Thanks to Mike Glyer at File 770 for the heads up.
Before the post was yanked it drew a blistering response by Deirdre Saoirse Moen[…].
Leah Schnelbach wrote a piece on Tor.com for Marion Zimmer Bradley’s birthday. I’m not going to link to it.
In this case, I feel that what’s most important about Marion Zimmer Bradley isn’t that she wrote a bunch of stuff.
I feel that what’s important to remember about MZB is what she enabled that was unconscionable.
Let’s pull some tidbits of MZB in her own words out of her sworn testimony at two of her three depositions on the matter. Docs are up at my mirror of Stephen Goldin’s site.
Q. And to your knowledge, how old was [Victim X] when your husband was having a sexual relationship with him?
A. I think he was about 14 or possibly 15. I’m not certain.
Q. Were you aware that your husband had a sexual relationship with [Victim X] when he was below the age of 18?
A. Yes, I was.
Q. Can you tell me why you would publicly state that Walter was not a pedophile when you knew that he had been having sex with a minor child?
A. Because, as I said, [Victim X] did not impress me as a minor child. He was late in his teens, and I considered him — I think he would have been old enough to be married in this state legally, so I figured what he did sexually was his own business.
[Editor’s note: In point of fact, the boy was 10 and 11 at the time in question.]
And about Elisabeth Waters, two quotes from her own diary:
Q. Elisabeth Waters in her 10-8-89 diary, which was given to the police, indicates the following: Quote, “And I feel like a total idiot for not having said anything back when I thought Walter was molesting [Johnnt Doe 3] ten years ago. I guess it was just another case of,” quote, “‘Don’t trust your own perceptions when the adults are telling you you’re wrong.’
Q. I’m going to read to you from the 10-9-89 entry of Elisabeth Waters.
“Marion always said she’d divorce Walter if he did this again. She seems to think that he molested both [Victim X] and [Johnny Doe 4], but she was rather startled when I told her about the letter to Dr. Morin about [Johnny Doe 3]. She said that she thought Walter thought of [Johnny Doe 3] as a son.”
For me, the following is the real kicker.
Q. Where did you have this discussion with David where he thought he was too old for Walter?
A. When he was 15 or so.
Q. So at the time that David was 15, David informed you that he believed that your then husband was not propositioning him because at that point David was too old for Walter’s tastes?
A. I think that’s what he said. To the best of my memory, that’s what he said.
Q. So you were curious enough to ask your own son whether your husband had made a sexual proposition to him?
A. I wouldn’t say I was concerned enough. I would simply say the matter came up in conversation.
Now, I have to say that I didn’t know about this until three years ago, because people don’t talk about it. Stephen Goldin asked to be a panelist at Westercon, and I looked at his site.
(edited to add the following 2 paragraphs before the end)
I have pretty strong feelings about this in part because I had a roommate (and a friend) who had molested his own child in the past and who had been on the relative straight and narrow after a good deal of therapy. But part of why he’d come around is that no one was enabling him and he felt that he needed to change. I don’t know that he never relapsed, but I know how much of a struggle he had with it.
So he had the perspective of someone who knew what he was doing was wrong. I don’t see that MZB had that attitude. At. All.
Why do we give MZB more of a pass than we gave Ed Kramer? She defended her husband when he was (rightfully) thrown out of a con for being a child sexual predator. [Note: I conflated two events significantly far apart in time in this sentence. As many people have read it, I’m keeping it as written and adding a note. See this comment. At the time of the Breendoggle, most people did not know of Breen’s 1954 conviction, and thus many felt it was libel.]
(excerpted from a longer piece)
Ken said there was a science fiction convention coming up over Easter weekend. There would be gaming, which I was looking forward to. He was volunteering and said I should too. So I did, claiming that I was in fact over 18—required for volunteers at that con at that time—when I was still 17. Ken vouched for me, so I was trusted with tasks not ordinarily trusted a newbie.
It was 1977. Science fiction and fantasy films had been so awful since 2001 that I was severely underwhelmed. At that point, there had been only one Star Trek series. Star Wars wasn’t out yet. There hadn’t been a truly great science fiction film since 2001.
I hadn’t seen many fantasy films that hadn’t embarrassed the hell out of me to even have been in the theatre with them. Well, except for Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which was a movie that I actually disliked the first few times I was dragged to it by friends. Eventually, I grew to love it. There were well-intended box office successes like The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, but I remember it being cringeworthy, even apart from the Ray Harryhausen animation I never warmed to. The Rankin-Bass version of The Hobbit and the Bakshi film Wizards weren’t out yet. Nothing had touched what I felt was possible in books.
If you’d asked me in Easter 1977 what my favorite science fiction or fantasy film of the seventies had been thus far, I’d probably have answered Woody Allen’s Sleeper. For science fiction films, we’d had Silent Running, which at least was interesting despite being too slow. Then there was Zardoz, which regularly makes worst-of lists. Some of the choices were differently compelling, like Rollerball. I didn’t like it at the time, but came to appreciate it many years later. One could argue that The Rocky Horror Picture Show was a science fiction film in that it involved aliens. There was a bunch of crap like At the Earth’s Core and Journey to the Center of the Earth and When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth.
What there weren’t, however, were good space-based science fiction films. It just hadn’t been done since 2001.
When I arrived at my first science fiction convention, I wasn’t at all drawn by the media-related opportunities, of which there were many, including airings of some relatively recent science fiction and fantasy films.
So naturally, being young, personable and female, I was assigned to escort media guests around, to manage the situation if they were overwhelmed by fans, and to help them get anything they needed. Most of them got a few polite expressions of fannishness, but nothing that actually needed a escort. Still, it made them feel valuable, and it was interesting enough.
Many of the convention’s VIPs were guest actors from Star Trek episodes, and many of those actors were truly great people. Some were from even older shows, like Kirk Alyn, the first actor to play Superman. Over the times I volunteered at the con, I enjoyed being Kirk’s VIP guide the most. I remember him being charming and generous with his time.
This first time, though, I was assigned to accompany an actor whose big film was coming out later that year. He was quite the comic fan (where I was not), and I just remember that he was completely unremarkable to me as a person. I spent a lot of time standing next to him as he geeked out with various comic vendors about things coming out and favorite issues in common. Even though I read comics at the time, I genuinely didn’t understand his deep interest in the subject, and we had no favorite comics in common. Back then, I read Spiderman and Nova mostly, occasionally dipping into other books.
The next morning, I sat alone in the hotel restaurant eating breakfast while I listened to people describe said actor as dreamy. Oh, he was decent enough looking, blond and somewhat geeky, which normally was my thing. Just—not this time. Thus, I found the interest in him fascinating.
It wasn’t until the fifth time I saw Star Wars that it hit me that I’d spent my day accompanying Mark Hamill around the con. You know. Luke Skywalker.
Hamill is now older than Alec Guinness was when the filming of Star Wars began.
But still, you’d have much better odds at the craps table in Vegas than you would betting me to show up at WorldCon in 2014. Jay Lake, 2009
I found that while I was looking for a post I remembered, probably from 2009, about the depth of his fear that he’d have to go through a second round of chemo (he wound up going through several more than that—five?). I couldn’t find it, nor could I stand to look through the archives any longer just now.
I’ve never been able to say before, on the day someone died, “I had a great time at his wake last year.” That’s the kind of person Jay was.
I can’t remember exactly when I met Jay, but I think it was in 2002. It was definitely at a con, and I remember being in a low-density party room with Jay and Cassie Alexander, the only two people in that room at that time where I knew who they were.
Though I felt invisible, I became something of a fan. Later, when BayCon had invited Frank Wu (or, actually, I extended the invitation in person at Worldcon) for BayCon’s guest of honor, I started lobbying for Jay for Writer Guest of Honor. Kathryn Daugherty, who’d gotten to know Jay through the Worldcon circuit, thought that was a good idea, though generally BayCon was looking for higher-profile writers than Jay was at the time. (Specifically, they looked for a Hugo award or NY Times Bestseller. At that time, he’d had a bunch of short stories published, but no novels, though he’d won the Campbell award for Best New Writer.)
The singularly awesome moment, from my perspective, at that BayCon was Jay’s participation in “A Shot Rang Out.”
I invited my long-time friend Martin Young to speak. I knew he’d be fabulous at ASRO, but I also knew that I couldn’t tell Martin in advance what the concept was because he’d overthink it. So, a few minutes prior to the start of the panel, I stood in front of him and told him what it was all about.
“I hate you,” Martin said, not meaning it.
From a 2005 BayCon report.
Easily the highlight of Sunday (being one of two panels I got to sit in the audience for) was BayCon’s traditional “A Shot Rang Out” panel. It’s a simple concept and it depends so much on the people involved. This year, we had Hilary Ayer, Jane Mailander, Martin Young, Writer Guest of Honor Jay Lake, and Lee Martindale.
The concept: The story begins with “A shot rang out.” Each panelist must draw a slip out of a box and end their turn with that line. Anything in the middle goes. Jay Lake, when pulling one of his slips, asked, “Does this have to make any sense at all? The other panelists assured him not.
A few moments were especially worth noting.
Once, Martin ended his turn so spectacularly that Jay Lake, master of improv writing, couldn’t find a way to follow him. Jay ran across the stage and kissed Martin on the head, saying, “I have come to pledge my love for you, for no man has ever left me in such a hard place.”
Later, Martin pulled a slip and said, “Oh, f*, that’s a long one!”
Jay quipped, “Are you sure you said those words in the right order?”
For a few moments, no one could continue on, they were laughing so hard. Perfect retort.
He went on to publish Mainspring (which is an example of the kind of book I love but could never have written) and other novels.
Kathryn Daugherty and Jay Lake were diagnosed with stage IV colorectal cancer about the same time. Kathryn and I had never been best friends, but she was very influential in my life.
We’d recently been through a couple of rounds of cancer at the house: my mother had had endometrial cancer in 2006 and our cat Scruffy had a leg amputated after the reappearance of cancer.
It’s unusual for anyone with stage IV colorectal cancer to survive as long as Jay did; Kathryn died in 2012. He wanted to be there as long as possible for his daughter and went through hell to try to make that happen. He expressed so so many of his fears and doubts on his blog. If you ever need to know the pains and trials of being a cancer patient, so much of it is laid out in black and white on his blog. I think many of us had no idea what was involved in being a long-time cancer patient, and he blogged it in excruciating (and yet obviously incomplete) detail.
A little over a year ago, he was given his life walking papers in the form of a terminal diagnosis. For the first time, Rick and I made it up to the annual JayCon, then to JayWake.
In his wrapup, Jay said: “I have become medically interesting in two different ways, which is not really something you should aspire to.”
Because I believe OSC was right in telling the entire truth about a person after they pass:
K. Tempest Bradford makes a point.
Jay has asked for anyone wishing to make a contribution to do so to the Clayton Memorial Medical Fund.
Mary Robinette Kowal talks about having been helped by the fund.
One thing I’ve noticed, especially after I was widowed myself, is that people talk a lot about the deceased, but tend to forget about the people still living.
Lisa Costello is an amazing person, and she has been blogging about her own life.
Bronwyn, of course, will miss her daddy.
And Jay left a widow, Susan Lake, whom he sometimes referred to as “The Mother of The Child.”
Jay’s parents are still alive.
And there are many other family members and friends.
His obituary can be found here.
For those of you not tuned into the romance world, you may have missed the big kerfluffle over the RT Booklovers convention signing.
Like some of the smaller pro-heavy cons in SF/F that are open to all, namely World Fantasy and the SFWA Nebula Weekend, there’s a huge signing called the Giant Book Fair. At 1200 people, RT isn’t that much larger than a typical World Fantasy, but it does cost about three times as much and is far more program heavy.
I’ll tell you something: on the whole, no one buys books like romance readers. No one.
Furthermore, most of their favorite authors go, and most of them want to buy and get books autographed there at the con. A lot of the writers have giveaways (like samples of a new book or glossy cover cards for indie authors), so it pays to visit all the writers you care about.
I’ll tell you that, as an author, I’ve loved these kinds of signings. They can be awesome fun. Worst case, you wind up sitting next to an interesting writer you didn’t know before, give a couple of autographs, and talk to some people.
The problem: with there being more and more romance writers, and not enough space to set them all up in. So how did they divide them up?
By whether or not the books purchased were returnable, as Courtney Milan explains.
Now, if you were looking for a book in the computer section, would you think to look in an entirely different room because O’Reilly books aren’t (or at least weren’t, back when I worked in a bookstore) returnable?
Multiply that times 1200. Now add the fact that a significant fraction of the people who are writers and signing for people publish for both kinds of presses and therefore it’s not going to be clear to the average reader who is going to wind up where.
Worse, authors had to pick whether they were going to sign one kind of book or the other. So, if like Courtney Milan, you happened to have a number of books published traditionally, you had to decide if you wanted to be in that room or the other. The one where you might be perceived as not playing for the team with your traditional publisher, or where you’re not playing for yourself or your small press for your other works. It’s a horrible situation to put authors in, let alone trying to have readers find them.
Also, to give you an idea of the size of the rooms, one writer I follow on Twitter tweeted that her signing was in row 38.
There are no easy solutions on this one. I get that.
Note: I later changed the rule below due to the Amazon/Hachette tiff, putting Orbit books first.
Essentially, my policy is one Rick uses for other things: make it easy for me to help you. Orbit isn’t.
John Scalzi discusses Orbit’s decision to only include previews of their three nominees here.
This year’s kind of rare—I spent my year reading out of genre and have read exactly zero of the nominated novels.
My usual rule for book-length works is:
If it’s not in the Hugo Voter’s Packet, I don’t vote for it.
This year, I need to modify that:
If it’s not in the Hugo Voter’s Packet in complete form, I don’t vote for it.
Why? Because not providing a nominated book says to me that the Hugo Awards aren’t perceived as valuable by the publisher. Why should I reward that?
Meanwhile, this weekend attendees at RT Booklovers Convention in New Orleans are getting a thumb drive with 349 books. Self-published books, granted, but who has more to lose (or gain) than they do? (I have one of those, fwiw, Felt Tips: Office Supply Erotica, edited by Tiffany Reisz.)
There are a few modifiers to my rules:
If the book’s not supplied in EPUB format, it’s not in the packet. None of this PDF shit.
If the ebook’s on sale during the award reading period, I might consider purchasing it. (I will read the sample first, though, so providing one actually does help. I guess I should thank Orbit for that.)
If I read a book in a Hugo packet and I love the book, I will buy it if I hadn’t already. So, in that sense, being nominated already means I’m more likely to a) read the book and b) buy the book than any other random book published last year.
I no longer read print books, and not being a Kindle person, I don’t do ebook library loans.
In general, there are 1-2 Hugo-shortlisted novels per year that I’d buy. Stross wrote my favorite book, and the nominated book is the third in a series (and I haven’t read the first two in that series). Ann Leckie’s been getting a lot of buzz, I just hadn’t gotten around to buying and reading her book yet. And I’m so far behind on Mira Grant books that it’s not funny (though this one’s in a new series, so there’s that). All three are affected by Orbit’s decision not to put entire books in the packet. Here’s the joint post by the three affected Orbit authors.
I’ve already established that I’ll be putting Larry dead last. (Edit: to clarify, I mean in reading order. Since I haven’t yet read his book, I’m not sure where I’d rank it on the ballot, but I can say it’s unlikely I’ll get to it during the voting period.) Why? I don’t mind hearing people say, “I liked this, it’s eligible, I think you could check it out,” but I think that putting together a slate crosses the line. (This is aside from any issues of what he did or didn’t recommend.) So he goes after the whole Orbit crowd.
(cue dramatic music)
I guess I’ll go about finally reading The Wheel of Time then. (Those books on the shelf? Rick’s. I almost never read incomplete series.)
Tentative reading order, possibly to be modified later:
If Orbit provided full books, my reading order would likely be:
I was asked on LJ what the problems were with PDF:
Total pain in the ass.
I honestly can’t get into a book that takes that much attention just to read. I’ve tried before, and not voted before. The last time I tried was a Cat Valente nominee (Palimpsest).
My native vernacular comes across less in writing than it does in speech, but for those who have spoken with me and know the area, it’s totally obvious where I came from.
I’m a Valley Girl.
I can excise those speech bits when I wish to, and my accent has mellowed over the years, but it is still my “native” accent. Because a lot of Valley Girl is adverb usage, I’ve never really been aboard the adverb minimalization train.
My Valley Girl tendencies are modified by two other aspects of the time and place I was raised:
I was born when there were 49 states in the US. During my childhood, Southern California was a walking tribute to Disneyfied Hawai’iana (e.g., Waltah Clarke), and that’s affected my speech, thought, and culture. So I have this weird relation to Hawai’ian culture despite not being of Hawai’ian descent.
The pressure to conform to “Standard English” in both writing and speech was very strong in both my father’s side of the family and in my education. The usual way this was done was insisting that non-standard usage is “illiterate.”
I still have non-standard usage that persists. In speech in particular, I’ll often muck up subject-verb agreement in longer sentences with this format: “one of the people who are.” I usually use the subjunctive in formal writing, but often don’t in speech, though I will admit that Gwen Stefani’s “If I Was a Rich Girl” really grates where “If I Were a Rich Man” does not.
When I first started hearing AAVE being given respect by literary and academic communities, I’ll be honest: it grated.
The thing is, I don’t want to sound like an academic with a Ph.D. in English. On the flip side, I actually like to feel comfortable enough with the rules that I know when I’m breaking them vs. when I’m not.
I like stories with a strong sense of voice. I like stories with a strong sense of place, which sometimes ties into a strong sense of voice.
As a fiction writer, I’ve learned that vernacular really can be about unusual (to the average white English speaker) speech patterns. In one story I wrote one character’s dialect using Irish Gaelic syntax, which is verb first and uses extra words for emphasis.
I got back one critique that said: “Sounds like Yoda, she does.”
Which is exactly Irish syntax. What bothered me more about the critique is that Yoda’s syntax was not consistently Irish, but at that time, that’s how most Americans had heard any such usage in English. One of these days, I might actually get the story back out and rework it, but part of that is just going to be affirming, “That’s how she talks. Deal with it.”
I remember, for example, Rick and I driving around Tahiti, noting that their usage of French was unfamiliar. Understandable, but different words were chosen than other places we’d been. I’ve seen this in English, too. I remember puzzling over a sign in Indonesia.
It is exactly those differences in usage that tie us to places. I recently read a romance novel that had every Irish English usage correct—except the one mistake I’d made myself, and was therefore very aware that her hero used the wrong word. It threw me out.
Some years ago, Rick and I went up to Petaluma for some Linux thing. We wound up having a long conversation with a woman there, and wound up talking a lot about the rules enforced on women.
For example, no white shoes after Labor Day or before Easter. Sure, you can wear “winter white,” which isn’t really white at all, but not white white (unless you live in Florida).
If you dared to do such a thing, you were “not our kind, dear.”
That kind of policing every detail is what I (and many other women) grew up with, and it’s toxic to everyone. Maybe I want to wear white shoes in February. If you’re so small a person that you can’t accept fucking shoe color (or, worse, straps around the ankle) as an acceptable variant in dress, I don’t want to be your friend.
Which leads nicely into AAVE.
What makes AAVE so dramatically different as a political issue from, say, Spanish (also spoken in Oakland, by up to a quarter of the population) is its close relation to another language of much higher prestige. Most speakers of Standard English think that AAVE is just a badly spoken version of their language, marred by a lot of ignorant mistakes in grammar and pronunciation, or worse than that, an unimportant and mostly abusive repertoire of street slang used by an ignorant urban underclass. (link)
I was that person ridiculing Ebonics. There’s probably evidence of same somewhere in the bowels of Google.
You know what? I’m allowed to have been wrong.
I still have difficulty feeling that my own (white privileged) vernacular is “acceptable,” and it’s a recognizable (albeit ridiculed) variant of SE.
I can’t imagine what people who speak non-SE dialects feel when they’re minimized because of their native dialect.
So when @djolder posted links to this Storify version of his responses to this Strange Horizons review, I was horrified.
Strange Horizons reviewed a book, Long Hidden, specifically about marginalized cultures in SF/F stories. Then the reviewer calls out AAVE as “a literary trick”?
Writing in your own dialect is never a literary trick.
Saying that is othering and dismissive of the entire premise of Long Hidden. Rose Fox, one of the editors, said, “It’s an ethical and cultural error.” I concur. Strange Horizons has apologized. tweet one, two, and three.
I’m not even convinced that writing in another dialect is a literary trick. To me, “trick” implies deceit above and beyond the usual call of fiction. Sure, there’s the alternate meaning of “trick” as being clever without being deceitful (e.g., somersaulting on a skateboard), but that clearly wasn’t the meaning here.
For me, a literary trick implies leading the reader to expect one thing, then delivering another. The classic “red herring” is a literary trick. “Who is Kaiser Soze?” from The Usual Suspects is a literary trick (sadly, I figured that out 15-20 minutes into the film). A wonderful quote from that link:
Kevin Spacey claimed that Bryan Singer managed to convince all of the major actors that they were Keyser Soze. At the first screening, an angry Gabriel Byrne stormed off when he realised the truth.
That’s a literary trick on an entirely different level.
Writing an unreliable narrator such that she tells one story on a literal level and a completely different story when you realize what way she’s being unreliable—that’s a literary trick.
But being honest and true about your own dialect? Nope.
I learn a lot from meeting people and reading stories by people who are quite different from myself. I love it when people take me unexpected places.
I think this bears repeating: Writing in your own dialect is never a literary trick.
See also: this great post from Troy L. Wiggins.
For conventions that move around, you get to interact with people who you don’t know and see if they’ll fit into the program. It’s always an interesting process.
I keep seeing emails that reduce to the following:
Hi, I’m A and I’m a writer [most are, anyway]. I’d like to be a panelist at Westercon. I’ve previously spoken at X, Y, and Z [conventions whose programs I haven’t studied in depth and frankly don’t have time to].
Look, I don’t have time to pore over everyone’s site, nor do I want to make a snap decision because I’m frustrated trying to get a sense of who you are.
My job is to put people up on stage so they can have interesting conversations with one another. Or provide useful information. I have only limited information about them available, and I need to make the call based on that.
Also, if you’re going to Westercon in Salt Lake City this year (July 3-6) and you’d like to be on programming, programming @ is the address. Danke.
I’d really like to see:
Don’t. Make. Me. Beg.
I’m no damn good at it.
The Hugo Awards site has the full nomination list.
Look, I don’t vote in every category every time. I will be voting in a category I haven’t voted in before, though.
Natalie has some commentary (and quite a few comments) over on her site.
I vote for the work, not the person, but there are some people I’ll put last in the pile to read. If I run out of time before, oh well. Let’s just say that I’ve bounced out of the work of those on the slate that I’ve tried to read before and leave it at that.
Randall Munroe being nominated for Time.
Yeah, I know. There are a lot of other things to complain about.
When Rose Lemberg and I ran Vera Nazarian’s fundraiser, we each had our own reasons for helping.
I’ll link to Rose’s below, but here are mine.
In 2003, I befriended another person on a forum where we knew each other anonymously (this forum required pseudonyms). Let’s call him Cas. He lived in the Portland, Oregon area. I can’t remember exactly when we first met face to face, but I believe it was 2005. Cas was in town for business (he was a mid-level manager in electronics), and he, Rick, and I had dinner.
In 2006, I took a traditional chairmaking workshop in Portland for a week. Cas and I went out for dinner to his favorite Chinese restaurant, which was a very informal place, but very tasty. In 2007, Cas was once again in my area for business, and he, Rick, and I went out for dinner again.
At that time, Cas was at the very end of what would turn out to be his last job.
Look, I’m going to say it, because I think the truth needs to be said when I’m talking this stuff (which is part of why I’m giving you a nick and not his real name): he was not the most ethical person. I don’t know the whole story, and I don’t care, but he’d done something wrong (and by “wrong,” I mean big ticket wrong) in the past where wound up with an IRS bill of over a hundred grand that was not dischargeable in Chapter 7, only Chapter 13. I believe the rules have subsequently changed, but those were the rules in place at the time.
However, in between when he’d incurred that debt and when I met him, he’d straightened up a lot. Not completely, but a lot. (For me, growth is a more important trait than perfection.)
And he’d had a Chapter 7 years and years before, but this IRS bill was weighing around his neck. In 2005, he filed Chapter 13. Even after he’d lost his job, he’d kept paying on the Chapter 13. His wife had to file Chapter 13 also just so they could keep the house (because they could defer other bills and reduce their household expenses). She had chronic illness, so that was yet another complicating factor.
If he’d gotten a job again, it would have been bearable, but he never did. Months turned into a year, and everything started to fall apart. His creditors asked for relief from the bankruptcy stay beginning in March 2008, right as I got my job at Apple.
Cas never told me.
I was so high on having gotten the job I wanted, I wasn’t really aware that he was deflecting, something he hadn’t done with me before. Only much later, when I looked back, was I able to see that our conversations started shifting at about that point in time.
In August, his bankruptcy was dismissed. He still never told me. Then he started to really withdraw, but I was so busy at work, I honestly barely noticed.
The morning they came to foreclose upon his house late October 2008, he shot and killed himself.
His family called, and I spoke to his brother.
I felt horribly guilty. No, it wasn’t my fault, but I feel guilty that I wasn’t present enough to call him on his withdrawal. I felt guilty that he’d previously trusted me with stuff, and, for whatever reason, maybe I’d lost his trust at a time when he needed someone most to vent to. I regretted not being there.
Even more horribly, I got why he did it. The house was solely in his name, and, in his own weird way, he was trying to protect his wife in a non-community property state. Undeniably, he was sending a big old “fuck you” to the bank foreclosing on the house, knowing they couldn’t sell it as is. That would be a very Cas-like approach. Part of me respects that.
The IRS debt was also solely his and from before marrying his wife, so the innocent spouse rule applied. If he died, she was free from it.
You know what? I miss my friend.
So, when only a few weeks later, someone else I knew sent out a bat signal that they were going to lose their home to foreclosure?
Of course I helped Vera. I felt like I’d failed Cas, but I didn’t want to make the same mistake twice. I didn’t do it for Vera anywhere near as much as I did it for Cas.
I’d seen Cas grow over the years I’d known him.
What I haven’t seen is Vera’s growth, and I’ve known her longer.
Cas never asked to borrow money from me (or manipulated money out of me), even when he desperately needed it.
Vera, on the other hand, is all about other people giving her money by whatever means. I’m not actually sure what verb applies to what Vera did, so I’m not going to go there, especially not when strict liability for libel may apply.
It’s not a happy verb, though.
I will say, however, one of the things Teresa Nielsen Hayden said once that has really stuck with me: “the long con is a narrative form.”