I’ve been thinking about the Capitol riots lately. I don’t mean “how could this happen?” (anyone who’s read even a little bit of history already knows the answer) or “what role did the former President play? (that answer is self-evident, and getting more so every day).
No, that’s tedious, dreary, and altogether too predictable. What I’ve been thinking about is the fascinating narratives that have sprung up around the failed coup, how contradictory they are, and how those contradictions don’t seem to matter.
I’ve come to an unexpected conclusion: The fact that the narratives are inherently self-contradictory is part of what makes them compelling. The mutual impossibilities in the narrative threads are precisely why they work.
Wow. A few weeks back, I asked for help to save my website More Than Two. I’m now over three-quarters of the way to the crowdfunding goal for my legal expenses to help save the site. Once again, thank you all so much. I am incredibly grateful for your generosity.
I would like to share a little bit more about what’s happening. First, a little bit of context. (Don’t worry, I’ll be brief.)
I started writing about polyamory on the web in 1997, when my first writings about non-monogamy went online on xeromag.com. These pages quickly became by far the most popular part of xeromag.com. Before long, they were the most popular polyamory content on the internet in terms of monthly visitors.
In 2006, I registered the domain morethantwo.com. At first, this URL simply displayed the poly content hosted on xeromag.com.
I also started talking about writing a book called More Than Two in 2006. A poly activist who was heavily involved in the early poly community offered to underwrite the costs of writing the book. By late 2006 I’d written sample chapters and a content outline and started shopping the idea of the book around to publishers. Throughout 2007 and 2008, with the continued financial support of my patron, I refined the content outline and sample chapters of More Than Two, and kept looking for a publisher who might be interested. (I eventually accumulated about fifty rejection slips, many of which said some variation on “we don’t think a how-to book on polyamory will sell, but if you ever write a memoir we’d be interested.”)
In 2011, I spun off the polyamory content from Xeromag as its own site. I separated the poly content on xeromag onto morethantwo.com, and also published the outline of the book More Than Two on this domain name.
In 2012, I met my former partner. In 2013, she brought up my book project and suggested a collaboration. We co-founded a publishing company called Thorntree Press (we chose that name because we had our first date on Hawthorne Street in Portland), and in 2014, we published More Than Two.
In 2018, I left Vancouver and that relationship. We began trying to disentangle our financial affairs, since we still jointly owned Thorntree Press. My former partner wanted me to give her my shares of the company. I declined. This led to a long legal dispute which is still ongoing.
What’s happening now?
Three things, one of which is common knowledge and two of which aren’t.
In November 2021, we had a mediation in front of Judge Karsten Rasmussen. The details of that mediation are covered by a confidentiality agreement, but at the end of it, the judge, my attorney, and her attorney at the time believed we had arrived at a meeting of the minds.
Following the mediation, her attorney attempted to add a new term to the settlement which would have me turn over possession of the domain morethantwo.com to her.
Since then, she has replaced her attorney. She does not consider the mediation to have been binding.
In January of 2022, my former partner filed for a registered trademark on the phrase “More Than Two.” My lawyer, who specializes in intellectual property, informs me that if she establishes ownership of this trademark, she may be able to seize the domain name morethantwo.com under WIPO action.
My lawyer is confident that we can oppose her claim to the trademark, since I can show use of it going back to 2006, but also warns me that opposing a trademark is a very expensive and time-consuming undertaking. I have already paid him the initial sum of money to oppose the trademark filing, and provided him with the materials necessary to draft an opposition filing.
On March 17, 2022, she filed a lawsuit in Multnomah County Court to petition that the courts declare the November settlement void.
These three things together threaten the continued existence of the More Than Two site. She has already indicated she wishes to have the domain turned over to her, and she is attempting to claim a trademark that would give her the benefit of sixteen years of work I’ve done.
Thanks to your generosity, I have been able to provide my lawyer with the litigation retainer he needs to oppose her trademark application and to represent me in court.
However, this is not the end of the road! I expect this matter to continue to be expensive. I have already taken on considerable debt in this matter.
Over the last sixteen years, I’ve poured my heart and soul into this site. I could simply turn it over to her and allow her to take the trademark, but I think it’s wrong to surrender all my hard work for someone else to take advantage of.
Again, thank you all for your incredible support. I can’t tell you how much it means to me.
For those of you who wish to follow what’s going on, I have created a timeline here, which I will keep updating as the legal situation unfolds.
Okay, so we live in a time when the word ‘Orwellian’ is used rather a lot, often by people who clearly haven’t read any Orwell. (“The liberals don’t want to shop at Hobby Lobby! That’s so Orwellian!” “That dude got fired for going to a Nazi rally That’s so Orwellian!” No. No, it isn’t.)
But I’m going to offer a hot take, which is that Nineteen Eighty-Four hasn’t aged particularly well. I’ll even go further: the ideas in it don’t map well onto modern society, current political events notwithstanding.
Yes, yes, I know, it’s a literary classic. Yes, yes, I know, lots of people say it’s more relevant today than ever.
I disagree—not because I think everything now is all sunshine and roses, but because Orwell wrote from a specific place and time, with a particular set of assumptions, and as a result the dystopia he imagined isn’t the dystopia we got.
Orwell envisioned a future of old-school authoritarian totalitarianism, very much rooted in Post-WWII geopolitics, where totalitarians looked like Joseph Stalin and government enforcement looked like the East German Stasi.
Who would’ve guessed the real Big Brother would be a weedy computer nerd with poor social skills in a cheap T-shirt?
He projected his ideas about authoritarianism onto the technology of the day, imagining TV sets broadcasting State propaganda, and cameras in every room sending images back to the State apparatus.
He never imagined a pervasive Panopticon might just as easily be turned against the State. In an age where we all carry cameras with us everywhere we go, corruption and police brutality can be recorded and exposed.
He also could not imagine a society where common communications media were anything other than top-down—he was still trapped in a broadcast-television mindset, where content creation was centralized and transmitted out to the population.
We live in a much more decentralized world, a world where citizens are empowered in ways that Orwell couldn’t (and didn’t) imagine. Because of that, his vision feels very old-school, very Grandpa’s Dictatorship.
Who would’ve guessed the real Big Brother would be a weedy computer nerd with poor social skills in a cheap T-shirt?
It turns out—surprise!—that everyone in the 40s and 50s was 100% wrong about how societies work.The free and vigorous exchange of ideas doesn’t mean that good ideas rise to the top. Giving everyone instantaneous access to the world’s sum total of facts and knowledge doesn’t lead to a more enlightened society. Instant, unfettered worldwide communication doesn’t break down barriers, erode prejudice, promote egalitarianism, or increase understanding.
It took a long time for me to wrap my head around this. I was one of those naive optimists, back in the era before a pervasive Internet. Turns out that shit doesn’t happen. All the optimistic forward thinkers from the 1940s through the 1990s were utterly, 100% wrong.
Ah HA ha ha ha ha! Good one! Now pull my other leg, Mr. Mill!
Dystopia is here, but it isn’t Grandpa’s “boot stamping on a human face forever.” That’s so last-century.Today’s authoritarianism is agile, data-driven, shaped by analytics and A/B testing, tested with focus groups, refined with demographic polling, all of it carefully tailored for different market segments.
Todays doublethink and thoughtcrime aren’t engineered by the Ministry of Truth and pushed out by the police apparatus. They’re crowdsourced, enshrined in tribal identity politics, and enforced by the Twitter rage generator and the 4chan hate machine. Offenders aren’t whisked away for extraordinary rendition; instead, the rage of the internet is summoned upon perceived offenders, anyone who appears to support perceived offenders, anyone standing too close to perceived offenders.
In this dystopia, narratives matter more than facts, secret courts are replaced by the court of public opinion, and we don’t need the Stasi to enforce this because we enforce it on ourselves.
George Orwell was right that the impulse toward authoritarianism is written deep in the social DNA of Western societies, he was just wrong that authoritarianism is always top-down. Turns out, paradoxically, it’s often bottom-up.He thought government would need to control our speech and our thought to control us.
Give us unfettered communication and unlimited access to knowledge and we’ll do it ourselves.
In this post-fact dystopia, the government doesn’t create our reality, we choose the reality that best appeals to our biases and prejudices. Knowledge? That’s, like, just another opinion, man!
Join me and my co-author Eunice Hung Saturday, April 23, 2022 at 11:00 AM Pacific time/7:00 PM London time for a live-stream event! We talk about the book publishing process, how to co-author together, and how to start your own novel…plus you’ll be able to watch us begin work on a brand-new book!
Image by pascal stöckmann. There’s something unsettling about a camera pointed square at you, isn’t there?
It’s almost here! Where did the time go?Join Eunice and I for a live-streaming event on April 23, where we will answer questions about writing a novel, co-authorship, publishing, details about the world of the Passionate Pantheon, the trials and tribulations of working entirely remotely, and whatever other general random tangents that our brains drag us to (based on past experience)!All this, plus you get to watch the very start of the writing process for the fifth novel in the Passionate Pantheon series!
When: Saturday, April 23, 2022, from 11 AM Pacific/2 PM Eastern/7 PM London time, for at least two hours (but knowing us, probably a lot longer, because we don’t know when to stop).
What: You know that saying, “Everyone has a novel somewhere inside”? One of the most common questions we hear is “I’ve always wanted to write a novel, but how do you get started?” Another is, “I’ve always wanted to write with someone else, but how do you write together?”
Why: You can get your answers questioned…wait a minute, strike that, reverse it. (Although we’re always happy to have our answers questioned, if there’s folks with more expert knowledge in the livestream!) Plus people who attend will get a secret perk when the crowdfunder for the third novel, The Hallowed Covenant, goes live!
We’ll address both of those questions (though protip, you probably won’t start your novel(s) in quite the same way we started ours!), and talk publishing, writing, and the creative process. We co-author in quite an unusual way, so if the way we work sounds appealing, let us tell you all the mistakes we made so you don’t have to!
You’ll also be able to watch us begin a brand spanking new novel together! (Caveat: spanking not included.)
We plan to create a new, blank Google Docs file and start the fifth Passionate Pantheon novel right in front of you. It won’t just be us telling you how to start a novel; you’ll be able to see it happen!
The process itself—the conversations we have, the mechanics of how we write, the world-building, all of it will be on display for the whole world to see, warts and all. (Gulp!) You’ll see the dead ends, the changes, the moments when the plot or characterisation clicks—all the things you’ll probably experience during writing yourself, played out live in front of your eyes.