Book: Don't Feed the Trolls
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Cover Artist: LC Chase
Publication date: April 3, 2017
Length: 230 pages
Gaming while female is enough to incur the wrath of the dude-bros, and they’ve come for me. Instead of fighting back, I’ve created an alternate account. Male name, male pronouns. And I’ve met this girl. I’ve always liked girls, and Laura’s adorable and smart and never gives up, and she likes me back. Or rather, she likes the man I’m pretending to be. But I can’t tell her I’m a woman without the mob coming after her too.
And besides: I might not be a woman, not really.
The truth is, I don’t know what I am anymore. I’ve spent my whole life being told how I’m supposed to act and what I’m supposed to be, but none of it feels right. And my lie is starting to feel truer than anything I’ve ever been.
There’s a convention coming up, but the closer it gets, the more I have to choose: lie or fight. But if I don’t stand my ground as a girl, am I letting the haters win?
Then again, those aren’t the only two ways to live.
Every day for the last several weeks when the Duchess Fatiguee first logs in, she deals with her correspondence. She receives dozens, sometimes hundreds, of missives each morning. Some of these are petitions from her landholders and knights for assistance or repair. Some are information about server downtime or upgrades. A few are congratulations, especially from the players whose stories she included in her annals, which have since been recognized by the Council of Gerents. But the vast majority of the missives are requests that she, alternately, get raped or die. Sometimes simultaneously. Sometimes not in that order.
(That most of these requests are directed at me instead of Fatiguee is largely inconsequential. But she’s made of code, and I’m not, and the developers didn’t write rape into the pillaging mechanic. Small mercies, I guess.)
It’s been a week. The save file of harassment screencaps is bigger than the final draft of the Annals, because I’m saving the images as hi-res as I can so no one can say I’m faking them. Well, so fewer people can say I’m faking them. They can say whatever they want, apparently. Free country, free server. Free-to-play game. Free speech according to the populist definition. I’ve spent more time on the phone with the predictably imbecilic NYPD than I have on campaign, and that’s basically what they said. Talking smack isn’t illegal in America.
It wouldn’t matter back in France either. Madame Guillotine didn’t talk smack. She just lopped off heads.
According to a lot of semi-legit internet lawyers, if I want the cops to do anything about it, I have to document everything. No one ever tells you that documenting everything means reading it all twice.
Of course I know that gaming while female is some kind of sin to these assclowns, but they don’t know that Fatiguee has a female player and they’re still going on about bitch, whore, cunt. They assume I’ve got one of those, and I do, but even if I didn’t they’d say I did. Because apparently it’s an affront to look female whether you are or not, to have any ostensibly female parts or traits or whatever for someone with a dick to exploit and correct.
God, what a fine fucking line to walk. Here I am, assuming these dickheads have dicks.
It’s playground bullshit all over again, Not All Men and Yes All Women, like woman is some monolithic universal concept. I’m playing a game on the internet and these trolls literally can’t see what I am on the other side, and yet they assume enough to feminize it. Nuance doesn’t exist on the internet. It barely exists in the real world. Hell, the drag queen I live with insists on being one or the other and nothing between, and clearly he’s got more right to angst about gender than I do.
I should probably do something else. I don’t know, work. Go to a dance class. Stage combat. Redo my audition binder. Something that gets me out of the apartment. But anything that would get me out of the house either costs money or nets nothing.
I could clean the place. I owe Alain and Jackie anyway. Of course I told them right away, if by told them I mean flipped the fuck out immediately and thereupon converted the celebratory dinner into a pity party. I then proceeded to get blackout drunk, which was a great idea at the time but horrible in the morning since I concluded, upon waking up, that the whole thing was a nightmare and subsequently there was no reason for me not to log on. Which meant lather, rinse, repeat.
Right. Cleaning the apartment. At least that gets me away from the computer.
I throw on the crappiest shirt I have—How I Mine For Fish?, circa 2005—and get to work. My room isn’t that bad, just a couple of shirts that missed the hamper and a rug that needs shaking. I’ll find more to do in the living room, I think—yup, Alain left it a mess. He doesn’t mind me sorting his makeup, so I get to work on the table and organize it all back into his kit. God, it’s nice not thinking about anything but whether honey is supposed to be lighter or darker than mahogany. Once that’s done, I get out the Swiffer and go to town.
For a couple of years, right after college, I was a literal French maid. I couldn’t get any work temping no matter how I tried to hide my accent. If I had a dollar for every time someone made a joke about putting me in the proper uniform, I’d have more dollars than I made. But the skills stick with you, even if you started out a rich brat whose parents are still appalled that you’re not behind a desk at the UN. Fuck, I’ll never be able to tell them about this online ridiculousness— Nope. Cleaning! Not thinking! Scrubbing floors and washing walls and emptying chamber pots!
Better. Menial. But better.
In fact, I should put on some music that has nothing to do with gaming and everything to do with my ostensible choice of career. I turn on the Cabaret revival soundtrack (because whatever else is going on, my life sucks less than interwar Germany) and knuckle down in the living room. Act one passes in a perpetuity of Lysol, and by the time I’m running out of things to do, “Two Ladies” is playing.
Well, that’s just prophetic.
The last time I was in Cabaret was summer stock in Nebraska, five years ago maybe. The guy playing the Emcee was a grade-A asshole, but I still wanted to be in “Two Ladies” because that song is hilarious and one of the only ways to feature in that ensemble that doesn’t involve a gorilla suit. But ironically enough, the staging for “Two Ladies” only requires one, because in the international language of theater the gag of a man crossdressing is funnier than a woman attempting comedy, and ever since the movie version staged it that way the song has been about bisexuality. Therefore, with only one slot for a woman available and all six of us in the ensemble gunning for it, of course I didn’t get the part.
They picked the most feminine girl. And the butchest chorus boy. Because they wanted the audience to be a hundred percent aware that one of those girls has a dick. Because that’s funny.
You know what else is funny? My agent’s special ringtone. It’s “All I Care About Is Love” from Chicago, and it’s playing right now, and despite the shows having the same composers, it completely clashes with my Cabaret playlist.
I answer the phone, then turn the music off, then speak. “Bonjour, Julio.”
“English, Daphne,” he chides.
I should smile. Fake it till you make it, and all that. So I fake it. “I assume you’re calling with good news?”
“Unfortunately no, but I’ll give you the good parts first. You’ve got a guaranteed slot at next season’s Live From Lincoln Center auditions. They like you, they just don’t have a place for you this year.”
Great. Just great. “Or last year. I think they’ve been saying that since Tiler Peck sniped me in Carousel.”
Julio evidently takes this as a joke. Maybe he can hear the fake smile. “Well, they wanted someone who looks more like a ballerina, that’s all. And I think they’ve got the same excuse this time. Wait a second, I’ve got their notes right here.”
“Fine.” It’s not going to do anything for the shreds of my self-esteem, but a good actor always takes the note. Let the authorities say What They See, tailor yourself to it.
“All right, here we are. ‘Excellent dancer, incongruent with rest of ensemble.’ See? Not bad at all. They just wanted a uniform chorus line.”
“Okay. Incongruent how, Julio?”
“They didn’t exactly write that in the email. But if I had to guess based on the ones I know got in, it’s probably your arms.”
“Yeah, I’d say they wanted delicate arms. You look like you work out, you know that, and your tattoo probably drew their eye. It’s not the most feminine art in the world. Maybe cover it up next time and see if that works.”
It’s his job to say this. It’s my job to hear it and accept it and move on. And it’s better than the whole world of crap on the internet I’m not permitting myself to think about. Marginally.
No, it’s not even marginally better: it’s exactly the same. It’s still a man, telling me to be a woman, because anything else is aberrant.
“Note taken,” I tell him. It’s a bald-faced lie, of course, but I’m an actress after all. And once we’ve taken care of the rest of this business, I head back to my room and stuff a bandana into my kit bag. For next time.
About Erica Kudisch
Erica Kudisch lives, writes, sings, and often trips over things in New York City. When not in pursuit of about five different creative vocations, none of which pay her nearly enough, you can usually find her pontificating about dead gay video games, shopping for thigh-high socks, and making her beleaguered characters wait forty thousand words before they get in the sack.
In addition to publishing novellas and short stories as fantastika-focused alter-ego Kaye Chazan (What Aelister Found Here and The Ashkenazi Candidate, both available at Candlemark & Gleam) Erica is responsible for the BDSM musical Dogboy & Justine, and serves as creative director and co-founder of Treble Entendre Productions.
She also has issues with authority. And curses too fucking much.
Connect with Erica:
- Facebook: Erica Kudisch
- Instagram: hardhandmaiden
- Tumblr: shitmywriterwifesays.tumblr.com
- Twitter: @EricaKudisch
Hey nerds! Erica Kudisch here promoting my novel DON'T FEED THE TROLLS, a genderqueer romp through internet drama. And if you keep up with the blog tour and its bonus DLC, there's a $50 prize package achievement for you to unlock. Have fun!
To celebrate the release of Don’t Feed the Trolls, one lucky winner will receive a $30 Riptide credit and a $20 Steam gift card! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on April 8, 2017. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!