What is likely vs. what is possible, and why that distinction is imperative right now.

The other day, I posted a question on Facebook. I asked only people with professional or academic experience in law, political science, and government to answer. My question was, paraphrased: If Russia did indeed coordinate with the Trump campaign to swing the election against Clinton, and we recognize that Trump’s presidency is illegitimate, what would be a creative legal approach not disallowed by the Constitution to remove him from power?

I had to delete the post because, surprise surprise, people without the requested expertise used the thread to vent their anger instead of answer my question. But expert or no, the answers fell into two categories: those who saw what was possible versus those who could only see what was likely. Those who answered didn’t frame it that way, of course, but the very fact that a few experts did propose possibilities—that possibilities existed at all—exposed the fault line. One friend cited a 1994 case in Pennsylvania where a judge declared an entire Senate vote fraudulent, and ordered the losing Republican candidate to take the seat. Another wrote (and I’ve posted with her permission):

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And later:

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The fact that these are thin threads of hope are beside the point. The point is that they exist at all, and Abby pointed to them. And that she didn’t answer “sorry, girly, not gonna happen” or any of the thousand variations on it that I’ve kept hearing ever since Election Day.

I felt the same profound frustration in the run-up to the Electoral College vote. Here was a legal Constitutional way to stop this presidency. Not only that, it was literally designed to stop a presidency like thisBut at the levels where it would have mattered—politicians, celebrities, lobbyists, influencers—the will to convince those electors was completely absent. I still don’t understand why. Was everyone just still in shock? Or resigned to what was “likely”? (The fact that the “those in power” demographic and the “white cis men without much to lose under any presidency” demographic largely overlap is no coincidence.)

If you give a shit—and first, be honest with yourself about whether you actually do, because if I’ve learned anything since the election, it’s that there’s so much more blissful resignation in the face of encroaching fascism than I ever could have imagined—if you really do give a shit about this country and the welfare of its people, you must start thinking in terms of what’s possible. Start thinking creatively. See ways forward that others don’t. See harder. Try harder. I have no doubt that the ways out of this dark valley exist, if only we have the will to find them.

I wish I were a legal scholar. I wish I had more power. But for now, I’m a science fiction writer with a humble following, so I’ll do as much as I can where I am.

 

~

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House of Medici, 2016.

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In the year 2016, my patrons directly funded the making of:

  • 150 hand-made books
  • 93 hand-written postcards
  • 48 hand-made art postcards
  • 34 essays
  • 8 short stories
  • 8 audiobooks
  • 6 videos
  • 3 scripts
  • 1 full play draft
  • 1 full novel draft
  • 1 trilogy treatment
  • 1 published art book
  • 1 TED Talk

…in which they all received a share through Patreon. To be clear: I cannot make art without patrons. They pay my salary. I am so grateful to each and every one of them. I’m not yet to a living wage, so if you haven’t pledged yet, please do. Go here and pledge just $1 a month. Direct patronage is the future of art. And we’re going to need art to fight fascism in the times to come.

Thank you.

~

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Let me tell you about the future.

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Let me tell you about the future.

In the year 3012, humanity is nomadic. Eight hundred years earlier, forty percent of the human population was displaced from the coastal cities in rapid, massive flooding events, rendering many of them stateless; as tools emerged to aid the refugees, those tools formed the basis of a new barter economy, and then a new religion: Laviaje (a feminized neologism of “el viaje” from Spanish), which formalized both the spontaneous human altruism that had long seemed to emerge only in catastrophe, and the act of wandering itself, which seemed a truer reflection of the human condition than the sedentary lifestyle that had prevailed for so long. Because of this and other revolutions, both violent and nonviolent, both regional and global, The Three Obstructions—capitalism, nationalism, and whiteness—became ancient history.

The organizing body of humanity is not the nation state, but the wayhouse: an inn that must have space for four things: rest, sex, food, and bathing. All work at wayhouses are shared by those who are staying there. Some are more simple and some are more plush, but all are clean, comfortable, and beautiful. No one stays at a single wayhouse for more than two weeks—not even newborns—except in the case of illness or other rare circumstances. Everyone you meet on the road is your family. Every child is your child; every elder is your elder; those your own age can be sisters or lovers. Depending on which part of the world you’re traveling in, there are as few as four or as many as twenty main genders, though all humans are called “she.”

This is the future I’m writing in THE ACTUAL STAR. I’m a science fiction writer, of course, and I don’t know how things are actually going to go. It’s not a utopia—far from it; its inhabitants strain against its particular taboos and values as we strain against ours—but it *is* better than what we have now. Far better. So, my work this year is to imagine it for us, as a new reality that only our children’s children’s children will ever see.

After this election, sometimes I’m still really sad and angry, and other times I think, “How fortunate are we to be given such work in our lifetimes.”

 

~

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Even the very wise cannot see all ends.

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A few nights ago I watched The Fellowship of the Ring, which, for me, is like going to church. If you’ve never heard me say it before, The Lord of the Rings—along with The Chronicles of Narnia—is my holy scripture, functioning in my life like the Bible might to a devout Christian, or the Bhagavad Gita to a devout Hindu. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know them; they’re the stories through which I see my own life.

The first time I saw the film, my Mom had just died. I was a junior in college on Christmas break. I went to the theater alone because I didn’t trust anyone else to take it as seriously as I did. I remember thinking, after all the anticipation, The Fellowship of the Ring was not only good, but appallingly good, good beyond hope. Also, I saw everything in terms of Mom’s death: the encroaching darkness from Mordor was my encroaching depression, and my quest was to beat it back. When Frodo nearly gave in to his wound on the riverbank, I gave myself a headache crying. All my pain had found expression.

But this time, the story means different things to me. I saw everything in terms of the recent dark turns of the world: Syria, Russia, Putin, Duterte, Trump. Though I can only draw the metaphors so far, what struck me about the film this time was the total hopelessness of the quest, and how thin the thread of faith was, that sent the fellowship south.

I wish none of this had happened, says Frodo, and Gandalf answers, So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide.

We could be entering a dark age, when the worst tendencies of humanity overwhelm the best. Or we could be entering an age of heroes, when the greatest evil calls forth the greatest good.

 

~

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Three womanish moments.

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1

The first time I was with my partner after the election, I started crying. I couldn’t stop the flood of intrusive thoughts: Trump raping Ivana. Trump shoving Natasha Stoynoff against the wall. Trump raping a 13-year-old girl. I didn’t know how to be sexual anymore. Not when a rapist was the most powerful man in the world.

My partner listened to me. He was understanding and loving and patient. Later, I watched him sleeping and said to myself, Let this be my first act of resistance: I will not let that man come between us. He is no longer permitted here. 

2

One afternoon after Thanksgiving, I was making broth out of the turkey bones that my sister had given me. Just put it all in water and boil it for a whole afternoon, she said, so I picked out the pieces and dropped them into the pot, one by one, and there was light on my arms and hands, which always surprises me now. I’m surprised there’s still beauty in the world at all. I wondered if Trump had ever done this, the simple loving of oneself by making one’s own food in the afternoon sunlight, boiling, stirring, draining, and saving the broth for a day in the future, when one can chop vegetables and make a good winter soup. My heart was so calm. I wonder if his heart has ever been like that, and not a fist of static, a permanent hell.

3

At the gym last week, I chose an elliptical machine that didn’t face the news channels. Instead, I gazed at a muted show about three foster teenagers who want to start a girl group. They audition at a club, but no one pays attention; a sultry older woman convinces them to perform at a strip club, instead, where the “real managers” are. The main character strips down and struts for the watching men, and her body is the particular kind of ultraskinny that is the only kind allowed on television, and then I flashed back to Hillary Clinton stepping out at the Convention in a white suit and me crying because finally, finally, a woman was the center of adulation because of her mind, not her body.

I had to get off the elliptical and go into the empty room of spin bikes where there was only me and my reflection in the glass.

 

~

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A simple test of any arts funding model.

Yesterday I was contacted by an arts trade magazine asking to reprint my TED Ideas piece, “How Do Artists Make a Living? An Ongoing, Almost Impossible Quest,” in exchange for six months of membership in their organization. I thanked them for their offer and asked for $100 instead, as I need groceries more than membership in an arts organization right now. They said they can’t pay writers because their magazine is massively money-losing and their governing council pays for it out of pocket, but to reconsider membership, because it comes with the opportunity to apply for emergency funding. I said, if you paid artists in the first place, they wouldn’t constantly be in need of emergency funding. They haven’t replied and that’s fine.

Look. If your arts model loses massive amounts of money, and loses it at the expense of artists, then your model doesn’t work. Drop it. Make a new one. I know everyone is very nice and has very nice intentions and blah blah blah but things will not change if artists don’t stand up to these practices, and if those enacting them don’t change them.

Incidentally, here’s the TED piece they wanted to reprint. If y’all would like to contribute to my Patreon for having written it (and everything I write), please do: patreon.com/monicabyrne, or I’m on PayPal under monica@monicabyrne.org, or Venmo at @monica-byrne-3. Thanks.

~

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Thank you, Secret Santa!

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A few weeks ago, I tweeted my Amazon wishlist. I forget why. I was being facetious. I was like, “Here it is, it’s mostly Persian grammar and Maya archaeology.” But yesterday, I found a package on my doorstep—no name, straight from the distributor—and inside was this book, a very specialized and pricey academic book that happens to cover exactly the region where my novel takes place, which was a bit of a backwater even when the Maya civilization was at its height, so reliable research is hard to come by.

I couldn’t afford it by myself. It’s going to help me enormously with my novel. So, anonymous Secret Santa: thank you. You made my day very bright indeed.

~

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