The Summer That Didn’t Matter

At times like these, I’m glad I’m not a top-tier political satirist.

Certainly, I wish I could pursue satire full-time. And even more certainly, I wish I were top-tier at something, anything. But there are advantages to having an easy life.

Case in point: The Summer of ’14. Or, as it will be remembered in decades hence, “Huh?”

It had all the potential for being a watershed season. So many things went wrong. Ferguson. Ukraine. Gaza. ISIS.

But ultimately, none of it really mattered. On a cosmic scale, I mean. Sucks to be a captured journalist, a Dutch epidemiologist, a member of the Khan Yunis PTA, or Mike Brown, but still. A year from new, we’re not going to even remember any of this.

I’m not saying that because I think that’s the way it should be. If we were living in the Conditional Tense-topia, we’d be discussing meaningful ways to ensure that law enforcement has the support rather than the scorn of the neighborhoods it protects, dispassionately generating checklists and rehearsing plans for controlled responses that distinguish between opportunistic looting and constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of speech and assembly.

We’d explain to Vladimir Putin, in the only terms he respects, that The Civilized World won’t put up with the armed invasion of a piece of it; if you want to make a case that ethnic Russian rights need stronger guarantees in countries where Russians are a minority, there are other ways to do it than to give some numb-nuts a lesson in surface-to-air warfare and set him loose to blow an AIDS conference out of midair.

Should I even go into the whole Gaza thing? I got nothing but sympathy for those unfortunate people trapped in the crossfire. But please, please, please, read up on how they got there. And don’t rely on any one source. They all got a horse in this race, as do I. If I held all the power in Israel — that is, if I were the fundraising chairman of the Shas Party — I’d go to the West Bank and make a deal — today! — with Mahmoud Abbas. “Thanks for not bombing us all the time and suggesting that we might have a right to live. Tell you what, we’ll take down the Green Line fence, open the border permanently, let you declare independence, be seated at the UN, establish a full-scale defense force, mint your own money, whatever makes you feel like a country rather than Israeli-occupied Jordan, which is what you are. We’ll remove the outposts and any settlements that aren’t any older than the soldiers we have to commit to guard them. The rest of the Jewish towns stay where they are and are afforded the freedom to practice their religion, in return for which they’ll pay taxes to you instead of us. You take control of east Jerusalem, including all the outlandishly gerrymandered precincts that were added after our 1967 land grab. We keep the rest. For the disputed four or five blocks in the middle, let’s both claim it, jointly administer it, and allow UN peacekeepers nominal control; don’t worry, they’ll shit in their baby-blue helmets and run if and when we have a disagreement, then they’ll be back as soon as we’ve sorted stuff out. Meantime, Hamas is left to rant and rave in Gaza, getting nothing of what they want.

ISIS? That’s easy. They consider themselves an independent state. Hell, they consider themselves the Caliphate. Fine. I say, let’s recognize them. Tomorrow. At 9 a.m. Then, at 9:01 a.m., let’s declare war on them. Then, after our second cup of coffee, let’s figure out what we’re going to do next. I agree with those who said that we shouldn’t rush to unseat a dictatorship without having a plan for putting something else in place which could be worse. Guess what, Policy Nerd, you were right. That’s exactly what happened. More than once. And thus, we got ISIS. You really think things can get worse? I got a few tens of thousands of Yazidis who don’t.

And for all that, 2014 will fade into history as the year nothing much of importance really happened. The Democrats will make whatever political hay they can out of Ferguson, and it could very well be the edge they need to hold onto the Senate. And even if it doesn’t, the Dems really don’t care about the Senate because, as we’ve all learned, having a majority in the Upper House means next to nothing. And cops will still harass blacks. Sorry, but I don’t care what high-tech features your new ride has, if you’re black then your taillight went out as soon as you drove it off the dealer’s lot.

After a few weeks of blind panic in Kiev, then a few weeks of blind panic in Donetsk, the Ukraine war shows every sign of winding down. Is it the triumph of diplomacy over militancy? Is it a new detente between East and West? Naaah. There was too much money being lost by oligarchs in every nation in the northern hemisphere. The bag men just said no.

There’s a ceasefire in Gaza. It will last until the arms merchants clear up their back-orders. Then the cycle will start again, and 2014 will prove to be a bloody but ultimately inconsequential year.

And everybody is going to forget ISIS as soon as it fades to insignificance on its own. Nobody wants to remember them. Nobody. Especially not the chicken-hawks who, just a year ago, were urging us to arm them because they were fighting Syria’s Assad regime, and are now urging us to arm Assad against ISIS.

Here’s hoping we have a less interesting but more productive autumn.

The Tug of Tranquility

With all the commemoration this week of the Apollo XI moon landing 45 years ago, one story has gone underreported: that of Michael Collins.

Collins, now 83 and recently widowed, had a the kind of career beyond the capabilities of most of us. A West Pointer who retired as an Air Force brigadier general, he had a successful career as a test pilot, then was named the founding director of the Smithsonian’s Air & Space Museum. His role on the moon mission was to pilot the command module in lunar orbit while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked the surface. Collins’s job might seem less glamorous, but the reason he drew that assignment is that, of the three, he had the most experience actually piloting a spacecraft.

Aboard Gemini X in 1966, he spent three straight days crammed in a cabin the roughly the size of a Smart car’s, sharing space with mission commander John Young. I don’t care how well you get along with somebody or how well you’re trained, that’s got to get on your nerves after a while. Maybe that’s why Collins excused himself to go for a spacewalk — twice, becoming the first person to ever repeat that event.

I conjecture that Collins, as disappointed as he might have been that he wouldn’t walk on the moon, actually looked forward to the solitude of flying in space alone in 1969.

But don’t take my word for it. Here’s what he had to say:

“Not since Adam has any human known such solitude as Mike Collins is experiencing during this 47 minutes of each lunar revolution when he’s behind the Moon with no one to talk to except his tape recorder aboard Columbia.”

The weird part is that he seems to be talking about himself in the third person. That’s not the only explanation but, as the astronauts said, “A-OK.”

Each of Collins’s orbits took about two hours of which, by his own reckoning, he was completely out of communication range for 47 minutes. He did this 10 times while the lunar module stood inside the Sea of Tranquility.

What does a man possibly think about under those circumstances?

Well, the first time around, he’s probably too busy with mission requirements to think much about anything. But then what?

“Neil, Buzz, I’m about to fly out of range again. I’ll talk to you in another 47 minutes.”

Dum-dee-dum-dee-dum. Maybe take a quick nap.

“… another 47 …”

Tummy’s growling. Maybe some freeze-dried beef stew, then wash that down with some Tang.

“… another 47 …”

Mmm … Tang.

‘”… another 47 …”

Mmm … ‘tang.

“… another 47 …”

Really, what goes through a man’s mind?

Again, let’s hear from the astronaut himself. According to his autobiography, Carrying the Fire, Collins reported feeling not loneliness, but rather “awareness, anticipation, satisfaction, confidence, almost exultation.”

I’ll take him at his word.

“… another 47 …”

Imagine what it’s like, knowing that there is no physical, possible way you will be interrupted for the next 47 minutes. There are only two people on the planet 50 miles below you, and they are way the hell on the other side of it. From there, you have to fly for three days at 25,000 mph. Hell, it takes a second and a half for even a beam of light to traverse the distance.

“… another 47 …”

Nobody’s going to knock on the door. The kids are not coming home early from school. Mrs. Collins’s bridge game is not going to be unexpectedly canceled. Even the dog isn’t going to sniff you out and see if you’d be willing to take him to the park.

“… another 47 …”

It’s not as if history is going to care. All the press — and thus all the liberal arts academics — care about is the intrepid hero. But Neil is a modest kind of fellow, sort of shy and tongue-tied. Not made for celebrity, he’s just going to go back to Ohio and teach engineering. Still, his stooge Buzz is the worst kind of media whore — good for getting funding for the program, sure, but not the kind of thing that appeals to most serious test pilots. And that’s fine. Let Buzz run for the microphones. The more the public fixates on him, the less concerned they’ll be about “Mike Collins.”

“… another 47 …”

Not for nothing, but all the suction in the whole, entire universe is at one man’s disposal.

“… another 47 …”

Now approaching Tranquility!

So, men of Planet Earth, it is right and proper for each of us to stand up and salute Michael Collins, who came where no man has come before!

Author Possessed! Lugh Speaks! Severin Draws the Badger! Mighty Mighty On Sale Now! (Wanna rep Pitch Ribbons?)

Hey, it’s been a long time since I posted, for which I deeply apologize to everyone who ever reads this blog. Sorry, both of you.

As you probably know, I got a new day job. It’s a responsible one, so I had to give it my full attention for at least a couple months, putting everything else on hold. But I’ve settled in nicely, and can now start thinking about promoting my writing again. Oh, yes, and actually writing again. The good news is that the new gig brings me into the City most days, so I can spend more time at Fantastic Fiction and New York Review of Science Fiction readings, as well as other local events. So I’ll get to see more of a lot of people whom I admire and find fascinating. Yay, Life!

As you also probably know, the local speculative fiction scene lost one of its mainstays overnight, C.J. Henderson. I got to see him one last time at LI-Con, where he signed a couple of his outstanding Kolchak comics for me. Per his Facebook request, I inquired about visiting at his home over the past couple weeks, during the final round in his bout with cancer. I got no reply, and now I know the reason. A writer whose fortune never equaled his fame, and whose fame never equaled his talent, his jovial presence at conventions drew in hundreds if not thousands of new genre fans, and he taught us all how to work the vendors’ room. Like many others today, I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to properly say goodbye to C.J., but I can imagine what he might have to say to me if I had:

“Why are you wasting your time talking to me? Go sell some books!”

So, with that imagined and blatantly self-serving advice in mind, I’d like to refer you to a web site that has kindly given Mighty Mighty a platform: fantasy/romance author Angela Korra’ti’s AngelaHighland.com. She agreed to let my character the Indomitable Lugh introduce the characters and plot of the superhero spoof he inhabits. Warning: Lugh has absolutely no internal filter, so don’t read this if you’re easily offended.

Thank you, Angela, for kindly sharing your space, and for calling to my attention the out-of-date links on this site, which have now been corrected.

Thanks also to Marvel Bullpen alumna Marie Severin, a longtime friend of my wife’s family, who once drew on the walls of the house I now live in. We (and our kids’ pediatrician, who’s an even bigger comics geek than me) visited Sev in her assisted living home, where she kindly agreed to pencil Lugh’s adversary, the chaotic force of nature known as the Badger. It’s very different from the authorized J.A. Fludd version, but Marie had the distinction of drawing in the presence of my wife Eileen, who inspired the character.

One last thing before signing off: Pitch Ribbons: A Cantata for Four Voices is finished and ready for submission. I always had ChiZine Publications in mind as a market for this work, a true story-inspired horror thriller that’s chalk-and-cheese different from anything else I’ve ever done or am ever likely to do again. But if Sandra and Brett take a pass, I’m open to representation. I know I could get it published through Rebel ePublishers, who have kindly and diligently distributed my prior work. But for this one, I want to see if I can go through an established press. Just to prove a point, I suppose. But still.

Hope you’re all enjoying this Fourth of July weekend, unless you’re English in which case, suck it. (Ditto for the World Cup quarterfinals.)

OOOPS!!!

The following was intended for my Freedman Freelance site, which I try to keep separate from my fiction writing, but which WordPress has been known to mess up on occasion.

Sorry for the confusion, all!

 

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Been a busy couple weeks …

  1. “How to Build a Successful Business Case for an IT Project” and
  2. “Building a Business Case for Cloud Storage”

Please visit these sites and, when you do, feel free to click “Like” or link it to your social media circles!

A clarification and an apology

I spent a great deal of time last night acting as the piñata at a Plurk costume party.

They screamed at me, called me names (some of which I’d never heard before, which is always welcome and novel), and basically did everything internet trolls do. Gosh, they even followed through on their threat to escalate their discussion of my loathsomeness into the vast public square of (no, no, anything but …) Tumblr. Here it is, for what it’s worth. In the ten or so hours since then, I haven’t gotten one threatening email, not one comment in this space, not one nastygram on my Tumblr account. I guess they have as much suasion out in the wide world as they do in their own little echo chamber on Plurk.

Which isn’t to say they’re wrong. Not about everything. They’re wrong about how they characterize me, and they’re wrong about who the “creep” or the “coward” is: the person burrowing down deep into the cybersphere’s lowest chambers to talk anonymously behind someone else’s back, or the person they’re slandering who finds their little troll-hole and drops by to say hello at the risk of his own name and reputation.

(My favorite part of the Plurk/Tumblr exchange: “Makes me wish someone takes him up on his offer and gives him exactly the review he deserves.” Oh, and these are not the droids you’re looking for.)

But they are a hundred-percent right about one thing:

I don’t know what the fuck I’m talking about.

I can’t tell black radical feminism from free radical oxidation. I was reaching for a catch-all term, and clearly over-reached. In doing so, I broke one of my own cardinal rules: Don’t skimp on the research. I did, and spoke out of ignorance and, for that, I am truly sorry and deeply disappointed in myself.

I’m not sure how much better informed the members of the Plurk pecking party are. Maybe they all got Ph.D.s in feminist theory, but you couldn’t tell from our exchange. They kept telling me “do your research,” but not one of them could recommend a starting point: an author, a book, a web site, any reference at all. One helpful soul posted a Google link with “feminism” as a search term, so I got to see the Wikipedia entry and the last nine things anyone on the Web had to say on the subject.

Well, I started there. I looked over the Wiki. The first thing that surprised me was that there are at least 41 different “variants” (Wiki’s term) of feminism, they don’t all agree, and they are sometimes hostile to each other or feel betrayed by one another.

Now that’s something I can understand. I’m not just a white guy, I’m a funny white guy, which in a lot of cases (including the current) means I’m a Jew. There are only 15 million of us in the world (Jews — there are even fewer funny white guys), to give the broadest number. Fair to say, for every one of us, there are 10 people who want to see us all dead. Not converted, not kept in our place, but taking a big, permanent, ethnic dirt nap. And yet we have at least 41 different variants ourselves and spend a lot of time talking straight past each other. They say the only thing you can get two Jews to agree on is what a third Jew should give to charity.

So it is with feminists, I surmise. It would be a mistake for you to assume that the hardcore Satmar Chassidim speak for all Jews, are the most devout, or express the purest form of our faith. Likewise, it was a mistake for me to posit that “radical, black feminist” opinions are the only ones worth soliciting. And for that I sincerely apologize with all humility and without reservation.

To take this one step further, let me open up the invitation. If you have a literary review blog that takes any feminist theory or racial theory as a primary position, please let me send you a free PDF of Mighty Mighty for your critique. I feel the need to re-clarify: I’m not looking for a favorable review necessarily (take it if I can get it), but an honest one so that my next book can be better.

I remain convinced that true feminists, true people of strong racial identity, and true people of good faith throughout the world have a sense of humor that seemed absent from last night’s chats. I also challenge that gang’s premise that “we’re not here to help you.” Yes, you are. Just as I’m here to help you. Otherwise, why are we all here, and why are we all so unique?

Of triumphs and trolls

First the triumphs.

I’ve been invited to participate on panels at both Lunacon and the inaugural LI-Con (which, I hope, will rebound again as the I-Con we all knew and loved). I’ll post my schedules as they come into focus. Let it also be said that I am a vocal and money-where-my-mouth-is supporter of my adoptive home town’s bid for the 75th WorldCon: DC in 2017!

I also had a blast at Arisia this past weekend. I posted a few vlog entries on my YouTube channel, which involved figuring out how to post directly from iPhone to YouTube (after I got it all synched up, it wasn’t hard at all). Since posting my last vid, two very surprising things happened there with regards to my work-in-progress, Pitch Ribbons: A Cantata for Four Voices. First, I gave the first public reading of excerpts from the first three chapters, and it seemed to me that people were keeping their keypads in their pockets and listening. Second, I participated in a how-to-pitch-your-novel workshop facilitated by a triumvirate of well-known agents and small-press publishers. They told me I had a strong message and that I should pitch them for-reals once I’ve heard back from my betas and completed the third draft. (Very proud of and humbled by my beta panel — anyone would be: Helen Marshall, Simon Logan, and Vince Liaguno).

So with Mighty Mighty advanced reader copies out to reviewers and a plan to soft-launch it at Lunacon and LI-Con before putting it up on Amazon, it would seem things are looking up for my too-long delayed major foray into the world of speculative fiction authorship. I truly believe they are.

So I can be philosophical about (gasp!) my reputation being impugned on the Web. Still, it’s grating.

Let’s rewind a second. Like I said, I just got back from Arisia. If anyone there thought for a second that I was racist, sexist, or homophobic, I’d have been kicked out of the Westin, if not dropped to the bottom of the Charles River. I don’t think anyone would hurl those accusations at me in public, where people could hear them and friends who actually know me could rise to my defense.

So a day and a half ago I posted a new blog entry in this space: “Seeking a radical, black feminist review of Mighty Mighty”. The headline sounds like a provocation but, if you read the article (after being provoked by the headline), you find out I’m sincere. I think I’ve got some well-drawn characters of both sexes, a spectrum of proclivities, various ethnicities, and of distinct class origins. I don’t believe any of them lapse into stereotype, or at least not for long. They all have arcs. They all change. Just like people.

But I don’t want you to take my word alone for that. I want reviews. And I don’t just want reviews from friendly quarters — that is, other white, het, cis, middle-aged men, particularly ones who also write humorous SF and who are also going to want a blurb from me one of these days. I want to hear from people who don’t know William Freedman from William Shatner and who’d be offended if I didn’t handle the characters with the care that is their due. I want to know what people who don’t have a relationship with me to lose think about my work. And if they say it sucks, that’s fine. I take feedback as a gift. If they really rip Mighty Mighty into shreds, that’s fine with me. It means my next book will be that much better.

Even so, I wouldn’t be making the invitation if I didn’t think this novel held up. I mean, what would be the point?

Funny thing happened with that blog post. This Auctor Lanx Satura blog got more views in the one hour after that post went live than it’s gotten in most months. Even funnier thing: absolutely no comments.

So hundreds of people saw that post, and nobody had anything to say about it.

Right.

Now, the reason I know how many people saw it and how many people clicked through to multiple pages is that I monitor the Stats application on my dashboard — like most WordPress bloggers do, I’m sure. That application also tells where these hits are coming from. Some of them were coming from my Facebook personal and author pages, as well as from groups where I announced the new post. And some were coming from Tumblr, one of a number of social media sites I intended to establish an account at in order to promote Mighty Mighty and subsequent works. But a bunch came from something called Plurk, which is apparently a microblogging site used mainly by people living in Taiwan and by trolls around the world who want to talk about you behind your back.

So I established both Tumblr and Plurk accounts, and started clicking on the links that had appeared under the “Referrers” heading of my Stats page. And here’s what I found (I won’t embarrass the individual involved, who obviously prizes her anonymity, by linking to her or referring to her by nom de Web):

ALERT ALERT straight white guy wants a black radical feminist to review his bullshit novel favorably because “it passes the bechdel test” and “women talk about math in it,” explains that he is not misogynistic or racist and that there is “satire” and that he totally has black and woman and gay friends and one time a famous lady novelist yelled at him on the internet and it made him a better person.fascinating, right? you should definitely give this book free publicity for being so not sexist and not racist and having ladies who don’t talk about boys in it.

If you read my original post, maybe you share my sense that she only saw the words she selectively wanted to see. So I called her out, sending her the following note via Plurk:

First of all, thank you, [name]. You’ve driven more traffic to my site in an hour than I’ve gotten in certain whole months. To clarify, I’m not asking for a favorable review, which would be presumptuous to say the least. I’m looking for an *honest* review and, based on your opinion of me at the moment, I’m sure I can count on you for that. So are you up for the challenge?

She responded in the negative, as you could predict, but then she went on to tell her friends:

oh my god so i linked the page about the black radical feminist seeking author on an entirely different (privated!!) social networking site so i could laugh about it with my friends and HE CREATED AN ACCOUNT AND TRIED TO ADD EVERY PERSON ON MY FRIENDSLIST. so fair warning to anyone who wants to link this guy’s blog, he can track links and he’s REALLY FUCKING CREEPY ABOUT IT.

But he wrote a novel that passed the Bechdel Test he can’t be creepy :((((((((

“Really fucking creepy”?

I didn’t try to add every person on her friends list. I didn’t even know they were on her friends list. They were just the ones who visited my site and whom I could identify via my (standard, free, nothing-special) Stats app. Since they read my blog, I think I’m entitled to assume they might want to (at their own discretion) be included in future signals I send out publicly via the internet. But if they really were “EVERY PERSON ON MY FRIENDSLIST” then I feel badly for her: She has only 14 friends.

“Really fucking creepy”?

Maybe I am, but if you’re anonymous, and you take your passive-aggressive acting-out all the way to Taiwan to keep it that way rather than have the guts to post comments on this blog, and you have only 14 friends, you don’t get to be the one to call me that.

For good or ill, I live out loud. I write finance and technology articles as well as genre fiction. I also contract out as an IT management consultant and financial analyst. And I’m a suburban husband, father, and assistant scoutmaster. I try to keep these spheres compartmentalized for  purposes of marketing as well as my own sanity, but I use the same name — the one I was born with — for all of them. I have a listed land-line number. Two, in fact. I have over 600 connections on both Facebook and LinkedIn. Some of these are people I’ve added as recently as today, and others I went to kindergarten with. I’m not hiding from anyone, and I have damn little to hide.

But enough about the Troll from Taipei. Fortunately, her opinion doesn’t matter to me. I figure it matters to, at most, 14 others.

Now, as for the people I know in real life from participating in convention programming, their opinion — at least in the aggregate — does matter to me. I shared a link to the controversial blog post in a number of Facebook groups, one of which was for Lunacon. That’s where somebody reported me to Principal Zuckerberg. Credit where it’s due: The group’s moderator (whom I won’t name here because I’m sure she’s catching enough flak) clicked through, looked at the blog post, found nothing wrong with it and replied publicly with the comment:

Not sure why this post was reported, but it *is* genre relevant. And while the headline may not seem appropriate, it is actually an ongoing discussion and issue within SF/F conventions and fandom.

That’s all I’m saying. Let’s talk about it. Out loud. With each other.

I’m not going to go digging too deep around my Stat app anymore. Guess I found out more than I wanted to know. And I don’t want to become a creep.

Admittedly, I’m new to Tumblr and Plurk, but I do have a Reddit account. It’s been dormant, as I haven’t really had a use for it until now. But maybe it’s about time I got it up and running.

So you can Ask Me Anything.

Seeking a radical, black, feminist review of ‘Mighty Mighty’

Yes, you read that headline right. And for most of us white, male, het, cis, privileged types, it sounds like, “Seeking a dental surgeon with the delirium tremens,” or “Nice shot, Haji, but I’m about two more yards to your right and you gotta remember to adjust for the wind.” (Apologies for the ethnic insensitivity in the preceding sentence; I should’ve expressed the distance in meters.)

So why am I, so much a part of an effete coterie of decreasing relevance in genre circles, asking to have his work excoriated by the New Guard? Let me take another shot of single-malt Scotch and I shall tell you.

(Drat! I dribbled a smidgeon on my Brooks Brothers argyle sweater-vest!)

First, I want the exposure. I don’t care if have a penis, wished you did, wished you didn’t, wished nobody did, or are quite happy without one thank you. I just want you to buy my book. Or at least talk about it. I don’t care what you say about it, as long as you say something. Then somebody else will buy it.

Second, I really think that Mighty Mighty passes some key shibboleths when it comes to appealing to the Millennium’s sensitivities. It certainly passes the Bechdel test. Don’t believe me? Here’s a conversation between two female characters:

“… So I guess that’s where the bad habits came from,” Tara confessed, lying down flat on the Audi’s back bench. “I never thought anyone recognized anything I did, so I stopped trying.”

“But as my powers faded away to nothing, yours just got stronger,” Flare Star observed. “And it’s a good thing they did.”

“Yeah,” Tara conceded. “Maybe when all this is over, I’ll give the hero thing another try.”

“You already have,” Flare Star replied. “But explain this to me: I get why you left The Crusaders. I can figure out why you went back for your Ph.D. But how did you end up working for UPS?”

“That’s the easy part,” Tara explained. “What else are you going to do with a doctorate in formal axiology?”

“I don’t know. What is formal axiology?”

“It’s the study of value. What – mathematically – makes something good.”

“As opposed to evil?” Flare Star asked.

“You make it sound like those are the only two choices.”

“They aren’t?”

“Not by a long shot,” Tara said with a smirk. “Kevin and Elias got into this predicament while they were off hunting something chaotic, which doesn’t rise to the level of either good or evil.”

“So there are at least three choices.”

“More than that,” Tara explained. “You know what’s worse than evil?”

“Worse than evil? No. What?”

“Nihilism. The idea that nothing matters and all humanity’s efforts are wasted and worthless,” Tara summarized. “At least evil has a purpose. And at least chaos can give birth to order and, maybe, to good.”

“So given the choice …”

“Between evil and nothingness? Pick evil every time.”

That’s right. In my novel, I have two women discussing the mathematical underpinnings of the entire concept of ethics. Do you have that in yours? Purists will note that other characters, who happen to be male, are mentioned briefly in that exchange, but the discourse was clearly not about those male characters.

Nor is this the only example. Two of the villains are female, and I don’t think they discuss boys even once through the whole book — despite having started out as college roommates:

“So have you made up our mind yet, Equality?” Brigitte asked as she came in one afternoon with a reusable shopping bag filled with the makings of a salad-for-two. They often ate light dinners together in their room in the former Radcliffe dorms.

Equality was sitting on her yoga mat – which she also insisted on using as a bed – wearing a Guatemalan hemp hoodie and a pair of loose-fitting Capri pants she’d sewn together from home- spun and tie-dyed herself.

“Haven’t really thought about it,” Equality replied, then belched out a cloud of white smoke. “Where’s Phish playing this weekend?”

Brigitte consulted the concert schedule stapled – they couldn’t find magnets or scotch tape – to the refrigerator door.

“New York. The Garden.”

“Oh. I’ll drop by the drycleaner tomorrow, schedule a couple interviews in Manhattan and leave a day early,” Equality said as she began going through her warm-up stretches. “I guess I’ll just go and be an investment banker on Wall Street.”

“Don’t you love going to Harvard?” 

I think that, if you read Mighty Mighty without preconceptions, you’ll find that it has a diversity of characters who are informed by, but not defined by, their sexuality, ethnicity, and class. Oh, and the action takes place over the course of 35 years and 120,000 words. Characters change, grow, learn more about each other and themselves. You might bristle when you’re first introduced to Myron Masters who, in the Mighty Mighty world, was the first African-American superhero. When he took up the mantle, he adopted the simplest, least confusing nom de guerre: Black Man. Yes, you’re supposed to squirm at that. It’s squirm humor (and if you realize he’s a send-up of Marvel’s Power Man, you’ll get the joke immediately). As the world becomes more inclusive and Myron ages out of the fight, we all discover what other abilities he has besides Being Black.

My last reason is this: personal growth. I’m from a small town that was sharply divided into white neighborhoods and a black ghetto. Then I went to college on Long Island, which back then could be as racist as anywhere in the South. The day of a young woman going to college strictly to “get her MRS” was on the wane, but far from over. And this was during the early days of AIDS — I had about a dozen LGBT friends back then, only one of whom dared be out. I didn’t have to deal diversity until I was in my late 20s and in an international program in grad school.

About ten years later, when I was first acting on my longstanding aspiration to be a science fiction novelist, I joined the Online Writers Workshop and posted in a chat  my opinion at the time on the prevalence of gay characters in the magazines. I said something to the effect that, in a short story, if it doesn’t matter to the plot what a character’s orientation is, maybe you don’t need the gay sex scene, and maybe you don’t even have to identify the character as gay or straight or anything. That was followed by about twenty minutes of radio silence on the thread, then An Author Whose Works You’ve Read tore me a new orifice, and all her friends and fans piled on. (Years later I met her at a reading. She greeted me graciously with a hug and a peck on the cheek. I’m not sure if she even connected my name with my face, or had any recollection of the exchange. Anyway, there’s no lingering hard feelings on either side.) I had a lot to learn then. I’m sure I still do now. That’s why I want some honest opinions from sources I know won’t be saying nice things to me just to make me feel comfortable.

Here’s the pitch: If you have a review blog and a radical, black, feminist perspective, I would like to send you a free advanced reader’s copy of Mighty Mighty in PDF. Just send me a note at william_freedman [at] verizon [dot] net or a PM via Facebook. I will read your review and your readers’ comments with great interest. I promise not to be among those commenters. There will be no flame war — I surrender before the first shot. If I think you’re way off base, I’ll tell you so privately. Otherwise, I’ll keep my mouth shut and my finger off the SEND key.

One other stipulation: Try reading it for the entertainment value as well as the social commentary. It’s a satire. It’s supposed to be funny. I’m trusting in the radical, black, feminist sense of humor embodied by such comic geniuses as Wanda Sykes and … uh … um … all the rest.