That was a ride. First book I’ve been posting as I was writing it in quite some time; others, often NaNos, I started posting concurrently, but got far enough ahead that I was midway through the next book when the ending went up. They were also posted by a helper, so… I at least didn’t feel the same connection to it. But enough of my gas-baggery, onto the many afterwords…
Afterword: On Policing
This has been a strange fucking story to write, and I will cop right now- no pun intended- to being an imperfect messenger for it. I’m white- perhaps apocryphally white passing according to some murmured family lore- and definitely have experienced privilege in my dealings with police. Just earlier this year, I dealt with cops in a circumstance where they showed grace, and a degree of restraint; through my own naivete I put my family in harm’s way, in a way that very well could have had deadly ramifications. It shouldn’t have, mind you. I’m not singling out those cops as the exception, as an example of good cops. They all should act that way, all the time. That the behavior isn’t the norm in all circumstances is frankly more damning than anything I could say. I’ve protested recently, and the cops around here have been polite, and indulgent. Again, this is how it should be, and not just when they’re dealing with a white guy.
When I started this, honestly, I didn’t know where it would go, not the story and not the movement. But now, three months on, I know how it should end. Because we can’t go back to the way that it was, not as a society, not without dipping our hands in buckets of the blood of innocent people of color and saying we’re content as it drips from our fingers. I don’t want that. Cops shouldn’t want that. And I get that there are inherent, systemic issues that we have to deal with. Cultural issues in the ways we train police, in the culture of policing, things that go back to the way that American policing ties in with slave patrols, and America’s original racist sins. I want, I hope, and I wish I could pray for this to be a turning point, for this to be a pivotal moment in our history books we look back on and can say we made a difference. I know we’re not going to solve racism, probably not even solve the problems where race and policing intersect. But this can be the beginning of change. Cops are Americans first. Some just need to be reminded of that. Others may need to stop being cops entirely. And that could be painful, I get that. But not nearly as fucking painful as what we have been doing, as a society, to people of color for generations. It has to stop. We have to stop it. All of us.
Afterword 2: Vote Blue
If you like functioning democracies in which votes actually count, regardless of who casts them, vote blue. If you’re a Republican who still has a soul or at least cares about people who aren’t white Christians, vote blue. If you’re not eager to die in a pandemic most countries have handled with comparative ease, don’t want leadership who refers to Nazis and bigots as “fine people” or are otherwise tired of your kids or grandkids giving you crap at Thanksgiving, vote blue.
If you like voter suppression and intimidation and outright theft, if you’re pro-bigotry and hate- wait, why did you even read this book? I’ve been poking you in the eyes for literally thousands of words now. I did not consent to being part of your sub-dom fantasy, you filthy little maggot (okay, now I’m a little into it). But stop jerking off, stop being a jerk-off, and vote fucking blue. This is it, people, the one for all of the marbles. Either we recognize that our country is on the precipice and pull back, and try to undo the untold damage to our democracy, or we tumble onto history’s ash-pile with Rome and all of the other failed democracies.
Lives depend on it. Rights depend on it. The pursuit of happiness depends on it. Vote blue, or fuck the hell off. And I mean for-fucking-ever. And this goes for you, too, mom.- maybe doubly so, since you still owe me for telling me to leave my disabled wife with no fucking support.
Afterword 3: Maybe the real one possibly, that will be published with the book
Mahmoud was supposed to die. Okay, that’s not true; Mahmoud didn’t exist. Then, when some poor kid got harassed by a bunch of ignorants at his school, he did, but he didn’t quite fit in the story, so I figured I’d kill him at the climax of the first book. Not because I was indifferent, but because I was adapting unused scripts into a novel and he wasn’t in those scripts- plus it made it hurt more, upped the toll of doing the right thing for all of them. And then I had a thought- really, a way to twist the knife- was to let everyone think he was dead, but keep him alive. And in a fucking cage. Now, this was years before we started putting children in cages; I wasn’t looking for a parallel to an unthinkable situation. No, I was just a sadist looking for ways to make some characters hurt; all authors are sadists, by the way. Our livelihood is torturing imaginary people, and finding ways to make it interesting; to be fair, we also love the characters we torture, so it’s also masochistic. Authors are monsters, in case you weren’t aware.
But something happened in the interim. Some of it was four years of soul-crushing misery, watching what I had grown up believing to be good people turn their backs on the suffering of others, usually because they weren’t the same color. My faith in humanity has been shredded these last few years; my belief that the world can be a good place, that our species is worth fighting for, have been tested.
I expected Mahmoud’s return to be an important moment in the story, but I wasn’t prepared for how it made me feel. When I freed Mahmoud, I cried. Like a baby, at times. Singular, masculine tears, at others. Schoolgirl after her first lost love tears another. But I cried for him. Not as a tribute to my own plotting or drafting, but because I’ve spent four years feeling trapped, caged. And, hopefully not getting ahead of myself here, I feel like I’ve been set free, that for the first time in a long time I feel a glimmer of hope. It started as an angry little ember, but, fanning it for sixty chapters, it’s grown as the possibility that we might actually effect change has grown.
Anyone who’s watched me for some time will know my productivity went from fairly crazy to nearly nonexistent the last few years. And maybe I don’t get to go back to the productivity I’ve enjoyed at other points in my career. But hopefully I don’t go back to the complete and utter lockdown, creatively and emotionally, that I’ve experienced off and on the last four years, either. Thank you, to everyone reading, for braving this apocalypse with me. You are not alone in this maelstrom of madness, and we can, and will, get through it together.
Afterword 4: I promise this is the last one for now:
I’m going to keep going. If you’ve been paying attention, there’s a book 1, 2 & 4, but not a 3. I’m going to come back here in a week from Monday and start posting it, I’m thinking probably four days a week, Monday through Thursday. I’m going to use next week to make a dent on the outline, so I’m not flying by the seat of my pants as much as I did during book 4, which hopefully, in combination with a 4 day posting schedule, will mean that I don’t have the same kinds of delays I had with this book. And if I can get enough of a head start, I might even start posting more frequently again. And if that all goes smoothly, I’m still midway through an Old Ventures sequel that could really use a damn ending (and dovetails nicely with book 3, by the way).
For George Floyd. He deserved better than to be a martyr. Collectively, we failed him, and so many others, before and since. All we can do now is try and make sure his death doesn’t become another in a long line that we didn’t give a damn about. Stay angry. Stay loud. Help America become the country it always dreamed it was; help us build the world that George Floyd and so many others deserved but were denied.
Update 4/20/21: With his murderer facing real consequences, we’ve taken a hesitant first step. But White Supremacy in this country is a wall, and it took all of us a year pulling for all we were worth to pull loose one brick. That might sound demoralizing, and today, that wall still stands. But it’s weaker today than yesterday. In time, with work, we can pull the whole damn thing down. Have courage. Have faith. We can see this through.