James Croft Asked Me To Give His Patheos Blog A New Look, And I Said Yes

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If you’ve spent time on the Patheos atheist channel, or hang with the same people I do, you might have read Temple of the Future, James Croft’s blog about humanism and ethics. I’ve known James for about as long as I’ve been in the blogosphere myself—we’ve spoken together and write about many of the same things, often disagreeing fiercely—and last autumn he hired me to give his blog a new look. I’ve been worn out over the last ten months, stretched thin between a day job and half a dozen other projects and creatively tired—all credit goes to James for showing me far more patience than I deserved—but this week I at last signed off on it.
Continue reading “James Croft Asked Me To Give His Patheos Blog A New Look, And I Said Yes”

James Croft Asked Me To Give His Patheos Blog A New Look, And I Said Yes
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Why I’m Ditching My Blog’s Comment Section

You may have seen a recent post at Brute Reason where Miri announced she was dropping her comment section. Here’s something you don’t know: when we were building the Orbit early this year, I talked about wanting to do the same. Since launch I’ve been going back and forth on it—a couple of months away from the blog made it hard to know what I’d be missing—but now the gears are turning again, I’m doing it. My reasons are completely different from Miri’s.

If you’ve followed this blog, you’ll know my comments were never especially busy. Only the occasional post received more than a few, and those posts were the controversial ones. This isn’t to do with pageviews: even pieces that got many thousands of hits never got comments in corresponding numbers. Small posts got individual messages that rarely demanded replies. Big posts sparked arguments that weren’t to do with me. Both meant keeping up with new notifications.

I know a lot of people with active comment sections. Most started blogging before social media arrived, and have maintained the regulars who found them when comment sections were where you reacted to things. I started this blog in 2013. Since then, other platforms—Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Reddit—have been where people react to my posts. I’m ditching comments for the same reason as more and more big media sites: I don’t believe comment sections are the future.

My author section below gives my email and social media links for a reason. Like most commentators, I like interacting with interested people. I don’t consider it the function of my blog. For many writers I’m lucky to know, blogging works as a dialogue, with readers’ comments part of the process. Especially as someone who experienced abuse, part of what makes writing therapeutic for me is that my blog isn’t a dialogue—it’s a space devoted to my own voice. Round here, I’m talking.

If you’ve been a commenter here, chances are I wasn’t paying much attention. Having designed posts to stand on their own, the comments never felt as relevant as tweets and emails do. You probably deserve better than that. Over the last week, I’ve received a lot of messages in those places, and they’re where I’m likeliest to respond. I’ll also say what Miri said: if you’re one of my patrons, or you’d like to be, let’s get to know each other more. Unlike my blog, Patreon has comments, and I’ll read them.

That’s all there is to this. I’m not closing comments because of any I’ve received, or because I’m stressed out (not that those aren’t perfectly good reasons). The comment section just isn’t why I’m here. I don’t write because I want to defend my opinions. I don’t write because I want to mediate other people’s arguments. I don’t write because I want to manage comments. I write because I want to write. I’m going to focus on that.

Why I’m Ditching My Blog’s Comment Section

Mum

When the council finally housed my mum, she got a place where every room had woodchip wallpaper. I was too young when we moved in to remember it now, but I’m not convinced the building was fit for residence. Scraping together the money and tools to redecorate took her years, but when I was seven Andy from church steamed the stuff off, only to find an inch of yellow mildew underneath, coating the walls like custard coloured phlegm. The two of them spent a weekend ridding the bathroom, living room and downstairs loo of it. Elsewhere, the woodchip stayed.

Mum did the house up anyway, painting over it when necessary. For an amateur armed only with half-empty paint tins from fellow churchgoers’ attics, she worked wonders. The living room became sunshine yellow, with crystals that covered it in rainbows on bright mornings. The toilet was tattooed with trompe l’œil ivy, and upstairs she sponged white paint onto blue to make our bathroom wall look like the sky. My sister’s room was styled after the Arabian Nights, wine coloured walls and wicker rocking chair, glow-in-the-dark stars on a dark ceiling. Then there was my room.

For one reason or another, no one ever photographed my bedroom. Woodchip or not, I wish I could convey how brilliant it was. Knowing full well that Aslan was Jesus, I’d powered through the Narnia series, and Mum covered the walls with scenery from their fictional world, painstakingly recreating the Pauline Baynes illustrations. Next to my bed were a broken stone table and Cair Paravel, and behind the headboard white cliffs sloped into a sea that circled the room, a tiny Dawntreader in the distance. Strangely, of all of it, my most vivid memory is of the texture of a shelf.

There wasn’t much space in that room—clothes went in drawers under the bed, board games into spare crevices in the bookcase, toys into a giant wicker toy chest of my sister’s. Once the walls were painted, Andy from church added a wall shelf a couple of feet above the bed, which Mum and I varnished with only enough oil for one side. Underneath, the wood stayed sandpapery: I still remember its roughness, running my fingers across it at night, and how it grazed my scalp when Mum lifted me off the bed throat first. I’m not going to kill myself. I’m going to kill you. Continue reading “Mum”

Mum

Atheists: Here’s Another Reason You Need To Book Women At Conferences

As I write this, the Seventh Annual Orange Country Freethought Alliance Conference—so good they named it lots—is underway. I know this because over the last hour, friends have been sharing an image showcasing (if not advertising) the conference’s lineup of speakers. According to the ad, there are twelve people speaking at this year’s OCFAC. In stark contrast with the county itself, all of them appear to be white, while in contrast with planet Earth, eleven appear to be men. I’m not here to crucify OCFAC’s organisers—there is, however, a point I’d like to make.

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I’ve written quite a lot about growing up in the church. Unlike California, my town was far from racially diverse, but church taught me a lot about gender and visibility. Since the eighteen hundreds, my town—Keswick—has hosted an evangelical convention, now one of the world’s most prominent and influential, which served as Billy Graham’s road to Damascus and gave birth to the idea of let-go-and-let-God. In 2010, twelve thousand people—two and a half times the local population—attended the Keswick Convention, and its grip is as strong today as when I was a child.

Here is the Keswick Convention’s lineup of speakers this year.

Here is OCFAC’s.

Why do I bring this up? In the churches I belonged to, women did everything. I’ve forgotten most of their names, but remember Margaret who served tea and coffee, Hillary who ran Sunday school and Lynn who ran the crèche, Doreen who sent shoeboxes to orphanages abroad, Gill the receptionist, Donna the keyboard player, Lizzie who made soup for the church café, Lynda who sold visitors sandwiches from the church bus. Sara, who was my headteacher. My sister, a missionary. My mum, who sold conventioners traybakes to make ends meet.

In those churches, women did everything—except speak publicly.

This year, the Keswick Convention has thirty-one speakers, of whom four are women. In parts of the local Christian landscape, even their inclusion provokes outrage, and one church my mum belonged to was part of a worldwide network with a firm line against women preaching. Churches today are divided on female leadership—books on family members’ shelves call it an act of Satanic violence—but even those which now employ female clergy obeyed Saint Paul for centuries, with women omnipresent but unacknowledged, voices unheard and work ignored.

I got out of the church, and while the women in my family stayed, millions of others have got out too. They’re getting out, and they’ll continue to—in greater and greater numbers if current trends continue. I know dozens of women who’ve escaped the church, and work with some; others are writing books about the ‘exodus’ of women from churches in the US. Still others will just be finding their feet, looking for a place to land after letting to go of God—looking for friends, for books about people like them, for new communities and secular conferences to attend.

My town’s evangelical convention has thirty-one speakers, four of whom appear to be women. That’s just under thirteen percent. The Orange County Freethought Alliance Conference has twelve speakers, just one of whom is a woman. That’s eight percent. It’s one thing to spout buzzwords like diversity, but here’s the question I’m burning to ask. When women from churches like my hometown’s break free of faith and, in search of community, glance toward us, what do they see? Are we better than those churches, or just more of the same, even—whisper it—worse?

If secular conferences have fewer women speakers than churches with thousand-year histories of banning women from public speaking, what are we telling female escapees of those churches about the opportunities for participation our community offers them? This isn’t about the sheen of diversity. It’s about what kind of movement we are. Do we want women fleeing churches like mine to know we have their backs—or that, like those churches, we want them there, working silently and behind the scenes, but never acknowledged or listened to, paid or let on the stage?

There are other reasons to invite female speakers, and plenty of women are qualified. There are reasons to care about visibility in its other forms, particularly, in OCFAC’s case, race. Those have been enummerated in other posts by authors better qualified than me, and I expect they’ll continue to be. This post isn’t an exhaustive treatise on why atheists should invite women to speak at cons—but if you’re wondering why you need to, here’s one answer from me: because when I look at this ad, I see the church where my mum never got the chance to preach.

Atheists: Here’s Another Reason You Need To Book Women At Conferences

Four Things The Orbit Is Doing Differently, And Why We Founded It

Unless you live under a rock, you’ve probably noticed this blog has moved. Until Monday, when this site went live, it was hosted at Freethought Blogs, as were about half the other blogs here. I’ve said my goodbyes to FTB, where I was fortunate enough to spend three years. Now it’s my turn, and my pleasure, to welcome you to the Orbit. If you haven’t already, see our public press release; then read our About page, then watch our video on Kickstarter, where we reached our first goal in just over a day. If you’re still hungry, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

A lot’s been happening these past few days, and we’re still scrambling to catch up. In particular, there have been questions about why some of us left Freethought Blogs to create this site, what our relationship will be and what the differences between us are. Colleagues of mine, Heina and Stephanie among them, have already gone some way to fleshing out the details, and it’s worth noting that ex-FTBers constitute only one part of our membership—but since it’s true that we were the ones who decided to launch our own site, I want to give my own answers to those questions.

To begin with, the Orbit is an independent site. Those of us who’ve moved here from FTB are proud of our work there and want to continue it here, but the association is informal: we’re less a sister site and more of a mutant offspring. As for why we decided to start our own site, the short version is that a few months back, when conversations about updating FTB’s internal structure took place, several of us came to the realisation simultaneously that our ideal network would be easier to build from scratch than to mould by reforming a site with its own history and machinery.

The more we talked about the site we wanted to be, the clearer it was that our best moments were when we didn’t copy FTB, and that it wasn’t the site most writers at Freethought Blogs had signed up to. We didn’t want colleagues to have to choose between leaving a reshaped FTB and staying on a site no longer resembling the one they’d joined, so we made our own plans. If Friendly Atheist readers were wondering, the reason Pharyngula isn’t hosted here is that a network cofounded by PZ Myers already exists: our network isn’t that network, and it works differently.

With that in mind, here are some ways the Orbit differs from other sites. Continue reading “Four Things The Orbit Is Doing Differently, And Why We Founded It”

Four Things The Orbit Is Doing Differently, And Why We Founded It

David Bowie, 1947-2016.

David Bowie was wonderful. He was also an abuser. How do we handle that?

* * *

I dreamt about David Bowie last night. I forget the details, but I woke up thinking I’d write a post about how he seemed to regenerate rather than age. (The first Bowie was Cockney and a mod, the second was Byronesque, et cetera.) The first thing I saw on starting my computer was a friend’s Facebook post: ‘I don’t think I ever really believed it was possible.’ The headline underneath took me a moment to digest: ‘David Bowie, the Legendary Musician, Has Died at 69.Oh no. Don’t say it’s true.

While there was me, I’d always assumed, there would Bowie. At eight, a clip of Ziggy’s arm round Mick Ronson was a queer wake-up call, and later ‘Life on Mars’ would help keep suicide at bay. Having died three short days after a new album’s release, it seems music sustained him too, and it hurts to have been denied the songs the twelfth or thirteenth Bowie would have made. After ten years away, The Next Day and Blackstar were considered two of his best records, and it would be a fair statement that he meant far more to me than any other singer.

It would also be fair to call him a child rapist. (Details ahead.)

Bowie did bad things alright. In the seventies he fixated on Nazis, calling Hitler one of the first rock stars and himself a believer in fascism—a phase which, to be fair, he grew out of and came to call ghastly. More disturbing are the stories of hotel room threesomes with fourteen year old girls. Former groupie Lori Mattix describes Bowie disrobing and having her wash him in the bath before ‘devirginising’ her. Both Mattix and the friend of hers who joined them later had been plied with drugs.

It’s hard to know what to do with this knowledge except rehearse it. I know the above to be true, according to Mattix’s nostalgic account, and that it deserves to be remembered. I also know without Bowie, my own obit would have been written long ago, and I can’t help but remember that too. How do you find room in one eulogy for both those facts? Just for today, I’ll mourn the hero I saw in Bowie, thankful on behalf of the kid who needed all those songs; tomorrow and the next day I’ll let one more hero go. That’s the best I can manage—sorry if it’s not enough.

It’s the legend more than the man I’m grieving in the end, the performances that have stayed with me. ‘Starman’, aforementioned, on Top of the Pops, a Technicolor explosion in a monochrome world. ‘Footstompin’’ on Dick Cavett’s programme, Bowie’s mic trained on joyous, gyrating Ava Cherry. ‘Under Pressure’, where Annie Lennox stares undiluted lust at him after that last breathy note. ‘Heroes’ live in Berlin, where Bowie’s voice rises over six minutes from a mumble to a shout. And then, of course, this week, the video to ‘Lazarus’.

You wouldn’t call it a live act, but surely that’s the point. How much sense it makes now, that song that was so inscrutable days ago, the deathbed pose, title and lines about release, even the rush to productivity between this album and the last, the decision not to tour or perform. Unmissable as it is in hindsight—how visible the cancer’s impact is, quite suddenly—no one took ‘Lazarus’ literally because no one imagined Bowie could die. How unlike anybody else, how entirely like him, to stage his own death as performance art. Now ain’t that just like me?

Hard to think someone who did that could have much faith in any afterlife. (Bowie, for his part, called himself ‘not quite an atheist’.) I don’t often wish I believed in one, and it’s hard to wish heaven on a man with his history, but at eight I longed to travel to Ziggy’s world. It hurts to know for the first time that where he is, I can’t follow. But I do live in David Bowie’s world—the world where everyone followed his tune, where he was sometimes a hero, sometimes a monster, always singular. I don’t feel good about all of that. All the same, I’m glad it was my world too.

David Bowie, 1947-2016.

* * *

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David Bowie, 1947-2016.

The Art Of Being Okay

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Yesterday wasn’t the best day. When I woke up, something was stuck at the back of my mouth, tickling my tongue and making me retch. On peering in, I found my uvula was the size of a wax crayon, pointing forward instead of down. Being December 25, all drop-in centres near me were shut, as was the tube, so getting an anti-inflammatory took four hours’ trudging through rain in shoes with holes in them. My feet are still blistered, and I spent the rest of the day alone in a bedsit with no oven. I could probably be forgiven for being fed up—but strangely enough, I’m doing okay.

There’s a popular view that the word ‘fine’ is meaningless, that being fine, thank you when a friend asks after you is a hollow nicety. I wrote about depression back in June, and I’ve heard other people with it say as much. That isn’t my experience at all. When your two basic emotional states are ‘at risk of self-harm’ and ‘not at risk’, fine is the best you can hope for. Fine is precious. I sometimes find myself saying my symptoms come and go. In fact they only alternate: most days, when depression isn’t making me want to die, it makes me more reliably okay than almost anyone I know.

Friday was a crap day to cap off a shit year—a year of family harassment, homelessness and political hopelessness. The art of losing isn’t hard to master, and one does one’s best: I lost family and friends in the spring, watched the left lose in May, lost a place to live in July, lost money in winter. (Thanks, all who helped.) For once, I haven’t managed to lose faith. At the moment, I feel much better than I did in June. What living with depression means for me is that my emotions aren’t linked to external events, that how okay I am doesn’t depend on what happens to me. I’m rarely happy, but I’m almost always fine. Continue reading “The Art Of Being Okay”

The Art Of Being Okay

The Magic Of Reality: What Growing Up Christian Had To Do With Believing In Santa

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If you ever believed in Santa—how did you find out that he wasn’t real?
And how did you feel about it?

* * *

Some childish things I put away early—others I stayed attached to for too long. In my last year of primary school, Mrs Fanshawe asked if I had toys and things at my dad’s, gauging, I now suspect, whether to let him collect me at home time. I remember sensing I ought to nod, doing so even as I wondered who the hell still played with toys aged ten. (At the time, I would have said ‘who on earth’.) I knew by then that there was no Saint Nick, except the real one, who was a disappointment of a saint, but it hadn’t been long since I’d found out. I’m never sure whether I grew up too fast or too late.

The garden where Mum and I built snowmen had been a rubbish tip, and our house was designed equally messily. Five doors opened onto the living room, which must have been twelve square metres at most, and only three led into other rooms. Behind Mum’s storytelling chair, a cupboard with two compartments stretched from floor to ceiling. The top one smelt of truffles when you poked your head inside, and was where passports and grownup letters were stored—and, more importantly, chocolate boxes and booze. One night a year a glass of sherry was left out, next to a mince pie and half a carrot.

I think I was nineish when Mum fessed up. I distinctly recall lying in bed, hugging the wall the way I liked to when she prayed for me. Before lights out, we’d talk a while, then she would sing the end of Numbers 6—‘The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make his face shine upon you’. That night, she told me Nicholas had been a patron of children even during his life—so what did I think their parents told them after he died? It strikes me now this was likely a fairy tale too, that all I’d done was graduate from one fiction to another, but at the time my reaction was one of confusion. In the years since, that hasn’t changed.

People attached to telling children Santa Claus is real often complain I don’t get it. I don’t. It’s never been intuitive to me why telling someone things you know are false—not to safeguard their wellbeing or your own, but just to watch them smile on being duped—is cruel and degrading in principle but twee in one specific case. Learning that Father Christmas was a lie didn’t make me cry or act up, but lied to was exactly how I felt. This year my niece turned eight: being required to play along was hard, and I’ve known parents admit to being more conflicted than they let on.

When friends say stories of a man in a red suit—the other one—made Christmas magical, I think they mean that on some level, they knew makebelieve when they saw it, but that the power of ritual swept them up. I sympathise—all stories are enchantments, all words spells. The trouble is, Father Christmas was more than a story to me, more than something I half believed. I knew the tooth fairy was imaginary, that costumed men who gave us Dairy Milk on the last day of term were imposters—there was enough nudging and winking in each case—but as I saw it, the man himself was every bit as real as God.

Mum came to regret that particular literalism. ‘I made it into something it was never meant to be,’ she told me some years back. There are a lot of memes about Father Christmas and God, some better than others, but in my mind, they occupied exactly the same space. I was used to the idea whatever extraordinary things Mum spoke of must be true (and she spoke of far more extraordinary things than Christian children all receiving gifts on the same night)—to the idea holding extraordinary beliefs was itself virtuous, never more so than if hostile nonbelievers surrounded you.

It wasn’t simply that we were Christians: plenty of children raised in Christian homes are functionally able to distinguish makebelieve from sincere belief (supernatural or not) perfectly well. It was that Mum and her then-church practised an evangelicalism that never drew any such line. Magic, makebelieve, ritual, story, play—these were never acknowledged as mere suspensions of disbelief, or as a realm in which belief might constitute something subtly different. All beliefs were literal, and makebelieve itself was a dangerous and demon-haunted thing: thinking Halloween was only a game was how the enemy got you.

Atheists are often stereotyped as Philistines with one-dimensional worldviews and no grasp of aesthetics or ritual. That described my church upbringing more than it describes me. In my experience, letting stories be stories only strengthens their magic. Believing Santa Claus was real caused me to miss the beauty I now see in the leaving-out of a small sherry and a mince pie, and Mum’s prayers worked because of how she sang, not because she believed—because of a cupboard of secret things, a chair in which fantastic tales were told, and the first snowman in the world that never had to melt.

* * *

I tell stories and write a blog. If you enjoy my work,
consider 
becoming a patron or leaving a tip.

Follow my tweets at @AlexGabriel,
keep up with 
my writing, or get in touch.

The Magic Of Reality: What Growing Up Christian Had To Do With Believing In Santa

I’m At Risk Of Homelessness And In Need Of A Laptop. Please Help

Today my iPad froze up on the startup screen. I got it just over a year ago on being hired to translate a book, and this was the first time it had happened. Small issues like this afflict gadgets now and then, and ordinarily, I’d have plugged it into iTunes and been back to normal in two minutes—but that was five hours ago. In September, the laptop I bought as an undergraduate finally upped and died, leaving no way to defibrilate the tablet, and nothing but a weather-beaten phone from 2011 on which to work tonight. (If anyone in central London has iTunes and a computer I can plug into, email me.)

Toward the start of September I became homeless. For most of that month and the next, I floated from one sofa to the next. I’ve now been in the same place, precariously and ruggedly housed but secure and rent-free, for just about five weeks. (This had a lot to do with why I was so much more productive last month.) While it’s a huge relief, I now rely on paying £18 for hotspot internet every five days, which makes a significant dent; seeking new work also means I’m facing the costs of travel and ordering documents, and lacking a laptop is now making a financial impact.

When I’m not writing—thanks to those who support me that way—graphic design provides a major part of my income. (Here’s a portfolio.) Although the iPad and tonight my phone are lifesavers, I can’t do that kind of work without a laptop—and without doing that work, I can’t afford one on my own. (The old one’s death also held up several already overdue projects, which I’ve committed to having complete by the new year.) Last week then, I set up a fundraiser at GoFundMe and asked Facebook friends to chip in who wanted to—thanks to a huge amount of generosity, it’s at £605.

I listed my initial target as £1000, which now looks within reach. In the blurb, I also mentioned the possibility I’d extend it to provide a cushion and meet fundraising costs. It turned out that, due to the oddities of Vodafone’s billing schedule, the three-figure phone bill I mentioned having put me in the red hadn’t actually gone through at the time. Thanks, once again, to everyone who’s donated, as the amount contributed so far means that I’ve still escaped my overdraft, but to compensate, I’ve now upped the target to £1200, a goal I think is achievable.

Since my current accommodation is temporary, I’m likely to become homeless again in the new year, or else to be facing the overheads that come with finding a real place to live, so it’s possible that once I have computer and Photoshop access again, I’ll keep the page alive as a jar I can rattle a little whenever things are tough. Prior to Christmas though, replacing the laptop is the priority. (A quick note, tech people: yes, the old one is irreparable. Yes, I’ve looked into it. Yes, I really do require a new one.) This being said, I’m going to ask people reading this to help out a bit.

Here’s the fundraising page. So far, wanting to give it a good start, I’ve held off on posting it here and sharing it aggressively—now I want to push it all the way.

GiTsupportthisblog

If you’ve chipped in already, all my thanks—it means the world. If you haven’t shared the page with people you know on social media (or have, but could again) please consider doing so. And if you’re able to help out a struggling blogger and feel like doing so, it means more than you can know.

(In case you’ve been sent this and don’t know me, I write about subjects as diverse as religious abuse, mental illness, racism in geek culture, queer politics and Doctor Who—here are all my posts from last month.)

What’s in it for you, you ask? Firstly, here are some perks.

Give any amount and you’ll have my undying thanks.

Give £10 and I’ll send a personalised ‘thank you’ email to the address listed with GoFundMe. If you’ve been lurking on this blog invisibly for an age, as it turns out several people who leant me a sofa during September and October had, now’s a good time to say hello. Let’s talk.

Give £25 and I’ll include your name and an optional link to your online profile below all posts in January, with a ‘Special thanks’ line. (People who’ve given already, feel free to claim this perk.)

Give £50 and I’ll devout a post to giving you a shoutout, together with whatever work you do or care about. If you have a developing blog or want to boost the visibility of activism close to your heart, then (provided it’s nothing I can’t stand) I’ll write a short feature on it for my not-inconsiderable audience.

Give £100 and I’ll write a full article or essay-length blog post on a topic of your choice, whether it’s something you think the world needs to discuss more, something you’re looking for answers, advice or explanations on or just something you’d like me to discuss. (This is, of course, subject to my agreement—in the unlikely event I’m not down for your first-choice topic, we can still select one.) Since it’s something my readers tend to like, you can also choose to commission a snark-post, in which I’ll spend a few paragraphs being acerbic on any agreed subject of your choice.

A couple of other things: did I mention people hire me to design things for them? (Here’s that portfolio again—I’ve done blog banners, book covers, logos, t-shirts, promotional fliers and all things in between.) If you’re interested in employing me, drop me an email: I typically charge fifty percent on commission and the rest on completion of things, and in this case, that down-payment can go into the fundraiser.

Oh—and I’m an editor too. A pretty great one, actually. Last autumn an old friend hired me to edit the first article she ever wrote, which then went viral in the press and garnered millions of hits; a year back, another asked my advice for a note to a childhood bully, which gained just shy of twenty thousand Facebook likes and was reported in world news programmes. I copy edited Greta Christina’s well-received book Coming Out Atheist, have worked with a large number of other names from the secular blogosphere, and have spent 2015 editing a first-time author’s novel. If you’ve got a project you want to hire me for, just call.

Again: here’s the fundraiser. Again: if you can’t contribute but do want to help out, please consider sharing it far and wide. If you can donate to this and want to, it means more than I can tell you.

I’m At Risk Of Homelessness And In Need Of A Laptop. Please Help

I'm At Risk Of Homelessness And In Need Of A Laptop. Please Help

Today my iPad froze up on the startup screen. I got it just over a year ago on being hired to translate a book, and this was the first time it had happened. Small issues like this afflict gadgets now and then, and ordinarily, I’d have plugged it into iTunes and been back to normal in two minutes—but that was five hours ago. In September, the laptop I bought as an undergraduate finally upped and died, leaving no way to defibrilate the tablet, and nothing but a weather-beaten phone from 2011 on which to work tonight. (If anyone in central London has iTunes and a computer I can plug into, email me.)

Toward the start of September I became homeless. For most of that month and the next, I floated from one sofa to the next. I’ve now been in the same place, precariously and ruggedly housed but secure and rent-free, for just about five weeks. (This had a lot to do with why I was so much more productive last month.) While it’s a huge relief, I now rely on paying £18 for hotspot internet every five days, which makes a significant dent; seeking new work also means I’m facing the costs of travel and ordering documents, and lacking a laptop is now making a financial impact.

When I’m not writing—thanks to those who support me that way—graphic design provides a major part of my income. (Here’s a portfolio.) Although the iPad and tonight my phone are lifesavers, I can’t do that kind of work without a laptop—and without doing that work, I can’t afford one on my own. (The old one’s death also held up several already overdue projects, which I’ve committed to having complete by the new year.) Last week then, I set up a fundraiser at GoFundMe and asked Facebook friends to chip in who wanted to—thanks to a huge amount of generosity, it’s at £605.

I listed my initial target as £1000, which now looks within reach. In the blurb, I also mentioned the possibility I’d extend it to provide a cushion and meet fundraising costs. It turned out that, due to the oddities of Vodafone’s billing schedule, the three-figure phone bill I mentioned having put me in the red hadn’t actually gone through at the time. Thanks, once again, to everyone who’s donated, as the amount contributed so far means that I’ve still escaped my overdraft, but to compensate, I’ve now upped the target to £1200, a goal I think is achievable.

Since my current accommodation is temporary, I’m likely to become homeless again in the new year, or else to be facing the overheads that come with finding a real place to live, so it’s possible that once I have computer and Photoshop access again, I’ll keep the page alive as a jar I can rattle a little whenever things are tough. Prior to Christmas though, replacing the laptop is the priority. (A quick note, tech people: yes, the old one is irreparable. Yes, I’ve looked into it. Yes, I really do require a new one.) This being said, I’m going to ask people reading this to help out a bit.

Here’s the fundraising page. So far, wanting to give it a good start, I’ve held off on posting it here and sharing it aggressively—now I want to push it all the way.

GiTsupportthisblog

If you’ve chipped in already, all my thanks—it means the world. If you haven’t shared the page with people you know on social media (or have, but could again) please consider doing so. And if you’re able to help out a struggling blogger and feel like doing so, it means more than you can know.

(In case you’ve been sent this and don’t know me, I write about subjects as diverse as religious abuse, mental illness, racism in geek culture, queer politics and Doctor Who—here are all my posts from last month.)

What’s in it for you, you ask? Firstly, here are some perks.

Give any amount and you’ll have my undying thanks.

Give £10 and I’ll send a personalised ‘thank you’ email to the address listed with GoFundMe. If you’ve been lurking on this blog invisibly for an age, as it turns out several people who leant me a sofa during September and October had, now’s a good time to say hello. Let’s talk.

Give £25 and I’ll include your name and an optional link to your online profile below all posts in January, with a ‘Special thanks’ line. (People who’ve given already, feel free to claim this perk.)

Give £50 and I’ll devout a post to giving you a shoutout, together with whatever work you do or care about. If you have a developing blog or want to boost the visibility of activism close to your heart, then (provided it’s nothing I can’t stand) I’ll write a short feature on it for my not-inconsiderable audience.

Give £100 and I’ll write a full article or essay-length blog post on a topic of your choice, whether it’s something you think the world needs to discuss more, something you’re looking for answers, advice or explanations on or just something you’d like me to discuss. (This is, of course, subject to my agreement—in the unlikely event I’m not down for your first-choice topic, we can still select one.) Since it’s something my readers tend to like, you can also choose to commission a snark-post, in which I’ll spend a few paragraphs being acerbic on any agreed subject of your choice.

A couple of other things: did I mention people hire me to design things for them? (Here’s that portfolio again—I’ve done blog banners, book covers, logos, t-shirts, promotional fliers and all things in between.) If you’re interested in employing me, drop me an email: I typically charge fifty percent on commission and the rest on completion of things, and in this case, that down-payment can go into the fundraiser.

Oh—and I’m an editor too. A pretty great one, actually. Last autumn an old friend hired me to edit the first article she ever wrote, which then went viral in the press and garnered millions of hits; a year back, another asked my advice for a note to a childhood bully, which gained just shy of twenty thousand Facebook likes and was reported in world news programmes. I copy edited Greta Christina’s well-received book Coming Out Atheist, have worked with a large number of other names from the secular blogosphere, and have spent 2015 editing a first-time author’s novel. If you’ve got a project you want to hire me for, just call.

Again: here’s the fundraiser. Again: if you can’t contribute but do want to help out, please consider sharing it far and wide. If you can donate to this and want to, it means more than I can tell you.

I'm At Risk Of Homelessness And In Need Of A Laptop. Please Help