Posts Tagged ‘politics’

The following is a five star review for Old, Fat Punks – posted on Amazin. You should totally buy a copy, review it and recommend it to your friends.


This is an outstanding novel. It is also a very dangerous novel. Old, Fat, Punks is nostalgic tribute to a bygone era. A pre-Margaret Thatcher, pre-Ronald Reagan era in which young people still thought they could change the world for the better – an idealistic era, a romantic era. This novel is also about the cold hard truth that that era has passed and it is a blistering critique of the world we live in today.

This novel is also about the cold hard truth that that era has passed and it is a blistering critique of the world we live in today.

Derek, Trol (one “l” because two is too much work) and Tim are ageing, drunk, unsuccessful former punks from the late 1970s. Each one is facing a grinding, humiliating future in which their choices are poverty on the British dole or throwing out what little self-esteem they have left. One drunken night they agree to under take one last great act of defiance. But not to make a difference but rather to show the world that we now live in a system that even the most extreme political act cannot change (told you it was a dangerous novel). Over the course of the novel we see them put together their plan of action while confronting some of their own demons from the past. We also flash back on their days running with their mates in Britain’s punk scene and come to better understand who these characters are and what drives them.

Each one is facing a grinding, humiliating future in which their choices are poverty on the British dole or throwing out what little self-esteem they have left. One drunken night they agree to under take one last great act of defiance.

The book is well written with complex and interesting characters (even the secondary characters are well rounded and believable). Derek, Trol and Tim are as distinct and complex as you can possibly imagine and make a magnificent spring board for the author to comment on everything from being gay and a racial minority to the state of public schools, the nature of unrequited love, political activism, obesity and the music industry. It is a stinging critique of our modern era and some of a particular political bent will not appreciate our hero’s views of the world (if you are in the 1%, I’m guessing you won’t enjoy this). But if you dreamed of making a difference (or bless you if you are young and think you can make a difference) then this novel seers the heart. It is not hopeless. The novel is romantic and so is the author. Both believe that at the core of all of us is the desire to make the world better – if we can just believe that it can be done (and believe in each other) and open our eyes to the truth of the world around us.

The novel is romantic and so is the author. Both believe that at the core of all of us is the desire to make the world better – if we can just believe that it can be done…

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Lulu (hardcopy)

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Derek, Tim and ‘Trol’ are three ageing rebels, hitting their fifties. Disillusioned by the way the world has turned out and the frustration of their teenage dreams of a better life or a revolution.

All they have left are stories of past glory and pints of cheap beer at one of the last punk-pubs in London.

Watching a riot unfurl on television, to no point and no effect, their frustration boils over and they decide to do something futile and stupid, a grand, nihilistic gesture of futility.

Comedy, social and political satire, and frustration all meet in this story of a ‘revolutionary caper’




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On reflection, I probably shouldn’t have done an image search for ‘pearl necklace’

Or, perhaps more properly, The Great Gender Con.

The debate is toxic, whether you’re talking about gaming, genre fiction, technology or anything else where there’s a current gender disparity, yet I still keep coming back to it. I don’t know why really. All it gets me is opprobrium and misrepresentation but I feel that there have to be counter voices.

We are now at the point in this ‘debate’ that merely pointing out that there are any nice guys at all is somehow controversial and problematic.

Off the back of that Sarah got some flak and I, foolishly, felt compelled to stick my oar in.


Well, we’ve seen the fallout in the atheist and skeptic movements, it rumbles on in gaming. To see it spreading to genre fiction meets and conventions is depressing, for several reasons.

  1. There is no indication that sexual harassment is any sort of particular or special problem at any of these events any more than it is for the general public in any social situation. This isn’t to say sexual harassment isn’t a problem, just that making it seem that these sorts of events are hotbeds of sexual misconduct is not correct.
  2. Creating the impression that they are full of harassment reduces women’s involvement in these causes, activities and meet-ups. Completely the reverse of the supposed goal of the crusaders who spread the idea that it is. EG: The Amazing Meeting’s female attendance ratio dropped massively. Not because of any indication of endemic harassment, but rather because of the fearmongering.
  3. The scaremongering is predicated upon a demonisation of male sexuality and is thoroughly gendered, as the response to Sarah’s post shows.
  4. The proposed solutions, such as harassment policies, are unnecessary, negatively impact socialisation at events and cement the fear and sexism towards men in writing, subject to wilful abuse.

I don’t think it’s a good idea to create an inaccurate atmosphere of fear, particularly of something as serious as sexual harassment.

I don’t think it’s a good idea, or in line with what these people say they want to do, to put women off attending conferences.

I don’t think it’s a good idea to tar the male gender with the same brush.

I don’t think it should be controversial to point out that there are also nice guys – or that they’re the majority.

Why do I regard this pearl-clutching pseudo-feminism as a problem? Because it’s a lie, because it’s irresponsible, because it creates a bad impression that doesn’t reflect reality (as does their response to criticism), because it’s sexist, because it’s preying on people’s fears for no clear end.

The Daily Mail and other media create an impression of the rate of crime which makes many pensioners and others afraid to leave their houses and terrified of youths. It makes them afraid to a level utterly disproportionate to the actual levels of crime or the ‘risk’ they take in popping down to the shops. Sure, it sells papers (or webclicks) but if it’s causing unnecessary fear and genuinely causing harm is it a responsible thing to do?

How is this any different?

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Wayward Child


Monday’s child is gassed with mace,
Tuesday’s child shot in the face,
Wednesday’s child blasted by drones,
Thursday’s child, refugee, roams,
Friday’s child arrested for trolling,
Saturday’s child can’t go on living,
But the child who is born on all these days
Has their rights and their future taken away.

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catch22A few conversations and discussions of late have thrown into additional light on the problems and discussions that have characterised 2012 for me. That is to say arguments about inclusion, tolerance, race, gender, depictions, sexuality etc as they relate to creative endeavours. For me this has mostly been in gaming, but more broadly this seems to be a hot topic across games, film, writing, everything.

Part of this is the hysteria and bandwagoning nature of social media acting as an amplifier, but it’s persistent enough across all media lately that I think it needs addressing.

It’s a huge goddamn issue and it straddles all manner of different topics like some bloated, Tolkienesque spider awaiting its prey. Worth a bash though.

TheComputerYou Can’t Create if You’re too Paranoid

It’s hard enough to create, unless you’re arrogant enough to think yourself infallible. Pretty much most people who are good creators – in any field – are riddled with self-doubt, second-guess themselves and fret constantly. Many are just good at hiding it.

It’s hard enough struggling with your own demons without having to take into account everyone else’s and the rapidity of modern interactive media means that every single word you write or image you draw is subject to enormous scrutiny and feedback with a laser-like focus it would not have attracted even ten years ago.

Accounting for any and every Tom, Dick and Harriet and their personal foibles and concerns is impossible and if you ignore it or minimalise it you’re going to get flak. You’re going to get flak anyway though so…


If you happen to be white and/or male and/or straight and/or anything else perceived rightly or wrongly as being a position of privilege and you create, you’re stuffed. If you ‘write what you know’ you’ll be accused of being racist, sexist, homomisiac and any number of other things whether you write about them or not.

If you leave these things out you’re *ist by exclusion. If you include them you’re *ist because of the mistakes you’ll be perceived to make. You’re damned if you don’t and you’re appropriating cultures, minorities etc if you do.

close-but-no-cigarMore Right-on than Thou

Even if you do your absolute best to be a right-on, ‘politically correct’, progressive and enlightened 21st century human being it will never, ever, ever be good enough as someone else will be out to prove their chops by being even more progressive and right-on than you are and by making you out to be an evil cunt. Here’s a really good example of someone super-progressive being monstered in a perverse game of one-upmanship.

muhammad_cartoonYou Are to Blame for your Audience

Your intent and even your execution on a topic doesn’t matter. a jot. What seems to matter is the reaction your audience has to it. Of late this kind of argument seems to have been centred around Tarantino’s ‘Django Unchained’ wherein some people are worried/concerned and upset about the racism in it.

Racism all but confined to villains who get their comeuppance.

Racism which is in no way presented as being a ‘good thing’.

Racism which is funny because it is absurd and extreme.

Of course a few no-chin, redneck, white-supremacy types are going to get a kick out of the word ‘nigger’ and black characters being terrorise but that’s on them. Not the creator of the material. It’s unreasonable to hold the creator accountable for every single reaction to their work.

stjeromeDeath of the Author

It doesn’t seem to matter what you think you’ve made. Those who choose to analyse your work will presume they know your intentions better than you do and will ascribe motivations and reasons to you themselves, without listening to what you have to say about it. just because you made a thing doesn’t seem to mean you know anything about it.

6obeSatire is Dead

Someone will take what you say seriously and as if you meant it. This happens to The Onion all the time and is a part of ‘Poe’s Law’. Parody will be taken seriously by someone, somewhere and what’s serious can also be taken for parody. The two can be almost indistinguishable (reference the Westboro Baptist Church for an example).

Once someone’s failed to understand that what a piece is, is satire they often still won’t back down when this is pointed out. Again they may claim that this is some sort of reflection of your subconscious prejudice or, simply, that it ‘isn’t funny’ or ‘isn’t well done’. It’s never that the person has no sense of humour or that they’re embarrassed that they didn’t ‘get it’. Oh no.

sign-brownest-thingContext Doesn’t Seem to Matter

Are you writing an historical piece? Drawing an image from a fantasy or science-fictional society with different morals and social mores? Is the material we’re discussing from fifty years ago, a hundred, more?

Doesn’t matter. If something is offensive it always is and it doesn’t matter if its historically accurate or a preservation of old attitudes for cultural and historical reasons (Nigger Jim anyone?) It’s bad and wrong and will be used as a stick to beat you with.

There’s also the problem that a statement you make in the heat of an argument with a douchebag or off the cuff in a moment of humour now lives forever on the internet and will be relentlessly quote-mine forever and ever even if you change your mind over time or you’re being misrepresented. Sometimes these quotes will even be completely made up! IT doesn’t matter!


There’s no easy solutions here as, in the main, the problems lie with other people. I think a starting point to dealing with the problems above are:

  • Surround yourself with people you respect to give you feedback: Not necessarily people who agree with you, but people whose dissent you can acknowledge and take seriously. Not YouTube commentators.
  • Understand your own values: Other people are going to judge you by theirs, but what are yours? Are you a libertine or a moralising conservative? Do you value verisimilitude or comfort? Do you want to be unflinching or accommodating? To thine own self be true and if people want work that meets other criteria, they can damn well do it themselves. What’s your hierarchy of interests and concerns? You can’t cover EVERYTHING.
  • Publish & be Damned: Do it anyway. Fuck ’em.

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molesworth“I would like to present to you…” said the worthy-looking man, all grey hair, patched elbows and the threadbare spirit of the educator “…the St John’s Boy for Schools!”

The Minister blinked, wetly and gave the old professor a smirk. “I think you mean School for Boys Mr Wick.”

“Oh no,” the professor smiled and swept aside the sheet, revealing a small boy in short trousers and a school blazer, skinned knees, snotty nose an entirely unremarkable child.

“Your son?” The Minister sighed and leaned forward, resting his three chin upon his interwoven sausage-fingers.

“No Sir. This is a Mark Two Molesworth. A genetically engineered, near-human replicant, designed to fix a major problem in education.”

This was all far beyond the Minister whose mind was already dwelling on whether to have the pigeon-breast salad or the pork loin for lunch. He was only half listening. “Some sort of robot? What’s it for?”

“Um, not really. If that helps you understand though yes, it’s a sort of robot.” The professor scratched his head and stroked his beard as he thought how to get his point across.

“The problem, you see, is that learning simply isn’t cool. Girls get all sorts of encouragement from each other and from society at large to learn in order to overcome the perceived ‘bimbo’ factor. Boys, however, get no such aid despite being far outstripped by girls in many academic fields.”

“Yes, yes,” said the Minister, picking waxy dirt from under his thumbnail. “Terrible business, white paper, special committee, more funding to subsidise private schools…” it was a mantra he’d learned soon after he took on the job. The same thing he trotted out to reporters.

“Yes, well, none of that does any good. We can’t change the culture that holds them back by such methods. We can’t make learning ‘cool’. We can’t make boys want to learn and any young lad that does take up the opportunities we present to them is in for a drubbing.”


“The Molesworth can fix that!”

The Minister’s attention was diverted from thoughts of lunch by the passion in the professor’s voice and the implications began to penetrate his thick skull, millimetre by millimetre.


The professor took his seat opposite the Minister and gestured wildly as he excitedly laid out his plan. “We produce large numbers of Molesworths and insert them into classes in large enough numbers to form the beginning of a clique or group. One that values education and good behaviour and applies a positive degree of peer pressure to counteract and overcome that of being an illiterate thug!”

The Minister paled and scowled, his jowly face crinkling like a boiled tomato. “Won’t that, ah, skew the classes to being predominantly male?”

“We also recognise the value of… ah… positive reinforcement for men coming from young ladies. We hope to have the Jessica and Elizabeth versions completed soon. They, of course, will be pretty and charming and will only have eyes for well-behaved and academically adept boys.”

“It all seems a little unethical.” The Minister hemmed and hawed, rocking back in his seat. The professor just looked at him.

“No worse than making up Father Christmas in order to get children to behave all year and we have to do something. Tests have demonstrated a marked improvement in the academic development of boys in such an environment. It wouldn’t be too expensive to implement and the potential rewards of a better educated and better behaved populace are…”

“…not as great as you might think.” The Minister interrupted and his frown deepened even further.

“What?” Cut off mid-flow the professor didn’t quite know what to make of this statement.

“Put, plainly Mister Wick, we need plebs. We need foolish, uneducated and dim-witted men to clean toilets, sweep streets, die in the army and keep the prisons nice and full – and profitable. Your plan would not serve that end and with immigration being so damn unpopular there’s no other choice.”


The Minister waved his hand dismissively. “Good day Sir. Your funding is cut.”

“But the future! Technology, science!”

“Good. Day.” The Minister pressed a buzzer and his aide came in, leading the professor and his young – artificial – charge back outside. Pausing at the door.

“Everything alright sir?”

“Fine Jenkins, fine. Honestly, some people. They seem to think the current state of affairs is unintentional.”

“I blame the education system sir.”


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There’s a lot to like about being British and while there’s a lot of anger inducing nonsense in politics and other issues at the moment I thought I’d break the habit of a lifetime and be positive for once.

  • There’s history everywhere. You can’t go two steps without hitting some spot that has some historical significance or some story attached to it. Any village, no matter how small has some kind of ghost story or other local legend. Within striking distance of me are ales of cockatrices, wurms, dragons and more ghosts than you can shake a bell, book and candle at.
  • We can say ‘Hello gorgeous!’ whether the person is or isn’t actually gorgeous, still mean it AND make them smile their face off.
  • That unique combination of unspoken politeness and acceptance of eccentricity that gives otherwise stressful encounters a bit of structure. It’s like a mutual coping mechanism or a dance.
  • You don’t have to talk to anyone at bus stops, on the tube or – indeed – anywhere. Anyone that does talk to others in these places is considered odd but since we’re so accepting of eccentricity, that’s OK too.
  • Windswept and interesting or dragged through a hedge backwards? Only I truly know.
  • The weather is actually worth passing comment on.
  • The English language is beautiful, bewitching, dazzling, magnificent and wonderful. It has a lot of synonyms is what I’m saying. Apparently English has more adjectives than any other language so, that’s… good.

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Spot the difference (?)

There’s three articles from 2011 in Psychology Today that hit a chord given past drama and involvement in movements against corporate/community censorship. I’ll quote from them as some people can’t seem to get to the articles, but they’re here for those who can access them:

Why Gender Equality Does Not Always Work in the Bedroom

Do Men Want to Rape? Do Women Want to be Raped?

We Are All Sexually Intolerant

The majority of women have submission fantasies. From classic romanceThe Flame and The Flower to classic erotica The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty to Twilight BDSM fan fiction, submission themes are immensely popular in cross-cultural female erotica. The fact of the matter is that most heterosexual women are wired to find sexual submission arousing–and so are most female mammals.

Even with the qualifier ‘most’ that is going to outrage some people. The idea that behaviours and preferences can have an instinctual or even biological basis seems abhorrent to some. We would not make the same argument about animals but humans are animals which places the rejection of (a degree of) biological determinism and evolutionary psychology within the same ballpark as the Creationist rejection of science on the grounds of ‘I didn’t come from no monkey!’

“I think this is one of the problems we’re having in romance in general right now: our heroes have gotten a little too PC. We’re portraying men the way feminist ideals say they should be—respectful and consensus-building,” muses erotic romance (EroRom) author Angela Knight. “Yet women like bad boys. I suspect that’s because our inner cavewoman knows Doormat Man would become Sabertooth Tiger Lunch in short order. In fact, this may be one reason why EroRom is gaining popularity so fast–writers feel free to write dominant heroes with more of an edge.”

This would explain the sudden, explosive popularity of the excreble Fifty Shades of Grey. Romance doesn’t transgress but erotica does. Bridge the gap and you can have a story that has the freedom to break these taboos and provide something to scratch the itch that some people want. If you’re breaking one taboo then it’s safe to break another. Combine that with the environment we find ourselves in, changed by the anonymity of the internet and the nature of exploding e-reader popularity and we have a way people can be ‘naughty’ without tipping their hand.

In humans, the hormonal vagaries of prenatal development appear to cause a substantial portion of men to be born with active submissive circuitry. These men find sexual submission as arousing—or, quite often, far more arousing—than sexual dominance.

Essentially, according to the article, in humans we are all wired for both dominance and submission. Our sexuality in regards to dom/sub exists along a spectrum. Women tend to get off on submission, men tend to get off on dominance but the neural circuitry for either predilection can occur in either sex. This is, according to the article/book largely down to prenatal development and hormonal exposure which is also linked, in some studies, to the chances of being hetero or homosexual. Again, the idea of these things not being entirely a matter of our choice outrages some people.

We’re all figuring out how to live in the first society in human history where women have such power, independence, and clout. But just as democracy has no effect on our basic taste preferences for sugar and fat, democracy doesn’t affect our basic sexual preferences for domination and submission.

And this cuts, I think, to a lot of the problems we’re having with the interface between feminism (at least the part that isn’t sex positive) and ‘geek culture’, New Atheism an other issues such as erotica publishing. Our desires and instincts change much more slowly than technology and culture and, perhaps, don’t need to change. Rather we need to understand and accept ourselves for what we are and be concious of it. Not to deny it.

The usual position of academic researchers is that female coercion fantasies involve handsome, attractive strangers who aggressively seduce women in a non-violent way, rather than rape them. Some women certainly have these fantasies. But you don’t have to look far on the Internet to find much darker and more violent female fantasies, involving ugly truckers, brutal sex, gang rape, even mutilation. In the Harry Potter fan fiction I read, Draco in particular always seemed to be raping girls. Tracie Egan, who we used in our epigraph, narrates how she paid a male gigalo to enact a forceful rape. During our research, we also encountered women who said they enjoyed role-playing rape—not aggressive seduction. So far, academic politics have prevented sexologists from taking an honest look at the true variety of women’s fantasies.

This is what worries me. How can we pursue a genuine understanding of human nature and sexuality if gender politics, emotion and denialism keep getting in the way? If shame and the fretting about ‘what people will think’ controls us then we have no chance. The media blitz around the suicides of two teenage girls, shamed over their sexual experimentation, also makes me think this isn’t a healthy way to go about things. We shouldn’t be ashamed, again, rather we should be aware.

But here’s something else worth considering—an interesting double standard in sex research. Researchers are in emphatic agreement that female sexual fantasies of rape do not under any circumstances imply that they actually want to be raped. (No argument from us.) On the other hand, what about male sexual fantasies of raping women? In the literature these have long been treated as signs of pathology and as leading indicators of criminal intent. There’s even research on how to eliminate male sexual fantasies of rape (not much effective research, however).

Ah now, this cuts to the quick of it. There is a double standard going on here. Of course we understand that submission or rape fantasies don’t mean the woman genuinely wants to be raped (outlying fringers notwithstanding). So why can that not also be understood when it comes to men? Is it because of this interpretation of men as dominant initiators that makes men’s fantasies seem more threatening? Is it because we see men as instigators that we regard their fantasies as dangerous? Why the double standard?

I don’t know the details of the case but to take an extreme example a New York policeman was taken into custody regarding a plot to kidnap and eat women. When I was working up the idea for Smithfield I did some research and there is a whole subset of fetishists into ‘vore’, cannibalism and so forth, most particularly ‘Dolcett’, a set of rather disturbing cartoons depicting such acts. We even had the case where a donor offered themselves up willingly to be eaten (Germany I believe). I’d argue that they were too unhinged to give meaningful consent, but it’s a good case in point to put before extreme libertarians!

Humans are WEIRD. Gloriously so!

We do think we should allow the maximum possible latitude for others’ private enjoyment of their fantasies through erotica–unless you want someone policing your own.

I’ll just electronically sign my name to that statement right now!

The academic landscape of sexual psychology is charred from ideological warfare, one of the primary reasons the field has progressed so embarrassingly slow. It’s also one reason we believed we could make a contribution: we don’t have any dog in this fight.

From a moral perspective, we have no stake in how the brains of men, women, homosexuals, bisexuals, and transsexuals actually turn out to operate. Whether male homosexuality is caused by genes or by Martian fairy dust makes no difference to their right to same-sex marriage. Whether Mother Nature bestowed men and women with identical brains or the evil demon Kracklefax fashioned female brains from sawdust and male brains from popcorn makes no difference to women’s right to equal opportunity. Whatever our neural wiring, we all have the right to equal justice under law.

OK, that’s a HUGE quote to shove in here, but it is – I feel – an important one. It pretty much describes my position on everything. I don’t care about and don’t believe it makes much of a difference, if any, to political and social issues why or how something is as it is, but I want to know. Just for the sake of knowing.

Several women have written to us insisting that the varieties of dominance porn found on the Internet–drunk porn, hypno porn, sleep porn, spanking porn, exploitation porn, teachers seducing students, coaches seducing cheerleaders (along with the erotica that self-identifies as rape porn)—are “actually rape, by definition. It’s a legal fact.” Ignoring the difficulties in applying legal definitions to works of fiction (“Hamlet, Batman, and Simba the Lion King are murderers, by definition. It’s a legal fact.”), it’s certainly unhelpful to use such a moralizing, ideological label when trying to figure out the underlying neurocognitive mechanisms of sexuality.

In short, this is the same sort of debate territory as ‘God Hates Fags’. You can’t have a useful or productive discussion with people who are operating on a faith belief. Whether it be religious or ideological. Some people can’t get past ‘Porn is wrong!’ or ‘Homosexuality is of the devil!’ and it should be a wake up call for both ‘liberals’ and ‘conservatives’ that their cognitive bias leads their thinking.

Both “definitions” are rooted in fear—an authentic, instinctive, deep-seated fear. Conservatives fear that homosexuals are going to do terrible things to children. Liberals fear that male viewers of dominance porn are going to do terrible things to women. Fortunately, both of these fears can be tested empirically, and the jury is very much in. Gay men are no more likely to be pedophiles than straight men, being exposed to gay people doesn’t make you more likely to be gay, and kids raised by gay couples don’t turn out much different than kids raised by straight couples. And despite intense research efforts—including presidential commissions—studies have failed to demonstrate any link between viewing dominance porn (or porn in general) and the motivation to harm women.

Yet, like the supposed link between violence and videogames, people don’t want to hear it. They ignore meta-studies, cherry pick things that support their position and when the don’t get the results they want, commission more studies until they DO get the answer they want. That simply isn’t science.

If hardcore pretend-rape porn videos or extreme BDSM aren’t making men do bad deeds or treat women worse then the arguments against, say, sexy fantasy art or erotica writing melt away. The problem never seems to be the transgressive fantasy or sexuality itself but rather people’s attitudes to it and I would argue that it is the attitudes we need to change. Not the erotica.

There’s an awful lot of labelling in the academic study of sex. These days, liberal sexologists are worse culprits than the rare conservative ones. Perhaps because it’s easy for them to see the sexual intolerance in labelling homosexuality as “biological error” but difficult to see it in labeling male dominance-themed erotica as “rape porn” or labeling the investigation of differences in male and female desire as “heteronormative.”

I’m a hard-left, egalitarian and I can see this is a problem for the left/liberal bloc. In so many ways they have become what they hate. Judgemental, ideologically driven pricks who will brook no argument or dissent. This is how we end up with a situation where you can both be condemned for even suggesting some people like dominance/rape fantasies (and this isn’t a problem) and meanwhile EL James makes a fucking fortune selling borderline rape and dodgy BDSM to middle class mums around the globe.

It’s a conversation we need to have, a change in attitude. We don’t need vilification. We don’t need witch burnings. It’s shame that’s killing people, not sex or nudity or porn.

People want this kind of stuff and those bold (or naive) enough to provide it for them are going to do well.

There’s a lot of food for thought for Erotica/Romance writers and artists in these articles and if you can read them, I strongly suggest that you do.

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My mind tends to wander and mull over things when I walk and I’m trying to up my exercise for my mental and physical health so my mind’s been wandering a lot lately. On this wander, for no reason in particular, though perhaps percolated through from watching the first episode of The Newsroom (I won’t be a regular watcher though. We have this myth of the citizen journalist, the blogger, the brave new cutting edge of political, social and scientific commentary and news. Newspaper readership is plunging and news shows and channels are polarising politically and becoming more and more extreme and opinionated in chasing a smaller and smaller audience.

There’s a problem though. The citizen journalist isn’t a journalist. They’re not bound by ethics (little wonder then that journos are increasingly forgetting theirs). Many of them are just soapboxing their own opinions, spouting a particular dogma, chasing a particular demographic as though they were selling something rather than informing us. They are selling us something, what we want to hear. Fox News is probably the most egregious case of a politicised news channel, commercialising right wing politics and providing comforting mooing noises to the American right wing. They’re by no means the only ones to do so and one can find similar bias going the ‘other way’ if you look for it. I lean left so I’m not so sensitised to it, but I acknowledge that it’s there.

The irony is that this is absolutely not what we need from the mainstream media any more. If I want opinion I can read any of thousands of blogs. I can dip into my twitter feed or search on the hashtag of the item in question, like the #arabspring. I get ill informed emails and facebook messages from distant relatives and friends of friends all the time. I am drowning in opinion, conjecture and dogma the entire time I’m logged into the internet. These aren’t citizen journalists, they’re gossips.

Gossip is great, witnesses are great, people like Laurie Penny who go out there and become part of the news and report from the front lines are all well and good but they’re not giving us THE news. They’re giving us THEIR news. It’s the same with Fox etc in the US and to a lesser extent here in the UK, at least on television. We’ve been somewhat spoiled by the BBC which, other than its simpering towards the Royal Family gets criticised from all sides of the political spectrum which is generally a good indicator that they’re doing something right. Our printed news sources are as partisan and biased, if not more so, than the US though.

Market pressure, the commodification of information, has ruined television news on an international basis and it is creeping in to the UK now despite our public institutions. It’s making these big news companies do things that they’re simply not suited to. No television broadcast can hope to keep up with the internet when it comes to breaking stories. No television broadcast can tailor itself to fit someone’s views precisely. People stream their own opinion-based news from the blogs, RSS feeds, twitter subscriptions etc that they make for themselves.

Broadcast TV can’t compete with that and equally individualist internet journalism cannot hope to compete – still – with the prestige and weight that broadcast news does.

What broadcast news should be doing is not giving us more opinion, not trying to stay on top of breaking stories. What broadcast news with the money and resources that it still commands should be doing is offering us THE news, free from bias. Broadcast news should be doing the analysis, the depth, talking to the experts. ‘This is what happened, this is what educated and intelligent people are saying was involved’. Not blame games, just the pursuit of truth and accuracy with an integrity that makes it trustworthy.

Leave the opinion and shouting to the ‘citizen journalist’.

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Murder a dude, get made untouchable. God seems a little conflicted on this one.

Murder or attempted murder is a fucking awesome plot element.

Attempted murder can place a character in jeopardy where the readers’ care about what happens, without necessarily taking the character out of the story. It’s a threat with implications, but not as final as death itself. It forces the character into a life-or-death situation that tests their mettle.

Murder can have interesting knock-on effects on a character’s relationships and their relationships with each other. If a character murders how do the character’s friends and family react? Who do they confide in – if anyone? Can you use this as a springboard to explore legal procedure and policing in your setting? What if nobody cared about who was murdered? What if it’s a frame up?

If you lose someone close to you how hard is it for the character to endure that? What’s the effect of the act on the murderer, the relatives of the victim, the witnesses? Why did the murder happen? Can murder ever be legitimate? Can someone ever deserve it? Who decides that? Do the forces of law and order turn a blind eye?

How does the event change the people involved? Is the murderer remorseful? Does the victim become transformed by their death into a secular saint despite their character flaws? Is there an afterlife in the world of your book? Is the ghost vengeful? Can it do anything more than simply observe?

There’s not a great deal of media in which death doesn’t occur. A body presents an intriguing puzzle for a detective. A hero in an action franchise litters the ground behind him with corpses. Science Fiction and Fantasy often include wars, battles, fights because they’re exciting and get the blood pumping. Who hasn’t imagined having gun triggers on the steering wheel of their car?

There’s more, but I think that amply shows that it needn’t be lazy writing and as story material it goes right the way back to the oldest human myths. It’s a story-making tool that should be available to you as a storyteller, great or small. Whole genres of popular TV show and book hang upon murder. What about Cluedo as a game as well? What about Risk?

So, part two.

Does the existence of murder stories, even as a cheap jab to get someone’s emotions involved, somehow trivialise or normalise killing?

Hopefully by this point most of you are nodding along and going ‘I see what you did there…’ and let’s hope to fuck you actually do. If you reacted that badly to the previous article without thinking, just because it had a hot-button word for you then you’re really no different to someone who calls GTA a ”Murder simulator’.

Grow up.

This is a follow up article to THIS.

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