Yes, the site is looking a bit strange at the moment. It was time for a revamp, and I hope I’ll get it right soon. Bear with me…Read More
A friend recently posted me Lindy West’s March 28 article from Jezebel in response to me using the #antifeminist tag on some of my recent tweets: one about a proposal in Australia to introduce women-only train carriages, issued on International Women’s Day, and another about Adria Richards and Donglegate.
It’s been suggested to me more than once, and I’ve only used it twice, that the #antifeminist hashtag is a disgusting thing. This in spite of its being used, among other things, by women posting about how feminism isn’t compulsory: that women can take responsibility for their own lives without pinning their hopes on reform of a system, because they are self-determined outside of or in spite of that system. This is one version of what it means to be antifeminist: to say that if you’re unhappy with your situation it’s you that’s got to change it. Antifeminism can be individualism, if feminism is a collectivism. For my part, I’m interested in the case that feminism is a sexism, and that if one is antisexist, one should also be antifeminist.
No doubt part of what draws ire about this label or position is that it draws too wide a circle. Credit to those who speak to me about the issue (rather than unfriending, blocking, or insulting me on social media), for bringing this into focus. There are many kinds of feminism. In fact, when I’ve asked female friends who identify as feminist what feminism means to them, I’ve typically gotten a unique answer. Every one seems to have their own idea of what feminism is.
So what I mean when I say I’m antifeminist (for the moment), is that I’m antifeminist4.
The what now?Read More
The below is an extended response to an interlocutor on Facebook, in relation to the question why I would suggest that “check your privilege” is an instance of ad hominem when I purport to be against racism and sexism.
For context, a screenshot of the thread is here, with apologies to those whose contributions I forgot to expand and the eloquent commenter who came after I had blurred out everyone’s names and avatars except for my own.
Because “check your privilege” is ad hominem, and…
You may view this as old-hat, but I started my political life as a Marxist and anarcho-communist. The position there was that hierarchy is a pervasive issue and that it is addressed through universal human solidarity (albeit, Marx and Engels are pro-class-warfare). I retain this belief. But I find there are holes in the ideology, and holes in the community.
You, when you attack people on the basis of sex and race, instantiate at least one of those holes—Marx and Engels in The Communist Manifesto write that any tool that can be used in class struggle should be. This, I believe, or an attitude inspired by it, is used as a justification for the incivility you and others exhibit and justifies unlimited extension of state power in totalitarian and murderous regimes such as those that developed under Stalin and Mao.
When I began to investigate these holes, I was effectively told (as an academic) that it was not permitted, and social pressure was applied to me that made me understand I was unwelcome in my department—which was supposedly a place of free enquiry. This in particular, the insinuation that it was not permitted me to enquire, led me to be increasingly suspicious of, and ultimately reject, orthodox Marxism and the identity politics that succeeded it.
I turned to classical liberalism as a universally applicable doctrine, which permits personal space outside the realm of politics, and whose proponents, I found, were far more likely to be unremittingly civil, to be friends with people whose ideas differed from their own, and to argue carefully in favor of their positions. It was after several years of being encouraged to consider this as an alternative position that I took the emotionally wrenching step of considering myself an adherent of an ideology whose supporters I had previously considered, without any knowledge of them as people, to be personally and morally vile. I had taken this view largely on the basis of dogma.
In the company of classical liberals, who include women and people of color—as they properly should—I participated in and witnessed many constructive policy debates about how to better the circumstances of disadvantaged people, free of the politics of resentment which you, X—, and other proponents of the “check your privilege” approach, often seem to subscribe to. I have no doubt that those discussions have had far more positive effect in terms of improving disadvantaged people’s material circumstances than the insults you have subjected me to in the two pieces of contact we have had, and the insults you may continue to subject people such as myself to in the future.
In the several years that I have been out of my department, I found I was able to forget about Marxism and identity politics. However, returning to the fray as a novelist and as a participant in amateur philosophical discussions around Melbourne (including here on Facebook), I find myself again troubled by incivility, and the popularity of the politics of resentment, reverse racism, sexism, and discrimination on the basis of orientation, and by the lack of appreciation for free speech and enquiry, in the intellectual community of which I am a part. I believe these things are antithetical to the cause of equality and, I hope, liberty, that we both consider valuable. Certainly, they are dangerous in the extreme to a mutual appreciation of one another’s humanity.
I am trying to work out how to address this problem, and I will admit that in cases my approach involves hyperbole or simplification, which I generally deplore. I follow Nietzsche in claiming it can be courageous to be a hypocrite by holding a high standard and then failing sometimes to live up to it.
That, X—, all of the above, is why.
(Image: Civility, CC 2011, Francis Storr.)Read More
Hugh Howey, Wool (Broad Reach, 2011). 56 pp. ★★★★ (4 stars)
I first heard about Hugh Howey from Susan Wyndham, the literary editor of the Sydney Morning Herald, who interviewed me in late 2012 for a piece on self-publishing. The cover of my own book, Kiss Me, Genius Boy, appeared alongside Howey’s Wool, and I’m happy to have been placed in his company.
Wool is exactly the kind of title that proves independently published work can match the quality some associate with traditional publishing. (I say “some” because it’s also frequently argued that the big six publish vacuous, formulaic garbage.) Howey’s writing is clear, simple, and vivid, and in the mere fifty pages or so of this volume that begins the Wool series, he manages to encapsulate a good deal of the classic movement between dystopia and utopia that is a common theme in SF.
What is at first the story of the narrator Holston’s lost love and a picture of the cramped, postapocalyptic dystopia of the Silo that he inhabits turns into a tale of conspiracy. The puppetmasters of his society, it seems, use illusion to keep their people from the glorious truth. It is often said, as though it is a truism, that our own prisons are a lie—that the door to the cage is always open—but at the last minute Howey subverts this trope by performing a double switch, revealing that the utopia held out to Holston in the minutes before the death he expected is itself an illusion.
And the major question we are left with is “why?” In this first volume, Howey skillfully withholds and dispenses the Silo’s secrets, resolving much but ending on a note of mystery which is likely the key to his commercial success as an indie. If I want to find out why, and I do, I’ll have to keep reading. Rinse, repeat, profit. I don’t mean to sound cynical: I should take some pointers.Read More
There’s no “I” in vanity. Oh, wait…
Tonight I was at a professional function for editors. Catching up with a friend and colleague about what she’s been up to, we swapped stories. She has a book out with a print publisher that’s been doing well in some local sales rankings; I’ve recently been in the paper talking about my experiences of self publishing and assisting other independent authors. I mentioned a client I was working with on what’s going to be a beautifully typeset print-on-demand (POD) title, and she said to me, “so it’s vanity publishing, really.”
Now, I hesitate to get riled up over a friend’s relatively well-intentioned and probably slightly unthinking words. I take heart knowing that it’s not entirely on my own behalf that the remark made me so angry, but on behalf of a client who’s worked hard telling a story.
A few weeks earlier, after my newspaper appearance, I was talking to a prospective client about helping him publish his work when he asked me, “is this just vanity publishing?”
Well, what is vanity, anyway?
The New Oxford American Dictionary defines vanity as “excessive pride in or admiration of one’s own appearance or achievements,” and it’s this kind of definition that everyone has in mind when they talk about “vanity publishing.” Vanity is an undesirable personal attribute, and the insinuation in calling a work vanity published is that the work is of inferior quality, rendering it beneath the interest of readers, critics, and traditional publishers, and that the author is putting it out in the world in a deluded attempt to further inflate their overestimated self-worth.
It is vanity to write for self-aggrandizement, and there are, I admit, many writers or aspiring writers who are chiefly interested in writing and publishing as a means to fame (as I once was). Even sadder, there are as many who are so seriously deluded that they believe self publishing a hastily written book or two will almost certainly see their lives transformed by a hailstorm of cash and adulation. A noble few of these will persist long enough at writing that it will transform them—that it will so enflame their souls, deepen their sensitivity, and sharpen their insight and their eloquence that they are ruined for the ordinary world and will be cursed and compelled to live as writers evermore because there is no longer anything else that they can be.
Can this be vanity? Returning to the dictionary, we find another definition: “the quality of being vain or worthless or futile”. And there must be nary an artist, especially one who has struggled to make a living or who has suffered the cut of a harsh review or the pain of working a dayjob when they know their true work is to be making things, who has not felt all their labor is for nothing and that now, at last, it may be time to quit and to settle into what seems the easy and comfortable life of a mere drone.
But to give in and call this vanity is to submit to two of the most poisonous ideas of our age: that you and the work you do are to be judged by
- how much money you make
- how many people are looking at you
To view life and human activity in this way devalues so supremely the individual and local experience that it could well be described as among the greatest threats to human dignity alive in the world today. To be sure, there are worse things—repressive, body-hating theocracy for one—but this is way up there. It is mathematically impossible for everyone to be in the wealthiest 1% of the population, or in what may well be the 0.00001% or less that are celebrities (this article’s highest estimate of the number of famous people in the world is 30,000 out of almost 7 billion), and to be fixated on wealth and celebrity as the main criteria of success in life is to deny the worth in the vast majority of human experience which does not occupy its rarified “heights”.
Getting back to the business of self publishing, is it vanity to walk this low road? This is the road of those who’ve decided that they’re not going to be dependent on a traditional publisher giving them permission to put their work into reader’s hands. It is the road of those who (I sincerely hope) are ready to admit that the work is hard and often thankless, but it is worthwhile for its own sake and there is nothing to do in life but whatever you can.
To say that this is vanity is to deny the deep spiritual truth that is at the heart of some of the world’s great books of wisdom:
“The wise man lets go of all results, whether good or bad, and is focused on the action alone.” (Bhagavad Gita, trans. Stephen Mitchell).
“Abandon all hope of results.” (The lojong slogans of Geshe Chekawa)
“Complete your task, seek no reward, make no claims. Without faltering, fully choose to do what you must do.” (Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching, trans. Jonathan Star).
“Vanity publishing” is a slur aimed at writers who, without the permission and investment of a traditional publisher, have chosen to do what they must do, which is to write and not to keep their work in a drawer where it is no good to anyone, but to release it into the world and risk its doing harm or good. Its continued use is for the sole purpose of retaining all esteem for an industry that is losing its power, for the writers it has made stars and millionaires of, and for the writers who believe it may still make stars of them.
If you ever find that slur aimed at your activities as an independent author, get angry. There’s no need to make a scene, but know that the phrase “vanity publishing” exists for the purposes of cutting you down. Reject the idea that your work or your life is vain. Hold in yourself the consciousness of your own indestructible worth, and the absolute necessity of fulfilling whatever destiny or doom has befallen you. Live, and write, and publish. Do all this for its own sake, and never give up. In this way, all ceases to be vanity.
(Image: “Mirror” by Sam Howzit [CC BY 2.0 2010].)
This post first appeared on my business’s website at Hourigan & Co.Read More
Yesterday in 1978 (31 January) was the birthday of Lilian Lau, artist, enemy of propertarian love, and the lead female character of Kiss Me, Genius Boy and My Generation’s Lament. Happy 35th birthday, Lily!
To celebrate I’ve made Kiss Me, Genius Boy FREE on Smashwords and $0.99 on Kindle. Free pricing will soon flow through to iBooks, Kobo, B&N, and Sony as well.
Read the first few chapters for the scene that has one reader saying “Kick ASS! That scene just earnt me buying vol 2 when it comes out.” (it’s already out).Read More
Vive la résistance!
So, I’m a novelist but I also went to business school and think about money sometimes (okay, a lot of the time). At the moment the S&P/ASX200 (AXJO) is pushing up towards 5000. The last times it did this, in April 2010 and Feb–April 2011, it kept encountering resistance and ultimately fell back down. As recently as May 2012, it was only at around 4000. Sentiment in the economy is still relatively bad, so I’d bet on it failing at around 5000 and falling again. Anyone else have an opinion on this?Read More