Point the second: I am being my usual procrastinative self, but I did finish off the second batch of answers to my "Ask me anything!" challenge. They took me a little longer because all of the profound and thought-provoking ones came in late, and also because I've been screwing up my work schedule so I could arrange for FurCon. However, without further ado:
Drawing on everything you've experienced, what's the most important
piece of advice you think you could give?
As much as the skeptics, fundamentalists and politicians would like to have it otherwise, we don't all live in the same world. We breathe the same air, walk on the same soil, and eat the same pre-packaged microwave corn dogs, but nobody else sees the world through your eyes, or through mine -- and no two people will ever completely, 100 percent agree on anything.
There are two parts to this, equally important. One is that nobody knows better than you what goes on in your world; and you shouldn't discard it on anyone else's say-so. You have to decide what compromises you wish to make in order to navigate between your world and the limited, shared one that society is built on; but those choices are always yours, and if you feel the trade-off is worth it, don't be afraid to stick to your guns.
Two is that everyone else is consistently making those same choices, and inhabiting their own inner world which you'll likely never get to explore. What they do there should be their business, in the same way that what goes on in your world is yours. For heaven's sakes, there are enough people out there who can't stand the idea of everyone in society not exactly conforming to their expectations; don't make things worse by joining their ranks.
Do you have hope for the future of mankind?
Humanity is suffering through a prolonged adolescence. On one hand, there are any number of vindictive and self-destructive behaviors still in practice, even in "developed" countries. On the other hand, individually, people are starting to wake up to those behaviors and identify them as problematic. Humanity is catching the dream of a better tomorrow; and despite the best efforts of the people in power to stay comfortably in power, that dream is thriving.
Two centuries ago, America openly tolerated slavery, and a significant fraction of our population was legally property. A century ago, it was a rare woman indeed who left the house to make contributions to public life, and half of our population was ignored. Fifty years ago, a person of a certain skin color could be arrested for daring to think they had the same privileges on the bus as people of other certain skin colors, and a significant fraction of our population was disenfranchised. Twenty-five years ago, it was unthinkable and generally criminal for someone to sexually prefer the company of a person of the same gender. Today, I can declare myself to be a dragon in spirit to over a billion people with a few keystrokes and the press of a button, and while I may face great social pressure, I don't have to fear for my life or my freedom.
So, yes, I have hope for mankind's future. People still face injustice; there is always a great struggle at the edges as old unfairnesses are challenged and the right of people to be themselves is settled; and, of course, there is a perpetual struggle to keep from back-sliding -- fundamentalist religious challenges against basic human rights and reasonable scientific ideas; the threat of creeping state totalitarianism or global corporate domination; etc.
However, we keep pushing the boundaries back. When you look at where we are now, it's unprecedented historically.
And if we can raise a generation of reasonably educated children in a world where "fag" isn't a schoolyard insult -- which I think is possible, though it certainly requires work -- we can keep moving forward.
Do you think that most love is unrequited?
The opposite, actually. The main problem that most relationships face -- and the rocks that most of them founder on -- is that of different wants and needs. I think it's far more common for two people to mutually care for each other, and yet not be able to live in close proximity, than it is for someone to genuinely care about a person that doesn't feel the same way back.
Of course, by their nature, most crushes are unrequited, and depending on your definition of "love," that may skew the results.
What are some of the things that suck about being nonhuman and living
on Earth? Have you had problems with linear time, for instance (which is
something that Faeries, for instance, tend to have problems with)?
Well, speaking as a dragon in spirit, and not claiming to have any insight on the problems other types of 'kin face ...
- Herd behavior. Pack dynamics. Politics. Social pressure and compromise. I find it all counterintuitive and irritating. It's not that I don't understand these concepts or fail to see their usefulness -- it's the enthusiasm with which people throw themselves into the system.
- Environmental control. Not in the sense of stabilizing one's living space and making survival easier -- everyone does that. But there is a difference between a house and a subdivision. Industrial society's mania to completely control its environment, to beat back the boundaries of nature far beyond where they need to be for comfort, to treat wilderness as another block to be shuffled around in the playpen, to seal itself off from the world that supports it.
- Civilization creep. The fact that, with so many billions of people on Earth, we've spread out to a huge variety of environments; and with travel so much more common here than in other human civilizations I've encountered, people from all over spread out and settle all over. I was perpetually cold when I lived in Seattle; I'm simply not built for it in this body. That happens so often -- people living in climates too hot or too cold for their genetics -- that humanity has come to accept it as normal, and either air conditions or overdresses the problem away, rather than recognizing it as a problem.
- The knowledge of an expected 70-year lifespan. What the hell? I'm going to die and have to reincarnate and start from scratch in less than a century, just as I'm finally getting everything settled again? And I'm going to spend most of the last few decades of that fighting off an increasing variety of physical and mental ailments that strike for no better reason than getting older? How bogus.
- Bipedal posture. I'm only 25 and already my back and neck hate me.
- Loving cliffs and hating tall buildings.
- And, to finish off the list on a positive note: I wonder if anyone besides humans could have come up with this marvelous idea and infrastructure that underlie the Information Age. The connectedness of everyone to everyone. The world's information at your fingertips. It's a hoarder's wet dream, and the single biggest factor in making me rethink my distaste for this whole pack/herd thing.
So which is it? Boxers, briefs or women's underwear?
Tighty-whities when out and about, because briefs have riding-up issues, and for a reason I don't fully grasp, tend to make me sweat more "down there" when worn with pants. I prefer briefs around the house, though that's an erratic and fairly weak preference. I'm apathetic toward women's underwear; it doesn't have any immediate appeal as a kink, and I'm pretty much a form-follows-function guy, so unless it has some serious comfort benefits that male underwear doesn't, I doubt I'll ever find a reason to try it.
Can a sexual preference be bad? If so, how?
I was going to answer "yes" straight off the bat, but now that I think about it, it depends on your idea of "preference" -- whether you meant a broader category encompassing kinks; or simply gender/species; or simply gender.
Taking "bad" to mean innately harmful rather than just morally outrageous, I would answer yes to the first, a qualified no to the second, and no to the third. There are several kinks that, when put into practice, are simply a violation of any social contract worth the paper it's written on. Rape or torture fantasies, and "snuff," crush or voraphilia at the extreme end, are inherently non-consensual and threatening. We protect people from them for the same reason we protect people from murder and robbery, and IMHO rightly so. (This doesn't address the question of whether fantasies of such things are inherently bad -- or whether it is better to indulge them as fantasies or to repress them. I'll leave that an open question for later.)
As for the idea of species preference -- I don't think there's anything inherently harmful about the idea of sexual attraction to beings of another species. If we lived in a society composed of multiple varieties of sentient life, I would probably be all about the xenophilia. Practically speaking, though, on Earth the situation is problematic. A non-human species preference, in physical practice, means interacting with creatures where the lines of consent are far from explicit. Non-consensual sex doesn't get any better just because your partner can't say no. The problem is that I've heard good arguments from both sides about just what comprises consent, and I think this is far from a clear-cut issue -- and very likely to not be settled within my lifetime, since the relevant taboos show no signs of weakening enough to rigorously and openly debate all of the consequences of the idea.
As for gender preference: the only unhealthy ones I can think of would be in circumstances where the decision was made for poor reasons (vindictiveness, rebellion, etc.); but then it's not really the gender preference that's bad, so much as the dangerous decision-making going on behind the scenes. The "preference" is just a symptom of a deeper issue. In and of itself, liking one gender over the other ... well, I can't understand what drives people to be so fearful about it.