If Taxation WERE Just Like Theft

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This cartoon has six panels, with a caption underneath the bottom of the strip.

Two women pull back in shock from a mugger holding a gun pointed at them. They are all on a sidewalk; there’s a cracked wall behind them, covered with graffiti. The mugger is dressed like a very stereotypical criminal: Black knit cap, dark sweatshirt, and even a domino mask.

MUGGER: Hand over your money!

The mugger walks down a sidewalk, cheerfully talking to himself and holding a wad of cash. There’s some grassy hills and trees next to the sidewalk; it might be a park.

MUGGER: Phew! That was a long day of stealing! Now to go use this money!

The mugger is handing a wad of cash to a workman; the workman is carrying a shovel and wearing a hardhat. They are on a city street, with a sidewalk and alleyway behind them; there are a few large potholes visible on the sidewalk. Both are smiling.

MUGGER: Here’s some money. So you’ll fill in these potholes?
WORKMAN: That’s the job!

In a supermarket, a mom, pushing a nearly empty shopping cart, is talking to her son. The mugger is nearby, holding out a wad of money to her.

MOM: I don’t know how we’ll afford groceries this month, sweetie.
MUGGER: Pardon me, I’m your mugger. Here’s some money for food.

The mugger and a businessman in a suit are in a boardroom type place. The mugger is leaning forward on the table to look intently at a big diagram of a missile; there’s also a stack of papers on the table next to him. The businessman is speaking, with a slightly predatory smile on his face, raising a forefinger as if making a point. Both mugger and businessman are seating in plush chairs. There’s a huge window behind them, with a view of the cityscape beyond.

BUSINESSMAN: We have drone missiles that can flatten a city block from half a world away.
MUGGER: Impressive. I’ll buy ten thousand.

The mugger (still wearing his domino mask, as he has been the entire strip) is standing on A little stage platform in a park. Next to him is a man wearing a hoodie and a ski mask. Both are speaking into microphones; a little crowd is listening to them. The ski mask guy is holding out a hand dramatically; the mugger is holding a hand to his chest in an “I’m just a regular guy” sort of gesture.

SKI MASK DUDE: I’ve got the experience to be your next mugger!
MUGGER: Which mugger would you rather have a beer with? Me!

Below the entire strip is a caption. The caption says: IF TAXATION WERE JUST LIKE THEFT.

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Libertarianism | 18 Comments  

Silly Interview with Krystal Claxton, Universe’s Foremost Expert on U.S. Geography

(This interview was originally posted on my Patreon. Thank you, patrons!)

A few years ago, I put together some silly interviews full of silly questions for my fellow authors. A number of them fell through the publication cracks then, so I’m running them now with updates.

(Krystal Claxton)

RS: Heinlein’s rules! In your bio itself, you mention that you “frequently disobeys Heinlein’s Rules.” Me, too. Which ones do you disobey most? Do any of them get on your nerves and jump up and down?

KC: I’m pretty bad at following Rule #3 “refrain from rewriting.” I tend to both write out of order and write way, way too many words for a given story and both of these leave me with an inclination for tinkering.

But let’s be honest. We all know #1 “You must write” is hardest. That blank page. The mocking blink of the cursor. A notebook full of endless blue college rule. We’ve seen the end and it’s an empty text file you were sure had something in it, berating you while you stand on the stage in the high school cafetorium. In your underwear.

KC2019: I overcame my difficulty with Rule 1 by instituting a policy of writing 100 words (or more, if inclined) every day. My longest streak to date is 572 days. I no longer fear a blank page, but I do still break Heinlein’s Rules.

There’s something kind of dickish about them despite the pithiness that made them stick. I’ve become wary of any advice that dictates One True Process and I’m afraid that Rules 3 and 5 aren’t viable for everyone. Rewrite if it’s part of your process. Don’t send out a story that you feel is no longer indicative of your ability or personal values. Even Rule 4 sounds iffy to me. Sometimes it’s good to write for yourself. Practice and love will benefit your more commercial endeavours. 

RS: Heh, “refrain from rewriting” is definitely one I disobey. But I admit it’s the one I was thinking about when I asked if any of them get on your nerves. It gets on mine. 😉

Moving on–apparently, you were “born with a miscalibrated sense of humor.” So–I must ask–what is your favorite joke?

KC: My biggest hurdle in telling a joke is remembering to provide context. I love a joke that takes two hours to set up. For instance, there’s an episode of Futurama “How Hermes Requisitioned His Groove Back” that is essentially 22 minutes of setting Bender up to tell this joke:

“I am Bender. Please insert girder.”

Hilarious, right?

I’ll supply you with some of my favorite jokes, but since I don’t want to take up your whole day, I can’t promise they’ll make sense:

“Do you like bread?” -Eddie Izzard
“Write it or I’ll break it off!” -Fletcher Reede
“And this was odd, because, you know,
They hadn’t any feet.” -Lewis Caroll

KC2019: Heh, those are still great jokes. Have you seen The Good Place? COMEDY GOLD. New favorites:

And, obviously:

RS: You lived in nine states before you turned thirteen, which you write caused you to have “an oscillating accent.” What extremes does it oscillate between?

KC: Most oscillation occurs primarily between minute variations of Southern, though here’s a sentence you might reasonably expect to hear me say: “I’m fixin’ to toss these clothes in the warsher then put on my sneakers and go for a soda.”


RS: Per above, are you really good at US geography?


Uhh. Yes. I’m so fantastic at Geography that it would blow your mind. Which is why it’s imperative that you never ask me to prove how awesome I am at Geography. For your own safety.

KC2019: Still don’t ask.

RS: What research topic has caught your attention just now?

KC: Techniques for sewing a Blind Hem/Slip Stitch with a sewing machine. Coffee brewing and cultivation. How to write good sex scenes. Myself for this interview.

KC2019: Reader, I decided on black tea instead of coffee.

RS: A lot of your short stories have been podcast. What’s rewarding about having fiction out in audio form?

KC: The indiscriminate tastes of podcast editors! No, no, I kid. Initially I was just looking for reprint markets and podcasts tend to be very open to previously-published works. Then Tina Connolly podcasted one of my stories on Toasted Cake and I discovered that it’s unbelievably fun to hear someone else read the words I arranged. Writing is just repackaging a free, abundant resource (words) into new shapes that you can con people into paying for. With podcasting those same words I arranged take on new life every time someone performs them. It’s fairly mind-blowing to observe how differently the story is in someone else’s head.

KC2019: BWHAHAHAHA. Oh dramatic irony of ironies. I’m now the special guest co-editor of PodCastle’s Artemis Rising 5 coming out in March!

RS: What’s upcoming for you? Please share!

KC: Speaking of podcasts.

My stories “Planar Ghosts” and “Heartless” are set to appear in Cast of Wonders and Far Fetched Fables, respectively later this year (KC2019: “Planar Ghosts” was a 2016 CoW staff pick ^_^). Once these come out, everything I’ve ever published will have also been podcast. So that’s neat.

In “Bitter Remedy” the titular character is a second-class superheroine with a secret: she’s also a mother. It’s just been republished by StarShipSofa with narration by Karen Bovenmyer and a feature on genre history from Dr. Amy H. Sturgis.

KC2019: Sadly, despite best laid plans at time of writing, I have stories published that have not been podcast… But that’s because I published new stories! Plot twist!

“Presently Me” is currently available to subscribers in Factor Four’s Issue 1.

“Life, hacked” is up to read for free at Nature: Futures. (Though I must suggest Nature’s podcast version performed by Shamini Bundell, also free.)

And “900 Seconds of Cognizance And Counting” is free to read in Factor Four Magazine Issue 4.


New Book! And new reward tiers on my Patreon.

New book!

I’m so excited about this!

I’ve been working like crazy since New Year’s, putting together a book collecting all my 2018 political cartoons. Here are the details:

  • You Only Drew This To Get Laid
  • Over 90 pages, in color.
  • 8″ x 10.5″ squarebound paperback
  • Includes every political cartoon I published in 2018, plus commentary and dozens of never-before-seen images. The new images are mostly drawings-in-progress, but also include some panels that didn’t make it to the final cartoon.
  • The image above is just a mock-up; those aren’t necessarily the final colors, and the real book won’t be that thick.

I’ve never self-published a book like this before, so I don’t know exactly when it’ll be out. But think I will be able to mail out copies in April or May.

And going forward, I plan to do a new book every year, collecting the previous year’s cartoons.

New Reward Tiers!

I’ve also added new reward tiers to my patreon.

But first, let me say: You can safely ignore all this if you’re a patron who would like your pledge to stay what it’s been. I’ll be honest – I’m hoping that some current patrons will find the book tempting enough to increase their pledge. :-)  But I’m incredibly grateful for every single patron’s support, at whatever level.

Here’s what the tiers now are:

50 cent tier– No one new can sign up for this level (because Patreon changed the minimum to $1).  But for you folks already pledging at the fifty cent level, don’t worry! You’re “grandfathered” in at that pledge level, and can stay at it as long as you like!

$1 tier – You get to see most of the cartoons a few days before I post them in public.

$3 tier – You’ll get a pdf copy of each year’s cartoon collection, as they come out. This way you’ll get a pdf file with all the year’s cartoons, rather than just a few a year when I happen to remember to do it (and let’s face it, I haven’t been great about that). And the pdf file will be high enough res so you can print cartoons out if you want.

$5 tier – You can share most of my cartoons even before I post them in public! Plus, of course, you’ll get the pdf copy of the book.

$8 tier – Here’s where it gets really exciting. At $8, you’ll get a PAPER copy of each year’s book mailed to you.

$10 tier – You, or a person or organization of your choice, will be thanked in the sidebar of one or two cartoons a year! (This could be an awesome gift for a loved one who likes political cartoons.)  PLUS you’ll get the paper copy of each year’s book.

$12 tier – This is just like the $10 pledge, except that I’ll hand-sign your copy of the book to you. (Or to whoever you designate).

$15 tier – You’ll get everything listed above. Plus, I’ll draw a a one-of-a-kind sketch in your book! I’m not talking about a 2-second head sketch either – I’ll take some time and make it nice.

Note: For new patrons at the paper-book-levels, I’ll wait a bit before mailing your books. (This is to protect me from people who pledge for a single payment and then cancel. I’m sorry about this, but if I don’t do this, I could actually lose money on these books. :-(   )

* * *

That’s it!

I really can’t wait to hold this book in my hands. I hope some of you are looking forward to that, as well!

For my patrons, thank you all for supporting these cartoons. I’ve gone from six cartoons a year to 45 cartoons a year – an incredible increase, and one that I could never have done without all your help. You folks are awesome!

Posted in Cartooning & comics, My publications | Leave a comment  

Writing a Recalcitrant Character

(This essay was posted 7 days early on my Patreon. Thank you to all my patrons!)

I wrote this on a writers forum, about my current progress in writing my Tor.com novella, “Woman in the Tower Window.” It’s an interesting process, but very frustrating at times! I thought you might like a peek behind the scenes:

Writing a story from the POV of a character who actively wants to conceal all of her emotional truths and reactions, so it’s all got to be in subtext. I hope the story will be good, but she’s driving me nuts!

She has a vested interest in establishing herself as silly, slow, and unaccomplished, while also presenting the things around her as having more import than they do. She sees herself as a sort of unremarkable, unnecessary character in the corner of a grand painting. She wants to talk about the painting, but she doesn’t want you to look at her, so she puts up a number of shifting obfuscatory pretenses to try to make herself blurry and unworthy of attention. I think she thinks that if you turn any attention on her, and see past the various pretenses to her emotional truths, you will see her as not just useless, but actively contemptible. She’s also trying to get in front of that feeling, I think; she thinks any interlocutor will discover she’s unworthy eventually, so she preemptively identifies and apologizes for it.

It can make every sentence a fight, though, as I try to figure out how to push forward, while elements of her character are constantly pushing back. I imagine this would be her psychological process of writing as well, so it’s not inappropriate for the story, but arrrrrgh.

Or, like, she would happily muse about the aesthetics of, e.g., the bird cage of her finches for another six paragraphs because that’s not emotionally difficult for her, but she’d like to cover the whole traumatic sections with minimizing elisions emphasizing her own flaws and self-blame–“the unpleasantness which, in my simpleness, I was unable to forestall” sort of thing.

Posted in Essays, Writing Advice | Leave a comment  

Open Thread and Link Farm, Frozen Like My Cold Dead Heart Edition

  1. Atheism and the Basis of Morality (pdf).The author argues that believing in an all-powerful, all-wide omnipresent, all-knowing God is incompatible with common morality, such as the idea that we shouldn’t permit a child to suffer terribly if we have a choice.

  2. Giving housing to the homeless is three times cheaper than leaving them on the streets – Vox

    Multiple studies have pointed to this same conclusion: It ends up costing cities less to provide housing for the homeless, then not. But this idea doesn’t even seem to be on the map at all, except among the left side of the left.
  3. Asking the Wrong Questions: It’s Easy to Be a Saint in Paradise: Thoughts on The Good Place’s Third Season
    wonderful and thoughtful blog post on the ethics of The Good Place, by Abigail Nussbaum. Thanks to Mandolin for the link.
  4. Scott Satens provides highlights of the results of the recent Basic Income experiment in Iceland.
    Interestingly, people on Basic Income got slightly less assistance than the control group on welfare – but reported higher levels of happiness.
  5. Americans are becoming more socially isolated, but they’re not feeling lonelier
  6. Self-Styled Free Speech Advocate Dave Rubin Praises Jair Bolsonaro For Ridding Schools Of ‘The SJW Stuff’ – Angry White Men
  7. Donald Trump handed a chance to supercharge voter suppression in 2020.
    I don’t think the decision was necessarily legally wrong. But it still frees up the RNC to step up voter suppression efforts – specifically, sending “security” personnel to go stand in front of minority-heavy voting locations.
  8. Elizabeth Warren Apologizes to Cherokee Nation in Private For DNA Test
    Some Cherokee Nation members are saying that the apology should have been public.
  9. The Misguided Focus on 1619 as the Beginning of Slavery in the U.S. Damages Our Understanding of American History | History | Smithsonian
    The story is more complex, and goes back further, than some people think.
  10. The Destruction of Black Wall Street – by Chelsea Saunders
    A short comic about the 1921 white riot that destroyed a prosperous Black community.”
  11. 16 Black Moms Are Getting a Basic Income in Mississippi. Here’s How It’s Working. – Rewire.News
    It’s a pilot program; if it goes well, the plan is to expand it.
  12. How Big Is the Male-Female Wage Gap, Really? – The Atlantic
    There is no “real” answer to this question, because – even when well-done – the answer to “how big is the wage gap” is always dependent on which wage gap is being measured. This is about measuring the wage gap over the course of fifteen years; measured this way, the answer is 50%.
  13. Pelosi Aide Tells Insurance Executives Not to Worry About “Medicare for All”
    Aside from the “Pelosi is anti M4A” part of things (which is not a surprise), it’s interesting to see what they’re thinking about Obamacare and pharmaceutical prices.
  14. 3 philosophers set up a booth on a street corner – here’s what people asked
  15. Are You a Woman Traveling Alone? Marriott Might Be Watching You. – Reason.com
    As part of an anti-trafficking initiative, hotels, airlines, etc, are being told to be suspicious of things like single women and interracial families.
  16. Cops Say Cindy McCain Didn’t Catch Toddler Trafficker at Airport: Reason
    “I went over the police and told them what I saw and they went over and questioned her and, by God, she was trafficking that kid. She was waiting for the guy who bought the child to get off an airplane.” That’s McCain’s version of the story; the truth appears to be, McCain called the police on a perfectly innocent mom who was with her different-race child.
  17. This filmmaker sat down with neo-Nazis and jihadists. Here’s what she learned. – Vox
  18. Restorative Justice | Thing of Things
    “There are some things you are entitled to that are completely non-negotiable, no matter how bad a person you are…. You have a right not to be tortured. You have a right not to be assaulted or killed, except when necessary to defend others. You have a right to food and water and shelter. You have a right to human interaction (but not to force unwilling people to interact with you, and that sometimes means sufficiently disliked people are doomed to loneliness– but it is a tragedy, every time).”
  19. U.S. Economy: Higher Minimum Wages Haven’t Increased Unemployment – Bloomberg
    The evidence is now clear: Either raising the minimum wage doesn’t increase unemployment, or it increases unemployment by such a small degree that it can’t be reliably measured.
  20. I might simply link to Henry Farrell’s response to people who want to engage him on race and IQ, next time someone wants to engage me on the subject. (A reminder: arguing for so-called “scientific racism” is not allowed on “Alas.”)
  21. Venomous yellow scorpions are moving into Brazil’s big cities – and the infestation may be unstoppable
    A lot of causes – including sanitation issues and global warming – have combined to make a possibly insolvable problem.
  22. Causation Fallacy 2.0: Revisiting the Myth and Math of Affirmative Action.
    Even if Harvard and other schools that are the focus of current lawsuits stopped admitting Black and Latinx students entirely, that would not significantly improve the odds of admission for White and Asian students. (Journal article, sci-hub link).
  23. Is Harvard Really Biased Against Asian American Students?
    Asian students are correct to think they’re being discriminated against in admissions. But that discrimination isn’t due to formal AA programs benefiting minorities, but due to informal racism for the benefit of white applicants. “These findings suggest that the same constellation of grades, activities, awards, essays, and test scores are interpreted as intellectual curiosity and academic excellence when presented by white applicants, but interpreted as evidence of an unimaginative applicant who is “booksmart and one-dimensional” when submitted by a student who is Asian American.”
  24. This Nancy strip is brilliant.
  25. Carol Anderson on Republican voter suppression – Vox
  26. Latino Turnout Surged. Then Texas Questioned 98,000 Voters’ Citizenship. | HuffPost
    We are increasingly dividing into the pro-democracy and anti-democracy parties.
  27. Can bees do math? Yes – new research shows they can be taught to add and subtract
    But can they be trained to do my taxes?

Posted in Link farms | 68 Comments  

Cartoon: A Woman In The Primary

Help me make more cartoons by supporting my Patreon! A $1 pledge means a lot.

While I was working on this strip, my friend Rachel suggested I read the blogger Echidne’s post “The Hillarization of Female Politicians,” and I can see why.

On top of that criticism female politicians also elicit a different type of scrutiny, one which tries to find the hidden worm in the superficially perfect-looking apple, which tries to find something that is very very wrong in her basic values or her basic competence.

The worm MUST be there, for why otherwise would we find her so unauthentic, her voice so grating, her ambition so calculating?

And once the worm has been found, it is turned into a boa constrictor and then that boa constrictor is turned against the politician herself.

On Twitter, Jennifer Palmieri also put it well:

When did [Elizabeth Warren] become unlikable? Looks like you can pinpoint time of unlikability to moment she showed ambition to be POTUS. As far as women have come, people still find women w/ ambition vexing.  “There’s something about her I just don’t like.”

There are tons of legitimate reasons to dislike any politician, including women who are politicians. But when the politician running is a woman, the reasons often seem suspiciously nebulous, like a rationalization for something else.

Moira Donegan may have said it best:

The claim that a woman candidate is not “likable” is a code for saying she defies our shared cultural understanding that power and authority are implicitly male, and that women who claim them are illegitimate, threatening or breaking the rules. If it were possible for Warren to be “likable”, under this rubric, it would only be if she were able to adhere to prevailing ideas of what is appropriate behavior for her sex – that is, if she were not seeking public office at all.

When I originally wrote this cartoon, almost two months ago, it was going to be just one guy monologing.

But I felt very little enthusiasm about drawing it, even though I liked the strip idea (and it seemed to grow more relevant every day, alas).

I eventually realized that I just didn’t feel like drawing nine panels of the same rather annoying person talking. So I split the monologue among eight speakers, with the panel 1 speaker returning for the final panel (and hopefully providing the strip with a pleasing sense of circularity), and just like that – poof! – I was looking forward to doing the drawing.

This kind of strip is always fun to draw, because I get to design character after character after character, and the only rule is that none of them can look too much like any other. That’s a neat challenge. So is trying to avoid giving any two characters similar clothes or a similar body position.

Add in a checkerboard color scheme and some shading (I’m actually very pleased with how this came out visually), and, as the British might say, much to the bewilderment of me and every other American, Bob’s your uncle.


This cartoon has nine panels, plus an additional tiny “kicker” panel below the bottom of the cartoon. Each panel shows a single speaker, talking directly to the reader.


A youngish white man with square glasses speaks cheerfully to the reader, holding up one forefinger in a “making a point” gesture.

MAN: We’d love to vote for a woman in the primary! As long as she’s the right woman.


A middle-aged man with a long face, sunglasses, and a tiny mustache holds his arms wide as he complains. His t-shirt is mostly cut off by the bottom panel border, but we can make out that it says “Biden.”

MAN: She’s so old. Can’t we have some fresh blood?


A woman with shiny black hair holds a coffee mug and speaks, looking concerned.

WOMAN: She just seems too ambitious. I don’t like that in a President… Plus she’s so inauthentic!


A benign-looking older man, wearing a dark suit and a striped tie, speaks to us, a small smile on his face.

MAN: Her? No. She doesn’t have enough experience…. Yes, I voted Obama over Hillary in 2008. That’s different.


A middle-aged man wearing a sports jersey and a baseball cap is looking at his smartphone, tapping it with one finger as he speaks.

MAN: She SAYS she listened to Tupac in 1989… But Tupac’s first album was in 1991! I won’t vote for a liar!


A young man with pierced ears, tattoos, a shaggy haircut, and a cheerful demeanor waves a hand dismissively, as if he’s laughing at a dismissable concept.

MAN: C’mon, her voice is so shrill! IT’d be like voting for my mom!


A man with neatly combed hair, perfectly round glasses, shrugs. He’s wearing a black shirt, a necktie, and a jacket with a plaid pattern.

MAN: I’d vote for a woman. But think of all the backwards people who won’t. That’s why we have to choose a man.


A young man in a hoodie, wearing large glasses, is partly turned away from us, but looks back at us out of the corner of his eyes, raising a hand for emphasis.

MAN: She’s just not likable, okay?


The youngish man from panel 1 is back. He’s grinning a bit too big, and holding two thumbs up towards the viewer.

MAN: So that’s a “no” for 2020! But if an acceptable woman ever runs, we’ll totally vote for her!


A tiny panel below the bottom of the stirp shows a young man with his hair buzzed on teh sides, looking smugly amused, talking to Barry the cartoonist. Barry has a pained expression and has slapped a palm over one of his eyes.

YOUNG MAN: So you’re saying it’s “sexist” to ever criticize a female politician?

BARRY: OW! Eyeball rolling injury!

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Elections and politics, Feminism, sexism, etc | 21 Comments  

The Group Pneuma Has Set One of My Poems to Music for Their Upcoming Album

I am excited! The musical group Pneuma has set one of my poem to music for their upcoming album, which will be called Who Has Seen The Wind. The album has not yet been officially released, but you can listen to the setting of my poem if you go to their homepage, and click on the second track, “Trembling/Light.” They don’t have the lyrics up on their website, so here is the poem. It’s from my first book, The Silence of Men:


In the dream, my life was smoke: I couldn’t breathe.
So I ran, unwrapping myself down the beach
till your skin, the ocean, lapped at my knees.
I dove in. Your voice was a current,
a melody gathering words to itself
for us to sing, and we sang them,
and they swirled around us, iridescent fish
bringing light to the world you were for me;

and then I was water, a river
washing the night from your flesh,
and I cradled your body rising in me
till you were clean, glowing,
and when you surfaced, glistening,
there was not an inch of you I didn’t cling to.

Posted in Writing | 2 Comments  

Silly Interview with Barry Deutsch, jew jew jew

A few years ago, I decided that I wanted to know some silly information about my fellow authors. So I put together some silly interviews full of silly questions. A number of them fell through the publication cracks then, so I’m running them now with updates. (If you’re interested in the prior features, including ones with people like Ann Leckie, you can find them on my blog here). Enjoy! Barry drawBarry Deutsch RS: Would your hero-fighting, Orthodox Jewish preteen, Mirka, ever fly a hot air balloon? BD: If I can figure out a story that makes sense for, I’d love to do it! Hot air balloons are fun to draw. Also, I have this friend who writes science fiction stories, and who always reads over my Hereville scripts and makes great suggestions, who has been suggesting a hot air balloon Hereville plotline for years. So maybe if I ever do that, it’ll provide her with some satisfaction. 🙂 RS: Your brand of humor is so distinctive that I can spot it not only in your own work, but in the kind of drawings you pin on pinterest, and that sort of things. What would you say have been the biggest influences on the development of your sense of humor? BD: Honestly, I have very little idea of what my brand of humor is, so it’s a little hard for me to pin down. But I think that I’ve probably borrowed a lot from Harvey Kurtzman’s MAD stories, from Walt Kelly’s Pogo, from Doonesbury, and from Dave Sim’s Cerebus; at least, those were the funny works that I remember rereading a thousand times in my formative years. In movies and TV, I think the Marx Brothers were very important to me, and so was Buffy the Vampire Slayer. RS: Did you ever seriously write prose with an eye toward publication? BD: I never have. It’s something that I’d like to try to do someday. RS: Do you remember why I asked you question 1? BD: Did my science fiction writing friend with the obsession about seeing Mirka in a hot air balloon put you up to it? RS: From a purely “fun to draw” perspective, why should people draw more flawed characters? BD: Actually, I don’t know that they should. A lot of cartoonists rarely draw characters that don’t fit into a very narrow sort of attractiveness, and I assume the reason they draw that way is that this is what they find fun to draw. But from a storytelling perspective, I think flawed characters are clearly better, because it’s so much easier for a cartoonist to make characters distinct and recognizable if they break out of that narrow “perfect pretty people” mold. In a lot of mainstream comics, it’s really hard to tell the characters apart. There are also really interesting stories to be told about people who look like ordinary people. RS: What’s the funniest response you’ve ever gotten to a cartoon? BD: In response to an anti-racist political cartoon, some infuriated racist emailed me calling me “jew” this and “jew” that (I am Jewish, but I’m puzzled why he thought I’d find this to be an insult) and finally, in an apparent fit of rage that put him beyond writing coherent thoughts, just ended the letter by saying “you jew jew jew!” That totally cracked me up. RS: If you had to appoint zombie Scalia to an infinite (for he is undead) term on the supreme court, or Donald Trump for a finite term, which would you pick? BD: Trump. The system has lots of vetos in place; we can survive four years of Trump. I hope. Wait, no, now I feel guilty because of all the people who’d die in the needless wars Trump would start. Sigh. Zombie Scalia it is. But we need to have him chained up or something so he doesn’t bite Ruth or Sonya. RS: If you had the opportunity to do your room up in any wallpaper from any time period regardless of expense or probability, what would you pick? BD: I’d hire a British Artist named Charlotte Mann who hand-draws walls for people. I mean, look at this! That would be incredible. I’d be accosting strangers in the street and demanding that they come into my house and look at the walls. 2019 update: So what are you up to now? I’ve been working on three main projects lately. First, thanks to my wonderful supporters on Patreon, I’ve increased my output of political cartoons from six a year to forty-eight a year. People can read all those cartoons for free on my Patreon. Second, with my co-creator Becky Hawkins, I’m working on “SuperButch,” a webcomic about a lesbian superhero in the 1940s who protects the bar scene from corrupt cops. We’ve got almost a hundred pages done already, and why yes, we do have a patreon, thanks for asking. And finally, I’ve been writing graphic novel adaptions of Tui Sutherland’s amazing “Wings of Fire” series for Scholastic. The graphic  novels are being drawn by Mike Holmes, who has an unbelievable facility for drawing hundreds of dragons. It’s a fantasy series about a group of young dragons who believe they are destined to save the world. Of course, you already knew that, since you’re co-writing the adaptations with me, but pretending to explain that to you was a handy way of getting that exposition across to your readers. Hi, readers! I have a couple of other big projects that I plan to work on in 2019, but they’re not yet at the discuss-in-public stage. (This interview was originally posted to my patreon on January 25, 2019. Thank you to all the patrons who make this possible!)
Posted in Interviews | 4 Comments  

Cartoon: Magic Ball

If you enjoy these cartoons, please support my patreon! A $1 pledge really means a lot.

It’s pretty common to hear Americans – usually but not always conservatives – lament that life was better back then (whenever “then” was). Less common: Hearing this said by anyone who’s not white (or not male, or not straight, or not cis).

Stephanie Coontz wrote:

Happy memories also need to be put in context. I have interviewed many white people who have fond memories of their lives in the 1950s and early 1960s. The ones who never cross-examined those memories to get at the complexities were the ones most hostile to the civil rights and the women’s movements, which they saw as destroying the harmonious world they remembered.

But others could see that their own good experiences were in some ways dependent on unjust social arrangements, or on bad experiences for others. Some white people recognized that their happy memories of childhood included a black housekeeper who was always available to them because she couldn’t be available to her children.

So this cartoon is about white nostalgia.

When I wrote this, I was thinking of John Rawls, the philosopher who wrote “A Theory of Justice.” Rawls suggested (and I am WAY oversimplifying! My apologies, Rawls fans!) that one way to judge how just a society is, is to ask if people would choose to join that society if they stood a chance of being the least well-off member of that society. In the not so nutshelled form, this is called the veil of ignorance, and although I read Rawls in college mumble mumble years ago, it’s stuck with me ever since.

A cartoon like this could have been done about any number of marginalized peoples – women,  LGBT, disabled people, Latinx, and many more. I played around with different wording (“when you get there, you’ll be a disabled lesbian of color,” etc) to be more inclusive, but as is often the case, piling more details on a short cartoon seemed, to me, to make the cartoon hit less hard.

Diversity is important to me, but diversity for me, as a cartoonist, may be best achieved by trying to do a variety of subjects over multiple cartoons.

I went through a variety of wishing props when thinking of this cartoon. I rejected doing a genie because it’s hard to do a recognizable genie in just two panels without relying on racial stereotypes. I thought of doing a wishing fish, a reference to my third graphic novel. I thought of using the magic wish-granting fairy from an earlier cartoon.

But in the end, I liked the idea of a magic wishing ball, because it’s just so out of nowhere. Plus it let me do the open “magic ball” box in the background, and I like imagining this dude just ordered his magic ball from Amazon.

Transcript of Cartoon

This cartoon has four panels, and is colored in various tones of sepia.

Panel 1

A man stands alone in a room, holding out a shiny ball in one hand. He is speaking to the ball. Nearby, an open box with “Magic Ball” written on it lies open on the floor. The man is looking a little anxious, and is dressed in a slightly old-fashioned style, with a bow tie and a vest with thin vertical stripes.

MAN: Oh, magic ball… I wish I lived in the old days. Society was better then. Life was better.

MAGIC BALL: I, the Magic Ball, will grant your wish!

Panel 2

The man continues speaking to the magic ball, now with an overjoyed expression.

MAN: Wow, it works! Thank you, magic ball! It’s been my lifelong dream to live back when everything was civilized!

MAGIC BALL: I’ll send you to any century you wish! But choose carefully, because when you get there, you’ll be Black.

Panel 3

Still holding the ball, the man looks up as he concentrates, his brow knitted.

MAN: In that case, I’ll go to… Please send me to… To…

Panel 4

Dejected, the man walks away, tossing the ball away over one shoulder.

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Race, racism and related issues | 11 Comments  

Patreon content for January 2018

Patreon content for January has just been posted!

$1 and above patrons can read a piece from my recent found poetry kick based on google searches for emotions–in this case, “anxiety.”

$2 and above patrons get to see a sneak peek of a work in progress. This month’s came from a writing game I’m playing where we get various prompts to write a piece of flash fiction every week. This is from the prompt “describe an act of what looks like kindness, but is actually cruelty.”

And for $5 and above patrons, I reprinted my essay “Why We Tell the Story: The Political Nature of Narrative.” The essay first appeared in Timmi Duchamp’s collection Narrative Power, published by Aqueduct Press.

Thank you to all my supporters on Patreon! Your support makes a big difference in my life!

Posted in Essays, Fiction, Patreon, Rachel Swirsky's poetry | Leave a comment