And that’s partly because of the idea that women, even young attractive women, are irresistibly attracted to wealthy and powerful men simple because those men have money and influence.

I was a teenager the first time someone told me that women are attracted to gross old men if those men have enough wealth or power. It sounded like bullshit to me at the time because I knew that I absolutely was not. I didn’t start to understand this supposed attraction it till I watched the original British series of House of Cards.

The central character, Francis Urquhart, was weirdly magnetic in spite of his age and the fact that he was most definitely the bad guy. Here was I, a young woman, feeling attracted to a much older and morally dubious man of wealth and power. Therefore people were right. Powerful men were attractive. But looking back that’s not what was going on at all.

Francis Urquhart was played by the late Sir Ian Richardson. He was a man of genuine beauty and grace and a tremendous actor. He created a monster but Urquhart was a charismatic monster with a voice like honey and brilliant mind. I can overlook a little matter like relative age when the rest of the person has that much going for them. And regardless of attraction I hope that I would have had the good sense not to sleep with him.

I’m not saying that money isn’t attractive. It’s a lot easier for a man to be charming when he can spoil you. Fame has its attractions too. But they don’t make a man irresistible. I’m 46, fat and ugly and no matter how irresistible he thinks he is I wouldn’t fuck Donald Trump with a borrowed vagina. Some women do find him attractive but it’s becoming clear that there’s a lot less of them than he thinks.

Rich and powerful men have been largely insulated from the negative consequences of their actions until now. This means that they’ve never had to learn that people just aren’t that into them. We are all living through the consequences of their unexamined privilege.

The Mathematics of Scottish Independence

Recently an English friend that I haven’t seen in ages suggested that I might hate all things English. I suspect that she thinks that because of all the pro Scottish Independence stuff I post on Facebook. I felt hurt at first but then I realised that it’s not her fault. The London based media has been lying to her about the Scottish Independence movements for years.

Yes I said movements. As in it’s not just the SNP. The Green party is pro independence, so are the various socialist parties. There are pro independent Labour supporters. There are unaffiliated groups like Women for Independence and YesBikers. Most of us don’t hate the English. Particularly not English Scots For Yes – a group of English born people who are vocal in their support for independence and their belief in an inclusive future for Scotland.

Of course that proves nothing. There are pro Trump gay republicans but that doesn’t change the homophobic and transphobic nature of his administration. Saying that some English people are pro-independence therefore it’s not anti-English is like saying that you can’t be racist because you have a black friend.

I’d like my English readers to put their preconceived notions about the SNP and Scottish Nationalism and the Union to one side for a moment and look at the maths.

  1. The first past the post system used for Westminster elections inevitably skews to a two party system.
  2. The Scottish electorate is too small to influence who wins at a Westminster election
  3. Since the Scottish electorate can’t get them into power the Westminster parties have no reason to pay attention to the needs of the Scottish electorate.
  4. Therefore Scotland puts more into the Union than it gets out.

You don’t have to believe me on the problem with first past the post. Here’s CGP Grey explaining.

 

The Scottish population, and thus electorate is tiny compared to the rest of the UK. If you don’t believe me you only have to look at the last two elections. In each one the whole Scottish electorate could have voted Labour and we would still have a Conservative Government.

Once upon a time this wasn’t such a huge problem. The industrial working class in Scotland could make common cause with the workers in north of England and south Wales. Scottish farmers had the same interests as farmers in the rest of the UK. The Peterhead fishing fleet could unite with the fishermen of Cornwall and Suffolk. It’s become a problem because the rest of the UK has swung to the right politically and because advances in polling mean that politicians now know who they have to appeal to in order to win at Westminster and it’s never us.

I know that you’ve been told that Scotland is dependent on the Union. That Scotland is a nation of subsidy junkies. Think about who it is that’s tell you this. The same people that won’t subsidise a spare room for a disabled child’s medical equipment want you to believe that they’re subsidising an entire nation. In the end it doesn’t really matter though. If Scotland is a drain on the rest of the UK then we should be taking responsibility for our own economy and standing on our own feet. If it isn’t then the UK Government has been lying to all of us and basically stealing from Scotland.

In the future these mathematical inequalities will only get worse. Westminster politicians are stuck chasing thinner and thinner slices of the electorate who can actually affect the outcome of the election. Scotland didn’t vote for Brexit and it will probably be  worse for us than for the rest of the UK but we’re stuck with it. See my Tapas Bar post for how that feels. The Scotland that’s depicted in the UK press looks nothing like the Scotland I see when I look around. It’s starting to look like the UK government is ramping up to remove powers from the Scottish Government, maybe even get rid of the Scottish Parliament completely.

 

Bonus Maths:  When London hosted the 2012 Olympics the whole of the UK paid for it, including Scotland. The Scottish share of the bill was at least £165 million. When Glasgow hosted the 2014 Commonwealth Games it was paid for by Scotland. The rUK share of the bill was ZERO. The new Queensferry bridge across the Firth of Forth was paid for entirely by the Scottish Government. Scotland is paying towards the cost of the HS2 rail project even though it doesn’t come north of the border and will probably increase travel times from Edinburgh to London. Estimates of the exact share paid by Scottish taxpayers vary and the oft quoted £3.64 billion estimate is from an anti HS2 organisation.

Be careful what you wish for

I realised a strange thing this week. Through the power of the internet I saw a Nazi go from blustering about his power to weeping in fear that police might shoot him. The comment section was full of people holding him up as an example of the fundamental weakness of Nazis as a group. Something about it seemed familiar. A also saw a young man who marched with Nazis and thinks that multiculturalism is cancer but swears he isn’t a Nazi complaining about getting death threats over the internet. Something about that seemed familiar too.

I realised that they were experiencing what it’s like to belong to a minority. They’ve been saying for years that white men are the ones who are really oppressed and now they get to find out what that’s actually like. You see when a woman fails she fails on behalf of all women. When a person of colour breaks the law the reaction is disproportionately harsh. When any member of a minority sticks their head above the metaphorical parapet someone will try to shoot it off. One needs privilege to survive mediocrity and incompetence.

I have no illusions that it will last. Either things are going to get very dark or the Natzis will climb back into their holes for a while and people will forget that there are still Natzis in the world. Very soon it will again be possible for white people to espouse the beliefs that sent millions to the gas chambers and plunged the world into war and other white people will pretend that they don’t really mean it.

But for a while perhaps thost of us who really do face discrimination and oppression are allowed a little schadenfreude at the idea of Natzis finding out what it’s like. They really don’t seem to have the constitution for it.

Well suck it up, buttercup. This is what life is like for everyone who isn’t an able-bodied, cis-gendered, heterosexual white man. This is what the rest of us put up with while you’re whining on the internet about how women oppress you by refusing your advances or sleeping with men you don’t approve of. While you’re blaming immigrants for depressed wages and affirmative action for keeping you out of your ‘rightful’ job the rest of us have been working twice as hard for half as much and being told that we should be grateful for it.

Attack of the Nazi propaganda blimp

Has anyone spotted the Zeppelins yet? I ask because it’s clear that the USA is experiencing a full on incursion from a Nazi timeline. That’s the only way I can explain actual Nazi’s marching in the streets with neither hoods nor masks and then being surprised when this doesn’t go well for them.

It’s almost possible to feel sorry for these travelers from another realm trapped in a world that doesn’t work the way they thought it did. They stumble around, expecting their violence to go unpunished, expecting to be lauded for their crimes, smearing their victims with insults that the world regards as nonsensical and when all else fails pretending not to be Nazis

Almost.

Because let us not forget that these are Nazis. These are people who believe that some people aren’t people and that makes it totally ok to exterminate them. Even in their homeline they are arsholes without a single redeaming feature. They’re just used to getting away with it.

So what do we, the right thinking descendants of people who fought a war to put these arseholes back in their box, do about this?

We fight. We fight the very idea that it’s ok to be a Nazi. We enforce consequences. We remove the possibility of wearing a swastika all weekend and then pretending not to be a reprehensible piece of shit all week. When someone gets all uppity that no-one is condemning leftist violence let us pause briefly to point out all the times when people did condemn it before asking them if they have a problem condeming actual fucking Nazis. We show up to protest. We make it clear where the line is drawn and which side of it we are on.

Those of us who benefit from white privilege should weaponise that privilege. If someone has to tear down monuments then let it be those of us who will be charged with a misdemeanor not shot by some cop with a twitchy trigger finger. Let those of us who look like the imaginary Ayran master-race be the first to strike down the very idea of white supremacy.

One last thing before I let you go. While it is absolutely morally correct to punch a Nazi (but only if they really are a Nazi) it is illegal unless they attack you first. If you punch a Nazi you could be arrested, charged and convicted. So maybe don’t do it if you have people relying on you or if you can’t afford the conviction on your record.

 

More Zeppelin references

Still not feeling it

Sadly I am still not feeling like writing anything constructive or useful. I had planned another commentary on a film or another post full of advice for young writers but I’m on strike.

I am on strike because the world continues to be unfairly messed up.

In the United States politics continues to be a shit show. The ongoing argument about the extent to which the Trump administration is corrupt, incompetent, or in the pocket of Moscow may distract people from the attempts to ninja a terrible new healthcare act through the Senate.

In the UK our Prime Minister risks restarting armed conflict in Northern Ireland in order to hold on to power. She’s trying to do a deal with the DUP – a party with longstanding links to loyalist terror groups; a bunch of climate change denying, creationist, homophobes who hate Catholics.  There are just a few massive problems with this.

  1. It risks breaching the Good Friday Agreement.
  2. It’s pissed of Sinn Fein so much that there are rumours the might take up their seats in the Westminster Parliament.
  3. The DUP will resist the hard Brexit demanded by much of the Conservative base because they don’t want to reinstate the border with the Republic of Ireland.
  4. So will Sinn Fein if they do take up their seats.
  5. The only genuinely popular Conservative politician in the UK, and leader of the Scottish Conservatives, is a Lesbian who’s engaged to an Irish Catholic woman.

The British media has spent most of the last five days telling us that a second Scottish independence referendum is dead because the SNP only won a clear majority of the votes, not the overwhelming landslide they won last time. Both the Scottish Conservatives and the Scottish Labour Party are claiming a victory. Even though both of them put together have just over half the seats of the SNP.

Every day the news is full of stuff that makes no sense. I have had enough.

 

I don’t have anything to say.

I should have something to say. I normally put something on the blog on a Monday. I’ve usually written in over the weekend. Normally writing something isn’t a problem. I planned to say some more stuff about Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 but I’m really not feeling like it.

I’m worried. The election solved nothing. Brexit still lies ahead and there’s no plan to deal with it. Politics, both globally and in the UK, is still all messed up. I’m still broke. I still don’t know what to do with my novels.

I just want some sort of hint about where to go and what to do. A great big quest marker in the sky. Even it it’s only so I can decide to head in the exact opposite direction because screw quests.

I don’t have anything to say. I don’t know what to do. I’m worried about the future. So instead of doing anything constructive I’m going to blow up some (virtual) tanks.

My country wants me dead. Again.

At the last election I was faced with the realisation that the electorate of the United Kingdom either actively wants me dead or at least doesn’t care if I die. It was a sobering realisation.

This time it is, if anything, worse. Because now it’s not just the United Kingdom. Many of my fellow Scots want me dead. Why?

Seriously, Scottish Conservative voters, why do you want me and people like me dead? You’ve voted for a party that has cut disability benefits, attacked the NHS, cut Social Care spending and refused to condemn the forced institutionalisation of disabled people. People are dying. People have died. And if, as seems likely, the Tories cling on to power then more people will die.

If you voted Conservative in this election then you voted in favour of turfing out law abiding EU citizens, you voted in favour of the rape clause, you voted in favour of taking mobility cars from disabled people, cutting benefits to the mentally ill and to people with learning difficulties. You voted in favour of benefit sanctions that drive vulnerable people to food banks where they can hang out with nurses and police officers. You voted against the NHS. You voted in favour of fox hunting and selling ivory and cosying up to Donald Fucking Trump.

If you voted Conservative then why? What was it that you thought you were voting for?

Of course if it’s Scottish Conservative MPs that return the Conservative party to power against the will of the English electorate I am going to laugh for about a week. Particularly since the EVEL legislation, pushed through by the Conservatives in the wake of the independence referendum, means that they wont be able to vote on a lot of bills.

Not the post I wanted to write.

I had a couple of ideas for today’s post. I had one in mind that was full advice for young creatives. I wanted to write something for my daughter who has trouble finishing things. But then some arsehole blew himself up inside an arena full of teenaged girls and suddenly that seems inappropriate.

I was flicking through Facebook and Twitter, not wanting to know more but unable to stop when I spied a comment from a right-wing journalist. I’m not going to link to the tweet or name the journalist because attention only encourages people like this. I will include the full text of the tweet though.

Why do we suspend politics when a terror attack happens? I want to know how our politicians plan to stop these attacks. Or don’t they know?

Oh dear lord. Where to begin?

Well for one thing they don’t know how to stop attacks like this because we don’t know what happened. There’s still an ongoing investigation. Maybe we should wait for the police and the security services to work out how it happened before we decide what to do about it?

Of course if you start by believing that Islam is inherently evil or brown people are less human than white people then I imagine you think you know what we should do. I’m sure that this particular journalist isn’t suggesting any of that. Plenty of other people were, though. I’ve heard a rumour that a certain other right-wing ‘journalist’ even used the phrase ‘final solution’.

We know where this particular road goes and I think most of us don’t want to go that way.

To answer the first question; we suspend politics in the face of terribly tragedy like this because Britain is a civilised fucking country. Making political capital out of terror is morally reprehensible.

To continue electioneering in the face of a terror attack is also fraught with danger. The ruling party shouldn’t be campaigning at a time like this it should be ruling. The parties in opposition could stand on the side taking cheap shots but if they win that way then the victory would be cheapened and they risk distracting the government. The government could deal with the distraction by calling the opposition unpatriotic and mobilising public opinion against them. The opposition could blame the government for the attack.

Then you’d get two factions drawn up against one another along party lines. The country would be divided. The terror attack would have damaged our democracy. Which was precisely the point.

A moment of Peace

Just occasionally in my pursuit of displacement activity I find a few moments of peace. I forget that I should be writing or querying, I forget that there are chores that need doing, I forget that there’s a reality TV star in the whitehouse and that the British Prime Minister called a snap election to avoid fraud charges and that Britain is leaving the EU and that the NHS is heading toward full privatisation and that basically we are all fucked.

Whenever I question the value of my writing I remember those moments of peace. Because it’s reading a novel, or a comic, or watching a TV show or film that gives me those moments. One purpose of art, any art, is to give us peace.

There are other purposes. Sometimes art tells us truths that are too unpalatable to learn by another method. Sometimes art turns pain and loss into beauty to memorialise what should never be forgotten. Sometimes art elevates our soul and gives us hope that we are something more than just unusually violent, hairless apes. Sometimes art is a distraction from pain, or boredom or fear.

So I am going to write my stupid stories without feeling that I need to apologise because I’m not solving world hunger or saving the environment. I’d love to do those things but I don’t have the skills, or the knowledge and I don’t have the first clue how to get them. If I can create something that gives other people a little peace then I will have done something worthy with my life.