December 15th, 2014


#WLAMF no. 1: Dance, my puppet! Dance!

We have twelve hours to go on the crowdfunding for the 2015 polyamory book lineup from Thorntree Press. And so, I'm doing something insane. For the next twelve hours, every time someone contributes, I'm going to write a blog post, either here or on the More Than Two blog.

Yep, that's right. I'm going to be glued to my computer for twelve hours. I have my tea in my "Write Like a Motherfucker" mug, I have my cat, and I am ready! If we get 30 contributions, I'll write 30 blog posts today. If we get 40, I'll write 40. You get the idea.

I'll be Tweeting links to the posts with the hashtag #WLAMF. So if you want to make me dance, just contribute! You'll be supporting indie publishing of quality polyamory books and making me perform at the same time!

#WLAMF no. 2: The Interview

This morning, I woke up from a really vivid dream in which I was a magazine reporter doing an interview. I was interviewing the Shambling Horror from the Cursed Moor for a human-interest story, as one does. It was a long and quite vivid dream, that stuck with me while I was making tea.

As I recall, the dream went something like this:

Me: What's the best part of your job?

Shambling Horror: You might think it's opening demonic portals into the Void, or tearing the souls of the damned from their bodies, but those are really just the day-in, day-out stuff. The thing I really live for is that kid. You know, the one who gets it into his head that he's going to go out on the first full moon of the year and see if all the stories about the ancient ruins are true.

He usually comes right up to the front door. You know, right down the Cursed Stairway to the Portal of Horror. And he's all like "Hey, Cory, where are you? Cory, is that you? Where are you, Cory?" He doesn't know his friend Cory chickened out at the last minute and is home with his mom sipping hot chocolate.

So this kid is all like "Cory, is that you?" and I step out of the shadows with all my tentacles writing and say "Yes, it is." And then he goes high-tailing it back, kids can run like gazelles!

Me: You don't, like, devour his flesh or anything?

Shambling Horror: What do you think I am, a monster?

Me: Isn't that a terrible thing to do?

Shambling Horror: Naah. That kid, the one who came out when his friend Cory stayed home? That kid is going to grow up to be an adventurer. He's the kid who's going to rescue damsels and slay dragons. You know why? Because he's going to remember how scared he was, and that he still made it home alive, and that memory is going to stick with him. It's going to remind him that no matter how scared he is, he can still do what he wants. That kid is going to be awesome! The Corys of the world are going to grow up to be accountants.

Me: So what about the grownups who visit the ruins on the moor?

Shambling Horror: Well, every now and then some damn fool gets it in his head he's going to cleanse the world of an ancient evil or drive off the demonic host, and those guys come knocking on my door with a bunch of clerics and holy water and blessed swords or something. I can't let that happen. So I have to deal with them, you know?

Me: Do you eat them?

Shambling Horror: What? No! Humans are filthy animals. Who knows what kind of diseases you carry. Ew! I'm not going to eat a human. Yuck!

Me: So what do you eat?

Shambling Horror: I have a lovely collection of artisanal cheeses in the basement. Cured on oak, not on metal shelves. I don't care what anyone says, you can taste the difference. Some crackers, a nice that's heaven. Or so I've heard. I wouldn't know.

Yes, I have to live inside this head.

I'm writing one blog post for every contribution to our crowdfunding we receive between now and the end of the campaign. Help support indie publishing! We're publishing five new books on polyamory in 2015:

b#WLAMF no. 5: Awe

As I mentioned in WLAMF no. 4, Eve and I visited Salt Lake City on our book tour. The tour feels like it happened years ago, even though it ended, what, last month or something? Time does funny things when you upend your life and start down an entirely new path.

Anyway, while we were there, we visited the Mormon temple, because hey! polyamory authors wearing cute animal ears in Salt Lake City! What else would we do, right?

We were kept under the watchful eye of security the entire time, but they were polite about it and let us take pictures.

The Mormon temple is awesome. And I mean that in the literal, old-fashioned sense of the word, not in the modern, Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure sense of the word. It is a structure designed and built with the intention of evoking a sense of awe. It is emotion in architecture, every aspect carefully crafted to manipulate the emotions of those who see it.

It's a bit ironic, really, that human beings can design and build a structure whose design is intended to make other human beings believe they are part of something greater than humanity.

I have always harbored a deep distrust of houses of worship built on such a grandiose scale. The walls of the temple are covered with huge squares of marble, the cost of each one of which would probably feed a dozen needy families for six months. The grounds are that specific kind of lovely that you can only get through hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of gardening, all carefully watered every day in this, a place in the center of the desert.

Folks like to talk about Madison Avenue, the epicenter of modern marketing and advertising, as a cynical and soulless machine of mass manipulation. And yet, and yet, I've never met an advertiser whose talent can compare in even the feeblest way to that of the architect of religious edifices. This structure is manipulation, every line and every ornament tasked to the goal of making you feel something when you see it. A lot of this building is, in a utilitarian sense, wasted space; it is designed to an end other than efficiency.

Sure is pretty, though, isn't it?

I'm writing one blog post for every contribution to our crowdfunding we receive between now and the end of the campaign. Help support indie publishing! We're publishing five new books on polyamory in 2015:

#WLAMF no. 6: Stonepeckers

During our travels around the country talking to folks about polyamory, Eve and I passed through Colorado. We spent a night at Colorado National Monument, sleeping in the back of the van at a weird angle that made us keep rolling into each other.

Colorado National Monument is awesome in the "nature is grand on a scale beyond mere human endeavor" sense, rather than a "this architecture is grand because it's designed to manipulate you" sense. It's filled with towers of stone that look like something right out of an old Roadrunner cartoon, separated from each other by deep canyons that could comfortably swallow a blue whale and a dozen tour buses and you'd never even notice.

Some of those towers of stone are pockmarked with great holes that resemble nothing so much as the holes made in telephone poles by optimistic woodpeckers.

I asked a park ranger1 about the holes. That's when I first learned of the great stonepeckers.

The similarity to woodpecker holes is no coincidence, for they're formed by similar processes. During the dry season, giant stonepeckers, with huge talons and beaks like carved diamond, land on the buttes and chip away at the stone, seeking the rock burrowers that live within. They look a bit like woodpeckers, but on a far grander scale. Their iron-feathered wings can stretch more than thirty feet, and when they peck at the cliff face, the sound travels for miles.

They're not related to woodpeckers at all, I learned. Their similarities are purely a matter of convergent dimorphism; form follows function. The stonepeckers are actually not birds at all; they're related to wyverns, dragons, and thunder lizards. You can tell not only by their size, but by the morphology of their talons and their skeletal structure, particularly around the hip.

The sky was once full of them, tens of thousands of years ago. We see evidence in the fossil record--not only of stonepecker bones but of their great nests of pine trees, lined with flint. Drying climate reduced their numbers; today, only a handful of stonepeckers remains. They are carefully managed by the Parks and Recreation Service, that uses specially modified Apache attack helicopters to keep them from straying too close to people.

1 By which I mean I thought about asking a park ranger, then decided to run with my own story instead because it was probably more interesting.

I'm writing one blog post for every contribution to our crowdfunding we receive between now and the end of the campaign. Help support indie publishing! We're publishing five new books on polyamory in 2015:

#WLAMF no. 9: Fusion

A lot of the world's social, economic, and resource problems are, when you come down to it, power problems. I don't mean political power; I mean energy. Electricity.

Take fresh water, for instance. Three-quarters of the planet's surface is covered by the stuff, yet much of the world doesn't have reliable access to safe, clean water. 780 million people don't have regular access to clean water. Nearly four million people die a year from water-bourne illness.

If we had unlimited quantities of cheap, clean energy, water would stop being a problem overnight. It's easy to desalinate seawater...easy, but not cheap. The process requires enormous inputs of energy, and energy is expensive.

The holy grail of energy is, and has always been, fusion power. Fusion power offers vast quantities of energy from seawater...if we can make it work. And we've been chasing it for a while, though never with any serious determination; the world's annual budget for fusion research is about 1/18th the annual revenue of the National Football League. (In the US, the annual budget for fusion research is less than what the Government Accountability Office spends on paperwork.) Fusion power promises one-stop shopping for reversing global carbon emissions, improving access to fresh water all over the world, raising the standard of living for developing nations, moving toward non-polluting transportation...

...if we can make it work.

It's been a long road. A lot of engineers thought we'd have the problem licked by the mid-1960s. Here we are in 2014, and it's only been in the last two years that teams at MIT and Lawrence Livermore have actually made fusion reactors that produce net positive energy...for short periods of time. It's a very, very difficult nut to crack.

Enter Lockheed Martin.

Lockheed Martin recently announced that their Skunkworks team has been quietly, and secretly, working on fusion power for a while. And they claim to be within 5 years of an operating prototype of a compact fusion reactor.

Now, I am of two minds about this.

- It's the fucking Lockheed Martin fucking Skunkworks. These are not a bunch of cranks, kooks, or pie-in-the-sky dreamers. These guys built the SR-71 in the early 1960s, and the F-117 Stealth fighter back when the Radio Shack TRS-80 was the state of the art for personal computers.
- Lockheed doesn't seem the kind of company to stake their reputation on a claim unless they're really, really sure.
- They're exploring deuterium-tritium fusion, which is a lot easier than ordinary hydrogen-hydrogen fusion of the sort that happens in the sun.
- Did I mention it's the fucking Lockheed Martin fucking Skunkworks? They have money, engineering expertise, and problem-solving experience by the metric ton. They are accustomed to solving hard engineering problems 20 years before anyone else in the world even knows they can be solved.

- Fusion is hard. The pursuit of fusion has left a lot of broken dreams in its wake.
- The design they propose encloses a set of superconducting magnets inside the fusion chamber. That's clever, and solves a lot of problems with magnetic containment, but superconducting magnets are fragile things and the inside of a fusion chamber is as close as we can get to hell on earth.
- Fusion creates fast neutrons. Those fast neutrons tend to run into stuff and knock it all out of whack. Solving the problem of the reactor vessel degrading under intense neutron flux is non-trivial; in fact, that's one of the key objectives of the multibillion-dollar International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor being built by a consortium of countries in France.

Fusion power, if we can make it work, would likely (and without hyperbole) be one of the most significant achievements of the human race. It could and very likely would have farther-reaching impacts than the development of agriculture or the invention of iron, and would improve the standard of living for billions of people to a greater extent than any other single invention.

For that reason alone, I think it's worth pursuing. I'd like to see it better funded...say, maybe even on the same scale as the NFL. I'm not sure of Lockheed can deliver what they're promising, but I am very, very happy they're in the race.

I'm writing one blog post for every contribution to our crowdfunding we receive between now and the end of the campaign. Help support indie publishing! We're publishing five new books on polyamory in 2015:

#WLAMF no. 10: Sex toy review: Tenga 3D

It came to pass a while ago that I had some Amazon store credit built up, and I told Eve about it. She went looking through the less respectable corners of the Amazon virtual storefront, whereupon she came across the Tenga 3D Sleeve Spiral for Male Masturbation and said "hey, you should totally get this!"

Now, I'm generally fairly adventurous--I backed a crowdfunding campaign for a blowjob robot, after all--yet I've never used anything like this before. So I said hey, sure, why not? And some time later, through the magic of electronic commerce, there it was in the mail.

I brought it with me the next time I visited her, where it sat in the sex toy case (because of course there's a sex toy case) unused.

This is what it looks like in its case, all futuristic and funky and spirally and stuff.

Shortly after the book More Than Two was finished, Eve and I found ourselves in the Deep South, talking polyamory to folks in North Carolina. We stayed at a remote cabin deep in the woods, because remote cabins deep in the woods have figured prominently in our story together almost since the beginning, where it came to pass that we were making out and getting ready to get jiggy with it.

And then, out of the blue, she starts wrapping rope around me.

Now, normally I'm more the tie-er than the tie-ee, if you will, so this came as a surprise to both of us. But before long I was lashed down helpless, and she was digging through the sex toy case, and she found the Tenga. "Hmm," she said, "I wonder how this works?"

So what you see when you look at it in its case is actually the inside. You turn it inside-out to use it, which makes it look rather less futuristic and funky and spirally and stuff.

The funky spiral bit is actually the bit that goes against your bits, if you catch my drift.

So she squirted some lube in it and crawled over to me, a gleam in her eye and high-tech, advanced-materials-science silicone in her hand. I, of course, didn't do anything, being tied quite securely to the bed with a very limited range of things I could do. Other than scream, that is, which apparently I did a lot of. Or so I'm told. I'm not really sure; that's not what I was paying attention to.

So the whole point of a male masturbator is, as near as I can tell, to put something twixt you and your hand (or your partner's hand) for the purpose of either better simulating the feeling of a human vagina or changing up the sensation, depending on the deign objective of the object in question. The Tenga toys generally seem to dispense with trying to simulate actual intercourse in favor of creating a host of new and pleasant but distinctly non-human-vagina-like sensations, and this they do splendidly well.

Bottom line: This thing feels really good. It's very soft but also interestingly textured, it conducts heat well, and it does precisely what it says on the tin.

I don't actually remember making quite as much noise as Eve says I made, because I was too busy having a mind-blowing orgasm to pay attention to trifles like my own vocalizations. I have no reason to doubt her reports, however. She thought the whole thing was great fun. I thought the state of the art in human pleasure took, thanks to the careful application of materials science to the problem of inducing orgasm, yet another step forward. God bless science.

I'm writing one blog post for every contribution to our crowdfunding we receive between now and the end of the campaign. Help support indie publishing! We're publishing five new books on polyamory in 2015:

#WLAMF no. 13: Zaiah

Today is the ninth anniversary of my relationship with my partner zaiah.

A lot of folks will say polyamory doesn't work. "I knew some people who tried that," they'll say. "They broke up." If you ask these people how many monogamous folks they know who've broken up, you'll get some humphing and hawing, but you probably won't make your point.

zaiah and I have had an interesting adventure, these past nine years. She and I have traveled across the country together, lived together, explored together, tried new things together. I'm looking forward to many more years of adventure. Happy anniversary, darling! I love you.

I'm writing one blog post for every contribution to our crowdfunding we receive between now and the end of the campaign. Help support indie publishing! We're publishing five new books on polyamory in 2015:

#WLAMF no. 14: Big Science Happens Here

On the plains of New Mexico, there is a road. This road stretches for miles across empty desert. If you drive far enough on this road, eventually after you've passed miles of scrubbrush and have begun to imagine that all the people you've ever known have never really existed but are only the products of your own hallucinogenic dreams, you will see an enormous radio dish on the horizon. And then another, and another.

You're not actually close to the Very Large Array yet; there is still a lot of driving ahead of you.

But if you're up to the challenge, and if you're patient and persistent, and if you don't break an axle on the narrow and badly-maintained road, eventually you will come to a place where there are a lot of very smart people who are very dedicated to understanding the physical world.

This is the Very Large Array. It is a collection of radio telescopes that looks into the universe in a wide range of frequencies, frequencies our limited vision is altogether insufficient for. Its purpose? To understand the universe we live in.

Eve and I stopped here on our trip around the Southwest. She knows someone fortunate enough to work here, and we were invited for a tour.

It's not what I expected. Big Science is never quite as...clean and tidy as Hollywood would have you believe. Big Science often means Big Engineering, and Big Engineering is all about getting things done.

These dishes can act individually, but usually they're part of a collective whole, gathering and amplifying incredibly faint signals from very far away places. The entire array is, in a sense, a single instrument, and that instrument can be reconfigured to observe radio waves in all kinds of frequencies.

But the best way to align a set of dishes changes according to the frequenceis they're observing, and that means these antennas move. I don't mean they move as in rotate to sweep the sky, though they do do that as well. I mean move as in grow farther from each other or closer to each other, as the observations require.

They are huge, and moving huge things means big machinery. Each antenna sits on a pad, and each pad is next to a set of railroad tracks. Those railroad tracks are the roadways for enormous tenders, which literally pick up the antennas and carry them from place to place.

To save room, the train tracks don't curve. They intersect at 90-degree angles. To make a turn, the tender sets down an enormous hydraulic ram, lifts itself and the antenna completely off the ground, spins around on its own axis, and settles itself back down on the track again.

We were fortunate enough to be able to climb one of the antennas, for a value of "fortunate enough" that means "allowed to take a harrowing climb up a creaking, swaying steel staircase onto the surface of a tremendous and steeply-angled dish made of surprisingly thin sheet metal that's way, way higher off the ground than you think it is." Those afraid of heights, falling, ladders, stairs, or swaying back and forth while a long way from the ground need not apply.

I am not afraid of any of these things, and climbing onto the dish was only a little short of terrifying.

Big Science happens here. This is the sort of place where we as human beings learn more about this world we are so uniquely blessed, for a short time, to exist in. There is no more noble nor essentially human quest than the quest for understanding, and places like this are where that happens.

I'm writing one blog post for every contribution to our crowdfunding we receive between now and the end of the campaign. Help support indie publishing! We're publishing five new books on polyamory in 2015:

#WLAMF no. 15: "Government should fear the people"

When I was living in Atlanta, I used to see a bumper sticker all over the place: "People shouldn't fear the government, the government should fear the people."

This sentiment is quite popular in conservative parts of the US, and it or variations on it (such as "When government fears the people, there is liberty; when the people fear the government, there is tyranny") are often attributed to Thomas Jefferson. Wrongly, as it turns out--Jefferson never said this.

Now, on some level, there's a grain of truth here, in the sense that a government ideally represents the will of the people and should be held accountable to them. To some extent, anyway. In some cases, the will of the people is a deeply troublesome and evil thing; the will of the people in the pre-Civil-War Deep South, for instance, held that some people aren't people at all but rather property, and that's a will I don't think a civil society should respect.

But what it misses is that when the government fears the people, the result is tyranny, just as surely as when the people fear the government.

Governments have power. They have police forces and jails. They have standing armies. A person with a gun and a heart full of fear is a dangerous person indeed.

Why do tyrannies exist? They exist because people in power fear losing that power. They fear what happens if the people express their will. Tyrannical governments restrict what they fear. They restrict speech because they fear the power of speech. They restrict demonstrations because they fear the power of demonstrations. A government that fears the people, attacks the people. It handles that fear through force and control. When it sees something it fears, it acts ruthlessly to eliminate it. When a government fears the people, the people become the enemies of the state.

The same holds true for civilian police. A police force that fears the people, treats the people as threats. It shoots the people, even if they're unarmed. It labels the people "thugs" and "looters."

The idea that the government should fear the people creates--in fact, it can not help but to create--totalitarianism. The greater the fear, the greater the response to it. A government that sees the enemy around every corner, treats every person as an enemy.

"People shouldn't fear the government, the government should fear the people." This idea is a blueprint for evil.

People are people. Governments are made of people. I would like to propose a different bumper sticker: "The government and the people should hold one another accountable. Let them treat one another with respect, so that we may have a civilized society in which all are respected."

I'm writing one blog post for every contribution to our crowdfunding we receive between now and the end of the campaign. Help support indie publishing! We're publishing five new books on polyamory in 2015:

#WLAMF no. 16: Lego brains

The brain is a fiendishly complicated thing. Not so much because all its constituent parts are complicated (though they can be), but because it's a network of billions of components wired together with trillions of connections. Well, at least your brain is.

There are other brains that are a lot simpler. When I was taking classes in neurobiology, back in my misspent college days, we used to talk a lot about the species of worm called C. elegans.

Back then, researchers were just beginning to map its brain. The brains of C. elegans are isomorphic, meaning they're all the same. (That's not true of more sophisticated animals; our brains grow organically, with neurons wiring up to other neurons in a dynamic process that means even identical twins don't have the same brains.) They're small (about 300 neurons, and around 7,000 connections.) They're easy to understand, at least for folks who find neurobiology "easy."

And now they've been replicated in a Lego scooter that, well...behaves a lot like C. elegans without being explicitly programmed to. The robot has no pre-programmed behaviors; it acts like a roundworm because, in a sense, it has the brain of a roundworm.

And I think that's really cool.

I'm writing one blog post for every contribution to our crowdfunding we receive between now and the end of the campaign. Help support indie publishing! We're publishing five new books on polyamory in 2015:

#WLAMF no. 19: Kinky sex

A while back, I was participating in a conversation about sex, and the subject of kink came up. A guy was saying his girlfriend had approached him with the idea of some sort of non-specific kink, and he was reluctant to engage in it for fear that “nice guys” don’t do that sort of thing with their partners. What, he wondered, would it be like if the sexes were reversed? A guy who asked his girlfriend for kinky sex was clearly not a nice guy; nice guys would never do such a thing! So why should it be okay for a woman to ask her boyfriend for kink? Didn't it show a double standard--women can do something bad but guys aren’t allowed to? Someone else said that he shouldn't be a nice guy, because women don’t want nice guys--nice guys, he explained, are emasculated, and women actually want strong, alpha guys, guys who will control them.

And listening to it, I felt despair.

I've always been suspicious of framing things in terms of “nice guy” vs. “bad boy;” I think, to be blunt, it’s childish and stupid. Modern social expectations do not “emasculate” men, being a “soft male,” or “losing your center.” That’s a load of rubbish. Modern social expectations are about treating women as human beings rather than need-fulfillment machines. That’s it. You don’t have to be “emasculated” or any of that other silly stuff to do that. You simply have to look at women as full human beings, deserving the same levels of respect and consideration you’d give any other person.

At the end of the day, it’s about consent, not disempowerment. It’s messed up to see relationships in terms of who’s empowered and who’s disempowered; in a good relationship, it’s possible for two (or more!) people to all be empowered.

Likewise, being a “nice guy” or treating women with “respect” does not mean holding doors open, always being soft and gentle, or always having sex in candlelight on a bed strewn with roses. REAL respect, as I've said many thousands of times, means talking to women about what THEY want, and then treating them the way they want to be treated.

Are you seeing the Matrix yet?

The “nice guy” who refuses to try anything kinky because he thinks it’s disrespectful isn’t really a nice guy. He’s not listening to his partner, because he knows what’s best for her.

And the “bad guy” who talks to his lover about what she wants, talks about what he wants, and then works with his lover to explore their mutual fantasies together? He isn’t really a bad guy…even if those fantasies involve kinky sex.

It seems to me the world might be a happier place if we all stop trying to figure out the rules about how to treat women "properly," and instead just talk to women like human beings and treat each individual the way she wants to be treated. A lot of men say they just don’t understand women. A lot of women say they don’t understand men. I respectfully submit that perhaps, if we listen to each other, that might change.

I'm writing one blog post for every contribution to our crowdfunding we receive between now and the end of the campaign. Help support indie publishing! We're publishing five new books on polyamory in 2015:

#WLAMF no. 21: Kitties I have loved and lost

One of the stops on the More Than Two book tour took us to Paonia, Colorado, a remote town of about 1,500 people in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. We got there late at night, after traveling along windy mountain roads in the dark and very nearly hitting both a bear and a deer, each of whom had for some reason unknown to your humble narrator chosen to amble out in the middle of the road and just kind of sit there.

We spent some time exploring the town before our book event, and happened upon a small park more or less in the middle of town. While we were walking through the park, I caught the eye of a young calico cat who was trotting across the street some distance away, doing whatever it is cats do in Paonia, Colorado.

The cat decided she wanted to make friends, and immediately came running over to us, where she threw herself into my arms with some gusto.

After some petting and playing with, she decided she wanted Eve's attention, too.

We met many cats on the book tour, but this adorable little calico is the one I remember the most. She was incredibly friendly (and I say this as a guy who owns Tonkinese kittens, animals known worldwide for how strongly they bond to their people), but also had some of the signs that somebody somewhere was mistreating her. She was hypervigilant, and took off at the slightest sign that anyone else was walking toward us.

I sincerely hope nobody was being mean to her. There's a special place in hell for humans who abuse animals. I wonder about this kitten often, and hope that, wherever she is, she is happy and warm.

I'm writing one blog post for every contribution to our crowdfunding we receive between now and the end of the campaign. Help support indie publishing! We're publishing five new books on polyamory in 2015.

#WLAMF no. 22: Accidental and Unintended

I had, many years ago, a friend who tended to cheat on her partners.

When I say she tended to cheat on her partners, what I mean is that she cheated on every boyfriend she'd ever had up to the point I lost touch with her, without exception. I asked her about it one rainy evening, and she said she didn't set out to cheat; when it happened, it was accidental.

That's an idea I've heard echoed countless times in countless conversations when I talk to people who've been unfaithful. "It was an accident. I didn't mean to do it."

There's a certain element of self-serving justification in there somewhere. It's likely related to the fact that folks in openly nonmonogamous relationships are at lower risk of sexually transmitted infection than folks in nominally "monogamous" relationships who cheat. If something is an accident, we're not responsible for it. If we remember to bring condoms, or talk about sexual history, or do any of those other things, we're obviously planning for it, and therefore it isn't an accident. If it's not an accident, we are responsible for it.

It's a thin justification, to be sure, but it's remarkably resilient. And part of that, I think, is we don't acknowledge the difference between accidental and unintentional.

If I make a choice to do something (and as long as we're talking about consensual sex, if I'm in bed with someone, it was a choice), then the thing I'm doing wasn't an accident even if I didn't intend to do it when I got up in the morning. That's a distinction that matters. I might not have intended, at first, to cheat on a partner, in the sense I might not have woke up and said to myself "you know, I think I'll betray the confidence of my lover this afternoon! Maybe I can pencil that in before I go to the gym"...but it was still no accident.

I realize that people will attempt to rationalize their choices however they can, and conflating "accidental" with "unintended" is a way to do that. Yet, maybe, just maybe, if we stopped seeing "it was an accident!" as a validation, if we as a society didn't accept the notion that cheating is less wrong if it is less planned, things might change. I'm not naive enough to believe people might stop cheating, but maybe they might at least be a bit more safe about it.

I'm writing one blog post for every contribution to our crowdfunding we receive between now and the end of the campaign. Help support indie publishing! We're publishing five new books on polyamory in 2015.

#WLAMF no. 24: Kitties can anticipate the future

There is a book called Worry and Nervousness: The Science of Self Mastery. I don't know a thing about the book or its author, except that its author must not own cats.

How do I know this?

The book makes the claim "man is the only animal that worries." And anyone who would say such a thing has clearly never lived with a cat.

I have a cat named Liam. He's generally pretty good-natured, except that he has the unfortunate habit of biting my nose to show me he loves me. I've only known him as an adult kitty, and must conclude that at some point when he was a kitten, someone must've thought the nose-biting thing was cute as hell and encouraged it.

But Liam is a neurotic kitty, and he worries. Specifically, he worries about his food dish and his water bowl.

He seems to have the capacity to worry about only one of these things at a time; perhaps it is true that man is the only animal that worries about more than one thing at once. A few nights ago, Liam woke me from a sound sleep to tell me something was Very Very Wrong, running back and forth between the bed and his food bowl. I stumbled out of bed all cross and blearly-eyed, to find his dish had only two inches of food left in the bottom of it--scarcely three days' worth of food! This, naturally, led to something of a panic attack on Liam's part.

So I filled his food bowl, and went back to dreaming of interviewing shambling horrors or flying an ultralight around the flooded ruins of Old London or whatever the hell I was dreaming about (I have to live inside this head full-time)...

...when Liam woke me once more to tell me something else was Very Very Wrong.

This "something else" turned out to be his water bowl, which was down to a mere three inches or so of water in it--clearly, if you're a kitty, cause for panic.

Man is the only animal that matters? I beg to differ, sir, and would be pleased to introduce you to a counterexample.

I'm writing one blog post for every contribution to our crowdfunding we receive between now and the end of the campaign. Help support indie publishing! We're publishing five new books on polyamory in 2015.

#WLAMF no. 25: Nature is horrifying!

The balance of nature. This is a thing that people talk about, and every time they do, I cringe.

Wikipedia has an entry on the balance of nature, which has this (among other things) to say on the subject:

The theory that nature is permanently in balance has been largely discredited, as it has been found that chaotic changes in population levels are common, but nevertheless the idea continues to be popular.[1] During the later half of the twentieth century the theory was superseded by catastrophe theory and chaos theory.

In part 0.5 of my series on GMOs, which I'll return to when the current madness is over, I talk about how one of the greatest predictors of whether a person is opposed to GMOs is whether that person sees nature as a gentle, benevolent force that exists in "harmony" and "balance."

It's easy for us, as humans with really short lifespans, to imagine there's a "balance" to nature. If the number of predators in some place grows too large, they eat all the prey, and then they starve, and the number of predators falls, right? That lets the prey population rebound, and balance is restored. Balance! Harmony!

Except that it's a load of rubbish. It sometimes (sometimes!) works that way in the short run, but in the long run, what looks like "balance" is more often two or more opposing sides that have reached an exhausted stalemate. A change in climate, a change in parasites, disease, a new adaptation, and that "balance" goes out the window. Catastrophes happen. Species go extinct, and are replaced with new species. There are no dinosaurs any more, or creodonts, or many other organisms. They didn't disappear because humans upset the "balance of nature." They disappeared because there is no "balance of nature." Nature is neither kind nor benevolent; it's only our privileged position at the apex of a very large and very bloody food chain that allows us to imagine otherwise.

Nature is, in point of fact, ruthless and amoral. Any adaptation that gives a species (or a population within a species) an upper hand tends to be propagated through nature.

And sometimes, the results are horrifying. I don't mean just in the "species go extinct" kind of way; the adaptations that succeed are themselves often horrifying.

Exhibit 1 for the prosecution: Male Llamas Bite Off Each Other’s Genitalia.

See the teeth on the end? The canine and incisor? Those are fighting teeth. You know what they're adapted for? Castrating other llamas. Why? Because if you have genes that code for teeth to castrate other males and the temperament to do so, you're going to spread those genes pretty effectively, and before long, your whole species is full of individuals with a head for castrating each other and the tools to do it.

But wait! It gets worse! The anglerfish is even more horrifying.

This is a male anglerfish. It's a little tiny blob of a thing, scarcely able to swim. When it finds a female, it bites her, whereupon she...absorbs it. She dissolves it, literally, until nothing is left but a pair of testicles, which remain glued to her body. She extracts the sperm from them and stores it for when she wants to reproduce.

Why? How could such a horrifying thing come to be? Because it works, and nature is amoral. Whatever works, works.

You might think that's the bottom of nature's basement of horrors, but you's be wrong. Let's talk about bedbugs, and a reproductive strategy called "traumatic insemination."

Image: Rickard Ignell, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

Traumatic insemination occurs when the male stabs the female and deposits his sperm directly into her body. If she survives, some of the sperm eventually reaches her ovaries. It's the only way bedbugs mate. Why? Because nature is horrifying.

There is no harmony or balance of nature; those things are human constructs. What there is is unceasing warfare, constant change, and traumatic insemination. We're very fortunate, you and I, to be born into a position that allows us to delude ourselves about the nature of mother nature.

I'm writing one blog post for every contribution to our crowdfunding we receive between now and the end of the campaign. Help support indie publishing! We're publishing five new books on polyamory in 2015.

#WLAMF no. 26: The more things change...

There is a rather delightful little book on Amazon, available in Kindle edition for free. It's called The Ladies' Guide to True Politeness and Perfect Manners or, Miss Leslie's Behaviour Book, and it's a book about proper manners written in 1864 by Eliza Leslie.

In among endless detailed information about how the British peerage system works and how you should talk to your servants, there are gems like these:

Truth is, the female sex is really as inferior to the male in vigour of mind as in strength of body; and all arguments to the contrary are founded on a few anomalies, or based on theories that can never be reduced to practice.


Men make fortunes, women make livings. And none make poorer livings than those who waste their time, and bore their friends, by writing and lecturing upon the equality of the sexes, and what they call "Women's Rights." How is it that most of these ladies live separately from their husbands; either despising them, or being despised by them?

Proof, perhaps, that conservative talking points aren't new. And also, it's possible (probably even common) for those oppressed by a system to endorse that same system.

Did I say this was a delightful book? I meant that other thing.

I'm writing one blog post for every contribution to our crowdfunding we receive between now and the end of the campaign. Help support indie publishing! We're publishing five new books on polyamory in 2015.

#WLAMF no. 27: "Polyamory is wrong!"

If you've been part of any poly community online for more than...oh, about 400 milliseconds or so, you've unquestionably seen someone post the "polyamory is wrong" T-shirt. You know the one I mean:

Get it? You're supposed to think at first that it's saying polyamory is morally wrong, but really it's just saying it's wrong to mix Latin and Greek roots! Get it?

Except that...err, it's totally okay to mix Latin and Greek roots. We do it all the time. In fact, even purely Latin words might have mixed roots, because the Romans had their grubby paws all over the place, and mixed words from different languages with gleeful abandon. Latin itself is about as pure as a Baptist in a tavern, and as it says in Job 14:4, "Who can bring what is pure from the impure? No one!"

But I'm not one to stand in the way of a good linguistic joke, so I most humbly propose the following additions to the canon:

I'm writing one blog post for every contribution to our crowdfunding we receive between now and the end of the campaign. Help support indie publishing! We're publishing five new books on polyamory in 2015.

#WLAMF no. 28: The Erotic Heritage Museum

Should you ever find yourself in Las Vegas, I suggest... Well, to be honest, I suggest you don't find yourself in Las Vegas. It's a sad, desperate place, filled with people trying much too hard to convince themselves that this thing they're having is indeed fun, and not some other thing, like not-fun (which, I must say, is more often the case). And they don't much cotton to guys wearing bunny ears there.

But if you do find yourself in Las Vegas, one of the places on the very shortlist of places I suggest you check out is Harry Mahoney's Erotic Heritage Museum. It's quite a bizarre place, part museum, part Vegas festival, part...well, I don't really know what.

It's not terribly impressive from the outside, to be sure. It's in an obscure corner of an industrial park, and from the outside, it looks like this:

We went there, Eve and I, not quite sure what to expect. We certainly didn't expect the Erotic Heritage Museum wedding chapel, the first thing a visitor encounters when walking through the door. It's billed as the only wedding chapel in Vegas where you can have your ceremony and also consummate the union, and given how uptight Las Vegas is with its Puritan morality, I believe it. It's a bit Caligula meets Penthouse Letters, though to be fair the movie Caligula was also a bit Caligula meets Penthouse Letters, so I imagine that makes it about two-thirds Caligula and one-third Penthouse Letters.

I want to do...things in this place. With, and to, lots of people.

Also on the main floor is this...err, sculpture. Artwork. Thing. It's carved from a solid block of limestone, and weighs something like two thousand pounds and change. It too makes me want to do...things.

Moving downstairs, one finds a large museum space filled with everything from antique vibrators (natch) to a collection, billed as the world's largest such collection, of antique, ancient, and prehistoric dildos.

Including this rather fetching fellow, a proto-Hello Kitty design in carved stone.

There are a lot of carved stone dildos on display. Stone has, apparently, been a rather popular medium for sex toys for quite a long time.

Eve and I have discussed, for reals, teaming with a museum like this one and creating a line of high-quality replicas of various ancient stone dildos, each of which would come with a little insert that described the particular example of the art, along with historical information, information about where it came from, and so on. What do you think? Do you think there'd be a market for this sort of thing?

The exhibits also include props from the Star Wars porn parody (because of course there was a Star Wars porn parody) and, more inexplicably, this sculpture of a cock and balls, made of $4,000 worth of pennies.

If you find yourself in Vegas for whatever reason, and you're unwilling to gnaw your own arm off to escape (possibly because you are the Kwisatz Haderach), definitely check it out. It's a fascinating place.

I'm writing one blog post for every contribution to our crowdfunding we receive between now and the end of the campaign. Help support indie publishing! We're publishing five new books on polyamory in 2015.

#WLAMF no. 29: This is hard!

I got the idea to do a blog post for each contribution we got on the Thorntree Press crowdfunding site yesterday evening, while zaiah and I were driving home from the Humboldt Anarchist Bookfair in Arcata, California. "It will be a great motivator to write!" I said. "Sure, it'll be a lot of writing, but how hard can it be?"

Apparently I'm completely bonkers. I've scarcely left the computer all day, and as it turns out, churning out a bunch of blog posts back to back is surprisingly tiring.

But hey, there's always more caffeine!

I'm writing one blog post for every contribution to our crowdfunding we receive between now and the end of the campaign. Help support indie publishing! We're publishing five new books on polyamory in 2015.

#WLAMF no. 36: Antique Calculators

I first went off to college in 1984. (I say "first" because I've had a somewhat checkered college career, with many false starts.) On the occasion of my going off to school, to learn (or so I thought) computer engineering, I got myself a programmable calculator: a Radio Shack EC-4004.

I've moved rather a lot since then, but somehow, and without any deliberate intention on my part, that calculator seems to have stuck with me...kind of like a cursed ring in an old Dungeons & Dragons game, with less eternal suffering and more calculating definite integrals. (Yes, it could do that.)

I found the calculator a few days back, while I was digging through a drawer looking for a roll of tape. It's been through a lot; it's covered with dust, and I have a hazy memory of spilling a shot of apple schnapps on it at some point in the past.

I flicked the power switch, not expecting a lot, worked! The batteries, which have never been replaced and are now old enough to vote and drink alcohol, still worked a treat.

As powerful as modern smartphones and similar devices are, there's no chance they'll still work after a similar amount of time. Flash memory is cheap but transient, and loses information over time. Modern lithium ion batteries degrade over time. Leave an iPhone in a drawer for twenty years and it will be a paperweight on the other side.

This old calculator has a paltry amount of processing power compared even to a modern watch, but you gotta admire the way it just keeps going.

I'm writing one blog post for every contribution to our crowdfunding we receive between now and the end of the campaign. Help support indie publishing! We're publishing five new books on polyamory in 2015.