After Bowie

It was Sunday morning around 1978 or so and everyone’s weekend was decomposing in the cigarette stink of other peoples’ basements. But Danny, still wearing mascara and glitter, wandered, not quite ready for square Monday morning although it crouched in curtained windows and closed shop doors, lurked at each sterile street corner. Guarding the status-quiet like a dull-eyed concrete dog, Sunday was Cerberus of Normal’s return.

Danny knew what it was to be disappointed by your own ugliness, and just how destructive it was to disbelieve in your own beauty. But the brutal sameness of street after street – that irresistible conformity was the gravity well toward which each weekend plunged. Its inevitability demanded doubt in one’s self, just as its return proclaimed the rule of sameness: sack lunches and school haircuts and JV sports, station-wagons and Sunday afternoon barbecues and especially the message : no weirdoes allowed.

But during the week there was always a chance you’d overhear a snatch of boogie on a passing transistor radio or see, on Sunday morning, a closed record store window with a scrap of torn poster in one corner. There were always affirmations of the weird: subtle chimeras waiting to rise like night-blooms among the everyday. Such pop culture clues to our identity never lasted long before being painted over or torn down, which just made them all the more precious.

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Tally

2015 was by far my most successful year to date as a writer. Since my first pro sale in 2009 I have pursued two seemingly contradictory goals. The first is to prioritize creating work that I feel speaks to some universal or emotional truth above creating work for the express purpose of making money. The second is to make money. In 2015, I achieved both.

I am fortunate in this regard as I have always been physically fit, employable and more than willing to work hard. I’ve never had a problem finding and holding down blue collar jobs suited to feeding my art both financially and in terms of subject matter. This has left me free to follow my muse at will. In this, I consider myself very fortunate. I suppose I could, in the interest of making money from home, always write ad copy or technical manuals, click-bait or porn – all honorable pursuits. But for me being an artist is as much a journey of personal and global exploration as it is a chosen career path. Balance is key. Where I once resented having to leave the keyboard to venture out into the world, I now see the acts of writing and holding down a day job as two sides of the same coin. The day-job feeds the art. And in the absence of a family to support, the art gives me a reason to get up and go to work in the morning.

George Orwell once wrote:

Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.

In my case, there has never been any shortage of demons (I have hinted and, in some cases, written openly about these demons elsewhere.) The trick has been to tame them to the point at which, broken and muzzled, they can be led into the barn and saddled for the ride to hounds. Suffice it to say that, in 2015, the hunt led me to publish two novels (KEZZIE OF BABYLON and THE BOOK OF ASHES), one novella (GAVIN’S WAR) and two pieces of short fiction, one of which was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream to produce an original James Bond tale (“Daedelus” which appears in ChiZine’s LICENCE EXPIRED: THE UNAUTHORIZED JAMES BOND, a great collection I am told, for I have yet to receive my copy). In addition to this, I also produced four guest blogs for some wonderful colleagues: Cat Rambo, Sean Smith and Dave Wilbanks.

The money? The money was pretty good this year. Best it’s ever been. But the real payoff has been my satisfaction with the quality of the work, the professional connections I have made along the way (publishers, editors and fellow writers) as well as my ongoing and deepening connection with my readers. I am blessed with a small but fiercely loyal readership, many of whom have reached out to me on social media to become valued friends. It is to them that I renew my pledge never to produce anything but my best. They deserve nothing less.

I deserve nothing less.

That is a great deal accomplished for one year. I embark upon 2016 with a raft of short fiction already under consideration by magazine editors and a new novel on the rails. Entitled AT THE CROSSROADS OF MADNESS, it is a Lovecraftian tale featuring none other than famed bluesman Robert Johnson as protagonist. This has led me to read numerous books and essays about Johnson, reconnect with my love of the blues (both listening and playing) and explore those regions of my psyche where the bleaker demons dwell. To make things even more exciting, I can report that several publishers have already approached me requesting to see the finished manuscript. I consider this a great compliment. I am both humbled and grateful.

I imagine 2016 as a vast and fertile plain surveyed from a hilltop where I wait at the head of a small but loyal band of cavalry. In the silence before battle, I hear the creak of saddles, the clink of weapons, the fluttering of standards. They say battles are won or lost before they even begin. In both the art of war and the war of art I can say, with absolute certainty, that I am ready to lead the charge.

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Of refugees and Christmas

While teaching at a school run by Mexican nuns, I learned about a Spanish Christmas tradition unknown to most Canadians. It is called Las Posadas.

In Spanish-speaking countries around the world, Catholics commemorate the pilgrimage of Mary and Joseph (the term ‘posadas’ means ‘lodgings’ in English). We all know the story: the couple are repeatedly turned away before finding shelter in a stable, wherein the Prince of Peace is born. In imitation of this for Las Posadas, a young male and female are chosen to play the roles of Mary and Joseph and, dressed in costume, lead a procession of singing celebrants from door to door. In some countries the party is invited inside to pray at a nativity shrine. In others, the homeowner is required to sing a song in response to the procession. Regardless of how each of the Posadas is enacted, the observance itself is a combination Christmas pageant, caroling session and block party.

In the US/Mexico border city of Nogales where I lived and worked, the ceremony is conducted with a deep awareness of its political resonance. Nogales, a crossing for migrant workers and refugees, is a flashpoint where those leaving the Third World encounter the threshing machinery of the First: Homeland Security, state and local police and the armed goons of the Minuteman militia. In contrast to those visiting Mexico, my students faced a phalanx of armed security crossing the border to attend school each morning. Assuming they made it past the machine-guns and drug-sniffing dogs, there was always a chance they could be detained and searched. (“La migra,” was a common excuse I heard from late-comers to first period.) I learned, and quickly, that the wall we dismissed with an indifferent shrug is viewed as a towering insult by the Mexicans who dwell in its shadow.

And so each Christmas in Nogales Las Posadas is enacted. Because Nogales is a desert town, suitable costumes and a burro for the couple are easily procured. And, given the deeply-veined Catholicism that runs through the place, there is never any lack of participants. The pilgrimage lasts many hours, swelling as it progresses and ending, by tradition, at the US/Mexico border crossing. There, the songs are played and the ritual question is asked: “Do you have any room for the night?” The US border guards, of course, say nothing. And in a small act of protest, a crowd of candle-bearing Mexican Catholics stands and awaits an answer, staring at the border guards for a while before dispersing. The symbolism is unmistakable. No room at the inn.

Yesterday night, the first planeload of Syrian refugees arrived in Canada. Our Prime Minister was on hand to personally greet them. Upon arrival, each refugee received an immigrant visa, appropriate government ID, a health insurance card, winter clothing and a place to stay. The children in the group received toys. Translators, social workers, counselors and volunteers were on hand to help these new Canadians take the first steps of what will be a lengthy and frustrating transition. They will face difficulties. Our customs and traditions will seem strange to them. Winter will be an unfamiliar force to be reckoned with. And not everyone will welcome them. But they made it safely. And more are coming.

We would do well to remember what these people have endured. Their land was occupied by an oppressive military force which imposed its rule over the citizens before terrorizing, murdering and crucifying its way across the region. Treated as conquered subjects, these refugees were forced to flee across the desert where, after days and nights of walking, they were rejected by city after city. When their trek brought them to border walls, they asked the ritual question and were turned away. No doubt, many remain on the road tonight, sleeping outdoors or in barns and stables. Perhaps a few have even placed their infant children in mangers.

In doffing his coat and tie and handing out winter clothing along with the rest of the volunteers at Pearson Airport yesterday, Prime Minister Trudeau did more than just lead by example. With his resolve on this issue, he has returned something to Canada that was conspicuously absent during the Harper years. It is something difficult to characterize, but terms like ‘heart’ or ‘compassion’ – a sense of being connected to a broader humanity or simply a beacon of light – apply. But whatever you call it,  it’s shining tonight as an example to the rest of the world.

In Canada, we have room at the inn.

Happy holidays and welcome, my fellow Canadians.

 

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THE ROAD TO ASHES 4: Going Off-Grid

I began writing THE BOOK OF ASHES in May 2013. This coincided with a personal decision to withdraw from society as much as was practically possible for a period of time. Initially, I believed the withdrawal would be temporary . For while I have always admired the monastic life, I have never been able to conform to either its religious or aesthetic strictures. My mind delights in spontaneity, and I am too spiritually omnivorous for holy orders. And yet three years and two books later, a discipline of its own has emerged from this existence and I remain committed to it. If anything, my isolation will deepen.

I better explain.

I have a book coming out next week – an important one for me. Although I don’t begrudge it of others, I never did the whole “professional-workshop-rub-elbows-with-authors-and-editors-of-note” thing. I have noticed how the publication of a workshop grad’s novel is treated as an event – a celebration of mutual import. Resonant words like “launch” are invoked (both for book and career). Authors receive exposure by association with more famous colleagues, and recognition from peers, who take time to read and discuss the book seriously.

My career, by contrast, was not launched with the care of a newly-minted cruiser but rather tossed off the back of a truck by a shady hitch-hiker in a hurry, someone staying low to the ground and moving fast. That’s just how things worked out for me. Travel and opportunities for professional networking are limited for me now. I miss that camaraderie and, while I do have peers who support me, there’s no sense of being part of a class – a group that shared the experience of developing to this point. Unfortunate, as this would be my coming-out novel, the one that marks a new stage of growth. That acknowledgement is likely to remain tacit, which saddens me as this is the book I would have my peers read and take to heart. And so I am reminded again that fate and circumstance have offered me a different road.

The apocalypse in THE BOOK OF ASHES is entirely a personal one. As my friend Gareth Woods noted in his blurb: “The end of the world can have very human beginnings.” Fascinated as many of us are with “the end of the world” we are too often deaf to the cries of those whose worlds are ending all around us. The brutal eruption of immigrants on Europe’s doorstep, recent violence in Paris and San Bernardino and the current apocalyptic tone of the American elections all serve to remind: worlds end. Sometimes at our hands, sometimes not. Mine ended in May of 2013 and I eulogized it in novel form. Now the trumpet sounds again.

As this world descends into chaos, I have begun outlining my next writing project with the leisure of a man not under contract. Cue cards, crowded with penciled notes, dominate my kitchen counter. I read and watch documentaries like I have plenty of time on my hands. In another week or so, my Christmas present to myself will arrive – a manual typewriter identical to the one I used in college.

Deeper roads beckon that I must follow.

One world ends. Another begins.

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THE ROAD TO ASHES 3: Excerpt (Dark Winter)

The attacks are coming more frequently now that the cast-iron sky has notched down and snow swirls on dark, time-suspended afternoons. The flakes melt before hitting the ground, sparse and intermittent, as though winter itself were ambivalent and unwilling to commit.

Serpent Cult members dress in bark and brown-colored ghillie suits and stake out the hillside above the trailer park, sniper-scopes trained on my doors and windows. By varying my schedule and altering my route to and fro, I never miss a day of work. Taking these chances comes at a price. I am shot once – a superficial graze, more of a cut, really – on my right thigh. A local vet sows me up. Doctors are scarce since the Unrest.

There are few cops remaining on the island. Gangs, including the small-town ones we have here, vie for control of what’s left. Entire sectors of Vancouver Island are now completely without power, without any kind of civil infrastructure. The administrators and judges and politicians fled those areas long ago. The military now keeps order in Victoria. TV and radio traffic is limited to a few robust channels, and their broadcasts are sporadic at best, mostly civil defense bulletins and news programs, although I did get to watch Casablanca the other night – a rare treat. The Internet vanished last year in a hissing spray of electromagnetic static. The government stopped collecting income tax a few months later. They say society will collapse any day now.

I’m getting ahead of myself.

 # # #

The Domino Effect: push one over and it tilts into the next, causing a cascade. Shit flows downhill, that’s the first rule of plumbing. But dominos can cascade upward. Disrupt the lowest levels of society hard enough and the entire structure teeters like a skyscraper in an earthquake.

That is the effect of the Serpent Cult’s war on street crime. The shake-up of petty criminals is soon felt at the upper levels of society where the distinction between crime and business blurs to grey. With top-tier crooks feeling the pinch, it doesn’t long before the Triads and Russian mobs are sending their wolves to hunt down Cult members. A full-blown war erupts in the streets of Canada’s major cities.

There is an abrupt spike in apprehensions for Lou and I at ShopMaxx™, yet I have other problems, not least of which is the formation of an entire religion dedicated to destroying me. Turning The Book of Ashes over to police and requesting protection would seem the obvious step. But that would draw others into what is essentially a private war between Johanna’s proxies and myself. My attendance at judo becomes sporadic as the class fills with young women. I never invite any of them to practice with me, yet sense them gathering mat-side with hooded, accusatory glares. The Serpent Cult’s world, encroaching on and enclosing mine.

Rendering this all the more surreal is my resumption of contact with Johanna.

 # # #

I’ve grown so accustomed to enduring this conflict covertly and alone that I now treat it as a dark and filthy secret, like a teenage boy masturbating in his room with the door closed. The crushing weight of it isolates me from everyone – Karen, Sensei Roger. Everyone. Except for Lou.

Profane, bigoted, reflexively violent, yet tough and cunning Lou. Loyal to the core. After one particularly horrible evening I spend drinking and plotting how to recapture my world from the Serpent Cult, I stagger into work bleary-eyed and hungover. Lou is hungover, too. I can tell whenever he uses too much aftershave. He sports a toothpick and sits leafing through a magazine as I slump into a chair beside him in the LP office.

“Wanna tell me about it?” he asks without looking up, gnawing his toothpick to splinters.

“Rough night. I killed two bottles of wine.”

“I don’t mean the drinking, son.” He glares at me, age-bleared eyes suddenly diamond-sharp. “I mean whatever secret it is you’ve been keeping from me.”

“It’s noth–”

“Don’t shit me, partner.”

I sigh. Lou is a dinosaur, and three decades in law enforcement has so honed his intuition that attempting to keep secrets from him is a fool’s chore.

Haltingly, quietly, I unburden myself of the terrible secret I have hauled around for the past decade.

# # #

“Better tie down your pack,” Lou says. “Those pitons make onefuckuva racket clanking around.”

Bare tree limbs grasp the sky above the narrow road beside the field leading to the base of the hill. A slush of soiled leaves and gravel hushes underfoot. The hill curves skyward, dropping on the other side to become the slope above my trailer park.

“Ready to roll, partner?” Lou chuckles. “This isn’t ShopMaxx™.”

“No worries,” I say breezily. I am enjoying Lou’s high spirits. The old man is in his element, swaddled in a camo jacket, a tattered backpack slung over one shoulder, a Remington dangling from the end of one lanky arm. Three decades in the Northwest Territories will turn any peace officer into a part-time Game Warden, and Lou is a natural. He spends a quarter of each year hunting something, somewhere – it doesn’t matter what or where. If it walks or crawls or flies or stampedes, chances are Lou has probably blown it to bits at some point in his career.

“This looks promising.” My partner kneels by the side of the road where a foot-wide section of the nap has frayed. “See this? A deer path. It’ll follow the curve of the hill. That’s what the deers do – take the long way ‘round. The farther they range, the better they eat, see? We’ll follow their example.”

“And eat well?”

“I suppose. But – heh.” Lou chuckles and shifts the pack-strap on his shoulder. “We sure won’t be eating what we hunt.”

“The game here is a little more treacherous than elk,” I offer, falling in behind him.

“Vietnam taught me that hunting is hunting,” he says. “The game never changes.”

Lou’s eyes narrow and I can tell he is suddenly nineteen again, one of 30,000 Canadian volunteers who jumped onboard the American war effort in exchange for $5,000 down and ten bucks a day danger pay. He says nothing for a long spell, immersed in his grim memories. I take the time to regulate my breathing, synch up with my environment, study the features of the weapon Lou has loaned me: a Winchester lever-action rifle, a replica of the Rifle that Won the West only a later model, grooved for scope mounting. A weapon capable of bringing down small deer, which is more than suitable for the game we have in mind.

The deer path twists away from the road, winding into the tall grass, visible where the reeds are smashed flat. Lou pauses to study the foliage. With a flick of his hand he motions me forward and waves the barrel of his gun over a section of grass charred where someone stubbed out a pair of cigarettes.

“That’s poor trail-craft,” he murmurs. “Might as well put up a neon billboard saying here we fucking are come and get us.”

“Is this where you bend down, Tonto-like, and sniff at the butts and tell me what brand they smoke?”

“Players.” Lou blinks. “You can still read the lettering.”

We resume our trudge toward the hill.

“Bend down and sniff,” he grumbles. “Fucking little smart-ass.”

The truck, now hidden by distance and tall grass, is an indistinct shape among shadows. We have been walking for over an hour and yet the foot of the hill is no closer. Hidden by clouds, the sun has passed its zenith. Mid-afternoon. The ground slopes upward toward the base of the rise. Lou calls it a “mountain”, but only because he’s never been to New Mexico. Pines hem the foot of the hill. We progress through the bush, gaining elevation as the somber afternoon tightens down. A cold wind. Through stark limbs I see bunched clouds darkening almost to black. Snow swirls on the sluggish breeze. Lou crests the ridge and pauses, scanning the slope below.

“There…”

Lou’s voice is the barest murmur. He doesn’t even point; I follow his gaze to the cairn of piled rocks visible five hundred yards down-slope from our position. At first I see nothing. Then a brown smudge shifts and I catch glimpses: a shifting knee, a flash of blonde, a jacket cuff enclosing a wrist that tapers to a forefinger tensed around a rifle trigger. A Serpent Cult sniper, awaiting a glimpse of me.

Lou backs off and I follow him. We use the ridge as cover and circle around to a better vantage. Lou hauls a pair of Zeiss field-glasses from a side pocket of his pack and hands them to me before we conceal our packs in a tangle of limbs at the base of a fir tree.

“We’ll blind up behind those boulders there.” He points. “I want you scan the entire slope from left to right and back again. Using that first emplacement as a point of reference, find any other snipers.”

We take up position behind a tangle of saw-toothed rock jutting skyward – broken teeth newly heaved from the mouth of earth. Lou presses his right shoulder to a smooth section, rifle held upright, muzzle high, as I kneel and glass the slope. Torn twigs and moldering leaves explode into sudden detail. The dinky-toy trailer park unpacks itself into distinct shapes and colors. My neighbor Wayne appears, winding his way between vehicles to put out his garbage.

I pan slowly left. The ground slopes upward toward that little grove of stunted oaks, a few with trunks intertwined, lurking beyond the wrecked fence at the edge of the trailer park. More open ground, then a blur of foliage. I move a little faster now, swerving toward the sniper emplacement. Perspectives are clipped and distances skewed by Zeiss wizardry. I overshoot: for a startled instant she fills the lens then is gone. I pan back.

There.

Detail so crisp I can see strands of hair trembling in the watery light that appears for a millisecond before dashing back behind clouds. She is young, the kind of fresh-faced kid you might imagine striding across campus, or goofing with friends on the beach. She should be working her first serious job, paying off her first car, splitting an apartment with another cute girl with whom she shares drunk Friday nights, boyfriends, secrets. Instead she’s dressed in camo and holed up on this hill, waiting to kill me. Because her religion tells her to.

I grit my teeth and pan upslope. There, a quarter-mile beyond and slightly above the first sniper, a second. Black hair, camo jacket, toting a semi-automatic with a scope mounted. Slightly older. Zeroed in on the trailer park.

“Eleven-thirty,” I whisper.

I hear a rustle of fabric and the barest clink of as Lou brings his weapon to bear. Stillness for three seconds, then: “Got her.”

I grip and re-grip the Winchester.

“Take the blonde one,” Lou whispers. “I’ll wait for your shot then take mine.”

The lit circle at the far end of my sniper scope trembles, pans, and swishes. It takes me a second to crawl the half-mile from the tangled oaks to my blonde sniper’s blind. She remains as I left her, glassing downslope toward my door. In the crosshairs I see her breathe. Blink. Reach up and scratch an itch on her forehead. Then drop her hand back to the trigger.

“Put the bullet in her ear,” Lou whispers.

Her ear is enormous in the scope’s wide lens. I line up the cross-hairs. Don’t kill, whispers a voice in my heart. Don’t kill, it’s wrong. I remember all the lessons of my youth, all the teachings of Christianity, of the gentle Wicca that Karen instilled in me. I remember my humanity and all the painful life-lessons in which my kindness was rewarded by contempt. My efforts to remain human, to do the right thing, have brought me here, to this cold slope above my home where I am about to murder a teenage girl.

Murder?

No.

In war, you don’t murder the enemy.

You kill them.

I still my breath. Squeeze off. My scope jumps and swerves. A half-second later, Lou fires. The second shot sounds like an echo of the first. Afterwards, silence probably returns but my ears jangle and buzz from the reports. I bring my bucking rifle back under control and edge the scope around. My sniper lies motionless. From this vantage she looks like she could be asleep. Of course, I know better.

I pan toward Lou’s target, and am slightly shocked at the contrast. Instead of lying “at peace,” the corpse of the dark-haired sniper is a twisted tangle blown back amongst the rocks of her blind, the side of her skull vaporized. A red spray mists the grass in a wide semi-circle around her position.

Metal clinks as Lou lights a cigarette.

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THE ROAD TO ASHES 2: DESTROYER OF WORLDS

From the Holy Koran, this:

“Whosoever kills an innocent person,
it is as though he has killed all of
mankind.” (Koran 5:32)

Cory O’Neal, the protagonist of my forthcoming novel The Book of Ashes, is a teacher and a victim of Make-Believe Rape, a false accusation of sexual misconduct made against him by a student. As usually happens in such cases, the details are ironed out so as to preclude publicity or police involvement. And so the polite world can continue. But the damage to Cory O’Neal is deep and lasting.

His world is destroyed.

We seem to be living in an age of World Destroyers. Consider the currents and counter-currents of radical Islamic terrorism and xenophobic backlash. We live in an age where Canadians say ‘immigrants go home’ and Americans shadow worshippers to the mosque with automatic weapons. Ten short years after the Left decried George Bush as the greatest tyrant in American history, a presidential candidate leads the polls with talk of registering Muslims as Hitler once did Jews. And the press will not say ‘fascism’. And the President will not call it Islamic terror. And meanwhile in Turkey and Syria and Iraq and Afghanistan and downtown Paris, the world burns.

As Joseph Brodsky wrote:

In the towns with funny names,
hit by bullets, caught in flames,
by and large not knowing why,
people die.

Here is wisdom: we become what we do. What is the apocalypse? The apocalypse is what happens when we are so intent on destroying the worlds of others that we neglect our own. Just as a nation that builds its value system on war cannot expect to experience anything but war, so it is axiomatic that those who destroy only bring about more destruction. In ways great and small – in the thunder of bomber payloads and the whisper of rumor, in the massed screams of true believers and the duplicitous smile of an evil child – we have become destroyers of worlds.

If you kill one man, you kill an entire world. And so we are destroying our own.

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THE ROAD TO ASHES 1: MAKE-BELIEVE RAPE

Let’s talk about rape.

Not real rape. Real rape is a deadly serious issue and a topic on which I am vastly underqualified to speak. But there is another form of rape about which I am very qualified to speak, and that is ‘Make-Believe Rape’.

Some of you – mostly women – have already tuned out or stopped reading altogether. Because you think you know where there is going.

You don’t.

Make-believe rape exists, although it is politically incorrect to acknowledge that it does. This is because the politically correct handle big issues like rape by creating a catechism – a creed that they incant whenever certain Unacceptable Ideas appear (much as primitive people incant charms to ward off demons). Make-Believe Rape is such an idea. Because the catechism about rape, soft-peddled by the Socially Just (those Crusaders Against All that is Unsafe and Oppressive) is that rape victims are never believed. That rape is more prevalent than is statistically suggested and that victims of rape who come forward often face harassment, ridicule or worse.

All of which is true.

But it doesn’t cancel out the existence of Make-Believe Rape. And because Make-Believe Rape is one of those Unacceptable Ideas, greeted by incantations and banished with discourse, it has yet to be mined for outrage. It has yet to be scripturalized, catechised or moulded into PC dogma. So it therefore remains truly a frontier of free thought.

Make-Believe Rape is what happens when a woman tries to destroy a man by creating a story. It is a story so disturbing and uncomfortable that no one dares inquire too deeply into it. Instead they suggest, in hushed tones, that the “victim” seek help from the police or other professionals. They commiserate, offer support, take a dim view of the accused and never ever question whether or not the story is true (because that’s just WRONG). And so it is the perfect weapon for a woman out for revenge, use of which against a man – short of legal recourse – guarantees almost no repercussions.

I don’t know what it’s like to be a woman. But I would imagine that sort of unwritten code of comradeship exists among you all. It makes sense that, as an oppressed group, you would band together. Women appear to support and take care of each other – even strangers – in ways that men don’t. One woman can go to another (again, even a stranger) when threatened with violence or sexual assault with a pretty fair assurance her plea will be heard. And a woman who reports a rape can be assured of an instant support network.

Not so survivors of Make-Believe Rape.

Survivors of Make-Believe Rape are men who, for whatever reason, have been falsely accused of committing an act of sexual violence against a woman. They cannot go to other men for comfort or support because males, by their very nature, crave female approval and so are often only too ready to ‘take the woman’s side’ in cases of gossip and scandal. (Comfort from women, of course, is also completely out of the question.) Furthermore, there is a tendency on the part of both sexes to assume that anyone accused of rape is, if not guilty, probably at least partially responsible for bringing the accusation upon himself by some behavior or other. And so suspicion of the accused deepens to the point at which they become isolated and, occasionally, even ostracized.

We ought to be having a cultural discussion about Make-Believe Rape. Not because I think it is a particularly widespread phenomenon but simply because it exists. And because it is an Unacceptable Idea to discuss. The very notion of Unacceptable Ideas must be challenged at every turn. Failure to do so has led to the very public lynchings of certain celebrities. Some have truly been rapists. But not all. And so the question becomes – how do we talk about victims of Make-Believe Rape?

Don’t, whisper the Social Justice Warriors. Because it doesn’t happen often enough to matter.

To which I say: fuck you, Social Justice Warriors.

It happened to me once. And once was enough.

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