March 8, 2020

Let’s begin with a story. This is a distillation of the first conversation I often have with people when they find out I write and publish science fiction: “Oh, cool! I love science fiction!” To which I say, “Oh, cool! What sort of authors do you like?” To which they pause and say, “Do you know… Asimov?” And I smile. “Yes, Asimov is one of the Golden-Age majors, along with Bradbury, Clarke, Heinlein, and about a dozen more. Some of… Read more

March 1, 2020

Let’s begin with a story. This one’s part-personal-update, part-lesson (I hope) about how some of our best work as humanists will come from listening to others, and from availing ourselves to the possibility that many things we take for granted are not givens for everyone else. This is especially important, I’d argue, when it comes to establishing a sense of moral conduct in the secular world. Is what we’re suggesting should be “common sense” really universally applicable? Or are there… Read more

February 23, 2020

Let’s begin with a story. These last few months I’ve been interrogating a lot of my most deeply held beliefs, by which I mean beliefs that are so much a part of me I often forget they are beliefs: perceptions of the world as operating one way, that is, when I could be perceiving it in another. I explored a few of them in a recent essay, “Beyond the Biological: Why Humanists Must Be Leery of Inner Drive.” There, I discussed how something… Read more

February 16, 2020

Let’s begin with a story. Back when I was precocious twit–a kid in grade three who’d already been skipped a grade, went to one-day-a-week gifted a year earlier than the programmes usually began, and took math class with the grade sixes (who then beat and bullied said kid at recess: not that the older kids in gifted were any better)–I read a story in Jack & Jill magazine about a teacher illustrating prejudice by creating an arbitrary divide in the… Read more

February 9, 2020

Let’s begin with a story. I have a cautionary reaction to sudden, increased attention that I wonder if any of you share. In January, within my writing community, I gained an overnight surge in social-media followers, because I was observing the need for measured response to a tense issue at just the right time in the discourse. And because I have no inner gender identity (one form of “nonbinary” in the parlance of the era), when I call for measured… Read more

February 2, 2020

Let’s begin with a story. It’s the one where everything’s going wrong: zoonosis has triggered a massive viral outbreak, and associated spike in racism; Brexit has gone into effect, emboldening further racists; democratic checks-and-balances are being denied in plain view in the U.S. political system; citizen monitoring and related forms of state control are on the rise in genocide-perpetuating China; the consequences of climate change are being felt the world over in extreme natural events and increasing refugeeism; populist presidents… Read more

January 19, 2020

Let’s begin with a game. Quick! What do all of the following have in common: A person stands in a packed, ill-lit theatre and screams “He’s got a gun!” Your boss comes in, and tells you, “You’re fired.” Your life partner announces “I don’t love you anymore, and quite frankly I never did.” You’re starting your time on a jury for a violent crime, and a fellow juror says to you, “Oh, the defendant is black? Well, this’ll be a… Read more

January 15, 2020

Let’s begin with a story. When I was a kid the major sex columnist, the one that all we curious Toronto teens clamoured to read reprints of in the local free press, was Dan Savage. Dan had his share of controversies over the years, spam-can-related and otherwise, but he especially seemed to lose currency with the LGBTQ+ community, in later years, over his use of “tranny” once the community at large no longer tolerated its use. (There was a whole… Read more

January 12, 2020

Let’s begin with a word. This one might be my least favourite: problematic. I once had a MacBook with a built-in dictionary widget that defined “problematic” as a purely academic term–and not in a positive way. I was an academic at the time, and I agreed; there’s nothing in the term, content-wise, that couldn’t already be said with “troubling”–except that “troubling” is too emotional, too personal. “Problematic” has an emotionally detached and definitively reasoned air to it. As such, it… Read more

January 4, 2020

Let’s begin with a story. This one is Toni Morrison’s, from Song of Solomon (1977): It’s Lena’s memory of her little brother, Milkman, urinating on her. This wasn’t a spiteful act so much as one done carelessly, and all throughout Song of Solomon, Milkman is tasked with learning similar about how he’s moved through life: how, even as he has been wronged by many, so has he incuriously wronged in turn. Lena shares this memory to explain how he’s especially taken… Read more

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