Real and Imagined.

Life

“Democrats…Fight”

A few days ago, I published my open letter to Nancy Pelosi, in which I said, in part:

In my decades of following the political conversation, I’ve never seen a headline that contained the phrase “Democrats fight.”

My brother recently sent me this screenshot, which contains those words, but with a niggling detail between:

Democrats wuss out

This isn’t a dilemma, Democrats. You fight all the way. Otherwise, you fall into the trap of compromising too far. If you’re at B and the Republicans are at H, it’s OK to compromise at D or so. But if you’re at B and Trump’s at Z, you’ll end up compromising somewhere around M. Not cool.

The late Ron Silver, playing Bruno Gianelli and speaking words written by the inimitable Aaron Sorkin, said it best years ago:

“No more” should be the Democratic rallying cry. Instead, it seems to be “Please don’t hurt me.”

(P.S. Please buy my short story “The Ghosts at 95” before 1/31/17 — all proceeds go to the ACLU.)

One Way I Choose to Fight

So, last year a thing happened. A thing I was — and am — not happy about. If you’re reading this, I imagine you feel the same because the people who read my books generally seem to be cool like that.

What can I do about this? has been a pretty common refrain since the election. And the good news is that there’s a lot we can do, both collectively and individually. I’ve been donating money to worthy organizations and keeping on top of my elected officials, for example.

But I’ve wanted to do more. I’m not a politician or much of an organizer, but I’m a writer. So I figured out a way to make writing be my way of “doing more.”

For every month in 2017, I will publish a different short story. Some of these stories will be short. Some will be long. Some will be old. Some will be new.

They will all cost $1.99.

And every cent I make will go to the American Civil Liberties Union.

The stories will only be available for one month each. If you miss the January story, well, it’s gone. I’m hoping this imposition of a form of scarcity will motivate people to buy.

Let me be clear about this: I’m not keeping your money. I’m not taking a single penny for myself. You’re handing money to me so that I can give it to the ACLU. (If you want to just give money straight to them or donate directly to them as well, don’t let me stop you!)

Do I expect this to make a difference? Beats the hell out of me. Look, if this crazy thing of mine spreads and gets lots of attention, it could end up being a significant chunk of change. If not, well, I guess every penny helps, right?

Please tell everyone. Please tweet it and Tumblr it and Facebook it and Snapchat it and Instagram it and do whatever else. Heck, you can even tell people about it face-to-face. (I know — crazy, right?)

The first story is already up. It is titled “The Ghosts at 95,” and you can see the cover and description below. It will come down late on January 31/early on February 1, depending on where you live. The clock’s ticking. Go buy it.

Ghosts at 95 cover

ALL PROCEEDS FROM THIS STORY BENEFIT THE AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION!

The year is 2006, and Jeremy Castle has it pretty good. His girlfriend has left him, true, but he has a job at a top downtown financial firm that has made him pretty rich. From his new apartment, he can see the Statue of Liberty and the construction at Ground Zero. If only he could figure out the meaning of the lights that only he can see. And those voices… Why does he keep hearing those voices…?

In “The Ghosts at 95,” Barry Lyga tackles the themes that made his reputation: Isolation, being an outcast, and the fear that your best self and your worst self may be one and the same.

An Open Letter to Nancy Pelosi

Dear Ms. Pelosi,

We don’t know each other, but apparently you have my email address and feel comfortable using it to ask me for money. I have some thoughts on your most recent request. But first, let’s take a look at it:

I am not — nor have I ever been — a registered Democrat. Nor am I a registered Republican. I suppose I’m one of those sought-after “independent voters” we hear so much about quadrennially.1 However, for the past several cycles, I’ve been pretty reliably in the Democratic corner, mostly because the alternatives are — I won’t mince words — typically insane.

But let’s talk, shall we? [Read more…]



  1. My reasons for being so are steeped in history — 1990, to be exact. Let’s just skip it for now.

People as Apps

My daughter’s speaking vocabulary is still limited to toddler-ese, but one thing she can definitely say is Call Gramma.

She usually does this while pointing at my iPad or my phone. She doesn’t actually mean to make a phone call — she wants to FaceTime, but while she understands the word FaceTime, she can’t say it. Hence, call Gramma.

She says the same to my wife for her other grandmother. She’s enjoyed FaceTiming them both since very early in her life, and now she has the ability to demand it. Once presented with the iGadget in question, she can even navigate to FaceTime and tap on the right contact in the list.

But I realized something the other day that made this adorable tendency a little…odd.

I think my kid thinks her grandmothers are apps.

No, really!

She says “call Gramma” and we do, and then after a few seconds, she wanders off, occasionally stopping by to peer at the screen and giggle. And then, after I’ve signed off, she’ll stroll back over, look at me, and say, “Call Gramma.”

Unlike a couple of months ago, she doesn’t summon forth her grandmothers so that she can interact with them. She just conjures them to the screen, giggles at them, and then goes about her business. And that conjuring part can happen over and over!

She doesn’t understand wi-fi, video calling, networking, or even distance. All she knows is this: When she wants to see Elmo, she taps on an icon and he’s there. When she wants to drop shapes into holes in her favorite game, she taps on an icon and it’s there.

And when she wants to see a grandmother…

She taps on an icon…

There’s no need to engage, then. No need to “stay on the line”1 because there’s always another tap. “Call Gramma,” run around and play, “call Gramma” again, run around some more, “call Gramma…” Lather, rinse, repeat.

Don’t worry — this isn’t a post in which I rail against the demons of technology. My daughter will realize soon enough that her grandmothers don’t live inside the iPad, always waiting, always ready to heed the call of her persistent, tiny finger taps. In the meantime, it’s sort of hilarious to watch, as she invokes the holy tap-tap-tap and delights herself with her grandmothers, over and over and over again.



  1. Oh, man, how old does that make me sound?

11/8/16

Words are not enough, but words are all I have, and I hate that.

I didn’t want to drop my daughter off at daycare this morning. I wanted to keep her home and hold her all day, but she’s too young, she doesn’t know, and the disruption to her routine and the moroseness of her father wouldn’t have helped her or me, so I let her go.

Haven’t slept save for handfuls of minutes, stolen bits of panic-streaked dreams in darkness. I want to believe — desperately — that this is just another gone-bad election, that I survived Reagan and Bush and W., that it’s no different, but of course it is, it is.

For years, we’ve mocked the right for living in the Fox News/right-wing bubble, but — as Bill Maher has pointed out repeatedly — there’s a left-wing bubble, too. Social media allows us to communicate with anyone, but more often than not, we choose only to communicate with people who agree with us, who reinforce our beliefs, our wishes, our desires. When Nate Silver had the temerity to suggest that Hillary wasn’t a lock on election, for example, the left went crazy and bent over backwards to “prove” him wrong. It sure felt good at the time.

How’s it feel now?

I’ll tell you how I feel: I am absolutely petrified for my friends who do not have the luxury, as I have, of having been born white, male, cisgender, and straight. If this is a nightmare for me, I literally cannot imagine what hell they’ve already conceived, with the knowledge that reality very well could be worse. I yearn to be a comfort to them, yet I know that nothing I do or say will ever — could ever — compensate for what our fellow Americans have unleashed.

We’re living in a dystopian novel, but there’s no plucky hero who can rise up to save us all.

So, we’ll have to do it ourselves.

Don’t think of 2020. That’s too far away. The midterms are in 730 days. It’s time to purify Congress and the statehouses, and start to build a new future. Let’s do it. It’s the only thing we can do — the only thing — that will both make us feel better and actually make things better.