Feminism Politics

Getting Georgian England Wrong

Cracked's caption: "Right after the artist was finished, this thing went full-on orgy." What's actually happening: those officers are going to march out at 3 a.m. to meet Napoleon's army. (WikiMedia)
Henry O’Neil’s “Before Waterloo,” depicting British officers at a ball given by the Duchess of Richmond. They’ve just gotten the news they’ll be marching out at 3 that morning to face Napoleon’s army. Cracked’s caption: “Right after the artist was finished, this thing went full-on orgy.” ROFL, Cracked, ROFL! (WikiMedia)

My impression of was that it provides accurate information in a humorous way, but I was not amused by the over-simplifications in a recent post on sexual mores during England’s Georgian period. Yes, there was a lot more sex going on than in your typical Jane Austen novel, but the article implies that this was an equal-opportunity sexual liberation, which it emphatically was not. Here’s a sample (and you’re right if you guessed that the part that got me was where the author described Jane Austen as “a sexually repressed spinster who almost never left her hometown, so what did she know?”):

News Politics

Michigan: Time to Pass the Vulnerable Roadway User Act

UPDATE 4/29/15: According to the Lansing State Journal, Mitzi Nelson today pleaded “no contest” to the misdemeanor charge of reckless driving resulting in the death of bicyclist Jill Byelich in September 2014. Her sentence could include up to one year of jail time.


This one hits close to home – fifteen miles from home, to be exact. From the Lansing State Journal:

Jill Byelich, 35, was struck by a car and killed Tuesday night while riding her bike on West Howe Road, between Francis and South Forest Hill roads. Jill Byelich was riding east when she was struck by an eastbound car driven by a 23-year-old woman who lives nearby, Kangas said. Byelich was taken to Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, where she was pronounced dead.

Byelich leaves behind her husband, Jordan, and two small children. It’s a senseless tragedy, rendered more senseless by the fact that Byelich seemed to be doing everything right: she was wearing a helmet and reflective vest and typically used front and back lights. She was on a flat, straight, low-volume road with good daylight visibility at the time the vehicle hit her.

On Writing Politics

Jailed for Fiction



Update 9/3: And the other shoe has dropped. I should have known better than to trust a story based on reporting from local TV stations. Thanks, WBOC, “Delmarva’s Fake News Leader”! Turns out McLaw’s dismissal had little or nothing to do with his books, and more to do with a letter he wrote with suicidal undertones and a model of the school he was building in his back yard, according to the Baltimore Sun. Jeffrey Goldberg also has an excellent update at the link below.


Patrick McLaw, a teacher in Maryland, has been “disappeared” after writing a novel set far in the future detailing “the largest school shooting in history.” He’s been put on leave by his school district, and ordered into an “emergency medical evaluation.” No one knows where he is, but authorities say he’s no longer on the East Coast Eastern Shore of Maryland (apparently a different place than the “East Coast”).

More from Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic Monthly:

It is somewhat amazing that local news reports on this case don’t make clear whether McLaw is under arrest, and if so, on what charge. It is equally astonishing that the reporters on this story don’t seem to have used the words “First Amendment” in their questioning of law-enforcement officials, and also astonishing they don’t question the Soviet-sounding practice of ordering an apparently sane person who has been deemed unacceptable by state authorities to undergo a psychological evaluation.

It would be useful to know if McLaw is under investigation for behavior other than writing two novels—and perhaps he will be shown to be a miscreant of some sort—but so far, there is no indication that he is guilty of anything other than having an imagination, although on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, as news reports make clear, his imagination is considered an active threat.

What’s next? William Gibson jailed for potential cyber warfare? Stephen King charged with possible random acts of spooky mayhem? George R.R. Martin sent to the dungeons for imagining rape, murder, and magical assassination? A posthumous prosecution of David Foster Wallace for possible drug use and writerly hubris? The penitentiary for E.L. James for numerous assaults on the English language? (Now there’s one I’d like to see.)

Oh, wait, unlike Patrick McLaw, none of these writers is black. Seems writing while black is as dangerous as traveling while black. I wonder why the Tea Party isn’t starting a revolution over these gross abuses of governmental authority?


The Last of Us, Feminism, and Misogyny

Just finished The Last of Us, the most character-driven video game I’ve ever played. Both the main game and, even more so, the DLC left me feeling not only emotionally involved but also shattered. It’s not just a game, it’s an interactive story.

The Last of Us is also one of the most feminist and LGBTQ-friendly games out there (at least according to reports — what do I know, since I play so few of these things?).

Warning: Spoilers below. Also, a little update at the end.

Promo poster for The Last of Us

On Writing Politics Song of Deirdre

Skyrim and the Possibility of Peace in a Violent World

Warning: this post contains spoilers for both the game of Skyrim and my novelization of that game, The Song of Deirdre. Also, it’s probably a lot of abstract drivel. To avoid that, just go read the novel. It’s free, after all, and several people tell me it’s not drivel.

screenshot of a Nord.
Just another Nord of Skyrim (Screenshot from Bethesda)

One of the great things about Skyrim is the impressive number of ways you can choose to play it. It’s an open world, so you pick which quests to follow, or none at all. In the opening scene, you create the character you will play throughout the game, choosing from two genders and ten races. You can marry either available gender and any of the ten races,¹ choosing from among the game’s eligible marriage partners.

photo of a Dunmer woman
A Dunmer woman

This means you can play as a hulking Nord who runs around bashing everything with his hammer, takes on the mantle of the Dragonborn, prevents the end of the world, and then comes home to wear the Amulet of Mara (propose marriage) to his Altmer (High Elf) boyfriend. Or you can play as a dual-wielding Dunmer (Dark Elf) thief who doesn’t want to get herself involved in the impending civil war and doesn’t believe the dragon-god Alduin will destroy all of Mundus. No, you just want to sneak around pickpocketing and grabbing whatever wealth you can, and then spend it on a particular Orc you have your eye on.

Here’s another intriguing option: to play the game as a pacifist. Several players have recorded their peace-making efforts on video, and the Wall Street Journal even ran a piece on it. For some players, this was just an “I can beat the game with one hand tied behind my back” kind of trick. For others, it was a philosophical and ethical approach to the game. With all the talk of video games either promoting violence or offering a safe release for violent instincts, this approach offered a third way: to pursue the possibilities of peace in what at first seems a typically bloody world based on medieval Europe.