I'm going to be published!!!

Yes, that warrants three exclamation marks.

You may or may not have heard of the book The Atheist’s Guide to Christmas. It was released in the UK last year to raise money for the Terrence Higgins Trust, a UK HIV charity. Here’s a little summary of the book from Amazon:

42 atheist celebrities, comedians, scientists and writers give their funny and serious tips for enjoying the Christmas season. Last year, Guardian journalist Ariane Sherine launched the Atheist Bus Campaign and ended up raising over GBP150,000, enough to place the advert ‘There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life’ on 800 UK buses in January 2009. Now Ariane and dozens of other atheist writers, comedians and scientists are joining together to raise money for a very different cause. The Atheist’s Guide to Christmas is a funny, thoughtful handbook all about enjoying Christmas, from 42 of the world’s most entertaining atheists. It features everything from an atheist Christmas miracle to a guide to the best Christmas pop hits.

Well, it turns out HarperCollins is developing a US edition, and they wanted to add a couple American authors to make it more appealing to this side of the pond. And because of all the boobquake media attention, one of their editors stumbled upon my blog and said they loved my writing and sense of humor. I was asked to do a longer humor piece on atheist toys, based off of my Atheist Barbie joke! Excuse the caps lock, but:

I AM SO FREAKING HAPPY!

It’s been a goal of mine to get my creative work published ever since I was a little kid. I’ve been writing fiction stories since second grade, have a novel fairly far in progress (and other ideas that are less developed), have taken creative writing classes whenever I can, and absolutely love writing (which hopefully you can tell from my blog). I always said I wanted to be published before I graduated college, and there was that nagging cynical voice in the back of my head that said it wouldn’t happen. But now due to the bizarre circumstances of an offhanded joke becoming internationally popular, my dream is literally coming true.

I can’t believe I’m going to be published in the same book as fabulous writers that I deeply respect, like Richard Dawkins, Simon Singh, AC Grayling, Phil Plait, and Ariane Sherine. And not only that, but the editor reacted so positively to my piece (which is the top secret project I’ve been working on the last week), that this will probably open a lot of doors for me.

The US edition will be released on November 2, 2010 (my birthday! What are the odds?). The Amazon page for it is a little sparse now, but you can preorder it here. If you order the editions of it that are already released, they won’t have me in it.

I didn’t think anything could top the Colbert Report…but fulfilling this dream at age 22 kind of wins.
YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!

How this kid became a scientist – Part 1: Books

As graduation approaches, I find myself reflecting more and more about the past and the future. It seems somewhat unbelievable that in less than four months I’ll be graduating with degrees in Genetics and Evolution (with a minor in Psychology!). That surreal feeling is even stronger when I tell people that I’ll soon be striving towards my PhD studying Human Genetics & Evolution at…well, university soon to be decided.

I’ll be the first Dr. McCreight in my family, and the only scientist. That makes me wonder how I ended up this way. How did a daughter of an art teacher and history teacher become such a big science geek? And more importantly, what can I learn from my upbringing to better encourage kids to be interested in science?

Books

The importance of reading is so well known, but I need to mention it. I never was given explicitly pro-science books that are targeted towards kids. In fact, the only real nonfiction science book I enjoyed was the first book I ever read, in preschool, and was about dinosaurs. I’m still baffled how you can have a book with complex dinosaur names that a 3 year old can understand, but I loved that thing.

That’s the one exception, because it was fiction books that really got me pumped about science. They sort of tricked me into thinking like a scientist, rather than ramming it down my throat. For example, I still vividly remember reading a passage from A Wrinkle in Time where a character is explaining the different dimensions, and they accidentally travel through a 2-D world and experience what it would be like to be squished flat:

She tried to gasp, but a paper doll can’t gasp. She thought she was trying to think, but her flattened-out mind was as unable to function as her lungs; her thoughts were squashed along with the rest of her. Her heart tried to beat; it gave a knifelike, sidewise movement, but it could not expand.

But then she seemed to hear a voice, or if not a voice, at least words, words flattened out like printed words on paper, “Oh, no! We can’t stop here! This is a two-dimensional planet and the children can’t manage here!”

I read that book over a decade ago, but that passage still stuck with me – in fact, it’s one of two scenes I remember from the entire book. I understood the concept of dimensions because it was humanized, regardless if we could really do the magical sort of traveling they do in the book. If someone had tried to my ten year old self down and explain dimensions scientifically, I’m not sure if I would have understood it or wanted to pay attention, no matter how passionate the teacher was.

But books don’t just have to teach scientific concepts. In 5th grade we read The Westing Game, a Clue-like murder mystery. It was full of puzzles and red herrings, and trying to solve them was pretty much the most amazing thing ever. We were living the Da Vinci Code (well, it wasn’t written yet, but you know what I mean). Every time we’d read a new chapter as a class, we would collect all of our new clues, add them to a giant bulletin board, and try to figure it out. We weren’t just reading a story – we were actively participating, gathering evidence, working as detectives, forming hypotheses, and using logic to solve the problem. It was teaching us to think like scientists and have fun while doing so.

Sci-fi and murder mysteries are all well in good, but it was naturalistic books that really got me interested in biology. I was a shy, indoors sort of kid; I loved painting, drawing, reading, and playing videogames. My parents aren’t outdoors people, so we never went hiking or camping – the only time we spent with nature involved sitting on a golf cart.

So when I was assigned books like Where the Red Fern Grows and My Side of the Mountain, it was a type of escapism. The idea of interacting with animals and living off the land was as spectacular and amazing as zipping through dimensions and traveling through space. It wasn’t just novel – the books were great, and I started to eat that genre up. I looked for more books by Jean Craighead George, and found Julie of the Wolves. I absolutely loved it, and it was the first time I ever thought about animal behavior and ecosystems. I wanted to gobble up anything about wolves, so my dad bought me The Call of the Wild and White Fang by Jack London.

But again, things don’t necessarily need to be realistic fiction. My sudden curiosity for animals was also filled by Animorphs – and aliens giving people abilities to turn into animals isn’t exactly scientific. But it made me think about what it would be like to be certain animals – how their behaviors differ, how they’re similar, how they’re like us. I even loved the evolution-like covers, long before I had ever learned what evolution was. Aliens giving people abilities to turn into animals isn’t exactly scientific, but it ultimately increased my interest in nature, and that’s what matters.

This isn’t just an exercise in nostalgia – trust me, it makes me feel suddenly old, not a feeling I enjoy. But reading matters when it comes to getting kids interested in science. The books don’t need to be non-fiction or have the goal of teaching science in mind – they just need to inspire. They need to plant that spark of interest that kids can choose to follow if they wish. This is especially important for kids like me who didn’t get any real life experience with nature – sometimes a book is all we have, and sometimes a book is all it takes.

Actually getting a child to read is a totally different problem, one I don’t have a good answer to. I was a little bookworm, so you never had to encourage me. But one thing to notice is that nearly all of these books were assigned to me in school. Left to my own devices, I would probably still be rereading Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein to this day, and never have picked up something new. Did I love every book I was assigned in elementary school? God no. I didn’t even get halfway through the Secret Garden (still got a B on the essay – developed my BSing skills early). Not everyone is going to love everything, but inspiring some children down the road to science is worth it.

More parts to How this kid became a scientist will be forthcoming soonish. Hey, scientists are busy people!

The joys of parents learning science

We’re always hearing stories about kids making skeptical insights or getting interested in science. They’re exciting because these kids are our future, and maybe we see a bit of our nerdy selves in them. I don’t have kids, but I still get excited about something similar – parents learning science.

My parents have always been very pro-science. They always encouraged me in my science classes and Science Olympiad, and were elated when I decided to major in genetics. However, they’re not particularly science oriented. My dad was a history and special ed teacher, and my mom was an art teacher. My dad is into politics and sports, and my mom is obsessed with decorating and traveling. They treat science how rational people should – scientists are experts in a certain area, and even though my parents don’t personally understand the topics, they put their faith in scientists. It’s no different than putting faith in a mechanic or a pilot – everyone has their specialty, and we can’t know everything. They don’t believe that evolution and global warming are just giant conspiracies precisely orchestrated by hundreds and hundreds of evil scientists. Just because they personally don’t have the background to interpret the data doesn’t render it false (if only creationists could understand this simple concept).

We’re all intelligent, but in different areas – and sometimes that causes problems. The more I study biology, the less in common we have to talk about when I come home. Usually conversations consist of my dad rambling about some history book he’s reading and me trying to keep my eyes from glazing over. But this time I had a plan. I brought home Why Evolution is True by Jerry Coyne (who also has an excellent blog). My dad will read science books if given them (he loved Guns, Germs, and Steel and Hot, Flat, and Crowded), and I figured this time I can kill two birds with one stone: Get my dad to learn more about my interests, and get him to ramble about something I’m actually interested in.

Success!

It’s only been a day and he’s halfway done. He says he loves it and that it does a great job of explaining concepts to a non-scientist. He’s keeping a little notepad nearby so he can write down especially awesome facts to share with me, or questions to ask me so I can clarify. There’s just something really cool about my dad running up and ranting, suddenly realizing the frustrating creationist logic I have to constantly deal with.

Dad: How do people deal with the fact that 99% of all species that have existed are extinct? Why would God design things to all die? That doesn’t seem very intelligent to me.
Me: God works in mysterious ways *wink*

Dad: We have fossils! What more proof do they need?
Me: Satan buried them there to test your faith. That or the scientists made it all up.

Dad: Now he’s talking about examples of unintelligent design. Did you know women have painful childbirth because we evolved from four legged ancestors?
Me: I thought it was because God was punishing Eve.

Playing the devil’s advocate is fun. My dad knows I’m an atheist, and he’s not religious at all either, so it’s all for laughs. But it’s great seeing him react to all the religious “arguments” that I have heard people seriously make. Not only that, but it mirrors how my dad instilled good skeptical thinking in me. I’d often ask questions (How did they get the squirrels to talk in that commercial? It has to be a computer) and he would reply with a ridiculous answer (Squirrels just talk when you’re not looking). I would then go about explaining why that was silly, and logical thinking was developed!

I look forward to his future comments and questions as he finishes the book. Then my mom is going to take a crack at it! Soon the whole family will be well-read evolutionists, mwahaha!

The Professor and the Hurt Ego

If you’ve been reading my blog from the beginning (which is only a small fraction of you), you’ll be familiar with my book review of the Professor and the Dominatrix. For the confused, I typed up a review of what can easily be labeled as the worst atheist book ever written. The writing was poor, the story was uninteresting, the sex scenes ranged from boring to ludicrous, and the author managed to inadvertently offend pretty much every minority group I can think of (this description is pretty much the understatement of the century, and I encourage you to read my original review). I say inadvertently because Professor John Harrigan (yes, it’s a bit of a Gary Stu) is not a Poe. How do I know? Well, he’s replied to me multiple times, very upset that someone dare not fall in love with his novel. That was in April/May.

Guess who just left another comment? For full disclosure, here you go*:

This is from John Harrigan, alive and well, and you might say still uncomfortably cranky. I remain surprised that the bright people who totally accepted Purdue Jen’s roiling words ignored the introduction to The Professor and the Dominatrix by Roy P. Fairfield, for thirteen years an editor of the Humanist along with Paul Kurtz, the person who established Free Inquiry, Skeptical Inquirer, Prometheus Books, and CFI.. Doesn’t it seem unlikely that Fairfield would praise a poorly written, homophobic, anti-fem, and anti-black book?

The current issue of The American Rationalist contains a review of my book by G. Richard Bozarth, an experienced reviewer for free-thought publications (see Reviewer’s Bookwatch Sept.1). Some quotes: “The sexuality is pure vanilla, though I suppose a prude would be very offended . . . The cultural analyses, since they are based on Freethought and Secular Humanist philosophy, are often better than what is offered by many contemporary crime investigation authors . . . Chapter 4, Critical Thinking 101 succinctly hits many different Freethought and Secular Humanist nails squarely on the head . . . The Professor and the Dominatrix should be supported by us, and I’m certain many will be very glad they did.”

The publisher has corrected the sixteen typos and is by my request reducing the price to $21.95, effective in early November.

Oh, John Harrigan. While I’m glad I didn’t give you an aneurysm, I don’t think you quite understand how every time you say something, it just amuses me even more. I’m going to keep this short and sweet, since I’ve already spent far too much time and effort talking about your horrible book. Books can receive mixed reviews. In fact, that’s the norm. Just because you have received good (not glowing, notice) reviews from two middle aged white males does not mean your book, as a whole, is an excellent piece of fiction. This is especially true when your target audience is the young and impressionable – and they are the ones who dislike your book the most. Or, the succinct version:

I thought your book sucked. So did others. Get over it.

Though I do have to thank you – that book review helped make my blog popular! I went from about 10 to 100 subscribers in a day thanks to a link at Pharyngula, and now I’m at 500 and counting. Thanks again!

Now, act your age and stop feeling threatened by some outspoken 21 year old on the internet.

*I tried to find Mr. Bozarth’s review and failed, but if anyone can secure a copy, let me know.

Novel writing and dream crushing

I just received an update email from NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month.

Sigh.

You may have possibly noticed, or at least guessed, that I enjoy writing. I think you sort of have to enjoy writing to have a blog, unless it’s entirely made up of videos or photos of lolcats. I don’t claim that my blog posts are novel quality or anything – to be perfectly honest, I only give them a cursory proofreading before posting, which is why you see the occasional typo or nonsensical statement (heaven forbid). Here I write very stream of conscious-like, more like how I would talk to you then how I’d write formally.

I’ve always loved writing fiction stories. When I was in second grade I wrote a story about a kid who made a time machine out of a cardboard box and befriended a talking brontosaurus (based on a giant paper mache dinosaur we made…I should really find the picture of me standing with it!). In third grade I was writing my own variety of Goosebump books. In 5th and 6th, the story of me and my friends’ Pokemon journey (a fanfic writer at an early age, I guess). Then in 7th grade I concocted The Story.

Why does this particular story get the infamous title of The Story? Because it started a trend that still annoys me to this day – starting to write a great story and then never finishing it. These stories aren’t just a couple paragraphs scribbled on scrap paper as an idea – with my stories, I’ll get 10,000 words in and emotionally invested in my characters. And then I stop, with my chapters just sitting on my computer, waiting for me to add something to them. Occasionally I’ll feel a spark of creativity, or maybe just pity for neglecting my literary children, or maybe guilt for not being able to complete a project, and I’ll go work on them for a while. Even The Story, which started as stereotypical ideas from a 13 year old girl, is still around today (granted, with many many face lifts). Why have I created so many abandoned stories?

I blame NaNoWriMo.

Okay, blame isn’t entirely the best word. I know there are probably maybe reasons why I don’t finish them. I don’t have the time, I don’t think they’re good enough, I don’t think anyone would want to read them, etc etc. But NaNoWriMo definitely has encouraged part of it. NaNoWriMo is an event where you attempt to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. The catch is you have to start from scratch – no adding to preexisting work. If you thought I was insane for doing Blogathon, then you have to be absolutely out of your mind to do this. Which is why I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo five times.

The reason why I have so many stories is that I’ve failed five times.

I had my classic fantasy adventure (The Story)(2004), a second failed attempt at the same fantasy (2005), the dystopian future of cloning and organ harvesting (2006), the Greek Gods humorously causing havoc on a modern day pagan and atheist (my favorite story so far)(2007), the corrupt religious scientists infecting a population with the “God gene” (2008).* All of them patiently sit at 5,000 to 10,000 words, waiting to be finished.**

And even with all my failures, I know I’m probably going to do it again this year.

It’s absolutely insane for me to even consider attempting it. I’ll be a senior with hard classes, a class to teach, research to do, grad schools to apply to, a club to run, a blog to update (don’t worry, I won’t abandon you guys) – and I still want to write a novel? NaNoWriMo is like an abusive husband that I can’t will myself to leave. I don’t know why I keep going back and getting slapped around. Maybe it’s the hope that one year I’ll actually have the motivation to finish. One year I’ll plan ahead so when November rolls around, I’ll have a helpful outline and solidified ideas. But really I think it’s because I don’t know when I’ll ever have this sort of time again. College is hard, but the “real world” is harder. This is my chance to instill good novel writing habits, or I’ll never do it. It’s always been a dream to get a book published, but I kind of need to actually finish a book before I do that.

And now that I’ve typed all that, I’m really not sure why I did. Maybe for someone to tell me how crazy I am and dissuade me. Maybe for someone to wave the pom poms and tell me to do it. Or maybe I have a reader who has also been repeated raped by NaNoWriMo and can sympathize. All I know is if I do decide to do this crazy shit again, I need to start planning now, or I’m just going to be whining again come December.

*Dear lord these all sound horrendous typed out in uber-summarized form. I promise you they’re better than they look. Really.
**And it’s not that I’m unhappy with them – I like all of them, and I’m super proud of how the Greek God one started. I think I’m just too afraid to ruin it at this point.

This Professor business will never end, will it?

After the last cranky email I received from The Professor, I had had enough. I sent the following short email reply to him:

“I tried to explain the reasoning behind my review and even extend my apologies to you, but you chose to ignore that. I have no idea why you think I would be motivated to deliberately misrepresent your book, other than the fact that you simply cannot comprehend that you wrote something bad. These emails only expose how insecure you are, trying to cut down some random 21 year old on the internet. I suggest you take a deep breath and calm down before writing me any more emails, because you’re really not doing yourself any favors acting this way.

And honestly, just because you paid some vanity publisher to publish your book doesn’t mean you’re any more of a professional writer than I am, nor does it mean I am unable to critique literature.

Jennifer”

I sent that on May 5th, and figured maybe this whole craziness was over since I never heard back. Maybe he took my advice on calming down before emailing me, and just was unable to calm down. Maybe I had upset him so much that this poor 80 year old man had a heart attack and died.

Me: Oh my god, I would feel so guilty. What if that happened?
Friend: Eh, I’m sure if he dropped dead one of your internet minions would forward you the obituary.
Me: Hmm, good point. *goes back to drinking their $1 long islands*

Though a note on the above quote: this insanity has become a great bar story when hanging out with my atheist friends. Anyway, I thought it was all over, but on May 15th I saw a new anonymous comment was left on “The Professor responds!“:

“I read the above comments. I still love students but I don’t know why. Think I’ll have lunch and then start my next book to be titled “The Testicle Eaters.” Or “God Likes Baloney Sanwiches.” It could start with two kids walking accross the lawn behind a church and meeting a man with a long white beard (me again) eating a baloney sandwich with mayonnaise. I just posted with the friendly atheist.com. John Harrigan”

I paused as I read the ridiculous comment. The nonsensical, rambling writing style fit him, but really? God Likes Baloney Sandwiches? My friend insisted it was just some commenter trying to pull my leg, but I had never mentioned the testicle eating in the original book (yes, that is something the serial killer does). Only someone who read (or wrote) the book would know that fact. Maybe it was John Harrigan, and his subconscious was trying to admit that he’s full of baloney.

I was going to let it slide, but then Hemant emailed me this funny PowerPoint Bruin Alliance of Skeptics and Secularists had made about the book (includes some hilarious things that I left out, like the testicle eating!). I figured I’d ask him if the Professor had contacted him, and he said yep, he left a long rambly comment on his post about the book. I won’t copy and paste it, since it’s basically his “editor’s” praise of the book, but woo boy. I did find it mildly hilariously that he didn’t think to delete his editor’s phone number…very smart, Professor. Though please don’t go calling the poor guy – the last thing we need is two upset 80 something year old men.

Will this ever end? Probably not, but I don’t mind as long as 1. It keeps bringing readers to my blog 2. This poor man doesn’t drop dead because of me and 3. I don’t get sued (not that he’d really have a case, but I’d just like to avoid the situation). I still think John Harrigan and I could make big bucks off of “gobbler of whangs par excellence” merchandise. If only he was willing to cash in on the accidental ridiculousness of his book!

Star Trek & Angels and Demons

I hadn’t seen a movie in theaters in ages, but I actually saw two today! Two different groups of friends wanted to go at different times. Hooray. The first one was Star Trek, so now all my geeky friends can finally stop bugging me to see it. I really liked it, but keep in mind I’ve never seen a second of old Star Trek episodes or movies before seeing this one. The extent of my knowledge was basically:

-Spock is supposed to be logical
-Klingons are angry and have their own language that uber-geeks learn
-The phrase “beam me up Scotty”
-The silly hand salute thing that’s hard to do
-Trekkies like to go around screaming “KHHAAAANNN” for reasons I do not understand

Now that I’ve offended every Trekkie out there… *ahem* I’m sure someone who’s expecting something in particular has their gripes with the film. I know I’m uber nitpicky when it comes to Harry Potter. But, as a Star Trek n00b, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie from an entertainment point of view. Though I have to admit, I was oddly unnerved by how sexy Zachary Quinto’s Spock was. Not quite sure I’m supposed to be having those feelings about Spock, but yum. Oh, and who else thought every time Spock got annoyed he was going to start slicing peoples heads open and stealing their powers?

Noooo, not teh kitteh! Why do you need nine lives when you can never die?!?!

I also saw Angels and Demons, which I thought was pretty good. Definitely better than the DaVinci Code, but that’s not saying much. Now, I know people like to harp on Dan Brown, but I genuinely enjoy his novels. He’s no Shakespeare, but his plots are entertaining page turners so you can stfu if you think I’m dumb for liking them. Anyway, like I said the movie was pretty good – probably helped that I read the book years ago, so I didn’t remember it well enough to be super critical. Tried not to cringe too much at all the antimatter stupidity and told myself to suspend disbelief for a bit. I really liked the idea that God sent an atheist intellectual professor (Langdon) to save all of Catholicism – how ironic.

The one thing that bugged me was that it seemed to have a big “Science and religion are compatible, and when you think they’re not, that’s when you have problems!” message. It’s not that I just disagree with this – but the very premise of the movie seemed to disagree with it. I mean, it was anti-science Catholics versus pro-science Catholics (the Illuminati), not versus atheistic scientists. Heck, the two irreligious characters are the only ones not murdering and blowing things up – they’re actually saving the day. Maybe people will get that message out of the movie instead of the one the film trying to jam down their throat.

Aaannddd he's still pissed at me

So, I felt like I owed the Professor a direct response, so I emailed him. It basically summaries what I said in my previous post, but let me copy and paste it here for full disclosure. Let me emphasize how I was trying to be nice with bold:

“Dr. Harrigan,

This is Jen, the author of the original nine page “diatribe” against your book. First, I’d like to thank you for linking to my blog in your email – free advertisement is always nice. Anyway, I just want to say that I honestly apologize if I originally came off as directly calling the you racist/sexist/homophobic in my blog post. I didn’t believe you were actually this way: I mainly thought the book just came off the wrong way, and you failed to express your true intentions. I know I had said that to my friends before typing up my review, but I guess that disclaimer wasn’t as clearly stated in the final product. I’m also sorry for any cruel spirited ad hominem attacks I may have used. At the time of writing the review, only a couple of my friends read my blog, so I didn’t expect anyone (especially the author) to ever see it. Then the review hit Pharyngula (an extremely popular atheist blog, which you probably know) and exploded over the internet. I guess this is a good lesson to be careful of what you put online.

That being said, I do not apologize about my main criticisms in the book. I still stand by my opinion that it was poor writing and a bad message for promoting atheism. I feel sort of bad that I’ve upset you, as that wasn’t my goal. But negative reviews are to be expected when you present your work to the public – especially if you actively send out the book for people to review. Professional authors don’t take every negative review as a personal insult that requires a direct individual response. No, they take the criticism and move on. Not everyone is going to like your book. If Dan Brown (I actually enjoyed the DaVinci code, by the way) spent all his time responding to critics, he would not only appear childish, but he would never get anything done. Not everything you write is going to be brilliant. I’ll freely admit I’ve written a lot of horrible stuff before. And again, for the sake of honesty…you get a bunch of friends and family members to read your stuff, and of course most of them will say it’s lovely…but they’re probably either being nice, or really aren’t literary experts. Maybe you should have listened to your writer friend who said she couldn’t get past the sixth page.

And since it seemed you had specific questions for me, let me address the most important ones:

-When you talk about feminism and homosexuality in your email, I actually agree with you. Again, I just think your views came out the wrong way in the book. It happens. Sometimes we intend to write one thing, but people interpret it another way.
-You say I don’t really address the male characters and a couple of the female characters, that I get some of my facts confused…yes, that’s true. To be honest, it was for brevity’s sake. My nine page “assault” was already getting long enough. I didn’t think my book report was going to be graded by the author himself, so I wasn’t taking perfect notes. I admit to completely missing the other black character. Either the description of him being black didn’t stick in my head, or I got it confused with another character (which happened frequently, since you had way too many characters…also explains the Mickey Mouse watch). The only part of the book I skimmed was the couple page conversation on boxing between Slane and the dominatrix, so I promise I was trying to pay attention.
-You say that you don’t see any of the demeaning things about women that I’m apparently just making up. Just because you, a male, do not see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there. And I promise you I’m not trying to make things up. I’m honestly not one of those “rabid” feminists who takes offense at everything – I’m fairly laid back. I make off colored jokes myself. I’d be afraid what a “real” feminist would say if she read the book.
-It was not my initial goal to damn your book. I was honestly quite excited to read a fiction novel about atheism and sex – I wouldn’t have opened it if I didn’t want to read it. I even kept reading with the hopes that it would get better – I wanted to like it! But by the time I was mostly done, I realized that was not going to happen…and that I should at least share my experience with my friends. I’ve also talked to a member in a Californian atheist group who read your book, and she agreed with my review (though she read your book before reading my review). It’s not just me.
-I did not have some “Writing 101″ book open with a checklist of things to catch you on
. I’ve taken two creative writing classes, I write frequently, I’ve read many books about writing, and I have a lot of practice critiquing stories.
-I’m not quite sure what you expect me to think of the dildo battery thing. Hooray? I’m not offended, if that’s what you think. I actually think it’s quite interesting and admirable that you spent time in the shop to study people’s behavior.
-I’ll try to control myself and not start a diatribe against elderly teachers in the future, as apparently I’m likely to do that.

I guess you’re just going to have to take my word for it when I say I wasn’t trying to be mean or spiteful. I read the whole book, paid attention, and tried to write an honest review. It’s up to you to decide if you want to believe me or not. I hope you don’t take any of this too personally. It’s silly to make enemies when we both agree on so many things.

-Jennifer, aka, “The Avenger””

Another student [Susan] from a campus atheist group also responded to him and CCed me in the email, saying she read most of the book, most of the blog entry, and most of his email, and that she basically agreed with me…and that many students at the CFI world congress agreed the book was awful. Kudos to her for sticking up for me.

Well, our esteemed Professor has replied again:

“Jen,

I don’t need writing advice from amateurs or lessons on how to take criticism. As for consulting an editor–why do you people seem blind to this–I did. Roy P. Fairfield wouldn’t have changed a word of the book. He loved it. Who is doctor/professor Fairfield? For thirteen years he was associate editor of The Humanist along with Editor Paul Kurtz, the author of Humanist Manifesto II. Kurtz wrote in Free Inquiry that his close friend Roy saw to it that the Manifesto came to life. We all owe a lot to both of them. It doesn’t seem to have dawned on you that you trashed Roy as well when you trashed my book on Amazon–inches from Roy’s praise–and by implication in your Blaghag Blog and the Pharyngula Atheism Blog. By intension or ignorance or judgment deficit or carelessness you distorted the book and made it a source of public mockery. Mistake me not, criticism I expected, any creative work–especially a book like mine that touches on radioactive subjects–gets it, some more, some less. Say my character development is poor, plot weak, syntax horrible, that’s part of the criticism game. I am talking about deliberately, for whatever reason, misrepresenting a book’s content.
Susan, try reading an e-mail before answering it.
John Harrigan”

Ouch. You know, usually I wouldn’t be offended being called an amateur writer – because I am – but from this literary guru, that’s a low insult. And yes sir, I do think you need to learn how to take criticism, because you’re still harassing some 21 year old chick on the internet who made fun of your bad book. Boo hoo. I also like how “by intension or ignorance or judgment deficit or carelessness” I distorted his book. It’s of course not his own fault for writing a steaming pile of shit!

I think my kindness towards this guy has about run out. Is it snarky email time, everyone? I’m thinking yes.

Aaannddd he’s still pissed at me

So, I felt like I owed the Professor a direct response, so I emailed him. It basically summaries what I said in my previous post, but let me copy and paste it here for full disclosure. Let me emphasize how I was trying to be nice with bold:

“Dr. Harrigan,

This is Jen, the author of the original nine page “diatribe” against your book. First, I’d like to thank you for linking to my blog in your email – free advertisement is always nice. Anyway, I just want to say that I honestly apologize if I originally came off as directly calling the you racist/sexist/homophobic in my blog post. I didn’t believe you were actually this way: I mainly thought the book just came off the wrong way, and you failed to express your true intentions. I know I had said that to my friends before typing up my review, but I guess that disclaimer wasn’t as clearly stated in the final product. I’m also sorry for any cruel spirited ad hominem attacks I may have used. At the time of writing the review, only a couple of my friends read my blog, so I didn’t expect anyone (especially the author) to ever see it. Then the review hit Pharyngula (an extremely popular atheist blog, which you probably know) and exploded over the internet. I guess this is a good lesson to be careful of what you put online.

That being said, I do not apologize about my main criticisms in the book. I still stand by my opinion that it was poor writing and a bad message for promoting atheism. I feel sort of bad that I’ve upset you, as that wasn’t my goal. But negative reviews are to be expected when you present your work to the public – especially if you actively send out the book for people to review. Professional authors don’t take every negative review as a personal insult that requires a direct individual response. No, they take the criticism and move on. Not everyone is going to like your book. If Dan Brown (I actually enjoyed the DaVinci code, by the way) spent all his time responding to critics, he would not only appear childish, but he would never get anything done. Not everything you write is going to be brilliant. I’ll freely admit I’ve written a lot of horrible stuff before. And again, for the sake of honesty…you get a bunch of friends and family members to read your stuff, and of course most of them will say it’s lovely…but they’re probably either being nice, or really aren’t literary experts. Maybe you should have listened to your writer friend who said she couldn’t get past the sixth page.

And since it seemed you had specific questions for me, let me address the most important ones:

-When you talk about feminism and homosexuality in your email, I actually agree with you. Again, I just think your views came out the wrong way in the book. It happens. Sometimes we intend to write one thing, but people interpret it another way.
-You say I don’t really address the male characters and a couple of the female characters, that I get some of my facts confused…yes, that’s true. To be honest, it was for brevity’s sake. My nine page “assault” was already getting long enough. I didn’t think my book report was going to be graded by the author himself, so I wasn’t taking perfect notes. I admit to completely missing the other black character. Either the description of him being black didn’t stick in my head, or I got it confused with another character (which happened frequently, since you had way too many characters…also explains the Mickey Mouse watch). The only part of the book I skimmed was the couple page conversation on boxing between Slane and the dominatrix, so I promise I was trying to pay attention.
-You say that you don’t see any of the demeaning things about women that I’m apparently just making up. Just because you, a male, do not see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there. And I promise you I’m not trying to make things up. I’m honestly not one of those “rabid” feminists who takes offense at everything – I’m fairly laid back. I make off colored jokes myself. I’d be afraid what a “real” feminist would say if she read the book.
-It was not my initial goal to damn your book. I was honestly quite excited to read a fiction novel about atheism and sex – I wouldn’t have opened it if I didn’t want to read it. I even kept reading with the hopes that it would get better – I wanted to like it! But by the time I was mostly done, I realized that was not going to happen…and that I should at least share my experience with my friends. I’ve also talked to a member in a Californian atheist group who read your book, and she agreed with my review (though she read your book before reading my review). It’s not just me.
-I did not have some “Writing 101″ book open with a checklist of things to catch you on
. I’ve taken two creative writing classes, I write frequently, I’ve read many books about writing, and I have a lot of practice critiquing stories.
-I’m not quite sure what you expect me to think of the dildo battery thing. Hooray? I’m not offended, if that’s what you think. I actually think it’s quite interesting and admirable that you spent time in the shop to study people’s behavior.
-I’ll try to control myself and not start a diatribe against elderly teachers in the future, as apparently I’m likely to do that.

I guess you’re just going to have to take my word for it when I say I wasn’t trying to be mean or spiteful. I read the whole book, paid attention, and tried to write an honest review. It’s up to you to decide if you want to believe me or not. I hope you don’t take any of this too personally. It’s silly to make enemies when we both agree on so many things.

-Jennifer, aka, “The Avenger””

Another student [Susan] from a campus atheist group also responded to him and CCed me in the email, saying she read most of the book, most of the blog entry, and most of his email, and that she basically agreed with me…and that many students at the CFI world congress agreed the book was awful. Kudos to her for sticking up for me.

Well, our esteemed Professor has replied again:

“Jen,

I don’t need writing advice from amateurs or lessons on how to take criticism. As for consulting an editor–why do you people seem blind to this–I did. Roy P. Fairfield wouldn’t have changed a word of the book. He loved it. Who is doctor/professor Fairfield? For thirteen years he was associate editor of The Humanist along with Editor Paul Kurtz, the author of Humanist Manifesto II. Kurtz wrote in Free Inquiry that his close friend Roy saw to it that the Manifesto came to life. We all owe a lot to both of them. It doesn’t seem to have dawned on you that you trashed Roy as well when you trashed my book on Amazon–inches from Roy’s praise–and by implication in your Blaghag Blog and the Pharyngula Atheism Blog. By intension or ignorance or judgment deficit or carelessness you distorted the book and made it a source of public mockery. Mistake me not, criticism I expected, any creative work–especially a book like mine that touches on radioactive subjects–gets it, some more, some less. Say my character development is poor, plot weak, syntax horrible, that’s part of the criticism game. I am talking about deliberately, for whatever reason, misrepresenting a book’s content.
Susan, try reading an e-mail before answering it.
John Harrigan”

Ouch. You know, usually I wouldn’t be offended being called an amateur writer – because I am – but from this literary guru, that’s a low insult. And yes sir, I do think you need to learn how to take criticism, because you’re still harassing some 21 year old chick on the internet who made fun of your bad book. Boo hoo. I also like how “by intension or ignorance or judgment deficit or carelessness” I distorted his book. It’s of course not his own fault for writing a steaming pile of shit!

I think my kindness towards this guy has about run out. Is it snarky email time, everyone? I’m thinking yes.

The Professor responds!

So, many of you here probably know the book review I did for the Professor and the Dominatrix, and my dissection of its less than stellar purple prose. In fact, I’d guess that’s how the majority of you found my blog. There was a lot of debate if John Harrigan, the author, was even a real person or not. Was he just a poe? Was this whole book a big joke? (Yes, the book was that bad). No one seemed to be able to find any information on this elusive professor.

Guess who I just got an email from.

How can I be sure it’s him? One, it’s from the email he included in his letter that came with the book. Two, the writing style is exactly the same kind of rambling stories as the letter and book. Three, I don’t think anyone would take this much time out of their life for a minor hoax. And Four, apparently my brother’s girlfriend has actually met the guy, and vouches that he is in fact real.

Yes, I got an email from the Professor, and he is not happy. He’s so unhappy, in fact, he wrote a giant response to my book review and emailed it to every person he had sent a free copy to. I have to give him kudos though – at least he linked to my blog in the email! Free advertisement, woo! Since I’m a nice girl, and he obviously wants his opinion known, I’ll be kind enough to post his email below. I’m not one to silence disagreeing opinions.

I’m going to say my main response right now, in case you can’t make it through his email (which I don’t blame you). I admit, I feel sort of bad that I’ve upset the guy, as that wasn’t my goal. But at the same time, I’m a little honored that a random 21 year old blogger could upset someone enough that they take the time to write up such a response. I think this really illustrates the difference between a professional author and well…someone who’s not. Authors don’t take every negative review as a personal insult that requires a direct individual response. No, they take the criticism and move on. Not everyone is going to like your book. Not everything you write is going to be brilliant. I’ll freely admit I’ve written a lot of shit before (though I didn’t self publish it and send it to hundreds of strangers…). I think some people just honestly don’t understand that they’re not great writers. You get a bunch of friends and family members to read your stuff, and of course most of them will say it’s lovely…but they’re probably either being nice, or really aren’t literary experts. This builds up this false sense of security in your writing ability, which is far more dangerous than a healthy level of cynicism. When you’re proofreading, it’s probably best if your “Oh this is crap, gotta fix that, what the hell was I thinking” to “I’m AWESOME” ratio is greater than one. Just sayin’. And you know what, it’s okay if you’re not a great writer – we’re not all brilliant at everything. I’m tremendously clumsy at most sports and can’t play a musical instrument. Should I wail away at a piano and still expect people to say I’m Beethoven? No.

I will say just this: I AM sorry if I originally came off as directly calling the author racist/sexist/homophobic. I mainly thought the book just came off that way and was a failure to express his true intentions. That is, he was TRYING to be progressive, but unfortunately failed miserably. I know I had said that to friends before typing up my review, but I guess that disclaimer didn’t get into the final product. I’m also sorry for any bitchy ad hominem attacks I may have used. At the time of writing the review, only a couple of my friends read my blog, so I didn’t expect anyone (especially the author) to ever see it. Then the review hit Pharyngula and exploded over the internet (it was even being Twittered!). I guess this is a good lesson to be careful of what you put online.

However, I do not apologize about any of my criticisms in the book. I still stand by my opinion that it was awful writing and a poor message for promoting atheism. It’s unfortunate if that hurts your feelings, but the world is a cruel place. If anyone wants to read this book and post their own opinion, be my guest. You don’t have to agree with me. If you live near me, I can lend you the book.

Anyway…for your reading pleasure, here is the email with some of my comments. I realize this may seem hypocritical, since I just said how lame it was to respond to someone not agreeing with you…but I am a bored college student with nothing else to do.

“(Sent to those who have received a copy of my book.)

Purdue Jen’s Criticism of Harrigan’s The Professor and the Dominatrix.
Jen invites readers to visit her at http://blaghag.blogspot.com/2009/04/book-review-professor-and-dominatrix.html. I did and read her “scathing” (nine page) assault on my novel–linked by some of her chorus of correspondents (nine pages more) to the writings of atheist Ayn Rand and the two religionists Tim Lahaye and Bill O’Reilly–people I’d rather not be linked to. The comment from the chorus I liked best was, “The book brought vomit to my mouth.” I got the impression that she meant the review did that, not the book. Umm…yes, that’s why she said “book” and not “review.” Obviously what she meant. Another neat one was, “The book proves that God does nor exist because He never would have allowed such a book to be written.” So much for Free Will. So much for sarcasm.Some thought I might be an undercover Christian trying to make atheists look bad by identifying myself with them. Sigh. Others thanked Jen for saving them from reading the book–“taking the bullet” for them.

I haven’t had anything to do with college students for over twenty years. It was delightful to get a touch of their minds again, their enthusiasm for justice, even when misguided. Jen, God love her, intimated that if she ever had a class with me–the Giant Troll, the al-round bigot who fixedly smiled at her from the back cover–she’s drop it. Technically I meant a class in the style of Prof. Slane, but now recognizing that they are effectively the same person – yes, I would drop it. Or more likely, give up on taking notes once I realized there was no rhyme or reason to any of the lectures. Perhaps I could bring her along like I did Elsie in the book. In my defense, when I retired, my students established a scholarship in my name. Has that ever happened before? Anywhere? Don’t tell me it has: I don’t want to hear it. …Yeah, I’m not even going to waste my time with this one.

So, let’s get to it. I’m going to correct her paper; just part of it, otherwise the corrections could go on for nine pages. First, let me say, Jen obviously likes to write and is rather clever. She could probably sell salt water at the ocean side and sell her opinions as facts when in an argument. Woo. Well, we all tend to do that. Distorted optics is a world-wide disorder, religiosy or atheist, doesn’t matter. Jen has a thing about the demeaning of women. I do too. It is one of my big gripes about the sky-god religions–all three of them give me a pain in the bowels.
Perhaps a point of contention, I don’t see men and women as genetically equivalent (gender feminism) but as genetically complementary, with a lot of similarities. They play complementary roles in reproduction, in raising children. Yet, this can be quite tricky. Female penguins have been known to donate an egg to a “married” male pair to hatch and raise the little one. With cloning likely in the future, what next? Have you ever tried to objectively define homosexual? Real buddy penguins have been known to break up and take off with females. Republicans become Democrats! Baptists become atheists! Behavior can change. Most homosexuals (cultural and genetic) don’t change over, yet some cultural ones do. I actually mostly agree with him here. I just think he did a poor job at expressing his views in the book. Some play on both sides of the fence, depending on situation and opportunity. More fun, they say. Aaand that shimmering moment of agreement is gone. Insert a bisexual facepalm here.
No cheers from Jen on the male characters I worked over: the killer, Officer Fudpucker, Senator Gaylord Sludge, Reverend Smiley Tuttle, porno Slick Wilson, governor’s aide Tom Collins. I’m sorry, apparently my nine page “assault” wasn’t long enough. Let me go back and include every single character I missed. Jen said that I described all the women in my novel as either young and ditsy or old and disgusting. That’s an outright lie. Or, more likely, she has herself so hyped-up about the way women and homosexuals have been mistreated that she has become hyper-vigilant in looking for any sign of the old bigotries. See a sign and she becomes “The Avenger.” The sign? Do I get a bat signal? Ooo ooo ooo! Is it a giant vagina in the sky? The villain in the story is a homosexual. Awwww. Off and running, she then saw signs I was attacking women and blacks, too. I am inordinately fond of women. By choice, my primary physician is a woman. I voted for Obama. I have gone out of my way to emotionally support homosexual patients–even managing their money and medication, finding them a place to live, featuring one in a nationally- distributed education film. The “I have a black/gay/female friend so I’m obviously not racist/homophobic/sexist argument has been torn to pieces so many times, I’m not even going to touch it. On women, I just don’t find in my writing the demeaning stuff that Jen does or imagines or makes up. Just because you, a male, don’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there. Woah, sorry for the triple negative. I suspect that she was intent on damning the book from the first page on. (More on that later when I discuss The Silence of the Lambs.) Actually I was really fricking excited to read this book. Sex and atheism? Hell yeah!
Consider, dungeon workers Kitty Kentuck and Tilley Jones are two charmers with good hearts and humor. Sexy plus but not ditsy. They get a lot of pages. Jen doesn’t even mention them. Again, let me turn it into a 20 page review. Honestly, I didn’t like them much either. Old, neat, kindly Birdie Cabe has the whole second chapter to herself. I wrote her to contrast the homosexual psychopath of Chapter One. Jen’s description from reading me, “Frumpy old hotel maid who does nothing but talk about her deceased husband.” My description in part, “She pressed the draperies-control button on the wall by the multi-paned window: the motor hummed and the draperies opened and the morning sunshine streamed in. She looked out the large window, thinking again of Charlie, feeling lonesome enough to cry.” Clearly, she had loved Charlie. What Jen did to my beloved Elsie really got to me. I started Elsie, Beauty Queen of the Onion Festival, as the dumb blond of jokes, but with a heart, then evolved her to smarter than she seemed, finally to a real Wonder Woman who was the only one to face the killer and set him on the run. Did Jen even read the page? Yes, yes I did. The female detective was seen by Jen as someone for other officers to hit one. Jen gave me another demerit for having the detective briefly become embarrassed in the porno shop interview. Simply awful that I did that. I gave the detective full credit for being a good cop in the tradition of her murdered father. The murdered bisexual clergyman’s prostitute wife I defined in the middle of the story as tragic. “When he (the lover all through her college years) left, she felt as if the bottom had dropped out of her life. She had no purpose. She knew, deep down, that she was desperate. She avoided loneliness by living unconcerned, living for amusements, but got bored and kept trying harder to amuse herself by being extreme in what she did. A thought haunted her: you can’t make a life out of games and amusements. In a way it seemed as if she had died.” It was after the loss of her lover that she became a prostitute. Jen, made her only a “skanky ho” on the basis of how she read me, keeping to her belief that I demeaned women. Fine, I guess she was a desperate, emotionally traumatized ho. My bad. I stand corrected. She criticized my dominatrix for a desire to find a good man, angry that I had not kept her fully independent. She distorted the roles of others and left out three more (that makes five) in a list she presented as complete.
Continuing with distorted optics, Jen’s misreading, as I have noted, carried over to race. I introduced the black mayor in a chapter beginning with a discussion of the development of black English in Africa and America. He was defined as smart and savvy but slipped into the black English of his parents when upset–he was upset in a good part of that chapter. I occasionally ignored political correctness to phonetically spell Irish, Mexican, and Italian accents. ‘Tis more realistic, the way people actually sound. It didn’t annoy me out of political correctness. It annoyed me because it’s BAD WRITING. Jen really had a blind spot for the good black policeman who always spoke standard English. He stood out on several pages, including the final chapter. How could she have missed him? She said there was only one black in the story. Huh, okay. I will admit that I have absolutely no idea what character he’s talking about, so I must have missed him. Maybe I didn’t realize he was black because his reversion to stereotypical ghetto talk wasn’t beaten over my head for three straight pages. I’m going to give him th
e benefit of the doubt that this wonderful black character exists, since I really don’t want to have to reread the book to double check.

A minor item to be sure, she even saw the Mickey Mouse watch on the wrong person, an example of her constant tripping and falling through the text. Heaven forbid I put the Mickey Mouse watch on the wrong cop! That was such an important and relevant part of the plot!!! I don’t buy into her claim that she was really trying to do an honest review. Honestly, yes, I was, but I guess you don’t have to believe me. I had no reason to go into the book against you. Some part early in the story really burned her. Well, okay. The sheer awfulness of the first third of the book burnt me off. I admit to skipping the couple pages on boxing, but that’s really all. I didn’t even skim the rest, but maybe my brain was involuntarily shutting itself off. I have an impression that she then prepared for her diatribe by consulting a book or chapter on bad writing and attributed everything she found to me, desperate blows. No, I just really enjoy writing. I’ve taken two creative writing classes, read a number of writing books, and write quite a bit myself. I have had a lot of practice critiquing stories. I promise you, I did not go to the extra time and effort to consult other books. Please kept in mind that an experienced editor praised my book and that my articles and scripts have always been considered tops. For ad hominem attack look at this: “Has this guy (me the author) ever even had sex. If he has, I feel bad for whatever woman had to put up with it.” I can’t write, I can’t even screw, I’m in a bad way!
There are three fully-homosexual male characters in the story: the serial killer; one of his victims, Valentine Sisley; and a denizen of a gay bar. The gay bar one is interviewed by a gruff and tough and homophobe cop named Fudpucker. These four characters are within the bounds of reality. To keep to reality for the chapter on Slick Wilson’s porn store, I got permission from a porn store owner in Florida to spend a week of evenings behind the counter to study customers. It was quite interesting, good duty. You’d be surprised who buys. This store, as is Slicks, is clerked by women and sells some scanty clothes. The majority of shoppers were young to middle-age women, singularly and in groups. When they bought dildos, they were always sure to get the right batteries. What do you make of me for saying that, Jen? Yay for women wanting vibrating dildos? I’m not sure if I’m supposed to be offended at this paragraph or something, because I’m not.
The demeaning of women Jen conjured up from my story reminds me of an event that happened when I was in the fourth grade, Catholic school, boys on the left by the windows, girls on the right by the blackboards. The kid at the desk in front of me cut a ripper. Everyone looked, even the nun. The kid turned and pointed at me. So, you’re saying someone else wrote this horrible book, and they put your name on it?
Jen trashed my book in every way; “Horrible, unintelligible writing . . . Rambling, nonsensical monologues.” (Like this?) Her detailed condemnation was enough, as I have noted, to bring vomit to the mouth of one of her fans. That’s effective writing. Um… I think we already established… ….oh, never mind, it’s not worth it. I have seen this sort of thing before in an attempt to trash Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code. The critic claimed that Brown had no knowledge of writing, couldn’t put together a decent sentence, diagramed paragraphs as proof. The critic didn’t mention religion at all, just Brown’s terrible writing. I actually quite like the DaVinci Code. I’ve said it before: it’s not beautiful writing, but the story is so engaging that it makes up for it. The Professor and the Dominatrix utterly fails at both rhetoric and plot. Several years ago, a church in my home city of Portland, Maine requested a permit to have a bonfire in the city park. They wanted to publicly burn Harry Potter books. They didn’t get the permit. In Thomas Harris’s classic suspense novel The Silence of the Lambs the serial murderer is a psychopathic homosexual known to the FBI as Buffalo Bill. As I recall the movie, there is one scene where he is sitting in front of a cosmetic-desk mirror wearing his jacket made of skins peeled from women he kidnapped. He is carefully applying lipstick, a cosmetic early used by Egyptian female prostitutes to denote the specialty of fellatio by bringing the color of the labium and vulva to the facial lips. Also, as I recall, a group of male homosexuals in reaction to the story angrily criticized Harris. And, it seems to be politically incorrect to link pedophile priests to homosexuality, which I do in the book. I doubt that Harris, any more than I by having a homosexual psychopath in my novel, was downgrading homosexuals per se. A male homosexual sadist who wanted to be a woman fit both stories. Obviously, being a homosexual doesn’t make one a killer on a pedophile.

My first page revealed the killer to be homosexual. As I said, perhaps setting Jen off from page one on? Did you notice when reading her criticisms how quickly she rejected my social explanation of a bad relationship with men being the cause of man hatred by the two “dykes-taking-over” students? Yes, because it is a horrible unfounded stereotype? Nothing aberrant about them: no need to find a cause. For a discussion of the role of experience as source of uncommon behavior, see my discussion of the Flanagan masochist case on pages 67-68.
Jen’s writing suggests to me that she is excitable weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee, prone to race along, miss things, decode by illusion. Or I didn’t think my book review would be graded by the author, so I didn’t think it would be that big of a deal. She is so upset by fem and sex issues that she distorts what she reads in the same manner that some religious people distort by seeing demons and the devil lurking–just the way the pious killer of the story does. If you think I’m bad, give this book to a “rabid” feminist and see what they say. I’m seriously very laid back about fem issues.
Professor Slane says to his students, “Hear me loud and clear, sexuality in itself does not make a person bad or unworthy of respect.” Sexual behavior is so varied. Most kids start out as simple (to use a British slang word) wankers. Then what often follows seems unbelievable. There is a toe licker in the book, a TV producer that gets off by being spanked, and. a tri-sexual priest (tries anything sexual). Some (those of little imagination?) stay with wanking.
I conclude now. I wrote The Professor and the Dominatrix–a book on mind-corroding religion; sex, the big player in the mind; and violence, the tool of hatred–to be more active in exposing religious nonsense. The nonfiction books by greats such as Richard Dawkins are double-damn good. But what about all those regular American folk who don’t read science or seriously consider their religious beliefs? One day I read that there are eight million references to Anna Nichole Smith on the Web. I had it. Load a book with sex to attract the regular folk. Yes, load it with some of the most horrendous sex scenes I’ve ever read. Put in pious bad guys, atheist good guys. The Professor and the Dominatrix was born.
I have always been laid back about sex or anything that people agree to do that doesn’t create a disturbance or hurt others or themselves.. Fairly early in life I learned that some people enjoy hurting others. Two older boys in my neighborhood would chase down a younger kid and stick his head between a forked branch of a bush–every yard had a bush or two–then yank the ends of the branches together. One time I nearly passed out from choking. To this day I cheer when the bad guy gets trounced in a TV wrestling match. Have been known to take on bullies. Take one on in the book. Returning to the fourth grade for a moment, as I said, Catholic School, boys sitting by the windows, girls by the blackboards, a park just a half-block away. Teacher’s pet Roberta and all-round boy Richard were absent from class after recess. The nun went out looking for them. Found them behind a tree in the park going at it to beat the band. She led them back to class, stood them up-front, and gave a loud (accurate for a nun) description in detail of exactly what they were doing that would lead them straight to hell.. I added nuns to the bully list. To this day just the sight of a nun makes me inwardly cringe. Back in the first grade Patti never got caught. The nun must have had a urinary problem because she was forever leaving to go to the teacher’s room. Little Patti would dash to the front of the class and expose herself, several times a day. We all would wait for the performance, in time had a lookout by the door.
Forgive me, I am an old man–mid eighties–and my mind tends to turn back time. Oh god, now I feel kind of bad. It’s one thing to rip into a retired professor, but it’s another thing to do it to an 80 something year old man. Am I a bad person? I have wondered if Patti became a stripper? Roberta a guilt-laden nun to save her soul? Or did she just decide not to get caught again?
I hope I haven’t bored you. Amazon and I will appreciate your comments on the book’s page where you see “Create Your Own Review.” No response is the worse thing. But apparently if you give a negative review, he will write you an email about it.
******
A matter for student writers: I submitted a query letter to Prometheus Books last year. After waiting ten weeks, I was informed by an editor that they were not taking general fiction at that time. A friend had just been published by PublishAmerica. I got a contract for Prof. & Dom. a week after submission. I was very pleased. They seemed to be a successful company, so they claimed. (One of Jen’s chorus, apparently a professor, said he knew instantly what kind of book it would be once he saw the publisher’s name. Do you always make book-by-the-cover judgments, pal? Tom Flynn reviewed a PublishAmerica book last year that he found good enough to note in Free Inquiry.) I was given six days to correct the proofs. I was determined to meet the deadline, even thought in intensive care and on heavy doses of morphine. (How Satan stayed Satin.) Even morphine can only explain so much. PublishAmerica doesn’t have relationships with print reviewers, TV, or radio. The kind of awful stuff they have the reputation for can be seen in the very last pages of my book. Some of their authors bid for publicity at the back of all PublishAmerica books. Look at the religious titles in mine and you’ll laugh. They overprice so that when they have a sale to their authors of 40% off, they still make good money. They will put your book cover on valentines, encase a copy of your first royalty check in plastic–for a fee. My friend who introduced me to PublishAmerica had a royalty check of about five dollars bounce at the bank last month. Yes, they do make their money by selling to their own authors. Really, it is heart-breaking for a lot of people–the whole publishing industry is. A good article for you folks who write is “The Last Book Party” in Harper’s Magazine, March 2009. Only three of any ten well-edited, well-published, and actively-promoted books ever make money.
I have a cousin who has been trying for a lifetime to get published. Has read all the books on how to write, listened to radio programs where authors are interviewed, everything. I sent her twelve pages of my first draft of Prof. & Dom. for comment. She called me on the phone–as she is prone to do and talk for hours at a time–and said, “How can you write stuff like that? I’ve read six pages and I can’t read anymore.” (Shades of Jen.) Why, oh why didn’t you listen to this sane human being? It was my description of the bonobos that did it, the GG stuff. I used to share a table in the faculty dinning room with an elderly teacher from the education department. She had not read a novel written after 1945 because of the “F” word. She’d roll over in her grave if she read about the whang Captain Marvel. (My spell corrector doesn’t like the “h” in whang but my dictionary prefers it.) Damn! Jen will seize upon the elderly-teacher story and use it
for another diatribe! I guess I need to keep up my trend of hating on old people now.
How did I get the marvelous comments from the experienced educator, author, editor Roy P. Fairfield? I read an article by him in Free Inquiry, saw that he lived in Maine, called him on the-telephone, and asked him to take a gander at my script. He was busy finishing a history book, but looked anyway. (Now, he has just finished yet another history book–and he‘s older than me).
The editor of The American Rationalist has been talking about reviewing Prof. & Dom. May it not bring vomit to his mouth. Ee-nuf.
 
John Harrigan”

EDIT: The Professor responds again – still cranky!