chuck wendig

This Week

This last week of May has been an incredibly depressing one. Last Saturday, May 23rd 2014, a man filled with hate against the women who supposedly scorned him shot and killed six people. He terrorized a college community not unlike my own. He left behind a manifesto detailing his rage against women and how he was going to “kill all the blonde sluts”.

Many news outlets are saying this young man was ‘incredibly mentally disturbed’. That may or may not be true. But the fact is that he might not have been as mentally ill as we’d like to believe. I understand that many people don’t want to accept that this sort of thing can be perpetrated by someone who is ‘normal’. Only someone who isn’t themselves would go out and shoot randomly into a crowd of students walking down the street.

The vehicle of the alleged shooter is pictured at one of the crime scenes after a series of drive-by shootings in the Isla Vista section of Santa Barbara

But the terrifying reality that no one wants to admit is that this young man believed, truly 100% believed, that his misery was due to the fact that women would not have sex with him. He believed that somehow women owed him, that they were responsible both for his misery and also for relieving it.

Many prominent writers and journalists have written about the shooting. There have been calls to reevaluate gun rights and mental health issues, those are all well and good. Those are things that most certainly need to be addressed in our society as mass shootings become more and more common. But there are other underlying factors that are being ignored.

Women were the target for this shooter. Yes, men were wounded and they died and the loss of any human life is a tragedy. I do not wish to discredit the lives of men but it is imperative that the public recognize that this man was out to hurt women specifically. And our society did nothing but urge him on.

The shooter was involved in groups known as Men’s Rights Activism (MRA) which is a group of people who, instead of focusing on real issues that affect men around the world, blames women and feminism for any perceived slight against the male gender. What the MRAs tend to forget and gloss over is that men have been the dominating gender for the entire course of history and it’s only been within the last few hundred years (in America at least) that women have had autonomy at all.

If only it were that simple...

If only it were that simple…

The worst part about the MRAs is that there are men’s issues that are very important to women, even feminists! (Shocking I know!) The way men are treated in custody hearings, the fact that male rape is severely underreported, the wording in laws that sometimes makes it impossible to charge a woman with rape against a man, prostate cancer rates are up, men are victims of domestic abuse as well as women, men suffer from eating disorders that aren’t reported, and so on. These issues are important and our society doesn’t want to talk about them. But neither do the MRAs, they’re too busy blaming feminists and women alike for their “woes” that they can’t get laid.

The one Urban Dictionary entry I agree with

The one Urban Dictionary entry I agree with

One of my favorite authors, Chuck Wendig, blogged about the issue in a piece called “Not All Men But Still Way Too Many Men“. This piece is thoughtful and well written but many readers jumped down to the comments section and (assumedly ignoring the name of the author as well as the photos of him on the site) concluded the Chuck was in fact a woman. The comments on that article and his follow up “Burning the MRA playbook or #YesAllMRAs” were closed due to the fact that many MRAs decided it was a perfect place to intimidate Chuck (who again they believed to be a woman). There was name-calling, insults, and just general hate. These are not people who care about the equality of all humanity as they claim. They are bullies spewing hate across the Internet.

The most dangerous thing we can do is ignore these people. I’ve had many conversations with men whose knee jerk reaction to my explanation is “Well I’m not like that and the men I know aren’t like that. It’s just ignorant people being ignorant.”

NO.

These people are more widespread than you could ever imagine and some of the most prominent people in our society feel like way towards women. How else can you explain the fact that almost every female friend I know has been assaulted either sexually or verbally? How else do you explain men honking and yelling at me from cars while I walk to work in broad daylight? These things are connected and our society is building towards a breaking point. If you truly feel that you are not like this man then stand up and add your voice behind ours. We don’t need you to speak for us, we need you to speak with us.

Have a conversation with any woman in your life and ask her what it’s like to walk home alone at night. Listen and understand that her experience will mirror millions of other experiences all across the globe.

Understand that I hesitate to write this blog and leave the comments sections open for fear of harassment or rape threats.

Understand that I hesitate because I wonder what a future employer might think of my ‘radical’ views.

Understand that I have to consider that someone might be able to find me because of the information I have on this blog and hurt me.

The point of this post and others like it is to point out that a horrible tragedy happened. A young man felt women owed him something and when he didn’t get it he went out and murdered people. But more specifically he targeted women in his manifesto and videos. The conversation around this event must include the hatred this person held for women simply because none of them wanted to have sex with him just as it must discuss gun control and mental health awareness. There were signs that were missed by a wealth of professionals and this was a young man who had every resource available to him.

Women responded to this event by creating the #YesAllWomen hashtag as a way to vent their frustration with the violence we experience on a daily basis. I suggest anyone who reads this article goes and looks at the overwhelming amount of evidence that men (not all men but still TOO MANY MEN) do not see women as their equals or even as people in many cases. We are more than your girlfriends, your wives, your sisters, your daughters, your neighbors. We are people and our voices matter.

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Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig

So on December 30th I was perusing Twitter, like one does when one is snowed in, and found out that Chuck Wendig’s book Blackbirds was being offered for FREE! on his website TerribleMinds. My mind was blown to say the least.

Wendig was using this as an opportunity to promote his newest book in the Miriam Black series: The Cormorant (that link goes to the cover reveal post, the cover is B-E-A-UTIFUL). You can buy the book here as well as other works by Wendig.

Blackbirds-700pxw

Traditionally writers have avoided giving away their books for free because it simply wasn’t economical. The books are expensive to make and publishers want to see a return on their investment. But in the Age of Technology authors (especially self-published ones) can negotiate deals where there books are free for a limited time to drum up business. New writers have relied on word of mouth but that is amplified a thousand fold when a writer starts to include the Internet. Not to mention the books are usually in ebook format so all I had to do was click a link on my iPad and download it to the kindle app. Super easy!

kindle

This article on the Huffington Post talks about this new phenomenon and why it works so well for some authors: “Online audiences are entirely willing to pay for content. Content creators simply must prove themselves first. Those who are willing to be generous themselves will be met by generosity in return.” There have been several musical artists who have tried this technique (like Amanda Palmer) with amazing results.

Personally I found this technique of giving away the book to be ingenious because now I’m gnawing over my bank account trying to negotiate with the numbers so I can get the next two books. Being a college student doesn’t allow for either a lot of free reading time or a lot of monies to spend on books. So getting the book for free over my winter break was pretty awesome to begin with.

Anyways, I downloaded the book onto my iPad on the 30th of December.

I simply couldn’t put it down and devoured the entire thing in one sitting.

It was absolutely incredible.

I’ve been following Wendig on Twitter  and on his blog for some time now (he is hilarious but not necessarily safe for work just as a warning) and have been drooling over his writing advice and books. But as I usually do I kept putting off actually buying anything because bills were due and I have a million excuses but seriously none of them are really good enough.

Blackbirds was the most interesting book I’ve read in such a long time. Everything about this book is different and I loved all those differences. I don’t want to give too much about the plot away though because it is such a great and suspenseful read, so I’ll just give you my overall impression.

For starters, we have Miriam who is absolutely the most insane main character I’ve ever seen. To be honest I really can’t recall the last time I read a book with a such a strong main character, let alone a female one. Like most people I was really surprised at how tenacious and angry she was but I think that this is probably something that really drew me to Miriam’s character overall. She is flawed but knows it and really tries to not care about it.

The book’s plot is like I would imagine white water rafting to be. Very terrifying and fast but at the end you look back smiling like a madman and you’re already planning another trip. The plot took hold of me from the first page and never let go until the final word. While the darkness and grittiness of the story might have not been handled well in the hands of a lesser author Wendig weaves the elements of horror, loss, fate, and love together into a tale of incredible, and strange, imagery.

Overall a fantastic piece of fiction and I can’t wait to get my hands on the sequels: Mockingbird and The Cormorant. Take a look at their cover art below, beautiful!

UPDATE: I actually have bought the next two books in the Miriam Black series because of being able to read Blackbirds for free. So yes fellow writers, this does work as a strategy!

Mockingbird-700pxw TheCormorant-700pxwide