on the fall from grace of Joss Whedon

Me and Joss Whedon at San Diego Comic-Con in 2005, a picture I used to think was funny

An article dropped on Vulture yesterday by Lila Shapiro which details the fall from grace of Joss Whedon following first an open letter his ex-wife wrote on her way out the door of their life together, and then the Justice League debacle, which led to a lot of allegations coming to light going all the way back to Whedon’s Buffy days.

I’ve been connected to Whedon’s worlds both as a fan and as a pro since the late 1990s. I was a huge fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly, and I wrote four Buffy books (a novelization, two novels, and I worked on one of the official reference books) and novelized Serenity and wrote a Firefly role-playing game adventure. As a result, I was always heavily plugged into the intense fandom that grew up around his creations.

And I found myself concerned about the near-deification that went on surrounding him. The “Joss Whedon is My Master Now” T-shirts and the “trust in Joss” mantras — and just generally, referring to him as “Joss” as if he was their friend.

This always twigged me a bit. For starters, he was still a Hollywood producer, for all that he proved himself to have a certain geek cred. Also, this level of hagiography regarding him is the sort of thing that can go to a person’s head. Plus, his flaws as a writer tended to get overlooked or explained away, whether his laziness in world-building or the severe lack of presence of people of color in his productions (brought into sharp relief when he took over Justice League and practically wrote Cyborg out of it) or his creating an Asian-centric science fiction setting but neglecting to cast a single Asian.

And then there was his inaction with regard to Serenity novels. While there are now Firefly novels from Titan, which is great, the original deal back in 2005 that Simon & Schuster made was for three books: my novelization of the movie and two original novels. Several authors pitched to S&S (including me), and those pitches were met with resounding silence from Whedon’s office, to the point where S&S had to cancel the other two planned books due to Whedon never approving any of the pitches.

My concerns proved to be, if anything, underestimating the case. Revelations from Whedon’s ex and from Ray Fisher showed that the hero had feet of clay.

The interview is the first time Whedon has spoken publicly since he was all but hung in effigy by the entire universe, and he didn’t waste any time inserting his foot once he opened his mouth. At no point does he take responsibility, and he spends lots of time making excuses. He unconvincingly denies many of the allegations, or tries to downplay them.

The worst is how he responded to Shapiro’s questions about the affairs he had with people working under him on his TV shows.

“I feel fucking terrible about them,” he said. When I pressed him on why, he noted “it messes up the power dynamic,” but he didn’t expand on that thought. Instead, he quickly added that he had felt he “had” to sleep with them, that he was “powerless” to resist. I laughed. “I’m not actually joking,” he said. He had been surrounded by beautiful young women — the sort of women who had ignored him when he was younger — and he feared if he didn’t have sex with them, he would “always regret it.” Looking back, he feels shame and “horror,” he said. I thought of something he had told me earlier. A vampire, he’d said, is the “exalted outsider,” a creature that feels like “less than everybody else and also kind of more than everybody else. There’s this insecurity and arrogance. They do a little dance.”

What a spectacular load of tripe.

Almost as bad is his response to Gal Gadot’s description of the harassment she received on the set of Justice League: “English is not her first language, and I tend to be annoyingly flowery in my speech.” So it’s her fault for misunderstanding him, because her foreign self can’t understand how beautifully he expresses himself. Gak.

Whedon’s horrendous behavior doesn’t change the good work he’s done, any more than JK Rowling’s toxic transphobia changes the good work she’s done. But it’s why it’s often important to separate the art from the artist. Because the artist can be a total piece of garbage and still create great art.

Just don’t assume that the artist is great because the art is. This sort of thing is why I tend to be self-deprecating and modest about my own work. I’ve seen what fulsome praise does to some creative folks, and I don’t want that to happen to me.

goodbye 2021, hello 2022

2021 was a helluva lot better than 2020, but that is a very low bar to clear.

Still, there was a lot of good this year. Also a lot of bad, as the words “delta” and “omicron” and “unvaccinated” did a lot to fuck this year up. Going into 2022, I will just say this: get your COVID vaccination already, and if you can’t or won’t, stay home, and if you must go outside your home wear a fucking mask. 42,000 nerds kept their masks on for five days at Dragon Con, you can keep yours on while you go to the store.

Anyhow, there was a lot of good this year, starting with vaccines becoming available. Wrenn and I got appointments to join Team Pfizer the nanosecond we were eligible in February, and we got our shots at Yankee Stadium, which was a vaccination site specifically for Bronx residents. (They didn’t care much if we were actually qualified, but they checked three times to verify that we really lived in the Boogie-Down.)

We actually got to go places this year, and between us, Wrenn and I got to take trips to Manassas, Maine, Cooperstown, New Hampshire, Maple Shade, and Raleigh, as well as lots of in-person conventions, which finally became a thing again, from Pensacon in May to DisCon III in December. It was a joy and a pleasure to do panels and participate in Bard’s Tower and sign autographs and do readings and all that good stuff. And it was especially fun to do road trips with Wrenn, as we love taking long car rides together, because we’re dorks.

Plus we got to attend actual parties, including tonight’s upcoming festivities at our friend Peter’s house with many of our dearest friends. And holidays and birthdays were celebrated in person, too, starting with Easter at my parents, continuing with my birthday (our first restaurant trip since the apocalypse started, at Keens Steakhouse), and also including things like the annual 4th of July party and the milestone birthdays of my father’s 75th and ToniAnn’s 35th. (Sadly, we were unable to do Meredith’s 40th in person, as it was in January before vaccinations.)

EDITED TO ADD: Sweet Mother McCree, I can’t believe I forgot to include this paragraph in the first draft of this post, but…. In November of 2021 I also — after several months of intense preparation, and after a grueling five-day promotion that included an all-day hike on 25 miles of the Appalachian trail and an all-night session in the dojo on top of the usual three-day black-belt promotion, I was promoted to fourth-degree black belt, which means now I’m Sensei Keith. I went up alongside Sensei Charles, with whom I also went up for my second- and third-degrees, and it was an amazing, edifying, tiring, exhilarating, exhausting, wonderful experience. In addition, I also got to start teaching again, with my afterschool karate classes re-commencing in September and also teaching periodically in the dojo (including filling in for Shuseki when he went on vacation a couple times). Karate has made me a better, more centered, stronger person in so many ways, and it’s been one of the things that’s kept me going these last couple years.

My writing life proceeded apace, with two books of mine published (Animal and Systema Paradoxa: All-the-Way House) and one of my older novels reprinted (my Spider-Man novel Down These Mean Streets in The Darkest Hours Omnibus), plus three short stories (two in the anthologies Turning the Tied and Devilish and Divine, one released to Indie GoGo supporters), and a ton of nonfiction for two anthologies as well as my usual epic output for Tor.com and Patreon — for the latter, there were also a dozen new vignettes.

2022 promises more fun stuff, including a big bunch of short stories, the next Bram Gold novel (Feat of Clay, which is halfway done), the next Precinct book (Phoenix Precinct) to at least be written, the long-awaited second collection of urban fantasy tales set in Key West (Ragnarok and a Hard Place: More Tales of Cassie Zukav, Weirdness Magnet), a nifty serialized project that I’m not quite ready to talk about publicly yet, my Resident Evil comic book, and tons more, including continuing the Enterprise Rewatch for Tor.com and continuing to review new Trek episodes for the site, as well as revisiting “4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch” in the summer and at year’s end. (For that matter, we’ll start the year with looks back at Venom: Let There Be Carnage and Eternals.)

In the meantime, I want to give thanks and praise to my nearest and dearest, especially the Forebearance (The Mom, The Dad, The Infomancer, and The Tall Curly One) who are the best parents money can’t buy, as well as the Godmommy, Meredith, ToniAnn, Anneliese, Sas, Kyle, Matthew, and everyone else who’s been an important part of my life this year, whether you’re someone I see regularly (like our lovely downstairs neighbors) or someone I talk to on Facebook messenger a lot or someone I only see at conventions (like Alexi and the rest of the Bard’s Tower gang) or someone who read my writing and loved it.

I can’t forget the fur creatures, who helped us get through the year by being all cute and cuddly: our two sweet black cats, Kaylee and Louie, as well as ancillary family animals Junior, Beauty, Spot, Hima, Tempura, Jazz, Thor, Loki, and everyone’s favorite cartoon dog, the irrepressible Professor Zoom.

I have the best family, the best friends, and the best fans in the world, and I love you all. There was a lot this year that did not go as planned and that could’ve been better, but we’re still trending in more or less the right direction at least. Let’s hope that stupidity and tenacious viruses can be overcome by science and sensibility (I know, I know, I’m an optimist) and that 2022 is even better than 2021, which was way better than 2020.

Happy new year!

knee update

I saw a rehab specialist for my knees today. It’s been established that I have mild arthritis in my knees, and surgery isn’t an option, but I do have cysts behind my kneecap. (Well, behind my right kneecap, and probably also my left one, but insurance would only cover an MRI of one knee. Insurance is ridiculous.)

The doctor examined me, and my symptoms (sharp, non-lingering pain when I do certain things) doesn’t indicate to him that the cyst is actually the problem. So we’re going to do a month and a half of physical therapy two days a week and see where that leads. If that helps, great. If it doesn’t, we look at doing an MRI of the other leg and maybe draining the cyst(s).

Cha cha cha.

four years of wedded bliss

Four years ago at Mario’s on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, Wrenn and I stood before a large assortment of friends and family, and, in a ceremony officiated by Glenn Hauman, and with Laura Anne Gilman, Alex Latzko, Meredith Peruzzi, Zan Rosin, Lilly Hayes, Catelynn Cunningham, Dave Mack, and the late great Dale Mazur standing beside us, we were married. It was a glorious day filled with food and fun and frolic, and a perfect way to legalize the bond we already had emotionally after eight years together.

Happy anniversary, Wrenn. Hard to believe it’s been four years already, as it seems like only yesterday. Or maybe it’s just that I’ve blotted out most of 2020……

We’re celebrating with another milestone of A Thing We Haven’t Done Since The Apocalypse Started: we’re going to the Bronx Zoo! I miss my tigers…….

two weeks in and feelin’ groovy

Friday the 26th of March was Wrenn’s and my official day of freedom: two weeks after receiving our second shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, which is when the CDC says you’re as immunized against the coronavirus as you’re gonna get.

To celebrate, we got our hairs cut! Going to a salon wasn’t really a thing we wanted to do during a pandemic, but we felt good about doing it today. It was my first haircut in 14 months, and Wrenn’s first in 16 months. As you can see from the “before” picture above on the left, my hair was getting pretty out of control. Now, it’s much calmer and not zipping off in all directions.

Don’t worry, though, I’m still a long-haired hippie weirdo freak….

Today, we’re off to North Carolina. We’ve been cooped up together in the house forever, and we want a road trip, so we’re gonna head to Raleigh and spend a few days with our dear friends ToniAnn and Kyle. And we’re looking forward to Easter dinner, our first meal at my parents’ house in 13 months, not to mention being able to celebrate my birthday in a restaurant!

We’re nowhere near normal yet — as you can see from the pictures above, masks are still a thing, and we’re still being very very very very careful, especially with people whom we either know aren’t vaccinated or don’t know one way or the other if they’re vaccinated.

Yesterday was a beautiful day for walking around both Greenwich Village in Manhattan and Little Italy in the Bronx. And it was so nice to do that without the anxiety that’s gripped us since mid-March 2020.

Still a ways to go, but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and it looks like it isn’t an oncoming train….

second shot, no waiting

Weather as metaphor: Three weeks ago when Wrenn and I got our first shot of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine at Yankee Stadium, it was 30 degrees and snowing. Today, when we got shot #2, it was 70 degrees and sunny.

And it went even more smoothly. Three weeks ago, one of the people working the vaccine center at the Stadium very loudly recommended that we come back to get our second shot some time in the afternoon, as it’s always less crowded then. Sure enough, we got there at 2.20 or so, and there was no line, no waiting. They checked us in right away, there was no line for the metal detector or to get in or to check in at the computer station or to get the shot. It went as fast as humanly possible, and it was just as smooth as it was last time.

Once again, I must sing the praises of the fine folks at SOMOS Community Care and the military personnel who were assisting in keeping things running smoothly.

Now we wait two weeks for the full immunization to take effect. And then we can almost start acting human again…………

Melinda M. Snodgrass has a new book out!

One of the things I love about my life is that people whose work I’ve admired have become good friends and colleagues. One such example is Melinda M. Snodgrass, whom I knew as the author of the Star Trek novel The Tears of the Singers, one of the co-creators (with George R.R. Martin) of the Wild Cards book series, and one of the best scriptwriters in Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s early years (among many others, she wrote the seminal episode “The Measure of a Man”). She has since become a dear friend, not just to me, but also to Wrenn (the pair of them are part of a gaming group that’s been meeting over Zoom weekly during the current apocalypse).

Currency of War, the fourth book in her Imperials series of science fiction novels is now out from the fine folks at Prince of Cats Literary Productions, and you should go buy it right now!

one shot down, one to go

Today, Wrenn and I trekked down to Yankee Stadium to get our first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer. This is being managed by Somos, a network of healthcare providers all throughout New York City. The vaccination station at Yankee Stadium opened up in January, and is specifically there to service Bronx residents.

The process was very orderly, very efficient, very organized, and very friendly. We have absolutely no complaints about any aspect of it, and tons of compliments. Somos is to be commended for what they’re doing here, trying very hard to make sure that the people of the Bronx get vaccinated. Speaking as a lifelong Bronx resident, I know that we’re historically left behind and underrepresented and ill-served, compared to the rest of NYC, so I appreciate the effort. Kudos also to the U.S. Army personnel, who supplemented the Somos staff

Amusingly, the one thing they did constantly was check our ID to make sure we were Bronx residents. They really are committed to making sure that the Bronx gets safer.

The process itself was straightforward. They verified our appointment, which I made Monday morning, then we had to go through the metal detector (because Yankee Stadium), then we registered, and they put us in the computer, and then we went to get our shot. The shot itself was as fast as humanly possible — the guy giving the shot checked our IDs, applied alcohol to our arms, stuck the needle in (it barely even hurt), put on a band-aid, gave us our CDC card that we will now carry around saying we got our first shot, and then we went to the waiting area. Generally, one waits for fifteen minutes to make sure there are no nasty side effects, but because Wrenn is an allergy-induced asthmatic, she had to wait for half an hour.

There were no side effects — though we were both pretty tired when we got home — and we drove home and ate lunch and took well-deserved naps.

We get our second shot on the 12th of March, and by the 26th of March, we’ll be fully vaccinated against this awful virus.

Please, if you’re eligible in your state, make an appointment. If you’re not eligible, be patient — with new vaccines on the verge of being FDA-approved, the number of slots should increase in March. Keep checking for appointments. The sooner everyone gets vaccinated, the safer we’ll all be.