the last thing i have to say about this election until the next time i have something to say

Starting things out light with one of my favorite commercials, which happens to be for one of my favorite games.

Let’s talk about ‘party lines.’

No one is calling it that, but that’s what everyone means. All those posts you see on facebook and twitter, all those comment sections saying you need to make sure the Democrats win, regardless of the candidate, that you need to ensure the Republicans win, regardless of the candidate.

What people are telling you is to fall in line or shut up.

You better fall in line or you’re given the country to the enemies.

You better fall in line or you’re taking away the rights from ______________.

You better fall in line.

You better fall in line.

I think this is worth thinking about. Worth it for you to think about.

We’ve created sides, built barriers, built vocabularies of hate and separation, carved holes to fill with mines, drawn maps to define enemy and ally territories, and now both sides have come down to this. And they are using the same vocabulary in the same way.

The Republicans, who advocate for what they believe are conservative or traditional values.

The Democrats, who advocate for what they believe are progressive or liberal values.

We’ve created an arbitrary aisle and split the world between left and right. We’ve decided that to disagree is to become the enemy.

To vote for a third party is to assist the enemy, regardless of where you stand in relation to that aisle.

We’re digging ourselves deeper and deeper into an ideological civil war.

The difference is that there are guns in the hands of millions and they’re already acting on these ideologies. The state and citizens are acting ideologically, without regard for humanity.

We have the state murdering citizens and citizens murdering citizens in the name of ideology. We have political officials calling for the annihilation of entire peoples and countries. We have political officials who have called for the execution of US citizens. We throw around words like traitor, patriot, terrorist, and on and on. We imprison journalists, equate the act of journalism with an act of terrorism. We fill our prisons with anyone brown, the foreign, the whistleblowers, the journalists, the poor.

Our presidential candidates are all imperialists who advocate for the destruction of foreign lives. Some more viciously. One who is already a war criminal, who is lauded by other war criminals. Some who promise to be war criminals and commit other crimes against humanity.

When people tell me to fall in line and vote with the party, I hear them asking me to vote for crimes against humanity, for war, for american terrorism, imperialism.

People have made their positions vigorously clear.

In every sentence. Every post. We discuss politics like the Super Bowl.

Anything goes as long as my team wins.

We talk about it like war.

The Other is the enemy and we need to win at any costs.

This destroys my hope in america, already difficult enough to muster.

I want to have hope and I want to believe, but all of this–it’s so utterly depressing.

I used to say that I believe in Americans but not in america, but I don’t know. The distinction is becoming more and more irrelevant.

We lost. All of us. Probably a long time ago. Civil war is everywhere and it’s now. The world is at war everywhere and most of them have the sticky fingers of american imperialism in them. By many estimations, it’s even too late to turn back the effects of the anthropocene, which will only create more conflict and destabilisation. More power vacuums that our imperial nations will fill.

We’re fighting over a future of ash and our response is to make it burn faster so long as we reign over it.

I’d feel pity if I weren’t so depressed and disgusted by the whole affair.

Fall in line.

Do what the party says.

Because this is how we win.

This is how we Make America Great Again.

This is Change You Can Believe In.

This is how Everyday Americans Get A Champion.

This is how we Reignite The Promise Of America.

This is how we get A New American Century.

This is how we Unleash The American Dream.

I absolutely believe you should vote for whoever you believe will improve the world, but all I see is hate. Your belief that you are right is making you an agent of divisiveness, of hate. Your belief that there is nothing in common between you and a liberal or you and a conservative is actively making the world and our country worse.

You are part of the problem.

I’m not especially interested in arguing these points. You can believe whatever you like. You can continue to attack instead of discuss. You can continue to fight instead of find a way to wade through ideology.

Do whatever you like.

But don’t pretend that by ‘winning’ you’re doing anything but increasing tension and aggression. Eventually, this will spill out. It already is. In Ferguson. At Planned Parenthoods across the country. In an Oregon Wildlife Refuge, which, by the way, you actively damaged by mailing them dildos and confetti and whatever else–it’s a wildlife refuge that you flooded with garbage, much of it nonbiodegradeable, so, sure, pat yourself on the back for your great joke and sticking it to those people you hate, but you actively damaged the refuge possibly more than they did–and I hope you feel terrible about that because you absolutely should.

You did a stupid, vile thing to a place you pretended to care about and you managed to sow more hate and separation in the process.

Yes, words do matter, and it’s very appropriate that you’re all using the vocabulary of war. Because you’re fighting a war of your own creation.

But I’m just going to ignore you from now on. Play some videogames. Read good books and try to share those things with others. Give money and support to the causes I believe in. And just try to improve the lives of those around me to the best of my ability for the decades we may have left.

Even if all I can do is make someone smile every once and a while.

Here’s a picture of my dead dog. I miss her very much.

america to korea 008

 

why bernie sanders matters

Wouldn’t it be funny if all I wrote here was, “He doesn’t”?

In all seriousness, I will be writing about Bernie Sanders but before I do I want to qualify some things.

If you want to just read why I think he’s important, I recommend skipping down about halfway.

Why I’m not voting for Sanders

It is very unlikely that I will vote for Bernie Sanders. Or Hillary Clinton. Or anyone in the GOP.

My issues with the GOP are myriad. They actually mostly match my issues with Clinton.

Before I get to Sanders, I think it is worth looking at Clinton with some scrutiny.

I’ve actually been under the impression that she’ll be our next president since about 2013, when I started seeing polls about how much people like her and just random posts around the internet trying to show us how awesome she is. I mean, how often does media focus on former politicians who make millions from speaking fees? Especially media like Buzzfeed.

But I saw these things and thought she would definitely be the next president. Her likeability has always been one of her biggest issues [mostly for gendered reasons], and it seemed like she somehow overcame that, at least with young people.

But I also see her then growing appeal as a sort of historical blindness, or amnesia,maybe. Sure, for the general public, she always seemed unlikeable. And, sure, those are mostly for gendered reasons. But if we set all that aside, there are still so many reasons to be afraid of a Clinton presidency.

Unfortunately, many Sanders supporters are coming out really strong in mostly hysterical ways, and their attacks on Clinton are too often not related to policy. To say that another way, they’re misogynistic attacks.

This is unfortunate for a lot of reasons.

The first, and most obvious, is that Clinton is a human. She doesn’t deserve to be treated like garbage because of her gender or her status as a person with a great deal of fame.

The second is that gendering your attack really says more about you than anyone else. So even if you have an actual and useful critique of Clinton, no one will hear it over the garbage spilling from your mouth.

UPDATE: With regard to this, check out Glenn Greenwald’s recent Intercept article.

The third is that there are serious and worthwhile critiques to throw her way. An easy one is that she considered a brutal dictator a family friend (though at the time, that was a normal thing for politicians to do to Mubarak–Barack Obama also gave a speech a few months before his ousting where he detailed all the many ways Mubarak was a great leader and friend of the US). I mean, you can tell a lot about someone by who they call their friends, yes? For example, she was, until relatively recently, on pretty friendly terms with Donald Trump, who is a longtime supporter of the Clintons. You can take that however you want it, but it is worth noting that Trump has been supporting the Clinton’s organisation for over a decade and Trump funded Clinton’s campaign efforts in the past. And maybe Hillary Clinton and Trump aren’t very close and she’s merely brought along because Bill Clinton and Trump are friends. That’s pretty believable to me too. And really, their connection isn’t important, or at least not as important as her being buddies with a dictator or her more serious crimes against humanity.

Then there are more serious accusations, like her stance against gay marriage, her consistently pro-war record, her support of trade agreements like NAFTA and the TPT, her accusations against Edward Snowden, her belief that the government should be able to spy on its citizens and indefinitely detain them, her continued support of the Patriot Act, and her belief that a single payer health system is bad for america. Another one is her support of Wall St and their more obvious support of her.

And a lot of people will blame her for her husband’s policies and a lot of other people will defend her or absolve her, since she wasn’t the president. But, at the time, she was very much meant to be viewed as a partner in the White House. Which is great! A woman sharing responsibility with her husband at the highest level of government! I mean, that truly is awesome and there’s never been anything like it in america before or since. Unfortunately, much of Bill Clinton’s presidency was pretty repugnant (people have crazy historical amnesia here, especially–if Bill could run for president again, he’d win in a landslide, despite his attack on worker’s rights, welfare, his support of the prison industrial complex, the military industrial complex, and so many other things).

It also should be mentioned more often that she ran an insidiously racist campaign in 2008 against Barack Obama, playing into the Islamophobia of the nation, the Birther arguments, and just general race baiting. These are things that happened, things that Clinton did not even very long ago.

But the thing about all of those things is that many Democrats don’t actually see any of those things as being problematic.

Many Democrats are pro-military, pro trade agreements, anti-Snowden, anti-whistleblower. They likely wouldn’t refer to themselves in such blanketed terms, but that’s kind of whatever.

The Democratic Party is not a progressive party. The Democratic Party has been a Wall St Party for about as long as I’ve been alive. The Democratic Party has been for the War on Terror and the War on Drugs. In fact, there are very few politicians in the US who have consistently voted against war or military aggression or intervention. Fewer who have voted against the prison industrial complex. So it shouldn’t be surprising that Democrats like Clinton. They voted for Obama twice (and maybe should only be blamed for the second one, since most thought he was going to be a peaceful president) and they’ll likely vote for Clinton.

She’s kind of banking (no pun intended) on it.

I will never vote for Clinton. There are a lot of reasons for that, and many of them are outlined above. There are many more examples, especially as we get more specific, but I don’t feel like spending the rest of the day grabbing proof.

I’m not a journalist. If I were, I’d be less lazy about something like that.

But I think Clinton supporters should be honest with themselves. They’re not voting for a progressive. She’s shown herself to be pretty conservative over the many years she’s been in the public. So if you think she’s a progressive, you’re either lying to yourself or being naive.

Of course, there are those who are pointing to her work in the Senate, where she proved to be one of the most progressive Senators. Though, as I said above, our progressive party is pretty conservative. Which is to say, being the most progressive person in a Reagonomics thinktank doesn’t make you a liberal. Voting for war, voting against civil liberties–these things should speak for themselves.

Of course, there are people who are voting for her because she’s a woman.

I don’t mean that to be dismissive either. I understand the impulse. It’s not a bad impulse to have, given how shockingly patriarchal heads of state are and have been throughout history, especially in america. It’s really time for us to accept that women have a real and central role in government. We need more women with high levels of power. Not simply to gender balance, but to balance perspectives. We need people from more diverse backgrounds in the government as well. People of various ethnicities, people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, people who are not trained lawyers.

We need scientists, engineers, economists, teachers, union workers, hourly workers, tradespeople, nurses–the list goes on. When we have a government full of one type of person, it means most voices are left out. And our government is primarily made up of straight white male lawyers. And even if we remove sexuality, gender, and race, we’re still left with a government almost completely made up of lawyers.

There are real reasons for that. Wouldn’t you want people who studied law to be in charge of your laws? On the surface that makes perfect sense. In practice it seems to get you the US Congress. A place where a lot of arguments take place and nothing gets done.

Anyrate, back to Clinton: I think her gender is less important than other people (and, yes, this very well could be because of my own gender, my own privilege–I accept that). Not because it wouldn’t be huge for a woman to become president, but because I don’t see her as a women positive candidate, just like I didn’t see Sarah Palin as a women positive candidate.

Many will probably disagree with me on that point as well. Which is, you know, fine. She has done positive things for women. I mean, simply being at the level of government she’s been at is positive for women. Having her in the Oval Office would be positive for women. Just by virtue of her showing up, she’s showing young women that they can be president. And that is important.

That matters a lot.

But she’s not the person I would put in the White House, if I could choose. She’s not who I would want young women to emulate. And this may be my own bias. Because when I look at her, I see violence and murder. I see the miles of dead she’s made through her policies.

So let’s talk about why I’m not voting for Sanders.

The biggest reason I’m not voting for him for president is the same reason I wouldn’t vote for Clinton or the GOP.

I’m a pacifist. I believe this very strongly, and I believe it very deeply.

I do not believe that there is such a thing as a just war.

I do not believe that there is such a thing as a positive outcome to violence.

Being a US citizen and a pacifist basically sets me up for a lifelong nightmare. Because every day, I am complicit in the wars of my country. Every day, money I pay to the government is used to fund weapons and violence and destruction. Or sanctions which cripple economies and starve millions. Millions of children. These are our crimes. These are my crimes. And our government has thrust them upon us all.

I don’t get a choice in the matter. You, as a US citizen, don’t get a choice in the matter.

Or, we do, but those choices are to stay below the poverty line so we don’t have to pay taxes, or to leave the country and refuse to pay taxes here.

I live in a country that is the biggest terrorist state in the world. The nation that purposefully and with malice of forethought commits crimes against humanity with little to no repercussions, no accountability. I would label every president who has served during the 28 years of my life as war criminals. I would name many more presidents of the past. And even beyond presidents, I would consider Hillary Clinton to be a war criminal along with her husband. She’s not alone in holding that distinction, mind. Henry Kissinger is perhaps the most obvious war criminal in US history who was never president, along with General William Tecumseh Sherman.

Likely I’ve already lost a lot of you reading this, which is fine. I’m what a lot of people would probably describe as a fringe idealist, or something like that. Especially when it comes to my pacifism, which I believe in above all else.

Most will disagree there. They see war as an unfortunate but sometimes necessary tool.

And that’s fine.

I’ve long known my political stances are, to put it one way, idiosyncratic. Or at least unpopular in this home of mine.

And this brings me to Sanders.

Only in america is a man who supports war reluctantly considered a man of peace. No, Sanders is not the anti-war candidate. Weirdly, he’s had to assert openly his willingness to go to war, if it became necessary.

This is a fundamentally strange aspect to US politics. Because Sanders voted against one war, he’s painted as a pacifist, and this is used against him, even as it’s used to praise him. Because he didn’t support the Iraq invasion, he needs to stand up and say loudly that he would support war if it became necessary. He also had to stand up and tick off the wars he voted for!

Sanders, far from being an anti-war candidate, is simply a less aggressive candidate than the rest of the field. Maybe even the least aggressive candidate running for a major US political party in the last thirty years.

This is a deal breaker for me.

If you feel similarly, I recommend you start supporting Jill Stein.

It’s also peculiar that Sanders is considered a radical, because he’s really not the progressive rockstar people are making him out to be.

He intends to fully support Clinton if she beats him in the nomination, which, I think, says something about him. To many, this may just show he’s a good sport or a great loser. To me, and most people who consider themselves socialists, it demonstrates–how to put this?–a lack of commitment to his ideals.

He was also very vocal about his opposition to Ralph Nader back in 2004 (going so far as to vowing to go around the country and campaign against him–not in favor of himself as a candidate, but simply to go around the country and telling people not to vote for Nader), who is maybe the most effective progressive leader to ever run for office. Despite never holding political office, his activism has done more for consumer protection, the environment, and human rights than just about any major US politician of the last 50 years. Maybe ever.

To put it another way, Ralph Nader was the most progressive candidate to run for office in the last century. We may never see a man like him again.

All right, so that was a big preamble.

Why Sanders matters

I am excited. Despite my misgivings about him, he excites me in ways just about no other candidate of my lifetime has excited me.

Even more than Jill Stein, the only presidential candidate who holds my same positions on nearly every topic.

Not so much because of what he says, but because of how he resonates with people.

I’m finding people who have always been apolitical or politically ambivalent really getting excited about Sanders. They’re becoming engaged, getting involved. They’re finding their own political voice, their political consciousness. They’re taking part in demonstrations, in conversations. They’re opening their eyes to progressive causes and opening their ears to progressive voices.

This is a very good thing and a very significant one.

Noam Chomsky is perhaps the most celebrated US thinker living, and I have never seen him get the attention he gets now. He’s been active in politics since the Korean War. Almost seventy years ago. And it’s now, in his late years of life, that he’s getting interviewed by major news outlets. His words and his ideas and his voice are being consumed and taken in by a generation so far removed from the one he was born to that it’s kind of incredible. People who are younger than his grandkids are finding him more relevant than the several generations between him and them.

Part of this is, I think, because people like Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have made people excited about the possibility of a government that works for them. Occupy Wall St and the Arab Spring are probably more significant reasons, but they’re all related, I think. And the swell of support for Sanders is certainly a carryover from the Occupy Movement.

You can see it on facebook and twitter. It’s all over the place!

Last week, 16,000 people went to see him speak in St Paul. Another 6,000 went to see him speak in Duluth.

A huge and diverse crowd is what I saw, despite how often his supporters are characterised as straight white bros, “Bernie Bros.” I saw more people of color there than I have at any other event I’ve been to in Minnesota. Many of them women. Granted, we’re not a very diverse state. I think we’re like 85% white. But that’s not the crowd I saw that night.

I went because my wife is a huge Sanders fan. She’s actually one of the people I’m talking about. Someone who has always felt so pushed away by the game of politics who is finding her political voice because of Sanders and people like him. Basically for the first time.

This is exciting!

She keeps me up to date on what he’s doing, how his campaign’s doing. She even gave money to support his campaign, which is something I know she’s never done before with any other candidate.

And, if nothing else, I think that’s worth harnessing.

Which brings me to something that really bums me out.

And that is the willingness for people who have been politically aware and active for years to just dump all over this. They tell people who are excited about a candidate, about politics–maybe for the first time in their life!–that they’re wrong and that voting for him and even supporting him will actually ruin the progressive cause.

And, sure, most people aren’t saying it so forcefully, but they’re being just as dickish about it. They’re acting like teenage hipsters who make fun of you for not loving TV on the Radio for the last decade.

But, seriously, it’s okay to show up late to a cause. Just because it seems late to you doesn’t mean it’s late to them. You, as an individual, don’t get to set the political timeframe. If you’re so jaded by politics, then just shutup and step back. Let people who still care be excited and try to do what you so clearly failed to do.

Sure, they might fail. Maybe this current bunch of young voters are just as naive as you were when you were their age. Maybe they’ll fail like your generation did.

They’re allowed to fail. Let them fail, if that’s what you really want. But don’t rain on their parade just because you’ve been burned in the past.

If anything, you should quietly support their burgeoning political awareness. You don’t have to agree with them or support their causes, of course, but it matters that people are paying attention, especially given how much those who are politically aware tend to complain about the political illiteracy of the US public.

Because right now, you’re part of the reason people stay away from politics. You’re part of the problem.

It’s not a badge of honor to be politically jaded. It’s something you should hide in your closet, along with your U2 albums and posters.

And, yes, there’s a real possibility that this new group of people will fail.

But maybe they won’t. And their success doesn’t negate your efforts. Their success is your success. It’s built out of the work you did, out of the awareness you spread.

So let them have this.

But more than just a beacon of hope in a dismal landscape, Sanders is actually turning out big numbers.

Hopefully his huge numbers in Iowa will put to rest the argument that he can’t win so there’s no reason to vote for him. This is clearly not true. In fact, this is a huge success for him. At the beginning of the year, he was 40 points back. He lost the state by six coin tosses. Which, I mean, that’s insane.

And the real story of Iowa should be that Clinton is a coin toss wizard, because that’s bonkers to win six in a row. If I were her, I’d start gambling till my luck ran out.

The reason Sanders is getting so much support is that he’s actually engaging people across age groups. He’s engaging and attracting more young voters than anyone else, but he’s also attracting and engaging voters who are 25-65+. it’s actually an almost even spread of support.

But Sanders is important for more reasons than that. He’s important because he’s changed the conversation. He’s pulled the entire campaign into the realm of actual policy and ideas. This is something that I’ve never witnessed in my lifetime. Candidates talking openly about ideas and how they hope to achieve them.

Of course there’s still all the bluster and handwaving, but there are also real ideas being discussed and real plans being set into motion.

He’s pulled the Democratic Party–a party that has leaned into conservative values consistently over my lifetime–towards progressive ideas and values. We’re talking about expanding healthcare, increasing taxes on the wealthy (not even increasing them very much, [interestingly, the Democratic Party has officially balked at this, which tells you all you need to know about their progressive values, I think] I might add), the criminal activity of Wall St, the insanity of our criminal justice system, the failed war on drugs, and we’re getting someone who’s willing to say Black Lives Matter.

For the first time in my life, I heard a politician engage with the Somali-American population of Minnesota. This is something I care deeply about and something I’ve never even heard a Minnesota politician talk about, despite this being a sizeable population for the last twenty years. That’s not to say no Minnesota politician has engaged with that community. It just means, if they have, I’m unaware of it.

We have a politician who at least seems to care about race.

I think he doesn’t go far enough, but he’s the only one who seems willing to even have that conversation.

We have a candidate who seems to profoundly care and who has shown himself to care for decades.

That resonates with people, obviously.

And maybe he can’t win the nomination–is that reason enough to not vote for him?

Isn’t that the point of the primaries? To try to get the person with the most support up there to represent the party?

With his showing in Iowa, he’s about to gain a bunch of attention and new donors and return donors. He’s starting to get major news coverage for the first time during this campaign. So let’s say he beats Clinton. Are we expecting the broader Democratic base to just go away because Clinton lost? Imagine the kind of money and support he’ll gain as the nominee.

It seems silly to think he can’t stand up against the GOP’s field. The frontrunning candidates, it’s worth noting, are not at all who the GOP want as their nominee.

We have such a defeatist mindset in america when it comes to politics. This is by design, caused by decades of propaganda, but it doesn’t mean we can’t try to vote by our ideals.

Voting for the lesser of two evils is what turned america into the terrorist fascist state it is today, so don’t believe people who tell you they’re being pragmatic–they’re not. They’re either lying to themselves or being naive. If you only give yourself poisons to choose from, you’re going to get sick. Probably die.

I see a lot of people who consider themselves progressives. People who gladly define themselves as Democrats. They seem to believe they’re playing some kind of long con. That by voting for Clinton–who they generally don’t like–they’ll be putting up the most electable candidate.

But how electable is she if she’s struggling to beat the crazy grandpa from Vermont?

Iowa was basically her worst nightmare. She came in with big money, huge name recognition, all the attention of the media, and was so far ahead a month ago that it seemed silly for Sanders to even bother campaigning. And she won by six coin tosses. She had to rely on astronomical chance.

And, sure, I said a lot of things about Clinton above, but you have to feel for her here. This campaign was meant to be mostly a victory lap before she sauntered into the White House. Instead she’s barely scraping by.

I may not like her, but I actually don’t take pleasure in her seeming failure in Iowa.

But it does excite me at the same time. To see how much a big grass roots movement has been able to do in such a short amount of time, with negligible media coverage and millions of small donations.

And electability? Clinton?

It’s really ignoring how generally hated Clinton is. She may have a lot of support from Democrats, but she has no support across the aisle.

If you think the language surrounding her has been misogynistic so far, wait till she’s running against Cruz or Trump or Rubio.

Which isn’t a reason not to vote for her, mind, but just be aware that this supposedly electable candidate is one of the most hated people in the country for most conservatives. They might even hate her more than they hate Obama. And yes, most of the attacks on Obama were racial and most of the attacks on Clinton are gendered, but it really is worth understanding that the GOP wants absolutely nothing to do with Clinton.

If she wins, the obstructions will be everywhere. Just as they will be with a Democrat as president and a conservative congress.

This is another argument I see for why you shouldn’t vote for Sanders–he won’t be able to get anything done in a conservative congress.

A few things here.

Congress doesn’t have to stay conservative. It’s not a fixed situation. It’s unlikely that it’ll become progressive, mostly because it never has been, but that doesn’t mean that we just give up on voting for senators and house representatives because of how the last election turned out and the gradual way america’s plunged into conservativism.

And let’s say congress remains exactly the same as it is right now.

Would Clinton–a person so reviled by conservatives that they will defame her in just about any way imaginable–be able to pass progressive legislation, even if she wanted to?

What makes people so sure she would get done what Sanders can’t?

People are kind of acting like Sanders popped out of the woodwork last week. And, for many of us, he may as well have. I mean, I didn’t really know who he was till he started running for president! But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t had a relatively successful career as a politician.

If anything, I think Clinton is actually more divisive than Sanders.

And, sure, a big part is her gender, but I think the biggest part has to do with her name and with her history in government.

And, okay, Sanders won’t be able to get universal healthcare, free tuition, break up the banks, create new jobs, and overturn Citizens United. Probably that’s true.

But, if you’re a progressive, wouldn’t you want someone as president who’s at least going to try?

If you don’t try, those things absolutely won’t happen in the next four years.

If you do try, some of them might just actually happen sooner.

But I guess I detoured into why Sanders is a better candidate than Clinton, and that’s not really what this is about.

Sanders makes people excited and he’s getting people involved. He’s getting more donations to his campaign than any other US politician in history, which is not insignificant.

If you think people are more willing to write a cheque than wait in line, then you’ve never been to a free concert.

The idea that all these people donating money are just going to disappear come time to vote is so absurd I can barely waste time thinking about it.

In Conclusion

I firmly believe that you should vote for whoever you want.

If you want to vote for Clinton, go for it!

If you want to vote for Trump, go for it!

If you want to vote for Sanders, go for it!

But be aware of who and what you’re voting for. Let’s even just take these three and use the nomenclature of US politics. Which means I’m going to put them on a very useless spectrum, from right to left.

Trump and the GOP are on the far right.

Sanders is about middle of the road left of center, which is actually maybe too generously to the left, but whatever.

Clinton is between these two, but closer to Sanders than she is to Trump. Which is to say, she’s right of center by a significant margin, but not far enough to be considered a real GOP candidate.

To put it another way, if she were in the GOP and her name wasn’t Clinton, she’d be doing about as well as Jeb Bush, who she’s not super dissimilar from, ideologically.

Diagram:

_____________Sanders______________Clinton_______________________Trump

And all of that is fine.

But while you vote for who you believe in, allow people to disagree. Allow people who find hope in Sanders to just have that hope. Even if it will eventually shipwreck. Even if we’ll have some notion of the heartache the Greek have had over the last couple years.

And Sanders supporters, be okay with people voting for Clinton. Quit gendering your attacks. Quit attacking at all.

That’s not what this is meant to be about.

Just because you all consider yourselves Democrats or leftists or progressives doesn’t mean you’re even close to each other on the spectrum of american ideology. Someone who supports Clinton just doesn’t agree with you. They may simply believe that you’re too far to the left. They may be a great deal more comfortable with her affiliation to Wall St and the military industrial complex.

But people, regardless of where you are, don’t lie to yourself and say that this is all about pragmatism. Because–and here’s the rub–the president doesn’t matter.

Really.

Your senators and representatives–local and federal–are the ones who matter. They make the small incremental changes that influence the country from the bottom up.

But you know where all that really starts–and this is where Sanders is really reaching people–it starts with you. With you pushing your politicians to serve you and your desires.

They’re public servants.

They’re not meant to be the aristocracy–though that’s what they’ve become, much to our national shame.

So make them serve you.

You do that by getting out there and fighting. Call their office. Picket for and against. Write letters. Canvas the neighborhood.

Civil Rights didn’t happen because a president signed a law. The Vietnam War didn’t end because Nixon decided we’d gone too far. Women didn’t get the right to vote because a president said, Let’s let the ladies have their day.

Decades of activism made these things happen.

And that, unfortunately, is the only way to make change happen in america. Or anywhere.

And that’s what Sanders is making people believe in. Right now, he’s the figurehead of a huge grass roots national movement. He’s mobilised millions. If he can keep this momentum going, keep making these people believe, then he may be able to get them to push their senators and representatives to work for them.

I think that matters.

dusk country blues

This weekend I did something I’ve never done before. I took a break from the novel I’m writing to write something else.

Started it yesterday, finished it today: a grand total of just over 16,000 words.

It’s called The Dusk Country Blues and it’s certainly one of the strangest and most explicit things I’ve ever written. It’s also something I’m really proud of and happy with.

Here’s how it started.

Kyle Muntz showed me a story he was struggling with and asked for some suggestions. It was this story about two brothers and a girl with antlers living in this place called the dusk country, which is full of these huge abandoned manufacturing plants.

His story wasn’t working and we talked about it for about an hour. I kept getting more and more ideas and telling him about all kinds of things he could do with this story. Thing is, he’s trying to keep it a short story, so probably somewhere around 5,000 words. That made some of the ideas just too big to tackle in that amount of space and those ideas would’ve distracted from the real story: the relationship between the brothers and this antlered girl.

So I told him to write it a certain way for a short story and then to write it again as a novella or even a novel, if it turned that large.

Incidentally, this is exactly how the novel I’m working on began. A short story that was too big for its size, so I rewrote it into something very different, only to realise that if I combined the two short stories [which would work], then I could tell the whole story and I’d have a nice short novella. But then I got a few more ideas and now these two short stories are turning into a novel that may be up to 100,000 words.

Anyrate, so I suggested Kyle try that, but he told me he probably wouldn’t, and then he encouraged me to write the longer version of it.

I kind of shrugged that off, but over the next two days, all I could think about was the dusk country and these three people.

So I wrote the first half yesterday and sent it to Kyle.

His excitement got me really jazzed to finish it, so I wrote the second half today. Just finished about half an hour ago.

It’s really funny to me, because Kyle and I have often joked how we’re slowly becoming the same writer. We both come from experimental backgrounds and are sliding into more straightforward and less stylistic writing. We’re also diving into genre fiction, which has, I think, been freeing for both of us.

We often talk about stories and give each other suggestions. We’re typically each other’s first readers. And so it amuses me that he wrote a story that inspired me to essentially rewrite his story, coming up with something very different, but also intensely similar [for obvious reasons].

He’s writing another draft of his dusk country story soon.

But, yeah, maybe this isn’t interesting to other people, but I find it funny and exciting.

Also, a novel I plan on writing this summer was directly inspired by a story Kyle wrote a few months ago.

What I’m saying, I guess, is that talking about ideas and being unguarded with your suggestions and inspirations is useful for the creative process. It’s good to inspire one another and to work off each other’s inspirations.

Anyrate, I want to share one of my favorite bits from this novella. It gave me an interesting way to go about worldbuilding, which is to do it through absence or contrast.

“You awake?” I felt his voice vibrate through the mattress, through my skin pressed against him.

“Yeah.”

“Tell me a story?”

“What you wanna hear?”

He shifted beside me, his body coiling in on itself. “Something beautiful.”

The cracks in the ceiling were just large enough to see through but there was only blackness. The faint glow of the fireflies only revealed outlines of our room. I rolled over to face them, my back pressed against Abe’s. I imagined this is how we were in the womb. Reluctantly pressed together. All that’s desirable in a man pouring into him, while I leeched what I could to make myself whole. Somehow I stole enough to have the voice that belonged to him. The rich and unforgettable one that would fit inside his lungs and mouth so well, completing the image of a human perfected. But the voice was mine and Abe couldn’t sleep without it.

I stared at the fireflies rattling against the glass chaotically. “Years ago, the dusk country was alive. The hum of machinery was everywhere. The sun came up and stayed up for hours. It went up so high that you could look straight up and it would be there before it fell back down. Mothers and fathers went to work and made the machines sing. Children gathered together in the sunlight and played games. They didn’t just collect fireflies. They collected spiders and beetles and butterflies. They traded them, not as a commodity, but like treasures. The streets weren’t full of dust and grass didn’t break them up. No, people got in cars and made them move. They moved as fast as you can run and no one got tired. There was food everywhere too. People ate more than insects and plants. Even the river flowed clean. The dusk country was a town made of light. Even the streets had light. And night would come but there were stars. Like a thousand fireflies but way up in the air. So high you couldn’t even reach them standing on a building. And there was a moon. It was like the sun but smaller. Night lasted only a little while before the sun came back. The best part was seeing people smile. Seeing people everywhere, smiling. Just smiling for no good reason. Just smiling because the sun was shining.

“You know what the best part was?”

“What?” his voice only a whisper.

“People didn’t just disappear.”

If you’re still reading this and want to read an extremely bizarre story about two brothers, a girl with antlers, an abandoned town full of abandoned buildings and machines, a place where the sun only ever reaches the horizon for a few hours before descending back into hours of night, then give me a shout.

Here’s a song by a guy with a beautiful voice.

leisurely novelling

I started a new novel, which has been fun. I’m taking it much slower than normal, mostly because I’m just expanding two short stories that, by themselves, amount to about 13,000 words. I’m mostly expanding scenes and writing connective tissue between the scenes. It’s making for a very character focused novel about memory, perception, myths, stories, how legends start and how they become their own thing.

Anyrate, I’ve written about 2,000 words a day, which is far below average. I’m kind of hoping to finish it by the end of February, though I wouldn’t be surprised if it happens far sooner than that, since it’s sometimes difficult for me to hold back from spending all day writing.

See, I’m trying to be productive in my actual life and not just on my novel.

Means lots of compartmentalising of the day.

Often times I make playlists for any novel I’m writing, but I’ve mostly been listening to a couple of songs repeatedly. For example, that version of Skinny Love at the top of the post. It’s my favorite version of that song ever recorded.

I miss Bon Iver. I used to be really into him when I lived in Ireland. I listened to him almost every day while I was there.

Thing is, I wasn’t a huge fan of his second album. You know, the one that he won awards for. But his first one is much purer, I think. It’s gentle and ethereal and hopeless. It reminds me of being in love and not feeling it back. It reminds me of wandering crowded streets alone through misting rain and wondering what my life would be like when I went back home, if I even wanted to go home. If I wanted to spend any amount of time back in america.

But, at the same time, I find that it gives me hope, even though it feels tragic.

Anyrate, that’s kind of an aside.

My new novel isn’t really related to those emotions, though it may be tonally similar.

I just kind of miss Bon Iver. Mostly the Bon Iver from 2008, which is the one I know best.

Also, that version of For Emma, Forever Ago is so ecstatically beautiful.

Tomorrow’s another day of trying to stay away from the novel for all but two or three hours a day. Doing a few thousand words and then spending the rest of the day working my dayjob, loving my wife, and enjoying the other aspects of my life.

Take care, Starchild.

new site look, new novel

Benjamin Clementine has become an absolute favorite, so you should listen to that.

Anyrate, updated the look of my site for the first time in years.

I think this will make it much easier to read, actually. So hopefully this will save your eyes. It’s not as dramatic looking as the previous iteration, but it’s maybe friendlier.

I don’t have a lot to say right now, except that I started writing a new novel, which I’ve been meaning to start for a long time now. I wrote about 2,000 words yesterday and they were agony. It took me all day. Then I showered and realised I needed to delete half of those words. Then, last night while I was reading, I realised that I actually needed to start over and change the beginning completely.

So that’s what I did today and it went swimmingly. I wrote roughly the same amount of time as I did yesterday but ended the day with 5,500 words instead, which is a much better pace. The beginning is much fuller and more interesting, I think. It also simply makes more sense.

The nice thing is that this novel comes out of a short story that I wrote with two very different iterations. So I sort of have a skeleton for the rest of the plot, which should make it relatively easy to write from here on out. I’m not going to push to write it in a week like I typically do, but–who knows!

It’s very much sociological fantasy. Or, to put it another way, it’s going to be almost entirely character focused and most of it takes place in a very small geographic area. It’s about a village at a time of change and the extraordinary life of a family there.

Also, I’m playing Dragon Age: Origins because I’m years behind on videogames and I’m also reading The Time of the Dark by Barbara Hambly, and they have incredibly similar plots, at least on the surface. I mean, it’s probably premature to say that since I have dozens and dozens of hours left to play on Dragon Age and the Barbara Hambly novel is the first in a trilogy, but they’re both about this kind of embodied darkness rising and swarming over humanity. Now humanity needs to deal with it.

So, yeah, fun stuff.

how to use twitter

This post actually won’t be helpful if you’re looking for advice about how to use it more effectively. But I think my favorite thing to do on twitter is to just write little jokes that are kind of absurd and silly and hopefully funny or heartwarming.

Anyrate, I’ve collected the ones I’ve done so far. I did all of these on the first weekend of the year, so I guess I can’t even say I do this very much.

But this is just how things are for me, I guess. Momentary amusement.

Anyrate. These first twenty or so are about cats at a bar.

Then several about an astronaut talking to the moon.

And I’ll leave you with this.

14

some stray musings on the kingkiller chronicles by patrick rothfuss

First, let’s set the mood.

Not that there’s any real similarity between FFIX and these books, but it feels right. Also, if it takes you longer than four hours to read this it means your eyes are broken or I’ve written much more than I expected.

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about these books. My immediate thoughts after finishing the novels are here:

The Name of the Wind

The Wise Man’s Fears

Also, worth knowing that there be spoilers here, so turn your head aside if you’ve not read both of the novels currently published in this alleged trilogy.

Seriously, there are spoilers below. I wrote this and I even read it again. I talk about things that might ruin the books for you.

Stop reading!

I warned you, dummy.

 

The first novel came out to mass critical acclaim and mass sales. In fact, it sold so well that Rothfuss became a full time writer. It’s unusual for any writers to be able to leave their jobs behind, but even more unusual for someone to do it after one book, but Rothfuss was able to make that leap.

The second novel came out to much less critical acclaim but certainly as many sales, if not more.

The point is, just about everyone who read the first book loved it, including Ursula K Le Guin, Robin Hobb, and George RR Martin.

Seriously everyone.

The second book, on the other hand, seems to divide a lot of fans. A lot of people hate it. A lot. But still more love it.

I say all this because even after reading 1,700 pages over two books, I still don’t know how I feel about these books.

It would be hard for me to say I didn’t enjoy them. Or, rather: it would be a lie. I raced through these books. I acquired several sleepless nights while reading these books. I read the first one so long into the night by Chelsea’s side that I went through the batteries on my flashlight, which is why I finally bought a reading light thingy.

Clearly, I enjoyed reading these books. They’re two of the most addictive books I’ve read in a long time. Maybe ever, though Royal Assassin and Assassin’s Quest by Robin Hobb give them a run for their money.

The thing is, they work in a very peculiar way. They’re not really conflict driven. They’re pure character and world. It’s kind of remarkable, because the cast of characters throughout is weirdly fluid.

But let’s talk about the beginning.

The first fifty pages establish Kvothe as an innkeeper in a small town under an assumed name. He doesn’t play music or sing or tell stories. He just provides people with drink and food. The issue there is that the town is small and generally uninterested in his tavern. Few travellers ever visit and fewer stay. Few of the locals ever stop in for meals or ale. Kvothe lives there with Bast, his apprentice, of sorts.

Those few who do stop in often bring word from the world beyond the village. They talk about the heavy taxes, the way the patrolmen are no different from highwaymen who rob those who journey along the roads. The main difference, of course, is that the king employs them, giving their victims far less recourse. One story they bring with them is of a sort of monster in the woods.

Kvothe fights the monster and sustains some injuries. At the same time, he meets The Chronicler, a man of a bit of fame. He listens to and records the tales of the lives of heroes, royals, and generally incredible humans, then disseminates their story through the world.

As it turns out, the Chronicler’s been looking for Kvothe, as all seem to. Kvothe is a legend. a legend throughout the whole of the continent. At this point we don’t really know why, but it’s also not important.

Finally Kvothe agrees to tell Chronicler his story.

And this is where the novel begins, really. Somewhere around page fifty. From here the novel works on two fronts. The bulk of the text is Kvothe relaying the events of his life. The other front is the present.

While I like the moments set in the present, they’re pretty infrequent and not nearly as interesting as what’s happening in the past.

There are even moments when I think the novels should have dropped the device. Just begin with Kvothe relaying his story to the reader, because that’s really what this is, yeah? A first person narration intercut by third person narration set years after the narrative being told.

And though the novel could probably lose this element, I like the way it works. I think there’s a nice interplay between the past and the present, like in book two when Kvothe tells of his martial training. Because of the legends and because of the depth he goes to in explaining the martial arts of the Adem, we expect him to still be a great warrior. And then we watch him get beaten up quite easily. Sure, he’s fighting two men, but this is Kvothe! A man of legend!

What we see in these moments is the difference between who Kvothe is and who Kvothe the Legend is. One is indestructible. The other is only a man hiding from his fame, which is tied to his bounty.

But still, these fifty pages could easily be cut down to somewhere between twenty and three pages. I honestly think that’s true and would improve the beginning of the novel.

I mean, I read The Dragonbone Chair by Tad Williams, which has a 200 page intro to the novel. Like, the narrative more or less begins on page 200, but I think those initial 200 pages are actually essential to the story being told there.

This is different. This is just a problem with pacing.

But let’s look at what happens next.

Kvothe’s story begins in earnest and it’s beautiful. His childhood with his parents and his troupe. These are essential pages in understanding who Kvothe is, what the world is.

Rothfuss certainly could have began the novel at the Death of Kvothe’s parents, but that would have been a very different book, and our stomachs wouldn’t have dropped through the floor when young unsuspecting Kvothe returned to find everyone he knew dead and burnt and ravaged.

This is where we encounter what seems to be the antagonist of the trilogy: The Chandrian. Evil from legend, from stories so long ago they barely exist anymore. Creatures who were once men but now live on endlessly as a secret scourge across the world.

If this were your typical epic fantasy or heroic fantasy, the entire novel would be focused on this.

The ancient evil who killed our hero’s family and even burnt away his music, causing him to run and cower and hide as a streetkid, barely eking out a daily existence.

And, really, he spends much of the first two novels seeking for information about the Chandrian. That was, in part, why he went to the university at all. To scour their impossibly large library to find ancient words or any words that would shed some light on who and what and how they are, and maybe, more importantly, how to defeat them.

But this is sort of the conceit that the rest of his life revolves around, and while it may be his reason for coming to the university and certainly a reason for staying, the bulk of Kvothe’s story is spent learning and occasionally adventuring. But mostly there’s music.

Music is in his bones and it’s really the spine of his story. We come to learn how important music is not just for him as a person, his psychological health, but also for his livelihood and for making sense of his life.

It’s no accident that many of his most intelligent schemes come while he’s picking at his lute.

And this is where the novel folds back to the present. To a man who has no instrument, who rarely sings. A man so burning with music but with none left inside him.

Maybe.

Anyrate, Kvothe arrives at the university and essentially scams his way in, even though he’s fifteen, though most people who enter are much closer to twenty, if not over twenty.

The university is the fulcrum of his life. It’s where he makes a home and discovers who and what he is, as well as how and why the world is the way it is.

This is also where we come to an interesting thing about Kvothe. He is, in many ways, a Gary Sue, or at least has many of its signs and manners. Kvothe is legendary, as noted, but with good reason. He’s a genius mechanically, musically, and intellectually. He does things at fifteen that scholars at the university will never be able to manage.

If Rothfuss were a different writer, this would make the books unreadable.

But he sets up Kvothe with some serious tragic flaws as well as some flaws common to all teenagers. He’s brash and arrogant and rash and careless and carries around an immense temper. And while these are common flaws to humans, it should also be remembered that Kvothe is a genius, so the trouble he often finds himself in is the kind that only a genius can manage to find. Meaning, he gets into some seriously hairy and peculiar situations. Not necessarily life threatening, but often time just that.

We also come to learn how Kvothe is not the same as the legend. He dispels many of the exaggerations that grow around his name and even explains how they got their start. Often, he whispered the words into the air. At least initially. But as time goes on, many of his exploits take on a world of their own.

It’s similar to Harry Potter, in superficial ways. Harry is the Boy Who Lived and he accidentally survives and fights some serious stuff. While he didn’t set out to fight monsters and the like, he most certainly did do those things. It’s especially similar to Simon Snowlock from Tad Williams’ trilogy mentioned above.

To Simon, he’s just scraping by, barely surviving his encounters with elves, dragons, demons, and giants. To those who hear about what happened, he’s a hero from legend who slew a dragon, danced with elves, and made monsters and demons cower before him.

And since I brought up Harry Potter, I’ll talk about the similarities.

Someone could argue that Rothfuss wrote Harry Potter for adults. They wouldn’t be wrong in saying that, but they would be doing a disservice to both characters. It’s not like magic schools were invented in the 90s, and, really, the University in this world is much more similar to Le Guin’s Earthsea than it is to Hogwarts. Even the magic of this world are clearly direct descendants from the wizards of Roke. Not literally descended, but the ideas come heavily from Le Guin and share little similarity with Rowling.

So while the two are, on the surface, almost identical. In actuality, the two stories couldn’t be more different.

Anyrate, coming back from that digression–Kvothe does things that both promote a legend but also allow one to accidentally sprout up around him. He danced and made love to a god and survived to tell the tale. He called down fire and lightning to kill nearly twenty bandits when it seemed that all hope was lost. He wrote songs and letters that brought a queen to love him. He killed a dragon!

Kvothe manages to put himself in ridiculous circumstances and simply by virtue of surviving creates a legend complex and vast.

Only a genius teenager could get himself in this kind of trouble, but only a genius could find his way back out.

But the novels aren’t even about adventures. This is clear to me.

The books are about learning and understanding.

Even when a quest is given a hundred pages, most of that time is spent with Kvothe’s curiosity bringing him to new understandings, and only a handful of pages actually have anything to do with fighting or magic using or anything that a more traditionally told heroic fantasy would devote its heft to.

But Kvothe’s story is lethargic because, for him, the story of his life is not about the exploits. It’s about a child orphaned by demons discovering how the world works and finding a way to survive in it, while also making sense of the events of his own life and the many mysteries that fill the world and life itself.

I think this is most evident when Kvothe describes his journey from the university to Vintas. In one sentence, he describes being captured by pirates and escaping them and a shipwreck only to find himself penniless and nearly naked on the other shore.

That could be its own novel!

But here it’s a sentence. This is after some 400 pages of his time at the university and is followed by 500 pages of learning all the things that can’t be learnt within the confines of the university. Then he goes back to the university and we see how his exploits have actually broadened his education far more than an entire decade of study could have.

And even though I’ve written over 2,000 words already, I have yet to even touch on what the actual conflict is.

The novels set up the Chandrian as the antagonist, and he certainly has an adversarial relationship with Ambrose, a student and distant relative to the then king. But I think the real conflict of the novel are threefold and have surprisingly little to do with those obvious antagonists.

But before we get there, I’ll lay out a theory that’s probably been thought before.

As the novels move on, we come to learn that more and more members of the royal family are dying. Ambrose is known to be twelfth in line to the throne, if I’m not mistaken. This is pretty far from the throne, but the gap seems to be shrinking. Even in his early twenties, he enjoys a lot of power.

I imagine the king killed in this Kingkiller Chronicle is Ambrose, who gains the throne through some kind of nefarious dealings. There’s no real evidence that this will happen, but there is a kind of rising tide, I’d say. And we know some king has to die. Seems pointless for it to be someone we haven’t yet met in the novel.

I also think Kvothe hasn’t yet killed the king, but will, in the present, at some point in the third novel.

But maybe not.

Like I said, I don’t think that’s the real conflict.

The conflicts, as I see them are like this:

  1. Economic
  2. Understanding vs Ignorance
  3. Acceptance of life

I’ll unpack these.

The biggest and most everpresent conflict is the economic one. Kvothe is perpetually impoverished. Even at the end of the second novel, he’s certainly not wealthy, though he does enjoy much more economic freedom than he previously did.

But this is also the most interesting aspect of the novels. The true cost of education.

In this world, the only people able to go to the University are the children of nobility or wealthy merchants. There are exceptions, Kvothe being one of them, but, by and large, the price of attending the university would be staggering to the average person.

And that’s just the price of tuition. Rothfuss clearly acknowledges all the hidden prices of university. From the need to buy food and rent shelter, to the very real need to own ink, writing utensils, and paper to write on. More than that, we’re constantly reminded that Kvothe must even buy the components that make up the devices he builds and develops.

When he wants to make some gadget to be sold, he must first buy everything that goes into it, then spend X amount of hours building it.

Because of Kvothe’s poverty, we’re really tied into his resourcefulness. It’s what makes his exploits more believable: we already care so much about his ingenuity and watch him constantly hustle just to get enough money to survive the month and pay tuition at the end of the term.

Cost is constantly on Kvothe’s mind. He drinks water at the tavern when people buy him drinks so that he can split the cost of the drink with the tavern at the end of the night. He wears ragged and worn clothes because they’re all he has. If he rips them or bleeds into them or loses them, then he will have only the one shirt and trousers to wear until he can steal or acquire enough money in order to dress himself again. He must turn down invitations to the houses of nobility [which, incidentally, is one way for him to find economic freedom–by acquiring a rich patron for his music] simply because he knows he doesn’t have any clothes that wouldn’t insult the host. He has to haggle with everyone for everything. He manages to get shelter by being the inn’s on staff musical entertainment. He also gambles to make himself a bit of extra money. Always betting on himself in some skill measured in what amounts to magic. He has to deal with loansharks and criminals just to keep enough money in his pocket to keep attending university, which is the only home he’s known since his parents’ Death, the only place that can teach him what he needs to know to survive, to thrive, and to find out why the Chandrian does what the Chandrian does.

This, if nothing else, is the central conflict of the novels. Everything depends on Kvothe’s ability to acquire money so that he can deal with the more important conflicts, which, if not central, are at least more important to the story.

All of this effort is so he can learn and understand the world and life. This is the implicit conflict that gives real shape to the novel. What would a novel about a teenager constantly trying to scrape enough money to survive be if there wasn’t something larger?

Not to say that a novel about that wouldn’t be worth its weight, but it would certainly be a depressing tale.

Despite everything, I would call this, in general, a more optimistic version of fantasy. At least it feels that way as Kvothe tells is. Kvothe’s story is funny, exciting, fun, insightful, and addictive. Chronicler and Bast see the enjoyment he gains from recounting his life, from the nostalgia of the child and man he was.

Much as his life is full of pain and heartache, we really come to feel that exhilaration you get from learning something new, from overcoming difficult problems, from acquiring specific knowledge that turns out to open up a much broader understanding of the world, or at least presents an avenue to understanding much more than the specific thing learnt.

Many of Kvothe’s biggest problems come from his inability to figure something out or his inability to correctly see the context or even situation that he’s in the middle of.

His ignorance leads him into immense trouble at times, and because he’s a genius, the danger becomes exponentially greater.

It’s only through thought and discovery that he’s able to make it through.

This is not a heroic fantasy with a big brawling badass. It’s the story of a boy who must constantly be resourceful, who must constantly think his way out of every situation.

That’s why the bulk of these 1,700 pages is devoted to learning and problem solving. It’s really a novel of puzzles, but the puzzles are ones that he falls into by being arrogant and stubborn and careless.

And then we get the tone of the narrative, which is strongly shaped by the story happening in the present. Because though the narrative Kvothe is telling is optimistic in tone, the real tone of the novel is one of pessimism and despair.

Each book begins and ends with the narration telling us that Kvothe is a man waiting to die.

He has given up on life. He can smile about the legend the world thinks he is, but it’s clear he has no great love for the stories grown up and around him.

This is where Bast becomes a very interesting character. He’s dangerous and powerful and appears for a long time to be a harmless student, until we discover that he is actually an incredibly powerful creature called the fae, who is remarkably dangerous. It also becomes clear that he’s trying desperately to remind Kvothe the innkeeper that he actually is that legendary man who did all those amazing things.

He brought the Chronicler to the inn to make Kvothe tell his story. He hired the soldiers who beat up Kvothe, hoping Kvothe would dispatch them easily and in doing so remember who he really is and all the power he holds within him, even though it’s hinted that he may have lost his magical ability.

Kvothe wants to die. He’s accepted Death. He knows it’s coming for him, whether by the king’s hand or the Chandrian–it doesn’t seem to matter. What does matter is that Kvothe is without hope and has accepted this as a fact and internalised it so deeply that he no longer even sees himself as the man who sprouted those many legends.

It’s a very interesting element and certainly the only reason the narrative is split the way it is.

This third conflict is the real conflict of the novel.

Despite all the pages and time devoted to the Chandrian, the novel is really about present day Kvothe choosing to live.

There’s actually one more conflict in the novels, which may prove to be more important than expected.

that conflict is one of love.

Kvothe is hopelessly in love with Denna, who clearly cherishes his friendship and maybe even his love, but theirs is a complex relationship. It’s one familiar to me and so I feel very strongly for Kvothe.

But I think the real conflict with regard to this has to do with the absence of love and the desire to be loved.

Kvothe needs love. He needs it like blood in his veins. It’s what drives his music and his education. The hope that he’ll be able to share just moments with Denna, that she’ll maybe turn her gaze towards him and realise that he’s what she’s wanted all along.

And sometimes they’re close. But Kvothe, in doing what he thinks is right for Denna, transgresses on her personhood and her desires.

It’s uncomfortable to experience because you know he so deeply intends to do right by her but is so hopelessly doing it all wrong.

It’s about misunderstanding. It’s two people sanding on either side of a river and staring at the water but seeing completely different things.

This is actually an idea that sprouted up in the writing of this essay and wasn’t really something I thought of as central to the novel, but it very well could fold back and be much of the reason why Kvothe is no longer the Kvothe of Legend. Why he is now Kvothe the Despondant, the Heartbroken, the Defeated, the Hopeless.

He lost his love. He lost all that was left to him, and so he gave up his music, gave up his magic, gave up his skill, and has become a simple innkeeper waiting for Death to find him.

This will be an interesting element of the third novel and why I think most people will be disappointed by it.

You already see the reviews of the second novel: Nothing happens.

Well, that’s one way of looking at the story, but I think it’s something where expectations don’t match intention. Because, in many ways, not a lot does happen, and what does happen is very episodic. But that’s if you’re looking at this story as a sequence of prominent events, which is not the way the story’s being told.

This is the story of a life, and a life is more than just the big moments. A life is really defined by the thousands of quiet little moments, and that’s exactly what Rothfuss captures so perfectly.

I believe people will be disappointed with the third book because they’re going to expect a resolution to the two explicit conflicts: the Chandrian and Ambrose.

I think the resolution to both of those will happen, but not at all in the way that many readers are expecting or want. I think they’ll expect and hope for a conclusion that leads to the destruction of the Chandrian or at least some way of neutralising them, and I think the same will be true of the Ambrose conflict.

But I imagine Kvothe doesn’t kill the Chandrian. Evil doesn’t get vanquished in life. It simply goes on.

The poor rarely rise above the nobility, especially when it’s one man–genius or not–who stands against one of the most powerful nobles in the land.

I think the real conflict in this novel is Kvothe’s hopelessness.

We know he’s now economically secure–possibly even wildly wealthy.

We know he knows quite a lot, though it’s implied that he’s lost his ability to enact that knowledge, which is an interesting discrepancy and something that’s both peculiar and awesome about Rothfuss’ magic system.

So I believe the first two conflicts I laid out above [economic and knowledge vs ignorance] are implicitly answered by the fact that Kvothe still lives. He certainly doesn’t understand everything and he may be unsatisfied with his ignorance, but that’s not what caused him to collapse into despair.

No, I think the despair comes from the absence of love, or the fact that he lost it. Possibly lost Denna permanently or in such a way that Kvothe believes is irreconcilable. Possibly, even, she’s dead, and her Death is at least directly or indirectly caused by Kvothe’s actions.

So how does Kvothe learn to live again?

Well, that’s what we hope to find out.

But I do think that this trilogy that began with so much acclaim and love from readers, writers, and critics will deliver something that many will find deeply unsatisfying. They’ll feel betrayed by what they believe was a promise when the Chandrian were introduced.

It may even impact the rest of his career, but I imagine there will be enough who still love it to push him through to his next project.

Probably you’re wondering why I wrote so much about a trilogy that’s been read by very few people that I know. It’s a fair question, considering I’ve never devoted so many words to any other book or series of books on here, but I’ve come to understand important things about this trilogy and about books in general by writing it out.

Because this has been my struggle with these books. I clearly enjoyed them, was addicted to them, but wasn’t sure if they’re even good or if I even actually like what they’re doing. Also, I want to understand how he can write so many words that involve so little explicit narrative movement or even direction and become both a critical darling and a bestseller and write something that I couldn’t put down.

I think I’ve come to at least some of these answers.

But most importantly, I think it’s fair to say that I truly love these books.

I hope everyone I know reads them some day.

But mostly, I hope the third book comes out this year, as I believe it will [despite the absence of evidence].

For now, I’ll keep thinking, keep writing, and hopefully find a way to take all these lessons and apply them to my own writing.

Because that’s what this is all about, yeah? Taking the best lessons, stealing them, tucking them into your inside coat pockets, and running back to your own worlds to make them richer, deeper, more beautiful.