Deirdre Saoirse Moen

Sounds Like Weird

Disrupting Demographics: Nixon's War on Drugs

16 May 2015

Nixon and Elvis: War on Drugs
Most of the people I know in the US have lived their entire lives after the War on Drugs started.
John Ehrlichman, Counsel and Assistant to President Nixon:

The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar Left, and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black. But by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.

Interviewed in 1992 by journalist Dan Baum, author of Smoke and Mirrors: The War on Drugs and the Politics of Failure, full quote in “Truth, Lies, and Audiotape” by Dan Baum (2012). You can read the book’s first chapter here. The first chapter covers some interesting side topics, including the genesis of Cheech and Chong. It also covers Lloyd Johnston’s annual survey of 2,200 high school students:

What drugs have you used? Johnston’s survey asked. Have you used them in the last year? The last month? The last week? How accessible are drugs? Johnston also included questions about alcohol and tobacco.
When the questionnaires were processed, it emerged, unsurprisingly, that tobacco was the-most widely used drug among high school students and about a third of them smoked it every day. Alcohol was next, predictably, with about one-fifth of the students drinking once or twice a week and another fifth once or twice a month.
What surprised Johnston was that nearly 80 percent of the group had never smoked marijuana. Barely I percent smoked every day. Other drugs were hardly visible; neither heroin nor cocaine had ever been tried by nine-tenths of the sample. The kids were pretty clean: black, white, rich, poor, grind, and dropout.
This was news, Johnston thought. In the book he and his team rushed together, Johnston wrote that “there certainly was not a widespread “epidemic, of illegal drug use among these high school students as the popular press had suggested.” His interpretation: American youth are “less radical” and “more traditional” than their public image would indicate. “In fact, their continuing adherence to traditional practices—namely, the-widespread use-of alcohol and cigarettes—may ultimately be the most important fact about youthful drug practices to emerge from this study” (emphasis in the original).

Now, granted, I was eight in 1968, but it sure seemed like things went obviously truly crazy for a few years between then and 1974 or so.
The photo, where President Nixon met with Elvis Presley after Elvis requested to be made a federal agent at large to help fight the war on drugs. Irony, of course, given the role of drugs in Elvis’s own shortened life span.
One of the books that formed my thoughts on America’s drug policy was Thomas Szasz’s Our Right to Drugs., which is basically a libertarian look at drugs (and suffers from many of the libertarian perspective problems, granted). What stuck with me is one of the analogies he used. When someone injures themselves skiing, we don’t call it ski abuse. When they injure themselves with a chainsaw, we don’t say they have a chainsaw problem. But if they injure themselves with drugs, it’s abuse. Why should one get special pejorative language?

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We're Skipping RT Booklovers Convention

12 May 2015

RT Booklovers Convention header graphic
This was supposed to be my first year attending the RT Booklovers convention. I booked my membership and hotel early, Rick decided to come, and we booked our flights.
Naturally with my mother in the ICU, that has to come first. Rick volunteered to stay behind, but I know that I’d be constantly fretting if I’d missed a message, if I were needed for something. Plus, my mom would rather I stay, and that’s important.
Of course, I’m sad to miss RT Booklovers.
I’ve read a few of the winning or nominated books, but there are oh so many I haven’t read, too.

RT Booklovers Convention: Crowdsourcing the Fun

If you’re going to RT Booklovers, I’d love to hear about or see:

  1. A fun moment you had at the convention.
  2. A new book you’re excited about (in any romance/romantic elements genre).
  3. Fun times you had meeting an author.
  4. Or, if you’re an author, your best fan story from the convention.
  5. Selfies!
  6. Convention reports and links to same.
  7. Which of the award winners was your personal favorite? Were any of the acceptance speeches particularly funny or good?

You don’t have to know me—if you go, I’d love to hear something fun. It’s also totally okay to share this post with others.

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Things Are Looking Up

11 May 2015

Kitesurfing in California
This a continuation of the medical saga that began here.
Where we were as of a couple of hours ago:

  • Mom’s still in the ICU, and probably will be for at least a couple of days more. They’ve been able to keep her stable without surgery, which is good because then she’ll be more likely to survive it.
  • She still needs surgery (and recovery from same) before she can come home—and will need it before they step her down out of the ICU. Otherwise it can happen all over again.
  • Most of her numbers are vastly improved. She’s able to write almost normal size now, so her motor control’s a lot better with the current medication regimen. One of the meds I’ve been on and it makes you shaky.

I’ll add updates to this post rather than to the comments.

How The Cat Is Holding Up

I started writing this post because I wanted to say something about how our cat Tanner is handling it. We got our cat at a local shelter five years ago. Tanner bonded to my mom as her Primary Person, and she’s been just distraught since mom’s gone. Obviously, we don’t smell like mom when we come home, because hospital mom doesn’t smell like Tanner expects.
One of Tanner’s quirks is that during any period of time (and I mean weeks or months), the cat will have only one “spot” in the house. Or no spots in the house. Sometimes that’s my ottoman, but usually it’s mom’s bed. The other thing is that the cat spends most of her time outdoors, even when it’s cold and wet. She doesn’t spend time indoors when we’re not around, typically.
Rick and I (and our friend Duncan) had just gotten home from the hospital and we were calling the cat to get her to come to the back door and come in. After quite a while of that, she decided to show up from inside the house—she’d been in mom’s room all along.
Awwww.

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The Way Things Look from Here (Rather Bad)

07 May 2015

First, for those of you who don’t know, my mom’s been in the hospital. The short version is that she’d had a gallstone, and that had caused diarrhea and vomiting, and she went to the ER a week ago Tuesday.

They transferred her to a hospital room. A few days ago, it looked like she’d be getting out of the hospital, and they’d do the gallbladder surgery in a few weeks when everything had calmed down.
Then she took a turn for the worse three days ago. Not a huge turn, just a slight detour. She wasn’t getting out of the hospital after all. She’d seemed better the day before yesterday, per Rick, and then somewhat more fragile last night. Not hugely so, just somewhat.

One of the things she’s complained about over the last few days is pain from a hernia that has needed repair. That, as it turns out, has been a huge factor in the cascading crisis.

I got a call at 4 am from the hospital saying they had to transfer her to the ICU. She’d gone into atrial fibrillation, and they needed to stabilize her.

I got another call at 8:30 in the morning. They had her somewhat stabilized, but there was a bigger problem: the hernia’s completely blocked, preventing things draining normally through the gastrointestinal system.

Which means, of course, she vomited up the fluids, got a significant bunch in one lung, which is called aspiration pneumonia. So she’s on 100% oxygen to help with that.

As a complication of all this, she’s also got sepsis, and they need to go in there to fix the hernia.

Except that she’s got one of the classic side effects of atrial fibrillation (and everything else: low blood pressure. They had to put her on two meds to bring her blood pressure up to a workable range.

And anesthesia will lower it. (Okay, this is an oversimplification, but a) I’m not a specialist in this area, and b) I have had two hours of sleep, so that’s as complicated as I can be right now.)

They just get her heart rhythm back to normal with defibrillation (but defib increases risk of stroke), and they think they have her stable enough to do the emergency surgery.

There are also renal failure complications and she may need to be on dialysis, but they can’t do that now because dialysis also lowers the blood pressure.

It’s a big cascade failure and they are doing what they can, but it’s pretty touch and go right now. The heart rhythm improvement is the first positive sign we’ve had since she was admitted to the ICU.

Lessons Learned

My mom had been putting off the hernia repair surgery, and things wouldn’t have gone sideways this far if that had already been done. If you or someone you know have been putting hernia repair off, please show them this.

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Writing Beginnings and Endings

06 May 2015

writing: beginnings and endings
Chuck Wendig had a great post yesterday about writing.
Once upon a time, I sat in a writing workshop class: a critique circle with a bunch of other writers. The piece we were critiquing was another classmate’s novel chapter, and everyone else but the workshop leader had gone. I was up.
“What I liked most about this chapter is that it has a classic narrative structure used very effectively.”
At that point, I had everyone’s full attention, and I could see that half the class didn’t understand what I meant.
The character, a woman, had an objective when she showed up at someone’s door. As I recall, she was looking for something. She failed to achieve her goal because the person she asked didn’t have what she wanted. However, in the meantime, the other party in the scene told her something interesting that she hadn’t previously known. Offhand, I can’t remember if it was directly related to the scene’s goal or not, but it was related to why she was looking for what she was looking for.
In short form: she had a goal and motivation behind that goal, she attempted, failed, then got new information, and left the scene in a slightly different direction than she came in: with a modified goal.
It’s not the only possible scene structure, but it’s a common scene and chapter structure in longer work. If you look at most of Chuck’s list of what a novel consists of, basically points 2-9 are some variant of the above, though I’d personally throw the character a bone or two for an upbeat chapter. “Yay, we got somewhere!”

Lessons from Being a First Reader

As someone who’s read slush (unsolicited manuscripts), I thought I’d talk a little about what I learned doing that for the three markets I’ve read for.
Most newer writers have no idea where to start the story. It seems to be the hardest part. We write our way into the story. The most important lesson here: where you start writing isn’t necessarily the start of the story.
Let’s take a hypothetical short story about a high school football player. (I don’t play or watch football, so forgive any lack of sports-fu on my part.) Let’s say our dude in question has recovered from an injury, but hasn’t fully mentally realized it yet. He’s avoiding something because of fear of being injured again.
The ending of the story’s fairly obvious: he goes for it, and he succeeds, and all is well and right and just in the world. Oh, and his team scores…and maybe even wins. But the big victory is that he’s recovered.
So…where to start the story?
The general rule is: as late as possible. There’s a 35% chance the newbie writer starts writing with the player waking up, but that’s the part you edit out. One could also start with the doctor’s office visit, a talk with the parents, and the coach’s pep talks. Etc. I’m not saying these can’t work, because anything can work if you do it right.
Our player has the ball, has that momentary rush, and he sees someone else coming, and he chickens out. That gives opportunity for some great self-loathing, some yelling at by the coach, threats that his girlfriend (or boyfriend) will leave him if he doesn’t snap out of it, and of course the fear that his college scholarship will vaporize.
Then there’s that moment where everything changes for him—whatever that is—and he works through it. Victory, followed by the end.

Writing Beginnings that Match Endings; Writing Endings that Match Beginnings

The best way I’ve heard the structure described is by Karen Joy Fowler when she was my Clarion instructor. Paraphrased:
The ending of the story should be the ending to the story you started at the beginning of the book. The beginning of the story should be the beginning of the story you ended the book with.
They’re bookends.
If you take just your first and last chapter (and/or first and last scene, and/or first and last paragraph), do they go together? Do they feel like they’re from the same piece?
If not, there’s something to work on.

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The 2015 Locus Award Finalists

04 May 2015

Locus Awards header graphic
Locus Science Fiction Foundation has announced the top five finalists in each category of the 2015 Locus Awards. I note that Connie Willis will MC the award ceremony at the Locus Awards Weekend.

Science Fiction Novel

Fantasy Novel

Young Adult Book

First Novel

Novella

Novelette

Short Story

Anthology

Collection

Magazine

  • Asimov’s
  • Clarkesworld
  • F&SF
  • Lightspeed
  • Tor.com

Publisher

Editor

  • John Joseph Adams
  • Ellen Datlow
  • Gardner Dozois
  • Jonathan Strahan
  • Ann & Jeff VanderMeer

Artist

  • Jim Burns
  • John Picacio
  • Shaun Tan
  • Charles Vess
  • Michael Whelan

Non-Fiction

Art Book

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Like an Octopus

04 May 2015

friends-come-and-go
Someone on facebook mentioned wanting this in a plaque form, so I decided to get out the spiffy digital papers and have a go at it.

Design element credits

Polka dotted background: Uber Grunge 13 by Joyful Heart Designs
Solid inner: Solidified Seven by Joyful Heart Designs
Typeface: La Paz from TipoType

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Hugo Award Voting Now Open

02 May 2015

hugo-awards
Hugo Award voting is now open. Voting closes Friday July 31, 2015, 11:59 PM PDT.
In order to vote, you must be a member of Sasquan, this year’s Worldcon. If you’re not currently a member of this year’s Worldcon, you can join as a supporting member for $40 or as an attending member for $210. The convention will be held from August 19-23 in Spokane, Washington.
For your reference, should you wish to use it, I’ve updated The Puppy-Free Hugo Award Voter’s Guide for what (I hope!) is the last time, including those who withdrew their nominations. The full ballot can be found here.
May the odds be ever in your favor.

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Getting Past the Attack Narrative

01 May 2015

Getting Past the Attack Narrative
When does something become an “attack” online?
Serious question.
Let’s say that two people, Jane and Cait, are both authors.
Jane says something that involves Cait, only she uses a word incorrectly. Cait responds that, hey, that word used that way and applied to me in that context is offensive. And Cait’s right.
Why is Cait then accused of “attacking” Jane?
After all, these are words, the tools of both of their craft. Is not their increased understanding of them in both of their interests?
Wouldn’t one typically expect Jane to apologize for using a word incorrectly and hurting Cait’s feelings by doing so?

A More Complex Example

Let’s take a more complex variant of the above.
Sarah hears Jane say something that involves Cait, using a word incorrectly. Sarah understands it to mean the common meaning of the word. She writes about it, but doesn’t name Jane.
Ken reads Sarah’s comment, then says something about it where Cait hears. Cait responds that, hey, that word used that way and applied to me in that context is offensive. And Cait’s right.
Then Sarah says I wrote that, and the person who said it is Jane. While Sarah misunderstood part of what happened, what she did not misunderstand was the word.
And there’s a huge pile-on, in the middle of which Jane reveals that she hadn’t used the word the way Sarah, Cait, and Ken understood it to be used (i.e., the way it is commonly used), and that Jane was using the word in a non-standard way.

  • Ken apologizes.
  • Cait apologizes.
  • Sarah apologizes.
  • While Jane accepts all of their apologies, she does not herself apologize.

Yet, were it not for what Jane said, and others’ over-reading of the intended meaning because of Jane’s misuse of the word, none of this would have happened.
Substitute names as appropriate, and you have the skeletal structure of what happened 1-2 days ago.

Abusing the Word “Attack”

When you use the word “attack,” you absolve yourself and the people you see as your allies of apologizing or behaving well.
I’m considering removing anyone who uses the word in a non-physical sense from all my social media. I’ve been guilty of this in the past, too, and I know it’s a hard habit to break.
Instead, try to consider what actually happened in that moment without characterizing it, either to yourself or to others, as an attack.

Criticizing Content Is Not Criticizing the Speaker

Often I see “attack” used for criticizing the content of what someone said as opposed to criticizing the person.
I totally get how it can be hard to separate the two, especially when it happens to you. Been there, made that mistake. However, it’s one I’d expect writers to be, on average, less likely to make given the prevalence of Clarion-style critiquing.

Us vs. Them

I incorporate by reference this brilliant post from Jim C. Hines.
If I have information that will clarify a situation, regardless of whether or not I like the person it helps and also regardless of what it will cost me in so-called friends, I will bring it up. Principles before personalities. (Am I perfect at this? No, of course not. I also don’t seek things out, so I can and do miss such opportunities.)
Also, if I’m in contact with you, there is something I admire about you. I’ve been friendly with very contradictory sets of people, and I’m able to accept that everyone’s a mix of good and bad—and hold that complexity in my head.
If you’re one of my contacts, I don’t expect you to like everyone else. I don’t expect you to understand what I see in other people.

Connotation of Unprovoked

“Attack” used this way also carries the connotation of “unprovoked.”
If, instead, we look at the events above as a misunderstanding and clarification, rather than an “attack,” we can learn from it.
You know, build a community rather than destroy it.
Just a thought.

The Header Image Background

The header image background is a photo I took of the battering surface of an M60 Patton tank. It seemed an appropriate choice.

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My Comment Goes Viral, Escalates, and I Apologize

30 April 2015

an apology
tl;dr: A comment I made 2-1/2 weeks ago got tweeted, escalated, and lots of feelings were hurt. As two people have made statements about my motiviations, this post is about context from my perspective as well as apologies for my part.

Backstory, Before Eastercon 2015

  1. If you’d asked me who Kari Sperring was, I’d have said a British fantasy writer. I believe we’ve commented in the same posts at times on LiveJournal. We’d never met face-to-face that I can recall.
  2. I’d never personally spoken with (or tweeted with or emailed, etc.) Benjanun Sriduangkaew. It’s possible that we’ve engaged in the same LiveJournal comment threads over the years, but I don’t specifically recall any.
  3. I was unaware that Ms. Sperring and Ms. Sriduangkaew had any history, partly because I’ve mostly been off LiveJournal since before the period when that happened.

Eastercon, Saturday, April 4, 2015

After the Hugo Awards nominations were announced (Eastercon was one of the announcing conventions), I got a lift back to my hotel, then wrote The Puppy-Free Hugo Award Voter’s Guide. By the time I woke up on the 5th, it had received about two thousand hits.

Eastercon, Sunday, April 5, 2015

I heard on Twitter that there was going to be a panel on the Sad Puppies and they were assembling people for that panel, so I asked in program ops if I could be on the panel.
For context: I first worked convention programming for ConJosé, the 2002 Worldcon, where I was staff for the late Kathryn Daugherty. I was her programming 2nd for the following year’s BayCon, then went on to be the programming head for BayCon for two years. Since then, I’ve worked as programming staff (of various kinds) at the local, regional (Westercon), and Worldcon level, most recently as co-head of programming for last year’s Westercon in Salt Lake City.
I say this so that you will know that I very much know what it’s like to be a) the person who makes the decisions about panels, and b) the person who has to deliver news to people, and c) the minion who is neither the bearer or decider of news.
I was fine with any answer as to whether or not I could be on the panel. I did not try to push my way onto the panel, nor is it sour grapes, and I am not sore about not getting onto the panel. I have no sense of entitlement about these things. I thought I had interesting things to say, but, hey, I also have a blog.
When I arrived in program ops Sunday afternoon, I was asked if I wanted to wait or come back. What you may not know if you’re new here: I’m mobility impaired (I need two knee replacements and have severe arthritis of the lower spine), and suffer from both debilitating fibromyalgia and myofascial pain. My pain is worst when I’ve either a) slept poorly, or b) am jetlagged—and I’d taken a ten-hour flight to get to the con. I was in miserable shape, so I decided to stay because walking anywhere would hurt. I worked for a while in the room, talked a bit with someone about the Ellora’s Cave situation (and found a new Loose Id author to read), and then Rick and Mike Willmoth showed up and we went to dinner. I was told by program ops staff to check back before the panel.
Which I did. As the panel time approached, I had actually left program ops, then I was asked to return to be told that no, the panel was going to focus on how the current Hugo situation affected the British professional scene. I thanked the programming person. Paraphrase of what I said: “Panels have a point of view, and it’s clear the one you’ve chosen isn’t one I’d be a fit for, and I’m fine with that.” He double-checked with me and I assured him that I was.
But it’s worth noting that I didn’t have any answer until about exactly when the panel was starting.
Then I went to the panel, which had already started, and Rick gave up his seat for me and stood with the SRO part of the crowd.
I did not livetweet during the panel (which I had the night before; the Hugo Award nominees were announced in the same room) because I was running low on power on all my devices.

The Fanfic Moment

And now we get to the moment that went viral.
Specifically, what went viral yesterday was reaction to this comment I made on April 13th:

Where things begin to bug me is the amount of toxicity currently being directed at Bee, such as the awkwardly uncomfortable part of the Sad Puppies panel at Eastercon, where it was suggested that someone write Vox Day/Requires Hate slash.

Here is the only account I have found tweeted during the panel:

Sperring: Vox Day fan of Requires Hate. Oh the irony (sensed hint of slight sarcasm) #SadPuppiesPanel

— James Worrad (@jimworrad) April 5, 2015

You’ll note they are very different, and one of the reasons I delayed writing this post until this morning after things blew up late last night was that Rick had already gone to sleep and I wanted to ask his memory of what was said before writing this post. Not because I disbelieve Ms. Sperring’s account (which I’ll get to in a minute), but because I know for a fact that what I mean to say and what I actually say aren’t always the same thing. Plus, my own memory is not infallible.
The two phrases that specifically stuck with me are: “Vox Day Requires Hate slash” and “Give it to me, Voxy!” [edited to add note: the latter phrase is not in the same context, see James Worrad’s comment below] and the subject matter was Vox Day being a fan of Requires Hate. I somehow missed that this was an already written fic. Ms. Sperring says the content was entirely non-sexual, and I have no reason to disbelieve her, but she did use the word “slash” and that does imply relationship and/or sexual content in fic (my interpretation at the time was that it was at least suggestive, if not actually sexual). I’m a fanfic writer, though, and I am used to more concise terms.
I can understand why Ms. Sriduankaew, who is a lesbian, would see sexualized fiction of her and Vox Day to be rape fic, and I have to admit that I hadn’t really thought that far ahead in part because I didn’t think the “slash” in question existed yet.
To be clear, I never assumed that Ms. Sperring was/would be the writer of said fic. I’m thankful that Ms. Sperring, Ms. Sriduankaew, and I agree that rape fic isn’t something we’d write, and something we agree is appalling.

Things Escalated Yesterday

The short version:

  1. Shaun Duke, who has already apologized for his part in this, escalated my comment, where Ms. Sriduankaew saw it. At that point, Ms. Sriduankaew had no idea either a) where the comment originated (me), or b) who the speaker I referred to was.
  2. I didn’t actually know for certain it was Ms. Sperring who made the comment until yesterday when I was contacted by the Dysprosium chair (!) about the backstory behind my comment. I said to Rick, “I don’t actually know that it was Kari Sperring who made the comment.”
    Rick replied, “I do.”
    It was only then that I knew.
  3. It turns out Shaun contacted the Dysprosium chair, suggested that she contact me, referred her to my comment, but did not specify what action he thought should be taken.
  4. I also did not specify what action I thought should be taken, nor was I asked. I think the incident was, to be as charitable as possible, a tacky off-topic blip in what was a discussion about a hot topic.
  5. By the time I looked at Twitter after responding to the chair’s inquiry, I’d realized the issue had already spilled over there. This is the tweet where I reply to Ms. Sriduangkaew’s inquiry.

It doesn’t fit popular theories about Ms. Sriduangkaew abusing others, I know, but the actual fact is that neither I nor she knew until yesterday. Neither I nor Ms. Sriduangkaew started this escalation; Shaun did. Otherwise, it’d have been an obscure footnote on a post.

@shaunduke I don’t know what I can say further, to be honest. I’ve never met Deirdre so I don’t know anything about how she may think.

— Kari Sperring (@KariSperring) April 30, 2015

So, thank you, USians who do not know me, for your judgments. I hope you are never similarly judged by strangers.

— Kari Sperring (@KariSperring) April 30, 2015

It would be nice to be extended the same courtesy about my motivations.

My Apology to Kari Sperring

  1. I apologize for unintentionally misrepresenting that this was a yet-to-be-written fic.
  2. I apologize for failing to consider that “slash” did not mean the same thing to Ms. Sperring as it did to both myself and Benjanun Sriduangkaew (fka Requires Hate).
  3. I apologize for not reaching out to find out what Ms. Sperring meant before I commented.

My Apology to Benjanun Sriduankaew

This was a comment I made on my blog, and you should not have heard it from someone else first.

See Also

This post on Asymptotic Binary, as it covers the timeline differently.
Edited to add: I used Ms. Sperring and asymbina’s post pointed out something I had not known (having missed the panelist introductions): she’s Dr. Sperring. I mean no disrespect by referring to her as Ms. Sperring. My usage comes from my father, a Ph.D. in Particle Physics from Cal Tech, who took his usage from Richard Feynman after teaching Feynman’s course on Physics to freshmen when my dad was a graduate student. Mr. Feynman did not like people using Dr. as a title.

I Get Mail

letter-from-lizw
Liz, you are an astonishingly loyal friend, and that can be a very good trait to have. I’m sad that you think so little of me that you sent this without asking me what happened, especially given your email to me on March 5th containing this line:
letter-from-lizw-2
In fact, I actually didn’t expect any notice of any kind when I wrote the pieces on Marion Zimmer Bradley last year. I rather expected to be ousted from quite a few circles, frankly.
First, I forgive your outburst, and I’m sorry for my part of what clearly led to your stress.
You know what, though? I helped Marion Zimmer Bradley’s daughter, Moira Greyland, stop being afraid of her own shadow after being molested by her mother. I gave her a place to have a voice, to speak publicly for the first time, for both her and I to help people speak out on an important topic—and that is worth more than a trophy any time.

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