A departure for the blog, in this category. This writing fiction test is more of a writer test - about authors, rather than the construction of stories. Also...I'm looking at you, Twitter DM.
Admission. So far in my online career as a writer, I've been hit on once. That's because I am a guy. Women are hit on all the time. My experience was mild. The lady in question was exceptionally ladylike.
Going by what female authors tell me, there is nothing mild about creepy sexist dick authors.
I've been told I don't feature in that identity parade - I'm not that sort of fugitive.
What is appropriate behaviour for authors on the internet? It's about the same as off the internet. What is appropriate behaviour for authors off the internet? Damn good question.
I'm the kind of guy who looks for another street.
And I'm sure when I tell you this, there'll be guys out there who never give this any thought. Here's a story. I'm walking along deserted streets on a winter's day.
Cold. Frosty. You want to watch your step. Visibility is crisp and clear. I'm the only person on the streets. So I start inventing an apocalyptic future in which there is no coffee.
Writers invent stuff as they walk along. A world with no coffee? Some tales are too terrible to tell.
Anyway, there I am...thinking up stories. I don't know what sort of look I have on my face as I think up stories. Let us suppose I take on the clichéd appearance of a murderer. Axe optional.
I have a destination. (No, I don't wander aimlessly unless I have to. Sometimes you must. In print, as well as outside.)
My destination almost coincides with that of the next character in this tale.
From a side-street, ahead, a woman appears. She doesn't look back. Turns away. Heads into the distance. Our walking-pace is cloned. I neither gain nor lose pace with this woman.
All is well until she turns her head. We move in the same general direction. I know what is coming next. In broad daylight, in the middle of town, with only the two of us on the street, I know she is going to turn her head again a few seconds later.
She does this. To see if I've suddenly increased my pace. I haven't scrambled to cover thirty feet in the meantime. We continue walking. She tries to speed up without looking like she's doing so. Ice is a problem.
A few seconds later, she turns her head again. Yes, I am still here on this main thoroughfare, proceeding further into town. We are both headed there. And this is the way forward. What to do?
At a distance from her, in full daylight, I make her nervous. Now I am nervous. I don't want to make that woman nervous. There are no vehicles going by.
Who is to say a stranger in a car would be helpful?
Everyone left town overnight or something. There are two figures moving over the frosty landscape. Both are nervous.
She doesn't feel the need to reach for her phone. So, not that scared. This is irrelevant. The amount of fear doesn't matter. Fear exists. She looks back nervously, when she didn't look back at first.
From her viewpoint, I was suddenly there. Yes, straight out of a slasher movie. One of those bullshit scenes with no villain, a change of camera, and an instant villain where no villain had a right to be - contrary to the laws of physics, plotting, and believability.
I'm the kind of guy who looks for another street.
If I turn down a side-street, she'll see that I am gone. And she won't be so nervous.
Am I really that menacing? Doesn't matter how non-menacing I think I am. No. That is of no importance at all. I have the presence of mind to see that a woman is upset, and I try to do something about this situation that does not involve running up to tell her all is well.
There's a side-street. She doesn't take it. I turn aside. We never see each other again. I believe she is relieved.
Clarification? I've lost track of the number of times I've had to hunt out side-streets, to put women at ease.
So. Guys. Authors, because this is a writing blog. But hey, fuck it, guys generally. Author guys. Do you not think of taking a side-street? Are you the creepy sexist dick who feels it's right to run up and breathe down that woman's neck?
If you are that creepy, you aren't going to think about changing your attitude just by reading this post. Maybe a few days in jail will force a sense of perspective on you.
I talk to women writers. There is banter. Comedy. Innuendo. If the ladies are okay providing risqué wordplay just to keep the brains going, then it's okay. And if they aren't, that's okay.
When I made a breakthrough with the way I operated as a writer, one author sent me her audio rendition of inappropriate text messages culled from a website.
This was downright rude. And absolutely fucking hilarious. The words Godzilla and vagina featured prominently. She knew my sense of humour could stand it all as she read rude items to me. We were okay about stuff like that. Some would be shocked. We laughed like drains.
Those of you who follow my Twitter feed will know the innuendo cops are never far away. I hang with a crowd of rough coves and...lady coves...
Yes, I took a break to determine whether or not a female version of cove exists. Apparently, it does. Though readers of a sensitive nature, not used to banter, comedy, innuendo, and smut, should look away from the shadier definitions on the internet.
I hang with a bawdy crowd, and we all swing from the same gibbet. My author page on Amazon carries my Twitter feed. Banter is public.
That's a point worth remembering. I engage in a lot of public banter. And some private banter. Banter is banter. What of imagery?
People who go on the internet to share the nudie pictures in a consensual way...I'm not knocking those people. Whatever floats your boat and doesn't point to jail.
Now, after leading you round the houses by taking various side-streets, we reach the problem.
I'm no different behind the scenes. True story. I swear in my fiction. And I swear on my blog. I swear on Twitter. And I swear in e-mails. Like this...
Just like that. I'm no different.
But there are authors out there who are different away from the public view. They are men. I can't say they are married men, but I suspect this is the case more often than not.
And they see lady authors as up for grabs. So it starts out with hi. And there's banter. Then there's an offer to take the conversation private.
I've taken Twitter conversations private with good reason. The Direct Message on Twitter is not a great feature. It is clogged with automated messages sent by authors asking me to like Facebook pages.
But, occasionally, it serves a purpose.
Took another break to apply arithmetic to the narrative. Of my Twitter output, just under 0.5% went into Direct Message format. Reading over those messages, half of them weren't truly essential. Sometimes people started the DM chain off, and sometimes I had to send a message out.
Killing off the inessential, we're talking...below 0.25% of my Twitter output = worthwhile as private. To me, Twitter is public. Use the public side of it. Don't automate your Twitter to DM me with a please like my book plea. I'll automatically not care at all.
In the case of the creepy sexist dick author, the Twitter DM is an invitation to go out by the pool for a drink. Oh, and once you are there, well, hell, the pool doubles as a jacuzzi. And it's a private party, but you knew that when you dipped your toe in.
Yes, the spider tells the fly that the fly is colluding. This is not consensual. It is a story told by the spider. After dinner.
So all talk of writing, plotting, structure, form, and art, suddenly turns to requests for nude selfies. Or offers of same. Alternatively, blatant posting of same without offer.
What the fuck?!
I don't get this. In two senses. I don't get this sort of stuff in my in-box. Mostly, I receive urgent pleas from African princesses who are all suspiciously-based in Russian-themed tax-havens.
If only I'd help them liberate funds from Swiss banking hell, blah de blah de blah.
In the other sense, I don't get this. If I want to talk to an author about writing and decide to take the conversation private, then, gasp, shock, horror, I talk about the writing. And I do that via lengthy e-mail to get into a subject.
Some of my writing contacts endure audio discussion, recorded on primitive equipment and e-mailed out as attachments. Two colleagues have talked to me on the phone. If you call Skype that.
Writers contact writers. About writing. On this blog, I am a grumpy curmudgeonly snarling grouch of a writer. My writer contacts called me out on this, and told me I was helpful and not at all evil. Must work on that evil persona. Building a DEATH STAR takes ages.
Fucking bullshit goes on in all shoddy walks of life. But, as this is a writing blog, I'm covering some of the authorial experiences I heard about.
Creepy sexist dick author guys, married, divorced, whatever. This goes out to you. Offering help with a manuscript is not done in exchange for topless photos of female writers.
And asking for help with your manuscript doesn't go with a close-up shot of your dick attached to the message.
I've written about cyberstalking before. Author Zelda Wasser shared her saga with the world. HERE'S A BLOG POST ABOUT THAT.
Writers have spoken to me about lame cyberstalking. Also, far creepier stuff. Cyberbullying. The shit that goes on behind the scenes. I offer no in-depth analysis in a mere blog post.
All I can say is screen-capture is your friend. If it happens to you, capture an image of it. Also, this. E-mail leaves a trail. And this. Evidence is useful when you go public.
If you feel the law was broken, seek legal advice in your jurisdiction. And if the perpetrator acted in a different jurisdiction, see what the law is like there. That gives you two bites out of the apple. Call the cops.
Screen-capture is your friend. The PrtScrn button on your keyboard takes a shot you can save in any image editing software package, even though it might seem a bit fiddly. (When I first used the feature, I didn't know where I was capturing the image to. Things have improved, since those days.)
Or use a digital camera, if you are stuck. Wave your phone at the screen as though by magic, and record the evidence.
Be careful using any camera that has GPS built in. Disable that stuff so no one can tell the exact location where you shot the picture. It's sad that an anti-stalking tactic could be put to stalking use. Read up on your equipment, and take countermeasures.
Whether that evidence is of cyberstalking or bullying or creeping, get evidence.
Do something about it. And don't be put off by a supposedly big-name author creeping you out. Google ASIMOV GROPING.
What the fuck, Isaac?!
I suppose this sort of behaviour was always going to come from an author whose Foundation Trilogy was about conquering space by offering beleaguered women superior kitchen gadgets. (No, really.)
There's an unwritten blog post sitting in my archive with the title OVERLY-LITIGIOUS OLD GROPER HARLAN ELLISON IS DEAD. Ellison is known for stepping in to defend artist Colleen Doran from a stalker.
If you Googled ASIMOV GROPING, you were almost certainly directed to an item on Harlan Ellison's groping of colleague Connie Willis at the 2006 World Science Fiction Convention.
Unedifying footage of the incident remains on the internet on the edge of forever.
Writing stories people want to read...doesn't give an author a groping pass - didn't back in the day, doesn't now, and won't ever. Asimov fans, feel free to enjoy his stories. With a sour taste in your mouths at all the free feels he copped. And, by the way, they weren't free. The expense, concerning groped fans and their privacy, was high.
Same goes for Ellison. Ellison's assisting Colleen Doran didn't give the self-proclaimed old fart a pass to groping Connie Willis later.
Authors no longer need haunt conventions to "connect" with colleagues/fans in a creepy way. The internet is all over that action, and we shouldn't be surprised. But we can be better than that. Can. Should. Must.
So. Let's have a creepy sexist dick author test.
The real test is not to be one. Don't offer manuscript advice in exchange for topless photos. Slipping a band of gold off your finger to talk to women on the internet...that's just low. If you can prove you are talking to actual women.
Sting in the zinger and a twist too far for the creepy sexist dick author? How. Difficult. Is. It. To. Just. Not. Be. A. Perv?
After writing this up, I talked it over with an author who was on the receiving end of that sort of bullshit. She described her run-in with a writer who was so vain he really did think that song was about him.
(Hit YouTube for Carly Simon songs.)
She said there'll be guys reading this blog post who don't think this rant is about them.
(Seriously. Carly Simon. YouTube. I won't provide a link. Discover it for yourself if you've never heard the song.)
So is there a wide point worth making? One that isn't lost in the broadness of the internet? If someone does wrong behind closed doors and you have the evidence, then you have the power.
Do not feel powerless.
I get paranoid when some of the higher-end fraudsters come after me with slightly more sophisticated levels of bullshit. So I worry, and feel there's a loss of power. But it isn't actual loss of power. They haven't sucked my bank account into the sewers.
Same thing goes with cyberstalking/bullying. When attacked in that way, be powerful and not powerless. Gather evidence. Speak out. And others will speak out too.
No one should be cyberbullied. If you are, you shouldn't be cyberbullied longer than it takes to walk away from the internet and boil a kettle for a hot drink.
Don't let it drag on longer than it takes to make coffee. Okay. A bit longer. Let it drag on long enough to screen-grab evidence, copy files, check the law, and call the authorities.
Authors are not here to be hit on for nude selfies, for fuck's sake. Value the writing and you value the writer as a writer. It's a shame I feel I have to say that to OTHER writers.
I have nothing profound to finish on - I just want to go and write stories. First, I'll rescue a pizza from the oven and down some coffee.
Rant over? Of course not. This rant will still be relevant a long time from now. A damning indictment of the state of things. For fear of damning further, I'll refrain from putting an exact label on what a long time from now means.
In the interest of something or other, I'll add...there may well be women out there who engage in this creepy sexist dick author behaviour. If so, they don't get a groping pass or an internet groping pass either.
But even the dogs in the street know this post is about men.