Depression Update

It’s been a bit over three years since I was officially diagnosed with depression and started with therapy and medication. I can say without hesitation that overall, my life is much improved over 3+ years ago.

Lucy and Charlie Brown: Psychiatric Help Five CentsI can say with equal certainty that I haven’t been “cured” of depression, any more than insulin and regular visits to the endocrinologist cured my diabetes.

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I mentioned Christine Miserandino’s spoon theory over on Twitter earlier today. Spoon theory is an analogy about living with chronic sickness or disability. I know the analogy doesn’t work for everyone, but I’ve found it helpful in understanding and talking about and explaining some things.

“I explained that when you are healthy you expect to have a never-ending supply of ‘spoons’. But when you have to now plan your day, you need to know exactly how many ‘spoons’ you are starting with. It doesn’t guarantee that you might not lose some along the way, but at least it helps to know where you are starting.”

What I’ve been finding in recent months is that I don’t actually know how many spoons I’ve got when I wake up in the morning. On any given day, I might be able to deal with the pressure of a looming book deadline, a crisis at work, a puppy destroying something important, an unexpected bill, a family argument, and whatever else comes my way. On another day with similar troubles, I could end up burning out like Biggs Darklighter over the Death Star.

I’ve gotten a bit better at recognizing when it’s happening. Just like I can generally feel when my blood sugar starts to drop too low, I can feel when I’m all out of cope.

It’s not a pleasant feeling, mind you. It’s a cold, congealed soup of anger and despair and exhaustion and shame. And recognizing it doesn’t necessarily mean I can do anything to fix it.

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My wife took me out for dinner and Jurassic World on Sunday. This was a good thing. I needed to get away, to relax and recharge and just enjoy myself for a few hours. It’s self-care, and as such, it’s something I wouldn’t necessarily have done on my own.

Medication is one thing. I’m pretty good at remembering to pop a pill every night, checking my blood sugar regularly and doing the math to match insulin to carb counts. But self-care is a murkier kind of medicine, one that takes more time and effort than programming an insulin pump. It’s also one I’m more likely to assume I can blow off.

Oh sure, I haven’t been getting enough sleep, but I’ll catch up on the weekend. I’ve missed some exercise, but I had other important things to do. I haven’t socialized much, but I’ll get to that as soon as the book is turned in.

How do you quantify self-care? How do you prescribe a given dose to be taken daily? (Those questions are rhetorical, by the way — I’m not asking for advice right now.)

And of course, there’s that other voice arguing that your self-care isn’t as important as those other people’s needs. It’s not as important as Doing All the Things.

I know self-care is important. As Morpheus said, there’s a difference between knowing the path and walking the path. But here comes Red Riding Hood to remind you that walking the path is all well and good, but it’s even harder to stay on that path once you’ve started.

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I remember growing up without email. I think email is an amazing tool, one that’s made my life so much better and simpler in so many ways. I remember getting my first email account as a college student, and how amazing it was to reconnect with a friend who’d moved to MIT.

I also hate email. I hate the neverending inbox, and that nibbling sense of failure that comes with every message that sits there waiting too long for a response. I hate that it takes spoons to answer some fucking emails, and knowing if I don’t, people will feel disappointed or hurt, or will wonder why I answered one email but not the next, and will start to second-guess whether they did something wrong when it’s just me trying to juggle a bunch of damn spoons without dropping any.

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We’re going on vacation soon. That will be a good thing. It won’t be 100% stress-free, but the stresses will be different, and hopefully fewer.

I’m also looking at some potentially big changes later this year. Stressful and anxiety-making, but potentially very good in the long term.

In the meantime, I was Guest of Honor at a convention last weekend, did a radio interview last night, was part of a Baen podcast recording today, and am getting ready for my 11th novel to come out in just over a month. All wonderful, amazing things I only dreamed about when I was younger.

Good things can use up spoons too.

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It’s easy to take progress for granted.

I’m not fine. I am, however, doing a hell of a lot better than I was three years ago.

I just need to remember that it took a lot of work to get here, and that if I want to stay here — which I do — I need to keep doing the work.

Joy and the Legalization of Same-Sex Marriage

FYI, I’ll be on Lansing Online News tonight at 7, talking about Fable: Blood of Heroes, writing, and whatever else comes up. You can check the Ustream broadcast, or if you’re local, you can listen on 89.7 FM.

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I’m 41 years old. When I was in elementary school, we played a game called Smear the Queer. I had no idea what “queer” actually meant. I just thought of it as another fun roughhousing game, basically like tag with the added bonus of getting to tackle someone at the end.

The movie Teen Wolf came out in 1985, when I was eleven. It included Michael J. Fox having the following exchange with a friend:

“You aren’t gonna tell me you’re a fag are you? Because I don’t think I can handle that.”
No, no…I’m not a fag. I’m a werewolf.”

As recently as 2003, laws against sodomy were still on the books in fourteen states (including my own state of Michigan).

In 2005, my home state of Michigan passed a Constitutional Amendment stating:

To secure and preserve the benefits of marriage for our society and for future generations of children, the union of one man and one woman in marriage shall be the only agreement recognized as a marriage or similar union for any purpose.

On Friday June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned that Constitutional Amendment and others, ruling that same-sex marriage was legal throughout the United States.

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This feels monumental.

I know the U.S. and humanity as a whole still has a great deal of work to do when it comes to addressing social inequities and discrimination, but this was huge. I think about the treatment and awareness of LGBT people during my childhood and look at how much that’s changed over the course of a generation…the fact that the White House was lit up in rainbow colors to celebrate the legalization of same-sex marriage… It’s joyful.

White House - Rainbow

I’ve seen people say that, because they’re straight, this ruling doesn’t directly affect them. And I think I understand what they mean. Friday doesn’t affect my 12-year marriage to a woman in any way. It doesn’t change my family or financial situation or legal security in all the ways it can for people in same-sex relationships.

The impact isn’t the same, but it does affect me. It fills me with joy and pride. It brings a sense of relief for friends and loved ones. It rekindles hope that my country can become better, and that we can overcome discrimination.

(It also screwed up my productivity on Friday, because instead of working on my book, I was scrolling through social media to see all of the celebration and happiness. I’ve decided that I’m okay with that.)

I recognize that this was a long, hard-fought battle, and this victory doesn’t end people’s struggles. The United States is one country, not the world. Friday didn’t magically erase hate and bigotry. And it will likely lead to more of the pushback we’ve been seeing against inclusiveness, diversity, and acceptance.

But it’s still a joyful thing, one I choose to celebrate. When I listened to a friend and coworker fighting back tears as she talks to Human Resources about adding her wife to her benefits…when I think of friends who left Michigan after we passed that amendment in 2005, whose legal status will now be recognized if they choose to return…when I see my friends online celebrating their relationships, and I can’t even tell who’s updating and commenting on Facebook because so many people have rainbowized their icons…I can’t understand how anyone could fail to be moved by such an outpouring of shared joy and love.

Arnold Schwarzenegger's Rainbow Facebook picture

I look at the hate crimes and racially motivated terrorism we’ve seen in recent weeks, the bile and bigotry coming out in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling, the narrow-mindedness and the utter lack of empathy, the blinding fanaticism and extremism and hate. The victory of June 26, 2015 reminds me why we fight against these things: because change for the better is possible.

I am so happy for everyone whose lives will be better as a result of this ruling, and I’m happy for my country for taking a step toward fairness and equality.

Cool Stuff Friday

Friday is writing a song about Rebecca Black.

NASA!

A couple of weeks before ApolloCon, I got an email asking if I wanted to have lunch with one of the guests, NASA astronaut Stanley Love. To which I naturally said, “YES PLEASE!” I also got to eat and chat with author Amy Sisson and her husband, NASA scientist Paul Abell. All three are great fun, and Love has me half-convinced to take a vacation to Antarctica one of these days.

At some point during the meal, it came up that the Johnson Space Center was only about a half-hour from the convention. I’m pretty sure I made the world’s best puppy-dog eyes upon hearing this fact…

…which led to Sunday afternoon after the convention, when Paul and Amy were kind enough to pick me up and drive me out to see NASA stuff!

I said it was like being ten years old again, but that’s not quite true. It was more like being seven. I was in first grade, almost seven years old, when the Space Shuttle Columbia completed its first mission in space. I remember all of us sitting in class, watching the launch on television. We were mesmerized. We drew pictures of the shuttle, and later that year I put together a model of Columbia.

Driving up to the space center and seeing the replica shuttle outside brought all of that awe and wonder rushing back. Getting Paul’s insight and stories over the next 3-4 hours was an amazing bonus. I’m already wondering when I can get back to Houston to see the stuff I missed this time.

And of course, there were pictures. Many pictures. The full album is on Flickr, including larger versions of the following pics. These are just some of my favorites.

Standing beneath the NASA sign

I’m at NASA!!!

Longhorn cattle

Yes, NASA has longhorn cattle on site. Because Texas!

Rockets

SPACESHIPS, SPACESHIPS, SPACESHIPS!!!

Shuttlecraft Galileo

The restored shuttlecraft Galileo from the original Star Trek. I want it!!!

Saturn V rocket

Saturn V rocket

Space shuttle

Space shuttle

Space shuttle

Another shuttle pic

ApolloCon Pics

I got back from ApolloCon yesterday evening, after a fun weekend. I was braced for the heat, but hadn’t mentally prepared for the Houston humidity that went with it. Fortunately, I spent 99% of my time inside air conditioned buildings and vehicles.

One of the things I love about Guest of Honor gigs is that they usually get me to new regions, meaning I get to meet both new readers/fans/writers/etc. and also meet in person folks I’ve known online for a while. It wasn’t a huge convention, but it kept me busy. I was surprised at how much fun we had on the panel to fancast a movie version of Libriomancer (Jeff Goldblum for Gutenberg? Robert Pattinson with a cameo as a sparkling vampire Isaac kills in chapter one?) I also got to run the “I Suck” panel I did at ConFusion, though ApolloCon renamed it to “The Struggle.”

I was about halfway through the con when I got to talking with the folks at the desk and they told me about the fire ants. But hey, I’ve done a convention in Australia. I can handle Texas and their snakes and scorpions and fire ants. (Fortunately, I saw none of these beasties.)

I also got lunch with a NASA scientist and astronaut, helped judge the costume contest, ate way too much food, signed lots of books, met some great people, and came home exhausted.

There was even a bonus trip to the Johnson Space Center, but I haven’t processed those pics yet, so that’s gonna wait for another blog post. In the meantime, here are a few photos from the convention. The full ApolloCon album is over at Flickr.

NASA Rock Star Dr. Paul Abell, me, and Astronaut Dr. Stanley Love

NASA Rock Star Dr. Paul Abell, me, and Astronaut Dr. Stanley Love

Ninja turtle cosplay

Ninja skills!

Rhonda Eudaly, John DeNardo, and Marshall Ryan Maresca

Rhonda Eudaly, John DeNardo, and Marshall Ryan Maresca

Artist Guest of Honor Maria William

Artist Guest of Honor Maria William

Steampunk Deadpool

Steampunk Deadpool won Best in Show in the costume contest.

State of the Jim, and Pics

I finished the second draft of Revisionary on June 7. It’s due to my publisher on August 1. As a result, much of my time and brain has been going into the third draft of said book. (Currently at 20,000 words and counting.)

That hasn’t left much for blogging this week…or much of anything else, really. However, I have managed to sneak away with the camera a few times for fun and mental recharging, and while I’ve shared some of the pics on Twitter and Facebook, I haven’t done the same here at the blog. UNTIL NOW!

Sandhill Crane

Out of the way! This Sandhill Crane has important crane stuff to do!

Goose butts!

Goose butts!

Gosling

IT’S SO FLUFFY!!!

Dogs playing

Our new puppy Zoey is not graceful.

Dogs playing

However, she does appear to be part demon…

Cardinal

Ever wonder what happens when the wind catches a cardinal’s toupee?

Baby birds

Baby Eastern Phoebes, just chillin’ in the nest.

ApolloCon Schedule

I’m the author guest of honor at ApolloCon in Houston this weekend. (Which could be interesting, judging from the Houston weather forecasts.) Here’s the schedule, for anyone who might be in the area wanting to say hi. Or wanting to know how best to avoid me…

Friday

  • 3 p.m., Cottonwood: Meet & Greet Jim Hines
  • 7 p.m., Azalea 5: Opening Ceremonies

Saturday

  • Noon, Azalea 4: Reading
  • 2 p.m., Azalea 5: The Struggle
  • 3 p.m., Pecan: Libriomancer: The Movie (This is a fancasting panel; I wasn’t just burying the lede on a big movie deal or anything.)

Sunday

  • 11 a.m., Cypress: Blogging — Why and How

It sounds like I’ll also be one of the “celebrity” costume judges on Saturday night, and I’ll be doing two 1-hour sessions at the autographing table, but I haven’t seen the final schedule for autographing yet.

This will be my first time to ApolloCon — heck, this will be my first time in Texas — and I’m very much looking forward to it!

So, who else will I be seeing at the con this weekend? :-)

Cool Stuff Friday

Friday is SO ready for a Friday…

The Tor Mess

ETA: Could folks weighing in on what is or isn’t libel please also include your legal background and experience? It’s far too easy to play lawyer on the internet…

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So half of my social media today is pissed off about the Tor thing, and the other half is saying, “Wait, what Tor thing?”

SHORT VERSION: A comment Tor’s art director made a month ago led to complaints and calls for boycott, which led to an apology from Tom Doherty, which managed to piss off pretty much everyone on all sides.

SHORTER VERSION: Theodore Beale has been jerking people around again.

LONGER VERSION: Mr. Beale is, among other things, the head of the Rabid Puppies Hugo Slate, which he stacked with himself and authors from the small Finland-based press he founded last year. He also seems to have a serious hate-on for Tor Books, as well as one of Tor’s NYT bestselling and Hugo award-winning authors, John Scalzi.

Seven Months Ago: Late last year, Beale was trying (and failing) to stir up GamerGate to boycott Tor Books and John Scalzi in particular:

“[P]erhaps #GamerGaters also need to let @torbooks and @pnh know that they will no longer be buying books from Tor Books as a result of John Scalzi’s oft-professed antipathy for genuine gamers concerned about the politicization and corruption of the games media.” (From Reddit: Pro-GG author Vox Day suggests an operation to boycott John Scalzi)

Commenters on that thread basically pointed, laughed, and got on with their lives.

This is one of many examples of Beale’s crusade against John Scalzi (whom he prefers to call “McRapey”), Patrick Nielsen Hayden (Editor at Tor), Patrick’s wife Teresa (whom Beale refers to as “the Toad of Tor”), and Tor Books in general.

May 11: Irene Gallo, creative director of Tor Books and associate publisher of Tor.com, referenced the Sad and Rabid Puppy campaigns in a comment on her personal Facebook page, after posting about publishing Kameron Hurley’s The Geek Feminist Revolution on Tor.com. When asked what the puppies were all about, she replied:

“There are two extreme right-wing to neo-nazi groups, called the Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies respectively, that are calling for the end of social justice in science fiction and fantasy. They are unrepentantly racist, misogynist, and homophobic. A noisy few but they’ve been able to gather some Gamergate folks around them and elect a slate of bad-to-reprehensible works on this year’s Hugo ballot.” (Source)

A short time later, Mister Beale became aware of Gallo’s comment and took a screenshot.

June 6: Beale posted his screenshot on Twitter, saying:

“The Creative Director at Tor Books libels #SadPuppies, Rabid Puppies, and #Gamergate on Facebook.”

He also took to his blog, saying, “this is libelous behavior we will be obliged to bring to the attention of the management at Pan Macmillan.” (Source)

Beale’s faux outrage was picked up and amplified by his commenters and folks like Sad and Rabid Puppy Hugo nominee Cedar Sanderson, among others.

But why did Beale wait almost a month to post this screenshot? He says on File770:

“I’ve held onto this since I had the screencap, which as you correctly note was made several weeks ago. As for the ‘sinister plotting’, I have long been in the habit of never using all of my ammunition at once, or pointing-and-shrieking for its own sake. I am a patient man and I didn’t strike back at TNH, PNH, or even John Scalzi right away either.” (Source)

He confirms this was part of his longer term plan to attack Tor, but doesn’t say why June 6 was the target date. However, a number of people have noted that June 6 was also the day the Nebula Awards were announced. The Nebulas are given out each year by SFWA … the organization that kicked Beale out almost exactly two years ago for racist comments about another author, among other things.

In other words, by posting his screenshot on June 6 and riling up his supporters, he had an opportunity to both attack Tor and try to overshadow one of SFWA’s biggest annual events at the same time. This is speculation, but seems consistent with Beale’s long-term grudges and his stated perception of himself as fighting a long term war against … I dunno. Pink gamma bunnies or something.

June 8: Tom Doherty posted a long apology at Tor.com, saying in part:

“Last month, Irene Gallo, a member of Tor’s staff, posted comments about two groups of science fiction writers, Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies, and about the quality of some of the 2015 Hugo Award nominees, on her personal Facebook page. Ms. Gallo is identified on her page as working for Tor. She did not make it clear that her comments were hers alone. They do not reflect Tor’s views or mine. She has since clarified that her personal views are just that and apologized to anyone her comments may have hurt or offended.”

A number of people felt Doherty had thrown Gallo under the bus in an attempt to appease Beale and his followers. Responses from Kameron Hurley, Chuck Wendig, and many more criticized Doherty for publicly dressing-down Gallo, pointing out that Tor had offered no such public response or apology when a Tor employee publicly described a Tor author as “phony,” “arrogant,” and “incompetent.” Likewise, there was no public statement when it became known that Tor had been employing a serial sexual harasser for years.

Others complained that Tor didn’t also rebuke people like John C. Wright for his homophobic and bigoted remarks. However, it should be pointed out that an author like Wright is not the equivalent of an employee like Gallo.

People on the pro-puppy side of things were angry that Doherty hadn’t gone further, and continued to call for Gallo to be fired.

Today: The apology thread at Tor.com has almost 500 comments. People on all sides are expressing anger at Tor and Tom Doherty, and some folks are still talking about a boycott…

…which would seem to be exactly what Beale wanted when he posted that screenshot and released the rabid hounds.

I mean, come on. You don’t think the man who routinely calls John Scalzi a rapist gives a damn about “libel,” do you? Gallo’s comment was a weapon he could use to try to damage Tor Books. And right now, in the heat of anger and argument, it looks like he succeeded.

Realistically though, I can’t imagine this boycott will be any more successful than his last effort. And most of the internet will probably have moved on by the end of the week.

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My Own Thoughts/Opinions:

  1. Beale is an asshole. I find it annoying when people dance to his tune. But I don’t see him having any long-term impact here.
  2. Gallo has every right to express her opinions, especially on her personal Facebook page. Doing so in the context of a comment promoting a Tor.com release? Yeah, I think that was a mistake. One for which she’s apologized.
  3. Doherty publicly chastising Gallo? I think that was a bigger mistake, and escalated the situation in nasty (and predictable) ways.
  4. Isn’t truth a defense against libel? Rabid Puppies was founded by a man who believes “the reason women shouldn’t vote in a representative democracy is they are significantly inclined to vote for whomever they would rather f***” (Source), and his champion author describes homosexuality as “perversion,” a “dark path” he compares to alcoholism (Source). Brad Torgersen, the head Sad Puppy, dismisses previous award-winning and nominated work as “affirmative action” fiction (Source), and spews things like, “Fuck you all. The forces of the progressive pink and poofy Xerxes were met at the Hugo Hot Gates, and repelled by a few brave dudes and dudettes with the stones to stand up to your bullshit.” (Source) Obviously, not every nominee and puppy supporter is an unapologetic bigot. But as a generalization based on things the highest-profile puppies have said? I think Beale would have a hard time winning that libel case of his.
  5. Everything I’ve seen of Gallo’s work has been amazing. She is damn good at what she does. Tor would be incredibly stupid to let her slip away, and while I can’t see the future, I don’t imagine they’re going to do so.
  6. Beale wants to foment hatred toward Tor. I’m disinclined to acquiesce to his request.