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Take, for example, Jeb Bush’s declaration that “this is an organized attempt to destroy Western civilization.” No, it isn’t. It’s an organized attempt to sow panic, which isn’t at all the same thing. And remarks like that, which blur that distinction and make terrorists seem more powerful than they are, just help the jihadists’ cause.

Think, for a moment, about what France is and what it represents. It has its problems — what nation doesn’t? — but it’s a robust democracy with a deep well of popular legitimacy. Its defense budget is small compared with ours, but it nonetheless retains a powerful military, and has the resources to make that military much stronger if it chooses. (France’s economy is around 20 times the size of Syria’s.) France is not going to be conquered by ISIS, now or ever. Destroy Western civilization? Not a chance.

So what was Friday’s attack about? Killing random people in restaurants and at concerts is a strategy that reflects its perpetrators’ fundamental weakness. It isn’t going to establish a caliphate in Paris. What it can do, however, is inspire fear — which is why we call it terrorism, and shouldn’t dignify it with the name of war.

The point is not to minimize the horror. It is, instead, to emphasize that the biggest danger terrorism poses to our society comes not from the direct harm inflicted, but from the wrong-headed responses it can inspire. And it’s crucial to realize that there are multiple ways the response can go wrong. —Paul Krugman

Soon after the attack, commentators will appear on every screen in your home explaining in snide, sarcastic tones how the courageous choice is to hate Muslims -- like they're the lone, brave voice in a world afraid to hold such a controversial opinion.

The reality -- which you've known since you were too young to shit outside your pants -- is that your most automatic, unthinking reflex is always to hit back, and that growing up means resisting it. When you got frustrated with a toy, you broke it. When you feel the mosquito, you swat it. You get insulted by a YouTube commenter, so you call them an asshole. Each time it's that primitive, lizard part of your brain taking over. There's nothing courageous about it -- a dog can do it. Fucking plants do it.

It's the thinking part -- the human part -- that says to stop, resist the initial urge, and actually think about what action will make the world better. It's like resisting the urge to scratch an itch, and actually stopping to say, "Maybe instead of scratching the rash until it bleeds, I should go see a doctor about some dick ointment." And this is harder than anything on the list so far, because scratching the hatred itch feels so freaking good. It feels so good that we'll write entire books rationalizing it, to make it sound like the thoughtful, considered position. But you can never lose sight of this basic fact:

"Kill 'em all!" is the easy, lazy reaction. That's the animal reflex, the old tribal instincts lurching to the surface from that primal, caveman part of your brain. What's worse is that we are superstitious, irrational creatures, and this reflex quickly metastasizes into the oldest, most destructive superstition of all.

"This person wronged me, so in return I need to punish this person and everyone who resembles this person."

A thousand centuries later, that part hasn't changed -- it still feels good to think of everything in terms of a culture war. If the criminal is black, he isn't just an individual stealing a TV for weed money -- he's part of the Black Crime Problem. The obnoxious teenager in line next to me at Chipotle isn't an annoying individual; she's part of "This generation of entitled brats." Everyone who wrongs you becomes a foot soldier in an army that you must go to war with.

Resisting that idea takes hard, mental effort -- the equivalent of waiting for the skin cream to do its work while the itch prickles your groin like a swarm of scrotum ants. It means granting empathy and humanity to some absolute assholes who won't do the same for you. Remember, taking the high road isn't satisfying. Revenge is satisfying. Schadenfreude is satisfying. Taking the high road is like sitting perfectly still while a fly buzzes around your ear, forever.

This is where almost every morality tale you've ever heard -- from religious parables to prime time sitcoms -- gets it wrong. These stories always comes down to, "Doing the right thing feels great in the end!" The homeless man is grateful for the donation, the violent thug melts at the sign of kindness. That ain't how it plays out here in the real world. Out here, the bad guys see your empathy as a sign of weakness, and take advantage of it while taunting you. The homeless guy may take your donated blanket and wipe his ass with it. The friend you loaned money to might use it to get a naked mural airbrushed on his van. But you still have to take the high road. —6 Ways to Keep Terrorists from Ruining the World

Journal History


The important thing for a writer is to know what you’re doing with your language and why. —Ursula Le Guin

Unpacking that why often means appealing to deeper principles, leaving writing as such beholden to some higher cause. Thus, for example, she asserts that it is “a writer’s moral duty … to use language thoughtfully and well.” She’s not speaking here of mere correctness, but of clarity, of the work we put in to ensuring others will know what we mean. And she makes one point clear enough: You don’t need to agree with the exact reasons she offers, she just wants to ensure that you have some of your own.
Hire a Hugo & Nebula-nominated writer to give you feedback on your novel manuscript
I’ve reopened my freelance novel critique service!

I have room for 3-4 clients this fall. Here’s how it works.

You send me your COMPLETED fantasy/science fiction novel manuscript. I’ll read it, mark it up, and write a brief edit letter, helping you to think about what’s working and what’s not. While I’ll inevitably discuss your prose/style, this not a copyedit, but a broader consideration of the story you’re trying to tell — and advice on how to tell it more powerfully. I’ll return your manuscript within six weeks with comments aplenty in the margins, and a detailed edit letter addressing issues of plot, character, style, and setting.

Why hire me?

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Amazon to pay self-published authors based on pages read

"It could soon pay more to write lengthier books, if you are an author self-publishing on Amazon’s Kindle ebook platform.

Starting next month, the e-commerce giant will pay independent authors based on the number of pages read, rather than the number of times their book has been borrowed.

The move is aimed at authors enrolled in Kindle Direct Publishing platform – which lets authors set list prices, decide rights and edit the book at any time – and is applicable to ebooks made available via the Kindle Unlimited and Kindle Owners' Lending Library programs."

Read more

"The problem is too many white writers seem to want facts, figures, quotas, and step-by-step instructions on how to avoid being called racist, rather than, you know, just writing realistic and complex characters of color"
Calling something exotic emphasizes its distance from the reader. We don’t refer to things as exotic if we think of them as ordinary. We call something exotic if it’s so different that we see no way to emulate it or understand how it came to be. We call someone exotic if we aren’t especially interested in viewing them as people — just as objects representing their culture.

—Fantasy author N. K. Jemisin on The Unexotic Exotic



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SRSmith Featured By Owner Nov 3, 2015   Writer
Thanks for the :+fav: on 'Water Work', I'm glad you enjoyed it!
comatose-comet Featured By Owner Oct 26, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
thanks for the fave :rose:
SRSmith Featured By Owner Sep 13, 2015   Writer
Thanks for the :+fav: on 'Infectious'!
ARstories Featured By Owner Jul 18, 2015   Writer
Thanks for the constructive comment on my story Madison Springs. Much appreciated! :boogie:
AshleyxBrooke Featured By Owner May 12, 2015  Hobbyist Photographer
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