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Author of queer, wry sci fi/fantasy books. On Amazon.
Editor of all fiction genres.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Human Centipede Syndrome: A Meditation on Internet Activism

Hello hello!

So, those of you who follow me on various streams--Tumblr, Twitter, etcetera--will probably notice a bit of a change in the coming months. I'm giving up on formally trying to pursue activism. I'm currently taking a week of (mostly) blacking out social media, and it's really helped me articulate a few things.

I'm twenty four, and I'm tired. I should not be this tired and exhausted at the thought of interacting with people I like, on platforms I like, about topics I like. I still care about diversity and signal-boosting alternative authors. I still plan to write about queer people and people of colour and the disabled. I still care about environmentally sustainable lifestyles and humane, fair treatment of animals (tasty ones included). I am still going to write about women doing things that they aren't supposed to or 'allowed' to do. This stuff does matter.

But I had to ask myself, as I stared at my Tumblr feed full of people arguing that Joan of Arc might have been bigendered, people tossing around the word 'patriarchy' as an insult, and the endless links on Reddt featuring people complaining about Muslims and women and basically anyone other than themselves--is all this negativity doing anything? Is screaming at people really going to get us anywhere?

Source. I love you guys too much to put actual screenshots from The Human Centipede up.

Who gets to speak?

There is a time to scream and there is a time to pick up your sign, write some letters, and take a stand. Screaming can be good. It's important and necessary. But there's too much of it going on. Add to the fact that a lot of the people doing the screaming are--like me--privileged, white North Americans. That also got me thinking--do I know enough to adequately represent the stuff I care about in public forums?

The answer was, frankly, no. I don't want to misrepresent people from other cultures, the trans* community, or anything else when it comes to issues that revolve around them. I can lend my support, but I can't speak for someone else.

The problem is that people (like me, admittedly) pick up a cause or choose to slam a celebrity for making a misstep without realising the importance of their actions. And then others fight against them, often saying pretty horrible things (the subReddit "Tumblr in Action" is a pretty fine example of social commentary gone awry, and let's not talk about "TalesofPrivilege", which is irritating and misogynistic enough that I don't want to link to it.) Is arguing with a bunch of neckbeards on The Escapist forum going to actually get more diversity into mediaeval settings? And furthermore, do I know enough to really talk about these subjects the way I'd like to?

Source. Opinions, on the internet.

What's the point?

Sure, on issues of mental health or sexual preference, I can speak, but I have professional experience on the first one and personal experience with both. And it's not a matter of being 'not strong enough' to take the endless feces-flinging from both the privileged masses and the hyperaggressive activists. It's about how I want to spend my time.

I am a writer. That means I need to write. I'm also an editor, which means I need to help make other writers' books better. Will an essay on pop culture, the internet, the teeth of Neanderthals, or sci fi help me develop the skills for making good art? In short, yes. Yes it will. Will screaming at people en masse or clicking reblog on a hundred posts or wandering through the endless crap swamp that is Jezebel help me make good art? Nope.

So, what's going to change? There's going to be more phuquerie. I'd rather laugh than scream, and I'd rather comfort than kill. When something matters, I'll still be there with sword drawn and banner flying, but I'm going to save that for the occasions where it's really merited. I'll reach out to people, not just shout into a void.

Here's the raw version of what I was feeling, before I could articulate it more clearly, previously published elsewhere.


Stop telling me to wear makeup. Stop telling me to cut my hair. Stop telling me to watch my mouth when I really am being insulting. Stop telling me to not talk about my genitals. Stop telling me to talk about my genitals. Stop telling me to tag things that passingly mention hard topics. Stop telling me to ‘check my privilege’ as though spewing a magic phrase at me will make me a better and more conscious human being. Stop telling me to not be a feminist. Stop telling me to be a feminist. Stop telling me my activism is annoying. Stop telling me my activism is boring. Stop telling me not to wear dresses. Stop telling me to wear dresses. Stop telling me to cover up. Stop telling me I need Jesus. Stop telling me not to swear. Stop telling me you think I’m too PC or that I’m being diverse for brownie points. Stop telling me something is ‘too diverse’. Stop telling me to campaign 24/7. Stop telling me it doesn’t matter. Stop telling me I should feel awful for liking something. Stop telling me it’s stupid to criticize pop culture. Stop telling me I’m a bad atheist. Stop telling me magic isn’t real. Stop telling me creationism is legit and should be taught in science classes. Stop telling me I am irredeemable. Stop telling me I am lost. Stop telling me there is something wrong with me. Stop telling me I don’t know what it’s like. Stop telling me to be polite before I have opened my mouth. Stop telling me I’m normal. Stop telling me I’m a freak. Stop telling me I’m crazy. Stop telling me my sexual orientation is imaginary. Stop telling me I’m deviant. Stop telling me I’m not deviant enough. Stop telling me I’m obese when I just want to listen to music on Youtube. Stop telling me how to lose fifty pounds with this one weird old tip. Stop telling me my personality is more beautiful than my body. Stop telling me how to have sex. Stop telling me being an introvert makes you special. Stop telling me extroverts are king. Stop telling me you think queers are less than human. Stop telling me you think cis people are less than human. Stop telling me to tag things. Stop telling me it will be fine. Stop telling me it’s my fault. Stop telling me that rape is deserved. Stop telling me pregnancy is deserved. Stop telling me you miss the days when racism was the norm. Stop telling me to smoke weed. Stop telling me not to smoke weed. Stop telling me sex workers are just nasty lazy hoes. Stop telling me that you know better because you are white and male. Stop telling me I am too sensitive. Stop telling me my junk is a political statement. Stop telling me to calm down. Stop telling me to get angry. Stop telling me to just be happy.
Stop. Telling. Me. What. To. Do."


Thanks for dropping by the nest once again. Don't miss any of the phuquerie. Find Michelle on TwitterFacebook, and on Tumblr, and find her work on Amazon. Check back on the blog to see when one of the irregular posts has careened onto your feed. This is the one and only SciFiMagpie, over and out! 


  1. "I love you guys too much to put actual screenshots from The Human Centipede up."

    I appreciate that. I haven't seen the movie, I'll admit, though I have heard some, uh... interesting things about it.

  2. Almost two years later, and holy crap, I've developed a lot. I still would say I'm not a real activist, though I'm quite active in activism around fiction--making sure diversity is represented, and racism is dealt with well. But yeah, I've become a lot firmer in many of my opinions, and probably more radical, as well. I finally got a better understanding of patriarchy, for one thing, and of why tagging traumatic triggers is helpful, for another.


As always, be excellent unto others, and don't be a dick.