Minuteman

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This is an older story, written back in 2008.

Henry didn’t know what drew him to that particular stool. It was the same place he sat every night, but something was different. As he sat, the stranger next to his seat looked at him.

“You look like hell,” quipped the stranger. “So what sorrow are you drowning this evening?”

The bartender filled a mug, and slid it down to Henry, who drank it down quickly.

After the beer had time to work its way to his brain, he felt like he could answer. “My wife might be leaving me, my son might not be mine, and I may need a few more of these tomorrow night depending on how the day goes.”

“All that on one pint?”

“No use for discretion now.”

“Oh, you’ll get through it. I pulled myself out of a similar situation years ago, and you remind me of myself at your age.”

“You think you know what I’m going through?”

“Let me tell you a little story. While I was off fighting the British, my business failed, my wife remarried, had children, and died with her newborn son when an English soldier thought it might be a good idea to set some uppity civilians ablaze.”

“Oh that makes me feel much better. You have my gratitude, good sir.” He raised his mug and gave a mock toast.

The man grumbled, then regained his composure. “I took it in stride. I rebuilt my business, remarried, and had a son.”

“Yet here you are in this pub. What sorrow are you drowning?”

The stranger sighed and looked out into space. “I was broken from years of war. I couldn’t handle having a family, so I left like a coward. My son grew up into a successful businessman and has a lovely wife. I’ve been watching from a distance, but never could get up the courage to talk to him.”

“The night’s still young. A few more beers could give you courage.”

“Oh no, I have to work tomorrow. I think I’ll take my leave.”

“Before you go, I didn’t catch your name,” said Henry.

The stranger paused for a moment. “The same as yours.”

Henry gave the man a befuddled look.

The stranger set a dollar on the counter and hurried to the door. In his half-drunken state it took Henry a few minutes to realize who he had spoken to, and what he meant.

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The Crucible

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I wrote this for a forum daily prompt thing a few years ago.

It seemed simple enough. The ad offered volunteers a million dollars to cross a bridge. Fred knew there had to be some catch, but didn’t think it’d be all that bad. It was run by monks, according to the ad, and they can’t be bad. The next day he was on a boat to an island in the Gulf of Mexico.

Upon arrival he was hurried to the part of the island where the contest was to be held. Fred and the monks made their way to a tunnel with a sign at the top that read “The Crucible.”

They entered a vast chamber illuminated by boiling lava. Fred looked at the elder monk with trepidation. “So how many people make it to the other end?”

The elder smiled. “They all quit before trying.”

Fred looked down at the lava, then back at the monk. “You sure this is safe?”

“No one said that.”

Fred stared for a moment, decided he must be joking, and started across. He made it about halfway across before a geyser of lava consumed the path ahead, disconnecting the bridge from safety.

The gathered monks sighed with relief. “Gaia is sated for another millennium,” said the elder.

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What is a furry anyway?

The definition of furry generally falls into two camps:

All-encompassing: This definition doesn’t concern itself with self-identification. If you’ve ever watched a Saturday morning cartoon or played Star Fox without thinking it’s icky, you’re a furry. This is an unpopular definition since it takes agency away from people and makes furries look like jerks.

Self-identification: Most people seem to agree with this one, and it’s the one I think is best. You can’t make someone accept a label without forcing all the connotations that come with it. Trying to force a label only breeds resentment. I definitely identify as a furry, which I’ve written about.

Most furries can be stuffed into a category:

1. Fursuiter. A lot of people have an odd idea of what one does with a fursuit. The thing people imagine happening would void the warranty and put them on the builder’s blacklist. A basic fursuit costs thousands of dollars. It’s a big investment, and no one would want to be shunned by the person who knows how to fix normal wear and tear.

2. Artist. Art is the biggest part of the furry subculture. Most of the art isn’t all that good. Some of it is, and it’s worth checking out. The easiest way to find it, if you don’t know where to look, is on deviantART with the all-time popular sorting.

3. Porn fiend. Now to the sticky…I mean tricky subject of porn. Yes, there’s a lot of it. And it’s so abundant that you have trouble avoiding it if you spend any time looking for anthro art. Most furry art sites have a filter for it, but some will slip past. Either people forgot to tag it or they do it on purpose.

Whether or not furry porn is bad is one of those personal philosophical things, and I try not to judge people for their preferences. I just wish they’d tag it better so it wouldn’t pop up in unexpected places.

Myths and misconceptions

Let’s not kid ourselves: most of the bad stuff exists. There’s a lot of drama. Some really do believe in “fursecution,” and there’s all kinds of hilarious, lengthy posts about people “coming out” as a furry when no one really cares enough for it to matter. There are people who make a career out of drawing furry porn.

But the furry subculture is a big, diverse thing. Rule 34 is in full effect, but that’s true of anything. And like everything, the worst parts of it are the most obvious if you don’t look past what you hear second hand.

Harassment is a problem in geek spaces

There’s no shortage of public accounts. People are ignorant of it because they don’t listen to the deluge of people who’ve gotten up the courage to speak out. People also confide in me or to private groups I’m a part of, and I have my own experiences.

This is real. It’s not a feminist conspiracy or a money grab by the media.

You might think that, as a gay person, I never felt the same urges that make a straight guy go bonkers for a woman and lose all self-control. You would be wrong. When I was younger and confused about my sexuality, I tried to play straight. I modeled the other boys and did what they did. I’ve got a teensy, tiny, itty bitty bit of bisexuality, and one girl triggered it. I crushed hard and pestered her for weeks, trying to turn her no into a yes.

I modeled the behavior of the people around me. I figured maybe that feeling would come back, and I could fit in with all the other guys. I understand what it’s like to be head over heels for someone, and completely lose yourself in pursuit. I get it. But being the subject of that pursuit when you don’t want it is terrible and isolating. I’ve been there too.

So what was the problem? I didn’t listen: she said she wasn’t interested. What you can do, as an enlightened and informed individual, is catch yourself when you do those things. Catch your friends and colleagues when they do those things. And if you don’t know what it is that you’re doing wrong, read and listen when people tell you about their experience. When you know, and when you see, challenge it.

Is it risky? Do you risk your livelihood if you rock the boat?

I can’t deny that.

Look, I’m gay. I risk being unemployable, and I risk losing a job if I get it, for being openly gay, and I have no recourse. I risk someone beating me for minding my own business. Someone might kill me for speaking up. But living an authentic life is safer for me than it was just ten years ago because people rocked the boat.

This is the price we pay, the risk we take, to see to it that our society is free and equal. Sometimes you have to demonstrate the principles you claim to have, and it can be risky to do that. You’ll note that in many of those links, people rocked the boat. They got people rehired. They got investigations going. They held vigils and protests and marches. People got loud and mad, and change happened.

And you know what? I’m not just talking to men. I’m not just talking to women. A subset of people reading this noticed the gender-neutral pronouns outside my anecdote and hoped it was more than a fluke. I’m talking to everyone across the gender spectrum and to everyone outside it. We are better than our instincts. We are better than our socialization. We can prove it. You can prove it.

Women: listen to people’s stories. Make yourself heard.
Men: listen to people’s stories. Make yourself heard.
Enbies: listen to people’s stories. Make yourself heard.

Be excellent to each other.

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